Outreach & Events
Islam Creates Saudi Tragedy Fifteen school girls were killed on March 11 when Saudi Arabia's much-feared religious police reportedly forced them back into a blazing school because they were not wearing Islamic headscarves and black robes. Saudi media reported a scuffle between firefighters and officials with the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who tried to keep girls inside the burning building in Mecca. The police stopped bystanders trying to help the girls, warning, "It is sinful to approach them." A witness was quoted saying he saw the religious police beat young girls to prevent them from leaving the school for not wearing the abaya. A father of a dead girl claimed the school watchman refused to open the gate of the locked school to let the girls out. Students are routinely locked in schools to ensure segregation of the sexes. Most of the dead schoolgirls were killed during a stampede. An additional 50 girls were injured in the school of 800. "Lives could have been saved had they not been stopped by members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice," editorialized the Saudi Gazette. British press called the public criticism of the mutaween highly unusual. Yates & the Religion Connection Letters sent by notorious street preacher Michael Peter Woroniecki and his wife to Andrea Yates, 37, contributed to her downward spiral, according to Suzy Spencer, Texas author of Breaking Point. Yates, convicted of first-degree murder in March and sentenced to life imprisonment after drowning her children in the family bathtub last June, suffered from extreme post-partum depression and schizophrenia. The prayerful couple had five children in eight years. Russell Yates encouraged Andrea to have "enough boys for a basketball team" and to homeschool the children--ages 7, 5, 3, 2 and a baby--even after hospitalizations for severe mental illness. He told Time magazine (Jan. 28) that the "devil prowls around looking for someone to devour . . . Andrea was weak, and he attacked her." A psychiatrist who interviewed Andrea in jail testified the defendant herself believed she had been marked by Satan, and that killing her children while they were young was the only way to save them from hell. "Rusty" Yates, who met Woroniecki while a student at Auburn University, considered the preacher a "spiritual adviser" and sent money to support his ministry. Spencer said some of the letters written by the Woronieckis to Andrea told her "all women are descendants of Eve, and Eve was a witch," calling women who worked outside the home "wicked." In 1998, Rusty bought a GMC 350-foot bus from Woroniecki, living in it with Andrea and their two children until her parents insisted Rusty buy a house following a suicide attempt by Andrea. Defense attorney George Parnham put into evidence Woroniecki's newsletter "The Perilous Times," lamenting worldly mothers and asking, "What becomes of the children of such a Jezebel?" Houston psychiatrist Lucy Puryear told the jury this idea was what Andrea Yates' "delusions are built around." Puryear and forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz contend that when the Yateses copied the Woroniecki family lifestyle of homeschooling children and living in a bus, it precipitated Andrea Yates' suicide attempts. Happiness . . . Is No God? Researchers into happiness announced in January their findings that happiness is not linked to behaviors some researchers have assumed created general well-being. In their study involving about 100 college students, Dr. Ed Diener, of the University of Illinois, and Dr. Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania, found that the happiest among them did not attend church services more frequently, exercise more or get more sleep than unhappier counterparts. Madison Scouts Pull Out of United Way The Four Lakes Council of Boy Scouts of America pulled out of United Way of Dane County, Wis., following continued turmoil over its bigotry against gays and atheists. The council will forego its annual $75,000 in funding, but will still be eligible to receive donations earmarked specifically for BSA. Last year, such donations totaled more than $60,000.