- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned Scientology’s more vocal friends and foes from editing articles about the religion, a move that worries some in the Internet community.

Wikipedia has blocked contributions from computers at the Church of Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters, as well as some critics of the religion.

The move is aimed at diminishing a long-running war of words between the two groups, said Dan Rosenthal, a spokesman for English Wikipedia.

Some bloggers worry the site is stifling free speech. Rosenthal said it is standard practice to ban users found violating rules designed to keep people with an agenda from propagandizing.

The decision to shut out the Scientology computers was made after hundreds of articles became virtual battlefields. The case was reviewed by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee, a body of volunteer editors elected by users to resolve disputes. Several Scientology computers and about 40 users from both sides of the debate were locked out.

Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said she did not know of any church members editing Wikipedia but was glad the site had banned Scientology critics, who were engaged in “biased editing for the purposes of antagonism as opposed to providing accurate information.”

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology

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In reversal, student at UCLA graduation can personally thank Jesus

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A University of California, Los Angeles student can thank Jesus in a personal statement to be read during graduation ceremonies, even though an administrator initially barred use of the Christian reference, the university said.

The university supports “the First Amendment and in no way intended to impinge upon any students’ rights,” senior campus counsel L. Amy Blum wrote in a letter.

Students in the Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology Department were asked to submit short statements that will be read as they cross the stage to receive their degrees on June 13.

Student Christina Popa’s statement read, in part, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The student affairs adviser for the department objected to the Jesus reference and asked her to substitute it with “I want to thank God” instead, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious-freedom group that took up Popa’s cause.

When Popa protested, the administrator told her the only other option would be to forgo any statement, the ADF said.

The department was concerned that the university could be seen as endorsing a specific religion because an administrator would be reading the statement aloud, Blum wrote.

“The Department will continue its efforts to make clear that all of the statements read are the personal statements of each student,” Blum wrote.

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https://www.ucla.edu

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Court rules that courthouse Ten Commandments monument endorses religion

DENVER (AP) _ A federal appeals court has ruled that a Ten Commandments monument outside the Haskell County, Okla., courthouse endorses religion based on public comments made by county commissioners after it was installed.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the monument, which is part of a historical display, “has the primary effect of endorsing religion” when taken in context with the small community of Stigler, Okla., where it sits.

They sent the case back to Muskogee, Okla.-based U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White so he could issue a new ruling consistent with their ruling. In August 2006, White rejected arguments that the monument promotes Christianity at the expense of other religions.

“Whoever was the judge in this, I feel sorry for him on Judgment Day,” said Haskell County Commissioner Mitch Worsham. “We’re not going to take it down.”

Haskell County’s attorneys can ask all the judges on the appellate court to review the panel’s decision, or appeal the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Worshom said they are considering an appeal.

One county commissioner, who wasn’t quoted by name in the panel’s ruling, said after the privately funded monument was installed: “That’s what we’re trying to live by, that right there…. The good Lord died for me….”

Commissioners argued the monument should be viewed as private speech because the lawn includes a public forum for other types of speech that include monuments honoring those who have died in wars.

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Reformed Church in America adopts apartheid-era ‘standard of unity’

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) _ Leaders of the Reformed Church in America have adopted a declaration of human unity, reconciliation and justice written in South Africa during apartheid.

The Belhar Confession is the New York City-based church’s fourth “standard of unity” and its first new one since 1619, nearly four centuries ago. The General Synod approved it while meeting in Holland.

The document was written in 1982 by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, a black denomination in South Africa. It says race “or any other human or social factor” should not divide the followers of Jesus Christ.

The church’s other historic standards are the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort and the Belgic Confession.

The Reformed Church in America also decided, after considering a report on a three-year dialogue on homosexuality, to continue that dialogue. The discussion followed a 2005 church trial of an ex-New Brunswick Theological Seminary president who performed his daughter’s lesbian wedding.

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https://www.rca.org

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Suit claims NJ woman fired for wearing Muslim garb

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The U.S. Justice Department has sued Essex County over its firing of a corrections officer for wearing religious headwear.

The suit was filed in federal court in Newark on Monday on behalf of Yvette Beshier.

It claims Beshier was first suspended and then fired by the county for wearing a khimar, or Muslim head scarf.

The suit seeks monetary damages and also to require Essex County to adopt a policy that accommodates the religious observances and practices of employees. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin or religion.

A county spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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