Bad News

Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time

Well, this sure sounds constitutional…

Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time

If you’re charged with a nonviolent crime in one Alabama town, you might just have the chance to pray it all away.

Starting this week, under a new program called Operation ROC (Restore Our Community), local judges in Bay Minette, Alabama, will give those found guilty of misdemeanors the choice of serving out their time in jail, paying a fine or attending church each Sunday for a year.

The goal of the program is to help steer those who are not yet hardened criminals the chance to turn their lives around. Those who choose to go to church (there are no mosques or synagogues in the area) will have to check in with a pastor and the police department each week, CNN affiliate WKRG reported. Once you attend church every week for a year the case would be dismissed.

Police Chief Mike Rowland said the measure is one that would help save money and help direct people down the right path. Rowland told WKRG it costs $75 a day to house each inmate.

“Longevity is the key,” he told WKRG.

He said he believes 30-day drug programs don’t have the long-term capabilities to heal someone in the ways the ROC program might.

Police in the town said they think it is a simple choice, but others think it’s a choice that shouldn’t even be offered.

The ACLU in Alabama said the idea is “blatantly unconstitutional,” according to the Alabama Press-Register.

“It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity,” Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama told the paper.

Rowland acknowledged there were concerns about separation of church and state complaints but said he didn’t see it as too big of a problem because offenders weren’t being forced to attend church, they are just being given the option.

The offenders who voluntarily choose church over jail get to pick the churches they attend. If they complete a year’s attendance, Rowland said, their criminal case would be dismissed.

Church child protection chief caught with 4,000 child porn pictures

This sort of thing is so commonplace it’s hardly considered news at this point…

Church child protection chief caught with 4,000 child porn pictures

A child protection official for the Catholic Church has been caught with 4,000 pictures of child porn.

Father-of-four Christopher Jarvis was arrested after uploading pictures of children being abused to a website.

Married Jarvis, 49, a former social worker, was employed by the church following sex scandals about pervert priests.

His job was to monitor church groups to ensure paedophiles did not gain access to children in the church’s congregations.

But he was caught by police in March with more than 4,000 child porn images on his home computer and his work laptop.

He admitted 12 counts of making, ­possessing and distributing indecent ­images when he appeared before ­magistrates in Plymouth and is likely to face jail when he returns to court for sentencing next month.

Jarvis, who has been sacked from his job as child safeguarding ­officer, worked the Diocese of ­Plymouth for nine years.

Church spokesman ­David Pond said: “Mr Jarvis was suspended from his position as soon as the diocese became aware in March of the police investigation.

“The Bishop took that action and since then the Church has worked closely with the police.”

Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope’s Adviser

I am shocked…. shocked I say!

Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope’s Adviser

(GENOA) — The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues,” he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse.

Bagnasco said that when he met the Pope this weekend, he “asked for a particular blessing for my archdiocese” in light of the alleged crimes, adding that “like every father toward a son [feels] great pain in seeing a priest who is not faithful to his vocation.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi praised Bagnasco’s handling of the Sastri Ponente case, lauding its “timeliness and competence.” On Saturday, May 14, the Cardinal visited the Santo Spirito church, where Seppia was the parish priest.

According to investigators, Seppia told a friend — a former seminarian and barman who is currently under investigation — that the town’s malls were the best places to entice minors. In tapped phone conversations the two cursed and swore against God. The priest is charged with having attempted to kiss and touch an underage altar boy and of having exchanged cocaine for sexual intercourse with boys over 18.

Seppia’s defense lawyers are expected to argue that those conversations — monitored since Oct. 20, 2010 — were just words, sex games that were played by adults. It was just a game even when he claimed to have “kissed on the mouth” a 15-year-old altar boy, according to the defense.

On Monday, May 16, during formal questioning by Genoa’s investigating magistrate Annalisa Giacalone, Seppia chose not to respond. The magistrate decided to keep him in custody to avoid a risk of relapse or tampering with evidence. Defense attorney Paolo Bonanni said the defense wants to evaluate all the charges, reserving the right to respond to public prosecutor Stefano Puppo in the coming days.

Questioned by the investigators, the altar boy reportedly confirmed the attempted kiss. Another male minor who, according to the investigators, was stalked with messages and pressing invitations, will be questioned soon. Psychologists are helping Carabinieri police officers obtain testimony from the alleged victims. “The boys are ashamed to talk and to admit what happened,” says one of the investigators. The evidence amounts to at least 50 messages and phone calls. In the tapped phone conversations, the drug dealer contacted the boys and gave their phone numbers to the priest, who paid them with cocaine or 50 euros each time for sexual intercourse.

“[The investigators] made us listen to that man saying terrifying things about our children. Things so terrible that I cannot repeat them,” a father of one of the boys said.

Investigators are also examining three confiscated computers: the priest allegedly looked for partners via chat as well.

Seppia is currently being kept in a confinement cell in a Genoa prison. He met the jail’s priest and psychologist. “He has read the newspapers, and he is pained by his parishioners’ comments,” says his lawyer. The investigation is ongoing.

Easter heavy metal gig planned for Northcote venue in sin bin

Easter heavy metal gig planned for Northcote venue in sin bin

THE Baillieu Government will move to ban a bad-taste concert being staged on one of the most sacred days of the Christian year.

Easter Mass 11, featuring Christian-hating heavy metal bands, has been planned for a Northcote venue on Good Friday, mocking the day’s religious significance.

It would be headlined by Sydney shock group Jesus Christ – a tribute act to deceased US punk rocker GG Allin, who typically defecated and urinated on stage, rolled in faeces, consumed excrement and committed self-harm.

An online advertisement for the event says: “On this, the most important day on the Christian calendar, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be destroying himself not for your sins, but for your pure entertainment.

“Performing communion at the mass service will be … Reverend Hackxwhore, Pastor Jigsaw Torture and Father Drongo.”

But Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien said the State Government would move to ban the event under liquor laws covering offensive images and religious vilification.

“I have asked the director of Liquor Licensing to look into whether this tasteless and moronic promotion complies with the Liquor Control Reform Act,” Mr O’Brien said.

A barbecue and meat tray offer is to be held at the gig on Good Friday – a strictly meat-free day for Catholics and some other Christians, but a religious holiday observed by all Christian faiths to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Religious groups are expected to picket the April 22 event at Northcote bar 303 if it goes ahead. Anglican Archdeacon Andrew Oddy said the gig insulted people’s faith.

“The timing of the event is utterly insensitive and to have it on Good Friday is simply designed to cause offence,” he said.

Performer “Carcass” Butcher said the concert was “just a bit of harmless fun”.

The Brumby government unsuccessfully attempted to shut down a controversial Mother’s Day kickboxing tournament, called Mother’s Day Mayhem, in 2009.

12 killed in Afghanistan amid protests over reported Quran burning

12 killed in Afghanistan amid protests over reported Quran burning

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Twelve people were killed Friday in an attack on a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan that followed a demonstration against the reported burning last month of a Quran in Florida, authorities said.

The fatalities comprised seven U.N. workers and five demonstrators, officials said.

Another 24 people were wounded, said Abdul Rauof Taj, security director of Balkh province.

Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the police in Mazar-e-Sharif, told reporters that a number of suspects “who might be the main organizers” had been arrested.

U.N. Peacekeeping Director Alain Le Roy said the seven U.N. fatalities were international staffers — three civilians and four international security guards. No Afghan U.N. staff members were among the dead, he said.

“I understand there were hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators. Some of them were clearly armed and they stormed into the building.”

He said the security guards tried their best to halt the demonstrators’ advance, but were overwhelmed.

Le Roy said it was not clear that the United Nations was the target. “It happened to be the U.N. because the U.N. is on the ground.”

Five demonstrators were killed in the violence; one person’s throat was cut, he said.

A U.N .source said the dead included four Nepalese security guards as well as U.N. workers from Norway, Sweden and Romania.

The U.N. Security Council met Friday and issued a statement condemning the attack, which occurred at the operations center of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and calling on the Afghan government to investigate.

Haji Sakhi Mohammad, a businessman in Mazar-e-Sharif, said that the incident began after Friday prayers, when many people joined a protest against the burning of the Quran. People calling “Death to America” marched to the U.N. compound and broke in, he said. At that, gunfire broke out and “I saw protesters shot to death.”

A student in Mazar-e-Sharif said he and his friends joined the protesters, who numbered in the hundreds. “When we reached the UNAMA office, we came under gunfire by Afghan security guards. Protesters became angry and stormed the building.”

The student said some of the protesters found several loaded AK-47s and used them to kill security guards and other people inside the building.

The attack followed a demonstration against the reported burning of a Quran by Florida pastor Terry Jones, who gained international attention last year when he announced that he was planning to burn a Quran, the U.N. source with knowledge of events said.

Jones is the pastor of the 60-member Dove World Outreach Center church near Gainesville. Last year, after an outcry followed his announcement of plans to burn a Quran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he canceled them. Last month, however, he reportedly did burn Islam’s holy book.

The church says on its website that it planned to put the Quran on trial on March 20, and, “if found guilty of causing murder, rape and terrorism, it will be executed!” Another post on the website, which uses an alternative spelling for the book, says “the Koran was found guilty” during the mock trial and “a copy was burned inside the building.”

On Friday, Jones said in an e-mailed statement that the attack in Afghanistan shows that “the time has come to hold Islam accountable.”

“We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities,” he said.

Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of Balkh province, said the attackers had used the protests against the burning “as a cover for this violence.”

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called the attacks “an act against Islam and Afghan values.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the victims were only trying to help the Afghan people.

“In targeting them, the attackers have demonstrated an appalling disregard for what the U.N. and the entire international community are trying to do for the benefit of all Afghans,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned the attack. “We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue,” he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said he would not speculate on the motivation behind the attack, but added that it was “in no way justified, regardless of what the motivation was.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations also released a statement condemning the attack. “Nothing can justify or excuse this attack,” said the group, which describes itself as America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

Fuck everything about this.

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN) — Hena Akhter’s last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh’s Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena’s family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter.

Sharia: illegal but still practiced

Hena’s family hailed from rural Shariatpur, crisscrossed by murky rivers that lend waters to rice paddies and lush vegetable fields.

Hena was the youngest of five children born to Darbesh Khan, a day laborer, and his wife, Aklima Begum. They shared a hut made from corrugated tin and decaying wood and led a simple life that was suddenly marred a year ago with the return of Hena’s cousin Mahbub Khan.

Mahbub Khan came back to Shariatpur from a stint working in Malaysia. His son was Hena’s age and the two were in seventh grade together.

Khan eyed Hena and began harassing her on her way to school and back, said Hena’s father. He complained to the elders who run the village about his nephew, three times Hena’s age.

The elders admonished Mahbub Khan and ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines to Hena’s family. But Mahbub was Darbesh’s older brother’s son and Darbesh was asked to let the matter fade.

Many months later on a winter night, as Hena’s sister Alya told it, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.

Hena struggled to escape, Alya told CNN. Mahbub Khan’s wife heard Hena’s muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.

The next day, the village elders met to discuss the case at Mahbub Khan’s house, Alya said. The imam pronounced his fatwa. Khan and Hena were found guilty of an illicit relationship. Her punishment under sharia or Islamic law was 101 lashes; his 201.

Mahbub Khan managed to escape after the first few lashes.

Darbesh Khan and Aklima Begum had no choice but to mind the imam’s order. They watched as the whip broke the skin of their youngest child and she fell unconscious to the ground.

“What happened to Hena is unfortunate and we all have to be ashamed that we couldn’t save her life,” said Sultana Kamal, who heads the rights organization Ain o Shalish Kendro.

Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems.

The Supreme Court also outlawed fatwas a decade ago, but human rights monitors have documented more than 500 cases of women in those 10 years who were punished through a religious ruling. And few who have issued such rulings have been charged.

Last month, the court asked the government to explain what it had done to stop extrajudicial penalty based on fatwa. It ordered the dissemination of information to all mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, that sharia is illegal in Bangladesh.

“The government needs to enact a specific law to deal with such perpetrators responsible for extrajudicial penalty in the name of Islam,” Kamal told CNN.

The United Nations estimates that almost half of Bangladeshi women suffer from domestic violence and many also commonly endure rape, beatings, acid attacks and even death because of the country’s entrenched patriarchal system.

Hena might have quietly become another one of those statistics had it not been for the outcry and media attention that followed her death on January 31.

‘Not even old enough to be married’

Monday, the doctors responsible for Hena’s first autopsy faced prosecution for what a court called a “false post-mortem report to hide the real cause of Hena’s death.”

Public outrage sparked by that autopsy report prompted the high court to order the exhumation of Hena’s body in February. A second autopsy performed at Dhaka Medical College Hospital revealed Hena had died of internal bleeding and her body bore the marks of severe injuries.

Police are now conducting an investigation and have arrested several people, including Mahbub Khan, in connection with Hena’s death.

“I’ve nothing to demand but justice,” said Darbesh Khan, leading a reporter to the place where his daughter was abducted the night she was raped.

He stood in silence and took a deep breath. She wasn’t even old enough to be married, he said, testament to Hena’s tenderness in a part of the world where many girls are married before adulthood. “She was so small.”

Hena’s mother, Aklima, stared vacantly as she spoke of her daughter’s last hours. She could barely get out her words. “She was innocent,” Aklima said, recalling Hena’s last words.

Police were guarding Hena’s family earlier this month. Darbesh and Aklima feared reprisal for having spoken out against the imam and the village elders.

They had meted out the most severe punishment for their youngest daughter. They could put nothing past them.

Texas Goes Full Retard

Texas Bill Would Outlaw Discrimination Against Creationists

Unlike many other states, Texas does not ban  workplace discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. But don’t be alarmed; the Lone Star State is working on that whole civil liberties thing. Last week, Republican State Rep. Bill Zedler introduced HB 2454, a bill that would establish new workplace protections for proponents of intelligent design. Here’s the key part:

An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

And you thought Berkeley was crazy. On the upside, maybe the University of Texas will be able to help a few of the folks who are falling through Texas’ fraying social safety net. Out of a job? Come up with an elaborate theory about how a flying spaghetti monster created the universe. A tenured professorship awaits.

“Devil Dog”: Woman Burned, Hanged Dog Who Chewed Bible, Say S.C. Police

Don’t forget, it’s atheists that are destroying the country and corrupting our youths….. *cough*

“Devil Dog”: Woman Burned, Hanged Dog Who Chewed Bible, Say S.C. Police

COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBS/AP) A Spartanburg County woman has been charged with felony animal cruelty, accused of hanging her nephew’s pit bull with an electrical cord and burning its body after the dog chewed on her Bible, authorities said Monday.

When questioned by police and animal control officers, Miriam Smith told them the female dog named “Diamond” was a “devil dog” and she feared it might harm neighborhood children, according to an incident report from the county’s Environmental Enforcement Department.

Smith, 65, was arrested Sunday and remains in the Spartanburg County jail. Bond had not been set.

She faces 180 days to five years in prison if convicted.

Authorities said the 1-year-old dog was kept outside on a chain and chewed the Bible that had been left on Smith’s porch. The dog’s remains were found under a pile of dried, cut grass. Part of the orange cord was still around the dog’s neck and a smell of kerosene still hung in the air, the animal control officer wrote in her report.

The dog was killed about two weeks ago when Smith’s nephew was forced to spend several days away from home because of winter weather in the area, authorities said.

Smith is the first person is Spartanburg County to face a felony charge under South Carolina’s tougher animal cruelty law, said Jaime Nelson, director of the county’s Environmental Enforcement Department.

Smith’s mental state will likely affect what kind of penalties she faces, Nelson added. He said he was stunned by how flat the woman’s emotions sounded as she recounted on tape what happened to the dog.

“She just acted like – what’s done has been done,” Nelson said.

Alabama governor’s remarks on non-Christians raise eyebrows

Alabama governor’s remarks on non-Christians raise eyebrows

On the day of his swearing-in, Alabama Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley  raised concern among the state’s non-Christians by declaring that people who had not accepted Jesus Christ were not his brothers and sisters.

Speaking to a large crowd Monday at Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church — where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached — Bentley said that “if you’re a Christian and you’re saved … it makes you and me brother and sister,” according to a report in the Birmingham News.

“Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he added, according to the paper. “So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

By Tuesday, the comments were reverberating beyond Alabama. David Silverman, president of Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists, called the remarks “outrageous.”

“He is a governor, not a mullah,” Silverman said. “This is a diverse nation with a secular government. If he doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t be governor.”

Bentley, 67, a retired dermatologist, had been sworn in earlier Monday, replacing two-term Republican Gov. Bob Riley. The new governor is a Sunday school teacher and deacon at Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church, which considers “passionately” evangelizing to be a “key core value,” according to its website.

During remarks on the steps of the state Capitol, Bentley declared himself “governor of all of Alabama — Democrat, Republican and independent, young and old, black and white, rich and poor.”

Those initial comments had been heartening to Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society. But the later comments, he said, were “quite disturbing and contrary to what I read earlier.”

“He was saying that for us to be considered equal, we would have to become Christians in his brand of understanding,” Taufique said. “I’m hoping that he was just in a Baptist church and he wanted to please his congregation, forgetting his earlier comment to be governor of all Alabamians.”

Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, said such comments “tend to disenfranchise those of a different religious view.”

“You know, it’s a recurring theme in Alabama,” said Friedman, who said the state, with a population of about 4.7 million, is home to an estimated 10,000 Jews. “One of the things we have to do is continue to sensitize our leaders to the fact that there are non-Christians in this state, and encourage them whenever possible to be sensitive to that.”

Bentley was raised in Columbiana, a small town in rural Shelby County, the son of a sawmill worker. He was first elected to the Alabama state House of Representatives on a platform of fiscal conservatism and family values.

His staff did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Gil McKee, senior pastor of Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church, said the new governor “was in no way meaning to be offensive to anyone.”

“He was coming strictly from the fact that Scripture talks about how those that know Jesus Christ as their savior are adopted into the family of God, and as we are adopted into God’s family, we are adopted into the family of Christ,” McKee said.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation announced Tuesday that it would assemble a delegation of Jews and Christians that would try to meet with the governor “as soon as possible to initiate a dialogue.”

Friedman, the longtime head of the federation, said the Jewish community was generally comfortable in the Southern state — but that such things happen from time to time, things he characterized as “only in Alabama” moments.

“These folks typically don’t mean any harm at all,” Friedman said. “It never occurs to them that they’re saying anything that would make others uncomfortable. They’re simply motivated by their passion for their own religious faith.”

Tenzen Deshek, a lama at the Losel Maitri Tibetan Buddhist Center in Birmingham, gave a good-natured chuckle Tuesday when asked whether he took offense at the comments. “You know,” Deshek said, “although he’s the governor, he can’t change people’s minds.”