Friday, December 21, 2007

Current Faith Issues and Controversies

Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Welcome to a blog you can trust. As a journalist with more than 20 years of experience, I offer straight news, opinion, and humor – all based on legitimate sources. Send comments and ideas about ethics and faith issues to

What's new?
New resource for grieving parents
Christian Animal Rights Movements Seeks Supporters
Sharpton Continues to Lash Out at Mormons
Sharpton Is an Anti-Mormon Bigot
Media Shows Bias in Kent State Coverage
Sharpton Has No Right to Slam Imus
Purim Reflections: It Happened Again
Finding the Art of Joy
A Father's Tribute to His Late Son
Read how one father uses his blog to cope with his son's passing.
Why Does Pope See Bob Dylan as False Prophet?
In San Diego, a Disingenous Start to Lent
Master of the Jinn, by blog contributor Irving Karchmar, is now available as an e-book.
Is Ted Haggard on the Straight and Narrow?

Check Out My Other Posts!

Complete Blog Index
Samples of my journalistic work

Visit My Personal Blog
I have just started a blog in memory of my beloved cat companions.
I Will Remember You

New resource for grieving parents

By Lisa Haddock

Talented blogger Alan D. Busch has released Snapshots: In Memory of Ben, a book about the loss of his son. If it's as good as his blog (The Book of Ben), we can expect a first-rate resource for anyone dealing with grief.

Victoria Valentine of Water Forest Press writes, "The author’s words are honest and candid, as he shares family history and relays with impact, the untimely death of his beloved son. A ‘straightforward—deep-from-the-heart-and-soul read.’"

I wish Alan the best with this new project. To learn more about the book, visit the
Snapshots Web site.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Christian Animal Rights Movement Seeks Supporters

Editor's note: This notice, about the Christian Yorade Movement, was sent by animal rights acitvist Jan Fredericks. She is the founder of God's Creatures Ministry.

The Holy Spirit is trying to speak to our hearts to return to the first commission God gave humans before the fall, to have dominion over (yorade -- which means to come down to; to have communion with and compassion for) the animals. This commission was given in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, when all of God's creation lived in harmony, when people and animals ate vegetation. Read more ....

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Sharpton Continues to Lash Out at Mormons

Al Sharpton: Will he ever shut up about Mormons?

By Lisa Haddock

Editor's note: I am not a Mormon, nor do I have any connection to the LDS Church.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is still making excuses for saying Mormons don't believe in God. (See news story.) And in the process, he continues to insult the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). reports that Sharpton made these statements to various media outlets after his initial comments on Mormon religious beliefs.

"If ... any member of the Mormon Church was inadvertently harmed or bothered or in any way aggrieved because of the distortion of my words or the lack of clarity of my words, they have my sincere apology." Note: It's not his fault. His words were distorted.

"If prior to '65 or '78 - whenever it was - they [Mormons] did not see blacks as equal. I do not believe that as real worshippers of God because I do not believe God distinguishes between people."

"What is bigoted about asking ... about a denomination based on racism?"

"I believe if any religion preaches supremacy or unequalness, they are not true believers in God."

Who cares what you believe, Al? You're not the pope.

Recent reports say Sharpton called LDS church Elders to apologize for his hateful, bone headed-remarks. According, an LDS spokesman says the church considers the matter closed.

The Bible says out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Sharpton's comments show a true bias against LDS Church. Let's see whether Sharpton can truly repent publicly for his bigotry, and, for once, admit he is wrong.

To learn more about LDS beliefs, visit

See my previous posts about Sharpton:
Sharpton Is an Anti-Mormon Bigot
Sharpton Has No Right to Slam Imus

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Al Sharpton Is an Anti-Mormon Bigot

The mouth that roared: Al Sharpton.

By Lisa Haddock

I'm taking off the gloves when it comes to the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The so-called civil rights activist publicly insulted the religious beliefs of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
In published reports, Sharpton is quoted saying: "As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation."
Of course Mormons believe in God. The church's first article of faith states: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
Who the heck does Sharpton think he is? And what is he talking about? And why is it relevant? As far as I'm concerned, Sharpton has shown himself to be a bigot and a hypocrite. I hope someone, somewhere, has the guts to call Sharpton on his own bigotry and force him to take responsibility.
He hounded Don Imus off the air for his hateful remarks. Someone should hold Sharpton to the same standards. (See my previous post on this issue.)
If Romney has said something negative about Sharpton's beliefs, you can bet the good Reverend would be out calling for a national protest and hand-wringing party.
Maybe Sharpton should travel to Salt Lake City to make a personal apology to Mormon Church President Gordon Hinckley and other Latter-day Saints.
Given the Mormons' emphasis on upright living, I'm sure they would treat him with more compassion than he ever showed towards Imus.

For more about Mormon beliefs, visit the Web site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Media Shows Bias in Kent State Coverage

The burning of the university's ROTC building was part of the buildup to the May 4 shootings. Protesters cut fire hoses and then chanted anti-war slogans as the building burned to the ground. (

By Lisa Haddock

If you're a news junkie like me, you've seen the stories about the newly discovered audiotape of the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970.

Recent reports are remarkably slanted, because, quite simple, they do not put the shootings in context. According to Alan Canfora, the tape reveals the voice of a National Guardsman giving the order to start the shooting, which left four people dead and numerous others injured.

It's important to note that days of lawlessness (including violence against the National Guardsmen) led up to the tragic shootings. (See Wikipedia for timeline.) Buildings were burned (including businesses in downtown Kent). Now what do the business owners of Kent, Ohio, have to do with the Vietnam War? And over a period of days, student-protesters defied repeated non-violent attempts to disperse. They even threw tear gas canisters back at the Guardsmen.

It's my guess that a lot of today's news executives were anti-war hippies back in the day, and their bias is showing. "Four dead in Ohio," the reports say. Well, for those of you under the age of 50, that line is from the Neil Young opus Ohio -- a blistering anti-war anthem. Perhaps these media types are dating themselves?

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer called the shootings "the most tragic episode" in the Vietnam War. What about My Lai? What about the fall of Saigon?

Vietnam was a sad, awful chapter for Americans and more importantly for the people of Southeast Asia.

Anti-war protesters of the Vietnam era had every right to assemble peaceably and voice their complaints against the government. But the Kent State demonstrations were not peaceable. Reckless, violent acts began a tragic chain of events led to the catastrophe of that day.

Those of us who care about truth, accuracy and ethics in the media are obligated to demand better coverage.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sharpton Has No Right to Slam Don Imus

By Lisa Haddock

Radio personality Don Imus is taking a beating for insulting the Rutgers women's baskeball team and quite deservedly so.
I'm not going to repeat his loathsome racist, sexist remarks on my blog, but you can find them on many media outlets, including CBS. The anti-Imus firestorm of criticism is more than justified. Imus was hateful, nasty, and disrespectful. He's been on the radio long enough to know how far is too far.
And clearly, the I Man went way over the line.
But as far as I'm concerned, the Rev. Al Sharpton has no right to take part in the condemnation.
Despite Imus' numerous groveling apologies and explanations, the reverend (and many others) say Imus should lose his job.
That opinion is well-founded, but Sharpton is not the right man to deliver the message. Why? Sharpton is guilty of life-destroying comments he won't back down from.
Let's take a stroll down memory lane.
Twenty years ago, Sharpton was the spokesman for Tawana Brawley, a young black woman who concocted a story that she had been raped by several white men in Wappinger's Falls, N.Y. (See official documents on Court TV.) Though her story was quickly discredited, Sharpton engaged in a non-stop, vicious attack campaign against anyone who disagreed with Brawley. Alleging rampant racism and conspiracy, the civil rights activist made one brutal comment after another.
Sharpton defended Brawley's refusal to meet with the New York state attorney general, comparing the proposed discussion to forcing "someone who watched someone killed in the gas chamber to sit down with Mr. Hitler." (
Slate also reports that, at one point, the preacher alleged that the Irish Republican Army was involved in a coverup.
Sharpton's imprudent comments eventually landed him in court. Steven Pagones, one of the people falsely accused in the hoax, won a slander case against Sharpton and two other activists.Worse still, the reverend has never repented of his comments -- despite the fact that one of the men Brawley falsely accused committed suicide.
What does he say now?
"I've stood by what I believe," he said in 2002, according to the Slate story. The jury who found him guilty for slandering Pagones? Well, according to Sharpton, they're just plain wrong.
My bottom line?
Imus' words are inexcusable. And maybe he should lose his job. But Sharpton is in no position to dish out condemnation when it comes to hateful, damaging speech.
As the Gospel of John says: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone."
Repentance begins with admitting one's sin. At least the foul-mouthed Imus has done that. Sharpton hasn't.

(Imus photo from

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Purim Reflections: It Happened Again

The scroll of Esther, which is read at Purim. (Photo from Virtual Beit Midrash.)

Editor's note: Purim was celebrated this year from March 4 to 5. You may find more of Alan D. Busch’s writings at The Book of Ben.

By Alan D. Busch
(Copyright Alan D. Busch, 2007.)

I am torn.
We are to be joyful during the month of Adar.
After all, isn’t it the month when we celebrate Purim, as an observance of national salvation, when good overcame evil and Haman and his sons died on the gallows which he had built for Mordecai?
They hanged Haman and his sons al ha etz, on the gallows. Conversely, the Hebrew etz also means a tree, a symbol of the Jewish people itself, as is Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life.
And if you are wondering about God whose name does not appear in the Megilat Ester, the Scroll of Esther, He was there, just hidden but indisputably present, steering the helm of history through His masterfully skillful use of nissim, His vast, miraculous wonders.
The demise of Haman parallels that of Pharoah. The evildoers met their ends, each in a different manner of death, but which, in both cases, had been intended for the descendants of Jacob whom they despised.
It worked out nicely for us. We survived and the would-be slayers were themselves slain.
However, there remains behind a problem for people who grieve insofar as the injunction to be joyful poses an emotional conundrum for them.
While each joyous holiday in Judaism forges a link in the mesorah, the heritage, of our collective past, we need to remain mindful of our obligation to share the simchas ha yom with our children.
Veshinantam levanecha v’dibarta bam … but,
What if a child dies? What if tragedy of that magnitude befalls us? What then?
How can the presence of grief be reconciled with the joy we are supposed to feel at holiday time? Can happiness be mandated? Are we capable of switching grief on and off and setting it aside until the holiday is over or does it even matter any more after a child dies?

The Fortune of Friendship

I am rich.
We all have, I hope, a quintessentially invaluable friend without whom we would have to redefine our lives. And no, I’m not talking about a spouse or, for that matter, anyone in your family.
Though I suppose it possible such a friend can be a family member, I have found the bond to be paradoxically stronger when, in the absence of blood ties, there is no familial obligation.
I have such a friend.
He and his family have been my lifeline and connection to my community.


It is an absolute prerequisite to be able to grieve healthily. To think we can grieve by ourselves is a mistaken and costly approach to grief management.
Life and the pain of death are qualitatively better and more manageably experienced when we share them with caring people in a community. My shul is my community and its rabbi, my dearest friend.
Rabbi Boruch, whose remarkable family, caring attitude and irrepressible good humor have lifted me up on countless occasions, has been there for me through times thick and thin when, during these past ten years, I have faced a crumbling marriage and divorce, my son Benjamin’s struggle with diabetes and epilepsy, his death and the onset of my Parkinson’s Disease.
Certain moments become fixed in our memories, brief interactions yet leaving long trails behind. It happened one morning after minyan years ago. We were chatting in the fleishig kitchen, just Rabbi Boruch and I, about our children, naturally. We did this sort of thing almost daily but especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Friday mornings when we typically had a few extra minutes before each of us had to run off to work. On Mondays and Thursdays, we did not have the extra time due to the morning’s Torah reading.
I listened intently while he spoke beamingly of his son, Moshe, who was studying in Israel when suddenly he stopped talking.
It was not a mere pause.
“Rabbi, what? You were saying about Moshe?” hoping to encourage him on.
“No, I can’t,” he responded, determined to remain silent.
“Your son is not here anymore. I don’t want you to feel bad!”
This is the sort of person Rabbi Boruch is.

The Beginning

Two years before I met Rabbi Boruch, I used to daven in a small chapel where gathered the daily traditional minyan of the conservative shul to which I belonged.
Steamily hot one summer Shabbat morning, the heat of the morning’s sunshine pierced the brightly illumined stained glass.
The chazzan droned on and on by Musaf.
I was sitting in the front row. The stifling heat weighed heavily upon the silence of the room.
I looked behind me.
Comprised as it was almost entirely of elderly gentlemen, several of them survivors of the Holocaust, every one of them had fallen asleep. The whole minyan except the chazzan and me though I think I was more awake than he.
I looked around. There would be enough for a minyan if I left.
And so I did.

Happening by Rabbi Boruch’s Shul

I needed fifteen minutes to arrive at my destination even at a feverish pace, but I knew happily where I was going as much as where I wanted to be.
Having passed through a wooden archway just off to the right of his garage, there was nowhere else to go but down the steps leading to the basement where I hoped to find the shul.
“This has ‘gotta’ be it,” I muttered to myself.
As I soon discovered, I opened a door to a place oozing with haimishness. Peeking inside, I espied a bearded man with an infectious smile, his cape-like tallis afloat in the breeze of his eager gait, tzitsis flying, heading toward me invitingly.
“Come in. Come in. Bruchim Habaim!
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Before he undertook to build a synagogue adjacent to his house, Rabbi Boruch had opened up his home to the congregation where it met in his converted basement.

Grieving in Shul

It seems invariable.
Melancholia overtakes me whenever I am there.
I don’t think it debilitating, short-lived as each instance is, but it remains a constant in the equation of my grief.
Yet, I know this is where a grieving Jew should be because it is a makom kodesh, a holy place, wherein I feel the presence of my son Ben in its most intense manifestation.
I’ll even venture a remark that may seem odd to some. As strong a pull as it is to stand before Ben’s grave, I struggle to sense his presence. Oh yes. I know his body is beneath my feet, but that’s just it. Ben’s body remains, but his neshuma is elsewhere.
I believe that it hovers in shul when I am there. Ben spends time with me that way, I suppose. It is his way of making up for the time when I sit alone.
I felt it recently on Purim. It is different than any feeling I experience anywhere else including Ben’s room from which I write these words.
You see, no sooner than I take my seat in the row behind my dear friend, Rabbi Boruch, I look over the mechitza to the yahrzeit panels on the south wall and see Ben’s name, the eleventh one in the first column on the first panel.
Though I fully expect this grief, I am thankful to take my seat each time. We have a tradition in shul life that one’s seat becomes his set place, a makom kavua.
I should tell you Ben was not a regular shul-goer. His seat is next to mine.
Nobody else sits there.
Whether it be the mystery of Purim, the revelry of Simchas Torah or the trepidation of Yom Kippur, my son remains by my side.
Other fathers have their sons sitting next to them. I miss that but I possess something they do not-the certainty my son lived a life abundant in loving-kindness.
Time moves forward inexorably. It pauses for no one. That Purim morning I lamented how much time has passed without Ben.
I am daily reminded his absence is forever. No matter though how many years have already gone by or however many are yet to come, Ben’s death will always be for me in the present tense.
I will never say: “Once upon a time I had a son named Ben.”
I won't tell you I'm not glad to be alive because I know I am a better person for having known and loved Ben.
He taught me so much.
Still ... know there are moments when I am filled with guilt that it was he and not I.

Glossary of Italicized Terms

Adar: Hebrew month during which Purim is observed.
Al ha etz: on the gallows
Etz: tree
Etz Chaim: Tree of Life
Megilat Ester: Scroll of Esther
Nissim: miracles
Mesorah: heritage
Simchas ha yom: joy of the day
Veshinantam levanecha v’dibarta bam: Thou shalt teach them (commandments) to thy children and speak of them …
Shul: synagogue
Fleishig: having to do with meat
Daven: pray
Minyan: a prayer quorem of at least ten men
Chazzan: cantor
Musaf: additional service
Haimishness: social atmosphere characterized by warmth, togetherness and hospitality
Tallis: prayer shawl
Tzistis: wound and knotted ritual fringes looped through the four corners of the tallis
Bruchim Habaim: Welcome
Makom kodesh: holy place
Neshuma: soul
Mechitza: partition dividing men’s from women’s section in an Orthodox synagogue.
Yahrzeit: anniversary of a death
Makom kavua: a set place

Read Busch's Tribute to His Late Son

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finding the Art of Joy

By Lisa Haddock

I live in a permanent state of pessimism. And as for living in the moment? Forget it.

Despite my melancholy nature, I had an uncommon flash of joy – courtesy of the Louvre Web site.

Last night, for the umpteenth time in my life, I looked at the Nike of Samothrace, the 2,000-year-old Winged Goddess of Victory.

Thanks to my liberal arts education, I knew that this ancient Greek statue represents the fleeting nature of victory. Like a bird, she can fly away at any moment.

But here’s what occurred to me last night.

This beautiful piece of stone is a monument to the human spirit. No matter how difficult life can be, joy can be found in the human heart. Victory, winged and fleeting as she is, does sometimes touch the ground.

How cool is that?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Father's Tribute to His Late Son

Alan D. Busch has put together a first-rate blog that I recommend for anyone dealing with grief.

As Alan describes his project, "The Book of Ben" is a father's response to the life-shattering experience of losing his first-born child, Benjamin Z"L. It is an ongoing attempt to pick up the shattered pieces and put them back together again although what reemerges is never quite the same as the original. I do hope it serves to remind us there are no guarantees of tomorrow, hugs are for today and yesterday's tragedy is forever.

A recent post says, quite beautifully, "The absolute enormity of a child’s death leaves one feeling so insignificant, so powerlessly tiny. To have to navigate these treacherous waters daily is no simple task as we are invariably reminded of how vast is God’s ocean while we remain adrift in such a small boat!"

I offer all my best to this courageous blogger! Please show your support by visiting the site.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Why Does Pope See Bob Dylan as False Prophet?

The late Pope John Paul II greeting Bob Dylan in 1997. (Newsday)

By Lisa Haddock

Pope Benedict XVI has again expressed his disdain for popular music, according to a report published by March 9, 2007, by The Sydney Morning Herald.

In a new memoir, the current pontiff writes that he thinks of legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan as a false prophet. He describes his uneasiness about Dylan's performance at a youth conference in 1997 – attended by Pope John II. At the time, Benedict (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) was chief enforcer of Catholic doctrine.

"There was reason to be skeptical. I was, and in some ways I still am – over whether it was really right to allow this type of 'prophet' to appear."

His attitude stands in contrast to that of Pope John Paul II, who reached young people in a language they understood. In fact, John Paul II quoted Dylan's song Blowing in the Wind at that 1997 conference, which was attended by 300,000 young people. The late pope held popular musicians – including Bono, Ricky Martin and B.B. King – in the highest regard. (See MTV obituary.)

The current pope has written:

"Pop music .. ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. 'Rock' on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship." (Statement on Sacred Music.)

To be sure, Benedict XVI has an undeniable appreciation for the arts.

"It is important to recognize the ... benefits of introducing young people to children’s classics in literature, to the fine arts and to uplifting music. ... Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour." (Message for World Communications Day, Jan. 24, 2007)

Pope Benedict is a first-rate musician in his own right, and a sophisticated thinker, possessing one of the world's finest minds. But his opinion as to what constitutes "uplifting music" is off-putting and even snobbish to us common folk, who lack his rarified tastes and sensitivities.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In San Diego, A Disingenuous Start to Lent

Bishop Robert H. Brom (left)
Passing the Buck?

By Lisa Haddock

For the Diocese of San Diego, Lenten repentance seems all about “do as I say, not as I do.”

The diocese may try to wiggle out of a court fight with more than 140 alleged sex abuse victims by declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to an Associated Press report published on Feb 19.

In a statement read at Masses throughout his diocese, San Diego Bishop Robert H. Brom wrote: “We are painfully aware of the harm that the victims of abuse have suffered, and we want to treat all of them fairly and equitably. At the same time, good stewardship demands that settlements not cripple the ability of the Church to accomplish its mission and ministries. Consequently, we must consider how best to fairly compensate the victims while at the same time not jeopardizing our overall mission. If this cannot be done through settlement negotiations, the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court.”

The statement, issued just before the penitential season of Lent, should raise eyebrows among the faithful.

Church teaching stipulates: “One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much” (Catechism 1459).

Are there two sets of rules operating here? One for the faithful? Another for the hierarchy?

Yeshiva University Law Professor Marci Hamilton argues that the bishop is being inconsistent.

“Brom pits the victims against the parishioners, as if they were somehow adversaries. Of course, this is far from true: The victims were children of past parishioners. And if they had not been brave enough to come forward, then current parishioners' children would continue to be at the same risk as they were. These are two groups joined in a commonality of interest, not two groups at loggerheads.”

As I have written elsewhere in this blog, the laity have the right and the duty to speak out “on matters which pertain to the good of the Church.” They may address their opinions to “the sacred pastors” as well as to the rest of the Christian faithful (Canon Law 212, Paragraph 3).

For the health of the Church, they should do just that.


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Novel Explores Sufi Mysticism

Editor's Update: Master of the Jinn is now available in e-book format.

By Irving Karchmar

As a spiritual person and writer, may I commend to you my book, Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel, a mystical adventure tale on the Sufi path of Love. In the name of the Merciful, 10% of all profits go to charity.

Here is a tale set on the Path of the Heart, a mystical adventure wherein a modern-day Sufi master sends seven companions on a quest for the greatest treasure of the ancient world - King Solomon's ring. It is the very same seal ring of a hundred legends, given to King Solomon by God to command the Jinn, those terrifying demons of living fire.

By sea and across deserts, they are led by a strange faqir guide of many names. Through the mightiest of storms and into a lost city, the travelers come at last to the gateway of the Subtle Realm, the land of the Jinn.

But the quest has a strange effect on everyone chosen to go: visions enter their dreams, remembrances and tears fill their hearts, and mysteries abound; unearthly storms and unending night, the Gates of Heaven open at last, and invincible demons of smokeless fire.

It is a tale woven of ancient legends found in the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Koran, and although it is set in the present, the search for the truth of the ring leads them into a circle of ageless destiny, where the companions discover not only the fate of the Jinn, but also the Path of Love and the infinite Mercy of God.

Master of the Jinn Web site
Wikipedia article on Sufism
Read excerpt

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ted Haggard: On the Straight and Narrow?

Above, Ted Haggard in a prayerful moment/

By Lisa Haddock
NJ Faith Forum Editor

Disgraced Evangelist Ted Haggard, former head of the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, is straight as a pin. Or so says a pastor who counseled him.

Haggard lost his position at New Life Church in Colorado Springs after he first denied and then admitted sexual impropriety with a male prostitute.

"He is completely heterosexual," said the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur, Colo., in a report published on Feb. 7 by CNN. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

This incident raises the proverbial questions:

Is homosexuality a choice? Can it be cured? Should it be cured?

The vast majority of experts say no. But some religious groups disagree.

Read both sides of the argument: