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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


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


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, 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

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.”

Operation Whitecoat, BBC

February 12, 2009

Hidden history of US germ testing

Fifty years ago, American scientists were in a frantic race to counter what they saw as the Soviet threat from germ warfare. Biological pathogens they developed were tested on volunteers from a pacifist church and were also released in public places.
The remarkable story is told in a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Hotel Anthrax.

In the 1950s, the Seventh-day Adventist Church struck an extraordinary deal with the US Army. It would provide test subjects for experiments on biological weapons at the Fort Detrick research centre near Washington DC.

The volunteers were conscientious objectors who agreed to be infected with debilitating pathogens. In return, they were exempted from frontline warfare.

Fort Detrick was working on weapons it could use in an offensive capacity as well as ways of defending its troops and citizens.

Hotel Anthrax uses declassified documents, evidence from Senate investigations and personal testimony to trace the American bio-weapon programme during this period.

The research involved anthrax, other lethal bacteria and biological poisons. The scientists also conducted tests on an unsuspecting American public.

Rabbit fever

More than 2,000 volunteers, nicknamed the “white coats”, passed through Fort Detrick between 1954 and 1973, where they worked as lab technicians, as well as offering up their bodies for science.

One white coat, George Shores, tells of how he was infected with tularaemia or rabbit fever.

“ Even my gums hurt. I don’t think I have ever been so sick in all my life ”
George Shores
A giant metal sphere, known as the Eight Ball because of its resemblance to a snooker ball, was used in the experiment. Technicians exploded prototype bio-weapons inside the structure.
“They had like telephone booths all the way around the outside of the Eight Ball and you went into the telephone booth and shut the door and put on a mask like a gas mask.

“It was hooked up to the material that was inside the Eight Ball and you breathed it in,” explained Mr Shores.

He began to feel ill before too long.

“Even my gums hurt. I don’t think I have ever been so sick in all my life. First it started as a headache and achy feelings and it just kept progressing.

“I just wanted to breathe enough to keep alive. I would just take little gasps of breath and I would hold it for as long as I could because it hurt so bad.

“I can imagine if someone was using that agent in the battlefield the soldier would just have to lie down – he would not be able to function.”

The white coat volunteers were not infected with the most lethal microbes. Their role was to test the effectiveness of new vaccines and antibiotics and as soon as they became ill, they were given medical treatment. Within a few days, George Shores began to recover.
But America’s Institute of Medicine is conducting a study of more than 6,000 veterans who say their health has been compromised by secret tests in the Cold War years.

Some of these were veteran sailors who were involved in tests known as SHAD – Shipborne Hazard and Defense – which involved spraying lethal chemicals such as sarin and nerve gases in the open sea.

The BBC programme makers also obtained declassified documents prepared by the US Department of Veterans Affairs which refer to a study of nearly 100 SHAD veterans who have since died.

It found the veterans were three times more likely to have developed one of a group of killer diseases as a sample group in the general population.

It concludes: “This study does suggest that veterans who participated in Project SHAD may be at increased risk for cerebrovascular and respiratory diseases.”

Subway experiment

But it wasn’t just the white coat volunteers and sailors who were subject to experiments. Scientists used what they thought was a harmless simulant in major bio-weapon tests across US cities and on public transport.

It was a bacteria which they believed was harmless but which would mimic the dispersal of deadly biological agents such as anthrax.

But later research showed that the strain of Bacillus globigii , or BG, did pose a risk to people who were ill or whose immune system was failing.

The programme hears from a retired scientist whose job in 1966 was to drop light bulbs carrying BG on the New York subway. He would then measure how the simulant might spread in the event of a real attack, using a motorised vacuum devise concealed inside a suitcase.

Wally Pannier, 82, recalls: “We’d just drop light bulbs with the powdered stimulant inside.

“I think it spread pretty good because you had a natural aerosol developed every few minutes from every train that went past.”

“ It’s very hard to try and put today’s ethics on standards 20, 30, 40 years ago ”
Dr Michael Kilpatrick
In 1994, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs conducted what it described as a comprehensive analysis stretching back 50 years of the extent to which veterans were exposed to potentially dangerous substances without knowledge or consent.
It was chaired by John D Rockefeller.

In a damning report, it concluded that the Department of Defense (DoD) repeatedly failed to comply with required ethical standards when using human subjects in military research – and that the DoD demonstrated a pattern of misrepresenting the danger of various exposures and continued to do so.

Dr Michael Kilpatrick, a medical adviser to the DoD, claims the concerns which SHAD veterans have been raising may, finally, be changing that behaviour.

“It’s very hard to try and put today’s ethics on standards 20, 30, 40 years ago. That’s not to excuse it. I think they were trying to protect people using the medical science that was available at that time.

“We’re taking a look at any current tests that require consent of our military personnel.

“We’re making sure that there is an archive, a registry, a way to get back to all of the information.”

Hear part 1 of Hotel Anthrax at Radio 4’s Listen again page.
Part 2 is on Monday, 20 February, 2006 at 2000 GMT.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/02/13 15:31:10 GMT


Operation Whitecoat

February 12, 2009

The risks of Operation Whitecoat

By Glenn O’Neal, USA TODAY

The thought of exposing people to Q fever or tularemia could raise a few eyebrows today, but Operation White coat met a rare ethical standard in its day, some ethicists say.

Operation Whitecoat tests were done under the cloud of the Cold War and at a time when people rarely scrutinized workings of the government. It was a time when the government conducted some dubious experiments, such as the infamous Tuskegee experiments in which scientists studied the progression of syphilis in untreated poor black men.

Col. Arthur Anderson, who signs off on all research conducted today at Fort Detrick, Md., the home of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, says the program was “a model for medical, ethical research for humans.”

Whitecoat volunteers were given a consent form at the Texas medic school where they were first approached, Anderson says.

Once they were at Fort Detrick, the volunteers attended meetings with researchers for further details, and, although they were expected to participate in an experiment at some point during their tour, volunteers did have the option of not taking part in an experiment, he says.

“By the standards of the day, I think it was an ethical, acceptable way to get the information they were looking for,” says Jonathan Moreno, director of the Center of Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia.

Moreno says the subject matter of Whitecoat has a lot to do with any queasiness over such experiments.

“I don’t think it is a matter of exposing people to risks,” Moreno says. “It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth when it involves a biological weapon.”

He points out that what people objected to three months ago may be changing. For example, current trials to test the effectiveness of diluted smallpox vaccine may not have been considered before Sept. 11 because of the risks associated with taking a vaccine for a disease that was considered eradicated.

Paul Root Wolpe, senior fellow at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that Operation Whitecoat occurred when people were more trusting of the government and less critical of medical experimentation. Still, many people would have raised their voices against it had they known about it, he said.

“If it (Whitecoat) would have gotten out to the public, I doubt if many people would have thought it ethical,” Wolpe says.

School Cook Creates Vegetarian Dishes

November 26, 2008

Wylie Gray poses with his chef’s hat Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008, while preparing
a hot meal for students at Bentonville’s Seventh-Day Adventist School.

Meat Takes Mystery Role In School Lunch, School Cook Creates Vegetarian Dishes

November 25, 2008

Editor’s note: Chef Series is an occasional feature about local chefs — including professional and home cooks — who exhibit dedication to furthering the culinary arts.

This profile will offer a few tips and recipes from the featured chef.

This month’s chef is Wylie Gray.

By Marla Hinkle

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS — Wylie Gray builds layers of organic spaghetti sauce, pureed zucchini squash and whole-wheat noodles.

He prepares a vegetarian meal for children at the Bentonville Seventh-day Adventist School each Wednesday. About 29 pupils are enrolled, and not all partake in the meatless lunch.

Meals are $2.50 for children in kindergarten through second grades, and $3 for older students and adults. All proceeds from the lunch go back to supporting the school.

Rob Farinholt, principal at the school, said Gray has become creative in his cooking skills.

“I know my daughter Simone looks forward to hot lunch day on Wednesdays. As parents, we love it, too,” Farinholt said.

The school recently promoted its support of nutrition with a four-day Vegan Raw cooking class presented by health and lifestyle trainers Jeff and Nancy Reidesel. The members also have recipes published in the church cookbook.

About 60 people attended the event each night, Farinholt said.

Gray has been a supporter of the school more than 20 years and is the grandparent of two pupils there, Brayden Richardson and Brielle Richardson.

“We do not serve fast food here. I think you’re a lot better off if you have a more natural diet,” Gray said.

He also takes the time to do his enchiladas “the hard way” dipping his shell in sauce and adding ingredients one by one.

“When you layer food, it separates the flavor of each ingredient, and you will taste more of it.”

Adding flavor is one of the challenges he must meet in preparing tasteful vegan and vegetarian food that, at times, strives to imitate meat texture. Take Gray’s lasagna. He used spun dried soybean to add bulk. He said it’s virtually tasteless but tends to soak up whatever ingredients and spices are in the recipe. Sometimes he uses griller burger from Morningstar Farms.

He has used cashew cheese and bell peppers in his lasagna for added flavor and texture.

“Soybean has a nice texture to it and is a good, transitional food.”

The Bentonville Seventh-day Adventist Church has a potluck on the Sabbath, and they don’t serve meat, so the school continued that tradition, Gray said, although it’s not a church doctrine one cannot eat meat.

Also, a couple of doctors who are church members agree with this diet, Gray said. Some members are completely vegan, and he tries to accommodate them by using Smart Balance non-dairy butter and soy milk in recipes like his mashed potatoes.

“I ran out of Smart Balance and used one stick of butter in my Banana Nut Bread, but I didn’t use eggs.”

One loaf didn’t rise, but two did.

“It’s no big deal, since the flavor didn’t change.”

Dessert is usually healthy, such as Gray’s Tropical Fruit Kabobs.

“I don’t fix sugar cookies.”

All cookies aren’t forbidden. Gray has made oatmeal cookies with a cherry in the middle for decoration. He’s also used crushed pineapple in his banana bread.

Gray used to have more of a sweet tooth, he said.

He grew up in Hammond, La., home of 5,000 people “and a few old grouches,” Gray said, smiling as he shared a description of what was written on the town sign.

Gray was born to older parents; his father was 60 and his mother was 43 when he was born. He liked to cook with his mother.

“I remember we were always shelling black-eyed peas, snapping green beans and picking blackberries. We had 5 gallons of blackberries, and I could have all the pie I wanted.”

A pulpwood train went by their home, and he recalls a man waving to him and throwing him a bag of candy as he went by.

“I have the cavities to prove it.”

In the summertime, Gray’s father would give the train crew some of the vegetables he had grown in his garden.

Although the family grew their own food, at times, there wasn’t enough money to pay for food.

Gray caught his own trout and cleaned them. He still eats some meat.

“I’m open-minded. If it’s vegan and it tastes good, it’s good.”

He had the chance to put his cooking to the test while in the military. Gray was a medic in Vietnam, and he was put in charge of cooking one day when they were short-handed.

A back injury has caused Gray a great deal of back pain. Nerve damage and arthritis prevent him from standing at the sink and peeling 20 pounds of potatoes, he said.

Wednesdays can be a struggle for him, but it is a day he still anticipates with pleasure. A staff of about four adults assists him.

If he has a problem with food, Gray said it’s simply that he eats too much of it.

The children have their own favorites, like Haystacks, a layered combination of Frito chips or baked chips, cheese, beans, lettuce, tomato, picante sauce or salsa, sour cream and onions.

“The kids haven’t told me I’ve fixed the same thing twice. Even when I have a repeat, I’ll do something different.”

Tofu Lasagna

12 lasagna noodles, whole, cooked
Cashew Cheese, recipe below
Tomato sauce, recipe below
1 pound tofu

Tomato sauce:

1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, grated
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 quart tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup vege-burger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon basil

Saute vegetables in oil until tender and add vege-burger. Add tomatoes and simmer for 1/2 hour.

Cashew Cheese

1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion salt
3 tablespoons brewers yeast
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup oil
1 (4-ounce) jar pimientos
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Place water, cashews and salt in blender. Whiz thoroughly. Add oil slowly until mixture thickens. Add lemon juice, pimiento and seasonings and whiz again.

Crumble tofu into bowl, pour in the cashew cheese and mix. Use alternately with tomato sauce and noodles. Save some to drizzle on top. Bake lasagna at 350 degrees until good and bubbly.

Servings: 8 to 10.

— Vonda Beerman, “Favorite Vegetarian Recipes” (Bentonville Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School)

Persimmon Cake

1 cup persimmon pulp
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda

Combine all ingredients. Mix well and pour into a well-greased and floured pan. Bake approximately 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

— Katy Jones, “Seasoned with Love” (Rogers Seventh-day Adventist Church)

Canada’s Only Vegetarian Food Bank

October 4, 2008

Linking faith and animal rights

Oct 03, 2008 04:30 AM

Stuart Laidlaw, Faith and Ethics reporter, The Toronto Star

It is impossible to eat meat without violence. An animal, after all, has to be killed before it can be consumed. And that means Jessica Smith, a Hindu, doesn’t eat meat.

“It has to do with the Hindu belief in non-violence,” the 32-year-old Toronto resident says. “And reincarnation.”

Smith, who converted to Hinduism three years ago, says a basic tenet of her faith is that all living things have souls, with many revered as manifestations of God. In such a faith, empathy for animals seems natural.

“It’s as ancient as the faith,” says Smith, who helped start Canada’s only vegetarian food bank.

In fact, it’s an impulse as ancient as most faiths. The Hebrew Bible, known as the Old Testament to Christians and considered a holy book in Islam, for instance, instructs man to care for creation – including the animals.

So it is not surprising that animal welfare groups are drawing a connection between religious teachings and animal rights.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States – the first non-clergy to run the society in almost 40 years – made the point during a vegan lunch at a recent religion writers’ conference in Washington.

All people of faith should work to improve the welfare of animals, Pacelle said. “They (animals) have the same spark of life as we have.”

The society recently launched Eating Mercifully, a film about evangelical Christians whose faith has led them to be animal welfare advocates, running sanctuaries for abused animals and lobbying against factory farms.

At the formal launch of the film last weekend at a Washington cathedral, Pacelle said: “It’s a sign of a merciful people to be good to these other creatures.”

The campaign, dubbed “All Creatures Great and Small,” is not looking to reinterpret anybody’s religion, but to “awaken” people to what their scriptures say about animal cruelty and humankind’s responsibility to care for animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, also made an appeal to faith communities when, several years ago, it set up the website and launched a campaign arguing that Jesus was a vegetarian.

“Jesus’s message is one of love and compassion, yet there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals live miserable lives and die violent, bloody deaths,” PETA says on the website.

A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism, a pamphlet handed out at Toronto’s annual Vegetarian Fair, argues that the ethical underpinnings of Jewish dietary laws point toward “the ideal of vegetarianism.”

The website makes similar arguments.

The push has come from more conservative circles, as well. In 2002, Matthew Scully, an evangelical one-time staffer in the George. W. Bush White House, published Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. Its cover featured a lamb, often considered a symbol for Jesus, tethered and dying, against a black background.

The bestseller told evangelicals they had a God-given responsibility to look after creation, making the link between faith and animal rights that activists now hope to draw on. The movement, still getting its footing in the United States, has yet to move north – though campaigners here recognize the potential.

“It’s an area we are just starting to explore,” says David Alexander, director of operations for the Toronto Vegetarian Association.

Christine Gutleben is director of the Humane Society’s animals and religion program. She says the campaign has been endorsed by ministers and priests from several Christian denominations, as well as rabbis and imams.

Their comments have been posted on the society’s website for the campaign,

“It’s a common aspect of all the major religions,” Gutleben said. “We just want to help make the connection.”

Comments on this story:

Native Peoples are very faith oriented….
yet, they are not vegetarians. They believe in spirits and have a great faith, however, they do not have to be vegetarian. They take from the land, and give back as well, appreciating where their meal comes from. When killing an animal, they thank the spirits for the meal. Also, how do the Inuit, in the far north, grow plants and be vegetarian in such a small growing season? They eat meat – mostly raw – and it sustains them – they have done it for centuries. Don’t claim that if you have faith you must be vegetarian – that doesn’t mean you are holier than thou!


Macleans, August 6, 2008

Finally, a food bank for vegetarians

It’s the only one in Canada and was founded, surprisingly enough, by a meat-eater

JULIA MCKINNELL | August 6, 2008 |

Vegetarian Jessica Smith faced a dilemma in June 2006. She and her vegetarian husband were forced to go to a food bank in Toronto. “And of course the inevitable came up: the tuna fish,” says Smith, who doesn’t eat fish or meat. “My husband is a boxer. He needs to eat. So do I. I have hypoglycemia. It was do or die.” The 32-year-old said the couple ate the fish in small bites and swallowed quickly in order not to choke. “We looked at it this way. It was an emergency. It was either we eat it or we’re going to get sick.”
When Smith heard that a vegetarian food bank was opening in Scarborough, Ont., she telephoned the food bank’s unlikely founder,

Malan Joseph, a Catholic real estate agent who eats meat. “It completely blew my mind,” says Smith. “I asked if there were other vegetarian food banks. He said no, ‘we’ll be the only one in Canada.’ ” (Marzena Gersho, director of national partnerships and programs at the Canadian Association of Food Banks in Toronto, confirms there are no other vegetarian food banks in the country.)

Joseph credits his Hindu vegetarian wife for drawing his attention to the plight of low-income vegetarians. “If you eat meat, you can eat vegetarian and non-vegetarian. But if you are vegetarian, you only have one choice. I’ve had a dream for 10 years to open up a food bank for vegetarians only,” he says. “For many, many low-income vegetarians, it is emotionally disturbing if they go to a regular food bank and are given meat or sausages.” The vegetarian food bank is non-profit and receives no government funding. Joseph pays out of his own pocket to rent the warehouse space, a two-level unit in a strip mall.

Smith, who after talking to Joseph signed on as the new food bank’s volunteer coordinator, believes she was born with a natural aversion to meat. Growing up in Sarnia, Ont., she remembers, “I’d eat my broccoli and spinach and all the foods that usually little kids hate. My mother used to have to hide meat in my spinach to get me to eat it.”
Among the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank’s potential clients are those who have never eaten meat and would not — even if abstaining from it jeopardized their health. “Anecdotally,” says Smith, “we know about people who will not touch meat or fish even if it means they get sick.” The food bank’s Hindu clients, for instance, believe in the consequences of karma and are unable to inflict injury on any type of creature.
“I don’t want to put down a standard food bank. These people do good work,” says Smith. “But you won’t see any fresh produce there. You get things like peanut butter, canned beans and canned soup.” Unfortunately, a lot of canned goods contain chicken and beef broth, says David Alexander, director of operations for the Ontario Vegetarian Association.
Joseph canvasses grocery stores to donate fresh fruit and vegetables. “I’ve got green vegetables, too many to name. Potatoes, onions, soups, tofu. I’ve asked for cooking oil but so far no one has donated that because it’s a little bit expensive. We’ve got spices in little packets.”
“We’re looking at tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, cottage cheese. Food that has lots of protein,” says Smith, adding, “There’s this concept that vegetarian food is cheap and that even a low-income person can afford it. Actually, fruits and vegetables can be expensive, and will increase as transportation and oil prices go up.”
In April, a food bank in Golden, B.C., began a pilot project, stocking clients’ food hampers with fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks to the generosity of a 90-year-old woman, Ruth Wixon, who bequeathed her house and garden to the city. Food bank volunteers tend to the garden twice a week; clients pick up food hampers on Wednesdays and are overjoyed to find the fresh produce, says Sister Jelaine Christensen, a food bank volunteer. It used to be some clients would look through their hamper, saying, “I can’t eat that. I can’t eat that.” Now, she says, “people are excited!”
The food bank also receives donations from local residents who are participating in the nationwide Plant a Row · Grow a Row program. “People are planting vegetables in their gardens and planting a row for the food bank,” explains Sister Christensen. “We just had someone call this morning. They had peas they wanted to bring over.”
For those wondering what to do next with their vegetarian food bank groceries, a website called Broke-Ass Vegan provides recipes. Up this week: roast carrots with beer and Egg McVegans.

Owner saves dog from shark’s jaws

October 1, 2008

A Florida Keys man punched a shark to save his dog from becoming a meal. The rat terrier named Jake, who was badly bitten, is expected to recover.

ISLAMORADA — Greg LeNoir watched in horror as the shark’s mouth opened wide, chomping a large set of teeth on his beloved 14-pound dog, Jake.

”Noooooo,” LeNoir shrieked, fearing the worst.

But the case of the rat terrier vs. the shark has a happy ending.

”Jake’s doing great,” LeNoir’s brother, Phillip, said Monday. “And I still can’t believe my brother jumped in the water and punched a shark.”

The saga began Friday afternoon when Greg LeNoir took Jake to the Worldwide Sportsman’s Bayside Marina pier in Islamorada for the dog’s daily swim. LeNoir said Jake is a fast and fearless swimmer, often retrieving jellyfish and soaked coconuts.

But this time, Jake, a 28-month-old dog adopted from an animal shelter, unexpectedly encountered the shark, which was about five feet long. As Jake disappeared under the water, LeNoir conquered his own fear and sprang to action.

”I clenched my fists and dove straight in with all my strength, like a battering ram,” LeNoir, 53, said Sunday, reliving the frightening ordeal. “I hit the back of the shark’s neck. It was like hitting concrete.”

Sharks are not uncommon in the marina, which is near the Islamorada Fish Co.’s open saltwater pool that attracts large tarpon.

LeNoir, a finish carpenter who lives in Islamorada, said he concluded the creature was either a bull shark or lemon shark after describing it to local fishermen and another brother, Louie, a shark-tooth collector in Orlando.

LeNoir’s wife of 17 years, Tessalee, said she wasn’t shocked by her husband’s heroics. ”People know him as Dr. Doolittle,” she said. “He’s the one who climbs up a tree to save a possum.”

Lenoir added: ‘We have no children. Jake became our child. When I saw the shark engulf him, I thought, `This can’t be the end.’ ”

The shark let go of Jake, and the dog popped to the surface, frantically swimming the few yards to shore. LeNoir followed, paddling through a red trail of blood from the dog.

At VCA Upper Keys Animal Hospital in Islamorada, veterinarian Suzanne Sigel and emergency on-call assistant Callie Cottrell patched Jake’s wounds.

”Amazingly, he wasn’t critical,” Sigel said. “He’s one lucky dog.”

The shark’s teeth punctured Jake’s skin and some muscle on the dog’s abdomen, chest and back in a pattern that looked like ”an upside-down smile,” Sigel said.

Jake also suffered lacerations on his right side and front left leg, with skin hanging like ribbons, LeNoir said.

”The shark put almost all of Jake in his mouth, except for his head and three of his legs,” LeNoir said.

Sigel reexamined Jake on Monday and said the pooch is expected to recover.

”He looks great and is recuperating well,” she said. “I was worried he may have inhaled saltwater when he was pulled under, but there’s no evidence of infection or pneumonia. He’s healing great.”

Trailblazing detective pays with her life

September 30, 2008


Trailblazing detective pays with her life

Sep 29, 2008 04:30 AM
Rosie DiManno, Star Columnist

Malalai Kakar was one of the bravest women I’ve ever known.

No, make that one of the bravest people, regardless of gender. But she couldn’t escape her sex, not in misogynist Kandahar.

Nor could she escape her enemies.

Yesterday, they killed her.

Two gunmen on a motorbike shot Kakar as she travelled to work. Her 18-year-old son was critically wounded.

The Taliban immediately took “credit” for the murder, part of a wider recent campaign targeting projects, schools and businesses run by women.

It’s impossible to say whether Kakar riled the insurgents more as a Taliban-loathing cop or a disobedient dame.

They have long wanted her – and her kind – dead. The threats were constant and in recent months “night letters” were repeatedly received: Go home, whore, back into your burqa, or you will pay, your family will pay.

For her valour and obstinacy, she paid with her life.

Lt.-Col. Kakar – daughter of a cop, sister to five cops – was the first female police detective and highest-ranking policewoman in southern Afghanistan. Against all odds, she had risen to the top of the law enforcement hierarchy in Kandahar city, unsoiled by the corruption that had caused eight of her police chiefs to be fired.

She aspired to that top job, continued to believe it a possibility. “Yes, why not?” Kakar told the Star in May. “The men I work with respect me now as an equal.”

Only as of two years ago had those men even seen her face. That’s when Kakar defiantly removed her burqa on the job, wearing only a headscarf, though what she really wanted was a brimmed police cap, like the males. Pined for her own police vehicle, too, but the powers-that-be wouldn’t allow that. In ultra-conservative Pashtun Kandahar, females are not allowed to drive, even the deputy commander of the city police department.

But the chain-smoking mother of six, married to a broad-minded husband, packed heat, a shoulder-holstered pistol all the time and an AK-47 when she went out on raids.

She was gutsy, showing more balls than many of her male colleagues during dangerous situations, including one incident where they’d bottled it in a firefight with insurgents. Kakar held her ground until reinforcements arrived. Back at the station later, she tore a strip off the cops who had fled, abandoning her, hissing: “You have long moustaches but you have no bravery.”

On her arm, Kakar carried the scar of a felon who’d bit her deeply while she was arresting him. On duty, she’d killed at least three would-be assassins, according to reports.

Barely 5-feet-tall and clinging to her femininity, even in ill-fitting grey police uniform – vivid eye makeup, polish on her nails – Kakar had already achieved near-mythic status in Afghanistan. She dared where others cowered. And while involved as any other officer in repelling the insurgent Taliban, Kakar took professional command for crimes committed against women, heading a unit specializing in domestic violence. As a female, she could interview women, examine the bruises beneath their burqas. By the same token, she could investigate women suspected of crimes, searching under voluminous folds for weapons and drugs.

In Afghanistan, where women are commonly subjected to abuse by husbands, fathers and husbands, Kakar was a cultural trailblazer, holding men to account and pressing charges. Females fleeing cruelty frequently took refuge in the women’s wardroom at the Kandahar police station and Kakar – along with her squad of 10 lady officers – protected them. “Our constitution is supposed to protect women’s rights too,” she argued.

The despised burqa, however, Kakar continued to wear when leaving her home in a purportedly secure compound to do domestic business such as shopping at the bazaar, unarmed. This was to hide her identity because Kakar knew the Taliban, as well as so many ordinary Pashtuns unaligned with the insurgency, reviled her for breaking with tradition.

President Hamid Karzai deplored the assassination, as did the European Union.

She told the Star she was 38. Reports yesterday claimed she was a few years older than that. I think she should be allowed this small vanity, fudging her age.

When last I saw Kakar – a kiss on both cheeks – she was lighting up a smoke, waving farewell from the courtyard of the police station, urging me to be careful.

“People have small, narrow minds,” she said. “It will take a long time for many people to accept (females) in this position. But I want to show other women that it can be done, even here in Kandahar.”

May God embrace you, my fearless friend.

Columnist Rosie DiManno was on assignment for six weeks in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Sanctuary Works

September 26, 2008

Felicia (Ola) Abimbola Akinwalere has been living in the choir room at the Trinity Anglican Church in Port Credit for two years after taking sanctuary to avoid a deportation order. Toronto Star/Andrew Wallace

Reprieve for woman who hid in church

Arrest of immigrant who sought sanctuary results in stay of deportation order

Sep 24, 2008 04:30 AM

Stuart Laidlaw, Faith and Ethics Reporter

For a Nigerian woman claiming sanctuary in a Mississauga church to avoid deportation, getting arrested may have been the best thing that ever happened to her.

Felicia (Ola) Abimbola Akinwalere took up residence in Trinity Anglican Church two days ahead of her scheduled deportation in October 2006. Since then, she has rarely ventured outside, but left the building on Monday, only to have two Peel Region police officers arrest her.

With Akinwalere in custody in an immigration holding centre on Rexdale Blvd., within hours, her lawyers and immigration officials negotiated a stay of the deportation order against her.

“She’s free,” says Rev. Steven Mackison, the minister at the church where Akinwalere has lived for the past two years. “Immigration has agreed not to deport her, and that’s all we ever wanted.”

Police told Akinwalere they were acting on a public complaint, Mackison says, adding recent media coverage of her plight heightened attention on the case. The church had received only one phone call complaining about Akinwalere staying there, and many more in support.

“Boy, what a long two hours that was,” says Mackison, who sat with Akinwalere during negotiations.

Akinwalere is happy now, he says, but was inconsolable immediately after the arrest. “She was terrified,” Mackison says. “I came into the (jail) cell and she just broke down and wept and wept.”

Mackison says efforts will now be focused on convincing an immigration review board to let her stay in Canada permanently. With her deportation order stayed, Akinwalere is free to live wherever she wants – though Mackison could not say where that would be.

Akinwalere had applied three times to stay in Canada, but was ordered deported before a ruling could be made on the third request.

She came to Canada 18 years ago on a temporary visa to visit family. Back in Nigeria, her husband took part in a failed military coup, went missing and was declared dead.

As the wife of an army officer involved in a coup attempt, Akinwalere feared for her life and did not return when her visa expired. Instead, she stayed in Canada and married her husband’s brother (a Canadian citizen) in keeping with Nigerian tradition. The two have a 12-year-old daughter, Alice, who had taken refuge with her mother and only left the church to go to school.

Having Alice added to Akinwalere’s fear of returning to Nigeria, where the girl would face female circumcision – a dangerous and painful procedure banned in Nigeria, but still widely practised, according to Human Rights Watch. If Alice was left in Canada, the two would be separated and the girl left in the care of her disabled father.

Sanctuary offers no legal protection in Canada, but while police or federal officials can go into a church to remove a person under a deportation order at any time, they rarely do. Immigration Canada has refused to discuss Akinwalere’s case, citing privacy concerns.

The church had planned a rally this Sunday to press Akinwalere’s case that the deportation order be lifted while her application to stay is heard.

But with this week’s events leaving her free to live wherever she wants, Mackison says, “the rally will now be a celebration.”