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He held the highest level of priesthood conferred, only on men, by the Mormon Church, and the respected position of a bishop with his own congregation. Maggie Rayner lives in Vancouver. Imagine my surprised delight to discover that an article by an angry Christian fundamentalist connected me, a relatively unknown blogger, with some of the most famous atheists in the world today.

Apparently he does not want any of his readers to be confused with facts. But if Don Hays had done a little bit more research he would have discovered my article above. If Hays had read this article with an open, honest mind I realize that's asking a lot of a fundamentalist he would realize I believe in religious freedom for everyone, especially children.

Hays' problem, like so many other dangerous dogmatists is that he does not understand the simple concept of religious freedom, which necessarily includes the right to be free from religion. The real enemies of religious freedom are fundamentalists, not atheists. Report names 50 worst countries for Christian persecution Ecumenical News International January 6, The international Christian organization Open Doors released its annual World Watch List this week, naming the 50 countries where it says Christians face the worst persecution.

For the first time in the 20 years that the list has been compiled, the situation for Christians did not improve in any country, Open Doors said.


For the tenth year running, North Korea topped the list. Open Doors reported that Christianity has been driven so far underground in North Korea that parents wait until their children are old enough to understand the dangers of practicing their faith before teaching them about it. The organization also estimated that between 50, and 70, Christian are currently interned in labor camps. No child should be taught about Christianity until they are old enough to understand that dogmatic belief can be extremely detrimental, even deadly. You need not wait for too long. Helen Ukpabio, a Nigerian evangelist, will be traveling to the United States in March where she will be preaching in Texas.

All ye people in the U. While it is laughable that there are credulous people in this world who believe in such fishy claims, the real issue that should trouble every American is that their impending guest is also a notorious child-witch hunter.

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Ukpabio alleges that Satan constantly manifests himself in the bodies of children through demonic possession, turning them into witches and wizards. Condemned as witches, these children are splashed with acid, buried alive, immersed in fire or expelled from their communities. She uses her sermons, teachings and prophetic declarations to incite hatred, intolerance and persecution of alleged witches and wizards.

Her ministry's services include deliverance sessions that identify and cast out demons. Her church has extended witch- hunting branches all over Nigeria and even to other countries. This won't be Ukpabio's first trip to the United States.

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In her last visit to Houston, Texas in , she defended herself by arguing that her critics pick on her because she is an African. She cited J. K Rowling's Harry Potter series, arguing that if Westerners do not take Rowling's work seriously, then she Ukpabio is a hapless victim of Western racism. However, while Rowling's readers tend to buy brooms, hats and "magic wands" for their children to play with, parents inspired by Ukpabio are more likely to buy machetes and physically confront the alleged demons living in their children's bodies. Also, citing Western interference and racism has now become the mantra for many unscrupulous Africans pursuing self-serving ends.

They unfairly take advantage of Africa's injurious history with the West, a topic that elicits sentimental reactions from most Africans whenever it is invoked. In many rural African settings, these symptoms are common in almost all babies. In a country where more than 10 percent of children die before they reach five years, what these babies need is immediate medical attention. By instructing gullible Nigerian parents to persecute their own children, she continues to enrich herself, through her books and remittances from exorcisms.

In this, she joins the growing list of televangelists who are fleecing poor Africans all over the continent, promising "miracles" for a fee. For the past nine years, I have worked with street children in Kenya, most of them coming from abusive backgrounds. I have watched over young boys who occasionally experience dreadful nightmares due to the trauma they endured under violent parents, guardians or relatives.

This distress haunts the children for a long time and their suffering has caused substantial inhibition of their psychological and intellectual growth. It therefore disturbs me to see Ukpabio, hiding behind the immunity of religion, inflicting even worse torture on Nigerian children. My appeal to rational Americans is to ensure that Ukpabio, with her hateful campaign against defenseless children, knows that she is not welcome in their country.

She should be met with hostility similar to the protests against the Pope's visit to the United Kingdom. While we should all respect the freedom of everyone to practice their religion, this respect should stop where it starts harming those around them. Like in the popular phrase attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

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In the name of religion, crimes against children continue with no justice or accountability from relevant authorities. However, protesting against Ukpabio's visit to America would be a step towards the right direction in giving a voice to her unfortunate little victims. A Puritan's war against religion By John M. Barry, Los Angeles Times Op-Ed February 5, In January, while conservative Christians and GOP presidential candidates were charging that "elites" have launched "a war against religion," a federal court in Rhode Island ordered a public school to remove a prayer mounted on a wall because it imposed a belief on year-old Jessica Ahlquist.

The ruling seems particularly fitting because it was consistent not only with the 1st Amendment but with the intent of Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island expressly to provide religious liberty and who called such forced exposure to prayer "spiritual rape. The 1st Amendment now defines this relationship, but understanding the full meaning of the amendment requires understanding its history, for the amendment was a specific response to specific historical events and was written with the recognition that freedom of religion was inextricably linked to freedom itself.

The church-state conflict began when Puritans, envisioning a Christian nation, founded what John Winthrop called "a citty upon a hill" in Massachusetts, and Williams rejected that vision for another: freedom. He insisted that the state refrain from intervening in the relationship between humans and God, stating that even people advocating "the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships" be allowed to pray — or not pray — freely, and that " forced worship stinks in God's nostrils.

He was a devout Puritan minister who, like other Massachusetts Puritans, fled religious persecution in England. Upon his arrival in he was considered so godly that Boston Puritans had asked him to lead their church. He declined — because he considered their church insufficiently pure. Reverence for both Scripture and freedom led Williams to his position. His mentor was Edward Coke, the great English jurist who ruled, "The house of every one is as his castle," extending the liberties of great lords — and an inviolate refuge where one was free — to the lowest English commoners.

Coke pioneered the use of habeas corpus to prevent arbitrary imprisonment. And when Chancellor of England Thomas Egerton said, "Rex est lex loquens; the king is the law speaking," and agreed that the monarch could "suspend any particular law" for "reason of state," Coke decreed instead that the law bound the king.

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Coke was imprisoned — without charge — for his view of liberty, but that same view ran in Williams' veins. Going beyond the "render unto Caesar" verse in the New Testament, he recognized the difficulty in reconciling contradictory scriptural passages as well as different Bible translations.

He even had before him an example of a new translation that served a political purpose.

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  • King James had disliked the existing English Bible because in his view it insufficiently taught obedience to authority; the King James Bible would correct that. Therefore he considered it "monstrous" for one person to impose any religious belief on another. He also realized that any government-sponsored prayer required a public official to pass judgment on something to do with God, a sacrilegious presumption.

    He also knew that when one mixes religion and politics, one gets politics. So to protect the purity of the church, he demanded — years before Jefferson — a "wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.

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    Seeking "soul liberty," he founded Providence Plantations and established an entirely secular government that granted absolute freedom of religion. The governing compact of every other colony in the Americas, whether English, French, Spanish or Portuguese, claimed the colony was being founded to advance Christianity. Providence's governing compact did not mention God. It did not even ask God's blessing. Williams next linked religious and political freedom.

    It was then universally believed that governments derived their authority from God. Even Winthrop, after being elected governor in Massachusetts, told voters, "Though chosen by you, our authority comes from God. Considering the state secular, he declared governments mere "agents" deriving their authority from citizens and having "no more power, nor for longer time, than the people … shall betrust them with.