Monday, April 30, 2012

World Trade Center now tallest in NYC, with asterisk

The sun reflects on a building as it rises Monday April 30, 2012, including One World Trade Center, center left, in New York as seen from Jersey City, N.J. One World Trade Center, the giant monolith being built to replace the twin towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, will lay claim to the title of New York City's tallest skyscraper on Monday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

3:44 p.m. CDT, April 30, 2012

(Repeats to add slug)

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - One World Trade Center, being built at the site of the fallen twin towers, surpassed the Empire State Building on Monday as the tallest building in New York.

Construction crews set in place a steel horizontal beam at a height of about
1,270 feet (387 meters), topping by about 20 feet (six meters) the rooftop of the observation deck of the Empire State Building, which stands about 3 miles (4.8 km) to the north in Midtown Manhattan.

Including the antenna tower, however, the iconic Empire State Building is still higher.

The Empire State Building, built in 1931, was the city's tallest at a height of 1,545 feet(471 meters) to the tip of its broadcast antenna until 1972 when it was overtaken by the original World Trade Center towers. It then regained the title after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which destroyed the complex.

Construction started six years ago on the new World Trade Center and now the skyscraper, formerly called the Freedom Tower, surpasses the top floor of the Empire State Building, Port Authority officials told reporters.

"The new World Trade Center is more than just a skyscraper:it is a symbol of the enduring spirit of the City and State of New York, representing our commitment to rebuilding stronger than before," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in commemorating the milestone.

One World Trade Center will stand at
1,776 feet (541 meters) to the tip of its antenna when it is completed, possibly by late 2013. Then it will top the Empire State entirely.

The skyscraper, only 55 percent of which is leased, will be higher than the former twin towers, which were toppled in the 2001 attacks when nearly 3,000 people were killed. The north tower stood 1,727 feet (526 meters) including its antenna.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Philip Barbara)


Occupy Wall Street Plans Global Disruption of 'Status Quo'

Monday, 30 Apr 2012 11:07 AM

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, whose anti-greed message spread worldwide during an eight-week encampment in Lower Manhattan last year, plan marches across the globe Tuesday calling attention to what they say are abuses of power and wealth.

Organizers say they hope the coordinated events will mark a spring resurgence of the movement after a quiet winter. Calls for a general strike with no work, no school, no banking and no shopping have sprung up on websites in Toronto, Barcelona, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, among hundreds of cities in North America, Europe and Asia.

In New York, Occupy Wall Street will join scores of labor organizations observing May 1, traditionally recognized as International Workers’ Day. They plan marches from Union Square to Lower Manhattan and a “pop-up occupation” of Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue, across the street from Bank of America’s Corp.’s 55-story tower.

“We call upon people to refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo,” organizers said in an April 26 e-mail.

Occupy groups across the U.S. have protested economic disparity, decrying high foreclosure and unemployment rates that hurt average Americans while bankers and financial executives received bonuses and taxpayer-funded bailouts. In the past six months, similar groups, using social media and other tools, have sprung up in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Pooling Resources

The Occupy movement in New York has relied on demonstrations and marches around the city since Nov. 15, when police ousted hundreds of protesters from their headquarters in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, where they had camped since Sept. 17.

Banks have pooled resources and cooperated to gather intelligence after learning of plans to picket 99 institutions and companies, followed by what organizers have described as an 8 p.m. “radical after-party” in an undetermined Financial District location.

“If the banks anticipate outrage from everyday citizens, it’s revealing of their own guilt,” said Shane Patrick, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press team. “If they hadn’t been participating in maneuvers that sent the economy into the ditch, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

Police Prepared

New York police can handle picketers, according to Paul Browne, the department’s chief spokesman.

“We’re experienced at accommodating lawful protests and responding appropriately to anyone who engages in unlawful activity, and we’re prepared to do both,” he said in an interview.

About 2,100 Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York have been arrested since the demonstrations began, said Bill Dobbs, a member of the group’s media-relations team.

Organizers describe the May Day events as a coming together of the Occupy movement, with activists also calling for more open immigration laws, expanded labor rights and cheaper financing for higher education. Financial institutions remain a primary target of the protests.

“Four years after the financial crisis, not a single of the too-big-to-fail banks is smaller; in fact, they all continue to grow in size and risk,” the group’s press office said in an April 26 e-mail.

Planning Since January

Five banks — JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — together held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, compared with 43 percent in 2006, according to central bankers at the Federal Reserve.

Occupy Wall Street began planning for May Day in January, meeting in churches and union halls with a decision-making system that avoids a single leader. Instead, participants rely on group “break-out” sessions in which clusters discuss such tasks as crowd-building, logistics and communications.

About 150 attended an April 25 meeting at the Greenwich Village headquarters of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union, making last-minute preparations for how to deploy legal and medical help; site selection for picketing; purchasing, production and distribution of protest signs; and how to talk to reporters.

The meeting convened inside the union hall basement, where attendees arranged chairs in a circle as three facilitators asked each of the assembled to identify themselves by first name and gender — he, she or they. Most appeared under age 30, though gray-haired baby boomers also participated. One of the older attendees pulled a ski mask over his head to protest the presence of a photographer from Tokyo.

Raging Musicians

Tuesday, beginning at 8 a.m. in Bryant Park, scheduled events include teach-ins, art performances and a staging area for “direct action and civil disobedience,” such as bank blockades.

Tom Morello, of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Rage Against the Machine, along with 1,000 other guitar-playing musicians will accompany a march to Union Square at 2 p.m., according to the website. That will be followed by a “unity rally” at Union Square at 4 p.m.; a march from there to Wall Street at 5:30 p.m.; and a walk to a staging area for “evening actions,” which organizers at the April 25 meeting said would be the so-called after-party.

Golden Gate Bridge

Occupy-related events are planned in 115 cities throughout the U.S., from college towns such as Amherst, Massachusetts, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

In San Francisco, demonstrators intend to hold a rally at the toll plaza of the Golden Gate Bridge from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time that “will result in the shutdown,” according to their website.

Across the bay in Oakland, protesters said they intend morning marches on banks and the Chamber of Commerce, followed by an afternoon rally and a march downtown.

“We’re looking forward to vigorously asserting our constitutional right to protest and giving a loud outcry about Wall Street and greed,” Dobbs said. “We’re hoping this will make a splash. We hope it will bring a lot of more people into the Occupy movement.”


Is Sunday Your Day of Rest?

Is Sunday Your Day of Rest?
Or is it just as busy as the other six days of the week?

By Patch Staff
April 29, 2012

Biblically, Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but that isn’t the case any more for many people. With such busy lifestyles, people often use the day used to catch up with everything they couldn’t get done during the week.

So how important is it, from a health perspective, to have a day of rest? Even those supposedly in the know can’t agree.

According to health blog Zenhabits, a day of rest is necessary to rejuvenate physically and emotionally in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Conversely, productivity blog Stepcase Lifehack argues it is better to begin your workweek on a Sunday. That way Monday won’t be such a drag and your productivity will go up.

So do you still manage to make your Sunday a day of rest - or is it just as busy as the other six days of the week?


You can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you'll find no statements that specify Sunday as a day of rest; On the contrary you will find hundreds of instances where the Sabbath is referred to as the Seventh Day. This 7th day Sabbath (Saturday) is a memorial to God's creation first instituted in the Garden of Eden, on the first 7th day.



April 30th / May 1 - Beltane
Also known as Roodmas or May Day

Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Beltane. It is one of eight solar Sabbats. This holiday incorporates traditions from the Gaelic Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, but it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as May pole dancing). Some traditions celebrate this holiday on May 1 or May day, whiles others begin their celebration the eve before or April 30th.
Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. The name means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions it was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity where marriages of a year and a day could be undertaken but it is rarely observed in that manner in modern times.

In the old Celtic times, young people would spend the entire night in the woods "A-Maying," and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magickal time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.

The Christian religion had only a poor substitute for the life-affirming Maypole -- namely, the death-affirming cross. Hence, in the Christian calendar, this was celebrated as 'Roodmas'. In Germany, it was the feast of Saint Walpurga, or 'Walpurgisnacht'. An alternative date around May 5 (Old Beltane), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, is sometimes employed by Covens. (Both 'Lady Day' and 'Ostara' are names incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca.)

The May pole was a focal point of the old English village rituals. Many people would rise at the first light of dawn to go outdoors and gather flowers and branches to decorate their homes. Women traditionally would braid flowers into their hair. Men and women alike would decorate their bodies. Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion. Ancient Pagan traditions say that Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God. To celebrate, a wedding feast, for the God and Goddess must be prepared. Let Them guide you! Breads and cereals are popular. Try oatmeal cakes or cookies sweetened with a dab of honey. Dairy foods are again appropriate...just make a lovely wedding feast and you are sure to enjoy yourself! An early morning walk through a local park or forest could be fun for everyone. Gather up some plants or flowers to display in your home. Mom and daughter could braid their hair, and weave in a few tender blossoms.

Blessed Be!

Religious Satanism·

Reactionary Religious Impulse

Satanism is part of a religious impulse struggling with Christianity to overthrow its deceptive folkloric subversion ideologies by force, using the propagandistic language of its promotion in ways that seem or become religious and spiritual props for the betterment of ourselves and those whom we like. This strips the delusion and lies away from the faithful or at least away from the projections which they promote, by displacement and blatant legitimation.
Previous engagements of this kind were waged by religious "witches" (religious "satanists" being the major followup, after about 15 years). There have been no other heresy-based incursions of this type, but successive generations launched into horror fiction/folklore for their followup (religious "vampires", and then religious "werewolves"). I am seeing signs of a more recent development whereby people style and come to understand themselves as religious "demons". Sometimes they are claiming to have done this for years. This all seems to be out of the same general movements, and academics seem to be referring to it as 'self-religion' (incorporating New Age, Thelemic, and Neopagan components).
There appear to be several "phases" of these various factions. The initial phase is a pretty blatant in its 'in your face here we are, claiming to be representatives of your worst nightmares' kind of style, sometimes doing things up theatrically and possibly fabricating a 'Charter Myth' (fabricated tale of origins), often of ancient pedigree. Many of the later generations tend to downplay the theatricality and believe these tales of ancientness and those used by Christians to scare and target their competition. They then begin to complain that they are in such a poor position as victims to the dominant Christian religion (within some Charter Myths, casting themselves as actual documented individuals, possibly exascerbated as within 'The Burning Times' promoted by Gardner and subsequent Wiccans).

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Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I.

THE United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

Clay Rodery

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.

When an Oregon college student, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, thought of using a car bomb to attack a festive Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the F.B.I. provided a van loaded with six 55-gallon drums of “inert material,” harmless blasting caps, a detonator cord and a gallon of diesel fuel to make the van smell flammable. An undercover F.B.I. agent even did the driving, with Mr. Mohamud in the passenger seat. To trigger the bomb the student punched a number into a cellphone and got no boom, only a bust.

This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones? Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps.

Carefully orchestrated sting operations usually hold up in court. Defendants invariably claim entrapment and almost always lose, because the law requires that they show no predisposition to commit the crime, even when induced by government agents. To underscore their predisposition, many suspects are “warned about the seriousness of their plots and given opportunities to back out,” said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. But not always, recorded conversations show. Sometimes they are coaxed to continue.

Undercover operations, long practiced by the F.B.I., have become a mainstay of counterterrorism, and they have changed in response to the post-9/11 focus on prevention. “Prior to 9/11 it would be very unusual for the F.B.I. to present a crime opportunity that wasn’t in the scope of the activities that a person was already involved in,” said Mike German of the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawyer and former F.B.I. agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups. An alleged drug dealer would be set up to sell drugs to an undercover agent, an arms trafficker to sell weapons. That still happens routinely, but less so in counterterrorism, and for good reason.

“There isn’t a business of terrorism in the United States, thank God,” a former federal prosecutor, David Raskin, explained.

“You’re not going to be able to go to a street corner and find somebody who’s already blown something up,” he said. Therefore, the usual goal is not “to find somebody who’s already engaged in terrorism but find somebody who would jump at the opportunity if a real terrorist showed up in town.”

And that’s the gray area. Who is susceptible? Anyone who plays along with the agents, apparently. Once the snare is set, law enforcement sees no choice. “Ignoring such threats is not an option,” Mr. Boyd argued, “given the possibility that the suspect could act alone at any time or find someone else willing to help him.”

Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech — comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas — then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups.

Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk: for example, Waad Ramadan Alwan, an Iraqi in Kentucky, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded roadside bomb near Bayji, Iraq, and Raja Khan of Chicago, who had sent funds to an Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan.

But others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find. Take the Stinger missile defendant James Cromitie, a low-level drug dealer with a criminal record that included no violence or hate crime, despite his rants against Jews. “He was searching for answers within his Islamic faith,” said his lawyer, Clinton W. Calhoun III, who has appealed his conviction. “And this informant, I think, twisted that search in a really pretty awful way, sort of misdirected Cromitie in his search and turned him towards violence.”

THE informer, Shahed Hussain, had been charged with fraud, but avoided prison and deportation by working undercover in another investigation. He was being paid by the F.B.I. to pose as a wealthy Pakistani with ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group that Mr. Cromitie apparently had never heard of before they met by chance in the parking lot of a mosque.

“Brother, did you ever try to do anything for the cause of Islam?” Mr. Hussain asked at one point.

“O.K., brother,” Mr. Cromitie replied warily, “where you going with this, brother?”

Two days later, the informer told him, “Allah has more work for you to do,” and added, “Revelation is going to come in your dreams that you have to do this thing, O.K.?” About 15 minutes later, Mr. Hussain proposed the idea of using missiles, saying he could get them in a container from China. Mr. Cromitie laughed.

Reading hundreds of pages of transcripts of the recorded conversations is like looking at the inkblots of a Rorschach test. Patterns of willingness and hesitation overlap and merge. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Mr. Cromitie said, and then explained that he meant women and children. “I don’t care if it’s a whole synagogue of men.” It took 11 months of meandering discussion and a promise of $250,000 to lead him, with three co-conspirators he recruited, to plant fake bombs at two Riverdale synagogues.

“Only the government could have made a ‘terrorist’ out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope,” said Judge Colleen McMahon, sentencing him to 25 years. She branded it a “fantasy terror operation” but called his attempt “beyond despicable” and rejected his claim of entrapment.

The judge’s statement was unusual, but Mr. Cromitie’s characteristics were not. His incompetence and ambivalence could be found among other aspiring terrorists whose grandiose plans were nurtured by law enforcement. They included men who wanted to attack fuel lines at Kennedy International Airport; destroy the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago; carry out a suicide bombing near Tampa Bay, Fla., and bomb subways in New York and Washington. Of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.

Another New York City subway plot, which recently went to trial, needed no help from government. Nor did a bombing attempt in Times Square, the abortive underwear bombing in a jetliner over Detroit, a planned attack on Fort Dix, N.J., and several smaller efforts. Some threats are real, others less so. In terrorism, it’s not easy to tell the difference.

David K. Shipler is the author of “Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America.”



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Churches Pray for Victims of Child Abuse on 'Blue Sunday'

(Photo: Lisa Kae Photography)

By Michael Gryboski , Christian Post Reporter
April 28, 2012|3:20 pm

Churches across the country will be holding services dedicated to spreading awareness of the abuse and neglect of children in the United States.

Known as "Blue Sunday," the annual event taking place this Sunday will involve churches giving prayers for victims of child abuse, as well as prayers of support for those who rescue such children.

Felicia Mason-Edwards, director of Moving Families Forward, has 20 years of experience helping children and families in need and is a big promoter of the Blue Sunday event.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, we still have a lot to do to spread the word and to get people across the country involved in this initiative," said Mason-Edwards.

"People of all faiths can participate on many levels, through prayer and other means, establishing foster care/adoption ministries, sitting on boards, providing donations, getting involved in education and training on this important issue."

Mason-Edwards explained that the Blue Sunday observance began in Texas and has strong support in the state as around 5,000 Texas churches have participated in Blue Sunday.

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"I think this initiative is becoming more global and not just a Texas or U.S. issue, child abuse affects us all," said Mason-Edwards. "I think we all can create change and help. However people want to know what they can do to help and Blue Sunday offers them a first step on how to help – pray."

Keely Petty, pastor at Bethel International Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas, told CP that her church of about 300-plus was participating in Blue Sunday over the sense of need to spread awareness.

"We know that the Bible is against any act of perversion and abuse among children, as it goes against principles of nurturing and care," said Petty.

"Our congregation feels compelled to raise awareness and provide prevention training by partnering with community-based organizations to help reduce the effects of harm."

Petty quoted Matthew 18:6, where Jesus said, "Whoever offends one of these little ones, it would be better that a millstone were hung around his neck, and that they be thrown into the depth of the sea."

"We are delighted to host Blue Sunday to show a united front within our community against these crimes against abused and neglected children, as well as let those who work with these children know they have the Church's support," said Petty.

Ron Corzine, founding pastor of Christian Fellowship Church, explained to CP how his church decided to get involved in the Blue Sunday initiative: "When we realized the faith community was not represented in the battle to stop child abuse."

"Once we discovered that state agencies welcomed our help we've never turned back," said Corzine.

Dell Braziel, Health Ministry leader for Bethel A.M.E. Church of San Antonio, told CP that her church has observed Blue Sunday for the past five years.

"We have prayed, passed out information, put information in our church bulletin, sent out email blasts, pinned on blue ribbons and have involved our youth in the awareness of child abuse and neglect," said Braziel.

"This year is different only because our experiences and exposure to nationwide catastrophic and devastating events in the life of children has brought about a sense of urgency for us to make a difference in the life of others."

Freedom of Religion = Freedom of Worship?

By David Cortman , CP Guest Contributor
April 22, 2012|9:55 am

It may not have even caught your attention. It may not appear to be that different. But when people, especially the current president of the United States, intentionally replace the words "freedom of religion" with "freedom of worship," is it just a distinction without a difference, or is it a major change about which we need to be concerned?

In order to explain what amounts to tremendous differences between the two phrases, let me offer a recent example. In Colorado, a religious freedom amendment to the state constitution has been proposed that prohibits the government from "burden[ing] a person's or religious organization's freedom of religion" unless it shows a compelling interest – which offers the highest level of protection. In comparison, the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion.

Compare that to the proposed language submitted by a far-left group which begins: "Religious freedom. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever hereafter be guaranteed." Sounds okay, doesn't it? Or does it? Did you notice that freedom of religion quickly became religious worship? But there is more:

In assessing whether government has burdened freedom of religion, a person's or a religious organization's right to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief is the ability to engage in religious practices in the privacy of a person's home or in the privacy of a religious organization's established place of worship.

Did you get that? There is no government burden on a person's free exercise of religion at all unless that burden occurs at home or at church. Let that sink in for a moment and you'll begin to appreciate how radical a change this is.

Let's see what that change looks like when applied to Scripture. The Gospel of Mark says, "Go into [only homes and churches] and preach the good news to all creation." Proverbs promises that "a generous man will himself be blessed for he shares his food with the poor [only when in his home or church]." Let's not forget Jesus' instructions when sending out the twelve to "heal the sick [only when you find them at home or in church]." And although I can continue, I'll end with one last example, Jesus himself. What was Jesus thinking when he ministered to the masses by feeding thousands and healing many while in public?

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Freedom of religion encompasses many beliefs and actions, obviously including worship. But this rhetorical shift of limiting freedom of religion to only worship embodies a dangerous ideology that is shared by the current administration. Ironically, the former Soviet Union – a self described atheistic country – allowed "freedom of worship" but not "freedom of religion." Not only have President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently repeatedly used the same "freedom of worship" rhetoric, but this administration has engaged in several other hostile actions that also show a disdain for the freedom of religion, including the following:

1. Requiring religious organizations to provide abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives free of charge.
2. Requiring individuals to pay a surcharge to fund abortions.
3. Overturning HHS protections for religious health care workers not to be forced to participate in abortions.
4. Using a recess appointment to place radical homosexual activist Chai Feldblum as a commissioner on the EEOC-who recently stated that when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, she has "a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win."
5. Refusing to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.
6. Removing non-profit work that relates to "religious instruction" from the student loan forgiveness program.
7. Arguing recently at the Supreme Court that the government can interfere with the internal operations of religious organizations.

Religious freedom, our First Freedom, is part of what makes our country great. It allows us the freedom to practice our religion in the public square, not confined to home or church. But if the government takes away our right to practice our faith, whether by subtle shifts or by those that are more drastic, we forfeit what God has provided and what the Constitution has protected.

So the next time you see a shift in rhetoric, even if it appears slight at first glance, you may not want to brush it off so easily. Especially when it comes in prepared remarks by those who are very careful with their choice of words. We all need to stand up for freedom of religion to ensure that it is not whittled down to a nugget only tolerated in our own homes and churches (until they come knocking at those doors, too). I hear footsteps….

David Cortman is senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

Loma Linda Pastor Looks at the Church's Role in Politics and Life (Part II)

In this second part of an interview with the Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church's senior pastor Randy Roberts looks at the changing role of religion and the church.

By Gina Tenorio

1:31 am

Pastor Randy Roberts leads one of the largest Adventist congregations in the world right here in Loma Linda.

As senior Pastor for the Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church, he ministers to some 7,000 members. Many travel in from as far as San Diego and Orange counties.

Pastor Roberts recently sat down to speak with Redlands–Loma Linda Patch about the church, the Adventist community and religion. Part one of our interview was published April 27. He spoke about his background and what led him to become a minister.

In part two, the pastor discusses how some perceive the church, the role of religion in today’s world and the University Church’s role in the city.

I’ve gotten a mixed response when I’ve posted stories about the church and the community. My experience has been, quite honestly, nothing but positive. Dr. (Rhodes) Rigsby, the Mayor, has always been very open that he is a member of the church. His philosophy has always seemed to be one of, to paraphrase, live and let live. But not everyone seems to see it this way. Do you think people misunderstand the church?

I think so. Anytime you hear of a church that either isn’t well known, or is in some way, some fashion different than maybe many other churches that are more familiar, people tend to have questions about them. And since as Seventh-day Adventists, we worship on a different day, we worship on Saturday rather than Sunday, that sets us apart as somewhat different. And most of us (people in general) are at least a little bit uncertain, if not outright suspicious, of any kind of thing that is different -- whether it be a church or some other organization or a group of people. A lot of that is just based on uncertainty, lack of knowledge. We’re not sure who these people are, those kinds of things. So it’s not surprising there would be some different kinds of feelings.

But I hope that once there is an opportunity to interact with Seventh-day Adventists, get to know some of them better, get to know what they stand for ... I hope that that disappears and that there’s a positive impression.

From your perspective, is the church growing in numbers?

I can say this, it is a growing church that reflects the growth patterns of the larger Protestant Christian Faith.

What I mean by that is that in the northern world and in the western world, the numbers tend to be shrinking. In the Southern hemisphere and moving toward the east toward Africa and so forth, the numbers are really growing. So if you take it on balance, is the Seventh-day Adventist Church growing? The answer to that is, yes it is, in fact, quite significantly. But the places were it’s growing reflects where Christianity as a whole tends to be growing -- South America, Central America and Africa. Those are the places of the greatest growth.

Not so much here in North America. In fact in North America, and again I think this is reflective of Christian faith in general, the numbers are a little more, maybe static, and in some cases even declining.

Do you believe then that we are drifting away from our faith?

I think certainly, in America today, religion occupies a very different place, a very different prominence than it occupied even in my childhood a few decades ago. It’s a very different world than it was at that time. In same ways, yes people have stepped away from that. George Barna’sorganization, which does a lot research into these matters, says that the rates of Biblical illiteracy are very high. The kinds of things that society in general would once have known and recognized as being from the Bible many now don’t know and recognize that. They just don’t know.

They asked different questions of people, even people who claimed to go to church. One of the questions Barna’s organization asked was about the Epistles. And one of the comments they got back was that the Epistles were the wives of the Apostles. And yet, the Epistles are the letters that Paul and Peter and James and others wrote.

His organization says that that kind of lack of awareness, that Biblical illiteracy, is pretty high. I even read, just in the last two or three months, of one pastor who heard that stat and quoted it the next week in his sermon. Somebody stopped him at the door and said, “Well if the Epistles aren’t the wives of the Apostles, who’s wives are they?” So even the people sitting in church will have a lack of awareness.

I think the answer is yes. There is an America that has a very different emphasis on religion. In some cases, religion is not welcomed. In other cases, it’s mocked and derided, the Christian faith. I think there is a real difference than the world I knew in what years I did spend in this country. Like I said, I spent a lot of years out of this country when I was growing up, but we would always come back for vacations and furloughs. I did spend two or three years here. But even in my college years, Christian faith occupied a very different place from what it once did.

Having said all that. I think that gives the church the opportunity to be the church, to be the light of Jesus, the love of God in the world in a very unique way.

What do you teach people? How do impress this love and devotion to faith?

My role here, probably the most central way in which I do that, is through a preaching ministry. I do a lot of teaching as well. And my focus personally is for my wife and me to pour our lives into our two kids so they will grow up to be positive citizens who contribute to their world, who love God, who love others, who serve others.

So that maybe one of the ways you outlive your life is by the people who you disciple, the people who you pour your life into. Our kids are really our first order of business for us, and then our congregation after that.

A lot of people felt the church took a stand or should have taken a stance on some issues, including a proposed McDonald’s coming to the city to the loss of Sunday mail delivery, which conflicts with the Adventist belief of observing a Saturday Sabbath. What role do you feel the church should play in city politics?

Well, in this congregation, you will probably find people representing the whole spectrum. From one side of the people who will fight with all their strength to keep (McDonald’s) out to the other side and the people who would say this is a free country, allow people to make their own choices.

You would find the entire spectrum seated right here every week in worship. From an official angle, otherwise the official church, we do not and did not take a position on that. Our position is we are for health. We want to do everything we can to promote health for ourselves, for others, for everyone in our community. We’re very supportive of that. At the same time, we are for freedom of choice. Freedom of people’s ability to choose what they’re going to do.

That doesn’t mean that people can’t stand up against whatever they oppose -- whether it’s McDonald’s or whatever other organization might be building down the block. They have a right to do that. We’re not going to tell them we can’t. As a church, while we want to be healthy and want to encourage our members and friends in our community to be healthy, we do believe that any business has a right to do what it can to expand and to grow. I think we can understand that.

I can tell you that we decidedly, intentionally, avoid in our church, from the front, encouraging people to vote this way or to vote that way or to take this stand or take the other stand. That’s not something we get involved in. In fact we have a policy here among the pastoral staff that when an election is coming around for … two months or three months before the election, we will not knowingly or intentionally have any candidate participate publicly up front in the service because we’re not trying to promote this candidate over that candidate.

We’re here as pastors to pastor to our entire congregation. Whether they are on this side of the aisle or that side of the aisle, our goal it to minister to each and everyone one of them, not to take political stances.

Could there be a scenario in which we would? I would hope so. But I haven’t seen it yet. The reason I would say I would hope so is because I just finished reading one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time, a book called "Bonhoeffer" written by Eric Metaxas. It’s one of the best sellers right now in Barnes and Noble. It’s a powerful book on life of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War II who took the exceedingly unpopular stand of opposing Hitler far before others did. He could just see where things were headed and he began to speak out against that. He was ultimately executed by the Nazis.

My point is to say, could there come something in which conceivably the church would take a stand, yes. I don’t know what that could be. But as Bonhoeffer did, there could conceivably come a time in any community or any country where people of faith or people of conscience would have to stand up and say we simply can’t go along with this, whatever that might be.

But in general terms certainly with city politics and other things like that, we intentionally as a church leaders pull back and respect people’s right to make those choices.

Now we can say we encourage you to get out and vote. We encourage you to get involved in your community; we encourage you to be active; we encourage you not to sit on the sidelines; but we don’t go a step further and say “This is how we expect you to vote. We expect you to stand.”

I hope we can teach some principals about ethical living and all the rest that will help inform people’s decision-making process as they make those choices, but Adventism has a pretty strong emphasis on free moral agency. And that is the right that God has given each one of us as individuals to make choices of conscience informed by our relationship with God, but which are true to our conscience.

In fact one side note, not the principal reason, but one side note is, like I said a moment ago we have the whole spectrum sitting in our pews. There have been times when I can look here and see this person and look there and see that person and know that they are in leadership on opposing sides of the same issue. They’re both there and they’re both worshipping. We respect that.




Moderate earthquake shakes Southern California

The Associated Press
Posted: 04/28/2012 09:15:07 AM PDT
Updated: 04/28/2012 09:15:08 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES—A moderate earthquake rattled Southern California on Saturday morning, shaking homes across the Inland Empire region and causing buildings to sway in downtown Los Angeles.

The magnitude 4.1 quake struck at 8:07 a.m. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was centered along the San Andreas Fault about two miles northwest of Devore, in San Bernardino County. Some buildings swayed in downtown Los Angeles, about 60 miles to the west.

A San Bernardino County Sheriff's dispatcher said the Rancho Cucamonga station shook for a few seconds, but there were no calls about damage or injuries.

A small 2.0 magnitude aftershock hit about a half-mile away about two minutes later, the USGS said.

Paul Harrington was reading in bed at his home in Hesperia, about 20 miles north of the epicenter, when he felt the quake hit.

"It started out as a little tremble, like a plane passing overhead. Then a few seconds later, there was a real jolt," Harrington said. "A few seconds after that there was another smaller jolt."

Harrington said he felt the shaking for about 30 seconds. His home was not damaged.

A clerk at an Albertson's market in Rancho Cucamonga said the store shook for several seconds but nothing fell from shelves.

The epicenter was approximately where the San Andreas Fault crosses the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges.



A Q&A Loma Linda Adventist Pastor Randy Roberts

The long-time Pastor looks back on the his church and community.

By Gina Tenorio

April 27, 2012

Loma Linda and Redlands has changed a lot in the 25 years since Pastor Randy Roberts, senior pastor at Loma University Seventh-day Adventist Church, settled into the area to minister to the community.

Roberts heads one of the largest Adventist congregations in the world. As time has passed, both the church and community have changed. In a two-part interview, we talk to the Pastor - who ministers to the spiritual needs to roughly 7,000 members of the church - about his work, the church and the community.

Part two will run Saturday.

How long have you been in the ministry?

Just overall, about 30 years in some branch there - of either pasturing or chaplaincy or teaching. But overall, about 30 years.

How many at Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church?

Almost 12 years.

Are you a Loma Linda native?

No. My family is originally from Texas, although I grew up outside of this country. I grew up in a lot of Latin American countries. Quite a few. My dad was a pastor also. In that day and time (we) tended to move a lot. I was born on Columbia, South America. We lived in Columbia, Venezuela, Curacao, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico; Quite a few places.

Did you always know you wanted to be a pastor?

Fairly early on, probably mid-teen years, yeah, something like that.

Was it because it was logical you would follow in your father’s footsteps?

I’m sure that the fact that my dad was a minister had an affect on that, no question, but I had deeper sense that that’s where God was leading me, guiding me, calling me.

What do you find the most fulfilling about what you do?

Being able to have a positive influence on people’s lives, moving them maybe in a more God-ward direction; being able to share with them a vision of a God of love; A god who has a big heart; A God who desires a forever friendship with us. I think some of those things are part of the same package of wanting to make a difference in people’s lives in a positive way for God.

Do you live in Loma Linda?

We live in Redlands. But I’ve lived Loma Linda/Redlands a little over 25 years. I worked first at the Chaplain's office in the (Loma Linda University) Medical Center. I was there a little over seven years. And then I taught at the School of Religion at the university. I was there for 6 1/2 years or so. And I’ve been at the church since.

How important do you think the Adventist church and Adventist community is to Loma Linda?

There are a lot of us as Adventists in Loma Linda just by sheer numbers. But I hope that we’re important in a greater sense than just our numbers. I hope we’re important because this specific church and other churches are making a difference in the community. We’re trying to be cheerful neighbors and helpful neighbors. We’re trying to reach out and touch them in ways related to health, in ways related to needs for food, money, clothing, shelter, whatever or spiritual needs, a deeper and better understanding of God. We strive to be a church that, if it was gone, would be missed and not an isolated, insulated group of people.

But a group of people involved in their community, loving their community and trying to be a positive influence on the community.

There have been a few figures on the size of the population of Adventists in Loma Linda. Does the church track that? Pastor Roberts answered that the church does not, but he did make some observations on the subject:

I think it has changed over time. If you go back 20 years, maybe 25 years when (his family) first moved here, I would say that Loma Linda was probably heavily weighted in the Adventist direction. If you drove up here on Anderson (Street) up to Lawton and that whole subdivision up here, my guess would have been that most of the people would have been Adventist. Not all, but most of them. But then when the building boom came, buildings were going up everywhere. There were new subdivisions were built south of Barton (Road) and on Mission Road and on all these other areas all around, not just Loma Linda, around this area and certainly in Loma Linda.

Then I think many, many other people moved in and this became, as is true down this corridor, a bedroom community to people working more down in the LA and Orange County direction. The housing was cheaper. Then I think the percent, because of the growth that came into Loma Linda, I suspect that the percentage of Adventists went down pretty significantly. That’s all anecdotal. That’s just my observation.


Introduction to Punta Cana

Photo (Courtesy)

On the easternmost tip of the island, 211km (131 miles) east of Santo Domingo, is Punta Cana, the site of major vacation developments, including the Barceló and Meliá properties, with more scheduled to arrive in the future. Known for its 32km (20 miles) of white-sand beaches and clear waters, Punta Cana and Bávaro are an escapist's retreat. Set against a backdrop of swaying palm trees, these beaches are unrivaled in the Caribbean. Within some of the most arid landscapes in the Caribbean -- it rarely rains during daylight hours -- Punta Cana and Bávaro have been recognized throughout Europe (especially Spain) and the Americas for their climate.

Both Punta Cana and Bávaro, two resort areas at either end of a long curve of beach lined with coconut palms, are virtually towns within themselves. The beach is so mammoth there is rarely overcrowding, even with masses of visitors every month of the year. Bávaro and Punta Cana combine to form what is nicknamed La Costa del Coco, or the Coconut Coast, land of the all-inclusive resorts. Don't expect a town or city. From Punta Cana in the south all the way to Playa del Macao in the north, there's only one small community, El Cortecito. Everything else is all-inclusives and beaches.

Capitalizing on cheap land and the virtually insatiable desire of Americans, Canadians, and continentals for sunny holidays during the depths of winter, European hotel chains participated in something akin to a land rush, acquiring large tracts of sugar-cane plantations and pastureland. Today their mega-hotels attract a clientele that's about 70% European or Latin American. Most of the other clients are Canadians and Americans. The hotel designs here range from the not particularly inspired to low-rise mega-complexes designed by the most prominent Spanish architects.

Some of them, particularly the Barceló Bávaro complex , boast some of the most lavish beach and pool facilities in the Caribbean, spectacular gardens, and avant-garde concepts in architecture (focusing on postmodern interplays between indoor and outdoor spaces).

The mailing addresses for most hotels is defined as the dusty and distinctly unmemorable town of Higüey.

If you choose to vacation in Punta Cana, you won't be alone, as increasing numbers of Latino celebrities are already making inroads there, usually renting private villas within private compounds. Julio Iglesias has been a fixture here for a while. And one of the most widely publicized feuds in the Dominican Republic swirled a few years ago around the owners of Casa de Campo and celebrity designer Oscar de la Renta, who abandoned his familiar haunts there for palm-studded new digs at Punta Cana.

Above all, don't expect a particularly North American vacation. The Europeans were here first, and many of them still have a sense of possessiveness about their secret hideaway. For the most part, the ambience is Europe in the Tropics, as seen through a Dominican filter. You'll find, for example, more formal dress codes, greater interest in soccer matches than in the big football game, and red wine rather than scotch and soda at dinner. Hotels are aware of the cultural differences between their North American and European guests, and sometimes strain to soften the differences that arise between them.

Adventist president explores clash between secularism and religious belief

Apr. 26, 2012 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Bettina Krause

Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson today challenged believers to grasp the opportunities for open discourse that a secular state preserves.

His comments came during a keynote address to the 7th World Congress for Religious Freedom. The gathering has drawn hundreds of religious liberty advocates, government officials, scholars and legal experts to the Dominican Republic this week to examine the influence of secularism on religious expression.

Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson addresses the audience at the 7th World Congress for Religious Freedom on April 26. Tensions between the "values of believers" and secular culture are an inevitable part of a free society, he said. [photos: Ansel Oliver]

Although acknowledging the inevitable conflict between the values of believers and that of secular culture, Wilson said, “We have to accept this tension as part of a free society. We have to accept the challenges and find appropriate responses, through God’s leading.”

Wilson drew a distinction between “radical” or “extreme” secularism—which seeks to exclude religion from the public sphere—and “secular governance,” which remains neutral toward religions and protects the religious freedom rights of minorities.

“If intolerant and ideological secularism attacks our religious values, we have to stand up for them with conviction,” he said. Wilson cited examples of where secularism has been taken too far, including attempts to prohibit Muslim girls from wearing headscarves to public school, or to mandate the provision of abortions by institutions that reject the practice as a matter of conscience.

“It’s taken too far when the mention of creation of the world is totally forbidden in the public schools or when Christian agencies for adoption of children are threatened to lose their legal recognition, if they refuse to list as potential parents same sex couples,” he said.

However, Wilson also said that people of faith should reject the temptation to see a “religious state” as an acceptable alternative to secular governance. “If the state gives one religion a privileged legal position, no equality is possible and life becomes a nightmare for those who are different,” he said.

Nigel Coke is an International Religious Liberty Association leader in Jamaica. He is one of nearly 900 delegates at the IRLA 7th World Congress in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic this week.

“Which type of society is it that condemns to death someone for apostasy because they have changed religions?” he asked. “Is that a secularized or religious society?”

Wilson said that Adventism’s strong heritage of religious freedom activism and its support for state neutrality between religions has firm biblical foundations, and that Adventists “feel very close to believers who have stood for religious freedom during thousands of years of restrictions and persecution.”

He said his life-long passion for promoting religious liberty has its roots in memories of his father, Neal Wilson—a former world church leader—who often spent hours with government officials explaining the value of freedom of conscience.

“We need to instill in young people the love for preserving religious liberty and freedom of conscience,” said Wilson. “Let us encourage them to join in this vitally important pursuit of freedom of conscience for all.”

Source: © 2012, Adventist News Network.


Religious Freedom, Religious Liberty

Dialogue Seminar on Religious Freedom
30 March 2012

The EU should more clearly monitor violations of Freedom of Religion both within the EU and throughout the world. This was the main request put forward by the Church and Society Commission of CEC and COMECE to the European Commission and the European External Action Service on the occasion of the Dialogue Seminar held in Brussels on 30 March. Read more


Apr. 20, 2012
Hundreds of religious liberty advocates, government officials and legal experts will meet in the Dominican Republic next week. They’re gearing up for the largest religious freedom conference on record. John Graz has this preview.

Read more


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Indonesia bans American beef over mad cow scare

April 27, 2012

Indonesia imports 20 per cent of its beef from the United States.
Indonesia imports 20 per cent of its beef from the United States. Photo: Louie Douvis

INDONESIA has stopped imports of US beef, following a case of mad cow disease that was detected in California.

The country has broken ranks with other importers, providing a potential windfall for Australian beef producers.

Indonesian Agriculture Minister Suswono said yesterday the government had no time frame, but said the suspension applied to all beef shipped after April 24. This week the first US case of mad cow disease was detected in California.

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American officials said the case was ''atypical'' and not related to feed, which calmed fears of a widespread outbreak.

America's four biggest beef trading partners, Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea, have not stopped imports. Australia imports no beef from the US.

But two major South Korean retailers have pulled American beef from their shelves.

Indonesia imports 20 per cent of its beef from the United States.

Australia and New Zealand make up about 40 per cent of the country's beef imports, according to Indonesian Meat Importers Association figures.

The Australian export industry, worth more than $4 billion, predicted on Wednesday that it could benefit from any ban on United States imports, with Australia ready to pick up any slack, including that in Indonesia.

David Farley, the chief executive of the Australian Agricultural Co, the nation's largest cattle company, said that when the world's largest exporter was under pressure, competitors would benefit. ''In a relatively tight world market, any market opportunity there is bodes well for Australia,'' Mr Farley said.

But Meat and Livestock Australia's chief economist, Tim McRae, said it was still too early to see any changes in trade.

And he warned that Australia's ability to pick up an Indonesian import deficit would be tempered because the nation had reduced its quota on boxed beef imports.

The United States is Australia's second-biggest beef export market behind Japan, and Mr McRae also warned that a mad cow scare could have a negative impact the consumer demand for beef.

Mad cow disease can kill humans who consume infected beef, but it is not transmitted through milk.