Obama ask FBI to track citizens

Evidence continues to mount that the U.S. government is keen on tracking its citizens.

The FBI has started rolling out its $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, a nationwide database of mug shots, iris scans, DNA samples, voice recordings, palm prints, and other biometrics collected from more than 100 million Americans and intended to help identify and catch criminals.

The FBI has been piloting the program with several states and by the time it’s fully deployed in 2014 will have at its fingertips a facial recognition database that includes at least 12 million photos of people’s faces.

Read more : http://www.pcworld.com/article/262044/how_the_feds_are_tracking_us.html

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Obama forces Christians to provide contraceptives

Evangelical and Catholic groups on Friday blasted the Obama administration over its decision not to expand religious exemption from the new health care law that will require them to provide insurance plans covering contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-causing drugs.

 

Christian groups joined together in condemning “Obamacare” after the Health and Human Services announced its decision, which officials claimed was reached after reviewing more than 200,000 comments from interested parties and the public.

“Despite the fact that certain drugs and devices approved by the FDA can work after conception to destroy a newly developed baby, the Obama Administration mandate still forces all insurance plans to carry these drugs and devices even if employers are morally opposed,” Tom McClusky of Family Research Council Action said in a statement.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said religious groups would have one additional year to comply with the mandate (until August 2013 rather than August 2012). “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

But McClusky said the one-year delay “does nothing to change the anti-religious, anti-conscience, and anti-life contraceptive mandate, rather it only postpones its implementation until after the presidential election.”

The new rule also mandates that religious groups with a one-year reprieve in the meantime be “forced to tell their employees where to obtain contraceptives,” FRC Action pointed out. “This completely violates the conscience rights of many Americans. As we approach the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade tomorrow may all voters who respect life take note of the Obama Administration’s ardent policies against life and religious liberty and vote accordingly in November.”

 

The National Association of Evangelicals also said it was “deeply disappointed” by the White House decision that was announced Friday. Freedom of conscience is a “sacred gift from God, not a grant from the state,” said Galen Carey, vice president for Government Relations at NAE. “No government has the right to compel its citizens to violate their conscience. The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent.”

The HHS policy includes a thin exemption for religious organizations that focus only on religious services to their own members.

“The exemption leaves the vast majority of religious employers who serve the entire community unprotected,” the NAE stated. “If this narrow definition of ‘religious employer’ is adopted in other areas of law, it may lead to further erosion of the conscience protections Americans have historically held.”

FRC Action also contended that the mandate, issued in August, violates the principles of the Church Amendment which protects conscience rights for those who object to contraceptives and other services on moral or religious grounds,. “Additionally, the U.S. government already funds domestic family planning at a level of $1.9 billion annually.”

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York also lambasted the Obama administration’s health care law. “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience,” he said in a statement. “This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

He encouraged his community to tell their elected leaders that “you want religious liberty and rights of conscience restored and that you want the administration’s contraceptive mandate rescinded.”

Religious groups are not likely to comply, the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has hinted.

Given the anger among religious groups, they might choose to pay fines rather than act against their conscience, some believe.

Unknown Obama stepsister dies

WND

Raises question of whether president adopted by Indonesian stepfather

 

100811liasoetorosobah

By Jerome R. Corsi

A previously unknown stepsister of Barack Obama died unexpectedly earlier this year.

Internet researchers made the link between the president and his previously undisclosed stepsister, Holiyah "Lia" Soetoro Sobah, after translating from obituaries published in Indonesia. She died Feb. 26.

The obituaries identified Lia as having been adopted by Lolo Soetoro, Obama’s stepfather, and Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, the president’s mother.

The surfacing of Lia as an adopted child of Lolo Soetoro and Dunham raises the question of whether Barack Obama himself might have been adopted officially as Lolo Soetoro’s stepson while in Indonesia from 1967-1971.

Even though Obama makes no mention in "Dreams from My Father" of having had an Indonesian stepsister, the Indonesian obituaries make clear that Obama slept in the same room as his stepsister while the two of them grew up together in the Soetoro home in Jakarta.

According to the Indonesian obituaries, Barry Soetoro and Lia Soetoro were always together, playing, traveling on family vacations and even bathing.

Obama was in Indonesia from ages 6 to 10.

There is nothing on the public record to indicate that he sent any condolences or even acknowledged the death of his stepsister in February.

The Indonesian obituaries also state Lia was born in 1957 and that she had three children with her husband, Edi Sobah, with whom she lived in West Java, Indonesia.

A photograph of Lia shows her holding a monkey doll and wearing clothes given her by Madelyn Dunham, Obama’s maternal grandmother, when Lia visited Hawaii for three months. The visit apparently was in 1971, the year Obama left Indonesia permanently.

Obama also does not discuss in his autobiography "Dreams from My Father" any visits to Hawaii after he left Indonesia permanently in 1971 that were made by Lolo Soetoro or a Soetoro stepsister from Indonesia.

While Obama has not acknowledged having had a stepsister in Indonesia, he discussed at length in his autobiography his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who was born in Indonesia to Lolo Soetoro and Ann Dunham on Aug. 15, 1970.

WND has reported that in a passport amendment submitted Aug. 13, 1968, Obama’s mother identified her son with an Indonesian surname as Barack Obama II Soebarkah, and asked the State Department to drop him from her U.S. passport.

The transaction could have been part of an effort by Dunham to obtain Indonesian citizenship for her son.

WND also reported in August 2008 that the Associated Press published a photograph purportedly of Obama’s registration card at Indonesia’s Francis Assisi school. The card showed he was enrolled as "Barry Soetoro" and listed as an Indonesian citizen whose official religious identification was Muslim. An AP spokesman affirmed to WND that the photograph was authentic.

BISHOP BEHEADED IN TURKEY

BISHOP BEHEADED BY JIHADISTS IN TURKEY BECOMES 8th MARTYR THERE IN FOUR YEARS

Bishop Luigi Padovese, stabbed to death last month, is the latest victim of Turkey’s growing hostility to Christians


220px-Luigi_Padovese_-_Domforum_Köln_(8294)

John F. Cullinan

For all the attention Turkey has gotten lately, very few Americans are aware that the Roman Catholic bishop serving as apostolic vicar of Anatolia was stabbed to death and decapitated last month by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar! I have killed the great Satan!”

There are fewer than 60 Catholic priests in all of Turkey, and yet Bishop Luigi Padovese was the fifth of them to be shot or stabbed in the last four years, starting with the murder of Fr. Andrea Santoro in 2006, also by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” (An Armenian journalist and three Protestants working at a Christian publishing house — one of them German, the other two Turkish converts — were also killed during this period.)

What’s going on? Why has traditionally secularist Turkey, with its minuscule Christian community (less than 0.2 percent of the population), lately become nearly as dangerous for Christians as neighboring Iraq? And why has this disturbing pattern of events so far escaped notice in the West?

In a nutshell, all these violent acts reflect a popular culture increasingly shaped by Turkish media accounts deliberately promoting hatred of Christians and Jews.

As it happens, Bishop Padovese was murdered on the same day (June 3) that the Wall Street Journal published an eye-opening report on how Turkey’s press and film industry have increasingly blurred the distinction between fact and fantasy, especially since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002.

“To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness.” That’s how Robert L. Pollock, editorial-features editor of the Journal, summed up the trajectory of the daily fare that shapes Turks’ attitudes toward the outside world — and toward non-Muslims in their midst. Indeed, much of what passes for fact in Turkish public discourse would be comical if not for the deadly consequences.

Take, for instance, the wildly popular 2006 film Valley of the Wolves, later serialized for television. An earlier Journal piece summing up the plot as “a cross between American Psycho in uniform and theProtocols of the Elders of Zion” hardly does it justice. The plot turns on blood-crazed American soldiers committing war crimes for fun and profit in Iraq. These include the harvesting of body parts from murdered Iraqi civilians on an industrial scale (overseen by a Jewish doctor, of course) for shipment in crates clearly labeled New York and Tel Aviv.

Valley of the Wolves is the most expensive and most commercially successful Turkish feature film ever. Worse yet, it comes with the endorsement of leading AKP figures, such as the speaker of the parliament (“absolutely magnificent”) and the mayor of Istanbul (“a great screenplay”). Mr. Pollock’s judgment? “It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europesince the Third Reich.”

Unfortunately, this film — with its poisonous blood libel against Christians and Jews — falls well within what is now mainstream Turkish public discourse.

Consider only some of the wilder rumors given credence by the Turkish press — for example, how the United States intends to colonize theMiddle East because of an impending asteroid strike on North America, or how the 2004 Asian tsunami was really caused by secret U.S. nuclear testing. The latter claim was so prevalent in the Turkish media that theU.S. ambassador at the time, Eric Edelman, actually organized a conference call with Turkish journalists to refute the calumny.

This is the overall context in which incendiary published accusations are made that Catholic priests, sometimes identified by name, are engaging in proselytism — that is, seeking to convert Muslims, often with cash payments. I happen to know just how implausible these claims are, based on my own experience as a Catholic seminarian living and working in theMiddle East a decade ago. I found that pastors of the historic Middle Eastern churches almost always go out of their way to discourageprospective converts, rightly fearing agents provocateurs from the security services or Islamist groups. In the rare case where a conversion does occur, the person is generally baptized outside his home country, in a place where apostasy is not criminalized or barred by powerful social norms, such as preservation of family honor.

What local Christian clergy actually do is to tend shrinking flocks without seeking to add to their numbers. (These little congregations increasingly include migrants like the Filipina nurses and domestic workers who are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.) Some also provide public goods such as education and health care for Muslims and Christians alike on a non-sectarian basis. Others serve the pastoral needs of pilgrims visiting places (like Turkey) where Christianity once flourished. Nearly all see themselves as silent witnesses for Gospel values in places where prudence now bars the Gospel’s open proclamation.

There are vanishingly few Christians and Jews in Turkey. So the numbers of non-Muslims in the country cannot begin to explain the mounting popular hostility — not simply toward Americans, Europeans, and Israelis, but toward Christians and Jews as such. Turkey’s population (roughly 77 million) is more than 99.8 percent Muslim, with its tiny Jewish and Christian populations (perhaps 25,000 and 150,000, respectively) looking like a rounding error. Yet more than two-thirds of all Turks (68 percent) expressed a negative view of Christians in the 2009 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, as opposed to the results in nearby Muslim-majority states with much larger Christian minorities, like Jordan(44 percent negative) and Egypt (49 percent). Hostility toward Jews, moreover, has spiked recently, with those self-identified as “very unfavorable” jumping from 32 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2009.

The short answer to the question why Christians keep getting attacked inTurkey is that ideas have consequences, with bad ones often leading to deadly consequences. In the current issue of Commentary, Michael Rubin offers a masterly step-by-step analysis of the way in whichTurkey’s current Islamist rulers have systematically undermined and dismantled Atatürk’s secular legacy and have put in place an embryonic Islamist state. Ideas once expressed on the fringes of Turkish society have now become mainstream and respectable.

It is precisely this darkening climate of public opinion that provides the essential context for the spate of attacks against Catholic priests. Here it’s worth noting that, historically, Catholics were not regarded as enemies of modern Turkey in the way that Greeks and Armenians were. The Holy See was one of the first states to exchange ambassadors with the newly formed Turkish Republic in 1923; and one of its first ambassadors (from 1933 to 1944), still fondly remembered, was Angelo Roncalli, better known today as Blessed John XXIII.

So too is it a fact that Catholic clergy serving in trouble spots like Turkeyhave sometimes (though not always) enjoyed a certain immunity from violence or arbitrary arrest. That’s because the Vatican is widely perceived as a powerful entity that can command diplomatic and media attention (especially as compared to Christian evangelicals, who lack similar institutional support). That several Catholic priests have now been attacked in Turkey is a troubling new development that may reflect political Islam’s implacable hostility toward Pope Benedict XVI. Recall that what angered Islamists most about Benedict’s 2006 Regensburglecture was not an injudicious quotation from a 14th-century Byzantine emperor. It was Benedict’s observation that while reason without faith leads to nihilism (Europe’s problem), faith without reason leads to fanaticism and violence (Islam’s problem).

But it’s also a fact that the killing of Catholic clerics in Muslim-majority states tends nowadays in the West to be passed over in silence or treated as business as usual. Imagine for a moment what would happen if — God forbid! — a very senior, foreign-born Muslim cleric were murdered in the U.S. in circumstances amounting to a hate crime. It is not difficult to imagine the likely aftermath: wall-to-wall media coverage, repeated international condemnations, and multiple presidential apologies.

In the case of Bishop Padovese, one close observer makes explicit the connection between pervasive media vilification and violence against Catholic clergy. Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, whose Asia News broke the story of the true facts surrounding the bishop’s murder, maintains that “there’s a campaign against Christian priests in Turkey. The government says it’s not true, the Turks say they don’t believe it, but it’s quite enough to watch television or read the newspapers to realize that indeed it is true.”

These facts — and their necessary implications — are a long way from the Islam-is-a-religion-of-peace happy talk peddled by both the Bush and Obama administrations. Little wonder that there’s practically no understanding in the U.S. that Turkey’s beleaguered religious minorities — and their co-religionists elsewhere in the region — serve as canaries in the coal mine, bellwethers for major policy shifts that our foreign-policy establishment is slow to grasp. Or indeed that the plight of these minorities mirrors, at least roughly, the state of U.S. interests and ideals in the region.
It wasn’t always the case that Americans paid no attention to the plight of Middle Eastern Christians.

In the wake of World War I, the New York Times could safely assume a lively interest (and some Biblical literacy) among readers when editorializing in 1922 about the mass expulsion of ethnic Greek Christians from the new Turkish state: “Is this to be the end of the Christian minorities in Asia Minor — that land where, 13 centuries and more before the Turk came to rule, Paul had journeyed as a missionary through its length and breadth, and where the first ‘seven churches that are in Asia’ stood, to which the messages written in the Book of Revelation were sent?”

But that was then; and this is now.

http://bit.ly/94Cdug

Egypt official: U.S. president claims to be Muslim

WND

Quote from foreign minister stirs up tempest

An Egyptian foreign service official’s comment about President Obama is turning into a sensation among bloggers for its claim that the American leader claims to be Muslim.

Obama’s religiosity has been the subject of discussion since before he was elected and his Chicago-area pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, delivered a “God d— America” sermon that was caught on video.

Obama later claimed to be a Muslim in a television interview where the interviewer corrected his “misstatement” and he has referenced the Muslim heritage in America’s past several times.

Now the heat on the issue is being turned up because of a weeks-old report in Israel Today.

In the report, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted as saying during an appearance on Nile TV that, “The American president told me in confidence that he is a Muslim.”

The White House remained silent on the comment, declining to respond to a WND request for comment.

But blogger Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs wrote, “This is akin to an SS officer getting elected president during WW II. Every country in the free world must be cognizant of such a catastrophic sea change in the leadership of the free world (as witnessed by events over the past year). This changes everything. He took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and yet he has gone around the world promoting Islam, the Shariah (Islamic law).”

She suggested that the exchange could have happened early in 2010 when Gheit was in Washington, D.C., to address “Mideast peace talks.”

Obama’s comments from before the 2008 election:

The Israel Today report, from late in April, focused on the “crisis” in relations between Jerusalem and Washington under Obama.

It quotes sources who called Obama a “strategic catastrophe” for Israel.

They expressed concern, speaking on condition of anonymity to the newspaper, that Obama’s administration is a serious threat to the future of Israel.

The report then said Israelis feel Obama is “appeasing” Muslims at the expense of Israel.

“‘The American president told me in confidence that he is a Muslim,’ said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Nile TV. That could explain why Obama has instructed that the term ‘Islamic extremism’ no longer be used in official government documents and statements,” according to the report.

There was no independent verification of the statement attributed to Gheit.

But a video has been assembled by a group called Feel the Change Media highlighting Obama’s numerous remarks about Islam:

It has been viewed more than two million times already.

It was last year when Toby Harden, of the Daily Telegraph, cited Obama’s statement that the U.S. is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”

Obama had said, he quoted, “if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’ be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”

Obama also previously said in Turkey that Americans “do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.”

That prompted members of Congress to disagree. At that time a bipartisan group of 25 members of the House of Representatives submitted H.Res. 397, which calls on Congress to affirm “the rich spiritual and religious history of our nation’s founding and subsequent history” and to designate the first week of May as America’s Spiritual Heritage Week for “the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.”

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., specifically challenged the president’s claims that America is not a Christian nation in a news conference announcing the bill immediately following a National Day of Prayer observance.

“The overwhelming evidence suggests that this nation was born and birthed with Judeo-Christian principles,” Forbes told reporters, “and I would challenge anybody to tell me that point in time when we ceased to be so, because it doesn’t exist.”

During a June 2007 speech available on Youtube, Obama stated, “Whatever we once were, we’re no longer a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

In that speech, Obama took aim at the “Christian Right” for “hijacking” religion and using it to divide the nation:

“Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us,” he said.

Geller suggested perhaps other evidence should be considered as well, listing how Obama in early 2009 declared the “war on terror” over, suggested discussions with Hamas and recruited more Muslims for the White House staff.

He also created the Outreach to the Worldwide Muslim community in the State department, announces cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, offered funding to a Muslim technology fund, issued a special hajj message, had a “non-religious” Christmas, ordered NASA to work with Muslim nations and offered support for an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N.

“This is one hellacious argument and anyone not lobotomized by liberalism can see Obama’s an agent of Islam inside the wire,” said one participant in Geller’s forum page.

Gaza Flotilla Video reveals the truth

Arab and Turkish journalists and media are big time lairs and biased to the core

By Mike Evans

On May 31, Israel walked straight into a trap—a trap set by a group of so-called activists determined to break Israeli attempts to halt the flow of arms and war materiel into the Gaza strip.

Having been warned in advance that the intent of the Free Gaza movement flotilla was to shatter the Israeli blockade, the IDF prepared to board the ships and divert them to Ashdod for inspection. A member of the Free Gaza organization credited with launching the flotilla, Greta Berlin, clarified the intent of the group: “We’re not trying to be a humanitarian mission.”

Apparently, Israel was ill-informed that the ship carried 700 pro-Palestinian activists prepared to do whatever necessary to reach their goal. American-born pro-Palestinian activist Hawaida Arraf threw down the gauntlet with the assertion: “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us. They are going to have to forcefully stop us.”

According to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon “the armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terror organization was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organizers are well-known for their ties to Global Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror. On board the ship we found weapons that were prepared in advance and used against our forces…”

A number of the passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship suspected of having connections with Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist organizations have refused to provide proper identification to the Israeli authorities. Many were carrying envelopes containing thousands of dollars in cash.

During a search of the ship on Tuesday a cache of bulletproof vests, night-vision goggles, and gas masks was discovered. A defense official stated, “This is the group that was behind the violent [attack] against the naval commandos. They came on board the ship prepared and after they had trained for the expected Navy takeover.”

When confronted by the Israelis, five of the six ships’ captains diverted to Ashdod; the sixth was decidedly on a mission of defiance. Obviously, the mistake made by the IDF was to assume that the voyagers on board the Mavi Marmara were a charitable group. Rather, it was loaded with pro-Palestinian terrorists, not with the specified humanitarian agenda, and determined to create an international media incident.

The IDF deployed about a dozen soldiers with the intent of taking the bridge and diverting the flotilla to the Israeli port. Instead, the troops fell into the hands of an angry mob of rioters armed with clubs, knives, scissors, pepper spray, and with side arms after having disarmed several IDF soldiers.

The Israelis boarded with non-lethal paintball guns, the kind used by teens on paintball courses, and pistols they never thought they would have to unholster. Video shows the unsuspecting IDF paratroopers being assaulted as they reached the deck. One IDF soldier was thrown over a railing to a deck 30 feet below.

In a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated that this was “a clear case of self-defense because as our soldiers were inspecting these ships, they were attacked—they were almost lynched. They were attacked…and they had to defend themselves—they were going to be killed. Israel will not allow its soldiers to be lynched and neither would any other self-respecting country.”

Israel will become the target for every terrorist worldwide. Now more than ever America must stand with our only true ally in the Middle East

Israel has maintained the 4-year blockade to halt the flow of weapons from Iran to Hamas, its armed and funded proxy in Gaza. In November 2009, the Israeli navy intercepted a huge cache of weapons headed from Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas onboard Francop, a German container ship. The markings on the materiel discovered were clearly Iranian. The ship carried some 3,000 missiles including Katyusha rockets.

The Israeli embargo against Gaza has become more powerful than rockets; it created the perfect storm, the Vietnam, for the State of Israel. The secular media, which has always been prone to call terrorists “activists,” only encourages such actions.

In 2008, Israeli President Shimon Peres held a “Facing Tomorrow” conference to which he invited some of the most noted thinkers in the world. One of the conclusions of the meeting was that wars of the 21st Century would be fought first as a media war, secondly as an economic war, thirdly as a proxy war, and finally with boots on the ground. Israel has lost this media war and is well on the way to losing the economic war.

Israel ceded Gaza in hopes of achieving peace in the region; its hopes were dashed. Hamas continued to lob some 1,200 missiles across the border at innocent Jewish civilians. Despite the ongoing provocation, Israel has allowed food and humanitarian supplies into Gaza through the Red Cross and UN.

This skirmish came amid plans for a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. The aim of the summit was to keep Iran at the top of the agenda, not the Palestinian Authority.

Iran found the perfect means to distract the liberal media—create a flag-waving, humanitarian crisis. The resulting propaganda-driven riots worldwide would certainly take attention from the IAEA announcement that Iran now possesses more than two tons of enriched uranium—enough for two nuclear warheads.

If you were sitting in the seat of power in ancient Persia, what would you do when confronted with new sanctions against your nuclear program? You would sponsor a David-versus-Goliath flotilla—a media extravaganza—carrying a Nobel Peace Prize winner, an American activist, and a Holocaust survivor. Central casting could not have done it better.

The question becomes: When is a humanitarian mission not a humanitarian mission? It fails the test when it is peopled with terrorists on a suicide mission.

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Christians cleared of Iranian charges

WND

Moved to another nation where they’ll be free to worship

 

Maryam and Marzieh

 

By Bob Unruh

 

Two Iranian women jailed for nearly a year for converting from Islam to Christianity have been cleared of all charges and reportedly moved to another nation where they will be free to worship.

According to International Christian Concern, Maryam Rostampour, 28, and Marzieh Amirizadah, 31, were released from prison a few weeks ago, but their cases still were pending. However, word arrived over the weekend that "all charges" against the women had been dropped.

The women immediately were able to leave Iran "to an unknown country after being warned by judicial authorities that any future Christian activity in Iran will be harshly punished," according to the ICC report.

"From henceforth, Maryam and Marzieh will be able to worship God freely and at all hours of the day without having to fear death or imprisonment," the organization said. "Their faith and endurance has been an encouragement to countless believers throughout the world."

In a statement made available through ICC, the two women said, "We are most grateful to everyone who prayed for us. [We] have no doubt that God heard the prayers of His people."

The two first were arrested March 5, 2009, by Iranian security forces for being "apostates," converts from Islam. They were put in front of a Revolutionary Court Aug. 9, 2009, and ordered to recant their faith.

In a statement from Elam Ministries, the hearing included the women’s explanations that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit of their need for Christianity.

"It is impossible for God to speak with humans," Haddad, a deputy prosecutor identified only by his surname, stated.

"Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?" Amirizadeh asked him.

To which Haddad then replied. "You are not worthy for God to speak to you."

"It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy," she said.

Haddad had asked if the women were Christian.

"We love Jesus," they replied.

"You were Muslims and now you have become Christians," Haddad stated.

"We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims," the women said.

The deputy prosecutor asked about their regrets, and they said, "We have no regrets."

"You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form," he warned.

They refused.

The two had spent months in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in Iran. They reported a multitude of health issues and problems that accompanied the severe interrogations to which they were subjected, officials said.

Evin prison is notorious for its hanging executions and brutal torture tactics. It is the same facility where Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died only three weeks after she was arrested for simply photographing the prison during a student protest in 2003.

Under Shariah, or Islamic law, the penalty for apostasy is death or life imprisonment. According to reports about the punishment system within Iran, for women the execution often is preceded by rape.

Jennifer Knapp Comes Out

Cover of "Lay It Down"

Cover of Lay It Down

Veteran artist returns after seven-year hiatus with a feisty new album, Letting Go, while also revealing that she’s gay

CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Seven years ago, while at the top of her game, Jennifer Knapp announced what seemed to many a sudden decision: She was stepping away from Christian music, taking an indefinite hiatus. Rumors began to swirl—she was burned out, she needed a rest, she was upset about something, she was gay. Turns out that all the rumors were true, as Knapp reveals in this rambling, exclusive interview withChristianity Today. The one-time Grammy nominee ended her hiatus in late 2009with a few small shows, an updated website, and an announcement that she was writing new songs. Many of those songs will be featured on Letting Go, releasing May 11, her first album since 2001’s The Way I Am.

In one of her first extensive interviews since announcing her comeback, Knapp, 36, talks to CT about why she quit music in the first place, her lifestyle choice, her rekindled passion for songwriting, her faith, her new album, and more.

You announced your “hiatus” in 2003. Was that a sudden decision, or was it boiling for a while?

Jennifer Knapp: It was boiling for me. I think people thought I just fell into a hole and disappeared, but I had been trying to get out of being on the road 250 days a year. Lay It Down was a 2000 release, andThe Way I Am was 2001; those records were literally back to back, and I was touring while recording The Way I Am. I was telling people “Man, I can’t keep up the schedule. This is just a little bit crazy.” I didn’t have any space to just be a normal human being. I finally realized nobody was going to make that decision for me, so I just said, “I’m not kidding. I need a break, and it starts now.”

That decision came mid-2001, but my schedule didn’t allow me to stop until September 2002, when I did my last show; I basically still had about a year and a half worth of contracted concerts and other things before I could stop.

A lot of people hit burnout, but I don’t think many think, I’m going to take seven years off. What were you thinking?

Knapp: At the time, I literally thought I was quitting. I needed such a break, and I needed the silence to be deafening. But in the back of my mind I thought, Maybe in a couple of years I’ll come back and give this another go. It was a huge risk to say I may never do this again. It was a real heart wrenching decision.

Once you fulfilled your last obligation, was there a big sigh of relief? Or what?

Knapp: I was scared to death. You just don’t leave something that everyone else says is extremely successful. Some people close to me said I was doing something wrong—that [quitting] was a denial of the gifts I had. I was like, Whoa, hold on a second. I’m just asking for a little bit of time. That was a lot to deal with. It took two or three years to get over the rollercoaster ride of emotions. One day I’d be completely angry; the next day completely heartbroken and devastated; the next raging jealous because somebody’s out there doing something that I love doing and I can’t do it. And some days I was in complete denial. It was almost like a psychological profile of grief. [It took a while] to let the dust settle and figure out what kind of human being was left.

There were rumors that you left music because you were gay.

Knapp: That was a straw [in my decision], but there were many straws on the camel’s back at the time. I’m certainly in a same-sex relationship now, but when I suspended my work, that wasn’t even really a factor. I had some difficult decisions to make and what that meant for my life and deciding to invest in a same-sex relationship, but it would be completely unfair to say that’s why I left music.

Were you involved in a relationship at that time you left?

Knapp: Around 2002, I was starting to contend with this new-found “issue” in my life. But I’d already decided to leave music before I knew I was going to contend with that. I don’t want anyone to think that I ran out of town with my tail between my legs because I had something to hide.

Or that you were run out of town.

Knapp: Or that I was run out of town. Neither is true.

When you wrote The Way I Am, was that a veiled statement about being gay?

Knapp: That record means a lot more to me now than it did at the time. That whole record for me was an exercise in the carnal body of Christ manifested. One of the biggest decisions I was wrestling with then was, If I don’t do Christian music, am I not a believer anymore?

Why come back now? What has changed?

Knapp: At some point [last year] when I started to write again, I realized that the process was rather organic. I started playing at home, and my friends are going, “Oh wow, that’s pretty good. What are you going to do with that?” I said, “What do you mean, what am I going to do with it? Nothing!” The return has been a lot like the way I started music in the first place. We’re doing a four-day run of concerts right now, I’m in a van, I just spent half my afternoon driving, and if I’m lucky I get dinner before I play tonight. There’s something about that process you’ve got to love. I just think it took me a lot longer to figure out if that passion was a safe one for me.

You spent about five of the last seven years in Australia, right?

Knapp: Yes. But I’ve been back in the States since September. During those seven years, I entertained myself for quite some time by traveling. I traveled all through Europe. I traveled through the U.S. for about a year. I was basically a transient for about four years.

Traveling alone or with your partner?

Knapp: With my partner.

Have you been with the same partner for a long time?

Knapp: About eight years, but I don’t want to get into that. For whatever reason the rumor mill [about me being gay] has persisted for so long, I wanted to acknowledge; I don’t want to come off as somebody who’s shirking the truth in my life. At the same time, I’m intensely private. Even if I were married to a man and had six children, it would be my personal choice to not get that kind of conversation rolling.

I understand. But I’m curious: Were you struggling with same-sex attraction when writing your first three albums? Those songs are so confessional, clearly coming from a place of a person who knows her need for grace and mercy.

Knapp: To be honest, it never occurred to me while writing those songs. I wasn’t seeking out a same-sex relationship during that time.

During my college years, I received some admonishment about some relationships I’d had with women. Some people said, “You might want to renegotiate that,” even though those relationships weren’t sexual. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it makes sense. But if you remove the social problem that homosexuality brings to the church—and the debate as to whether or not it should be called a “struggle,” because there are proponents on both sides—you remove the notion that I am living my life with a great deal of joy. It never occurred to me that I was in something that should be labeled as a “struggle.” The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people. I’ve struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.

Are you beyond those struggles?

Knapp: I don’t know. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m contending with the culture shock of moving back here. There’s some extremely volatile language and debate—on all sides—that just breaks my heart. Frankly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be making any kind of public statement at all. But there are people I care about within the church community who would seek to throw me out simply because of who I’ve chosen to spend my life with.

So why come out of the closet, so to speak?

Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.

Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your faith or your gay feelings?

Knapp: Yes. Absolutely.

Because you felt they were incompatible?

Knapp: Well, everyone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person—and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith.

What about what Scripture says on the topic?

Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

Some argue that the feelings of homosexuality are not sinful, but only the act. What would you say?

Knapp: I’m not capable of fully debating that well. But I’ve always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I’ve found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place.

If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I’m sorry. I’m going to be a miserable failure.

You’re living in Nashville. Are you in a church these days?

Knapp: No.

The Christian music industry can be fickle. Fans, radio, and retail were angry at Amy Grant for her divorce, at Michael English and Sandi Patty for adultery. But eventually, they were “welcomed” back. How do you think your fans and radio and Christian stores will react to the news that you’re gay? Or do you care?

Knapp: I do have a soul! (laughs) I care deeply. It’s a very heart-wrenching decision to come into a room knowing that there are many people who just won’t come with me. The Christian bookstore thing is probably not going to happen; this isn’t a Christian record, and it’s not going to be marketed to Christian radio.

K-LOVE won’t pick this one up?

Knapp: I doubt it, but there’s no reason they can’t play it. To me, my faith is fairly evident in what I’m writing, but it’s not a record for the sanctuary. That in itself is a huge risk for me—to be able to write without feeling like I’ve got to manufacture something that’s not entirely genuine, to take a song and feel like I have to make an obvious biblical reference. That’s not there anymore. I’ve actually buried it; for me, it’s an exercise in liberty. In a spiritual context, will God still be evident in me when I write songs? I sort of nervously wring my hands together and go, Please don’t leave me.

You’re saying Please don’t leave me to God, or fans, or whom?

Knapp: To me, and the divine experience of being a musician—that private world of where I integrate that into my life and where it comes out on a public level, as a song. I have a lot of fans who live in real-life scenarios, not just live within the walls of their church. They aren’t surrounded by Christians all day long; they don’t just listen to Christian music. I have a lot of critically thinking fans who are trying to sort out their lives as Christians as best they know how. I think as a result of that, a lot of them have been marginalized; they’re still seeking to be Christians but not always measuring up to the marketed idea of who they should be.

You’re playing live shows again …

Knapp: Yes. My concerts right now include the ultra-conservative hand raisers that are going to make this bar their worship zone. And there’s a guy over on the left having one too many, and there’s a gay couple over on the right. That’s my dream scenario. I love each and every one of them. At the end of the day, it’s music.

Are you still playing your old songs in concert?

Knapp: A bit, yeah.

Which ones?

Knapp: “Martyrs and Thieves” I’ll probably always play off of Kansas. “Fall Down” off of The Way I Am. The songs still have to speak to me. I had to go back and learn my old songs, but that’s been part of my process too—feeling like because I was gay that I couldn’t sing those songs anymore. I even said, “Don’t give me a [live] set longer than what I can play with this new music, because I just can’t play the old music.” I just flat out said I wouldn’t do it.

But you’re already rethinking that?

Knapp: I’m enjoying what I’m playing now. It’s been organic. Amy Courts, a gal who’s joined me on this tour, said she wanted to sing some of the old songs with me. I was like, Man, I don’t know. I swore I’d never play that song again. But we start playing it, and it just hits me right in my heart. It’s like somebody else wrote it. I realized that it comes from a very honest, genuine place. I’ve started to make those connections between the old songs and what I’m doing now. It was an extraordinarily helpful connect, because for a long time I thought it was old life vs. new life. But it’s not. It was a real comfort to me to realize I’m still the same person, that the baggage or new scenarios we pick up along the way are part of the long-term story.

The new record is called Letting Go. Is that a statement?

Knapp: Oh, I love record titles! (laughs) I suppose. There’s a song called “Letting Go,” and it’s basically just a struggle to hold onto the things that have been valuable to me. That was one of the last song I wrote going into this, when I started to have a panic attack going I can’t do this. People are going to chew me up and spit me out and tell me that I’m worthless. I think the process of writing that song was really helpful to realize that I really enjoy what I’m doing, and I’m not going to let go of my faith and I’m not going to let go of the passion to do music the way I want, in case there are other people telling me I can do neither because of personal decisions I’ve made.

In the lyrics to that song, who is the you when you sing, “Holding onto you is a menace to my soul”?

Knapp: It changes nightly. It seriously does. And it can change three or four times while I’m singing it. Some days it’s my faith. Some days I’m singing to God, like You’re a menace, man. It’s hard to keep my faith. Sometimes it’s music, and sometimes it’s being on the road. It’s a lot of those scenarios. That song is a bit of a chameleon, because it’s all of those fearful moments that want to handicap me from not moving forward, when I’d rather move forward with grace and as much kindness as I can—and make my mistakes and hope that grace will follow me.

So it turns out to be the title of the record. I think a lot of folks around this process have been excited about what it’s taken for me to get to this point—to be able to pull a trigger, to be able to go, Okay, really I want to play. A few years back, people were offering me five and six figures to come out and just do one show. I’m like, No, you cannot pay me enough. So that idea of letting go, and just the celebration that this record has felt like—finding music again, finding the passion to face up to a really challenging career but one that’s extraordinarily rewarding, that when you lay your head on the pillow at the end of the night you go, Man, I’m bone tired, but that was good. For me, that’s what it means.

I’m tired of spending hours and hours thinking about what if scenarios—what if nobody wants it, what if everybody is mad, what if I’m a complete disappointment. Now it’s, Here it is. I’ve got to let it go. That’s one of the frustrating parts of my Christian walk, the scenario that if I don’t get it right, that I’ve somehow failed God and failed my faith.

There are a few songs here that I would call angry songs. Is that fair?

Knapp: Which ones do you call angry songs?

Well, there’s “If It Made a Difference,” where you sing, “Sorry I ever gave a damn / Sorry I even tried to waste all the better parts of me / On not just anyone who came to mind.” And “Inside,” where you sing, “I know they’ll bury me before they hear the whole story … / Who the hell do you think you are?” Sounds angry to me!

Knapp: Okay. I’m okay if you call them angry. I prefer to think of them as, well …

Honest?

Knapp: I’m just really enjoying the opportunity as a writer to be able to put a kinetic energy into what’s been welling up inside of me. It’s great to be able to not feel like I’ve got to turn that frustration into a happy, cheery …

But you’ve never been like that, Jennifer. I don’t listen to your old albums and think Oh, this is all happy, shiny music. I hate happy, shiny music!

Knapp: I think “angry” is probably … I’m not really an angry person. I’m passionate, and I’ve certainly been known to raise my voice and pound my fists, but in the heart of me it’s not a destructive thing. It’s more the type of energy of what it takes when a person’s being thwarted. I wrote “Inside” in complete and utter fear to voices in my head that told me that I couldn’t be a person of faith.

In the song’s third line, you sing, “God forbid they give me grace.” Do you really believe that no believers will show you grace?

Knapp: It’s a much larger picture than that. I don’t want anyone to think the song is targeted at the church, or at the ways we find judgment cast upon us. It’s a challenge to break free of that and to own who you really are. That’s my heart’s cry for anyone I’ve ever met. It’s not on my agenda to convert the world to a religion, but to convert the world to compassion and grace. I’ve experienced that in my life through Christianity.

“Inside” isn’t about the church. It’s about me, and how I struggle to be myself daily—honest and truthful to who I really am. It would break my heart if people got through this [album], especially the Christian audience, and found themselves with another artist that was just angry at the church. That’s not where I’m at. If there’s any anger or frustration on this record, it’s the desperation to hold onto what is honest and true, and let the rest of it just burn.

I would be really sad if people thought this was a sword trying to cut up something I’ve been deeply moved by. Christian music has been a great surprise for me, but I didn’t aspire to be a Christian music artist. I aspired to be a Christian in my private life, and I think it’s a wonderful side effect that can happen with music—that you can get a lot of people to share in that specific experience. So it would be a tragedy if people couldn’t see the forest for the trees, to see the connectivity between Kansasand Letting Go. It’s there for me, gratefully, with a big, huge, massive sigh of relief. It’s not like I left Christian music because Christian music was bad, or that I’m not participating in church because the church is evil. It’s none of those things. For me, it’s the journey that I’m on, trying to figure things about as best I can.

Jennifer Knapp Comes Out

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Israel to mark Holocaust Day with Yad Vashem ceremony, nationwide sirens

By Nir Hasson

holocaust

Events for Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Day will begin Sunday evening with an official ceremony at 8 P.M. in the Warsaw Ghetto yard at Yad Vashem, in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chairman of the Yad Vashem Board, Rabbi Meir Lau. The ceremony will focus on the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust.

Six Holocaust survivors will light torches commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The survivors are: Eliezer Ayalon, Leo Luster, Sarah Israeli, Hana Gafrit, Baruch Shuv and Yakov Zim.

At 10 A.M. on Monday a siren will wail as the country observes a minute’s silence, to be followed by a ceremony at Yad Vashem and the laying of wreaths. Monday afternoon, a special exhibition of the works of Holocaust survivors will open at Yad Vashem.

In an interview to Haaretz, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev noted a number of trends in the attitudes toward the Holocaust in Israel and the world during the past year. The most notable trend in recent years, he says, is a dramatic rise in interest in the Holocaust and its commemoration throughout the world.

“There is growing interest in teaching about the Holocaust, and we have had many indications to this effect; we have conducted more than 70 seminars for teachers from all over the world,” he said.

Yad Vashem’s staff also point to a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the institution’s Web site. If the current pace continues, by year’s end more than 15 million people would have spent more than 12 minutes at a time reviewing the Web site – a 50 percent increase compared to last year. Most of the new visitors to the Web site are from outside Israel.

On the other hand, Shalev said that “there are troubling signs of problematic treatment of the memory [of the Holocaust] mostly in Eastern Europe, where they are building their national identities in relation to Russia, but also in relation to their past. In some cases the national identity runs parallel with collaboration with Nazis.”

Another problem is the rise of the relativist approach to the Holocaust, as expressed by the European Parliament’s decision to set a single day that commemorates suffering in the hands of totalitarian regimes – the Nazis and the Soviets.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162067.html

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Jesus Christ’s Resurrection real, according to some scientists

Jesus Christ's resurrected nail scarred hands

REDLANDS – Pastor Greg Wallace of First Lutheran Church will preach an Easter message Sunday with full faith that a man from Galilee rose from the dead 2,000 years ago.

"As far as the physicality of the resurrection, as Christians that’s a non-negotiable," Wallace said. "If the resurrection isn’t real, then the whole basis (of Christianity) is a sham and not worth much more than platitudes."

He may hear hallelujahs from what some would consider unlikely sources: scientists.

Frank Tipler, professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University in New Orleans and author of the book "The Physics of Christianity," maintains that belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a matter of faith founded on scientific fact.

"Believe in the laws of physics and they will tell you Jesus rose from the dead," he said Thursday.

According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus rose early on the first day of the week and appeared first to Mary Magdalene. According to Tipler, the body of Christ was a "glorified" body capable of de-materializing at one location and materializing in another.

Modern particle physics provides a mechanism for de-materialization, Tipler said.

Tipler said that’s the conversion of matter into neutrinos, which are elementary particles that interact very weakly with normal matter, and thus would be invisible.

Reversing the de-materialization process would result in apparently "materializing" out of nothing.

Tipler believes if this was the mechanism of Jesus’ resurrection, there are tests that could demonstrate it.

The image of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin has certain features that would arise in the neutrino de-materialization process, according to Tipler.

"What happens is, the matter of Jesus’ body was converted into neutrinos," Tipler said. "To a person standing by, he would see exactly what Mel Gibson pictured in (the movie) ‘The Passion of the Christ."’

Alan J. DeWeerd, an associate professor of physics at the University of Redlands, said he is a Christian who believes in the resurrection.

DeWeerd hasn’t read Tipler’s theory, but doesn’t believe it would necessarily be a boost to his faith in the resurrected Christ.

"I guess my take on it would be the claim is, it’s a miracle, so you’re not looking for a scientific explanation," DeWeerd said.

One Christian apologist agrees.

Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute in Charlotte, N.C., said Friday that Christianity presupposes the supernatural.

"Miracles are not only possible, but are necessary to make sense of the world in which we live," Hanegraaff said.

He said whereas philosophical naturalism posits that "nothing created everything," reason forces one to look at a supernatural designer of the cosmos who intervenes in his creation.

"If someone is truly open-minded in an age of scientific enlightenment, they allow for natural and supernatural (explanations) for what happens in the world," he said.

Regardless of the explanations, some skeptics say the resurrection account is a big stumbling block to faith.

Among them is Dan Barker, a former pastor who graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in religion.

He preached throughout Southern California before embracing atheism, and is now the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis.

"What I like to say is, I threw out all the bath water and found out there is no baby there," Barker said.

Barker believes that a natural explanation of the resurrection would make the event less impressive, and maintains there are too many contradictions in the gospels to believe it happened.

"It’s ludicrous," Barker said. "It’s hogwash to think that scientifically and even historically that the resurrection story holds up."

Barker believes the resurrection is a legend that has grown for 2,000 years. He’s issued a challenge for Christians to come forward with a coherent harmony of the gospel texts.

On Easter morning, the former preacher has visits scheduled to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

"I will be visiting the Darwin exhibit," he said. "Most atheists on Easter Sunday are doing their taxes, mowing their lawns or planting their gardens."

josh.dulaney@inlandnewspapers.com,
909-386-3885

Resurrection real, according to some scientists