Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Atheists Say "Santa" is OK but Jesus Has to Go! Calls Nativity a "Superstition"

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken offense with a nativity scene displayed outside a courthouse in downtown Athens, Texas.

The Keep Athens Beautiful Committee has been putting up the nativity scene since 2002, and County Judge Richard Sanders says it’s not violating any law, according to ABC News affiliate KBMT.

“Because we have all the other decorations, it’s legal,” Sanders said. “Our county attorney has looked into it.”

A Henderson County resident complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group, and the foundation notified the committee that the nativity scene was in violation of federal law. The foundation asked for the baby Jesus to be removed, or for a sign to be put up next to his crib that would read: “At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

But while some believe Santa is “but myth and superstition,” no one has asked for a sign to be placed next to him, clarifying his non-existence. The town has several other seasonal decorations up, such as reindeer, garden gnomes and snowmen, but the nativity scene is the only decoration has been criticized as a religious symbol. As for Santa, he’s more of a tradition than a religious icon, so the foundation has not taken issue with him.

Henderson County Commissioner Joe Hall says he’ll fight to keep the nativity scene in place.

“Don’t come down here and tell me there is no God. This nation is a Christian nation regardless of what those fruit loops and fruitcakes in Washington D.C. say. Hell will freeze over before I vote to have it removed,” Hall said.

Pastor Nathan Lorick of First Baptist Church in Malakoff, about 10 miles from Athens, said it is time to stand up and speak up in defense of Christianity, which is the majority in Athens.

“I hope this is a platform all across the nation that says, let’s take America back,” he said.


Monday, December 19, 2011

How The Recession Has Affected Many This Christmas Season

YAHOO NEWS--For most Americans, the holidays are a time for happiness and celebration with family and friends--or at least for a few precious days of hard-earned relaxation. But when you're out of work and struggling to get by, the season can make things even harder.

Barry Viprino, a 30-year old financial adviser from Cape Cod, Mass., has been jobless for a year, and his family of five has been living in a one-room apartment. "It is hard looking myself in the mirror, or my kids in the eye," he told us. "For Christmas, they keep asking if we can just get a house. And I have to explain that, Santa cannot give us a house."

Barry Viprino and family

Four years into the Great Recession and the jobless recovery that's followed, we've become inured to the grim statistics. More than 13 million Americans are still officially out of work, and more than four in 10 of them are considered long-term unemployed--they've been jobless for six months or longer. But personal accounts like Barry's--or like one from Norman Spooner of Spencer, Iowa, who explained why he's staying home alone for Christmas this year while his wife visits their grown children: "I am too ashamed to go because I have nothing to offer" -- still hit home.

Over the summer, we asked Yahoo News readers to tell us what it's like to be out of work for an extended period. We got thousands of compelling responses, which we used to create an up-close look at the plight of the unemployed -- a project we called Down But Not Out. For the next installment, we put out a call last week for more stories, this time about how the jobless are coping with the holidays. And once again, readers responded with some fascinating, poignant, heartfelt tales, that help create a rich, nuanced picture of prolonged joblessness in America.

We've posted some of them, in full, on the separate Tumblr site we created for the project. And we've excerpted some below.

"We have started writing letters to one another."
It's not all doom and gloom. To enjoy the season, some readers have been forced to get creative --and even have found some unexpected sources of contentment.

Kellie Norton with her son Justin, at his graduation from U.S. Airforce basic trainin …

Kellie Norton, 38, of Colorado Springs, Colo., is a single mother who lost her job in a department store in March after her autistic 13-year old son became ill and she had to change her schedule. "He doesn't understand that Mommy has no money for presents," she wrote.

Still, she's looking on the bright side. "We won't be traveling anywhere this year. I can not afford the gas," she told us. "I will be bundling my son up on Christmas Eve though. We will spend the few dollars in gas to drive around the city and see all the Christmas lights. The heat in my truck no longer works, so it's gloves and hot chocolate to stay warm. But that's OK. If there is one thing my son loves, it is Christmas lights."

"I can't give anybody anything for Christmas," wrote Paul M., 25, who lost his job three months ago with a contractor at Chicago's Midway Airport. "The least I could do is take some of the food stamps I'm expecting soon and buy materials to make homemade pretzels for my family and friends. The only downside is they'll be hard once they get them."

Dina Johnson with her grand-daughter

Dina Johnson, 39, from southeast Idaho, who lost her job over two years ago, told us she's found a good way to let her loved ones know what they mean to her."We have started writing letters to one another," she wrote. "Mainly the letters are sharing how the other person is important in our lives and what little things they have done to strengthen that relationship."

Heather Yeager, 26, from Tampa, Fla., lost her job at a hospital two months ago, and is facing eviction from her home, along with her four kids, all under the age of 6. "I can't just go out and buy my kids things for Christmas like I would like," she wrote, "so I find myself on the Internet looking at Craigslist ads for things people are giving away for free so that my kids can have some sense of Christmas."

Kevin S., a 48-year-old Californian, told us that last year he was unemployed and couldn't afford gifts for his young son, a big SpongeBob fan. "So I found a yellow and pink sponge in our bathroom," Kevin wrote. "I drew SpongeBob's eyes, nose and mouth on the yellow sponge and cut the pink sponge into a star for the Patrick character. He absolutely loved them and took them everywhere he went. A friend of mine saw them and laughed and said: 'Recession, huh?' 'Yup,' I told him."

"I am always so relieved when Christmas is over"
Still, a lot of readers wrote about the pain of being unable to afford to buy gifts or plan celebrations.

"I always feel like I am missing out on something," wrote Brenda Tlapa, 44, of Bedford Park, Ill., who lost her job at a Fortune 500 design company back in 2008, and is scheduled to lose a warehouse position this Friday. "I see others shopping and spending money, and I honestly get a little upset and resentful. I have absolutely no money to spend on gifts, nothing to give my mother (who means the world to me) and nothing to give my nieces and nephews."

"I am always so relieved when Christmas is over," she added. "It's like a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders."

Spooner, who told us he's spending the holiday alone because he's shamed about being unable to afford gifts, appears to feel the same way this year. "I cannot watch any TV shows or movies that are Christmas themed," he wrote. "I cannot go into any stores during the season because it hurts to see all the Christmas gift wrap, decorations and shoppers. If I am watching TV and a Christmas-related commercial comes on, I immediately have to mute the TV and turn away. I have always loved Christmas and have never missed a Black Friday shopping day, until this year."

Tom H., 57, who lives near Austin, Texas, and has been looking for work for more than two years, is making sacrifices. "My wife asked me for some face wash for Christmas, with tears in her eyes, saying it is something she can't afford to buy anymore," he told us. "I plan on finding something else I can sell to try to order that for her."

K. Smith

Meanwhile, K. Smith (she asked to be identified that way), 50, from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, whose job with a defense contractor was outsourced to China, is cutting back. "There will be little Christmas in our house," she wrote. "Some stocking-stuffers are wrapped in newspaper under a Charlie Brown tree. No turkey or ham waits to be served on fancy linen . . . . No, it'll be simple fare, biscuits and gravy, spaghetti and such." And for Mike Famous of Skippack, Penn., who's been out of work around two years, Christmas is a difficult reminder of better days. "You damn sure don't think about Christmas," he wrote. "If you do, it's only in the sentimental, wayward sense that you have some distant memory as a kid or of when you were with your kids and times were good . . . . I can recall the night before Christmas like it was the night before PARADISE. Those were the days, as they say. Now twenty bucks for a tree is twenty bucks I ain't got. Twenty bucks is three dinners if I work at it. Keep the tree and let me eat."
Read More from YAHOO News

Is There A World War On Christmas?

NEW YORK, Dec. 19, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on how crazy the "War on Christmas" has become:
North Korea is putting South Korea on notice, warning of "unexpected consequences" if Seoul displays Christmas lights near the border. In China last week, government officials and the police smashed the sound equipment of Christians who were about to celebrate Christmas in a village outside Beijing.
Our atheists share the same mindset, if not the same means.
In a South Carolina cancer center, a 67-year-old volunteer Santa was evicted because of the "different cultures and beliefs of the patients we care for"; it later reversed its decision. In an elementary school in Stockton, California, poinsettias were banned but somehow snowmen were permitted; they justified their censorship by saying there was a Sikh temple in the city (note: there is no evidence that Sikhs suffer apoplexy when they see poinsettias, but there is plenty of evidence that cultural fascists enjoy using them as a foil to justify their own intolerance).
A homosexual group on the campus of Washington and Jefferson College succeeded in getting the Dean to approve a condom-decorated Christmas tree. A skeleton St. Nick was found hanging from a cross on the grounds of the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia.
Most atheists are not intolerant, but rare is the atheist qua activist who is not. Unfortunately, we don't have to look overseas to Communist nations to witness this verity. That they show up at Christmastime, as well as at Easter, is proof that their real hatred is of all things Christian.
Read More from Christian News Wire

Retired Astronomy Teachers Says She Has Discovered The Christmas Star

Christian Post--When former high school astronomy teacher Irene Worthington Baron received 60 astronomy computer programs from NASA for her classroom, she started wondering if she could use them to prove there really was a Christmas star.

Baron, recently retired after almost 40 years of teaching, just released a new ebook, Unraveling the Christmas Star Mystery. In it, she explains how she used ancient astronomy symbols and modern computer programs to uncover events surrounding the birth of Christ.

She told The Christian Post, “I always thought there was one Christmas star and I wanted to find it.” So she started studying the symbols of ancient astronomers.

In her book, Baron claims that her findings reveal there were 10 major, celestial events announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, the last being the position marker over Bethlehem.

She writes, “The sixth significant event of Jesus’ birth announcement occurred on September 1st, 0004 when a spectacular solar eclipse occurred close to Mars, Venus, and Saturn while the Sun was partially eclipsing the slow moving Saturn. The Moon then moved in front of the Sun and totally eclipsed it. To have the Sun eclipsing Saturn and the Moon eclipsing the Sun simultaneously is an extremely rare event at any time, let alone for a dawn sky.”

She told CP that the “Christmas star was, in fact, Saturn.” It was on the other side of the sun during that time and was very bright in the night sky. It was moving right over Bethlehem during a two-week time period.

Read More From Christian Post

Full Video Coverage of Athens Nativity Rally

Nathan Lorick's Speech at Henderson County Nativity Rally

Sunday, December 18, 2011

JMC Live Faith in America: The Nativity Rally in Athens,TX

Jeremy shares about being born in Athens, TX and talks about the Nativity Rally in that town. He challenges America to imitate the Christ-like character God has called us to be.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Henderson County Texas Takes A Stand for Christ with the Nativity Rally

The Call to the Pastors of Henderson County Texas

And here is the Nativity Rally

More from the Rally

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Facebook Gets Into Suicide Prevention

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Facebook is making it easier for people who express suicidal thoughts on the social networking site to get help.

A program launching Tuesday enables users to instantly connect with a crisis counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through Facebook's "chat" messaging system.

If a friend spots a suicidal thought on someone's page, he can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook then sends an email to the person who posted the comment encouraging that user to call the hotline or click a link for a confidential chat.

The service is Facebook's latest move aimed at improving safety on its site.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Internet Evangelism Is Effective

Online evangelism is producing real disciples for Christ, according to a recent study.

Over half of those who made a decision for Jesus over the Internet have subsequently shared their faith with others, Global Media Outreach's study reveals.

Additionally, 34 percent read their Bibles daily and nearly half pray for at least 10 minutes a day.

"These findings are remarkable because they reveal that online evangelism isn’t just an in-the-moment decision, and people continue to grow in their faith after they have indicated a decision,” Global Media Outreach founder and chairman Walt Wilson said in a statement.

The study, called the Christian Growth Index, measured the responses of more than 100,000 people from around the world.

For Wilson, the results of the study indicate "that online evangelism and discipleship is truly measurable and effective."

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they shared their faith three times or more and 37 percent said they shared their faith at least once or twice.


Northeast states cut heating aid to poor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mary Power is 92 and worried about surviving another frigid New England winter because deep cuts in federal home heating assistance benefits mean she probably can't afford enough heating oil to stay warm.

She lives in a drafty trailer in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood and gets by on $11,148 a year in pension and Social Security benefits. Her heating aid help this year will drop from $1,035 to $685. With rising heating oil prices, it probably will cost her more than $3,000 for enough oil to keep warm unless she turns her thermostat down to 60 degrees, as she plans.

"I will just have to crawl into bed with the covers over me and stay there," said Power, a widow who worked as a cashier and waitress until she was 80. "I will do what I have to do."

Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government.

"They're playing Russian roulette with people's lives," said John Drew, who heads Action for Boston Community Development, Inc., which provides aid to low-income residents in Massachusetts.

The issue could flare just as New Hampshire votes in the Republican presidential primary.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she hopes the candidates will take up the region's heating aid crunch because it underscores how badly the country needs a comprehensive energy policy.

Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits to families as Congress considers cutting more than $1 billion from last year's $4.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that served nearly 9 million households.

Families in New England, where the winters are long and cold and people rely heavily on costly oil heat, are expected to be especially hard hit. Many poor and elderly people on fixed incomes struggle with rising heating bills that can run into thousands of dollars. That can force them to cut back on other necessities like food or medicine.

"The winter of 2011-12 could be memorable for the misery and suffering of thousands of frigid households," New Hampshire's Concord Monitor newspaper said in an editorial. "Heating oil prices are expected to hit record highs, and federal fuel assistance may reach a record low for recent years."


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

PARENTS be WARNED as New Adult Domains Going "Live" Today

More 100,000 Web sites using the .xxx domain hit the Web on Tuesday morning, heightening debate over the new top-level Internet designation.

The International Corportation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved .xxx in March, and the domain went up for general sale Tuesday.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Ky Church Overturns Ban on Interracial Couples

An eastern Kentucky church under a firestorm of criticism since members voted to bar mixed-race couples from joining the congregation overturned that decision Sunday, saying it welcomes all believers.

Stacy Stepp, pastor of the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, told The Associated Press that the vote by nine people last week was declared null and void after it was determined that new bylaws can't run contrary to local, state or national laws. He said the proposal was discriminatory, therefore it couldn't be adopted.

Stepp said about 30 people who attended church services voted on a new resolution that welcomes "believers into our fellowship regardless of race, creed or color."


Friday, December 2, 2011

PIKEVILLE, Ky. Pastor Speaks Out on Interracial Church Ban

Stacy Stepp, pastor of Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church, told the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville he believes state and national Free Will Baptist associations will stand with him and other members of the church who oppose the ban.

Stepp also said he’s seeking another vote on the issue, perhaps as early as Sunday, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. ”We’re going to get it resolved,” Stepp said, going on to claim that he doesn’t believe the congregation is racist.

Read more

Pastors in Houston, TX Face Charges Against Telling "Gays" About Sin. Will Have to Face New Municipal Court Lesbian Run Judiciary

Two veteran street preachers in Houston are facing a bench trial for spreading the biblical message about homosexuality – and other sins – on one of their favorite corners for preaching in Houston.

Senate Approves Bill that Legalizes Sodomy and Bestiality in U.S. Military

( The Senate on Thursday evening voted 93-7 to approve a defense authorization bill that includes a provision which not only repeals the military law on sodomy, it also repeals the military ban on sex with animals--or bestiality.

On Nov. 15, the Senate Armed Services Committee had unanimously approved S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Article 125 of the UCMJ makes it illegal to engage in both sodomy with humans and sex with animals.

It states: "(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense. (b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the effort to remove sodomy from military law stems from liberal Senate Democrats' and President Obama’s support for removing the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

“It’s all about using the military to advance this administration’s radical social agenda,” Perkins told “Not only did they overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but they had another problem, and that is, under military law sodomy is illegal, just as adultery is illegal, so they had to remove that prohibition against sodomy.”

Perkins said removing the bestiality provision may have been intentional--or just “collateral damage”

“Well, whether it was inadvertent or not, they have also taken out the provision against bestiality,” he said. “So now, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), there’s nothing there to prosecute bestiality."

Former Army Col. Bob Maginnis said some military lawyers have indicated that bestiality may be prosecutable under another section of the military code of justice – the “catch-all” Article 134 for offenses against “good military order and discipline.”

But don't count on that, he said.

“If we have a soldier who engages in sodomy with an animal – whether a government animal or a non-government animal – is it, in fact, a chargeable offense under the Uniform Code? I think that’s in question,” Maginnis told

“When the reader stops laughing, the reader needs to ask the question whether or not this is in the best interests of the government, in the best interests of the military and the best interests of the country? I think not.”

He added: “Soldiers, unfortunately, like it or not, have engaged in this type of behavior in the past. Will they in the future, if they remove this statute? I don’t know.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joplin, Mo. Residents Donate over 12,000 Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes

The Christmas spirit is alive in Joplin, Mo. Residents of the tornado damaged town have seen their share of hardships this year, but it didn’t stop them from participating in Operation Christmas Child. They more than doubled the number of shoe box donations for the organization that sends gift filled shoe boxes to third world countries every Christmas.

OCC Collection Center Coordinator Della Bergen told The Christian Post that the damage from the tornado didn’t stop people from donating. People who had lost everything still came out and donated boxes because OCC is a yearly tradition for them. She said they told her they’re “not going to miss it this year just because of the tornado.”

In total, the town raised 12,520 shoe boxes, compared with last year’s 5,664. Bergen said one of the reasons for the jump in donations stems from the fact that many tornado victims had people they didn’t even know give them things to survive. In turn, this gave them a deeper understanding of what Operation Christmas Child is all about.

Samaritan's Purse’s rescue efforts after the tornado also helped raise awareness for the ministry, and people wanted to give back.

Those who dropped off boxes told Bergen that even though they were just getting back on their feet, they knew their problems were a temporary situation, but for the kids getting shoe boxes, nothing ever changes.

Many new churches signed on this year to help with the shoe boxes. Harmony Heights Baptist Church was hit by the tornado during a service and three of its members were killed. They lost all of their supplies for OCC in the disaster as well.


9yr old kids are attempting suicide study says

Children as young as nine years old are attempting to kill themselves, according to a new U.S. study that probes depression and suicide in youths.

And nearly 40 per cent of those who attempted suicide first tried to kill themselves in elementary or middle school, according to the study published in the November edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers from the University of Washington.

The data was collected from an ongoing study that asked 883 participants, aged 18 to 19, to discuss their suicidal history. Out of 78 participants who said they have attempted suicide, 38 said they made a single attempt and 40 made multiple attempts.

Those who tried to kill themselves multiple times began their attempts as children.

"Multiple attempters were more likely to have made their first suicide attempt during elementary or middle school compared to single attempters," said the study, titled: An Examination of the Validity of Retrospective Measures of Suicide Attempts in Youth.

Those who tried to kill themselves — especially those who made multiple attempts — reported significantly more depression than their peers. The authors suggest that with students trying to kill themselves at such young ages, suicide prevention programs should focus on elementary and middle school populations as well as high school populations.

The youngest age of a reported suicide attempt in the sample was nine years old. Suicide attempt rates showed a sharp spike when the participants were around 12 years old.

Twice as many girls as boys in the study tried to kill themselves.

"We can say that there is tremendous stress on being a teenager these days or even younger people because of the Internet and the fast pace of society and all sorts of things happening around them with the social interaction," said Grant Wilson, director of Canadian Children's Rights Council.


Kentucky Pike County church bans interracial couples from membership

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Only In America: National Guard Soldier Fights To Keep Tree House He Built For Sons On His Own Property

A Fairfax County zoning board has granted a reprieve allowing two boys to keep the tree house their father built for them.

The Board of Zoning Appeals, reversing an earlier decision, agreed unanimously Wednesday to grant a a variance to the tree house that Mark W. Grapin built earlier this year for his two sons before he had to leave on another tour to Iraq.

Wednesday’s decision was a victory for Grapin, who spent more money defending the tree house in an administrative battle than he did building it. The county’s action against the tree house also led to national media coverage and an online petition defending the Grapins, while county officials said they had no choice but to enforce a law that keeps everyone’s neighborhood safe and orderly.

Grapin, 51, who is with the Army National Guard, constructed a red, 58-square-foot tree house last spring around the only sturdy tree on their Falls Church property.

Zoning officials, responding to anonymous complaints, said the Grapins’ tree house violated a county zoning ordinance that regulates the construction of any accessory structure, such as a shed, in people’s front yards. The Grapins live on a corner lot, so its two yards were both defined under the code as front yards, officials said.

Last month, the Board of Zoning Appeals declined to grant a variance, which requires a showing of hardship. Its decision meant the tree house was in violation of zoning laws and must come down.

On Wednesday, however, the board reversed itself, county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said.

Voting 5 to 0, the board found that because the house’s placement on the unusually shaped, shallow property had limited the functionality of its backyard, the homeowners had little choice but to build it in front.

Fitzgerald said the board also conditioned its approval, saying that the tree house must be screened by trees. The variance also can last no more than five years and cannot be transferred with ownership of the property.

Read More From Washington Post

Many Churches Still Plan For Worship Services On Christmas Day

Christian Post--There could be plenty of space in church pews on Christmas Day which falls on a Sunday this year, while many Americans will be putting top priority on opening gifts and family time.

Even though nine out of 10 pastors plan to host Christmas Day services this year, that doesn’t mean their church members will be filling up the scheduled times of worship, leaders of the faith-based LifeWay Research organization said.

A recent LifeWay Research study of 1,000 Protestant pastors shows that 91 percent of Protestant pastors plan to have services on Christmas Day while 69 percent said they plan to host Christmas Eve services.

However, pastors may be fighting an uphill battle in filling seats this year though churches usually see one of their highest attendances during Christmas.

A report done by LifeWay Research last year showed that nearly 70 percent of Americans agree with the statement that “many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.”

Although there is speculation among researchers about church attendance on Christmas Day, 74 percent of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that “Christmas is primarily a day for religious celebration and observance.”

Read More from Christian Post

Woman Says She Was Imprisoned By Church Of Scientology For 12 Yrs On Cruise Ship

For most people, an extended stay aboard a luxury cruise liner sounds like a dream vacation.

But Valeska Paris says she was held against her will aboard the Scientology cruise ship "Freewinds" for more than a decade. During her stay on the vessel, she alleges, she was forced into hard labor and never allowed to leave the ship without an escort.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC News) Lateline program, Paris claims that Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige sent her to the ship when she was 18 in order to prevent her family from pulling her out of the organization.

"I was basically hauled in and told that my mum had attacked the church and that I needed to disconnect from her because she was suppressive," she said. "He decided the ship, and I found out two hours before my plane left, I was woken up in the morning and I was sent to the ship for 'two weeks.' "

Paris was born into a Scientology family, but her mother quit the group after her husband committed suicide, blaming Scientology for coercing him out of a self-made personal fortune of more than a million dollars.

Instead of the promised two week stay, Paris found herself unable to leave the ship without an official Scientology escort and was often forced into hard labor on the lower levels of the ship for stretches as long as two full days. "It's hot, it's extremely loud, it's smelly, it's not nice. I was sent down there at first for 48 hours straight on almost no sleep and I had to work by myself," she said.

So, why didn't Paris simply escape from the ship when it would take port? The Freewinds has a relatively small sailing route, traveling throughout the Caribbean and occasionally docking at small islands.

"I did not want to be there, I made it clear I did not want to be there and that was considered bad ethics, meaning it was considered not right," she said. "They take your passport when you go on the ship and you're in the middle of an island. So it's a bit hard [to escape] and by that time I was 18, I'd been in Scientology my whole life, it's not like I knew how to escape," she said.

The Church of Scientology calls Paris' claims false but declined ABC requests to make church officials available for interviews for the story. The church, which has a well-known litigious history, threatened Lateline with legal action for taking part in an alleged breach of confidentiality between Paris and the church. In a statement, the Church of Scientology said Ms Paris' claims were false.

Read More from

Woman Sues Therapist For Brainwashing Her Into Believing She Was In A Satanic Cult

A psychologist accused of hypnotizing a woman into believing she possessed multiple personalities and participated in satanic rituals may be sued by several others who say they were also told they had been a part of a satanic cult, according to a Missouri attorney.

Lisa Nasseff, 41, of Saint Paul, Minn., is suing her former therapist, Mark Schwartz, and the Castlewood Treatment Center in St. Louis, Mo., where she received 15 months of treatment for anorexia, according to the complaint.

Instead of improving, the lawsuit alleges Nasseff suffered "great physical pain and suffering and anguish" during her time at the facility, and asserts that she will continue to suffer.

"She was hospitalized multiple times," Nasseff's lawyer, Kenneth Vuylsteke, told "One time she tried to commit suicide … she's done much better now that she's been away from there."

The complaint alleges Nasseff's therapist, Mark Schwartz, "carelessly and negligently hypnotized [Nasseff]" while she was under the influence of "various psychotropic medications" to treat depression and anxiety. The hypnosis allegedly created false memories, including the belief that she was "a member of a satanic cult and that she was involved in or perpetrated various criminal and horrific acts of abuse."

One of those acts included "sacrificing her sister's baby on the altar of Satan," according to Vuylsteke.

Nasseff "was in a highly vulnerable physical and mental state due to her pre-existing eating disorder," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also alleges Schwartz "persuaded and convinced [Nasseff] to become increasingly isolated from her family and friends by leading her to believe said persons were involved in a satanic cult and that they had been and would continue to sexually abuse her and force her to engage in criminal acts and horrific abuse of others."

But then other women receiving treatment at the facility began to realize their stories were very similar to one another's, Vuylsteke said.

"She got together with other women who had been through this with her at Castlewood. And they said, 'How can we all have been members of cults and not know it -- two years ago, three years ago? We all got brainwashed? It can't be right."

Now "multiple individuals" are speaking out about Castlewood, and backing Nasseff's account of what took place there, Vuylsteke added.

"We've got other cases we're looking at right now," Vuylsteke told, adding the alleged victims' stories, all involving women, look "remarkably similar."

At this stage, he declined to say exactly how many women are claiming false memory implantation.

"All I can tell you is it's several. We're in the process of evaluating them right now," he said.

Schwartz, the therapist who treated Nasseff at Castlewood and still serves as the facility's clinical co-director, denied ever hypnotizing Nasseff.

Read More From

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christian Colleges Cutting Tuition By Double Digit Percentages to Attract New Students

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- With church membership dwindling and more families struggling to afford the cost of college, many private religiously-affiliated colleges and universities are slashing tuition and offering incentives to attract new students -- and to stay afloat.

Some Christian colleges are cutting tuition by double-digit percentages, while others are capping the price of admission for all four years or offering huge discounts based on academic performance.

Brewton-Parker College, a 4-year Bible study school in southeast Georgia, cut its tuition by 22% to $12,290 a year for the current school year to "to offer a quality Christian education to more students." Enrollment has fallen to 778 students in recent years. The school wouldn't say how high enrollment was in the past, but things are looking dire.

To afford the tuition cuts, the college has had to make sizable cost cuts, including reducing its workweek to four days from five in order to save on operations and staffing.

"Brewton-Parker, like many other Christian-affiliated schools, is private and we have to have new students coming in," college president Mike Simoneaux said. "We recognize that in order to stay competitive we had to find ways to lower our tuition and not our quality."

5 colleges slashing tuition

It's a trend seen among religiously-affiliated colleges across the nation, both big and small. Duquesne University, the largest Catholic university in Pennsylvania with 5,858 undergraduates, is reducing tuition by 50% for students who enroll in its School of Education in 2012. Seton Hall University, a 4-year private Catholic school in South Orange, N.J., is chopping tuition by 61% for applicants who meet certain academic qualifications. And Cabrini College, another Catholic school in Pennsylvania, plans to cut tuition by 12.5% next year and cap it at that level through 2014.

Of the more than 1,600 small private nonprofit institutions for higher education in the United States (which have an average enrollment of 1,900 students), two-thirds have a faith or religious affiliation, many of which are linked to Christian denominations. And while the economy is affecting most schools of this size, faith-based institutions are in the toughest spot.

By keeping tuition as low as possible -- with some schools reducing the amount of financial aid they are doling out at the same time to make this possible -- these schools are taking potential hits to profits as they try to enroll more students, said John Nelson, a managing director at Moody's, which rates the credit worthiness of universities.

One of the biggest issues facing these schools is their value proposition. Some incoming students fear their job and/or earning prospects will be limited should they graduate from a religiously-affiliated school.

In order to appeal to a wider group of students, many of these institutions are removing the "Christian" or "Bible" from their names. Johnson Bible College, in Knoxville, Tenn., for example, changed its name to "Johnson University" earlier this year to "eliminate barriers that our students and graduates often face," the college's president Gary Weedman said in a statement on the school's website.

Meanwhile, other schools are trying to make it easier for students to pursue lower-paying religiously-affiliated vocations post-graduation without being weighed down by student loans.

Davis College, an evangelical Christian school founded in 1900, said it recently reduced tuition for the current year by up to 22% for this reason.

"As a college of Bible and ministry, our niche is preparing students for service vocations that are often in the lower pay range," said Chief Enrollment Officer Rick Cramer. "We were disturbed to find that some of our graduates were not going directly into ministry simply because they felt the need to pay off their loans first."

Cramer said the tuition cut has helped the school retain current students. Now he's hoping it will significantly boost enrollment -- and help the school avoid the same fate as other Bible colleges that have been forced to close their doors.

"We need to attract more incoming students into that ministry development pipeline so that we can continue to impact the world for another 100 years," he said.

Recent tuition cuts have not only been limited to Christian schools. Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid, a Jewish rabbinical school in Far Rockaway, N.Y., slashed tuition by more than 20% for the current school year, while Rabbinical College of Telshe, in Wickliffe, Ohio, cut tuition about 7% for the previous school year, according to the most recent data the colleges reported to College Board.

Read More from CNN Money

California City Drops Case Against Couple For Holding Bible Studies in Their Home

A legal analyst says it was "wise" for a California city to drop a citation filed against a couple for hosting a home Bible study.

The city of San Juan Capistrano dismissed its citation against a local couple who held a growing Bible study in their home. Because of complaints from the neighbors, the city initially fined Chuck and Stephanie Fromm $300 for holding the session. Officials had also noted that the couple needed a conditional use permit to hold the gatherings, and they threatened to fine the Fromms $500 per meeting if they continued. So, the pair filed a lawsuit against San Juan Capistrano following an appeal to the city, which was rejected (see earlier story).

Ken Klukowski, fellow and senior legal analyst with The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), believes the city ultimately made the right decision.

"The city was wise to rescind that citation because otherwise it would have gone to court, and the city would have been beaten badly in court," he suggests.

The Associated Press reports that the city is currently reviewing how its land-use codes apply to churches, but Klukowski tells OneNewsNow the latest move sets an example for future incidents.

"I think it is certainly a political precedent on behalf of the public officials leading the city, that they understand that pursuing families for having a Bible study in their own home is not very wise policy," the attorney concludes.

Read More From One News Now

Tyler Perry Writes Letter To Penn State Victim Who Was Molested

Tyler Perry was touched by the Penn State molestation scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and decided to write an open letter to the victim who came forth about being molested at the age of 11.

Perry, writer, actor, director and producer, opened up about being molested as a child. He called the victim courageous for doing the same.

“To think that you, when you were only 11 years old, spoke up – you are my hero,” Perry wrote in a letter that was published in Newsweek. “I’m so proud of you. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I want you to know you didn’t do anything wrong.”

Sandusky was charged earlier this month for sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period. A grand jury investigation suggested that he used his position as the founder of The Second Mile, a foster home designed to help troubled boys, to choose the victims.

Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, insists that the case against his client is hearsay. On Monday, Amendola also announced that they are conducting their own private investigation to prove he is innocent.

Nevertheless, Perry – known for his character “Madea” in his stage plays – called Sandusky a monster and assured the victim that he was not to blame for the situation that has led to the overhaul of the Penn State administration.

“Please know that you were chosen by a monster. You didn’t choose him,” Perry wrote. “You didn’t ask for it and, most of all, you didn’t deserve it. What a huge lesson that was for me to learn.”

In the letter, Perry also chastised the Penn State staff who did not speak up for Sandusky’s victims.

“Do you know that at the young age of 11 you had more courage than all the adults who let you down? All of the ones who didn’t go to the proper authorities, all of the ones who were worried about their careers, reputations, or livelihoods,” Perry wrote. “I wonder what they would have done if it were their own child.”

The actor opened up about his abuse last year while on the “Oprah” show. He told Oprah Winfrey that he felt like he died as a child after suffering physical abuse from his father and sexual abuse from several other adults.

He credited his mother and God for helping him survive.

Read More From Christian Post

LGBT Groups To Boycott Salvation Army Kettle Campaign This Christmas Season

The Salvation Army red kettles that sit outside storefronts during the Christmas season are causing some gay groups to see red. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activists are calling for a boycott of the Salvation Army’s annual red kettle drive because of its stance on homosexuality.

Bil Browning, writing on the LGBQT blog The Bilerico Project, said, “As the holidays approach, the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in front of stores dunning shoppers for donations. If you care about gay rights, you'll skip their bucket in favor of a charity that doesn't actively discriminate against the LGBT community. The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook page called “Boycott The Salvation Army” now has over 2,000 likes. The description of the page reads, “The Salvation Army is not only a charity, but an evangelical church promoting conservative Christianity and anti-gay politics.”

But Maj. George Hood, national community relations secretary for the Salvation Army, addressed the LGBT groups’ accusations of discrimination. He said the disagreement between the Salvation Army and gay activist groups comes down to theology.

“The Salvation Army and the gay community are never going to come to an agreement on the topic,” Hood told The Christian Post on Monday.

He went on to say that the Salvation Army will not change its beliefs about theological issues any more than gay groups would change their views.

Andy Thayer, co-founder of Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, explained to The Christian Post in an email today why his group was participating in the boycott. "We urge people to boycott the Salvation Army and instead give to non-sectarian agencies because it uses its selective interpretation of the Bible to promote discrimination against LGBT people in employment benefits and leadership positions within the Army,” he wrote.

The Salvation Army’s stance on homosexuality is stated on its website. It says the group holds a positive view of human sexuality: “Sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage. However, in the Christian view, sexual intimacy is not essential to a healthy, full, and rich life. Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.”

While the Salvation Army as a church does have strong theological beliefs about homosexuality, its main focus as described in its mission statement is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Hood pointed out that LGBT groups have boycotted the Christian charity nearly annually in recent years, but they have not had a significant impact on giving in previous years. He said in the past two to three years, the organization actually broke records during their red kettle drive. Last year, Salvation Army raised $142 million, which “was a 5 percent increase over the previous year.”

In the end, Hood said, it’s unfortunate that there is a boycott because it’s not the Salvation Army that will be hurt, but “it’s the people we serve,” including many from the gay community.

Read More From Christian Post

Monday, November 28, 2011

14 Month old Girl With Down's Syndrome Takes Modeling World By Storm

The London Telegraph newspaper features a story on little Taya Kennedy, a 14-month-old girl who has Down’s Syndrome but has taken the modeling world by storm. The camera loves her and she now has her own modeling agency that is booking her gig after photogenic gig.

Kennedy is just another example of the joy such children and people with Down syndrome bring to the world but who, tragically, see their lives snuffed out by abortion at a 90 percent rate.

From the story:

‘Taya is an incredibly photogenic, warm and smiley child, and that shines through in her photographs,’ says Alysia Lewis, owner of Urban Angels, the prestigious UK model agency that has signed her up.

‘We only open our books twice a year and select just a few new children each season.

‘The standard is high; the desire for places strong. Taya is one of 50 children we chose from 2,000 applicants.

‘That she has Down’s Syndrome did not enter the equation. We chose her because of her vibrancy and sense of fun. Not all children are comfortable in front of a lens and with a photographer looking at them — especially when they are so young. But Taya was so relaxed and happy. She was just what we were looking for.’

Gemma Andre, Taya’s mother, says she is offended when people come up to her and tell her they’re sorry her daughter has Down syndrome.

‘I always believed my daughter was stunning but I thought, “I’m her mum. I’m biased,”’ she says.

Read More from Life News

President Obama In Hot Seat For Leaving God Out Of His Thanksgiving Day Speech

President Obama may have created an unholy mess by leaving God out of his Thanksgiving speech.

Conservative pundits are blasting the commander-in-chief for having no religious references in his weekly Internet address -- saying that the Almighty is surely among those we should give thanks to.

"I feel terrible," said Fox News' Eric Bolling on Friday. "I absolutely think should have had some sort of mention. Look, we're thankful for the blessings we've been given…but didn't mention who he was thankful to."

Bolling then argued "86% of Americans believe in some sort of God, whether it's Christianity or Islam or what not."

Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro went further, tweeting Obama is a "militant atheist," adding "Unreal that Obama doesn't mention God in Thanksgiving message…to whom does he think we are giving thanks?"

"Holy cow!" wrote Sherman Frederick at The Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Is that one screwed up view or what?"

Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes was also furious.

"His remarks were void of any religious references, although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God," he wrote on the network's website.

During the three minute speech, Obama said he and his family -- like a lot of America -- would spend the day "eating great food, watching a little football, and reflecting on how truly lucky we are."

He gave thanks to America's military personnel, volunteers serving the less fortunate, and the pilgrims, pioneers and patriots who helped make the country what it is today.

He acknowledged this holiday may be "more difficult than most' for many, but urges Americans to not lose hope.

Senate To Vote On Bill That Would Allow Military To Arrest Americans Without Charge Or Trial

The Senate is set to vote on a bill today that would define the whole of the United States as a “battlefield” and allow the U.S. Military to arrest American citizens in their own back yard without charge or trial.

“The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself,” writes Chris Anders of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

Under the ‘worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial’ provision of S.1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which is set to be up for a vote on the Senate floor this week, the legislation will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who supports the bill.

The bill was drafted in secret by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), before being passed in a closed-door committee meeting without any kind of hearing. The language appears in sections 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA bill.

“I would also point out that these provisions raise serious questions as to who we are as a society and what our Constitution seeks to protect,” Colorado Senator Mark Udall said in a speech last week. One section of these provisions, section 1031, would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil. Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. That alone should alarm my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but there are other problems with these provisions that must be resolved.”

This means Americans could be declared domestic terrorists and thrown in a military brig with no recourse whatsoever. Given that the Department of Homeland Security has characterized behavior such as buying gold, owning guns, using a watch or binoculars, donating to charity, using the telephone or email to find information, using cash, and all manner of mundane behaviors as potential indicators of domestic terrorism, such a provision would be wide open to abuse.

Read More From Info Wars

Billboard Compnanies Refuse To Advertise Christian Film About Abortion

It's the ad for a new movie project that three major billboard companies in Southern California have refused – and all it has is words: " – award-winning – free viewing – one million views in 22 days."

The ad is about the new work of world-renowned author and evangelist Ray Comfort of the Living Waters ministry, whose documentary, "180: The Movie," has gone viral with more than 1.5 million views on YouTube over some six weeks.

It's also sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Comfort reports that three of those billboard companies – he's not releasing their names right now – have refused to sell space to promote the pro-life project. Other companies haven't actually refused – they just haven't returned telephone calls seeking a deal, he said.

These are the same companies that advertise atheists' mockery of God and the Bible, and "promote strip clubs and porn conventions," Comfort reported.

"One is owned by a Jewish family. Their spokesperson was very upset that we dared to compare American abortion to the Holocaust. But there are no pictures involved. All we want is to put up text saying: ' – award-winning – free viewing – 1 million views in 22 days.' They have the right to refuse, but I think their refusal hasn't been well thought out," he said.

"If they don't see the comparison of the killing of 6 million Jews with the slaughter of nearly 60 million Americans through abortion, it's probably because they don't consider a baby in the womb to be human. That's exactly what Hitler did with the Jews. He said that they weren't human, and then he made billions when he killed them and seized their assets. American abortion makes billions through the slaughter of the unborn, and like the Nazi machine, it is a well-run money-making industry that has been successful in brainwashing millions into believing that a baby is something other than a baby," Comfort said.

Comfort also has handed out some 180,000 DVDs at 100 top U.S. universities to spread the message, and he's working on plans to give away hundreds of thousands of copies outside of high schools.

Comfort, who is Jewish, said, "After being turned down by these companies, we decided to ask the churches of America to put on their church signs. We also produced huge '180' window stickers for cars. These take up the whole back window and act as a moving billboard.

"Millions of Americans are being legally slaughtered in our country, but here is something positive we can do. This short movie is changing minds about abortion and saving lives," he said.

Read more: The movie promotion billboard owners fear?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Now "Bless Friday" For Many Churches

While thousands of bargain hunters hit the stores for Black Friday deals, several churches are choosing to start the Christmas season with "Bless Friday" by giving back to the community.

And these churches are hoping to get their message across to Americans. "People get our message that when we focus too much on buying things, we lose sight of the real reason for Christmas – remembering and honoring Christ," said Chuck Fox, founder of Bless Friday, in a statement. "We want to begin our Christmas celebration by serving others just as Jesus did."

Fox launched Bless Friday in 2010 after hearing a sermon on how Americans are losing sight of the real reason for Christmas.

The message of Bless Friday in a nutshell: It’s a day for service not shopping.

"On the day after Thanksgiving, millions of people started their Christmas celebration at malls and other retail outlets," the website for Bless Friday states. "This can’t be the way that God intends Christians to prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Savior of the World. And what begins poorly also ends poorly."

According to the National Retail Federation, up to 152 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend, up from the 138 million people who planned to do so last year.

Fox stressed the need to start the Christmas celebration "in a more loving and appropriate manner." He is hoping to spread the word to get more churches involved and more service opportunities scheduled.

Beacon of Light Christian Center in South Houston is participating by offering food and clothing to those in need and hosting activities for the wider community.

"Our community is filled with people who financially overextend themselves at Christmas. We want to show them a more positive and more spiritual way to celebrate," Pastor Anthony Gasery said in a statement.

Congregants from Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston have been encouraged to volunteer at local ministries, fix up a hurricane-damaged home or simply share a meal with neighbors.

"BLESS is not a program," the church says. "Rather, it is a series of practices that we believe will help us live a complete and balanced life in Christ."

Read More from Christian Post

Grocery Store Security Guard Fired After Threatening A 4yr old With Criminal Charges For Eating Fruit

A grocery store security guard was fired after he told the father of a 4-year-old girl that she would face criminal charges for eating from a dried fruit package, a TV station reported.

The child's mother, Alissa Jones, said the father wasn't looking when the girl grabbed the package, ate a few pieces of fruit then returned it to a shelf at a Safeway store in Everett, Wash., KOMO reported Wednesday.

Safeway previously faced widespread criticism when a Honolulu couple were arrested over stolen sandwiches and had their 2-year-old daughter taken from them briefly by state officials.

In Washington, the guard took the 4-year-old and her dad to a room and said the girl would face charges and be banned from the chain, Jones said, adding the guard had the girl sign a paper acknowledging she wasn't allowed to enter any Safeway stores.

The company said it was "appalled" by the guard's actions and dismissed him. Store officials have apologized to the girl's parents, Safeway spokesperson Cherie Myers said.

"Our policies on shoplifting are intended to protect our customers, but built on common sense. And everyone understands what common sense is," Myers said.

The name of the guard was not immediately available.

The woman involved in the Honolulu incident, Nicole Leszczynski, was 30 weeks pregnant at the time. Last month, she and her husband forgot to pay for two sandwiches that together cost $5. They were handcuffed and searched, and later released on $50 bail each.

The company decided not to press charges, apologized and said then it would re-examine its policies.

Read More From Fox News

Black Friday Off To Bad Start As Woman Pepper Sprays Fellow Shoppers To Get A Xbox

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Video Thank Him

The True Meaning ThanksGiving Give Thanks Pass It On

Thanksgiving Video - Give Thanks

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the
providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for
His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and
Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee,
requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public
thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity
peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful
knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been
pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other
transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our
several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a
blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and
constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York,
the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
President George Washington

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pakistan Bans "Jesus Christ" In Text Messages

Christian Post--The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is taking some major criticism after sending a letter to mobile phone companies saying they should block text messages containing certain words and phrases, and among those phrases are “Jesus Christ” and “got Jesus.”

According to the letter, Pakistanis have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but these freedoms are “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam,” among other things.

The letter and the two lists containing the banned words and phrases were posted on the Bytes For All (BFA) website. BFA, a human rights organization in Pakistan made up of information and communication technology professionals and users, is outraged over the ban.

The letter establishes “harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient” as spam, and says it is the responsibility of telecommunications companies to block such messages. The PTA sent each company two lists, which combined contain over 1,600 words in both English and Urdo that the government considers to be impermissible.

Most of the words on the list are vulgar and sexual in nature, but some have drawn attention from critics for either being odd – such as “athletes foot,” “deposit,” “fart,” and “K Mart” – or for appearing to be discriminatory against Christians.

BFA expressed its concerns about the “moral policing” in Pakistan, and how it will affect the nation's citizens, in an article posted to the organization's website Friday.

“It is a matter of utmost concern for Pakistani citizens, for this decision is not just oppressive & hegemonic, but unconstitutional as well,” the BFA article states.

It later says, “Once the authorities are allowed to filter SMS messages to ban abusive words, the restriction shall eventually not be limited to abusive words, rather, further fire the campaign to oppress the society by controlling its access to all kinds of information.”

BFA is also critical of the authority's decision to ban “Jesus Christ.”

“We also condemn this fact that while indulging themselves in this hideous task of moral policing, PTA managed to hurt the religious feelings of many Pakistani Christians by adding 'Jesus Christ' in banned word list. If such thing happened in any other country, there would be an outrage already and if it was directed (mistakenly or intentionally) towards Muslims, the amount of an outrage would be uncontrollable,” the article says.

Read More From Christian Post

Ear Stretching "Lobe Gauging" Growing In Popularity In Today's Society

BBC NEWS--Stretched ear lobes are becoming an increasingly common sight in the street. But why has creating a large hole in the ear lobe started to appeal to more and more people?

Ear stretching goes back a long way.

But you don't have to visit a museum or travel to a remote-ish part of the world to see it because the practice has been adopted in many Western countries.

However, it is not so common that it goes unnoticed. Stretched piercings do tend to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, particularly if the hole is substantial enough to hold a small object.

For many people, there is an "ouch" or an "eugh" factor when they see someone with a substantial ear lobe stretch but for those that have it done, it is a thing of beauty.

One of the recently ousted contestants on the BBC One show Masterchef: The Professionals had both ears stretched and adorned with black "flesh tunnels", which allow people to see through the lobe.

This led to remarks on Twitter such as "I like Seb. And he can hang his utensils from his ear lobes so double bonus" and "I would've served my prawns in my ear holes if I were Seb".

Flesh tunnels and flesh plugs, which are solid, have become more visible on our screens. Dougie Poynter from British band McFly is currently sporting some flesh tunnels in the Australian jungle, where he is taking part in ITV1's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

American rapper Travie McCoy and American singer Adam Lambert are also stretching devotees. British fashion expert Gok Wan is also partial to large wooden ear plug adornments but it is not known if these are being used to stretch his lobe.

Statistics are not easy to come by but, as with tattoos, there is extensive anecdotal evidence that ear stretching is on the rise. More people are wearing them, DIY kits are more widely available and there is a much greater choice of jewellery.

Marcus Mellor, from the Holier than Thou piercing parlour in Manchester, says ear stretching has become more popular in the last five or six years.

Practising what he pierces, Mellor has stretched both his ears. He says it used to be associated with hippies, punks or the rock crowd but now it is "all walks of life and not just students".

Ear stretching dangers
  • The point of no return beyond which the hole will not return to normal varies
  • One danger is a blow-out, where ear flesh extrudes
  • Reconstructive surgery to restore a stretched ear is possible but can be expensive

"We get girlie girls, metal kids and middle-aged men," says Julie Howick, the owner of Cold Steel in London's Camden.

"It used to go hand-in-hand with other piercings but now people just come in for ear stretching. It can be discreet and people can hide it behind their hair in work."

Ear stretching is in vogue, says Alix Fox, who writes the body modification section in the British alternative magazine Bizarre.

"It's fashionable and it's easier to find a reputable, clean, knowledgeable place to have this kind of thing done."

Prof Victoria Pitts-Taylor, from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, says ear stretching has become popularised in the same way as other sub-cultural practices, such as tattooing and piercing.

The sociologist, who wrote In the Flesh: the Cultural Politics of Body Modification, says it started in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of the body art movement and the "modern primitives", who appropriated practices from the "global supermarket" for various reasons such as showing solidarity with other cultures or to set themselves apart.

Ear stretching has became more mainstream in the last decade and different people have become attracted to it because they see it on the catwalks and celebrities.

Hard-core modifiers have to up the ante to defy the commercialization of the practice, Prof Pitts-Taylor suggests.

"It is a slightly more committed body art than temporary practices or ear piercing. The more you stretch the skin, the more commitment you are expressing to a counter cultural look."

People who are obsessed with getting the largest stretch possible are known in the business as a "gauge queen" or "gauge king", according to Fox.

There are many ways to stretch ear lobes. You can gradually stretch the skin using different sized tapers (cone-shaped pieces of jewellery). This requires patience.

For those who want an immediate result, there's dermal punching. This works like a hole punch and will create an instant gap.

Mellor advises customers to take the gradual approach. "Just take it slow and steady - normally a 1mm increase every four weeks - and if the skin does not stretch easily, don't force it."

"The important thing is not to stretch your ear too fast because not only will it be painful but you're not stretching the skin uniformly," explains Fox.

Applying excess pressure can squeeze flesh from the inside of the lobe to the outside, causing what's known as a "blow out", she says. This can leave people with scarring.

There is a point of no return but it varies. A stretched piercing can shrink back to its original size but this depends on several factors including the length of time taken to stretch and the elasticity of the skin.

In some cases, if you stretch too fast or by too much, the lobe can split.

"Most people don't go above 10mm. They are thinking about the future. Once you start going to 20mm/30mm, you would need reconstruction if you changed your mind," says Howick.

As tattoo parlours now offer removals or reworking, there is also demand from people who regret their ear stretching.

Stretched over time
Young Mursi women ready themselves for a tribal ceremony in the South Omo River valley of Ethiopia
  • Ear stretching has been around for millennia
  • Otzi the Iceman, one of the oldest mummies in the world, had stretched ears
  • The ear lobes of Buddha statues are nearly always shown elongated. While a layman, the Buddha wore heavy ear adornments which he stopped wearing when he became a monk
  • It is still part of some traditional cultures, such as the Mursi in Ethiopia and some hill tribes in northern Thailand
  • It can be a rite of passage, a spiritual symbol or a sign of status

Dr Ken Stewart, a member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, says ear lobes are made of skin and fat but they are sensitive organs - they turn red when people get embarrassed and have an erogenous function. He says the main danger of ear stretching is deformity.

He is used to seeing people with lobes damaged because of bites or big earrings but only in the last few years has he been asked to repair lobes affected by ear stretching - he carried out five operations in the past year.

"They tend to get it done as teenagers and then they have to correct it as they get older for career reasons."

If there is still tissue, he can put it back together again using what he describes as a "Swiss roll technique". This will take about 45 minutes and cost £2,500.

More extensive damage will require taking cartilage from the rib and this surgery will take up to four hours and cost £8,000.

It seems size is all-important when it comes to ear stretching. While some body modifiers like to keep theirs discreet, others want to make a statement.

Read More from BBC News