Rifqa Bary rejects chemo, family reunion

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Rifqa Bary saga continues, but I fear there will be a tragic ending to an already tragic story. Bary, the Christian convert teen who ran away from home last year alleging her Muslim parents would kill her, apparently is rejecting chemotherapy for her uterine cancer, claiming she was cured by a faith healer. She is also rejecting a reunion with her family, whom law enforcement officials say pose no threat to her safety. The teenager became a poster child for the anti-Muslim and/or born-again religious crowd after she ran away from her Columbus home to Orlando, Florida, claiming her parents would kill her because of her conversion to Christianity three years before she fled. She eventually ended up in foster care back in Ohio. In May, the 17-year-old Sri Lankan native was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and has since had three operations. According to news reports, documents filed by her parents in Franklin County Court state that Bary is refusing chemotherapy because she claims she was healed at an event in Youngstown last month. She was allegedly taken there without her parents’ consent, and her parents want the court to force Bary to undergo chemotherapy if ...

Christian runaway Rifqa Bary treated for uterine cancer

JISHOU, HUNAN — Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, who made headlines several months ago after she ran away from her Muslim parents claiming they would kill her as an Islamic apostate, is being treated for uterine cancer. The Sri Lankan-born high school graduate has had two operations already, and awaits a third. Bary ran away to Florida in July with the help of a Christian pastor who had befriended her. Once arriving in Orlando, the girl, who says she converted to Christianity at 13, lived with married pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz for nearly two weeks before the Lorenzes told child welfare officials where Bary was. In interviews, Bary claimed that her parents were upset with her conversion and that she was afraid that her father would kill her if she returned home. Law enforcement officials from Florida and Ohio, however, reported there was no credible threat to her safety. Nevertheless, Bary has lived with foster parents in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, after her court-ordered return to Ohio in October. She turns 18 in August, at which point she will be able to leave foster care. Her conversion and flight to Florida have become a rallying point for anti-Islamic Christian ...

The Rifqa Bary saga ends with a whimper

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — Here’s the short version. Fathima Rifqa Bary, the teenaged Muslim-to-Christian-convert runaway, does not have to rejoin her parents in Columbus, Ohio. She and her folks agreed that she will stay in foster care until she turns 18 in August. Bary became a minor celebrity several months ago when she ran away from her parents, saying she feared she would be put to death for being an “apostate,” someone who had abandoned Islam. Aided by Christian church leaders in Columbus, she boarded a Greyhound bus for Orlando, Florida, to stay secretly with husband-and-wife pastors, Blake and Beverly Lorenz, for a week or so. Once her whereabouts became known, Bary entered the world of child protection services in first Florida, then Ohio, and became a poster child for religious nutjobs building up anti-Islam fervor. In the aftermath, the Lorenzes have lost their jobs. (Their church board took issue with the Lorenzes breaking the law by harboring a runaway child without notifying the proper authorities.) Her parents have lost their privacy and a great deal of their reputation. (Law enforcement investigations found the parents posed no threat to their daughter’s safety, but Bary’s anti-Islam fans still trumpet that the girl’s ...

Poignant story of one unfortunate family’s Thanksgiving 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Bary family of Columbus, Ohio, had one place setting empty last Thursday, because religious hysteria and rightwing busybodies have interfered with return of their runaway daughter to their care. That’s the tale told by Shayan Elahi, the attorney for Fathima Rifqa Bary’s father, in today’s Orlando Sentinel. Rifqa Bary ran away from her home at age 16, assisted by Christian pastors and Facebook friends who enabled her to take a bus to Orlando, Florida, where she stayed with another Christian pastor and his wife for nearly two weeks before anyone notified child welfare authorities — or her parents — of her location. Fueled by unfounded allegations that Rifqa fled her home to avoid an “honor killing,” a complete “Save Rifqa Bary” movement has blossomed from whole cloth, led by a combination of Christian activists, Muslim-haters, and otherwise well-meaning folk who think they are saving a teenage girl from certain execution. In any other situation, had a teenager been lured away from her home by friends she met on Facebook or while unescorted by her family, assisted in her flight to a different state and housed (illegally) for two weeks, her return home would have been swift ...

Ohio’s latest manufactroversy stumbles onward 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — You would think Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, was some kind of political prisoner, or a modern day Joan of Arc, instead of a runaway in foster care. People held signs that said “Free Rifqa” and “Sharia sucks. Free Rifqa Bari. (sic)” There was a large poster that showed violence done to Muslims who have converted to Christianity, as Bary said she did four years ago. People prayed, and people spoke, and people made a controversy where none exists. Hence, a manufactroversy. How many people? Well, one of the organizers demagogues, Pamela Geller, says “hundreds.” The Columbus Dispatch says “about 120.” Bary ran away from her Columbus home back in September. She and her family are Muslims from Sri Lanka, and according to newspaper accounts, her parents were perfectly OK with her reading the Bible, hanging out with Christian kids, and being a cheerleader. But her many “supporters” — most of whom are fervent Christians — fervently believe her family, or the middle-of-the-road mosque to which they belong, will put the girl to death if she is sent back to her family. Law enforcement officers discount that likelihood, but since when do True Believers™ believe John Law? The ...

Religious runaway Rifqa Bary back in Ohio, in foster care 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Orlando Sentinel reports that Fathima Rifqa Bary, the Muslim girl turned Christian (pawn), returned to her home state of Ohio, where she is in foster care pending family court proceedings. Bary, 17, fled her Columbus home last summer with the assistance of conservative Christians, who bought her a bus ticket to Orlando, where she lived for two weeks with Christian crusaders Blake and Beverly Lorenz. Several days later, the Lorenzes reported Bary’s arrival to Florida’s child protection services. The immigrant girl from Sri Lanka has become a poster child for those Christians who believe the world is heading for a showdown between the forces of good (Christians) and the forces of evil (Muslims). Feeding on apparently false accusations that Bary’s parents will kill her for leaving her faith, rabid Christians have flocked to her cause like bears to honey. An Ohio judge has wisely restricted the impressionable girl’s access to the Internet and her cell phone, which has led one anti-Islam nutjob to accuse the Ohio judge of enforcing Muslim sharia law. Last month, while under foster care in Florida, Bary appeared on a telephone conference call prayer meeting, during which she manically prayed to Jesus, ...

Teenage convert Rifqa Bary to return to Ohio 1

[UPDATE 10/16/09: For an excellent narrative of Rifqa Bary’s life before, during and after her running away, check this feature at tampabay.com. It’s the best — and least biased — account of her saga I’ve seen.] JISHOU, HUNAN — Rifqa Bary, the Muslim teen who converted to Christianity and fled to Florida (with help), will be sent back to temporary foster care in her home state of Ohio, a Florida family court judge ruled Tuesday. Bary, 17, ran away from home at age 16, saying she feared her parents would kill her for converting. Christian ministers helped her take a Greyhound to Orlando, Florida, where she lived with a pastor and his wife for two weeks before they finally reported the situation to local authorities and the girls’ parents. Law enforcement officers investigating the Bary family found no indication Bary’s life was in danger, and the Florida judge assigned to her case ruled that Ohio’s child protection office is more suitable to decide her case. Once she arrives in Ohio, Bary will be placed in temporary custody with the Franklin County Children’s Service department. Bary made headlines recently after she participated in a conference call Christian prayer session preceding the ...

More about Rifqa Bary’s surprise appearance

JISHOU, HUNAN — I was too tired last night to fill in some of the details about Rifqa Bary, the runaway Muslim teenager from Ohio now living in Florida. It’s morning now, and I have some more interesting background on that conference call. According to Right Wing Watch, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a Christian group, organized the conference call to counter the Muslim prayer rally in Washington, D.C., last Friday. It seems the task force was quaking in its boots about the possibility of 50,000 Muslims gathering near the Capitol Building. (Actually, only about 3,000 showed up. They had to put up with Christian hecklers. Welcome to America.) Part of their fears stems from their mistaken impression that President Barack Obama is secretly Muslim, and his friendly and conciliatory gestures to the world’s Muslims signal a Muslim takeover of the USA. (Incidentally, in case you missed it, the new America will also be simultaneously Marxist, communist, socialist and fascist, as well as an Islamic state. Just so we’re clear.) From OneNewsNow.com, a wingnut website: Associated Press says Christian leaders in last night's conference call were unconvinced the gathering will be a time for Muslims to pray together, ...

Federal courts rule Washington school cannot have Christians-only club 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Kentridge High School in Washington state cannot have a Christians-only Bible club. Organizers of the club lost their legal battle when the US Supreme Court declined to hear their case yesterday. The Court’s action puts greater restrictions on religious clubs in public schools. As long as clubs do not limit membership based on religious faith, high schools can permit such clubs. If clubs shut out anyone from full membership based on a person’s faith, the schools have the right to ban the club. It’s a sensible state of affairs, but I predict the religious right will squeal like stuck pigs, saying, “War on Christianity! War on Christianity!” The losers in this court battle were two, now-former students of Kentridge High School, who in 2001 applied for a school charter for Truth, a Bible club. Truth members, who could be of any faith, would read Bible verses on the school intercom and decorate the school once a month. Then a federal court ruled that religion-based clubs in public school did not automatically violate the Constitutional separation of church and state. Truth’s founders, Sarice Undis and Julianne Stewart, upped the ante. They changed the rules of their club and ...

Injured student sues controversial mid-Ohio teacher

The saga of John Freshwater, part XII … While Freshwater’s superiors at the Mount Vernon schools dither, the family of one of his students have resorted to the all-American method of getting to the root of things — they’re suing him and the school district. The suit claims that Freshwater violated the student’s civil rights by allegedly burning a cross into his arm with a Tesla coil and and that his superiors were negligent in not disciplining Freshwater. The school district hired an outsider to investigate the allegations against Freshwater, an otherwise popular seventh-grade science teacher. That report is due Friday, at which time the school board will make some decision about Freshwater’s future, supposedly. Freshwater made a name for himself earlier last year by refusing to remove his Bible from his desk. Christians loved his “Christ’s warrior” decision, but civil libertarians demurred. It then came out that Freshwater was a bit of a religious nut, proselytizing students, teaching creationism, and on at least one instance, burning a cross on a student’s arm with a Tesla coil. That apparently woke up his superiors from their overly cautious slumber. They put an observer in his classroom while the independent investigators did ...

Expelled box office receipts decline in first weekend

Edited on 4/23/08 to update revised box office receipt figures. Depending on which side you believe, the opening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed last Friday was either a stupendous success or a dismal failure. The actual answer probably lies somewhere in between. Here are the actual gross box office receipts, from Box Office Mojo, for 1,052 theaters: Friday, 4/18 $1,208,748 Saturday, 4/19 $996,244 Sunday, 4/20 $765,856 For a political documentary, Expelled did really well, placing in the top 10 each of its first three days. Its daily receipts, however, seem to be declining, as the initial hubbub about its release dies out. Detractors of the movie point to the decline in receipts over three days (hardly a statistically valid sample) and predict Expelled will be an overall box office flop. Supporters of the movie on the other hand say its initial success places it among the top grossing documentaries in recent times. Pre-release noise about Expelled was pretty substantial. The movie’s marketing firm screened the flick all over the country beginning in August ’07, mostly to receptive audiences (conservative Christians, mostly). Those folks talked it up, saying it was the best thing since the Book of Revelations. Less sympathetic reviewers ...
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