Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beauty Queen Not Fit To Be Judge: Pageant

She might be a witch, but Stephanie Conover says that's no reason for officials at an upcoming Toronto beauty pageant to reject her as a potential judge.

Conover, who was crowned winner of the Miss Canada Plus Pageant last year, said she was recently invited to be a judge at the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant on Feb. 2.

"Then, last week, on Monday, they asked me for a biography. I told them everything I do, how I'm an entertainer and a singer and a dancer. I talked about my charity work and I said I also have hobbies, including songwriting, knitting, painting, yoga, reiki and tarot cards."

That's where things got sticky.

"We just got her bio a week ago and we don't agree with it," said Karen Murray, Miss Toronto Tourism pageant director. "We want someone down to earth, not someone into the dark side or the occult."

"Our board of directors has eliminated her as a judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and is not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians. Tarot card reading is witchcraft and is used by witches, spiritists and mediums to consult the dark world."

The letter went on to quote a couple of passages from the Bible, including one from the book of Leviticus that warns, "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spirits for you will be defiled by them."

"We hope that Stephanie Conover will turn from these belief systems and will repent from her practice of them," the letter reads.

Conover said she practises Wicca, which to some means she's a witch. But she said the Miss Toronto Tourism people didn't know that and that they based their rejection of her on tarot cards and reiki. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Council Votes To Alter Prayer Policy

Tulsa's City Council voted Thursday to change an unwritten policy so that people can name a deity when praying before the council's regular weekly meetings.

The council's previous prayer policy, which prohibited the use of the name of Jesus, Allah or other religious figures, had prompted complaints.

Prayer leaders must be from a recognized congregation within the city.

Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry Executive Director James Mishler also spoke against the change, questioning who would decide what is a "recognized congregation."

"I think the very people who have been encouraging you to make this change are going to be very uncomfortable when the priest from the Hindu temple is standing here chanting in the name of Krishna or when someone from the Wiccan community offers prayers to the earth mother," he said. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wicca Couple Hold Aussie Themed Pub Day

A couple is planning to recreate their Wiccan wedding day on Saturday to celebrate taking over a village pub.

Ash Self and Joy Buchanan-Self officially started work as landlord and landlady of The Chequers Inn in Wrestlingworth this week, and tomorrow they will be holding an Australian Day to introduce themselves to the community.

The couple, whose dream it has been to run their own pub, married in 2005 in a modern witchcraft ceremony and they will be holding a similar service tomorrow to bless the pub. Full Story

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Attorney Predicts Trouble For Livingston Fortune-Telling Law

Livingston Parish officials have been advised by their lawyer that they would likely lose a lawsuit over the parish ordinance against soothsaying.

A Wiccan minister, Cliff Eakin, has sued the parish over the ordinance.

The ordinance, passed last year by the Parish Council, states: "No person shall engage in the practices of soothsaying, fortune telling, palm reading, clairvoyance, crystal ball gazing, mind reading, card reading and the like, for money or other consideration." Full Story

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Banish Criticism Spell

Color of the day: Crimson
Incense of the day: Jasmine

It is human to be critical of ourselves. What we fail to realize is that our self-criticism can be harmful. Often, we fail to understand that self-criticism is not self-assessment. Self-assessment is positive, as it allows us to see paths for change and improvement. During this time of the waning Moon, focus on letting go of self-criticism. On a piece of paper, write down all the ways you criticize yourself. Fold the paper into quarters and, while folding, think about never addressing yourself in those negative ways again. Light a white candle by your burning dish. Tear the folded paper seven times, drop it into your burning dish, and ignite it. As the paper goes up in flames, see your criticism of yourself going with it. As the ashes cool, meditate in the light of the candle on the following mantra: “It is not what I am that holds me back; it is what I think I am not.”

By: Winter Wren

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Anonymous Hackers Take On The Church Of Scientology

A group of vigilantes calling themselves Anonymous have posted a video explaining the recent attacks against the Church of Scientology.

A copyright violation claim by the Church of Scientology against the posting of one of its videos to YouTube has prompted a full-on assault by a group calling itself Anonymous.

The video, in which Tom Cruise proclaims, in part, that Scientologists are the only experts on the mind, was pulled by YouTube over the weekend at the request of the Church of Scientology as part of a long-standing effort to keep copyrighted material from appearing on the Internet. Other sites have since posted the Cruise video in full.

In response to the take-down of the Cruise video, a group of vigilantes--calling themselves Anonymous, or Anon--have retaliated against what they consider to be Internet censorship. Full Story

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Dog Leash Goths 'Hounded Off Bus'

A Goth who leads his girlfriend around with a dog lead and collar was stopped from getting on a bus amid fears for passenger safety, a bus firm confirmed.

Dani Graves, 25, and his fiancee Tasha Maltby, 19, of Dewsbury, West Yorks, claim they have been discriminated against by bus firm Arriva Yorkshire.

The black-clad couple said they had been told to leave one bus and prevented from boarding another. Full Story

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ghost Hunters Check Out Spookiness At Air Base

Workers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base design and develop warplanes, ferry supplies to troops and analyze data from spy satellites. Finding ghosts is not in their job descriptions.

So when reports of strange sights and sounds, unexplained voices and weird lights began to pile up, high-ranking base officials weren't sure what to do. Members of their public-affairs team took over.

They turned to the Sci Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters show. The cable program features Rhode Island plumbers-by-day Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, lead investigators for the Atlantic Paranormal Society. The two travel the world investigating reports of ghosts and other paranormal activity.

The ghost hunters spent a week recently at Wright-Patterson, including three nights operating cameras and recording equipment in buildings where strange activity has been reported. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

White Witch's Spell In Clergy Comes To An End

A clergyman has spoken of his decision to resign as a Church of England priest after concerns were raised about him training to become a white witch.

The Rev Chris Horseman agreed to resign his licence to officiate at church services as an Anglican priest following a meeting on Wednesday with the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Price.

The decision will mean that Mr Horseman will no longer be able to conduct services in any C of E church

The Evening Post revealed in December how the 53-year-old, who ordained as a priest with the Church of England in 1982, was training online with the College of Sacred Mists in California.

Mr Horseman said: "I am saddened but not surprised this has happened." Full Story

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

'Witchy' Woman (TV Movie Review)

What did you expect from Hallmark - "Macbeth"?

No old crones with warts on their noses and high, conical hats on their heads are seen stirring the contents of great cauldrons in this new TV movie titled "The Good Witch" about a young, beautiful, witchy woman who moves to a small town named Middleton to take up residence in the village's most mysterious house.

She might be a witch, or she might be some kind of magician. But, more likely, she's just more New Age-y than anyone else in this narrow-minded and somewhat mean-spirited little burg - which means some of the local watchdogs don't take kindly to her presence, or her new shop on Main Street, where she sells herbs and potions that strike them as strange. Full Story

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Wicca: Mortal And Immortal Consequences

A news article within the last week reported that two children were slain when a spell that was cast, went wrong. Whether you believe this or not, there is certainly a group or organization devoted to witchcraft, and their adherents seem to be on the rise.

The origins of Wicca come from Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. It is widely believed than Wicca theology started around the 1920’s. It seems as though Wicca is a variety of witchcraft founded on religious and magical concepts.

In the United States Wicca has been given a legal imprimatur as a religion, though many question this description. The various traditions of Wicca are part of the new-pagan group of earth-based religions.

But benign is not a good description of Wicca. Their attacks on any form of Christianity seem to be a must. They insist on the equality of men and women and accept any sexual orientation, and possibly species variation. It’s amazing how gender equality has always been a mainstay of any Christianity, but Wicca plays up perceived differences. A Wicca can allegedly cast any ‘love’ spell at will. Full Story

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Melting Spell

Color of the day: Purple
Incense of the day: Clove

Is there a chill between you and a friend? Are things in your life frozen and you long for a thaw? A winter day in the waning Moon is the time to create warmth from the cold. If there’s snow outside, get about a tablespoonful of it. Otherwise, prepare ice chips from the freezer. As you gather your snow or ice, visualize the thing that is frozen. Set up your altar with a cauldron or other fire-safe container over a flame. The snow or ice is in the cauldron. The flame is not yet lit. Have a fire extinguisher handy. Ground and center. Make a statement of intent; something like, “This is the coldness between Joe and me. This coldness melts away.” Light the fire. Tone or chant, “Warming! Heating! Melting!” or similar words. When the snow is melted, send a final wave of power into the cauldron. Say, “So mote it be!” Allow the water to evaporate.

By: Deborah Lipp

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Excommunicated Pastor Draws Praise And Condemnation From Pagans And Christians

Pastor Phil Wyman would be the first to agree that he’s a black sheep among clergy. An expert on Wicca, a well practiced interpreter of dreams, Wyman has been an avid participant in the city’s annual Halloween celebration, supporting a holiday many Christians believe to be a symbol of darkness and the occult.

A little over a year ago Wyman was excommunicated from his church, accused of getting too amicable with the city’s Wiccan community because of controversial missionary tactics that included operating a pagan-Christian discussion forum, offering Web site links to pagan sites and fostering personal friendships with witches.

Today the church continues to operate, although it no longer has a parent church, and has about 45 members.

Wyman’s mission is to break stereotypes about Christians and Wiccans. He says many Christians don’t realize Wicca is a nature-based religion. Full Story

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Friday, January 18, 2008

DIY Religions Cause More Harm Than Good

Meditation, crystal therapy, self-help books - think they're making you happier? Think again. A Brisbane academic has found a strong link between new-age spirituality and poor mental health in young people.

Rosemary Aird examined a possible correlation between new forms of spirituality and mental health as part of her University of Queensland PhD studies.

After surveying more than 3700 Brisbane-based 21-year-olds, she found spirituality and self-focused religions may undermine a person's mental health.

"I had a look at two different beliefs - one was a belief in God, associated with traditional religions, and the other was the newer belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God," Dr Aird said.

The research found non-traditional belief was linked with higher rates of anxiety, depression, disturbed and suspicious ways of thinking and anti-social behaviour. Full Story

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Witchcraft In The County

After a more than a decade as a county headteacher, some would say that David Robertson has had enough experience of ‘little devils’ to last him a lifetime!

So it’s maybe just as well he’s turned his attention to witches, which he explores with some aplomb in his debut book.

Goodnight My Servants All aims to dispel popular misconceptions surrounding the condemnation of hundreds of supposed witches during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Keen historian David, 62, of Forthview Road, Longniddry, spent four years researching this hefty tome of 600 pages, which is jam-packed with records of trials, witness statements, and church records translated into modern-day English.

“I have always been interested in local history and I often did talks on the subject,” he said. “I found that people kept asking me questions about witchcraft. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The End Of Celtic Christianity In Ireland

More than a century after the Synod of Whitby (664) ostensibly resolved various conflicts between Celtic and the Roman Christianity, the two churches continued to grow apart.

The Celtic Church, with its strong tradition of monastic schools, missionary outreach, and ascetic self-denial, remained at odds with the hierarchical, urban-based, and materialistic Roman church.

Ireland´s geographical isolation had allowed it to sustain a separate religious existence, even as it sent holy men and women to spread the faith in Europe. Oddly enough, the end began when the Vikings invaded Ireland at the beginning of the 9th Century.

When the Nordic raiders plundered the monasteries at Glendalough, Bangor, Moville, Clonfert, Clonmacnois, and Kildare, they caused many monks to move to safer settlements inland, and others to flee to mainland Europe. Viking coastal communities would eventually grow into the cities of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick and Cork.

During the 10th and 11th centuries, Scandanavia was converted to Roman Christianity, and many Nordic Christians settled in the cities founded by the Vikings. These became centers of Roman Christian belief, while the countryside, where the majority of native Irish lived, remained largely Celtic Christian. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Remains Of 12,000 American Indians Stored Under UC Berkeley Gym

There is a legend at the University of California, Berkeley, that human bones are stored in the landmark Campanile tower. But university officials say that's not true — the bones are actually stored beneath Hearst Gymnasium's swimming pool.

The remains of about 12,000 American Indians rest in drawers and cabinets in the gym's basement. Many of them were dug up by university archaeologists and have been stored under the pool since the early 1960s.

The bones now are at the center of a dispute between American Indians who want to rebury their ancestors and university officials who have been slow to hand over the remains.

Under the 1990 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the museum is required to identify the tribal origins of its bones and artifacts and return them to federally recognized tribes that request them.

So far, the museum has repatriated the bones of about 260 individuals. The museum's possession of so many remains troubles American Indians who believe that the spirits of their ancestors cannot rest until their bones are properly buried.

Lalo Franco, cultural heritage director of the Tachi Yokut tribe, calls the bones' current resting place "a dungeon" and the scientists who took them "grave robbers with a license." Full Story

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Letter: Backlash Against Wiccan Community

The moment I heard that the man charged with murdering the two girls was claiming that he was casting a spell on them I flinched because I knew that it would cause a backlash on the Wiccan community. The fear people already feel about a religion that they know very little about is going to cause many of those to point fingers and say, "See, that's why witchcraft is evil" or "See, people who do witchcraft are evil."

And the fact that our police chief makes comments such as, "You're talking about people casting spells, spells gone bad. Obviously, there is a lot more going on here than a straightforward homicide," makes that fear of the unknown even more intense. Full Story

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Breaking Winter Doldrums Spell

Color of the day: Yellow
Incense of the day: Pine

January is rough. It’s cold and dark, and winter doldrums can set in. This is just the right time for a spell of creativity enhancement. Everyone is creative. Some can sing and dance, others have a green thumb or a way with animals. Some are wordsmiths or good cooks; others are good at magic. Begin by drawing a symbolic picture of yourself with some images representing the talents you’d like to develop. Draw yourself writing in your journal, or taking photos, or working in your garden. Next, create a small altar in a place that you see every day. Place the drawing on your altar with some other items symbolizing the talents you wish to enhance. Be creative with this—use a packet of seeds, a paintbrush, or a favorite CD as symbols. Wednesday is Mercury’s day, of new beginnings and creativity. Light a yellow candle, visualizing yourself doing what you love. Each day take some time, even if only a few minutes, to practice your talent. Place offerings on the altar—flowers, fruit, wine, stones—that further symbolize your resolve to nurture your burgeoning talents.

By: Ruby Lavender

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Parents, Pastors Worry That Film Is Inappropriate For Young Children

When Signe Cohen took her 9-year-old son to see “The Golden Compass,” she knew she was taking him to a controversial children’s movie.

Cohen, an assistant professor of Asian religious studies at MU, had read the best-selling first novel of atheist Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. She knew the fantasy book was critical of organized religions but didn’t think it was opposed to religion altogether.

“He thought it was wonderful,” Cohen said of her son’s reaction to the movie.

But some Christians would question her decision to let her son see “The Golden Compass.” In the month since the release of the film, church leaders across the world have condemned it as a damaging influence on young audiences.

This movie subtly explores how churches impose their values on adolescents. The term “Magisterium” has replaced all of the book’s direct references to the church. According to Cohen, the term “Magisterium” in reality is associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

“Call them fantasy or not, they are stridingly anti-religious ... knocking belief,” said the Rev. Jeremy Secrist, associate pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes.

Secrist also suggested there is a possible threat that children who see the film would denounce religious values. Full Story

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Time For Witches To Rest In Peace

Flames leapt into the cold afternoon air as Agnes Sampson's body was burnt at the stake on Castlehill. She had earlier been strangled to death after being found guilty of dozens of offences under the Witchcraft Act, including dancing with the Devil in a North Berwick church and attempting to sink King James VI's ship, and now a jeering crowd gathered to watch as her body was engulfed by the fire.

The year was 1591 and Scotland was gripped by a climate of religious paranoia which manifested itself in a fear of witches. Agnes, who was a widow and midwife, but also a devout Catholic, would normally have been expected to live and die without making any mark on history.

Instead she became one of the 4000 ordinary people – mostly women – who were tried, tortured, and executed after being accused of witchcraft throughout Scottish history, often as a result of their religious beliefs. Full Story

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spells, Herbs and Surgery: Medical Care In A Provincial 19th Century Balkan Town (Part 1)

The town of Pirot in southeastern Serbia, along with several other small towns in the region and many villages, were under the constant influence of their geographical location on one of the main transport routes in Southeastern Europe. This influence not only affected material culture; it also have very deep roots in the mental structure of the local population and therefore in the attitude to the physical side of their existence.

The period 1800-1914 in the region along the Nisava River (Central Balkans) is interesting for research in itself, due to the many changes in politics, economy and of course in the everyday life of the local population. Even during a first reading of the official governmental documents, memoirs, journey accounts, journals and newspapers and brief notes in the margins of old manuscripts and printed books, we can see the slow changes of cultural standards which were passed from Oriental to Central and Western European models throughout the last decades of the 19th century.

As in other Balkan regions before the national revival at the beginning of the 19th century, folk medicine in Pirot County was predominant. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Airport Worker Loses Cross Case

A British Airways worker who claimed she was religiously discriminated against after being banned from wearing her Christian cross has lost her case.

Nadia Eweida, 56, from Twickenham, south-west London, said her BA bosses banned her from wearing a small cross around her neck.

But an employment tribunal said she had breached the firm's regulations without good cause.

In a statement the airline said it was "pleased" at the decision. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Link Between Astrology And Palmistry

I have touched briefly before on how the practice of palmistry was still connected to astrology during the early Western European Renaissance (see “East Meets West”). We have also explored how each finger and mound were once thought to correspond to an individual planet. In fact, the link between palmistry and astrology was not broken until well into the 19th century, when palmistry had already developed its own level of symbolism.

But palmistry as an art expanded considerably through its connection to the more mysterious art of astrology. The same sort who became involved in palmistry became equally as absorbed in astrology, and vice versa. Mystics studied all aspects of the occult and devised ways to connect its many tangential spokes.

Alchemical and astrological research went hand in hand. Full Story

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Experts: Casting Spells Not About Killing

Casting spells and the study and practice of witchcraft is nonviolent and often misunderstood, experts say.

Lawrence Douglas Harris Sr., 25, of Sioux City told investigators he was casting a spell that "had gone bad" when his stepdaughters, ages 8 and 10, died Sunday. He faces two counts of first-degree murder.

Professor Helen A. Berger, author of three books on witches, said she doubted anyone claiming to have killed children while casting a spell is a true practitioner of witchcraft or Wicca, a nature-based religion often associated with witchcraft and spell-casting. Full Story

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Family House Spirit Invocation

Color of the day: Gray
Incense of the day: Myrrh

Use today’s waning Moon energy to clear the home of unwanted, negative vibrations. Enlist the aid of your house spirit, called the Domovoi in Russian folklore. To obtain one, open the door and let your cat or a neighbor’s cat walk in. A Domovoi will follow. No cat? Place milk and cookies near the open door. You won’t see him—but don’t worry, he’s there. Once you have a Domovoi, ask him to guard and cleanse the home. For more protection, charge a lawn gnome, gargoyle statue, or similar guardian with his energy. Warning: the Domovoi doesn’t like it if you go to bed without doing the dishes. And don’t forget to leave him occasional snacks.

By: Denise Dumars

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Witchcraft Blamed In Murder Of Sioux City Girls

A mother mourns the loss of her two daughters. Their step-father is behind bars tonight accused of their murder.

The sisters were found dead in a second floor room of their Nebraska Street home. Fire crews discovered the bodies while responding to a fire call at the home Sunday afternoon. It was initially ruled suspicious.

But police are now telling KMEG 14 that they believe the girls died before the fire. Their stepfather, Larry Harris, is now charged with two counts of first degree murder.

Police say the girls were found strangled and stabbed in their home. Larry Harris told investigators at the scene that the girls were dead in their room, the victims of witchcraft gone badly. Full Story

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Friday, January 04, 2008

To Ban Or Not To Ban

A few days before setting out on Christmas break, a tiny item caught my eye in the headlines. Since I was distracted with thoughts of my impending vacation, and wired on sugar to boot, I didn’t make much of it at the time. I just glanced at the phrase: “Toronto-area Catholic school board bans Pullman fantasy trilogy.”

While I was off on my holiday, one word from that headline kept rattling around in my brain. Bans. I was supposed to be relaxing and not thinking too much about work or books, but, wow, did that word ever fester.

Now I’m back at my desk and I’ve had a chance to read this article in its entirety. It seems that after a lengthy debate that started back in November, the trustees of the Halton District Catholic School Board voted to ban — there’s that pesky word again — Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy from its library shelves. The books, including the well-loved The Golden Compass, are being pulled on the grounds that they are “not in line with” the board’s “values.”

Many questions went through my mind upon reading this article, like why is it always children’s fantasy books that are accused of being anti-religious? Full Story

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Group Calling For 'Witch' To Be Pardoned

A petition is to be submitted to the Scottish Parliament asking for support in the battle to pardon the last person to be convicted of witchcraft in Britain.

Paranormal group Full Moon Investigations will submit the petition to ministers urging them to pressure the Home Office into fully pardoning Helen Duncan, a Scottish housewife jailed for witchcraft in 1944. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Danger Signs For Religious Freedom In 2008

Let’s start the New Year with good news: With all of our challenges and flaws, the United States begins 2008 as the world’s boldest and most successful experiment in religious freedom. Where else do citizens of every faith or no faith enjoy as much liberty to practice religion (or not) without government interference?

Of course, a cynic might say we don’t have much competition. In a world plagued by religious wars, state persecution of religion, and sectarian strife, religious freedom remains the most-desired but least-protected human right for millions of people throughout the world.

Our relative good fortune, however, shouldn’t lull us into thinking it can’t happen here. Complacency is the great enemy of freedom, especially in a nation of exploding religious diversity and bitter culture wars.

Of the many signs of danger to religious freedom in America, here are my nominees for two of the most disturbing trends in 2007 to worry about in 2008. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

'Ghost Hunters' Goes International

Dark, creepy basements or old, rundown prisons are generally places the average person chooses to avoid. There are those few, however, who spend hours walking around them after midnight armed with video cameras and flashlights in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the supernatural.

For the last four years, the reality series "Ghost Hunters," which follows such a team as it explores the hidden and unexplained parts of the United States, has been a hit on the SciFi channel. Now the show has done what only a handful of television shows have managed in the past – spawned a spin-off, "Ghost Hunters International."

This new reality series airs its first hunt on January 9th at 9 p.m., and takes its night-vision investigations across the pond and over the Channel to Europe. Full Story

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