edited by Deidre Conn
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 14, Number 3.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Allows School Vouchers
On June 10 the Wisconsin State Supreme Court voted 4-2 to allow public school funds to
be diverted to religious institutions through school vouchers, reversing an August Court
of Appeals decision declaring it unconstitutional.
"This is the first ruling by an appeals court in the country that permits taxpayer
money to go to pervasively sectarian schools for general K-12 education," said Peter
Koneazy, Legal Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin,
which is a co-counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs who originally challenged the state
program in 1995. State court decisions in Ohio, Vermont and Maine on similar programs were
not favorable to the voucher system. The ACLU is prepared to take the case to the U. S.
ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty stated that if the vouchers go
ahead, it would mean that Wisconsin taxpayers will be coerced into supporting religions,
including sects and cults, with which they may disagree. "We believe the Wisconsin
court's decision is wrong," said Ahmuty. "It flies in the face of the clear
meaning of our state and federal Constitutions."
Baptist Women are Told To Submit to Husbands
At this year's Southern Baptist Convention, held Salt Lake City, the nation's largest
Protestant denomination voted to amend its Faith and Message statement with a 250-word
declaration on family life, which states that a woman should "submit herself
graciously" to her husband's leadership and a husband should "provide for,
protect and lead his family."
The amendment ranks as one of the most prominent statements on family life by a major
religious organization in recent years; until this year, the message statement had only
been amended once before in 1963, when a section on higher education was included. It also
stakes out one of the most conservative positions among Protestants, and represents a
triumph for the denomination's conservative leadership, which came to power in 1979.
Many Baptists and religious scholars criticized the statement. Robert Parham, executive
director of the independent Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, criticized the
amendment, saying "They hope to make June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood,
despite numerous biblical references to women who worked outside the home."
Wailing Wall Wrangle
Despite violent protest, this year 300 men and women broke precedent and prayed
together at Jerusalem's wailing wall during the first day of the Shavuot religious
holiday. The mixed service consisted of U. S. members from the more liberal Reform and
Conservative branches of Judaism. The wall traditionally follows Orthodox customs, where
men and women pray separately, divided by a barrier.
This marked the first time police allowed men and women to pray together at Judaism's
holiest site; on previous occasions, police forced Reform and Conservative Jews out of the
plaza after stones, dirty diapers, and feces were thrown at them. After the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations submitted a request to the Israeli government to assure
their protection, police officers acted as a wall between the worshippers and protesters,
who threw garbage and bags of chocolate milk this time.
Bishop's Suicide Protests Anti-Blasphemy Law
In Islamabad, Pakistan, Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph, a prominent human rights
campaigner, fatally shot himself in the head to protest the death sentence against a
Christian for blaspheming Islam. It occurred in the same courthouse less than two weeks
after Ayub Massih, a Catholic, was convicted under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law,
which requires death for anyone who defiles the prophet's name; critics say its vague
wording leads to its frequent misuse by Muslim zealots against religious minorities.
Massih, 25, in jail pending appeal, was convicted of making favorable comments about
British author Salman Rushdie, who was sentenced to death by Iranian religious leaders for
his alleged blasphemy in "The Satanic Verses". Christian leaders stated they
might launch nationwide protests if the government does not repeal the law, under which
several Christians have been sentenced to death, but whose convictions have been
overturned by higher courts. Of Pakistan's 140 million people, two million are Christians;
the majority is Muslim.
German To Die For Sex
In Tehran, Iran, judges have ordered a new trial for a German businessman accused,
convicted, and sentenced to death for having sex with a Muslim woman.
Helmut Hofer, 54, was convicted in January of having sex with a 26-year-old Muslim
woman. Iranian law follows the teachings of Mohammed, who permitted Muslim men to have sex
with non-Muslim women (indeed several of his concubines were non-Muslims), but made it a
capital offense for a Muslim woman to have sex with a non-Muslim man. Hofer contends he
converted before having sex with the Muslim woman. The Bonn government warns that
German-Iranian relations will deteriorate if they execute Hofer. Germany is Iran's biggest
trade partner in the European Union. The retrial has already begun.
The fate of the young woman has not been reported.
Mormons Rewrite History
Mormon history has changed. The new Relief Society manual, in use since January by
church members in 22 languages, mentions only the first of the 55 wives of America's most
famous polygamist and Mormon church father, Brigham Young. The absence of any mention of
polygamy is one of many complaints leveled at the manual, the first in a series based on
the selected teachings of presidents of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Polygamy, secretly established by church founder Joseph Smith as "the new and
everlasting covenant of marriage", was championed by Young, but dropped thirteen
years after his death in 1877 and appears nowhere in the text of the new manual. Also
missing are Young's theories that Adam was God the Father and Eve was just one of God's
wives, the rest having been left on other worlds. Blood atonement, Young's doctrine that
some sins were so terrible the only way to save the sinner was to kill them, was also left
According to Craig Manscill, chairman of the writing committee that produced the
manual, the absence of polygamy should not be surprising; said Manscill, "Was it in
the material that we reviewed? Oh, it was there. And did we ellipse in certain places? Of
course we did. But we were following what our leaders had asked us to do."
Tempest in a World Cup
The Iranian World Cup soccer team was upset by the French telecast of an unflattering
U. S. film on June 15. France's privately owned channel M6 screened "Not Without My
Daughter", a film based on a book by Betty Mahmoudi which chronicles her escape from
Iran with her daughter against the wishes of her Iranian husband.
Iranian soccer players have complained that the movie insults them and the fans. Iran's
hard-line paper Resalat claimed the film was broadcast intentionally to exercise
psychological pressure on the team and fans and to embarrass Iranians in general. Safaei
Farahani, head of Iran's soccer federation, submitted a written protest to the world
soccer federation FIFA, no doubt asking for the suppression of materials that show
Iranians as suppressors.
Humanism Online Library