Archive for March, 2009

Religious leaders ask for `commision of inquiry’ on torture

March 6, 2009

Religious leaders ask for `commision of inquiry’ on torture

Mar 03, 2009

Sam Hodges

Prominent Religious Leaders Call for “Commission of Inquiry” on Torture as Senator Leahy Launches Hearings to Establish “Truth” Commission

National Religious Campaign Against Torture to submit statement to Leahy along with testimony for hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) released a statement calling for an impartial, nonpartisan, and independent “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate U.S.-sponsored torture and to ascertain the extent to which Bush administration interrogation practices constituted “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” The statement has been signed by nearly two dozen prominent religious leaders, representing a broad array of religious denominations. Signatories include Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ; Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North America; Rev. Dr. David Gushee, President, Evangelicals for Human Rights; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center, Union of Reform Judaism

The statement reads in part:

“The United States must never again engage in torture. Torture is immoral, illegal and counterproductive. It causes profound and lasting harm, especially to its victims but also to its perpetrators. It contradicts our nation’s deepest values and corrupts the moral fabric of our society. […] As people of faith, we know that brokenness can be healed – both in individual lives and in the life of the nation. All religions believe that redemption is possible. Learning the truth can set us on a path toward national healing and renewal.”

The full statement, along with the names of the 23 religious leaders who have signed it, is included at the end of this email.

The release of this statement comes as momentum is building for an investigation into the Bush administration’s program of “enhanced interrogation.” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), is holding a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 4, to explore establishing a “Truth” Commission, which would carry out a comprehensive investigation into the approval of and use of torture by the U.S. government. The Commission would include significant use of public testimony and would ultimately issue a report on its findings.

NRCAT, which is providing written testimony for Senator Leahy’s hearing, strongly supports the establishment of an independent, non-partisan Commission of Inquiry, with the power to subpoena witnesses, to investigate the roles elements of our government played in the torture of detainees.

“The American people have been kept in the dark about this nation’s involvement in torture for long enough,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of NRCAT. “If we hope to heal the nation’s soul, we must conduct a public inquiry into the actions of the last eight years. This is not a time to hide from our past. We must investigate and report on the torture policies and practices of the past and then develop safeguards to assure that torture never happens again.”

For more information about NRCAT’s campaign for a Commission of Inquiry

Visit www.tortureisamoralissue.org

Rev. Richard Killmer, NRCAT, at 202-547-1920 (cell 207-450-7242) or rkillmer@nrcat.org

Religious leaders launch push to save marriages

March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Religious leaders launch push to save marriages

Group will host summits to introduce mentoring programs, lobby for divorce waiting periods.

Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

An interfaith coalition of religious leaders is launching a marriage offensive in Michigan over the next 48 hours.

Convinced that stubborn rates of divorce will yield to marriage counseling and patience, a group of more than a dozen ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and laity have scheduled a series of meetings today and Friday to introduce marriage-saving programs to Metro Detroit couples, lobby legislators for mandatory waiting periods for divorce and commit Macomb County to a Community Marriage Policy, which 223 communities across the country have adopted.

“Michigan’s divorce rate is among the highest in the Midwest,” said Michael McManus, president of Marriage Savers, a nonprofit that is one of several groups participating in the effort to prolong marriages in Michigan. “We need to save some of these families and stop the harm that happens to children of divorce, who have many more problems in life with poverty, incarceration and more bad marriages.”

The advocates will use the meetings to promote peer ministry, in which couples who averted divorce counsel troubled couples. They also will lobby legislators at a Legislative Marriage Summit in Lansing today. Other meetings will take place today and Friday at churches in Birmingham, Highland Park and Roseville and a mosque in Dearborn Heights. Local clergy, legal professionals and civic leaders will sign what is billed as the largest Community Marriage Policy in the country, Friday at Sacred Heart Church in Roseville.

Signatories to the policy pledge themselves to encourage enactment of the five-part Community Marriage Policy program, which calls for six months of preparation before marriage, annual church-run marriage retreats, training married couples to intervene in troubled marriages, a 12-week reconciliation course for separated couples and creating so-called step-families — support groups for families and couples dealing with troubled marriages.

The leaders say the Community Marriage Policy has proven its worth nationally, and the peer counseling programs — including Retrouvaille, a national, multifaith effort that recently drew praise from Pope Benedict XVI — have lowered divorce rates.

“We can empower healthy, married couples to mentor other couples for lifelong marriages,” said the Rev. Lawrence Ventline, of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Michigan had the 27th highest rate of divorce in the nation, with 3.4 divorces per 1,000 residents in 2007, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Illinois, with the third-lowest rate of divorce — 2.6 divorces per 1,000 persons — requires a two-year waiting period for contested divorces and six months for uncontested divorces.

While Michigan currently requires a six-month waiting period for divorces of couples who have children and 60 days for those with no children, critics say the rule is so easily evaded that an effective waiting period does not exist. They advocate, for couples with children, a six-month waiting period for uncontested divorces and a two-year waiting period when one spouse objects to divorce.

Twenty-two states have waiting periods for no-fault divorces, ranging from three months to two years, and 28 states have none, according to DivorceReform.org, a group of lawyers seeking to reform divorce law.

“I can appreciate people trying to save marriages and make divorce more difficult, but it does not apply to every situation,” said Michael Robbins, a divorce lawyer and a past chairman of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. “There are all sorts of reasons why we would not want to make it more difficult to get divorces and to end marriages as quickly as possible, including abuse.

“Maybe what we ought to be doing is making it harder to get married,” Robbins said.

The advocates likely face an uphill struggle in the Legislature. More than 10 years ago, a proposal to enact longer waiting periods passed in the House but failed in the Senate — the closest any such proposal has come to approval.

In 2004, Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a bill that would have mandated marriage preparation to qualify for a license and some education for parents in divorce proceedings.

The Catholic Church has long required couples to complete a similar requirement before they can marry, and the advocates hope to encourage more widespread use of that requirement.

They also seek to make routine the peer ministry counseling, like Retrouvaille, which they say have saved tens of thousands of marriages.

While the Retrouvaille program is strongly endorsed by the Catholic Church, less than 50 percent of the participants in Metro Detroit sessions are Christian, let alone Catholic. Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other couples have all participated.

Four couples who completed the Retrouvaille — named for the French word for “rediscovery” — and have remained married said it helps couples begin anew by giving them the skills to talk to each other about feelings and emotions in constructive ways.

“I found that my marriage and my wife were still of value to me,” said Mark Squier of Fraser. He and his wife, Betty, participated in the program 23 years ago, saved their marriage, and have participated in Retrouvaille ever since as volunteer peer mentors. “We learned how to communicate, although we really weren’t all that good at it, still, for the next four years or so. But we kept at it.”

“One thing we did was to stop using the D-word,” Betty said.

Detroit News Staff Writer Mike Wilkinson contributed to this report.
You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or gkrupa@detnews.com.

Holy Hell, ‘Demon’ Cop Sues

March 6, 2009

March 3, 2009

Holy Hell, ‘Demon’ Cop Sues

A cop who allegedly once claimed to have seen a demon in Police Headquarters is suing the NYPD, saying brass stripped him of his badge and gun because he’s too religious.

In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Lt. Dominic Maglione, 44, says he has been placed on modified duty at Brooklyn’s 90th Precinct because of his “religious beliefs and practices.”

The NYPD’s “decision to remove [Maglione’s] badge and gun because of [his] allegedly ‘excessive’ religious practices violates the First Amendment,” the suit says.

Police brass said that they took away his gun after a psychotic episode in April 2006, and that he shouldn’t get it back because of the demon hallucination and troubling psychiatric diagnoses, including bipolar, mood, psychotic and delusional disorders.

“The medical board believes that the lieutenant cannot be allowed to be in possession of any weapons since he feels subject to God’s will to do what God wants him to do even if he destroys himself,” the NYPD filings say.

Maglione’s lawyer did not return a call for comment.

Maglione joined New York’s Finest in 1987 and had “a clean record” when he had the psychotic episode in 2006, NYPD filings attached to his suit say.

The lieutenant turned to Christianity when he quit drinking, and at around the time he married his police-officer wife, his faith began to overtake his life, the filings say.

His religiosity “escalated to point where he neglected his job and schoolwork, isolated himself, did not eat and focused exclusively on religion.”

He also fasted for weeks at a time, and by the time he was committed to a psychiatric ward, he had dropped 20 pounds.

“He was alarmingly thin, his skin was pale, and he was malodorous,” the police records say.

He was released after two weeks, but refused to take the medication prescribed to him and blew off therapy sessions, the filing says.

He contends he’s now doing better and wants to be restored to full duty. The medical board rejected his request in December, noting a doctor’s finding that “he appeared to identify with God and acted as if he was superior to others and God-like.”

dareh.gregorian@nypost.com