Death Sentence Meted
For Killing "Witches"
by Cliff Walker
from Wire Reports

November 9, 1998

Kampala, Uganda -- A Ugandan court sentenced four youths to death for their part in killings of more than 50 people suspected of practicing witchcraft, Ugandan radio reported.

A High Court judge said that the youths were recruited by local tribal elders and were instructed to kill elders thought to be practicing witchcraft. Some politicians were involved in their recruitment, the convicted youths alleged.

The murder spree took place in 1995 in the Manjiya County of Mbale, in eastern Uganda. Belief in witchcraft is still strong in this area.

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Florida Senator
Alleges Voodoo Attack
by Cliff Walker
from Wire Reports

November 11, 1998

Miami -- Florida Republican state senator Alberto Gutman accused his opponent Agustin Garcia's campaign worker of trying to sabotage a ballot recount with voodoo. He told police the worker covered his car with splotches of a thick beige substance with an oatmeal-like texture. The recount confirmed Gutman's victory by 301 votes.

Speaking to the Miami Herald, Garcia described the splotches as "voodoo crap" and accused Garcia's of marring the car in a ritual aimed at putting a hex on the ballot count. He told police the worker also attempted to put a spell on him on election night. In the first incident, he told police the campaign worker "uttered some words, I guess pertaining to witchcraft or voodoo and she threw some substance on him, more like the stuff that was on the car."

The suspect, who was also watching the ballot recount, denied the allegations and consented to a police search of her purse, which turned up no evidence linking her to the oatmeal-like substance, officer Heriberto Mercado said. "It's not a common thing but it's not a rare thing, especially down here in Miami," said Mercado.

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Court Okays Religious Motto
© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.

November, 1998

Columbus, Ohio -- Because it is not a quote from the Bible, Federal Judge James Graham ruled in September that the words of the state motto of Ohio, "With God all things are possible," are permissible to display on state property. He said, "They do not state a principle unique to Christianity. They could be classified as generically theistic." He added that if the motto came from Matthew 19:26, for instance, the motto would favor Christianity over all other religions.

Last year the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the motto as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Ohio adopted the motto in 1959. Three other states, Florida, South Dakota, and Arizona have the word "God" in their state mottos. Arizona's state motto is in Latin.

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Priest Tries To Wake Dead
by Cliff Walker
from wire reports

November 6, 1998

Finnish Lutheran vicar Markku Koivisto prayed over the body of a drowned child and led parishioners in an all-night vigil aimed at resurrecting him.

An ambulance that had been called to his aid drove into a ditch and a medical helicopter that was sent to the scene flew to the wrong place.

The vicar was rebuked by his bishop for the display, although the entire Christian religion revolves around Christ's claim to have defeated death.

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Turning Cremated Remains
Into Beads
from Wire Reports

November 5, 1998

Seol -- In a country where burial is still the common method of laying out the dead, a South Korean has developed a new technology to transform the ashes of the deceased into decorative ceramic beads.

Instead of strewing the loved one's ashes over water or in the air, families can take the beads home with them or wherever they want to go.

"The beads have no smell, they don't perish and they shine beautifully. You can keep them at home, temples or funeral houses," said Kim Sang-guk, 44, who developed the beads after six years of research.

In Korea, it would be unthinkable to bring the ashes of the deceased home in an urn and put them on the mantlepiece.

"I figured that many people feel reluctant to choose cremation for fear that they will feel separated from their deceased families if they strew the ashes," Kim told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The burnt remains are heated to 2,000 degrees Centigrade and the drops of lava-like liquid are shaped into little balls. The color of the beads, with no artificial substance added, vary from jade to sky blue, he said.

Kim was motivated to develop the method by a movement in the Hanul Cultural Center, an organization committed to social services, including reforming funeral customs.

Land for new cemeteries in a mountainous country with a nearly 5,000-year-old history is getting increasingly scarce and expensive.

But the ancient Confucian culture teaches Koreans to take good care of their ancestors' graves.

Kim said he was looking for an alternative to burial and conducted a number of laboratory tests until he succeeded in transforming the ashes into beads in 1996.

Kim recently obtained a patent and said he was willing to give free service to those who donate their organs after their death.

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I Don't Think So

Sun and Rainbows
Honor Kim Jong-Il
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Bangkok Post, AFP

February 21, 1996

North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported that concentric rainbows appeared around the sun on February 16, in honor of Kim Jong-Il's 54th birthday, as if they were "defending and upholding" him.

The Agency also reported that, for the 54th straight year, it was "bright and temperate" on Mount Paektu, where Kim was born after averaging 40 degrees below zero for the 100 years prior.

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I Don't Think So

Sea Cucumbers and Fruit Trees
Honor Kim Jong Il
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

According to a communique from the North Korean communist party, "dear leader" Kim Jong Il, 55, has been promoted to "great leader," which, according to the official government news agency, is cause for "jubilation" even in the midst of national famine.

The news agency added that fantastic natural phenomena were occurring to mark the occasion, including the landing of a 4-inch-long white sea cucumber by one angler and the spontaneous, prolific blossoming of numerous pear trees and apricot trees.

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That fish was how long?

Lightning Cures MS;
Interview Cancels
Murrah Building Visit
by Chuck Shepherd
source: The Sunday Oklahoman

March 17, 1996

The Sunday Oklahoman profiled Oklahoma City homemaker Mary Clamser, 44, whose deterioration with multiple sclerosis had been abruptly halted in 1994 when lightning struck her house while she was grasping metal objects with each hand and wearing her metal leg brace brought on by the disease. Suddenly, she began walking easily, and though doctors told her the condition was probably only temporary, she still walks easily today.

As if that weren't enough good luck, Clamser, in order to fly to California for a TV interview in April 1995, was forced to cancel a local appointment she had made at the Oklahoma City federal building for 9 a.m. on April 19.

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We Don' Smoke Mary Warner...

Muskogee Patriot and
Prophet Sentenced
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, AP

April 26, 1996

In Muskogee, Oklahoma, religious patriot and prophet Willie Ray Lampley, 65, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a scheme to blow up buildings (in his words, "drop four or five buildings").

Lampley had targeted gay bars, abortion clinics, and "civil rights centers" for demolition because he was certain of an imminent foreign invasion and thought the explosions somehow would forestall it.

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Where Church Equals State

Iranian Video Games
Teach Islamic Values
by Chuck Shepherd

October 6, 1995

Iran, long struggling with the effects of technology on the country's fundamental Islamic values (in 1994 banning satellite dishes because they were bringing in indecent Western television), announced through the government-run Tehran television station that it was developing computer and video games to teach Islamic moral values.

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Community Support for Family Values

Judge: Victim to Live
with Molestor, an Ex-Pastor
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Tampa Tribune, AP

January 15, 1996

In Palm Harbor, Florida, a 41-year-old ex-pastor pleaded guilty to persuading his daughter, then age 6, to touch him sexually while he videotaped her.

Reflecting on the community support for the ex-pastor, county Judge Charles Cope rejected the normal three-year prison term for the man and instead sentenced him to house arrest -- in the same house where the girl, now 8, continues to live.

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Channeler Predicts Light Sentence

Psychic's Advice Blamed
For County's Bankruptcy
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Las Vegas Review-Journal

March 13, 1996

Former Orange County, California, Treasurer Robert L. Citron, who is awaiting sentencing for fraud in mishandling the county's finances, said in December that the reason his investment decisions plunged the county into the biggest local-government bankruptcy in history in 1994 was the bad advice he had received on interest rates from a mail-order psychic.

The good news for Citron, according to Anaheim, California, channeler Barbara Connor, is that Citron told her that he learned during two trances last year that he would receive community service but no jail time for his conviction.

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Roman Catholic Priest
Sees Fertility Expert
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Reuters

October 31, 1995

Italy's most famous fertility doctor, Severino Antinori, told reporters that among his patients is a 37-year-old sterile parish priest from Tuscany who wanted Dr. Antinori to bypass the man's blocked sperm duct and extract sperm directly from the testicles so that he could father a child with his 34-year-old lover.

A Vatican spokesman called the priest "mad."

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Where Church Equals State

Gazans Prefer Barbaric
Religious Arbitration
Over Israeli Courts
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Columbia State, AP

January 7, 1994

An Associated Press report from the Gaza Strip described recent sentences handed down by one of the best-known of the local religious arbiters.

Most Gazans boycott the Israeli-run court system and opt for private arbitration.

A man who "winks" at a woman and says "Hey, beautiful!" should pay the woman's family about $2,500 and have his eye gouged out. As punishment for rape, the rapist must ride an oiled camel from his house to his victim's, and upon arrival, he must submit to having cut off any part of his body that has oil on it. A murderer's family was ordered to pay either a large amount of money to the victim's family or a smaller amount plus a the use of a woman to bear a son to replace the victim.

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Tell Us Something We Didn't Know

Torah Increases
Husbands' Leverage
In Divorce
by Chuck Shepherd
source: New York Times

May 27, 1995

According to a New York Times story, as many as 20 Orthodox Jewish fathers in New York City who are involved in bitter divorce fights may be improving their leverage by resorting to an obscure passage in the Torah.

A father is permitted to arrange his daughter's marriage while she is still a minor (under age 13); the daughter can then marry no one else without the father's permission. Because a mother so fears for her daughter's well-being, she may relent to divorce demands of the husband if he will drop the arrangement.

The Times interviewed rabbis who called the practice disgusting and abhorrent, but valid.

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Witnesses Feared
Repeating Words

Death Sentence For
Blasphemy Overturned
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Washington Times, AP

February 24, 1995

In Islamabad, Pakistan, a Christian boy, 14, and his uncle were convicted of blaspheming Islam and given the traditional mandatory death sentences. The boy had written an anti-Islam message in chalk on a wall and then had immediately erased it.

The next week, another court overturned the conviction because no evidence existed against the two -- since the words had been erased, and all eyewitnesses feared repeating the words, even in court.

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Admittedly Questionable
Religious Pronouncement

Muslim Sect Rejects
Pakistani Traffic Rules
by Chuck Shepherd
source: San Francisco Chronicle

June 9, 1994

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Muslim sect Tehrik-a-Nifaz in Pakistan declared in May that proper Muslims should reject the government's traffic rules and begin driving their cars on the right side of the road.

Since everyone else in Pakistan drives on the left side, there were so many serious accidents that two weeks later, the sect was forced to rescind the decree.

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Where Church Equals State

Ayatollah: "Stop That
Or You'll Go Blind!"
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: New York Daily News, Reuter

May 20, 1995

In Tehran, 3,300 couples were married in a mass ceremony designed to discourage bachelorhood and its attendant masturbation.

Said Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi, "[The masturbator's] eyes, his nerves, many of his body organs will be so affected that medical science cannot cure him."

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Afghan Defended
For Child Fondling
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Portland Press Herald

July 27, 1994

In Portland, Maine, Judge Robert E. Crowley found a 39-year-old Afghan refugee guilty of sexual assault against his 2-year-old son. A neighbor had seen the man kiss the boy's penis, but according to the man's lawyer, and about a dozen Afghanis who attended the trial, that is accepted, and common, in Afghan culture as a show of affection.

Judge Crowley said the statute calls the action illegal even if not done for sexual pleasure.

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Kids Placed In Christian Homes

Support For Afghan
Child Fondling Grows
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Houston Chronicle

September 17, 1995

The Houston Chronicle reported in September on the growing support among American Muslims for once-accused child molester Sadri Krasniqi of Plano, Texas Krasniqi, an Albanian-American, was arrested in 1989 after witnesses reported him fondling his four-year-old daughter under her dress, and state authorities removed the girl, and her brother, to a Christian family.

In 1994, after many delays, charges were dropped against Krasniqi when prosecutors became convinced that because parent-child sex is so unimaginable in Albania, parental fondling -- even genital fondling -- is accepted. Muslim critics said such fondling is correctly forbidden among Americans because pedophilia is so common here.

However, even though no longer facing charges, Krasniqi and his wife have so far been denied the return of their children.

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Thousands Missing From Fund

Flock Turns On Pastor
by Conrad Goeringer
from AANEWS by American Atheists

October 21, 1997

In Nairobi, Africa, members of the Soul Winning Salvation Church worked themselves up into a religious fervor, and began beating up the pastor over a dispute over church funds. According to Reuters news service the incident began when one of the flock claimed that thousands of dollars was missing from a special education fund which had been donated by a Swedish charity. Women "undulated and wailed as they pounced on Pastor James Kiratu. Other churchgoers got down on their knees and urged God to punish the pastor."

Eventually, the flock-leader was rescued by the police, and transported to a hospital. He sustained injuries to the head and neck. As the pastor was being loaded into a waiting ambulance, passers-by joined in the fray and began looting the church building.

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