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Location: Tallahassee, Florida, United States welcomes all opinions from any religion or viewpoint in the common appreciation of Chick tracts. This blog, however, will highlight religious events and controversies that would be of special interest to regular Chick readers. You don't have to agree with them or each other, but if you read Chick tracts or Battlecry, you might expect these type stories to be addressed. (Sorry, no personal attacks allowed.) All main postings are from writers and any responses are from the public

Monday, July 26, 2010

Religion Teacher Fired for Agreeing W/ Pope On Gays

Students, Alumni Rally Behind Illinois Professor Fired for Expressing Catholic

Faculty and students are rallying behind a University of Illinois professor whom
they say was fired simply because of his religious beliefs.

Dr. Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism, was
told recently that he could no longer teach in the university's Department of
Religion. A student at the university accused Howell of engaging in hate speech
when he stated in a class review session that he agreed with the Church's
teaching that homosexual sex is immoral.

But Howell refused to leave without a fight, and now he has over 3,100
supporters fighting with him -- via a Facebook group called “Save Dr. Ken.”

“It’s turning into a whole movement for freedom of speech in the classroom,”
said senior Tim Fox, a member of the group and former resident at the
university’s Catholic student Newman Center.

The “Save Dr. Ken” Facebook group includes alumni, current students and outside
supporters who are familiar with Howell through his books or his appearances on
EWTN, a Catholic television network. Howell is actively involved in the group
and has written personal responses to some of his Facebook supporters.

“Save Dr. Ken” is actively working to take its protest beyond Facebook. Its home
page offers detailed instructions on how to protest Howell’s dismissal,
separately tailored to students, alumni and outside supporters. For example, the
group asks alumni to cease donating to the university until Howell is
reinstated. It also encourages members to donate to the Alliance Defense Fund,
the legal alliance defending Howell’s case.

Members of the Facebook group are planning a prayer vigil on the university’s
quad. Students are also organizing a mass boycott of all university religion
courses unless Howell is reinstated by the fall, Melissa Silverberg,
editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper, the Daily Illini,

Howell is a popular professor; his students voted for him to receive an
“Excellence in Teaching” award last fall, and now they are rallying for him.

Because Howell helped direct programs at the Newman Center, it has become a
major player in the conflict. Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, the center's director,
wrote in an e-mail to Newman residents that “We will seek to lobby for [Howell]
to continue to teach Catholic courses on campus for University credit and for
the Catholic cause on campus.”

Students at the center are not the only ones protesting. The campus secularist
group, Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers, has taken up Howell’s cause. Howell
had worked with the group in the past, helping organize a public debate between
an atheist and a Catholic on “Does the Christian God Exist?” last February. Its
president wrote a letter to the university chancellor, Robert Easter, saying,
“[Howell] has shown a commitment to the questioning of all ideas. His loss is a
profound blow to the University of Illinois and its purpose… Who will next be

But not everyone is in Howell's corner. Some students say they are not so sure
he should be coming back.

“I wouldn’t necessarily get behind this protest,” said David Bettinardi, a
senior. “Teachers can abuse their authority, and if a teacher talks about his
personal beliefs in class, it becomes less education and more indoctrination.
That’s true for a professor with any set of beliefs – atheist, Catholic,

Other students said Howell’s dismissal was not just an issue of freedom of
speech, but revealed a double standard at the university.

“Professor Howell didn’t mean to insult homosexuals; he was just stating the
Catholic position,” said Mike Hamoy, a senior chemistry major who took Howell’s
class in fall 2009. “I’ve had multiple professors who have mocked how much
Catholic families reproduce or who have implied to the class that God is a joke.
Why aren’t these professors fired for their open insults?”

See Chick's THE TRIAL.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gay Activist Discharged From Army

One of the most prominent voices against the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, who came out on national TV last year and was arrested in March for handcuffing himself to the White House fence, has now been discharged from the Army for being gay and advertising it.

Lt. Dan Choi is a 2003 West Point graduate who is fluent in Arabic and served two tours in Iraq as an infantry platoon leader. Since returning from deployment, he's become one of the most vocal critics of the military's policy that bars anyone from serving in uniform if they are openly gay or "transgendered".

Choi, 29, revealed his sexual orientation publicly for the first time last year on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," prompting the Army to begin proceedings to discharge him. But his case had been in limbo since then, and Choi hoped to stay in the military long enough to see "DADT" repealed.

President Barack Obama is pushing the military to overturn the policy, and the Pentagon is conducting a review that's expected to last until the end of the year. A bill to abolish "don't ask, don't tell" is also being debated in Congress. The American public and those in the military are against a change.

If a change is forced through, it did not happen quick enough for Choi, who received a phone call from his New York Army National Guard commander on Thursday, informing him that he has been honorably discharged from the military.

In March, Choi was arrested along with another Army captain, for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence while in uniform, to protest the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. They claimed to be following an order from Obama to challenge what he has called an outdated and unfair policy, and asked the president publicly to testify at a hearing on their behalf. Obama didn't get involved, but the civil disobedience charges against Choi and the other soldier were later dropped.

Choi grew up in California but now lives in New York City, where he founded, a group of West Point graduates who support the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual soldiers to serve openly in the U.S. military. The group estimates that there are 65,000 gays still closeted in the military.

News of Choi's discharge comes as a federal judge in California is scheduled to hear closing arguments today in a case brought by the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans challenging the constitutionality of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to The Washington Post. See Chick's WOUNDED CHILDREN.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Liberal Journalist Among Spies Sent Back to Russia

Vicky Pelaez is one of the ten Russian spies sent back to Russia. Unlike the other spies, she was a liberal journalist and left wing activist who used her position of influence to speak out against Arizona's new illegal immigration law.

But for Peruvian-born Pelaez, the one-way ticket to Russia is a new adventure, only the latest chapter in the very full and complicated life of an admitted spy, radical journalist, wife and mother.

Even within a ring of secret Russian agents, her story stands out. Pelaez, 55, was the only member of the group who was not a Russian citizen, had never been to the country before today and operated under her real identity. She and her husband were living as an ordinary, if left-leaning, couple in Yonkers, just north of New York City.

"Vicky's case is more complicated," federal court Judge Ronald Ellis told NBC earlier this week. "She does not appear to be a trained agent. She has a real identity and she is a U.S. citizen." She was also the spy who lived her life -- most of it, anyway -- in the public eye, working as a well-known Spanish-language newspaper columnist in New York after earning a reputation as a hard-nosed reporter in Peru.

But a look at her life story offers no definitive answers about why the veteran journalist chose to become an agent of the Russian government. In some ways, it only deepens the mystery.

Pelaez's most obvious tie to Russia is her husband, 65-year-old Mikhail Vasenkov, a Russian citizen who lived in the United States under the false identity "Juan Lazaro."

The couple may have plenty of time to catch up in Russia. Or not. The Russian government has offered Pelaez a monthly stipend of $2,000 for life, but Rodriguez told NPR that Pelaez is likely to head to Peru, where her family has a ranch and the secret agent's story began.

In 1984, Pelaez was already a famous TV reporter in Peru when she was kidnapped by Tupac Amaru, then one of the country's main communist guerrilla groups. It wasn't long after she was freed that she began publicly making radical statements of her own, as a columnist in the pages of El Diario, the most prestigious Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S.

In her columns, Pelaez was sharply critical of U.S. foreign policy and often of capitalism in general. Unfortunately, such anti-American positions are common among liberal reporters and their articles.

"The history of development and capitalism demonstrates that xenophobia and racism have always been put to use by unscrupulous politicians in the recurring cycles of economic crisis, to quell the discontent and rage of the people," she wrote in an April column for the newspaper about Arizona's controversial new illegal immigration law.

It makes one wonder, how many other anti-American journalists are also on the Russian payroll? Certainly they are not all helping our enemies for free.


Rev. Fired For Mentioning "Jesus" in Prayer

A North Carolina pastor was relieved of his duties as an honorary chaplain of the state house of representatives after he closed a prayer by invoking the name of Jesus.

“I got fired,” said Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He had been invited to lead prayer for an entire week but his tenure was cut short when he refused to remove the name Jesus from his invocation.

Baity’s troubles began during the week of May 31. He said a House clerk asked to see his prayer. The invocation including prayers for our military, state lawmakers and a petition to God asking him to bless North Carolina.”

“When I handed it to the lady, I watched her eyes and they immediately went right to the bottom of the page and the word Jesus,” he told FOX News Radio. “She said ‘We would prefer that you not use the name Jesus. We have some people here that can be offended.’”


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Hawaii Rejects Gay Unions

Ending months of tense speculation, Hawaii's governor yesterday vetoed a bill to allow same-sex civil unions. Republican Linda Lingle made her decision on the last day she had to consider the bill, which the Hawaiian legislature passed in April. State legislators don't have the votes to override her veto. "I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-gender marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially marriage by another name," Lingle said.

The bill would have given gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples, making Hawaii one of 6 states that essentially grant the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself (6 other states and DC allow same-sex marriage). While some Gays don't want the obligations associated with marriage, they do want to cash in on employment benefits offered married partners by various employers, especially civil service. This would increase taxes, in order to pay out such benefits.

Overall, Democrats support gay marriage and benefits, while Republicans do not. In America, public polls show the majority of citizens are opposed to gay marriage, but most newspapers and TV news networks support it. See Chick's THE GAY BLADE.

UK Welcome Gays For Asylum

Gay refugees have a right to asylum in Britain, a high court has ruled. The decision, which cites "rampant homophobic teaching" in parts of Africa and "the ultra-conservative interpretation of Islamic law" in Iran, will stop those fearing imprisonment, torture or execution from being shipped back to their home countries. "This gives me hope," a Ugandan asylum seekers tells the Guardian. "I feared for my life in Uganda."

Anti-immigration groups worry the move will flood the country with asylum seekers. "Millions of people around the world" could apply, says a rep from Migrationwatch. But the government reps defended the plan, noting that there are strict conditions and that it is simply "not acceptable" to ask people to hide their sexuality to avoid persecution.

As Britain has become more Socialist in the last several decades, it has become more pro-gay. It s not legal for adults men to recruit gay sex with teenage boys as young as 16. See Chick's SIN CITY.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Gay Priest Robs Church of $1 Million

A Roman Catholic priest who reportedly disagreed with the church's position on homosexuality and was angry about being transferred stands accused of stealing more than $1 million from his parish.

The Rev. Kevin Gray, 64, allegedly used the money to fund a double life filled with male escorts, designer goods, restaurant meals and hotel stays for seven years.

The former pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Waterbury, Conn., was charged Tuesday with first-degree larceny and jailed in lieu of $750,000 bond, the New York Post reported.

"The life he was leading in New York City was much different than the life he was leading in Waterbury as a priest," Waterbury Police Capt. Christopher Corbett told the New York Daily News. "He's certainly an example of someone who was leading a double life."

Gray told the 35-year-old man he was a lawyer for Catholic Charities and went into New York City for treatment for colon cancer, both of which were untrue, the warrant said.

When Waterbury police spoke with Gray at the Manhattan apartment on June 10, he told them "he had grown to hate being a priest and was upset with the archdiocese for the assignments they had given him over the years," the warrant says.

He said he was "bitter" when he was transferred in 2001 to New Hartford and his mother was dying in a New Haven hospital, the warrant said. He started stealing in 2003 because he "felt the church owed it to him," the warrant said.

Gray told authorities he used church funds to pay for dinners, hotel rooms, clothing and orders placed to Campus Escorts in New York.

"Mr. Gray stated that he is gay and does have a problem with the church's position on homosexuality," the arrest warrant stated.

The alleged theft was uncovered by church officials.

Gray allegedly spent more than $205,000 on meals at restaurants like Tavern on the Green, more than $130,000 on hotel stays, including at the Waldorf-Astoria, often at the times he hired male escorts. He is also accused of dropping more than $80,000 on pricey clothing, the Post said.

Gray also took out credit cards for a man he met at a male strip club and another he met through an escort service, the Daily News said. One charged $67,000, and the other spent nearly $50,000 on goods from luxury retailer Louis Vuitton and gym membership fees.

He also allegedly made a secret agreement for a cell phone provider to lease space in the church's steeple for an antenna, which brought in more than $200,000. Such deals are banned by church officials, the Post said. See Chick's SIN CITY.

Vatican Allows Opening of Mobster Tomb

For almost three decades, the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, has haunted and fascinated the Italian public. The daughter of a Vatican employee vanished in June 1983 as she walked home from a flute lesson in central Rome. Some commentators have claimed she was kidnapped on the orders of a corrupt priest, others by the KGB. Investigators, though, have never been able to confirm what happened to the teen.

Now the case is back in the headlines after the Vatican announced that it would allow police to open the tomb of the gangster suspected of kidnapping Orlandi.

In 2005, an anonymous caller to Italy's equivalent of Crime Stoppers suggested that if police looked inside the crypt, they'd find out what happened to the teen. The man who made that call has since been identified as the son of one of De Pedis' gangsters.

Now five years later, the Vatican -- operating through the Vicariate of Rome -- has said that it will allow Italian authorities to crack open the marble crypt and examine its contents. "The Vicariate of Rome expresses no objection to the request of Italian magistrates that the tomb of Signor De Pedis be inspected," the Vicariate said in a statement cited by The Daily Telegraph.

It's not clear whether investigators think they might find Orlandi's remains in the vault, or new evidence about her disappearance. A spokeswoman for the Rome police told the Daily Mail that they planned to open the tomb in August or September, and in the meantime would continue to interview witnesses to the case, which was reopened two years ago.

The decision by Rome's ecclesiastical authorities to allow De Pedis -- whose gang controlled Rome's drug market and was responsible for numerous murders -- to be interred at the 300-year-old church has been an ongoing source of controversy. In 1997, when his body was finally placed inside the tomb, Giampaolo Tronci, secretary-general of a police trade union, told the Guardian, ''I wonder what the murdered anti-mafia priests would think of this, given that not even they were granted this privilege."

The burial was approved by the then-rector of the church, Monsignor Pietro Vergara, on the grounds that De Pedis had "repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity," including handing large donations to the church, the Mail noted. Tronci, however, said that he suspected the dead mobster was interred in the sacred space because of his gang's connection to financial scandals involving the Vatican.

That theory was advanced in 2008, when De Pedis' former girlfriend Sabrina Minardi claimed American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus -- the disgraced head of the Vatican bank, who was accused of having links with organized crime -- ordered Orlandi's disappearance. Italian newspaper La Repubblica quoted her testimony to police, in which she said that Marcinkus, who died in 2006, wanted the girl snatched "to send a message to someone above them" as part of a "power game."

She added that after being held for an unspecified period of time, Orlandi was murdered and her body thrown into a cement mixer on the outskirts of Rome. In return for the kidnapping, Marcinkus allegedly helped De Pedis invest his gang's money overseas.

The Vatican rejected the accusations as "slanderous without basis."

But that's just one of many theories put forward to explain the girl's vanishing. Some commentators have claimed that Orlandi was grabbed on the orders of the KGB and was supposed to be used as a bargaining tool to secure the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was allegedly working for Soviet intelligence. Others have argued that the girl's father discovered Church documents connecting the Vatican bank with the Magliana gang, and that she was kidnapped to silence him.

Orlandi's family, though, refuses to speculate. "We will await the facts," her sister, Natalina, told The Daily Telegraph. "But I have never believed that Emanuela could be buried with De Pedis. As a Catholic, to think that an underworld boss could be laid to rest in a basilica is upsetting." See Chick's THE HIT.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Iranian Woman to be Stoned

The fate of an Iranian mother of two sentenced to be stoned to death at any time hung in the balance today as a last-minute campaign to save her gathered strength and her lawyer said even he did not know what the outcome will be.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, who was convicted of adultery in 2006, is "very frightened and very sad" as she sits in a prison cell in Tabriz and worries about the two children she has not seen in four years, said her lawyer. Her son and daughter started the crusade to save her.

"Sakineh is supposed to be stoned to death, and I still think it could happen at any time," her lawyer, Mohammed Mostafaei, told AOL News in a telephone interview from Iran Tuesday.

"She feels helpless and hopeless," he said. "She says she is not guilty, but the government says she is guilty. The conviction is a sham. I would like to think that the news of this case will help her, but I can't be sure."

Mina Ahadi, head of the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, told AOL news that the Iranian government may meet Saturday to decide Ashtiani's fate.

Ahadi, an Iranian human rights activist who fled Iran for Germany in the 1980s, began helping Ashtiani's children, Sajad, 22, and Farideh, 17, spearhead a campaign to raise public awareness about their mother.

"I spoke to her son today, and he has a little bit of hope," Ahadi said. "Sometimes these death sentences are overturned because of public pressure."

Though Iran supposedly enacted a moratorium on stoning in 2002, the practice has continued, according to Iranian human rights activists. About 40 stonings were reported in Iran between the 1979 Islamic Revolution and 1997. Since 2002, men and women alike have been stoned despite the moratorium, but reliable statistics are difficult to come by, according to Ahadi.

Under Sharia law in Iran, a woman's death by stoning involves being buried up to the neck and having stones hurled at her head. The law even specifies the size of the stones: not so big that the victim dies quickly, but not so small that death takes an inordinately long time.

Sakineh received a sentence of 99 lashes after her conviction for adultery in 2006. Her lawyer said she was forced to confess to the adultery charge and has since retracted the confession. A further complication is that Sakineh speaks Turkish and does not understand Farsi.

Her son, then 17, witnessed her flogging.

"They lashed her just in front of my eyes," Sajad told the London Guardian. "This has been carved in my mind since then."

The case against Sakineh was reopened when Tabriz officials decided she might have murdered her husband. She was ultimately acquitted of murder, but a judge then reviewed the adultery case against her and sentenced her to death. In doing so, the judge used a legal loophole called "judicial knowledge," which permits judges to make decisions based on their personal feelings, regardless of actual evidence.

"Imagine what's she's going through right now," said Maryam Namazie, an Iranian human rights activist based in Britain who works with Iran Solidarity, among other organizations. "Knowing she'll never see her children again. Facing the torture of being stoned. Being flogged 99 times is bad enough."

Namazie told AOL News that many other women are stoned in Iran, but the government carries out the executions in secret. See Chick's MEN OF PEACE?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Poor Revolutionist Re-issued

In an unexpected move, Chick re-issued one of his previous tracts-- one Chick Publications had before described as "permanently retired". It dealt with communism in the 1970s (when Carter was President and America was moving to the Left). Now, Obama is President, and the timing and slight revisions hint that Chick sees similarities between the two administrations (he changes the word "communism" to "socialism" in a few places). The fact this tract was issued just before July 4th may also be significant. See this classic tract at the Chick website.