Dispatches > News

Mass exodus

"Mass exodus" Continued...

Issue: "2010 Books Issue," July 3, 2010

In Kabul, angry protesters demanded the expulsion of foreigners who try to convert Muslims. And in parliament Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a deputy of the lower house, called for Muslim converts to Christianity to be executed: "Those Afghans who appeared in this video film should be executed in public." Other lawmakers affirmed that the killing of an "apostate" in Afghanistan is not a crime.

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said June 1 that he wants to prevent further conversions. Two of the Afghans who appeared in the broadcast have been arrested. Cracking down on Christians and foreigners could aid his effort to lure Taliban leaders into negotiations and shore up the regime. Noorin TV is funded by the Northern Alliance, headed by political opponents of Karzai. "The government of Afghanistan should be held accountable," Patrick Sookhdeo, president of Barnabas Fund and a NATO advisor, told me. "It is a signatory to UN mechanisms and NATO is funding its government." - Mindy Belz

Minority report

When Iraq's Federal Supreme Court belatedly approved the results of March elections last month, it meant that five seats for ethnically Christian candidates remain in the Iraqi parliament. That may not seem like much, but in the past only one or two were designated and it signifies "greater representation for the Christian minority," according to a statement by International Christian Concern. In all, 14 seats out of the 325-seat legislature are held by non-Muslims, five of whom are Christians. In comparison, Christians held two seats last term.

Lights off

Each night the iconic Empire State Building (ESB) lights up with colors to commemorate cultural events or holidays-lavender and white for Gay Pride Week, or red, white, and blue for Veterans Day. But when the Catholic League petitioned for the building to light up blue and white to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth in August, management denied the request. After a blitz of negative attention, owner Anthony Malkin said, "As a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations." But in 2000 the ESB lit up to honor Cardinal John O'Connor and extinguished its lights in 2005 to honor Pope John Paul II's death. Some 40,000 people have signed a petition protesting the decision. City councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said, "The only person who could forgive the Empire State Building for this boneheaded decision would be Mother Teresa."

No kids allowed?

A St. Petersburg Times investigation found that Church of Scientology members have brought federal lawsuits, including charges of human trafficking, against the organization for pressuring them into having abortions. Former members said the church interrogated pregnant women, urged abortions for the good of the church, separated couples, and assigned uncooperative pregnant women to heavy manual labor. In her filed complaint, Claire Headley said she unwillingly had two abortions, and in a deposition identified 36 women she said had abortions while working for Sea Org, an elite maritime branch of the church. Headley said that Scientology staff forbid her from calling her husband so he did not learn she was pregnant until six months after she had an abortion. A church spokesman denied the charges.

Prop 8 closer

A California judge heard the final arguments June 16 in a landmark case that will decide the future of Proposition 8, a California voter initiative that banned same-sex marriage. During the arguments last January, advocates for traditional marriage objected that same-sex marriage proponents put the voters' intent on trial by arguing that people campaigned for Proposition 8 out of bigotry. When U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker sent each side a list of questions to answer in closing arguments, he indicated that voter intent was a factor. He asked if the case had implications for the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act-an issue not raised in previous arguments. Jim Campbell, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund and an attorney on the case, said Walker's questions don't betray his leanings: "All we can really glean from them is that the judge is carefully considering the issue."

A decision from Walker is expected within weeks, and likely will be reviewed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court.

Close enough

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve a new pill that would terminate pregnancies not just the morning after, but up to five mornings after. The drug, dubbed "ella" (ulipristal acetate), is already legal in Europe. It could prevent a fertilized egg from planting in the womb for up to five days after sex-though proponents describe the drug as a contraceptive, not an abortifacient. The Washington Post described the pill as a "close chemical relative" of RU486, a pill that will abort a baby up to nine weeks into pregnancy. "With ulipristal, women will be enticed to buy a poorly tested abortion drug, unaware of its medical risks, under the guise that it's a morning-after pill," Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, told the Post.

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