Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 02, 2011

Two C-U Area Residents on Governor’s Muslim American Panel

Gov. Pat Quinn this week used the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fit--closing the holy month of Ramadan--to announce the members of a new Muslim-American Advisory Council.

The 26-member panel will advise the governor on ways to advance the role of Muslim-Americans in the state. Two of its members are from the Champaign-Urbana area.

Dr. Irfan Ahmad is executive director of the Center for Nano Scale Science and Technology, at the University of Illinois. He said the panel could help raise awareness throughout Illinois that Muslims are part of the fabric of the community--and also raise awareness within the Muslim community.

"That's (the) awareness we try to create within the Muslim community itself, that they have a role to play, we have a role to play, and the rest of society, the rest of the general fabric of the U-S has a role to play," Ahmad said. "Illinois can really drive home this message, both within the Muslim community, but also reaching out into the Muslim world."

Strengthening ties with the Muslim world is an area where Ahmad believes the advisory council can also help. He said the panel's understanding of Muslim culture could help identify economic opportunities. For instance, Ahmad points to the demand for meat slaughtered in accordance with Muslim dietary law, or halal.

"New Zealand exports a lot of meat to Muslim countries, but they do it in a slaughtered fashion, which is according to the Islamic (tradition)," Ahmad said. "So if the state and other entities are attuned to some of those sensitivities, they could potentially leverage some of those markets, say, if we were to export meat, for example."

Also serving on the governor's Muslim American Advisory Council is Imad Rahman. He's a board member at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center in Urbana, and serves as financial officer for the mosque's community health clinic in Champaign.

The Governor's Muslim American Advisory Council will be co-chaired by Samreen Khan, Governor Quinn's senior policy adviser and liaison to Asians and Muslims, and Kareem M. Irfan, president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

The panel is already being criticized on anti-Muslim websites, for including officers with the Islamic Society of North America and the Council of American Islamic Relations, both of which have been accused of ties to Islamic extremist groups. The two organizations have denied the charges.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Secretary of State Questions Exemptions for Amish on ID Law

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says lawmakers may want to reconsider a new law that paves the way to exempt the Amish from having pictures on identification cards.

White tells the Lee Springfield Bureau he doesn't understand how the cards can be used as identification if there are no pictures. White's office issues state identification cards and drivers' licenses.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law this week. It gives the Illinois Secretary of State the option to make rules to implement no photographs on IDs.

State Rep. Adam Brown supported the legislation. The Decatur Republican says Amish leaders requested the exemption, citing religious beliefs about having their pictures taken. Brown has suggested other methods to verify identities, such as an internal state system or using fingerprints.

Categories: Government, Politics, Religion

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 18, 2011

Ill. Judge Rules Against Catholics on Foster Care

A central Illinois judge has ruled that Catholic Charities does not have a right to state contracts for adoptions and foster care placements and Illinois officials may cut them off.

The state Department of Children and Family Services ended $30 million in contracts with Catholic Charities in July because the not-for-profit won't work with unmarried couples in placing children in adoptive and foster homes. Illinois authorities say that violates the state's civil union law.

Catholic Charities sued. But Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt ruled Thursday that the not-for-profit is not entitled to the contracts because it doesn't have to accept them.

Schmidt did not address the question of whether the charity discriminates against gays and lesbians and other people in civil unions.

Categories: Community, Religion

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 10, 2011

Champaign Man Receives $6 Million Jury Award in Priest Abuse Case

A nine-year legal fight by a man sexually abused by a priest in the 1970s is over, now that a southern Illinois diocese and its insurer have handed over $6.3 million to resolve a jury award in the man's favor.

Attorneys for the Diocese of Belleville turned over the checks during a hearing Wednesday in St. Clair County, three years after James Wisniewski of Champaign won the $5 million jury award. The additional $1.33 million includes interest since that verdict.

Wisniewski sued in 2002, alleging that a former priest sexually abused him dozens of times for five years at St. Theresa's Parish in Salem. The lawsuit also claimed the diocese hid the one-time priest's suspected behavior and quietly shuffled him among parishes.

The diocese's attorneys declined comment.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Religion
Tags: crime, religion

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 12, 2011

Judge Keeps Catholic Charities Foster-Care Contracts in Place

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

A Sangamon County judge has granted a preliminary injunction that keeps the foster-care and adoption contracts between the state and Catholic Charities in place.

In granting the injunction, Circuit Judge John Schmidt says the discontinuance of the contracts could cause irreparable harm to families the organization serves.

Diocese officials in Peoria, Joliet and Springfield sued to hold up enforcement of a law that would force them to place foster kids with gay couples. They oppose on religious grounds the Illinois civil union law allowing gays to adopt children or provide foster care.

"This is a great win for the 2,000 children under the care of Catholic Charities, protecting these kids from the grave disruption that the state's reckless decision to terminate would have caused," according to a statement by Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society. "We will continue this fight until all young people in need now and in the future are guaranteed their right to receive the high-quality foster and adoption care that the Catholic Church has provided for over a century to Illinois children."

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says it won't renew foster-care and adoption contracts with the not-for-profit organization Catholic Charities.

The move involves about 2,000 children, but state officials say their foster care won't be affected.

The next hearing is scheduled for August 17, 2011 at 9 AM, where Judge Schmidt will assess the merits of the case.

Categories: Government, Politics, Religion

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 12, 2011

Catholic Charities, Illinois Cut Ties Over Civil Unions

Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn is defending the state's civil union law in a dispute with a Catholic adoption agency.

State officials say they won't renew foster care or adoption contracts with Catholic Charities. The organization has received state money in the past, but Catholic Charities has said it would not comply with the new civil unions law signed by Quinn.

Quinn said the law granting gay couples many of the same rights as married couples is staying put.

"We're not going back," Quinn said. "Any organization that decides that because of the civil unions law that they won't participate voluntarily in a program, that's their choice."

Quinn said another agency is helping coordinate more adoption services. There are four Catholic Charities offices around Illinois.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 11, 2011

Quinn Defends Civil Unions Law in Adoption Dispute

Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn is defending the state's civil union law in a dispute with a Catholic adoption agency. State officials say they won't renew foster care or adoption contracts with Catholic Charities. The organization has received state money in the past, but Catholic Charities has said it would not comply with the new civil unions law signed by Quinn.

Quinn said the law granting gay couples many of the same rights as married couples is staying put.

"We're not going back," Quinn said. "Any organization that decides that because of the civil unions law that they won't participate voluntarily in a program, that's their choice."

Quinn said another agency is helping coordinate more adoption services. There are four Catholic Charities offices around Illinois.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 24, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150:  Rural Churches Look for Ways to Survive

In rural towns throughout Central Illinois, deciding where to attend worship service today could mean giving up youth activities or choir for a smaller service, or sacrificing a local connection to seek out parishioners of a similar age in a large congregation. As part of the series, 'Life on Route 150', Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert looks at rural churches, and what some in the region are doing to survive in today's climate.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2011

Lawsuit Claims Vatican Covered Up Child Sex Abuse

The Vatican was named Wednesday in a lawsuit that claims the Holy See ultimately was responsible for covering up child sexual abuse by a now-imprisoned Chicago priest when church officials overlooked complaints about abuse and kept him in a position to continue molesting children.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of a woman whose son was molested by Father Daniel McCormack, is an attempt to "hold those most responsible for the global problem and the problem in this community to account in a way they have never been," said St. Paul, Minn.-based attorney Jeff Anderson.

McCormack pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children while he was parish priest at St. Agatha Catholic Church and a teacher at a Catholic school and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2008, the Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to pay $12.6 million to 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests, including McCormack. As part of that settlement, Cardinal Francis George also agreed to release a lengthy deposition and apologize to the public and each victim.

Anderson said the Archdiocese also agreed to release documents involving priests who had been credibly accused of abuse, but "not one file has been effectively produced so we can produce it to the public" and believes it's because the Archdiocese is following orders from the Vatican. In 2009, a Cook County judge granted the Archdiocese a protective order keeping portions of files private.

Marc Pearlman, another attorney involved in Wednesday's lawsuit, said it's possible some plaintiffs would not have agreed to the 2008 settlement without the promise from the Archdiocese to release the files.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese would not comment on Anderson's contention because it was not named in the suit.

The Vatican's U.S. attorney, Jeffrey Lena, referred questions about the documents to the Archdiocese but released a statement saying the lawsuit "is without any merit." He said the victim mentioned in the lawsuit had already received payment from the Archdiocese and "released all further claims" as part of the 2008 settlement.

Anderson said the settlement with Archdiocese did not specifically name the Vatican as a settling party.

This is not the first time Anderson has sued the Vatican. He also named the Holy See in cases filed in Wisconsin and Oregon. The Vatican has argued it is shielded from lawsuits as a sovereign nation, although Wednesday's lawsuit claims McCormack was a "direct agent" of the Vatican because he helped raise money for Peter's Pence, an annual collection for the Vatican.

Lena said the suit "rehashes the same tired theories already rejected by U.S. courts ... and importantly, the Holy See had no factual involvement in this matter whatsoever."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages but Anderson said its aim is "to require the Vatican to come clean" with the names of the offenders it knows about and the files kept on them.

"It is the men at the top who make decisions that require secrecy" from others in the Catholic Church, he said.

"Daniel McCormick is just one of many offenders who have been allowed to offend in secrecy," he said. "There won't be change at the bottom until there's change at the top."

Last month, the Vatican was served with court papers stemming from decades-old allegations of sexual abuse against a now-deceased priest at a Wisconsin school for the deaf. The lawsuit was filed last year in federal court on behalf of Terry Kohut, now of Chicago, claiming that Pope Benedict XVI and two other top Vatican officials knew about allegations of sexual abuse at St. John's School for the Deaf outside Milwaukee and called off internal punishment of the accused priest, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy.

Anderson also has a pending lawsuit against the Vatican in Oregon for a man who claims he was abused at his Catholic school in the 1960s.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Religion
Tags: crime, religion

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 01, 2011

Political Turmoil Leaves Egypt in Unrest

The political turmoil in Egypt has brought between 250,000 and two million people taking to the streets in protest. The country's leader, President Hosni Mubarak, has promised not to run for re-election after his term ends in September. But University of Illinois professor Aladdin Elaasar predicted Mubarak's downfall back in 2009 in his book "The Last Pharaoh: Mubarak and the Uncertain Future of Egypt in the Obama Age." Elaasar spoke with Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers about the future of Egypt.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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