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Entertainment, New Zealand - Mar 12, 2014 16:25 - 0 Comments

‘Beam me up Scotty!’ – Star Trek’s Captain Kirk arrested in land of hobbits

Actor Chris Pine, who plays Captain James Tiberius Kirk in the Star Trek movie reboots, will need more than the help of Bones and Spock to get him out of his latest mess.

New Zealand’s Ashburton Guardian newspaper is tonight reporting Pine is cooling his heels in the foothills of the Southern Alps, where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed, after being picked up by local police for driving under the influence last weekend.

It’s understood Pine had just wrapped filming Z for Zachariah when he got caught.

Other celebs in the area included his girlfriend Iris Bjork Johannesdottir and Wolf of Wall Street star Margot Robbie, although they were not directly involved in the incident according to reports.


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World - May 28, 2014 20:18 - 0 Comments

Illogical – atheists want right to pray blessings at meetings

Secular groups sign up to give ‘blessings’ at meetings

By Stephen Hudak

Orlando Sentinel

     May 27–David Williamson doubts the heavens will open up next month when he delivers a secular invocation to begin the Osceola County Commission meeting.

     In Central Florida, Christian clergy predominantly provide that service.

     But Williamson, founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, which sued last year to make atheist literature available to students in Orange County schools, hopes his brief, nonreligious ceremonial greeting June 16 will be a revelation to those accustomed to traditional public invocations that often appeal to God and invoke Jesus’ name.

     He petitioned Osceola County and two dozen other elected councils for a chance to deliver the invocation after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that legislative boards may begin meetings with prayer even if the devotion favors a religion.

     “This is not ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ because we’re not going to pray,” he said. “It’s about inclusion.”

     Five local governments have slotted the Freethought group to deliver an invocation at an upcoming meeting, including Orlando City Council, which will host Chris Allen of the Florida Humanist Association on June 23. The city of DeLand, which features a cross in its city seal, did not reject the group’s request but wanted residency information about the prospective speaker.

     Some boards require the person offering an invocation to reside in the community.

     Lake County signed up a county resident with the Freethought group to provide the invocation before the commissioners’ meetings Aug. 26 and Nov. 18. The county, which recently issued open invitations to “religious leaders and other representatives” to deliver the ceremonial message, requires that invocations be kept to a minute or two.

     Speakers in Lake also are advised to refrain from proselytizing, said county spokeswoman Elisha Pappacoda.

     Volusia County and the city of Eustis also accepted a request from Williamson’s group, which is affiliated with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organizations were embroiled in a controversy last year when they objected to the distribution of Bibles in Orange County schools and sued the district for refusing to allow pamphlets questioning whether Jesus rose from the dead.

     “I don’t expect our members will offer an atheist’s prayer,” Williamson said. “What we’re doing is offering a perspective that we all should share, a perspective that does not require a belief in a god to carry out the business of good government.”

     Allen, president of the Florida Humanist Association, which has the motto “Good Without a God,” said he has not yet written his remarks, but he expects they will sound similar to traditional invocations but without a reference to religion or God.

     The Freethought members are banking on the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, which suggested a government’s invocation practice was constitutional if it was nondiscriminatory. The justices noted that, in Greece, N.Y., where the prayer case originated, “a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation.”

     James Coffin, a Christian clergyman and executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, said he rarely invokes a deity at government invocations, appealing instead to elected leaders to provide fairness, justice and civil dialogue.

     “When I’m with Christians, I pray Christian prayers,” he said. “But when it’s in a government context … I don’t.”

     Coffin said he wants all people to feel included, especially at public gatherings and government meetings, where all citizens should be welcome, regardless of creed.

     “It makes little sense to start a meeting where we have come to solve problems together by offering an invocation that immediately excludes some people,” he said.

     But the Rev. Bruce Lieske, Orlando-based founder of Burning Bush Ministries, makes no apology for offering prayers in public settings that mention Jesus. He said he was challenged once for using a Christian devotion to open a Rotary Club meeting.

     “My response, when I was asked why, was: ‘Why not?’”

     He said he would pay special attention to an invocation delivered by an atheist at a government meeting.

     “I think it takes a lot of faith to believe there is no God,” Lieske said.


     (c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)


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New Zealand, Opinion - Jul 28, 2014 22:50 - 0 Comments

This morally and politically derelict government shames us – Amy Brooke

When Meriam Ibrahim, her little son in prison with her, was recently shackled to a prison floor in Sudan, condemned to death in two years’ time for being a Christian, she was kept fastened in leg chains while giving birth to her new daughter.

Her crime – while being Christian all her life – being convicted of apostasy because her father, whom she has not seen since childhood, was Muslim. Her husband is an American citizen.

Ibrahim’s case raised international outrage, with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron branding it barbaric, and the Times campaigning for her release. Contrast this with the way we New Zealanders have been simply fobbed off by Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully when asking what steps our government intended to take to effectively protest against the Sudan government condemning a Christian woman to death for honouring her religious beliefs. This is the same Murray McCully whose handling of the Malaysian diplomat’s alleged sex offence has been regarded as inept and incompetent.

The crux of McCully’s eventual reply to me, arriving two months later, is padded with the usual waffle about New Zealand being a strong supporter of freedom of religion or belief, etc. It states that while we “…monitor the human rights situation globally” (all talk and no action, as we know) “it would be unusual and inappropriate for New Zealand to directly involve itself in African states‘ judicial processes…{we do} not have diplomatic representation in Sudan. However, the New Zealand government continues to press for the recognition of human rights, and in this particular case, urge {sic} Sudan, via multilateral representation, to uphold their international human rights obligations.”

What does he mean by “multilateral representation”? – essentially weasel words, a cover-up for the fact that, shamefully, we have made no public protest at all. In other words, this is not only a typical politician’s letter, but dodges the fact the New Zealand government did manage after all to directly involve itself “in African states’ judicial processes” when it squeezed out a protest recently about the imprisonment of three Al Jazeera journalists. Governments know it’s a good idea to show solidarity with journalists…but a woman giving birth chained to the floor? – Our government apparently couldn’t care less.

There are so many instances now of our political masters well and truly keeping their heads down in the face of the bullying, worldwide, of those brave enough to oppose State and cultural oppression. What about murderous Islamic practices such as the recent stoning to death in Pakistan of the married and pregnant Farzana Parveen, in front of the High Court in Lahore, by her own father and family? Watched by the police themselves (in this instance not participating) along with lawyers and others passing by, it was because she had married a man other than the one her father had chosen.

Every year, because of such barbarous traditions – conveniently ignored by those drumming up the virtues of “diversity” and braying for open immigration – several hundred utterly revolting and similar killings take place in Pakistan, now being copycatted in the UK, where police have too long preferred not to know. Over-late in the day, British Prime Minister David Cameron admits that Britain has been too tolerant of Islamic radicalism, allowing violent rhetoric to flourish. Questions about British identity have at last shot up the political agenda, with over-liberal theorizing about immigration topping voters’ concerns. Australia also now has a problem policing correspondingly oppressive practices by Muslim men against their wives, daughters and sisters.

Prime Minster Key is fulsome in his praise of New Zealand and Communist China’s much-vaunted close relationship. But an Asian reminder of the Three Monkeys invokes those who turn a blind eye to evil. For all the supposed, behind-the-scenes, hard questioning of China about its appalling human rights record, many New Zealanders doubt that our government does anything of the sort. If so, why not openly?

Chinese political activist Hu Jia points out that by striking deals with China, “Western leaders…are helping a tyranny victimise its subjects.” One of China’s leading dissidents, he has accused Britain and other Western countries of “doing business with the Nazis” as the Communist Party crushed commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. According to those who witnessed the butchery of 25 years ago, little has changed in China. Under house arrest in Beijing, Hu Jia has urged Western leaders to take a longer-term view in dealings with the government of President Xi, pointing out that in the lead up to this year’s anniversary, there has been an even greater roundup of dissidents, activists, liberal academics, and human rights lawyers. And every time this happens, our New Zealand government keeps its head well down.

This is not the country for which our parents WOULD YOU LIKE TO READ MORE OF THIS STORY?

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