In The News . . . Woman Dies In Exorcism An Australian woman died in January after her hus

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In The News . . . Woman Dies In Exorcism An Australian woman died in January after her husband and other members of a fundamentalist Christian sect had imprisoned her during a four-day rite to rid her body of "demons." Joan Vollmer, 49, died in Antwerp of multiple injuries which her husband, who had held her down during the ordeal, suggested might have been caused by "two strong male evil spirits." Roman Catholics Dominate Congress It's religion as usual in the U.S. Congress, with 141 Roman Catholics making the largest bloc, followed by United Methodist (65), Baptist (62), Presbyterian (54), Episcopalian (50), Jewish (42), unspecified Protestant (29), Lutheran (21), United Church of Christ (14), Mormon (12) and Unitarian-Universalists (7). Unaffiliated increased from 5 in 1990 to 10 in the current session. Twenty-six indicated "other." No Prayers For Santa Rosa It's official. The Santa Rosa City Council hasn't got a prayer. Members officially agreed in mid-January to scrap opening prayers, following a nine-month debate. A Presbyterian elder on the council initiated prayers last spring. A six-week religious war--with protests and counter-protests taking up more than an hour of council meetings--prompted the council to drop prayers last summer. Abortion Underprovided The inability of many women to obtain abortion services in their area due to oppressive religious policies and harassment is vividly demonstrated by one statistic: In the past four months, Cook County Hospital in Chicago has been contacted by more than 30,000 women seeking the procedure. The hospital's 12-year ban was lifted last fall by County Board President Richard J. Phelan. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin has repeatedly and publicly denounced Phelan. Five commissioners filed suit to stop the abortions. In the meantime, the hospital is only performing about 30 abortions a week, and has no plans to increase its abortion service, despite the huge number of calls. In related news, the Hungary Parliament voted in December to restrict abortions, requiring women to consult with a committee before they can seek an abortion for life-threatening health or fetal health problems, rape, or if the pregnancy will cause a serious crisis. In 1991, 89,931 abortions were performed in Hungary. In January, the overwhelmingly Catholic Poland Parliament did not outlaw abortion but approved severe restrictions only permitting abortions when a pregnancy seriously threatens a woman's life or health, for fetal abnormity and in cases of rape. Somalians Stone Adulteresses Five women accused of adultery were stoned to death in northern Somalia in early 1993, and a sixth woman was lashed 100 times by a mob of Muslim fundamentalists. A United Nations witness said the Muslim men seemed to enjoy the carnage so much they videotaped it. The five women were killed after Friday prayers and buried under a mountain of stones. "It would seem that fundamentalism is really catching on," U.N. Spokeswoman Cecilia Kamau told Associated Press. "Our people are worried about their own security." When U.N. representatives tried to intervene, the mob threatened to stone them too. St. Pat's May Be Gay Day Catholic leaders had a tizzy when the New York police commissioner awarded the permit for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade to a group pledging to permit gays and lesbians to march under their own banner. Since 1836 the Irish-Catholic fraternal organization, Order of Hibernians, has sponsored the parade. It denied the right of an Irish gay group to march. The Hibernians have gone to court to demand it be given the permit. The New York Post reported that the judge in the case secretly met with Cardinal John O'Connor to discuss the case. Spare Us O'Connor's Martyrdom After a gay-rights protester crushed a communion waffer in her hand and threw it down, making a statement in support of state/church separation, Cardinal John O'Connor wrote melodramatically in a column: "I am not a brave man. But ... I would rather be personally beaten, lacerated, stamped on a thousand times over than to see one consecrated host desecrated." Speaking Of Holy ... Contaminated "holy water" nearly killed a British patient, according to a recent British Medical Journal report. Drs. Ian Graves and K.M. Porter reported a mysterious setback by a 19 year old man, who had attempted to commit suicide by jumping from the 10th floor. He was recovering from numerous injuries and fractures at Birmingham Accident Hospital when he developed life-threatening septicemia despite antibiotic treatment. An investigation led nowhere, until a physician happened to witness a visit from the patient's aunt, who liberally sprinkled the man with "holy water." Confiscating the bottle, the hospital lab found it swarming with bacteria. The patient improved rapidly once the sprinklings were halted. "We know of no other case of life-threatening infection transmitted in this way," wrote the doctors. "We suspect that such transmission is, in fact, more common than realized and may represent a significant source of infection in critically ill patients that will not be noticed unless specifically sought." Graham's Daughter Censored By Church The daughter of evangelist Billy Graham was cancelled from an Oklahoma conference in January by men insisting women shouldn't preach to men. Anne Graham Lotz had been invited to address the annual Evangelism Conference sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Lotz was cancelled following a complaint by Rev. Wayne Keely, a Claremore pastor who admitted he had disrupted a female speaker at a December conference. He told the Baptist Messenger: "According to 1 Tim. 2:12-15, the Bible tells us very plainly a woman is not to teach or usurp authority over man. She said she didn't usurp authority because she was under the authority of her husband, but the fact of it is, if her husband was right with God, he wouldn't let her teach men and he wouldn't let her speak in a public assembly." Zion Twist May Challenge Motto U.S. Dist. Judge James Zegel ruled in January that the community of Zion, Illinois could replace its "God reigns" city motto with "In God We Trust." The Chicago appeals court had ordered the town to remove the religious motto following a challenge. To circumvent its intent, the town adopted "In God We Trust," a move which may offer a chance to challenge the religious national motto adopted in the 1950's. Parents Charged In Son's Death Members of the Full Gospel Deliverance Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina were charged in January with involuntary manslaughter following the death of their son for untreated diabetes. Timothy, the son of Tim and Karen Tompson, was 15 and weighed 69 pounds when he died on Nov. 27. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This article is reprinted (with permission) from the January/February 1993 issue of Freethought Today, bulletin of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. For more information, write Freedom From Religion Foundation P. O. Box 750 Madison, WI 53701 USA (608) 256-8900

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