Atheists Fight Ground Zero Cross, Internet Porn, AIDS & more

Atheists Fight Ground Zero Cross, Internet Porn, AIDS & more


In Today's Edition:


Atheists Protest Ground Zero Cross ... According to a report from WorldNetDaily, a group called American Atheists are upset over plans to incorporate a large steel cross found in the ruins of the World Trade Center into a Sept. 11 memorial. Describing itself as a "nationwide movement which defends the civil rights of nonbelievers," the group said in a statement that use of the cross in a government-funded monument "would violate the separation of church and state, be insensitive to those victims who had no religious beliefs and would incredibly pay homage to religion - the prime motivating factor in the faith-based attack of Sept. 11."

Ron Barrier, the national spokesman for American Atheists, pointed out that "Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians were killed in the attacks as well." The president of American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, told WorldNetDaily she objects to the possibility that the cross might be used in a taxpayer-supported project. "You can't take government funds to promote religion, especially sectarian religion in the form of a cross or any other religious symbol."


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Filipinos Report on Burnham Hostage Mission ... The Philippine military released a report June 17 indicating that soldiers used "extreme caution" on a mission to rescue Martin and Gracia Burnham and Deborah Yap, who had been held hostage by Muslim extremists for the past year. But, according to AP, the report did not clarify how two of the captives were killed. It was during a June 7 ambush of the Abu Sayyaf group by Philippine troops that missionary Burnham and nurse Yap were killed. Burnham's wife, Gracia, was shot in the right thigh but rescued.

The report, signed by the head of military forces in the southern Philippines, said soldiers "used single-shot fire and refrained from using grenades in hopes of sparing the hostages. The Abu Sayyaf rebels were firing in all directions on full automatic," said the officer. "Enemy bullets continued to rain ... near the American hostages." Three rebels were killed and seven soldiers were wounded in the fighting. The Philippine military held a news conference Tuesday to further explain the eight-page report.

According to AP, Martin Burnham was shot in the back, but no one knows who shot him. The military report also did not conclude how Yap was killed, but said "the rescue team believed she was hacked by a bladed weapon judging from the gaping wound she sustained." Soldiers had said earlier Yap was apparently shot in the back.


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Former Army Chief of Staff Receives American Inspirations Award ... Retired Army Chief of Staff, Four-Star General John Adams Wickham, is the recipient of the June 2002 American Inspirations Award, chosen each month by a committee of The Presidential Prayer Team. Awardees are selected based on the public expression of their faith and dependence on prayer in a nationally influential civilian or governmental position.

General Wickham, who first saw active duty during the Korean War, was later critically wounded while serving in Vietnam. His injuries were so severe that doctors told him his military career was over. But his strong faith in God sustained him, and he made a full recovery to be appointed by President Reagan as Army Chief of Staff. Mentioned twice in Secretary of State Colin Powell's autobiography as "my mentor," Wickham received numerous military awards in his 37 years of service, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. To learn more about General Wickham's story, visit www.presidentialprayerteam.org.


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African Religious Leaders Adopt AIDS Declaration ... (ENS) -- African religious leaders, meeting in Nairobi at the first African Religious Leaders Assembly on HIV/AIDS and Children June 10-12, adopted a progressive declaration mobilizing action to end stigma and expand programs to protect children affected by AIDS, but couldn't agree on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the disease. The meeting, organized by the World Conference of Religions for Peace and the Hope for African Children Initiative, was a forum for religious leaders to reflect on their role in the fight against AIDS in Africa. Acknowledging past shortcomings with regards to stigma, ignorance and denial, religious leaders adopted a joint Declaration and a Plan of Action.

The Declaration called on religious leaders to re-examine their traditions to allow all believers to fight the disease in ways respectful of their consciences. "We recognize that all people have a right to information on how the spread of the disease can be stopped," explained Twaib Mukuye, deputy mufti of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.

While they agreed on strategy, some of the tactical issues remained difficult. Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the conference that although abstinence is the surest way of avoiding AIDS, condoms should be made available to stop the spread of the virus, because many people could not remain celibate.

Other leaders at the conference disagreed with Lewis. Sheikh al Haji Yusuf Murigu of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims said condoms were acceptable only in marriage, where the partners used them to protect each other against cross-infection. Roman Catholic Archbishop John Onaiyekan repeated the position that condoms were not acceptable to Roman Catholics. Other leaders said they opposed the availability of free condoms to the unmarried and advised couples intending to marry to go for HIV/AIDS tests.


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Conservative Lutheran Publishes Internet-Porn ... (idea News Agency) -- A conservative Lutheran church in Germany faces a delicate problem: One of their best-known members makes millions by selling porn on the Internet. Publisher Heinz Bauer, Hamburg, belongs to the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church, which has ties with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in the United States. Bauer publishes not only high circulation magazines like "Bravo" and "TV-Movie" but also adult websites.

His church, however, utterly rejects pornography, as their chief executive officer, Michael Schaetzel, told the evangelical news agency idea. Church discipline could be applied in cases of violations of the Christian code of conduct. Sanctions could go as far as church expulsion. Such matters would, however, be dealt with in a pastoral way by local pastors and without intervention by the central church authorities. According to Schaetzel, the church also realizes that every Christian is a sinner and dependent on God's grace.


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