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17 posts categorized "Religion"

June 12, 2012

Leader of Progressive Jewish Lobby to Speak on Mideast Conflict

Jeremy Ben-Ami"Emotions run high when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of the United States in helping to resolve it," Burlington's Ohavi Zedek synagogue says in announcing a talk tomorrow (June 13 at 7:30 p.m.) by the leader of a progressive and increasingly influential Jewish American lobbying group.

Strong responses — pro and con — can be expected when Jeremy Ben-Ami (pictured), founder and president of J Street, outlines what he regards as a just and achievable resolution of the seemingly endless confrontation in the Middle East. The talk will also serve as something of a homecoming reception for Ben-Ami. He lived in Burlington for much of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, for which he served as national policy director.

While J Street's call for a two-state solution and removal of some Jewish settlements may generate controversy at Ohavi Zedek, its position appears to be gaining ground among mainstream U.S. politicians.

Continue reading "Leader of Progressive Jewish Lobby to Speak on Mideast Conflict" »

October 21, 2011

Movies You Missed 9: Red State

Red-stateThis week in movies you missed: Kevin Smith takes on the Westboro Baptist Church by making it the horror in a horror movie.

What You Missed

Somewhere in redneck America, three teens (Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun) are trying to get laid. They connect online with a much older woman (Oscar winner Melissa Leo) who invites them to her rural trailer with the promise of a simultaneous foursome (don't ask). When they arrive, the unwary horndogs quickly find themselves prisoners of the Five Points Trinity Church, a notorious local sect that waves hate-filled signs at gay and military funerals.

As if that weren't disturbing enough, out of the public eye, the congregation's tastes run to assault rifles, cattle prods, Saran wrap and ball gags. This Hostel-type teenage-nightmare scenario quickly mutates into something else, and then into something else again when the feds, led by John Goodman, storm the compound.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 9: Red State" »

October 04, 2011

UPDATE: Colchester Voters Resoundingly Reject Camp Holy Cross Purchase

618Lm-Holy-cross It's official: Voters sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Colchester selectboard today, voting to reject the $4.5 million purchase of the former Camp Holy Cross property on Malletts Bay.

The results of Tuesday's special election, announced shortly after 8 p.m., revealed that "no" votes outnumbered "yes" votes by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Out of 3069 votes cast, 2110 gave a thumbs down to proposed purchase of the 27-acre parcel, while only 959 approved of the deal.

Sam Conant, a member of the Camp Holy Cross Vision Committee, a citizens' advisory body hurriedly pulled together in late August to examine possible uses, liabilities and other restrictions on the property, expressed regret that fewer than 5000 residents turned out for Tuesday's special election. Nevertheless, Conant, an outspoken supporter of the purchase, thanked all the residents who showed up to the various open houses held at the property, as well as his fellow panel members, many of whom were against the deal.

Continue reading "UPDATE: Colchester Voters Resoundingly Reject Camp Holy Cross Purchase" »

September 15, 2011

Proselytizing Evangelicals Back at It in Flood-Damaged Towns

250LMflood In June, we brought you the story of Roz Payne, who sought assistance from 2-1-1 for her flooded North Hero camp and instead was met with a Southern Baptist prayer circle. The "help" came in the form of a minister and his wife, members of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief of New England, who, rather than helping salvage Payne's belongings that were worth saving, suggested they pray.

As Payne told reporter Andy Bromage, “I do not think holding hands in a circle in the name of Jesus helped to save the contents of my house.”

Payne complained to everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, an umbrella group for organizations that assist in crises. VOAD contacted the Southern Baptists and asked them to tone down the "spiritual triage," as church members called their actions. 

Now, in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, there are reports of similar spiritual meddling. Rev. Emily C. Heath, pastor of Wilmington and West Dover Congregational churches, says she has witnessed untrained chaplains masquerading as Red Cross volunteers in her community. 

Last week, as Heath helped organize relief efforts in Wilmington, one of the towns hardest hit by flooding, she noticed people wandering around town wearing T-shirts that said "Chaplain." Some of them were wearing badges from the International Fellowship of Chaplains, which has ties to the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination, and has been accused of fundamentalist extremism and anti-gay rhetoric.  

Continue reading "Proselytizing Evangelicals Back at It in Flood-Damaged Towns" »

May 19, 2011

James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka

TheBusThePlayPromo A few weeks ago I wrote a "State of the Arts" story about Burlington playwright James Lantz being invited to take his play, The Bus, to an off-Broadway venue called 59E59 Theaters. In the piece, I mentioned that Lantz would be fundraising to make that happen. He was a little vague at the time about how that was going to work; he was still brainstorming on it, Lantz told me.

This week, he announced his plan, and it has a surprising twist. More on that in a sec.

The unsurprising part is that Lantz decided to use Kickstarter, a web funding platform that helps people who have a creative idea, but no money, to raise some. Actually, the site helps people help themselves by describing their project/need and inviting other people to send them pledges. And despite all the scams and evil in the world, loads of generous folks are indeed sending in bucks to support ideas they like.

Of course, now that CNN's Anderson Cooper (among others) has done a piece on New York City-based Kickstarter, every person in the entire world who believes he or she has an idea worth funding will be using it. But good for Kickstarter; it's a great idea that saves the unmonied from the humiliation of begging bankers (or mom and dad) for loans, not to mention the huge bummer of being rejected. Those who don't present good ideas on Kickstarter, though, may be surprised to find that altruism only goes so far.

Anyway, Lantz has a good enough reason to solicit money: getting his small indie play from Vermont to a NYC stage would be pretty cool. But he's not relying on good will alone. Lantz's twist relies on rousing the power of hatred. Let me explain.

Continue reading "James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka" »

May 03, 2011

N.Y. Times Bureau Chief to Talk in S. Burlington About bin Laden

Neil-macfarquhar Ed. Note: Writer Kevin J. Kelley contributed this post.

Few American journalists are as steeped in the Middle East as Neil MacFarquhar (pictured), currently The New York Times' United Nations bureau chief. A fluent Arab speaker who has spent 25 years in the region, MacFarquhar will talk to a local audience next Monday about the significance of Osama bin Laden's death and the obstacles facing today's democratic revolutions in the Arab world.

Those mass movements had “put a dent in his ideology” well before bin Laden met his end at the hands of U.S. Special Forces, MacFarquhar said in a recent telephone interview. “He'd been saying change could only come through jihad, and the Arab world now sees that isn't so.”

The outcome of young Muslims' peaceful push for freedom, from Tunisia to Yemen, will do more to determine the viability of Al Qaeda than will the death of its leader, MacFarquhar suggests. The terror network was previously able to recruit members by “appealing to their frustrations with the claim that the only way to get change is by violence,” MacFarquhar observes. “If the regimes do manage to stay in power, that will again frustrate the young, and you could still see recruitment to Al Qaeda.”

Photo credit: Shawn Bailey

Continue reading "N.Y. Times Bureau Chief to Talk in S. Burlington About bin Laden" »

May 02, 2011

New Plot Twist in Mac Parker Film Fundraising Story

BOI The real-life saga of storyteller Malcolm "Mac" Parker continues to prove itself a better script than the original movie that prompted his legal and financial troubles.

The movie, "Birth of Innocence," is currently only a five-minute trailer online, though a longer version is apparently screened for investors.

As “Fair Game” readers may recall, Parker is under investigation by state and federal authorities for possible violations of securities laws stemming from a more than 10-year film fund-raising effort that netted at least $14 million from hundreds of investors and no finished film.

Parker was charged with violating state securities law and scheduled to go on trial in state court last November, but Vermont Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford delayed the trial six months to allow the feds to complete their probe. That six months has come and gone and no charges have been filed. So officials at the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration recently sought, and won, a request to delay the trial until October, so both sides could learn if federal prosecutors plan to file charges against Parker and others involved in the fund-raising scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has interviewed Parker, film investors, Parker's original editor and reportedly others involved in the movie.

Meanwhile, a group of Parker's investor allies are raising money to complete the film, and have hired a couple of Vermont filmmakers to do it. Christopher White, a Parker ally, told Seven Days that the groups needs to raise another $15,000 to $20,000 to complete the film. Per court order, Parker is barred from  handling the money.

Continue reading "New Plot Twist in Mac Parker Film Fundraising Story" »

February 17, 2011

'Right-To-Die' Bill Introduced in Legislature

DWD Presser Armed with a new poll that says 64 percent of Vermonters support a right-to-die law, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation today that would give terminally ill patients the choice of ending their own lives.

After intense lobbying, the group Patient Choices Vermont secured 43 co-sponsors for H-274, including every House member from Burlington, minus Republican Kurt Wright and Democrat Johannah Leddy Donovan. Rep. Donna Sweaney (D-Windsor) is the lead sponsor. The bill was unveiled by Patient Choices Vermont founder Dick Walters (pictured at podium) and other supporters during a Statehouse press conference this morning.

Two things give supporters hope that "death with dignity" will pass this year: Gov. Peter Shumlin supports it (former Gov. Jim Douglas did not); and a new Zogby poll commissioned by Patient Choices Vermont, and released today, shows broad support for the legislation.

The Death With Dignity National Center in Oregon, where the nation's first right-to-die law was passed in 1997, has targeted Vermont as the most likely state for a legislative victory this year. The center's executive director was in Vermont in December to meet with Shumlin and organizers for the effort. Click here for more background.

The Zogby telephone survey was conducted on February 11 and asked 600 likely Vermont voters: "Would you support or oppose legislation to give a mentally competent adult, dying of a terminal disease with a prognosis of less than 6 months to live, the right to request and take medication to peacefully hasten death?" The results: 64 percent support, 26 percent oppose and 10 percent aren't sure.

That's actually lower support for right-to-die legislation than in previous Zogby polls. A 2007 survey showed 82 percent of Vermonters supported the bill. That same year, the House voted down a right-to-die bill 63 to 82.

Continue reading "'Right-To-Die' Bill Introduced in Legislature" »

February 15, 2011

Federal Appeals Court: Sidewalk Preacher Has No Right to Shout on Church Street

William Ray Costello

UPDATE below with comment from William Ray Costello.

A federal appeals court has ruled that Burlington sidewalk preacher William Ray Costello has no legal right to shout the gospel on Church Street — even as one of the judges questioned the constitutionality of Burlington's noise ordinance.

Costello (pictured) — a born-again Christian from Milton who evangelizes with one sign showing an aborted fetus and another reading "Fags Burn in Hell" — has battled the city of Burlington in federal court since 2007, when a police officer threatened to ticket him for shouting Bible verses on the pedestrian mall.

Costello was preaching on a Saturday morning in June, when a jewelry store manager called police to complain of the noise.

Costello, who worships at the Bethel Anabaptist Tabernacle in Lyndonville, maintains the First Amendment gives him the right to preach at any volume, and that past court decisions have upheld that right in similar instances. The city argued that Costello was violating the noise ordinance and disturbing the peace of people living, shopping and dining out on the pedestrian mall. Costello was free to preach at a lower volume, city lawyers argued, but chose not to.

Click here and here for more of the back story.  

After losing in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Costello appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On Monday, a three-judge panel ruled against Costello and upheld the city noise ordinance as constitutional. (Click here to download the 26-page decision).

"Respect for Costello's right to preach does not trump the rights of everyone else," wrote Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs. "In order to secure for Costello a right to preach at the top of his lungs in a pedestrian mall lined with shops, cafes and dwellings, we would have to impair the rights of all other Burlington residents who shop, work and dine in the same compact area."

Continue reading "Federal Appeals Court: Sidewalk Preacher Has No Right to Shout on Church Street" »

September 16, 2010

Bliss and the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama Roni Harry Bliss is a cartoonist and illustrator for the New Yorker, Seven Days and children's books, among other publications. Rona Elliot is a famous rock journalist. The Dalai Lama is ... well, you know who he is. How do they fit together?

Harry let me know that Rona saw the cartoon pictured here in the L.A. Times and asked if she could present an autographed, framed copy to the Dalai Lama, whom she just happened to be visiting, even though he is not a rock star.

When she returned, Rona sent Harry a photo of herself and the D.L., clad in his customary maroon robe and adorable smile, and a non-customary baseball cap that reads, "[something I can't make out] PEACE."

Rona also told Harry that when the cartoon was translated for him, the D.L. "cracked up."

Good to know His Holiness has a great sense of humor. So does Harry's wife, Sofi Dillof, who wrote this caption.

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