Religion news in brief

Posted: Friday, August 25, 2000

In molesting case, diocese says responsibility should be shared

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville says that if it is held liable for child abuse committed by a former priest, other people who knew about the abuse and failed to report it to the police should share responsibility. Those others include child victims who did not come forward.

Ex-priest Edward McKeown, 56, was sentenced last year to 25 years in prison after admitting he sexually molested two boys since 1995 and an additional 21 boys before then.

The former two, who were abused at ages 11 and 12 and are now teen-agers, have filed two $35 million lawsuits against McKeown, the diocese and others.

In response, the diocese has submitted a list of people who knew that McKeown was an abuser and did not report him, including the other 21 boys. Diocese lawyers have said that if the church violated Tennessee's child-abuse reporting law, then more than 30 other people -- including the 21 boys -- also failed to report their knowledge of his pedophilia.

Diocese spokesman Rick Musacchio said the diocese ''has merely responded to the suits brought against us, which required us to name other people who would have known about possible abuse.'' He said they, too, should share legal responsibility.

Church officials required McKeown to get treatment for pedophilia in 1986, and forced him from the priesthood in 1989. Church officials say that its representatives tried to report the abuse to the state's department of human services and were advised that no report was necesssary. State officials say they have no record of such a report.

Lawyers who have sued religious institutions for child sex abuse in other states say they have never seen church attorneys use the legal doctrine of ''comparative fault'' to try to spread the blame for abuse by a clergyman or former clergyman. Under the doctrine, the church would lessen the amount of any damage award it might have to pay.

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Group wants white supremacist to stay out of Montana

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) -- The Montana Human Rights Network is urging the leader of the whites-only World Church of the Creator not to relocate to Montana.

Matt Hale, 29, of Peoria, Ill., is considering settling in Montana or another state that will allow him to practice law. Hale passed the bar exam in Illinois, but an Illinois Supreme Court committee, evaluating ''character and fitness,'' denied him permission to become a lawyer.

''There's a possibility I'll be moving to Montana,'' Hale said. ''I'm looking at other states that have more of a First Amendment way of looking at things.''

While Hale ponders his options, the Human Rights Network is circulating petitions against a move to Montana.

''He's the national leader in a hate movement,'' said Ken Toole of Helena, the network's program director. ''They're the worst of the bad. This group is consistently associated with violent behavior.''

Hale said his group has a lot of supporters and ''the vast majority of them aren't committing any crimes at all.''

Network officials should be taking the opposite approach, Hale said.

''If the Human Rights Network truly believes in human rights, they should recognize my right to practice my livelihood without being penalized for what I believe in,'' he said.

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Hindus from around the world gather to reflect on their religion

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- About 1,000 Hindus from New Delhi to New York gathered in the Caribbean for the World Hindu Conference 2000 last week to reflect on the religion that unites them and the diversity of their homelands.

Many western Hindus trace their roots back to laborers who came to the Caribbean and other regions to work generations ago. In the conference host country, Trinidad and Tobago, the 1.3 million population is divided evenly between people of African and Indian decent, noted Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.

''The greatest problem facing mankind today is the failure to manage diversity,'' Panday said at the opening ceremony.

Within that diversity, Hindus still need to remember their common bond, participants said.

''The whole idea is to establish a united Hindu community across the Indian diaspora,'' said Ganeesh Sierattan, 53, an engineer living in Margate, Florida. ''There are no more geographical boundaries, and we're so dispersed, living in 120 countries. Our ancestors came here as cane cutters; now we're trying to retie that umbilical cord.''

Sri Ashok Singal, head of the World Hindu Organization, noted an increasing interest in Hinduism among Indian youth, calling it a 'great renaissance''

''Yet, imperialism and colonialism are still active and are creating fissures in Hindu society,'' he warned.

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IRS: $560,000 due from pastor accused of 'fleecing the flock'

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Federal investigators have accused a pastor of hiding his income and using church members' donations to pay for a lifestyle of fancy cars, Hawaiian vacations and a mountaintop mansion.

An Internal Revenue Service report alleged Paul Gregory Kiggins, 39, of the nondenominational Tabernacle of Praise church orchestrated a ''fleecing of the flock'' and owes more than $560,921 in taxes and penalties from 1995 alone, according to documents obtained by The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

Kiggins, of Woodland Park, confirmed the IRS has been investigating him for more than three years but said he is the victim of his ex-wife and others who are trying to block his attempt to regain custody of the couple's daughters, ages 6, 10 and 16.

He said he is negotiating with the IRS about the audit findings and declined to comment further.

So far, the IRS has not taken action against Kiggins such as seizing property. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on whether they are investigating Kiggins.

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Churchgoers in North Carolina protest school prayer ban

ASHEVILLE (AP) -- Thousands of churchgoers from across western North Carolina filled a high school football stadium to protest U.S. Supreme Court decisions prohibiting organized prayer in public schools.

Organizers urged the Christians in the stands of A.C. Reynolds High School's stadium to promote spontaneous prayer at football games this fall.

''We're trying to take a stand because we believe prayer in school is going to make a difference,'' said Carrie Wyatt, who came to last week's rally with about 30 other members of Sunrise Baptist Church in Morganton.

Organizers of the group called We Still Pray want those attending football games this fall to break into the Lord's Prayer immediately following the singing of the national anthem.

The group also has organized a petition drive urging Congress to pass legislation seeking a constitutional amendment overturning court decisions disallowing organized prayer in public schools.

The Supreme Court in June reaffirmed that any prayer in public schools must be done privately by individual students. By a 6-3 vote, the court barred school officials from letting students lead stadium crowds in prayer before football games.

The case originated in Texas, where a Catholic and a Mormon family objected to a policy of elected student representatives delivering public invocations.

End advance for Friday, Aug. 25



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