Media Watch

Britain to Outlaw Religious ‘Hatred’

PRESS ASSOCIATION, Dec. 7 — British Home Secretary David Blunkett faces rebellion over a bill that would make incitement of religious “hatred” a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison.

On Dec. 7, some members of the House of Commons argued that the Serious Organized Crime and Police Bill would criminalize religious disagreement, although Blunkett said this was not his intent. Democratic Union leader Ian Paisley pointed out that the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer “contains many things

“contains many things that would be absolute anathema to a Roman Catholic” and asked, “Are those things incitement?”

Labor leader Gordon Prentice said, “I am still perplexed because there is no definition of religion, and 5,015 people in Sheffield gave their religion in the 2001 census as Jedi Knight. I hate Star Wars — should I be worried?”

Bethlehem Finds Peace — Seeks Tourists

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 5 — The four-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israel has not only killed thousands but has wrecked Holy Land tourism, particularly in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem remains literally scarred by a 2002 Israeli Army incursion which left bullet holes in the Church of the Nativity after a five-week siege of Palestinian insurgents inside. As a result, monthly visits to the town of Christ's birth have declined from 120,000 to 10,000, while only 1,500 visitors are likely to attend Christmas services, a far cry from the tens of thousands that once attended.

Violence has declined significantly since the death of Yasser Arafat last month, and Israeli, Palestinian and Vatican officials have signed an agreement to promote tourism, although mourning for Arafat has meant no Christmas decorations in Bethlehem. Amin Abu Kamel, who works at the Orient Palace Hotel near Manger Square, told the Associated Press, “I would like to see people. And peace.”

Kenyan Government Blamed for Priest's Murder

CATHOLIC INFORMATION SERVICE, Dec. 7 — Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci has indirectly blamed the Kenyan government for the Nov. 25 murder of Father John Hannon. Alluding to the collapse of law and order, the apostolic nuncio said at the Dec. 3 funeral of the 65-year-old Irish missionary priest, “Bandits are free to do what they want; innocent people are not.”

Archbishop Tonucci said he “was shocked that criminals could attack a mission station, cruelly murder a priest, rape a little girl and walk away scot-free” and concluded, “Security seems to be a foreign word in this country.”

Ten people have been arrested in the case.

Food Chain Apologizes for Anti-Christmas Bigotry

MALTAMEDIA ONLINE, Dec. 4 — An Australian fast-food chain has apologized to a Sydney franchise owner for ordering him to remove a Nativity scene from his counter.

Jeff Fisher, chief executive officer of the Oporto chain, said the instruction to the franchisee, a Catholic immigrant from Malta, was “politically correct” and “overzealous.”

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has condemned the secularization of the “holiday season,” saying, “You can't have a generic approach to Christmas. It celebrates an historic event; it celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth …You can't replace that.”