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Archive of July 26, 2008

Pro-life student group sues Michigan university

Detroit, Mich., Jul 26, 2008 (CNA) - A pro-life student group at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan is suing the school alleging its free speech rights were violated last spring when the university denied funding for a week of pro-life events.

The group Students for Life said that, as a registered campus organization, it should be entitled to a portion of student fees like other groups are. The student group said it sought $4,000 from the university’s student council for snacks, T-shirts, fliers, and publicity but said the request was denied. A smaller budget was submitted and likewise rejected, according to the group.

Students for Life’s lawsuit says the initial request was rejected because of “spiritual and religious references.” However, the pro-life group says that it has no specific religious affiliation.

Students for Life Executive Director Kristan Hawkins explained to CNA that the situation was “strange” because the Students for Life group received event funding from Wayne State in the past.  The move to deny the group financial support clearly “reflects on the current student government,” she said.

Hawkins described the situation as “tragic” because the Students for Life group on the campus has always acted in a professional manner.  There is “no reason for this at all,” she asserted.

The group reportedly wanted to hold a pro-life trivia game on a stage at a busy area of the Student Center North Commons but was told to use another area, the lawsuit further alleges. The events also included the opportunity to have a photo taken with a model of an unborn child.

In the lawsuit, Students for Life and group members Juliegha Norus and Mark Robertson are seeking to have the university’s student fees spending policy declared illegal. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

“Access for these groups to funding and facilities must be provided without regard to the group's viewpoint. When a public university enforces a viewpoint-discriminatory policy, the school violates the Constitution,” the group’s attorney Joseph Martins told the Associated Press.

Kristan Hawkins said that this type of behavior by student governments is a tragic pattern that has been moving across college campuses in the United States.

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Bishop explains Catholic position in response to death of Chilean woman who refused blood transfusion

Santiago, Chile, Jul 26, 2008 (CNA) - In response to the commotion caused by the death of Chilean woman who was a Jehovah’s Witness and refused a blood transfusion, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua explained that “respecting the conscience of each person” does not override the duty “to safeguard respect for life.”

Bishop Goic, who is president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, lamented the death of Edith Morales, a 52 year-old Chilean woman who died in Rancagua of leukemia after refusing to receive blood transfusions, which she said went against her religious beliefs, despite efforts by her family members to persuade her to accept them.

Bishop Goic expressed condolences to her family members and noted that Morales “belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who totally reject blood transfusions as a means of treatment.” Their belief, he said, is based on their interpretation of some passages in the Old Testament which prohibit blood transfusions.

“What do we say about these interpretations? Jesus Christ taught us that the old prohibitions of food have no meaning in the New Covenant. ‘The Kingdom of God is not a matter of food or drink, but of justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 14:17). It is not clear how the Jehovah’s Witnesses deduce from the prohibition against eating the blood of animals in the Old Testament the prohibition against blood transfusions that are precisely aimed to save human life,” the bishop said.

“The Catholic Church accepts transfusions,” he emphasized. “The Sacred Scriptures are not opposed to this kind of therapy that, on the other hand, was unknown in the times of Jesus.  Jesus Christ teaches us that giving one’s life for others is the greatest show of love,” Bishop Goic said.

“In the vision of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are three important elements to consider: religious freedoms, respect for consciences and laws,” he added.

“For the Catholic Church, the position of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is what we call one of an erroneous conscience.  That is, they believe something that is mistaken.  This is part of their profound convictions, and therefore it merits respect in their decision making.  Religious freedom invites us to respect the conscience of each person.  What we must safeguard is the respect for life. In response to this, many laws dealing with minors in danger of death allow for the will of the parents to be overridden, not because children have more rights than parents, but because their lives are in jeopardy (Spain, Canada, to name of few).”

“God is the God of life. For Jesus life is something precious and ‘saving a life’ prevails over the law of the Sabbath (Mark 3:4), because ‘God is not a God of the dead but of the living’(Mark 12:27),” Bishop Goic stressed.  “We are followers of Jesus Christ. In the example of Christ, we can give our lives out of love of neighbor.  ‘No one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13).  Therefore, we strongly affirm ‘life, always’,” the bishop said.

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Minnesota professor claims to have desecrated Eucharist

Morris, MN, Jul 26, 2008 (CNA) - Saying “Catholicism has been actively poisoning the minds of its practitioners” and characterizing religious instruction as “a devastating crime against the whole of the human race,” University of Minnesota at Morris biology professor Dr. Paul Zachary Myers claims to have carried out his threat to desecrate the Eucharist.

Prof. Myers says that he pierced a Host with a rusty nail and then threw it in the trash alongside coffee grounds, banana peels, and pages torn respectively from the Koran and a book by the atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins.

In a rambling prelude to his announcement of the desecration, Myers tried to explain his actions in a Thursday post on his blog “Pharyngula.” Referencing the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which he said codified Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist and established legal punishment for Jews, he said that accusations of Eucharistic desecration had been harmful to Jews in medieval Europe.

“That is the true power of the cracker, this silly symbol of superstition. Fortunately, Catholicism has mellowed with age — the last time a Catholic nation rose up to slaughter its non-Christian citizenry was a whole 70 years ago, after all — but the sentiment still lingers,” he said, apparently making a reference to the Spanish Civil War.

Myers said he had received “thousands of mindless comments” from Catholics and quoted several letters he had received. He said prayerful letters with no threats were representative of the majority of his e-mail, but he also quoted several threatening and bizarre e-mails.

The professor argued that Catholics were intolerant for demanding he be fired and sending threats, repeating his claim that he was motivated by the case of Webster Cook, a student senator at the University of Central Florida, who was accused of taking a Host from a Catholic Mass and keeping it in a plastic bag.

Responding to charges that he is an evil man, he said the truly evil were “hypocritical” clerics who dressed ornately while preaching poverty, people who “undermined family planning efforts for the poor.”

He then asserted that religious education is a crime against humanity, saying:

“And if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing, and fomenting hatred against anyone who dared speak out in defiance.”

Saying he was inspired by an old woodcut that depicted Jews stabbing the Host, Myers then said he pierced what he claimed was a consecrated Host with a rusty nail.

“And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffee grounds and a banana peel. My apologies to those who hoped for more, but the worst I can do is show my unconcerned contempt,” he wrote.

Myers did not say where he had acquired the reputed consecrated Host or who had provided it.

He said the also threw in pages from the Koran and Richard Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion,” posting a picture of the act on his blog which appeared to support his claims.

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, responded to Myers’ reported action in a Thursday statement.

Noting that a formal complaint has already been made against Myers, Donohue said “What he did—in both word and deed—constitutes a bias incident, as defined by the University of Minnesota.”

University policy states “Expressions of disrespectful bias, hate, harassment or hostility against an individual, group or their property because of the individual or group’s actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion…can be forms of discrimination.”

“It is important for Catholics to know that the University of Minnesota will not tolerate the deliberate destruction of the Eucharist by one of its faculty. Just as African Americans would not tolerate the burning of a cross, and Jews would not tolerate the display of swastikas, Catholics will not tolerate the desecration of the Eucharist,” Donohue said.

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