2426) Shiite Mob Torches Kurdish Party Office After Cleric Criticized (Aug 11) - According to WorldWide Religious News and the Associated Press, “About 50 gunmen in the northern city of Kut stormed the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by President Jalal Talabani, beat up the guards and set the building on fire, said police Lt. Othman al-Lami. The attackers accused the party's official newspaper of criticizing Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi.
“The raid in Kut was another demonstration of Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divisions that have exploded into violence, mostly between Shiite and Sunni Arabs. It came a day after a suicide bomber killed 35 people in front of Iraq's most sacred Shiite shrine, the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf.
“Pamphlets distributed by the attackers in Kut said the Kurdish newspaper accused al-Yacoubi of trying to ‘ignite a war between the Arab Shiites and Kurds’ by claiming that Kurds are targeting other ethnic groups. The largely Sunni Kurds are a separate, non-Arab ethnic group....
“A Sunni extremist group, Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba or Soldiers of the Prophet's Companions, claimed responsibility for Thursday's bombing of the shrine.
“In a statement posted on an Islamist Web site, the group warned that ‘our swords are capable of reaching deep in your regions’ and accused Shiites of killing Sunnis....
“Iraq's rising sectarian and communal violence is claiming about 1,000 lives every month in the Baghdad area alone, raising fears of all-out civil war.”...
2427) Teachers Allege Pulpit Power Trip As Conflict With Pastor Results In Cancelled School Year (Aug 11) - According to Gallatin, Tennessee’s News Examiner newspaper, “The senior pastor’s desire to control his church’s school led to a fallout with staff and the eventual cancellation of the school year at College Heights Christian Academy, former teachers said Thursday.
“Pastor Jeff LaBorg and a supportive pastoral council at College Heights Baptist Church canceled the school year Monday.
“Church leaders explained and defended their decision during a town-hall style meeting Wednesday night at College Heights.
“At a May 25 school meeting, LaBorg told faculty members ‘the honeymoon is over,’ and if they wouldn’t respect his authority in ‘full submission,’ they were invited to ‘pack up their Bibles’ and ‘resign today,’ according to former College Heights teachers, Jeanne Wood and Cloris Denney.
“The following month, 25 faculty members exercised that option, including Wood and Denney....
“The teachers say LaBorg continued scolding them at the May 25 meeting: ‘Remember that God opened up the ground to swallow murmurers, and I will pray for God to do that to those who murmur. And I have the power to do that.’
“Denney and Wood, both broken-hearted, said they didn’t feel they could continue teaching under LaBorg’s leadership.
“‘College Heights was a great and wonderful place, and LaBorg destroyed it,’ Denney said in an interview with The News Examiner.
“Wood said she was concerned with the closure’s effect on students.
‘This was our ministry,’ she said. ‘It breaks my heart to see how these children have been hurt.’
“The mass teacher resignation at College Heights prompted many parents — including LaBorg — to place their children in different schools, which dropped enrollment to 150 for the expected school year....
“At a church service Wednesday night, a visibly distraught LaBorg said he made the decision to relocate his children, prior to closing College Heights, because he felt it was in his children’s best interest....
“The school cancellation is a culmination of problems which started brewing between the faculty and the pastor, after teachers started asking questions about the church’s supposed purchase of 60 acres to be used for the school’s relocation.
“In October, LaBorg told the staff that the church had purchased 60 acres through their fund-raising efforts. School staff and families connected to the school threw a party to celebrate the event, but their celebration was for naught, Wood said.
“No land was ever purchased, despite what was announced to the congregation and school in College Heights’ March newsletter, which stated, ‘We have purchased 60 acres to begin the relocation process!’”...
2428) Pastor Charged With Raping Adopted Daughter Kept Videotapes Of Her Naked (Aug 11) - According to South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper and the SAPA news agency, “An Eastern Cape pastor, charged with having raped his adoptive daughter, kept videotapes showing the alleged victim naked in a bath, The Herald Online reported on Friday.
“His other two daughters told the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday they discovered the tapes in the pastor's study. They also testified that they found two holes in the ceiling of their bathroom, as well as two video cameras in the ceiling. They followed the wires to their father's study, where they came across the videotapes.
“One of the daughters said they watched one of the videos, and saw images of their young adoptive sister naked in the bath. They decided to tell their mother about it, but not the sister. After confronting their 54-year-old father about the videotapes, a meeting of the family decided to ‘close the book’ on the matter on condition that he went for psychiatric help....
“The Summerstand pastor, who is in custody, is charged with the rape, between 2003 and 2005, of his adopted child while she was between the ages of 15 and 17. He is also accused of indecent assault involving sodomy and the use of sex toys on the teenager, as well as crimen injuria for spying on the teenager and his own daughters in the bath.
“The pastor was arrested on May 18 last year after the adopted daughter reported the alleged abuse to her boyfriend, who reported it to the police.
“He pleaded not guilty to rape and other charges, but guilty to incest.”
2429) 15,000 Protestants March In Northern Ireland After Night Of Catholic Rioting (Aug 12) - According to Canada’s CNEWS website and the Associated Press, “LONDONDERRY: About 15,000 Protestants paraded through this predominantly Roman Catholic city Saturday following a night of Catholic rioting.
“The parade ended without any clashes between rival mobs.
“Northern Ireland police said rioters in the Bogside, the major Catholic district beside central Londonderry, hijacked and burned at least two cars and threw about 50 Molotov cocktails at police, who were wearing flame-retardant suits, body armour and helmets. Nobody was reported injured.
“The trouble came hours before Saturday's parade in Londonderry by the Apprentice Boys, the city's major Protestant fraternal group. Their annual march through Londonderry's central square and atop its 17th-century walls, which overlook the Catholic Bogside, has inspired violent clashes in the past.
“On Saturday, about 700 police officers kept the Protestant paraders - about 10,000 Apprentice Boys and about 5,000 members of approximately 130 accompanying bands - apart from Bogside Catholics opposed to the march.
“On opposite sides of the central square, police erected high tarpaulin screens to prevent Catholic protesters from being able to see the drum-thumping procession, or for Protestant celebrants to be able to see the Catholic crowd.
“Police said the screens appeared to have deterred direct conflicts between rival groups, who in past years have traded salvos of bricks, bottles and other objects across the square.
“The Apprentice Boys' annual march commemorates the city's survival during a 1689 siege by forces loyal to the deposed Catholic king of England, James II. The group is named in honour of 13 teenage apprentices, all Protestants, who bolted the city gates in front of the advancing Catholic forces at the start of the 105-day siege.”
2430) Evangelicals Urge Kenya’s National Museum To Hide Evidence Of Evolution (Aug 12) - According to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, “Powerful evangelical churches are pressing Kenya's national museum to sideline its world-famous collection of hominid bones pointing to man's evolution from ape to human.
“Leaders of the country's six-million-strong Pentecostal congregation want Dr Richard Leakey's ground-breaking finds relegated to a back room instead of being given their usual prime billing.
“The collection includes the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus, the 1.7 million-year-old Turkana Boy unearthed by Dr Leakey's team in 1984 at Nariokotome, near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
“The museum also holds bones from several specimens of Australopithecus anamensis, believed to be the first hominid to walk upright, four million years ago. Together the artefacts amount to the clearest record yet discovered of the origins of Homo sapiens.
“They have cemented the global reputation of Kenya's Great Rift Valley as the cradle of mankind, and draw in tourists and locals to the museum's sprawling compound on a hill above Nairobi.
“Permanent exhibitions cover Kenya's cultural and scientific history from pre-history to independence. A snake park was added in the early 1960s.
“As part of an ongoing expansion funded by the EU, the National Museums of Kenya, which manages the country's cultural sites, is conducting a survey to determine what visitors to its Nairobi headquarters most want to see.
“Church leaders aim to hijack that process. ‘The Christian community here is very uncomfortable that Leakey and his group want their theories presented as fact,’ said Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, the head of Christ is the Answer Ministries, the largest Pentecostal church in Kenya. ‘Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory.’
“Bishop Adoyo said all the country's churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopens after 18 months of renovations in June next year. ‘We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this and we will see what we can do to make our voice known,’ he said.
“Dr Leakey said the churches' plans were ‘the most outrageous comments I have ever heard’.
“He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya's very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science.’
“Calling the Pentecostal church fundamentalists, Dr Leakey added: ‘Their theories are far, far from the mainstream on this. They cannot be allowed to meddle with what is the world's leading collection of these types of fossils.’
“The museum said it was in a ‘tricky situation’ as it tried to redesign its exhibition space to accommodate the expectations of all its visitors.
“‘We have a responsibility to present all our artefacts in the best way that we can so that everyone who sees them can gain a full understanding of their significance,’ said Ali Chege, public relations manager for the National Museums of Kenya. ‘But things can get tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists or researchers on the other, saying the opposite.’”