Separation of Church & State Alive in Spain

Spain Defies Church To Legalise Gay Marriage

from Reuters

MADRID - Spain legalised same-sex marriages on Thursday, becoming only the fourth country to do so after Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands and dealing a blow to the Catholic Church in a traditional stronghold.

"Today Spanish society is giving an answer to a group of people who for years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended...," Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told parliament.

Supporters jumped to their feet to celebrate in a crowded public gallery when the lower house of parliament passed the law, overriding a rejection in the upper house or Senate.

Outside, dozens of same-sex couples hugged and kissed, some of them in tears.

The law gives same-sex unions the same status as heterosexual ones, including adoption and inheritance rights.

The Socialists' liberal agenda is a major break with the past: Spain was ruled from 1939-1975 by Catholic nationalist dictator Francisco Franco, who banned homosexuality and divorce.

"I am remembering all those years, all the people who couldn't see this...all the young people who are going to live differently," rights activist Pepe Paz said outside parliament. The 38-year-old plans to marry in September.

The legislation, passed 187 to 147, is a setback to the Vatican. Pope Benedict has condemned gay marriage as an expression of anarchic freedom and his predecessor John Paul urged Spain to remember its Catholic roots.

Despite the church's opposition, a survey last year showed 70% of Spaniards supported legalising gay marriage.

After a boisterous debate, opposition Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy accused Zapatero of acting irresponsibly by pushing through a gay marriage law instead of seeking consensus on civil unions, which several European countries allow. The PP also condemned Zapatero for ignoring a massive protest against gay marriage in Madrid earlier this month. Organisers said 1.5 to 2 million showed up, including bishops and nuns, while the government said there were 166,000.

Spanish Roman Catholic bishops have commanded all Catholics to resist applying the same-sex marriage law.

Zapatero's liberal reforms, which include a law passed late on Wednesday to make divorce easier and changes to stem cell research rules, are popular among young people.

While some 90% of Spaniards call themselves Catholic, fewer than a fifth are practising.

Canada on Tuesday became the third country to legalise same-sex marriages. Belgium allowed for them in June 2003. The Netherlands allowed same sex-marriages in December 2000 although Dutch law had recognised registered partnerships since 1998.


Ten Commandments Religious? Court: 'Kinda'

Court Splits on Ten Commandments Displays

from Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government land, but drew the line on displays inside courthouses, saying they violated the doctrine of separation of church and state.

Sending dual signals in ruling on this issue for the first time in a quarter-century, the high court said that displays of the Ten Commandments — like their own courtroom frieze — are not inherently unconstitutional. But each exhibit demands scrutiny to determine whether it goes too far in amounting to a governmental promotion of religion, the court said in a case involving Kentucky courthouse exhibits.

In effect, the court said it was taking the position that issues of Ten Commandments displays in courthouses should be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

In that 5-4 ruling and another decision involving the positioning of a 6-foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas capitol, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote. The second ruling, likewise, was by a 5-4 margin.

Justice Antonin Scalia released a stinging dissent in the courthouse case, declaring, "What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle."

The justices voting on the prevailing side in the Kentucky case left themselves legal wiggle room, saying that some displays inside courthouses — like their own courtroom frieze — would be permissible if they're portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history.

But framed copies in two Kentucky courthouses went too far in endorsing religion, the court held. Those courthouse displays are unconstitutional, the justices said, because their religious content is overemphasized.

In contrast, a 6-foot-granite monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol — one of 17 historical displays on the 22-acre lot — was determined to be a legitimate tribute to the nation's legal and religious history.

"Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious — they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument therefore has religious significance," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority in the case involving the display outside the state capitol of Texas. "Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment clause."

Rehnquist was joined in his opinion by Scalia, and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Justice Stephen G. Breyer filed a separate opinion concurring in the result.

The rulings were the court's first major statement on the Ten Commandments since 1980, when justices barred their display in public schools. But the high court's split verdict leaves somewhat unsettled the role of religion in American society, a question that has become a flashpoint in U.S. politics.

"While the court correctly rejects the challenge to the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas Capitol grounds, a more fundamental rethinking of our Establishment Clause jurisprudence remains in order," Thomas wrote in a separate opinion.

Dissenting in the Texas case, Justice John Paul Stevens argued the display was an improper government endorsement of religion. Stevens noted in large letters the monument proclaims 'I AM the LORD thy God.'"

"The sole function of the monument on the grounds of Texas' State Capitol is to display the full text of one version of the Ten Commandments," Stevens wrote. "The monument is not a work of art and does not refer to any event in the history of the state. The message transmitted by Texas' chosen display is quite plain: This state endorses the divine code of the Judeo-Christian God."

Justices O'Connor, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg also dissented.

The case was one of two heard by the Supreme Court in March involving Ten Commandments displays, in a courtroom boasting a wall carving of Moses holding the sacred tablets.

In Texas, the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the exhibit to the state in 1961, and it was installed about 75 feet from the Capitol in Austin. The group gave thousands of similar monuments to American towns during the 1950s and '60s.

Thomas Van Orden, a former lawyer who is now homeless, challenged the display in 2002. He lost twice in the lower courts in holdings the Supreme Court affirmed Monday.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, two counties originally hung the copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses. After the ACLU filed suit, the counties modified their displays to add other documents demonstrating "America's Christian heritage," including the national motto of "In God We Trust" and a version of the Congressional Record declaring 1983 the "Year of the Bible."

When a federal court ruled those displays had the effect of endorsing religion, the counties erected a third Ten Commandments display with surrounding documents such as the Bill of Rights and Star-Spangled Banner to highlight their role in "our system of law and government."

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal subsequently struck down the third display as a "sham" for the religious intent behind it.

Ten Commandments displays are supported by a majority of Americans, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. The poll taken in late February found that 76 percent support it and 23 percent oppose it.


Holy Irony, Batman!

Man Dies After Lightning Strikes Metal Cross

from Associated Press

LJUBLJANA - A man died after lightning struck a metal cross he was holding during a funeral in a village near Ljubljana, the Slovenian news agency STA reported Thursday.

It said the 62-year-old man died in hospital Wednesday evening, several hours after the incident in the village of Brezovica. Another person at the funeral was slightly injured.

Surprise: The Air Force Clears the Air Force

Military Investigators Cite Religious Insensitivity at Air Force Academy

from Associated Press

Washington - The Air Force Academy has been troubled by insensitivity toward non-Christian cadets and staff, but officials have not committed acts of overt religious discrimination, military investigators said Wednesday.

A report on an Air Force investigation into the religious climate at the school says academy leaders and the Air Force should clarify policies on religious expression so religious minorities do not feel discriminated against or pressured.

The investigation report, released by the Pentagon, also cites a perception of intolerance among some cadets and staff. But it credited officials at the 4,300-student school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with moving to confront these issues.

"The (Air Force) team found a religious climate that does not involve overt religious discrimination, but a failure to fully accommodate all members' needs and a lack of awareness where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs," the report said.

The team was appointed after complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

Investigators assessed Air Force policy on religious respect and tolerance and looked into whether commanders encouraged or discouraged free expression and free exercise of religion.

An attachment to the 100-page report dealt with one officer, Brig. Gen. John Weida, who was accused of pressuring students. He was cleared of wrongdoing on all but one allegation. The report did not detail the matter, saying only that it remained under review.

Weida has been criticized for sending out an e-mail promoting National Prayer Day in May 2003 and for a memo telling cadets they are accountable first to their God. Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa last week said he has spoken to Weida about both instances and that Weida recognized they were mistakes.

Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a graduate of the academy and a critic of its religious practices, said he was encouraged "because at least there is a report, and it says there is some confusion at the academy."

But Weinstein said he was outraged because the task force "gives a pass" to a chaplain who allegedly urged cadets to tell classmates they would burn in hell if they were not born again.


'Don't Fergit: We Still Hate Them Fags!'

Theocracy at Work: The near-death hillbilly bigots that have hijacked the country. And their idiot messiah.

Bush Calls for Gay-Marriage Amendment

from MSNBC

NASHVILLE, Tennessee - Reviving a major plank of his re-election campaign, President Bush called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Tuesday.

The president’s address to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention — the fourth year in a row he has spoken to the conservative evangelical gathering — was crafted to rally the social religious conservatives who make up a crucial part of Bush’s governing coalition. He restated his commitment to issues dear to conservatives’ hearts, notably his opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and research on human embryonic stem cells — a stance he calls the "culture of life."

"We will continue to build a culture of life in America, and America will be better off for it," Bush said by satellite hookup from the White House.

Bush’s remarks were similar to those he made last year, when he said he would work to uphold marriage as he sought to solidify his religious conservative base ahead of the November election. He thanked the 11,077 "messengers" who made the trek to Nashville this year for defending "the values that carry a moral society, for...defending the family and the sacred institution of marriage."

The Southern Baptist Convention strongly condemns homosexuality, and the president’s remarks were greeted with sustained applause.

Bush’s speech was also in keeping with the tone of urgency suffusing the conference, where the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the convention, has challenged church leaders to renew their commitment to social engagement and evangelism.

The conservatives’ primary issues have been gay and lesbian rights and what they see as moral decay in the public schools, a topic that has again created controversy at the convention’s annual gathering. The convention’s resolutions committee was considering two non-binding resolutions urging parents to investigate whether their local school promoted homosexuality and to pull their children out of classes if it did, but the panel killed a similar resolution last year.

"In modern education in America, we have dethroned God, and we have deified man," said the Rev. Jerry Vines of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. "You cannot satisfy the human soul with mere education."

Although a sizable minority of evangelical Christians — estimated at 20 percent to 40 percent — say they are politically moderate or Democratic, the SBC has been led by socially conservative leaders since they engineered a takeover of the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination in 1979.

At one point during a floor debate Tuesday, Welch had to remind messengers to remain civil.


Priest Murders Nun by Crucifixion

Romanian Priest Unrepentant after Crucifixion of Nun

from AFP

TANACU, Romania - A Romanian Orthodox priest, facing charges for ordering the crucifixion of a young nun because she was "possessed by the devil," was unrepentant as he celebrated a funeral ceremony for his alleged victim.

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," Father Daniel, 29, the superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in north-eastern Romania, told an AFP reporter before celebrating a short liturgy "for the soul of the deceased," in the presence of 13 nuns who showed no visible emotion.

He insisted that from the religious point of view, the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was "entirely justified," but admitted he faced excommunication as well as prosecution, and was seeking a "good lawyer."

Prosecutors said Saturday they had charged the priest and four nuns with imprisonment leading to death, while religious authorities said he would be barred from celebrating liturgy until the investigation was completed. The monastery will be shut if they are found guilty, Father Daniel's superiors said.

Cornici was found dead on Wednesday, gagged and chained to a cross, after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police. Before being crucified she had been kept shut up for several days, her hands and feet tied and without food or drink.

Cornici had entered the monastery just three months before, after visiting a friend who was a nun there, police said.

It was not clear why Father Daniel believed the nun was possessed. One parishoner, Dora, said the nun "had to be punished, she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation."

As her coffin entered the church of the monastery Saturday no church bells were sounded while nuns cast distrustful glances at the strangers present at the ceremony.

Claps of thunder from an approaching storm were sometimes the only sounds to break the silence.

"This storm is proof that the will of God has been done," Daniel said.


No, Magic Is 'Impossible' (Idiot!)

Evolution Theory Called Impossible

from Kansas City Star

Topeka, June 15 - As the Kansas Board of Education readies for a final debate on the teaching of evolution, one member is leveling the harshest criticism yet, calling the theory an impossibility.

In a recent newsletter to constituents in western Kansas, board member Connie Morris calls evolution a "fairy tale" that has "anti-God contempt and arrogance."

The four-page letter then criticizes mainstream scientists, the media, and moderate members of the school board who opposed recent hearings on evolution.

"In short, Darwin's theory of evolution is biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically and etc. wildly and utterly impossible," Morris wrote constituents.

In the newsletter, Morris calls board member Sue Gamble of Shawnee "continually disruptive and rude." Gamble has said religious-based criticism of evolution violates the separation of church and state.

At its meeting today in Topeka, the full 10-member board will take up proposed changes to science guidelines, partly written by Morris, that criticize evolution. Though individual districts may set their own curriculum, the guidelines serve as the basis for state assessment tests and are used as curriculum standards in many districts.

The changes include references to evolution's weaknesses in fully explaining the origin of life and the existence of DNA, and they soften language about evolution's place in the scientific canon.

A final vote on the issue is not expected until the board's July or August meetings. But board chairman Steve Abrams expects a strong debate on the topic today. Abrams leads a group of six board members who support the proposal.

Morris said she would push to insert more criticism of evolution before the final vote.

Harry McDonald, president of Kansas Citizens for Science and a retired science teacher who lives in Olathe, said inserting criticism of evolution into the school curriculum was a foregone conclusion once the board voted to put evolution on trial.

Last month three members of the board held four days of hearings to discuss perceived flaws in the theory of evolution at a cost of $17,000 to the state. The hearings came at the urging of proponents of intelligent design, the idea that some features of the world can be explained only as being the work of a creator. Mainstream scientists boycotted the event.

Gamble, who opposed the hearings, said conservatives have the votes to approve the proposal.

"They have six votes," she said. "Whenever they choose to use them, they will."

Gamble said Morris' comments in the newsletter were "most inappropriate."

Board member Bill Wagnon of Topeka said he would bring up the newsletter today at the board's meeting. He said Morris and others are trying to play politics with education.

"It's straight gutter-ball politics," he said Tuesday.

Morris would not comment on the newsletter except to say it's something she sends out from time to time to supporters. The state picks up most of the tab for the newsletter. On Tuesday, Morris submitted to the Department of Education a request for compensation in the amount of $166.

"I think it (the newsletter) speaks for itself," she said.

In it, she accuses mainstream scientists and the media of creating a "hysteria" surrounding the proposed changes to the science guidelines, and covering up what she says is "a theory in crisis." While she wrote that she accepts the biblical creation account literally, her objections to evolution are based on what she perceives as logical flaws in the theory.

"The evolutionists are in panic mode," she wrote.

Toilet Stain = Sign from God?

Water-Stained Jesus Image To Be Auctioned

from Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - Some may see it as a sign to call a plumber, but a Pittsburgh man sees the divine.

Jeffrey Rigo, 30, an Internet network engineer, is auctioning off a piece of water-stained plaster from his bathroom that he says looks like an image of Jesus Christ.

Rigo says he saw the image when he stepped out his shower Saturday evening.

"I got out of the shower and yelled, 'Jesus Christ!'" Rigo told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in a story published Thursday. "My girlfriend asked me, 'Oh, my God, what is it?' I pointed and responded, 'No, Jesus Christ!'"

Rigo is seeking at least $1,999.99 for the water-stained piece of plaster he's dubbed "Shower Jesus" on online auction Web site eBay.

Rigo, who isn't religious and doesn't believe the image is a sign from God, said he's approaching the auction lightheartedly.

"The entire auction and its proceedings are not meant to be taken seriously," Rigo said in an e-mail interview. "There is no hidden agenda here, no religious or political commentary to be derived."

Using a rotary tool, Rigo cut out the section of plaster and found the water leak. He then made a box, filled it with plaster and placed the "Shower Jesus" inside to dry.

As of Thursday, there was one bid. The auction ends Tuesday evening.

If Prayers Don't Work, Try Mail

God's Mail Delivered to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall

from AFP

JERUSALEM - Israel's postal service this week delivered 1,000 letters addressed to God, his prophets and the messiah, to their presumed address: the Wailing Wall in Old Jerusalem, the holiest Jewish relic in the world.

Mailed since the beginning of the year, the bundles of letters were delivered to the Wailing Wall by postal director Yossi Sheli, where a rabbi placed the envelopes between the crevices of the ancient stones.

In December 2003, an Israeli rights group accused the post office of usurping people's privacy for publishing letters written to God on its website.

"I am in awe in front of you and you know how much I love you. Will you help me to stop bickering and become a good little girl?" ran one such letter.


Catholic School to Gay Parents: Stay Home

School Tells Gay Parents To Return to Closet

from 365Gay

COSTA MESA, California - A Southern California school has told a same-sex couple who have children in the facility not to appear together at school functions.

St. John the Baptist School, in Costa Mesa, has adopted a new policy that calls for parents to display "appropriate conduct, in order to support the school's mission and provide positive role models to our students."

The school is affiliated with the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County.

Earlier this year, St John's ran into opposition from a parent group after the school allowed a gay couple to enroll their children. The group demanded that the school accept only families that pledge to abide by Catholic teachings.

School officials rejected the demand saying that a family's background "does not constitute an absolute obstacle to enrollment in the school," further angering the parent group which took their case to the bishop.

Neither the school nor the same-sex couple have commented on the issue since, but a May 6 memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times this week outlines the new policy.

"The children adopted by a same-sex couple" may enroll, the memo says, "on the condition that the same-sex couple agree not to present themselves as a couple at school functions."

The Times also quotes some parents as saying that Sister Mary Vianney, the school's principal for 31 years, has not had her contract renewed because she objected to the new requirement.

A lawyer for the parents who object to the children of same-parents attending the school said his clients welcome Vianney's departure, and he had a message for other parents who wanted her stay on.

"This parish would be better served if they would have a prayer vigil in support of the teachings of the church," Michael J. Sundstedt, told the Times.



Kansas Preacher Announces Plans To Protest Idaho Soldier's Funeral

from Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho - The Kansas preacher who tried to erect an anti-gay monument in a Boise city park says he's coming to Idaho this week to picket the funeral of a fallen soldier.

Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, says God killed Idaho National Guard Corporal Carrie French with an improvised explosive device. Phelps says God is retaliating against America for a bombing of his church six years ago.

French was a 19-year-old Caldwell High School graduate and varsity cheerleader. She was killed June 5 in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk by an improvised explosive device.

French served as an ammunition specialist with the 116th Brigade Combat Team's 145th Support Battalion.

Phelps says there is no reason he is targeting French specifically. He says his church will protest any public funeral of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Caldwell Police Chief Bob Sobba said he can't bar Phelps from going to the public funeral. It's scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at the Albertson College of Idaho.


Priest Kills Dog

Priest Convicted of Having Dog Killed

from Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - A judge has convicted a priest of having a popular street dog put to death because the animal allegedly disrupted religious services.

In a televised interview Wednesday, the Rev. Carlos Artavia acknowledged having a local veterinarian put the dog, Camila, to death and apologized to those who were offended.

A judge on Tuesday sentenced Artavia to 30 days in jail — a penalty waived on payment of 1,000 colons (about $2.10). He said Artavia should have established that the dog was ill or a threat.

The dog had been popular in the poor neighborhood and was known for accompanying funeral processions as well as attending Mass.

"I am going to pay the fine happily and I take the opportunity to offer my public apologies to all those who felt offended," Artavia said to Channel 6.

The dog vanished on Jan. 24 and some neighbors say it enter the priest's car. He admitted having her put to death, prompting some parishioners to file a complaint.

Hillbillies Weasle Creationism into Zoo

Biblical Account of Creation Displayed

from Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. - The Tulsa Zoo will add a display featuring the biblical account of creation following complaints to a city board about other displays with religious significance, including a Hindu elephant statue.

The Tulsa Park and Recreation Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday in favor of a display depicting God's creation of the world in six days and his rest on the seventh, as told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

The vote came after more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd.
Zoo employees, religious leaders, and others spoke in opposition, saying religion shouldn't be part of the taxpayer-funded scientific institution.

But those who favored the creationist exhibit, including Mayor Bill LaFortune, argued that the zoo already displayed religious items, including the statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh, outside the elephant exhibit and a marble globe inscribed with an American Indian saying: "The earth is our mother. The sky is our father."

"I see this as a big victory," said Dan Hicks, the Tulsa resident who approached the zoo with the idea. "It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination."

Hundreds of people signed a petition supporting the exhibit.

The new display will include a disclaimer that says it represents one view. City attorneys also advised it be placed alongside other cultures' views of creation.

Tulsa Zoo exhibit curator Kathleen Buck-Miser estimated it would take about six months to research and organize the exhibit. She expressed qualms about the zoo delving into theological debate.

"I'm afraid we are going in the wrong direction," she said.

Board member Dale McNamara, who voted against the proposal, agreed.

"I do not like the idea of scripture at the zoo," she said.

Zoo officials had argued that the zoo does not advocate religion and that displays like the elephant statue are meant to show the animal's image among cultures. The same exhibit includes the Republican Party's elephant symbol.


Air Force Academy Probe Widens

Air Force Academy Chief Under Review

from Associated Press

DENVER - The Air Force is reviewing the conduct of the No. 2 officer at the Air Force Academy, a born-again Christian who's been criticized for promoting his religion inappropriately in memos and speeches, The Associated Press has learned.

In a letter dated June 7, acting Air Force Secretary Michael Dominguez told a member of Congress the Air Force inspector general is looking into "allegations of improper conduct" against Brig. Gen. John Weida, the academy commandant.

Dominguez said the review is separate from an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general into whether an academy chaplain was transferred early for suggesting evangelical Christians wield too much power at the school.

The letter was written to Rep. Lois Capps, a California Democrat who along with 46 others in Congress signed a letter demanding quick action at the academy. She shared the letter with the AP. It does not include details of the investigation, including Weida's conduct.

Weida has been criticized for sending out an e-mail promoting National Prayer Day in May 2003 and for a memo telling cadets they are accountable first to their God. Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa last week said he has spoken to Weida about both instances and that Weida recognized they were mistakes.

An academy spokesman, Johnny Whitaker, said Weida would not be available for comment. Whitaker also declined to comment, as did an Air Force spokesman.

The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a report to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in April alleging that cadets were being pressured by born-again Christians to join their faith. Former and current cadets said students, faculty, staff and members of the chaplains' office frequently pressured them to attend chapel and receive religious instruction.

The Defense Department investigation involves Capt. MeLinda Morton, who says she was fired from her chaplaincy at the school and her transfer to Japan was hastened because she spoke out about the academy's religious climate. School officials said her move was routine.


The Devil Doesn't Have PayPal?

Unemployed Economist Tries To Sell Her Soul to the Devil

from AFP

SANTIAGO - After three years of unemployment, a desperate Chilean economist offered her soul for sale to the Devil on the auction website Deremate.com, hoping the real payoff would be more attenion for the dire straits of her country's jobless.

"Mr. Devil, should you show up, here you have a really precious soul and quite cheap really," Patricia Valazquez wrote, with an offering price of about $4,300.

"I am selling my soul - noble, really beautiful and gently used," the 35-year-old mother of a three-year-old added.

That was before the Devil failed to show, but other offers started pouring in, asking what the model number was and if her soul came with any guarantee - and if she would take a used car as partial payment.

She told AFP Thursday the sale was off.

"Now I would rather just shut up."


Blasphemy Illegal? God Dammit!

'You have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering the name of our Lord, and so, as a BLASPHEMER, you are to be stoned to death!'

Bible-Belt Town Bans Blasphemy

from Reuters

AMSTERDAM - The name of the Lord may no longer be taken in vain in the Dutch village of Staphorst.

Staphorst, in the so-called Dutch "bible belt" of eastern towns where religion holds sway, approved a ban on swearing by 13-4 council votes.

But the caveat that swearing is not banned when it is an expression of the constitutional freedom of speech may make it difficult to punish offenders.

"A ban on swearing can be seen as a signal," the council's proposal said, adding a change in moral values was needed to address the underlying problem.

Past swearing bans in bible-belt villages were declared in violation of the right to free expression in 1986. One other town has such a ban - Reimerswaal, in the southwestern province of Zeeland.

The Dutch association against swearing, which runs national billboard campaigns to admonish the bad-mouthed Dutch, says the Bible outlaws swearing.

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain," it quotes Exodus 20:7.

Escape Equal Justice...Through God

Man Chooses Church Over Jail Sentence

from United Press International

London, Ky. - Scott Hays had three sentencing choices in London, Ky., after pleading guilty to a drug charge: go to jail, go into rehab or go to church.

He chose church.

The Louisville Courier-Journal said Judge Michael Caperton, a devout Christian, believes church attendance might help people convicted of crimes to find spiritual guidance.

He told the newspaper: "The goal is to help people and their families. I don't think there's a church-state issue, because it's not mandatory and I say worship services instead of church."

But some civil libertarians and constitutional scholars told the Courier-Journal that Caperton's unusual sentencing procedure raises serious constitutional problems.

A Louisville American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, David Friedman, told the newspaper: "The judge is saying that those willing to go to worship services can avoid jail in the same way that those who decline to go cannot. That strays from government neutrality towards religion."