Windsor Humanist Society

November 30, 2007

No Graven Images on Driving Licences – Alberta Bible Battle Heads to Supreme Court

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A dispute between the Alberta government and two Hutterite colonies over driver’s licences is heading to the Supreme Court of Canada, signalling a years-long legal battle is about to come to an end.

Hutterite ChildrenCanada’s top court agreed Thursday to hear the case that has pitted Alberta’s demands for security measures against the Hutterites’ demands for religious freedom.

“There’s a whole minority of groups out there that want religious freedom,” said Sam Wurz, manager of the Three Hills Hutterite colony leading the legal fight.

“If we win, it’s going to be good for everybody.”

Alberta Justice Minister Ron Stevens also welcomed the news, saying the province considers the case a significant issue.

“From our perspective, the rules that we have are all about safety and we think that’s an important principle to get clarity on,” Mr. Stevens explained.

For years, Alberta allowed people with religious objections to carry special driver’s licences without photographs.

But the province changed the law in 2003, mandating photographs for every driver’s licence.

That drew a challenge from two small southern Alberta Hutterite colonies, whose members said their religious beliefs prevent them from carrying photo-bearing drivers’ licences.

The colonies interpret the Second Commandment of the Old Testament — which reads in part, you shall not make for yourself a “graven image” — as condemning as a sin the act of being photographed.

The two colonies in Three Hills and Coaldale, supported by 14 other Hutterite communities in Alberta, sued the province and won.

Last May, a 2-1 decision of The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the trial court ruling that said forcing Hutterites to be photographed in order to get driver’s licences violated their constitutional right to religious freedom.

The province had argued the photographs were needed to maintain the licences’ integrity and prevent identity theft.

The Court of Appeal ruled it was unlikely the province would be deluged by requests for special, photo-free licences.

In 2003, before Alberta tried to change its law, only 453 such licences were held in that province.

Still, it was the province that chose to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Wurz, who said his colony has spent more than $100,000 fighting the province, said he didn’t expect the conflict to go this far but he’s glad he will get a final answer on the matter.

“I’m confident we’ll win,” he said. “We believe in the Lord, he takes care of us. His hand will be involved in this.”

Many other conservative religious communities, including some Hutterite groups in Canada, do not share the belief that being willingly photographed is a sin.

Greg Senda, the Hutterites’ Lethbridge-based lawyer, said although the Supreme Court has issued previous decisions upholding religious constitutional rights, he isn’t aware of any prior rulings dealing with religious beliefs and personal identification issues.

“The Alberta government feels there’s a broader policy issue here that they need to pursue,” he said. “So we’ll go and argue our case once again, this time in Ottawa.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 30, 2007 article by Joel Kom and Richard Foot in The Calgary Herald

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November 29, 2007

Increasing Islamic Separatist Violence in Thailand Results in Savagely Stabbed/Mutilated Corpses Being Found On Streets

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More than 2,700 such deaths over past four years in Thailand’s touristy “sunny south” region.

A Muslim military informant has been shot and crucified, while two Buddhist men have been beheaded by suspected Islamic separatists in Narathiwat, Thailand’s restive south region, police said.

Behead Those Who Insult IslamThe Muslim man, a 58-year-old who belonged to a government-backed militia, was shot and then stabbed so badly that he was nearly decapitated, police Lieutenant Khanchitthol Kreunor told AFP.

Suspected rebels then drove six-inch nails through his head, arms and legs to attach him to two pieces of wood, which were laid out like a cross in the middle of a road in Rueso district of Narathiwat province, near the southern border with Malaysia, he said.

Khanchitthol said police found a note written in Thai and left near the cross, reading: “This is what the infidels deserve. The soldier dogs must meet this end.”

“The victim was attacked and killed in such a grisly way because they knew he was a military informant. This is to terrify the people,” Mr. Khanchitthol said.

About two hours later, two Buddhist fishmongers aged 20 and 61 were shot and then beheaded in another district of Narathiwat, police said.

The killings came after a month of spiralling violence in the region, which has seen more than 2,700 killed since separatist unrest erupted four years ago.

Thailand’s southernmost provinces were an ethnic Malay sultanate until the Buddhist kingdom annexed it a century ago, provoking decades of tension.

Monitoring group Intellectual Deep South Watch said last week that November has been one of the most violent months this year.

Thailand’s new army chief, General Anupong Paojinda, had announced last month that he was bolstering the 30,000 government forces in the region to try to clamp down on the violence.

The military has also requested massive spending increases to buy new weaponry, including a dozen fighter jets already ordered from Sweden, saying it needs the hardware to battle the insurgency.

But near-daily shootings, bombings and ambushes continue to hit southern Thailand despite the military crackdown, arrests and a raft of peace initiatives by the army-backed government.

Attacks have become increasingly brutal, with corpses sometimes mutilated or savagely stabbed. Corpses are often left in streets or other public areas where passersby find them.

The government also relies heavily on paramilitary forces like the one that the latest Muslim victim belonged to.

Many villages have lost any faith that the government can protect them and have begun to organize their own sectarian vigilante forces.

Rights groups and analysts have voiced alarm at the trend, saying such forces only increase tensions among communities and hamper efforts to make security forces more accountable.

Despite the rampant violence, few people have been prosecuted over the unrest.

In June, the government began raiding villages and making mass arrests, but courts last month ordered authorities to free 384 young men who had been held without charge in what the army said was a job training programme.

The army said it feared the men were susceptible to recruitment by separatists, but finally obeyed the court orders to free them on November 18.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 29, 2007 article by Rapee Mama via AF-P (Agence France-Presse)

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British Exchange-Teacher in Sudan Faces Flogging, Jail for Insulting Islam, Inciting Religious Hatred by Allowing Teddy Bear to be Named “Mohammed”

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Sudan charged a British teacher on Wednesday with insulting Islam and inciting religious hatred by allowing young pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammed, offences that could see the mother of two flogged and jailed if convicted.

Gillian GibbonsBritain swiftly announced that it was summoning the Sudanese ambassador in London for talks at the Foreign Office as the case threatened to escalate into a full-blown diplomatic row.

“The investigation has been completed and the Briton Gillian Gibbons was charged under Article 125 of the penal code,” Deputy Justice Minister Abdel Daim Zamrawi told Sudan’s official SUNA news agency.

“The punishment for this is jail, a fine and lashes. It is up to the judge to determine the sentence,” Mr. Zamrawi was quoted as saying.

Gillian Gibbons has been in custody for three days after being arrested in Khartoum because parents complained that in allowing pupils at an expensive English school to name the bear Mohammed she was insulting the Muslim Prophet.

The sentence for breaching Article 125 of the penal code — publicly insulting or degrading any religion, its rites, beliefs and sacred items or humiliating its believers — is up to six months in jail, 40 lashes and a fine.

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman confirmed Ms. Gibbons had been charged with “insulting religion and inciting religious hatred.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said Foreign Secretary David Miliband wanted to see the Sudanese ambassador “as a matter of urgency.”

The purpose of the meeting was “so we can get a clear explanation for the rationale behind the charges and a sense of what the next steps might be,” he said. “We will consider our response in the light of that.”

The private school teacher, who has been moved to the criminal investigation department in Khartoum, told British consular officials who visited her on Wednesday for a second time that she was being treated well.

“Our consulate went to visit her this morning. She said she was OK and treated well,”
an embassy spokesman told Agence France-Presse, adding that British officials are in “close discussion with the Sudanese authorities.”

Mr. Zamrawi said Ms. Gibbons was being held in good conditions and added that her relatives could visit, despite a reported complaint from her ex-husband in a British tabloid that the family had not been allowed to go to Sudan.

“She is in a room and she has all the necessary things. She has seen her lawyer and is brought food. She has basic rights. For us, she is innocent until her guilt has been proved… Her relatives can visit her,” Mr. Zamrawi told AFP.

When asked if the authorities feared that releasing Ms. Gibbons could expose her to angry mobs, he said: “We are taking all these things into account… We don’t want to expose her to any unsafe conditions.”

Ms. Gibbons, in her 50s, is being held at the criminal investigation department and has been provided with an interpreter when necessary, the embassy said.

Sudan’s education ministry will also conduct an inquiry into the Christian run Unity High School, where Ms. Gibbons taught since leaving England in July, to determine whether it was guilty of a cover-up, Mr. Zamrawi said.

Ms. Gibbons allowed boys and girls as young as six to name the bear Mohammed several months ago. Ms.  Gibbons has said she never meant to cause offence.

The Sudanese embassy in London said the affair could still be resolved amicably — but underlined the cultural differences behind the decision to charge the teacher.

“We still say that it can be resolved in an amicable way through a fair hearing and fair investigation and fair legal system,” embassy spokesman Khalid al-Mubarak told the BBC.

“But a teddy bear in your culture is different from a teddy bear in our culture,” he added.

“In our culture a teddy bear is a wild and dangerous animal. It’s not something to be cuddled by children before they sleep.”

A leading British Muslim took issue with that interpretation however saying that “appalled” at the decision to charge Ms. Gibbons over what had clearly been an innocent mistake.

“This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense,” said the head of The Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari.

“There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 29, 2007 article by Mohamed Hasni via AFP (Agence France-Presse)

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November 28, 2007

Our Catholic School Board Resists Pressure To Ban “The Golden Compass”

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The local Catholic school board is resisting pressure to remove from its libraries a controversial children’s book that critics claim promotes atheism.

U of SW English Professor Danielle PriceThe local arm of a national Catholic group wants The Golden Compass — now a big-budget movie — banned. It has already been boycotted in the U.S. and banned by another Ontario school board.

“Under the guise of an exciting adventure story, the very clear message being given is that the Catholic church is an evil organization and God and Christianity are a fraud,” said Bob Baksi, president of the Windsor Essex County chapter of the Catholic Civil Rights League.

But the local Catholic board, which has had the book in school libraries for a decade, doesn’t plan to take it off the shelves.

The Golden Compass is part of a trilogy called His Dark Materials by British writer Philip Pullman. It’s set in a parallel world where young heroine Lyra heads to the far north to save her kidnapped friend. She also fights an evil organization called Magisterium, which is the word Catholics use to describe the teaching authority of the church.

The book came out in 1995, but widespread controversy has heated up only recently as the film’s Dec. 7 release date draws closer. The Catholic League, which claims to be America’s largest Catholic civil rights group, has launched a nationwide boycott campaign.

The Halton Catholic District School Board
has pulled the book from its shelves.

Canada’s Catholic Civil Rights League issued a warning Monday on its website to members and supporters to not take their children to the movie because of the “strong anti-religious content” in the books.

Randy Sasso, supervisor of faith development with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, said the book is on library shelves in only six elementary schools and two high schools. He said it’s not popular with students.

The school board never thought about the book’s religious implications before, and still isn’t worried, he said.

“We never brought a theological perspective to it,” Mr. Sasso said.

“We treated it as fantasy. It seemed like another Alice in Wonderland, another Chronicles of Narnia. You really have to go through this with a fine tooth comb to catch any of the religious elements. It looks like a real publicity stunt. He’s not even a particularly good writer.”

Bob Baksi said his group has asked Bishop Ronald Fabbro’s office to approach school boards in the London Diocese area about removing the book.

“It shouldn’t be in (Catholic) schools in the first place,”
he said.

Mr. Baksi hasn’t read the book or seen the yet-to-be released movie, but added that shouldn’t undermine his opposition.

“I don’t have to see Debbie Does Dallas to know whether it is appropriate or consistent with the faith and values I would like to have in my house for my children,” he said.

Mr. Baksi said he’s heard Hollywood has watered down the more overt religious elements, but worries the movie will encourage people to buy the book for their children.

“The movie is a dangling carrot,” he said. “And the books are more open about their anti-religious approach.”

The books depict “a rebellion against God,” the Catholic Civil Rights League states on its website.

“The 12-year-old protagonists — Lyra and Will — discover there is no immortal soul, no heaven or hell,” the website states. “All that awaits us is some gloomy Hades-type afterlife where the soul goes to wait until it completely dissolves. Thus the author uses anti-Catholicism as the gateway to promoting atheism.

Danielle Price, visiting assistant professor who teaches children’s literature at University of Windsor, said calling the books atheistic is “absolutely unfair.”

“There is no doubt that it is anti-authoritarian religion, it is anti-institutional religion,” said Ms. Price, also a Catholic. “But it would be wrong to think of it as a book that is atheistic or anti-spiritual. It is definitely a book which emphasizes spirituality. It sets up a very strong idea of the human soul. It’s a very important part of the book. It sets up its own version of an afterlife. It values individuality. It values human relationships, it values sacrifice. I would say that it’s a very moral series.”

Even if it was promoting atheism, Ms. Price said, banning it isn’t the answer.

“Banning books does nothing to help your cause,” she said. “People should be encouraged to read books, to make up their own minds about books, to talk about books. This is only an occasion for people to talk about their own beliefs.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 28, 2007 article by Trevor Wilhelm in The Windsor Star

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November 27, 2007

Spinning The Golden Compass: Blaming Religious Choices On A Book

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If I were to ask my university-aged kids if they believe in God, I would be likely to get two different and somewhat equivocal answers. One (sort of) does. One (probably) doesn’t.

Both were raised in the same Jewish home, participated in the same religious holidays and rituals, and discussed these matters with the same parents, who culturally identify with their faith but are not overtly religious.

My son independently decided at 14 that religion is “a distraction for the masses” and has remained aloof from it ever since. His younger sister has stayed connected.

Both kids, when they were impressionable young adolescents, adored Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.

Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards from the filmPhilip Pullman’s book, The Golden Compass, has been made into a feature film with Dakota Blue Richards playing Lyra.

Should I credit that book with in any way fashioning my child’s decision not to believe?

That would be ludicrous.

You will have read by now that The Golden Compass, soon to be a major motion picture with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, and its two sequels – a fantasy trilogy – were recently pulled off the library shelves of the Halton Catholic District School Board. The board plans a “review” of the books after receiving a complaint that the author is an avowed atheist. Never mind that Mr. Pullman has been denying the existence of God for years.

The decision gave rise to the usual lament of censorship, and a heated media debate, and the school board in question began its inevitable march back to sanity, saying it would only look at the books and not the author in determining their suitability.

(I would lay money that those books will eventually be put back on the shelves because the school board will deem it politically prudent to do so. As one parent I know said in outrage, these are our tax dollars supporting book-banning.)

Apart from the censorship issue and the question of why the fear of religious contamination is so strong these days, the incident brings up a compelling question: Where do children get their religious beliefs? And when do they make their own independent decisions about what to believe?

My feeling is that they first learn of them in the home, but that if they’re lucky, that is only the beginning of a deeply personal process of questioning and affirming that will continue for the rest of their lives.

Rachael Turkienicz, a professor of religious studies at York University, agrees: “Children are making decisions constantly about what they believe as they go along,” she says. “What they are really trying to do is make a connection and find a place for themselves in the world, which is what adults do too, of course.”

Prof. Turkienicz also poignantly points out another great influence on a child’s religious beliefs: “Life. A crisis. Those moments when the earth shakes beneath a child’s feet.”

And of course each life event – a marriage, a birth – can give rise to a re-evaluation of what someone believes.

But like most educators, Prof. Turkienicz doubts that any book could turn a child to or from religion. Instead, The Golden Compass, which is so intellectually demanding that any parent should be thrilled their child could get through it, should ideally provide a basis for discussion, raising such questions as: “What does this book say about religion? What do you think the author was trying to do?”

But no. It’s a fearful world out there, a world that is literally torn apart by religious wars, and sometimes the first instinct is to protect a child (and oneself) by shutting down sources of information. Which of course is impossible to do anyway in today’s interconnected world.

I checked with a Toronto parent who also has two children who differ on the existence of God and asked her how she had reared her now-teenaged girls when it comes to religion. “I always said to them, ‘You need to ask a lot of different people about what they believe, troll for different opinions, decide for yourselves,’ “ says Ilana Waldston.

Of course you have to be prepared to accept the inevitable result of all this exploration – a child with an independent religious point of view. How refreshing, how exciting.

As Ken Setterington, the Children’s and Youth Advocate for the Toronto Public Library said: “At a time when there is a huge issue of literacy, it is sad that a magnificent book that challenges readers to think should find itself pulled from shelves. Let’s respect children’s ability to question what they read.”

Here’s another notion that makes the question of where children get their religious beliefs so complex: A recent Harvard study revealed kids were more likely to take scientific teachings from parents and teachers at face value than they were religious teaching.

In other words, when it came to things they couldn’t see, like germs or God, “children seem to be more confident in the information they get about invisible scientific objects than about things in the spiritual realm,” said one report on the study.

Perhaps it’s ingrained within us, part of the human condition, to ask ourselves the great spiritual and religious questions. Maybe it starts early. In which case the most wonderful thing we can do for our children is to make sure they have beautifully written works of art that shake their beliefs to the core.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Jim Mac, after a November 27, 2007 article by Judith Timson in The Globe And Mail

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Q&A: Mom Starts Saying Grace – Rest of Table Don’t Believe – Should They Join In Anyway?

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I grew up in a secular — verging on atheistic, in fact — household. Suddenly, over the last few months, my mother has decided to reclaim religion in her life. Norman Rockwell's She’s recently begun asking if we would mind saying grace at family dinners, a suggestion that has been met with laughter and glib derision from the rest of us, myself included. Her persistence, however, has made me realize that it’s really important to her, so I suggested to my siblings and father that we should try it. Not surprisingly, they made fun of me too. They told me we shouldn’t encourage her “superstitions,” and if I don’t believe in God, then I shouldn’t put on an act. I just want to do something nice for my mom, and what’s so wrong with giving thanks for food anyway? How can I convince my family just to try it out, for her sake?

It’s the 21st century. If you still really believe having a chat with some divine being “up there” is going to make any kind of difference, what you really need is a slap in the face. I’m not stating my own belief here, I’m just putting into words what that laughter and glibness comes off as. Even though religion does seem to be making a comeback these days (see current U.S. president), it’s still easier and even hip to be a cynic and make fun of believers, apparently even if they are your own mother.

So I think it’s noble that you’ve decided to step back from your own beliefs and see another person’s point of view. The real question though, for me anyway, is how to be open-minded to your mother’s wishes to bring this ritual to your dinner table if, as the rest of your family has been so helpful in pointing out, you don’t really believe in it.

Retired United Church Reverend George James of Bracebridge, Ont., whom I contacted to get some closer-to-divine inspiration for an answer, says your suggestion to actually say the prayer yourself might be overdoing it. He doesn’t go as far as calling such a thing sacrilegious, but he does suggest the idea calls into question your own moral fabric: “I think it’s a matter of the individual’s integrity, and whether they feel they’re taking part in something they really don’t believe in just to please somebody else.” Rev. James does applaud, however, your tolerance, and says your mother should be able to say the prayer while the rest of you “at least offer a respectful silence while she does something that’s obviously meaningful to her.”

Which brings us to the fact that your family can’t seem to hold their non-God loving opinions to themselves. It’s quite childish, really. Rev. James offered this apt analogy: “I happen to believe that nationalism is a spent force and probably in many ways a destructive influence and that we should be embracing a wider vision than just love of country. But I don’t pull a hissy attack every time O Canada is sung.” I tried to imagine the extremely kind and open-minded reverend at a hockey game suddenly lashing out at the guy in the next seat as he sang the national anthem, and frankly, it was hard to do. But of course, being the extremely kind and open-minded man that he is, Rev. James followed up the statement with an admission that, while listening to the anthem, he often finds himself “strangely moved by it” in spite of his convictions.

“Who knows,” he added, “perhaps being in the presence of [someone saying grace] might touch something that rationally makes no sense.”

But sudden conversions aside, Rev. James is right that your father and siblings can make space for your mom to say grace and be respectful without being believers. In fact, if they won’t even do that on the grounds that they don’t want to “put on an act,” I would offer this wise gem from the reverend: “Prayer only becomes prayer when the individual regards it as such.” Use this aphorism and make sure you say it with a very sincere gravity and then walk away. My hunch is they won’t have a snappy comeback this time.

The best thing that can happen if your family allows your mom to say grace at the table is a greater sense of family cohesion. Your mom will be chatting with God while the rest of you patiently — and atheistically — show her proper respect. Everyone will feel all warm inside, and at that point, whether or not anyone believes in God doesn’t really matter. It’s the perfect one-of-a-kind ritual that defines our modern day DIY society. Go forth and consider yourselves religiously avant garde.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Jim Mac, after a November 27, 2007 article by Micah Toub in The Globe And Mail

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November 23, 2007

Windsor Anglican’s to Hear Their Diocese’s Response to Bishops’ Defection over Same-gender Marriage Issue

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Anglican parishioners in Windsor will be hearing their church’s response to the defection of two bishops recently over the gay marriage issue, and the possible creation of a parallel church, at services next weekend.

Rev Malcolm HardingOn Thursday Malcolm Harding, the retired bishop of Brandon, Man., became the second bishop in a week to leave the Canadian Anglican Church for the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which includes most of South America.

The move, which allows Harding to remain an Anglican but shun the more liberal views of the Canadian church on the issue of same-sex marriage, came as 260 conservative Anglican clergy and lay people met in Burlington to create The Anglican Network of Canada.

The group say they can now provide a church structure for conservative Anglicans.

On Friday the Anglican Church of Canada issued a press release stating that Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the church in Canada, will be issuing a statement in the next few days that will also be read by ministers in church on Dec. 2.

Local Anglican churches contacted for comment either did not return calls or declined to comment.

Rev. Keith Nethery, the London-based spokesman for the Huron Diocese, which includes Windsor, said he is not aware of anyone from the diocese attending the meeting.

He said it should be noted that the 260 at the meeting are a tiny fraction of the 600,000 people on the parishioners’ rolls across the country.

“It’s a small group,” said Rev. Nethery.

“Everybody has a right to meet and discuss what they want.”

Last week another bishop, Donald Harvey, left the church and prompted a press release from the church.

“The Anglican Church of Canada welcomes and respects the freedom of individual conscience and the theological convictions of its diverse membership,” the statement says.

“Our general synods have consistently sought to honour every voice as we work patiently through contentious and difficult issues before our church.”

The church said that statement still stands in light of the most recent defection.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 23, 2007 article by Chris Thompson in The Windsor Star

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November 22, 2007

Halton Catholic School Board Pulls Fantasy Book – Author Refers To Self As An ‘Atheist’

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The award-winning fantasy novel “The Golden Compass” was pulled from an Ontario Catholic school district’s library shelves over a complaint about the author referring to himself as an atheist.

Philip PullmanThe public Catholic school board in Ontario’s Halton region, which oversees 43 elementary and secondary schools, also pulled two other books in Philip Pullman‘s “His Dark Materials” trilogy as a precaution.

“We have a policy and procedure whereby individual parents, staff, students or community members can apply to have material reviewed. That’s what happened in this case,” Rick MacDonald, the Halton board’s superintendent of curriculum services, said Wednesday.

“The Golden Compass”, which has been made into an upcoming movie starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was first published in 1995. Controversy is surfacing now because of the buzz surrounding the film, said Mr. MacDonald.

The complaint was issued after Mr. Pullman stated in several interviews with international media that he is an atheist. Officials declined to provide details on who filed the complaint.

Calls to the district for comment went unanswered Thursday.

The novel was voted the best children’s book in the past 70 years by readers across the globe in June, with the votes cast over the Internet based on a selection of 10 past winners of the Carnegie Medal for children’s literature.

But it has come under fire from conservative groups before.

In the U.S., the Catholic League, a conservative anti-defamation group, has accused the Dark Materials trilogy of bashing Christianity and promoting atheism. The organization urged parents to boycott the movie, which opens Dec. 7 in the U.S. and Canada. The League had also boycotted the movie adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code,” which went on to become one of 2006’s biggest movies.

The move does not mean that the books are banned.

Students who want to read them can ask librarians to bring them out, but the trilogy will not be featured on the shelves until a review by a school board committee is complete, said Scott Millard, the board’s manager of library services in the Halton region. The committee’s review is expected in two or three weeks.

Mr. MacDonald told a Canadian broadcaster that he cannot remember any similar action in the past five or six years, but that when a complaint is filed it must be looked into.

Catholic schools in other Ontario regions have the books on their shelves and have reported no complaints.

The public library in Burlington, in Halton region, lists “The Golden Compass” as suggested reading for grades 5 and 6.

Mr. Pullman has made controversial statements in the past, telling the Washington Post in 2001 he was “trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

In 2003, he said that compared to the Harry Potter series, his books had been “flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God.”

“The Golden Compass” follows the adventures of a young girl, Lyra, who travels to the far north to save her best friend in a universe full of shape-shifting creatures, witches and other-worldly characters.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, J.MacAll, after a November 22, 2007 article off The Associated Press printed in The International Herald-Tribune

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November 20, 2007

Muslim Women Files Human Rights Complaint Over Lengthening Skirt – Says ‘Discriminatory’

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An observant Muslim woman has been suspended without pay from her job screening passengers and baggage at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport since August over an extra 30 centimetres of navy blue fabric added to the skirt of her uniform out of religious convictions Halima Muse, 33, felt thestandard-issue knee-length skirt was not modest enough.Where Do You Wish To Travel To

After five years of being ill-at-ease working in slacks, she made herself an ankle-length skirt out of nearly identical material and wore it for almost seven months before finally catching the eye of an operations manager.

On Aug. 11, Ms. Muse was sent home and has not been allowed to return to the job she held for close to six years with the private security firm Garda.

Garda is contracted by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to X-ray hand luggage and wave a metal detector over travellers.

On Monday she filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination.

“I practise my religion and I have to wear a skirt because it’s a religious issue,” said Ms. Muse, who works for Garda, which answers to CATSA. “It’s not that I like it. I have to — it’s my religion.”

Ms. Muse, the single mother of a 14-year-old son, doesn’t understand why the permission she is seeking is such a big deal when some of her colleagues hem their skirts shorter and religious garb like turbans, kippas and headscarves are permitted as part of the uniform.

Ms. Muse’s union and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations are also perplexed. Both groups are supporting Ms. Muse’s fight.

Ed Hawrysh, a trustee with the Teamsters Local 847, said the union filed a grievance with Garda, but CATSA determines uniform policy.

“Look at the RCMP,” Mr. Hawrysh said. “If the national police force can accommodate that type of religious belief, I can’t understand why CATSA can’t do something even simpler. We’re talking about a skirt. This is an issue in CATSA where they’ve made a decision and they’re not prepared to move, right, wrong or otherwise. I think it’s totally ridiculous.”

James Robbins, Ms. Muse’s lawyer, said the courts have repeatedly ruled in favour of accommodating minority religious rights as long as the concession is reasonable and does not constitute an undue hardship for others.

“It’s seems pretty reasonable to let the poor woman lower her hemline a few inches,”
he said.

Garda, the private security firm, says it was just enforcing CATSA’s rules in suspending Ms. Muse and even approached the agency to find out if it would make an allowance for her longer skirt.

“What they came back with was that they felt that the current policy they had with those alternatives addressed the concern that she had and so for that reason they were not making a change to the policy for a longer skirt length,” Garda spokesman Joe Gavaghan said.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a July 16, 2007 article by Allison Hanes in The National Post

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Detroit Tops Crime List – Mayor: Don’t Worry, It’s Not Tourists Being Killed (Just Detroiters)

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 12:35 pm

Drug-related Murders No Risk to Tourists, City Says

A new report ranking Detroit as the top U.S. crime spot prompted a barrage of criticism Monday from local officials.

Detroit from the northThe analysis of U.S. crime statistics showed that the Motor City had squeaked past St. Louis to become the most dangerous city in the country in 2006.

Detroit did not deny it has a big crime problem but police said the murders were “not random” and were drug- related. Such crimes are not likely to affect a visitor, they said.

Crime statistics can scare away tourists and conventioneers. So St. Louis officials, fearing their Missouri city would come out on top again, had joined with other cities to hire a public relations firm to try to thwart the annual crime report, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Although the group couldn’t stop the CQ Press report released over the weekend ranking 378 cities in six crime categories, the St. Louis paper was able to proudly report Monday that the city had dropped to “second-most dangerous.”

The rankings are based on Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, but the FBI refrains from breaking them down by city. Cities use different methodology to compute their own crime rates and crime levels in a particular community are affected by multiple factors.

But the publisher, the reference arm of Congressional Quarterly, said on its website Monday that local variants do not mean the cities should not face comparison.

“This would be somewhat akin to deciding not to compare athletes on their speed in the 100yard dash because of physical or training differences,” it said.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 20, 2007 article from Reuters

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