Religion news in Brief

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2012 1:00 PM
Religion news in Brief

German court: Circumcision on Jewish boys is assault

BERLIN (AP) — A German court has ruled that circumcising Jewish boys amounts to bodily harm even if parents consent to the procedure.

The state court in Cologne said the child's right to physical integrity trumps freedom of religion and parents' rights, German news agency dapd reported Tuesday.

The case involved a doctor accused of carrying out a circumcision on a 4-year-old that led to medical complications. The doctor was acquitted, however, and prosecutors said they won't appeal.

The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, called the ruling "unprecedented and insensitive."

He urged parliament to clarify the legal situation "to protect religious freedom against attacks."

Graumann said the circumcision of newborn Jews has been practiced for thousands of years and "every country in the world respects this religious right."


NJ Sen. Lautenberg introduces bill to help Indonesian immigrants reopen US asylum bids

NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) — A group of Indonesian Christians facing deportation from the United States are hopeful that federal legislation introduced Monday will allow them the chance to reopen their bids for U.S. asylum.

The bill from U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey aims to help a group of Indonesian immigrants who say they fled religious persecution by anti-Christian extremists in the majority Muslim nation.

The U.S. government allowed hundreds of Indonesian Christians to come to America on tourist visas — most of them between 1996 and 2003 — at a time when more than 1,000 Christian churches were destroyed in the aftermath of the fall of the regime of longtime dictator Suharto.

However, after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, immigrant men between the ages of 16 and 65 who had entered the U.S. on temporary visas from predominantly Muslim countries were required to register with the U.S. government or be classified as terrorist fugitives.

Many who registered did not expect to face deportation back to Indonesia, but found themselves in legal limbo as they had surpassed the time limit for applying for U.S. asylum on religious persecution grounds.

Lautenberg's bill, and companion House legislation co-sponsored by Democratic U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, would not grant them amnesty, but allow them to re-apply for asylum. The New Jersey Assembly unanimously passed a resolution last week endorsing federal legislation to help Indonesians.

Meanwhile, nine Indonesians in New Jersey who have been issued recent deportation orders have taken refuge in The Reformed Church of Highland Park, where the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale is has granted them sanctuary.

Harold Ort, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Jersey, said immigration officials have considered the merits of each case individually, and have extended a stay of removal in 25 of the New Jersey cases since the beginning of the year.

ICE officials said that as a matter of policy the agency does not usually conduct enforcement actions at sensitive locations, such as churches.


Singapore mega-church founder charged with fraud

SINGAPORE (AP) — The founder of one of Singapore's largest evangelical churches was charged Wednesday with several counts accusing him of funneling millions of dollars to his wife's singing career.

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, 47, was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust in connection with a scheme to syphon at least 23 million Singapore dollars (US$18 million) of church funds from 2007 to 2010 to finance the singing career of his wife, Ho Yeow Sun.

Known professionally as Sun Ho, the 40-year-old has put out several Mandarin and English pop albums and songs, including a 2007 collaboration with pop star Wyclef Jean called "China Wine." She was not charged Wednesday.

Kong did not enter a plea and was freed on SG$500,000 (US$390,000) bail after his passport was seized. He would face up to 20 years in prison or a fine for each charge if found guilty.

He did not comment on the accusations in court but earlier had tweeted that he trusted Jesus and referred to Tuesday, when he was arrested, as a "tough day."

Prosecutors also charged four other church leaders with breach of trust and conspiracy to commit falsification of accounts.

The charges follow a two-year police investigation sparked by local media reports that depicted Ho's lavish lifestyle, including a $20,000-a-month Los Angeles mansion. A church member had alleged in 2003 that City Harvest funds were paying for Ho's singing career, but he later retracted the statement and publically apologized to Kong and Ho.

City Harvest, which has a congregation of more than 30,000 people, said in a statement that church operations would continue as usual and declined to comment on the case.

Kong gained notice for his charismatic preaching style in front of tens of thousands of worshippers during services at the Suntec Convention Center. He said on his Twitter account Tuesday, "Tough day. I trust in You, Lord Jesus. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done!"


Mo. minister gets 4 years in prison for child porn

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri minister who told federal investigators he was addicted to pornography has been sentenced for nearly four years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Michael Alan Crippen, 53, was sentenced Thursday to three years and 10 months in prison without parole for one count of possessing child pornography. He also will be on supervised release for 20 years.

The former minister of First Baptist Church in Duenweg told investigators he had viewed images of adult and child pornography for several years — usually early in the morning before going to work.

Federal authorities began investigating Crippen after being notified by the Dutch National Police that child pornography had been downloaded on his computer from a website in The Netherlands, which had been hacked.

Investigators said Crippen admitted downloading 10 images from the site on Aug. 23, 2009. A forensic examination of his laptop computer discovered more than 360 images of child pornography, including girls under 10 years old either posing nude or engaged in sexual conduct.

"Michael Crippen said he normally looks at porn, then feels ashamed and deletes the images," a Homeland Security agent said in an affidavit supporting the felony charge.

Crippen was arrested in late October 2010 and pleaded guilty to one child porn possession count last July.

Robert McKinzie, a former minister and member of the church who stepped in briefly to perform services after Crippen's arrest, said the congregation was stunned by the allegations.

"It's cut our congregation down drastically, but we're hoping when we get a new pastor, we can overcome that pretty quick," he said.