Friday, April 10, 2015

Press-Tribune: Controversy Grows Over Ouster of NNU Professor

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 9:23 AM

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A conversation on the campus of Northwest Nazarene University is less about graduation lately and more about what happened to faculty member Thomas Oord.

This morning's Idaho Press-Tribune reports that university officials refuse to confirm that Oord was let go, but did say that six layoffs were part of recent budget cuts. Meanwhile, a Facebook page—"Support Tom Oord"—has already picked up 1,300 followers who have a laundry list of questions following the dismissal of the theologian and systematics professor. Supporters say that Oord has been regularly challenged by NNU officials to "respond to questions about this theology in order to stay in good standing with the church," faced a possible heresy trial in the summer of 2014, and was fired in spite of being a tenured professor.

“He cared so deeply for us as students,” Phil Michaels, associate pastor of the Durand (Mich.) Church of the Nazarene told the Press-Tribune. “It was like he said ‘I will teach you some information to form us and prepare us for our lives.’ He definitely holds some of what are controversial views. He doesn’t push his views, though."

Meanwhile, supporters said they've started a GoFundMe account to raise awareness of their plight and plan on wearing T-shirts with a quote attributed to Oord: "I plan to live a life of love."

And just this morning, a letter from Randy Craker, the Chair of the NNU Board of Trustees, was addressed to university employees:

As Chair of the Board of Trustees, I pledge to you that the board will give careful attention to the input received. Your voice has been heard. There are valuable lessons for all of us to learn. But my purpose for writing today is to clarify where I believe we are, and to urge us forward.
We are in a place where decisions have been made, policy has been followed, and now we must find ways to live into the new reality. Those steps must be taken by all. I commit to work with our president and the board to ensure our future. I invite the campus community to work redemptively with us.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rajan Zed Receives Thank-You Letter from 700 Idahoans, Calls for Apology from Sen. Nuxoll

Posted By on Sat, Mar 14, 2015 at 9:34 AM

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed - COURTESY RAJANZED.ORG
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Rajan Zed
, the Hindu statesman who read the Idaho Senate invocation March 3, has received a thank-you letter, signed by 700 Idaho citizens. Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, called for Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood) to apologize for her comments following the invocation, including saying "Hindu is a false faith with false gods." 

Better Idaho, which calls itself "the state's most ambitious communications organization," sent the letter, thanking Zed for his visit to Idaho. 

"It was a great opportunity for Idahoans to learn from a religion and a culture that is rather uncommon in our great state," the letter reads, followed by the names and hometowns of the 700 signatories. 

On its website, Better Idaho posted a note explaining that the letter was a "simple and clear message: Idahoans respect others... It's too bad [the message] was ever in doubt, but the behavior of three lawmakers—one in particular—made a rebuke necessary."

Religious leaders from around the region have joined Zed's call for an apology.

Take our reader poll to let us know if you think Sen. Nuxoll should apologize, and watch the video below to see what some Boiseans think.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

UPDATE: More Religious Leaders Join in Call for Apology from Idaho Senator Over 'False Gods' Comment

Posted By and on Sat, Mar 7, 2015 at 1:41 PM

Sheryl "Sherry" Nuxoll - SHERYLNUXOLL.COM
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As Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sherry Nuxoll doubles down on her controversial comments regarding guest chaplain Rajan Zed—who opened a March 3 session of the Idaho Senate with the chamber's first-ever Hindu prayer—more religious leaders are joining in to call for an apology from the senator.

The spotlighted comment: "Hindu is a false faith with false gods."

Now, Rabbi Daniel B. Fink has joined the ranks of those demanding Nuxoll issue a mea culpa.

In a written statement, Fink, who serves as rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise, said, "As people of varying faith traditions, we believe that mutual respect is essential for the well-being of our community and state. If we are to prosper, both spiritually and economically, we must learn to listen to one another with respect."

Fink called Nuxoll's comments "both hurtful and foolish."

He joins Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Native American spiritual leaders in calling on Nuxoll to apologize to Zed.

ORIGINAL POST: 11:15 a.m., March 6, 2015

While the Idaho Senate opened its March 3 proceedings with a Hindu prayer from guest chaplain Rajan Zed, a handful of Republican senators remained outside the chamber in protest: Lori Den Hartog (Meridian), Bob Nonini (Coeur d'Alene), Sherry Nuxoll (Cottonwood), James Patrick (Twin Falls), Jim Rice (Caldwell), Jeff Siddoway (Terreton) and Steve Vick (Dalton Gardens). 

Vick had gone so far as to lodge a complaint against Zed delivering the invocation, but leadership opted to proceed with the prayer. Nuxoll chimed in against Zed, as well.

"Hindu is a false faith with false gods," she said.

Now, religious leaders from across the country are calling on Nuxoll to apologize.

In a letter to the Idaho Legislative Services Office, Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Edwards wrote that it was "disappointing to me that certain Senators protested [Zed's] prayer and spoke disparagingly of his faith. An apology certainly seems to be in order."

According to an email from Zed, more than a dozen leaders representing a range of faiths are also demanding Nuxoll apologize.

Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, a Jewish faith leader in Nevada and California, wrote that Nuxoll "should be called upon to offer a public apology and perhaps even be sanctioned by the Senate for her inappropriate, insensitive and insulting remarks."

Father Charles T. Durante, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno, wrote that "I find it sad that some legislators in Idaho could not respect the importance of religious diversity by their presence at a brief prayer."

This is not the first time Nuxoll's comments have sparked national controversy. In 2013, the three-term House member's comments comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust were reported across the country: "Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange." 

Zed is also no stranger to controversy. As president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, interfaith ambassador of the Nevada Clergy Association and spiritual adviser to the National Association of Interchurch and Interfaith Families, he has spoken to members of the European Parliament and in 2007 delivered the first Hindu opening prayer in the United States Senate.

His appearance in the U.S. Senate sparked protest from groups such as the American Family Association and Faith2Action, and included several outbursts from members of the group Operation Save America.  

Zed opened a meeting of the Boise City Council with a Hindu prayer in 2010, which also prompted protest. His invocation in the Idaho Senate was the first-ever Hindu prayer read in the chamber.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hindu Prayer in Idaho Senate: 'Lead Us From Darkness to Light'

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 11:01 AM

When the Idaho Senate was brought to order Tuesday morning at 10 by Pro-Tem Senator Brent Hill, nine Idaho Senators were marked as absent—seven of them deliberately standing outside of the Senate chamber. They had little desire to be on the Senate floor as guest chaplain Rajan Zed offered a Hindu prayer for the morning invocation.

According to the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell, the seven senators who remain outside were Sens. Bob Nonini, Sherry Nuxoll, Lori Den Hartog, Jim Rice, James Patrick, Jeff Siddoway and Steven Vick. Vick had lodged a formal complaint in an effort to prevent a Hindu prayer from being shared in the Senate chamber. All seven entered the Senate chamber and took their seats when the prayer was over.

"Lead us from the unreal to the real, lead us from darkness to light, lead us from death to immortality," said Zed in his prayer, some of which was read in Sanskrit. "Peace; peace; peace be unto all."

And with that, Zed shook Hill's hand and the Idaho Senate experienced another "first." Zed has gained fame to offering invocations for a number of public entities, including the U.S. Senate. In May 2010, he recited a Hindu prayer to open a meeting of the Boise City Council.
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Idaho Lawmaker Tries to Block Hindu Prayer in Senate Chamber Today

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 9:31 AM

When the Idaho House and Senate gavel into session, proceedings usually get underway with an invocation. But one Idaho lawmaker only wants a particular kind of prayer at the Statehouse.

This morning's Coeur d'Alene Press reports that Dalton Gardens Republican Sen. Steve Vick tried to block a Hindu invocation which opened this morning's Senate session. Vick said he opposed the invocation because, "I just don't think we should go in that direction." Vick insists that there were other legislators opposed to the Hindu prayer, but, "I guess I'm the only one to do it publicly."

In a Feb. 28 Facebook post, Vick wrote, "I am working to get it stopped," but the Press reports that Vick's effort to block the invocation have been stymied. 

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who is slated to give the invocation, also gave the first Hindu prayer ever to be heard on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Zed was expected to read from the Bhagavad Gita in his March 3 prayer at the Idaho Senate.
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Bishop for Catholic Diocese of Boise To Be Installed December 2014

Posted By on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 12:43 PM

Idaho's Roman Catholic Community will have a new faith leader in December when the Rev. Peter F. Christensen of Superior, Wis., is installed as the eighth Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise.

On Nov. 4, Pope Francis announced from the Vatican that he had accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Driscoll, who submitted his letter of resignation in August when he turned 75 years old. Driscoll was ordained as a bishop in 1990 and was appointed bishop of Boise in 1999.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time serving the people and the Catholic Church of Idaho," said Driscoll. "I am thrilled with the selection of Bishop Christensen as the next bishop of Boise. He is a man of energy and prayer and love for the church, and will find in Idaho a community of committed and faithful."

Christensen will turn 62 years old on Christmas Eve, 2014. One week prior, on Sunday, Dec. 17, he will be installed at St. John's Cathedral. 

"This a wonderful and diverse state with beautiful mountains and prairies, deserts, rivers and green valley," said Christensen. "Yet nothing reveals the love of God for this community more than the good works and faithfulness of his people."

Christensen was educated at St. John Vianney College Seminary and St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota. He was ordained as a bishop in 2007 and has served in the Diocese of Superior Wisconsin. 

Driscoll will continue to oversee the daily governance of the diocese until Christensen is installed.
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Muslim Cemetery Plans in Kuna Move Forward Despite Controversy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Members of the Islamic Community of Bosniaks are running out of places to bury their deceased loved ones while still observing Islamic religious law, according to KTVB. They've been using a part of Morris Hill Cemetery, but now they're working with Ada County for a new cemetery near Kuna.

The 36 acres were donated by a person within the congregation, with 10 to be set aside for a cemetery and possibly a new mosque. The land will consist of 6,000 graves, with a 2,400-square-foot operations building, according to a report given to the Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Once approved, though, the commission came under fire by a citizen who tried to appeal the county commission's decision. According to a report from the Idaho Press-Tribune, controversy arose over Muslim burial practices, where bodies are not buried in coffins, but rather in white cotton or linen cloth, and buried only three feet from the surface. 

A resident from Kuna submitted a letter presenting concerns over animals digging up a corpse and spreading disease, costing community money and hurting Kuna's aesthetic value.

"Any time you're dealing with religious items, there's a lot of passion that goes with that too," Dave Case, chairman of the Ada County Commission, told KTVB.

The commissioners voted to deny the appeal, allowing the congregation move forward with its plans for the cemetery, but with a few minor changes. The mosque serves 380 families from all over the Treasure Valley.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creationist Museum Opens in Boise

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 12:10 PM

The debate over creationism is about to evolve in Boise.

The Vision Center for the Northwest Science Museum opened for business on June 14 at 1835 Wildwood St. in Boise. That's where the public has been invited to preview exhibits and talk with creationists about the theory behind their disagreement with mainstream, evolution-based science.

Organizers hope to raise funds for a fully developed creationist exhibition center sometime in the future.

"The Northwest Science Museum is different from anything that's been done before, because it will explain the biblical and naturalistic point of view side by side," Doug Bennett, a geologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Boise, said in a promotional video. 

Stan Lutz, a Boise-based "field paleontologist" also speaking in the video, described the museum as containing artifacts that will challenge the evolutionist perspective. 

"Our goal here is to present true science that has been hidden from the public. We have artifacts that absolutely confound the most ardent evolutionists. We have some things that some creationists have never heard of," said Lutz, a former longtime farmer who studied at the Creation Science Evangelism Institute in Pensacola, Fla., and has been associated with the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas.
An artist's rendering of the Northwest Science Museum. - NORTHWEST SCIENCE MUSEUM
  • Northwest Science Museum
  • An artist's rendering of the Northwest Science Museum.

According to the NSM prospectus, the proposed museum would be 300,000-450,000 square feet, possess the first "full-size" Noah's Ark replica in the United States, contain a planetarium, chapel and lecture hall, and include all the usual museum amenities like a gift shop, a cafe and a picnic area. The prospectus estimates that more than 100,000 people would visit the museum and generate $20.4 million in business for the Treasure Valley every year. The prospectus provided no estimate for how much the facility would cost. 

Though the museum website states the facility would engage creationists and evolutionists alike, it's openly adversarial toward the consensus scientific point of view, with the video linking the founder of modern evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, to Adolf Hitler at the 1:22 mark. Its stated mission is to "strengthen the visitor's faith in God and the Bible. It will give the visitor the information they need to trust the Bible and what it says about the creation of the universe."

"This goal makes available the resources necessary for an individual to continue to study Biblical creation science on his/her own so he/she will be well versed and can give an answer to anyone who asks about origins," the website claims.
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Westboro Baptist Church Leader Fred Phelps Dies

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died, aged 84. - WIKIPEDIA
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  • Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, has died, aged 84.

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps has died, aged 84, of an as-yet-undisclosed illness, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. A fire-and-brimstone preacher at his Kansas-based fundamentalist church, he gained national attention in the 1990s for picketing military funerals and other events with signs bearing slogans like "God Hates Fags," and for his role in the events following the death of Matthew Shepard, as depicted in the film The Laramie Project

Phelps' activities tested the limits of freedom of speech and religion. His roving congregation traveled the nation to voice its disapproval of homosexuality, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and preach the gospel of an angry God prepared to smite a world full of sinners. The LGBT community, minorities, Jews, immigrants, celebrities and other public figures all drew his ire, and he deployed placard-wielding members of his family—sometimes children as young as 7—to the funerals of Frank Sinatra, Sen. Barry Goldwater, Coretta Scott King and others.

According to a BBC documentary, he was the patriarch of the "most hated family in America." The Southern Poverty Law Center called his congregation, largely comprised of members of his extended family, "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America."

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

In Major Shift, LDS Church Sending Out More, Younger Women Missionaries

Posted By on Sun, Mar 2, 2014 at 3:00 PM

In what is being called a fundamental shift in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more young Mormon women will be participating in missions in the coming years, expecting to trigger sharp drops in some of the region's colleges.

This morning's New York Times reports that the change comes from an October 2012 decision from the LDS church to lower its age for female missionaries from 21 down to 19. The Times reports that so many women signed up right out of the gate that a number of colleges saw immediate drops in enrollment and "the standard image of a Mormon missionary, a gangly young man in a dark suit, was suddenly out of date."

The Times' Laurie Goodstein and Jodi Kantor report that LDS church leaders "have been forced to reassess their views because Mormon women are increasingly supporting households, marrying later and less frequently, and having fewer children."

“The great unfinished business in the church is gender equality,” Joanna Brooks, an English professor at San Diego State University who often writes about her experiences as a Mormon woman, told the Times. “An increasing number of young Mormon women are growing up in a world where they not only can work, but have to work, and they are operating 12 hours a day in contexts where gender is irrelevant, but in a church structure where all financial and theological decisions are made by men. This will just stop making sense.”

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