Frontlines

SIDE/LINES

Religion No Guarantee Against Reneging—Oklahoma’s KXOK Televison is taking a well-known area preacher to court for nonpayment on his program contract. Dr. Gene Scott and his University Network of California had agreed to purchase time for broadcasting programs for two years. Station owner Rex Faulkner says payments stopped after six months without notice. Faulkner attempted to resolve the problem while continuing to broadcast Scott’s program but was unsuccessful and left with no choice but to litigate.

Logical Conclusion—Pastor Fred Phelps has plans to expand his anti-gay monument campaign beyond Wyoming to at least eleven sites in cities around the United States. How did he pick them? They all already have Ten Commandments monuments on city property and because of that Phelps doesn’t believe they have a legal right to deny him.

Leaders of one city targeted by Phelps—Boise, Idaho—believe they have found a way to thwart him. The City Council voted to move the Ten Commandments monument out of the park. But at presstime Boise was facing flak from a new source—a Christian group was challenging the removal in federal court.

Heaven Is Mayberry—Mining the nostalgia for the simpler and more innocent worlds depicted in the American television series of the 1950s and 60s has recently been a boon for business. Now religious education material suppliers are joining the bandwagon. One such company is The Entertainment Industry in Nashville, Tennessee, whose course is “Finding the Way Back to Mayberry” uses The Andy Griffith Show to illustrate Bible lessons. Individual churches can purchase this and other courses for use in their congregations. Other Entertainment Industry offerings include “Bonanza Bible Study,” “The Gospel of Cosby,” “The Dick Van Dyke Bible Study,” and “The Beverly Hillbillies Bible Study.”

There Are Limits—Hewlett-Packard did not violate employee Richard Peter son’s rights when it fired him for posting biblical quotes condemning homosexuality in response to the display of company posters promoting appreciation of diversity, including homosexaul lifestyles. So says the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Richardson claimed he had been fired for his religious beliefs; Hewlett-Packard contended it was for insubordination because he refused to remove the quotes, which company managers had deemed offensive. Judge Stephen Reinhardt said Hewlett-Packard would suffer “undue hardship” to accommodate Peterson and that it would be harmed in its efforts to achieve commercial success by creating a diversified workforce.

Good and Bad News for Victims of Islamic Blasphemy Laws

After more than three years in prison, Dr. Younus Sheikh, a college pro­fessor in Pakistan, has regained his freedom. His release followed a retrial of his case, held in the jail itself. Upon his acquittal, Dr. Sheikh went into hiding and has since left Pakistan for his own safety.

Dr. Sheikh was arrested in October 2000, accused of making comments in his classroom that were blasphemous to Islam. At his August 2001 trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement at the infamous Rawalpindi Central Jail. Pressure from human rights activists, including the secular humanist community, brought international publicity to the case. A retrial was ordered after an appeals court delivered a conflicting verdict.

Meanwhile, Taslima Nasrin, an intellectual and writer from Bangladesh has once again run afoul of Islamic clerics. Nasrin, a Free InquIry senior editor, has been living in exile and under a fatwa for her books. Earlier this year, she visited the Indian state of West Bengal and applied for permission to settle in Calcutta. That does not appear to readily forthcoming, as the government has banned her fourth and newest book, the autobiographical Dwikhondito. At issue are ten pages that include comments about Islam that the government says it fears will spark enmity between religious com­munities.

Also in reaction to the book, a Muslim cleric has offered 20,000 rupees to anyone who can blacken Nasrin’s face or lay a garland of shoes around her feet. Both actions are considered a major insult in the Islamic culture. Blackening the face is commonly accomplished with ink or shoe polish. Previously, Muslim groups in Bombay had put up a 100,000­rupree reward to anyone who succeeded in blackening the face of another famous author condemned by Islamic fundamentalists for his work—Salman Rushdie.

But in Spain recently, at least one Muslim cleric has had the tables turned. Imam Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, author of Women in Islam, has been sentenced to fifteen months in prison for encouraging violence toward women. In his 120­page book, Mustafa offers husbands advice on how to beat their wives without leaving marks: do it “on the hands and feet, using a light rod so that the blows don’t leave scars or bruises.”

The imam’s lawyer used a freedom of religion defense and said that Mustafa was not disseminating his personal views but rehashing Islamic writings that date from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. But Judge Juan Pedro Yllanes said that the book violated Spain’s constitutional “prin­ciple of equality” and promoted “intolerable” discrimination against women, which outweighed concerns of religious liberty.

Mustafa was expected to appeal the ruling in the case, which was initi­ated by Spanish women’s rights groups. An Islamic women’s group hailed the decision and said that Islam should not be associated with such ideas as Mustafa’s.


SIDE/LINES Religion No Guarantee Against Reneging—Oklahoma’s KXOK Televison is taking a well-known area preacher to court for nonpayment on his program contract. Dr. Gene Scott and his University Network of California had agreed to purchase time for broadcasting programs for two years. Station owner Rex Faulkner says payments stopped after six months without notice. Faulkner …

This article is available to subscribers only.
Subscribe now or log in to read this article.