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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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