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Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

PARIS (RNS) Amid mounting protests in Europe against the Gaza conflict, political and religious leaders in the region have sharply denounced anti-Semitism within their borders.

“Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies,” the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy said in a statement Tuesday (July 22) from Brussels.

Fears of escalating unrest are perhaps sharpest in France, home to Europe’s largest populations of Jews and Muslims. Many have roots in North Africa, and violence in the Middle East resonates strongly here. Thousands defied a government ban against Paris-area protests over the weekend, staging pro-Palestinian rallies that degenerated into violence.

“We have had eight synagogues attacked. We have had shops attacked,” said Roger Cukierman, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. “We have heard crowds shouting death to the Jews — not death to Israel.”

Muslim and Catholic leaders also denounced the violence at an interfaith ceremony late Monday in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where a synagogue and Jewish businesses were attacked.

France’s government has cracked down, arresting dozens in recent days and vowing a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism.

French authorities also warn that extremist groups are trying to capitalize on public anger over Gaza, at a time of growing alarm over French youths joining conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Beyond events in the Middle East, France also remains haunted by its World War II past — memories that resurfaced last weekend, as the country commemorated the 1942 rounding up and deportation of thousands of Paris-area Jews under the Vichy regime.

Courtesy: Religion News Service
Publication date: July 23, 2014

(RNS) The use of corporal punishment on disobedient students — commonly known as paddling — will be banned this coming school year in three counties in Florida and two in North Carolina.

That still leaves hundreds of school districts in the 19 states where the practice is still legal.

As the number of studies showing the negative effects that corporal punishment can have on children has increased, the number of students paddled in public schools nationally has decreased — going from 342,038 in 2000 to 217,814 in 2009-10, according to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Studies have shown that in states where paddling is allowed, it’s used disproportionately on minority students and those with mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

A 2008 Human Rights Watch report found that although African-American students made up 17.1 percent of the student population nationwide, they made up 35.6 percent of those paddled. The report also notes that children with disabilities in Texas made up 10.7 percent of the student population in the 2006-07 school year but accounted for 18.4 percent of those paddled.

Efforts to ban paddling at the state and national levels have made little progress.

“Most people don’t even know that corporal punishment is still going on in this country,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., who has reintroduced a bill in Congress to ban the practice in public schools each year since 2010. “It’s not just harmful physically but also psychologically. There are so many other ways of handling discipline.”

Although McCarthy’s legislation has repeatedly stalled, policies are changing at the district level. Superintendent Mark Garrett said McDowell County, in North Carolina’s southern Appalachian Mountains region, banned corporal punishment this spring to protect students.

“As we learned more about the effect corporal punishment has on kids, we knew we had to change our policies,” Garrett said. “It’s always better to be on the proactive side.”

Paddling still goes on in too many areas, most of them rural, said James McNulty, founder of Floridians Against Corporal Punishment in Public School.

“In the places where it goes on, it’s out of control,” McNulty said.

In southeast Georgia’s Coffee County, Superintendent Morris Leis said his school district allows paddling because it’s an effective form of punishment.

“We won’t paddle a student if a parent doesn’t want us to, but we don’t get a lot of complaints,” he said.

Tim Wyrosdick, the superintendent in Santa Rosa County, Fla., said paddling was “very popular” among the majority of parents there. But the county banned the practice in June after parents accused three teachers who had administered corporal punishment of mistreating their children.

“We made the decision to protect the teachers,” Wyrosdick said. “Parents would agree to the paddling and then change their minds. It was putting the teachers in an unfair position.”

Mississippi, Texas and Alabama are among the states with the most students being paddled in school — with more than 100,000 incidents reported in the three states in 2009-10, according to the Office of Civil Rights.

George Holden, a psychology professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said those numbers are mostly coming from smaller, rural districts. He said the practice is banned in Texas’ largest cities: Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

Holden described paddling as counterproductive, saying it doesn’t lead to students’ changing their behavior in the long term.

“It makes students angry, less likely to communicate with teachers and less motivated to succeed,” he said.

Julie Worley, a parent of three in Houston County, Tenn., west of Nashville, agrees. She said she’s been fighting corporal punishment in her district since 2008, when her seventh-grade son was threatened with paddling.

“This is about our children’s basic human rights,” Worley said. “Study after study has shown the mental trauma that paddling causes. There needs to be federal legislation.”

Deborah Sendek, program director of the Center for Effective Discipline, which seeks to abolish corporal punishment in U.S. schools, said the potential for injury shouldn’t be downplayed.

“We teach educators how to manage a playground, oversee a cafeteria and teach a curriculum,” Sendek said. “But there’s no one teaching you the ‘right’ way to hit a kid.”

Anti-paddling activists say that even if parents object, teachers who use corporal punishment often have immunity from legal prosecution.

The parents of Trey Clayton sought legal help when their son fainted and fell — fracturing his jaw and five teeth — after being paddled by the assistant principal of his Mississippi high school in March 2011.

“If the parents had done this, they would be behind bars and probably never see him again,” said Joseph Murray, an attorney who represents Clayton’s family.

But Murray said that both the district-level court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit have rejected the argument that Clayton’s constitutional rights were violated.​

(Rachel Chason writes for USA Today.)

Courtesy: Religion News Service


Publication date: July 23, 2014

A burned cross was found Tuesday morning at a Baptist church in Tennessee.

A church member of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church reported the fire and police were called to the scene at the mostly black church.

Sgt. Charles Gill, of the Clarksville Police Department, said the incident was a hate crime. There are no leads on the case, he said.

"Whoever did it, we forgive them," Pastor Vernon Hooks said Tuesday afternoon as he gathered with church members outside the church. "That's the message, that we are a forgiving church and we'll let the police do their job."

Hooks lives in Nashville and drove to Clarksville Tuesday.

There was no property damage other than the cross and scorch marks on the gate. Hooks said Tuesday that the church had not received any hateful messages or threats. He said he doesn’t know who may have burned the cross.

An incident like this has never happened, he added.

“I’d heard of this,” he said. “I’ve seen it perhaps at other churches, other buildings, but not in a million years did I think this would happen to New Hope because we are a close community.”

A prayer meeting is scheduled for today.

The church has 150 to 200 active members.

Publication Date: July 23, 2014

Clay Olsen sees pornography addiction among youth as a serious problem. So serious, in fact, that he won’t rest until the world knows the harmful effects of porn.

Olsen, cofounder and executive director of the pornography recovery program called Fight the New Drug, backs up his claim with research:

“ ‘The more research that comes out has shown us that pornography works like a drug when it comes to the brain,’ Olson explained. Learning more about the addictive nature of pornography has led to the discovery that ‘the brain is capable of healing and rewiring back to a healthy state.’

“ ‘We aim to help youth understand that not only does porn cause serious damage in their own lives, but also understand it as a social injustice that we need to collectively stand against.’ ”

Fight the New Drug maintains a website with a free online program to help youth fight their addictions. The videos, written with the help of therapists and psychologists, rely on the “science of addiction” to form a “battle plan” for success.

Example: "Gen 1:1" "John 3" "Moses" "trust"
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