Rev. Moon Sun-myung, who called himself the “messiah” and founded a global religious movement as well as far-flung business interests, died Monday at his Unification Church complex east of South Korea’s capital Seoul surrounded by family members and well-wishers, reports news.yahoo.com. Famed globally for his cult following of “Moonies” dedicated to worshiping him as a savior of mankind, Moon came to be known for presiding with his wife over mass weddings of couples whom he had united on the basis of photographs and brief life stories. He also built up a global commercial empire, founding the Washington Times 30 years ago along with newspapers in Seoul and Tokyo and numerous other enterprises in fields ranging from publishing to tourism to fishing. Moon leaves behind a struggling and divided religious and business empire with tentacles spreading from Korea to Japan, the United States, South American, and Europe. The question now is whether the empire can overcome divisions among sons and daughters and regain the strength of its glory days in the 1960s and 1970s as a religious and commercial force. Moon’s wife, Hak Ja-han, whom he married 10 years after fleeing captivity in North Korea in the Korean War and walking 300 miles to the South Korean port of Pusan, was at his side along with many of their sons, daughters, and grandchildren when he passed away at age 92. The Moons had seven sons and seven daughters. Moon also had another son by his first wife, whom he divorced shortly before marrying Hak Ja-han, and other children in extra-marital relationships.

Other news:

  • Survey results from a study conducted by People Can Change, a nonprofit organization that seeks to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions, show that over half of those who sought counseling felt their attractions diminish as a result, reports The Christian Post. According to the survey, which was released Friday, 55 percent of those who sought out this kind of counseling experienced same-sex attraction with less intensity and frequency than before they received help. Additionally, 71 percent of those surveyed said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the counseling they received. “Hundreds of people are telling us their counseling worked, they benefited significantly, it helped them feel better about themselves—and in some cases it even saved their lives,” said Rich Wyler, founder and director of People Can Change, in a statement. “Their voices have been largely silenced or ignored by pro-gay activists and mainstream media in favor of a more politically correct view, but the experience of these men and women is real. It is valid. They can tell you from firsthand experience that counseling to reduce homosexuality can be effective, even life-saving. Their voluntary choice to pursue change deserves respect.” People Can Change conducted the study by sending a survey to those on the organization’s e-mail list who are seeking or have experienced “sexual-orientation change,” as well as to therapists and ministry leaders who support these change efforts. In all, 474 people from 19 countries responded to the survey. The study is “especially timely,” as the organization points out, because of a bill that is being considered by California state lawmakers that could ban the use of reparative therapy on minors because some say it has harmful effects. The State Assembly passed the ban Tuesday in a 51–22 vote, and it will now go to the Senate for a final vote before it could make its way to Gov. Jerry Brown for final approval.
  • A German court decision to criminalize religious circumcisions has turned into an international spat, as Israeli leaders urge Germany to protect the ancient rite and local Jewish and Muslim groups vow to continue the practice, reports washingtontimes.com. “Banning circumcision is tantamount to saying no Jewish life is possible in Germany,” said Mimi Levy Lipis, a mother, a Jewish resident of Berlin, and a professor of cultural studies. “I don’t think Germany can afford to take that position.” In May, the Cologne Regional Court ruled against a doctor who had performed the procedure on a Muslim boy, resulting in serious complications. Judges said the practice constitutes an irreversible physical change on a child who is not capable of giving his consent to the operation. The procedure is widely practiced in Jewish and Muslim societies and in many parts of the United States. However, it is rare in Europe. “Germans have no long history of circumcision. It’s just something that’s totally alien and foreign to them,” said Lipis. “But the only reason that Cologne verdict came to pass in the first place was that it involved a Muslim boy, and sprung out of Islamophobia. “If the case had revolved around a Jewish child, the verdict would have been different. It just so happens that the Muslim question was also a Jewish question.” Abraham Cooper from the Simon Wiesenthal Center complained about the court decision in a meeting last Wednesday with German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. “We are very concerned that Europe becomes a place where circumcision is made illegal or denigrated,” he told reporters after his meeting. “That would be extraordinary dangerous and injurious for the Jewish community.” Israeli President Shimon Peres told German President Joachim Gauckin a letter last week that circumcision is “at the core of Jewish identity.” While the medical community in Germany aligned itself with the courtruling, German religious groups expressed resentment about what they think is a threat to their fiercely guarded tradition. “Historically, attempts to stop the Jewish people from performing this core Jewish rite, dating back to our patriarch Abraham, were associated with ancient Greek and Roman rulers and modern day tyrants like Stalin and Hitler—not democracies,” Cooper said in a statement issued last week from the Wiesenthal Center’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Muslim organizations also have been quick to condemn the court decision and put pressure on the German government to protect the custom widely practiced in Islamic societies.
  • A report that came out late last week, according to lifenews.com, suggests Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rejected the idea of Condoleezza Rice as his vice-presidential running mate because of her pro-abortion position. Rice technically supports legalized abortion, though she also supports many pro-life limits on it and has tried to present her abortion view as a middle-of-the-road position. According to the website Radar Online, which quotes “a source close to Rice,” Romney ultimately rejected her because she wouldn’t renounce her position. “Condi was fully vetted to become Mitt Romney’s running mate and turned over financial records, including tax returns,” a source close to Rice tells Radar. “Mitt thought she would add much needed foreign policy experience to the ticket, thinks she is incredibly bright and he knew she would help with the all important female vote and African American support. However, Mitt’s advisers talked him out of it because Condi is pro-choice and she isn’t willing to change her position on the controversial issue. Condi also supports same sex civil unions which again, put her at odds with Romney. Mitt had a hard time getting the ultra conservative support of the GOP and was told if he picked Condi that would immediately be lost and so he ultimately picked Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate.” “Condoleezza is definitely leaning towards running for Governor of California. She wasn’t upset or surprised that she wasn’t picked to be Romney’s running mate,” the source says.
  • David Rubin, a U.S.-born Israeli author and terrorism expert, expects Israel to attack Iran before this fall’s U.S. presidential election, reports onenewsnow.com. The Israeli people continue to prepare for what many believe will be the long-anticipated airstrike against the Iranian nuclear threat. Polls show that while most Israelis agree on the need to stop Iran’s nuclear program, a majority of Israelis would prefer that someone else do it. However, 70 percent of the country does not believe U.S. President Barack Obama will be that someone else. Rubin is the former mayor of the Israeli city of Shiloh and author of The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of ObamaHe believes Israel will have no choice but to go at it alone—before Nov. 6. “Obama has been probably the most hostile American president towards Israel in American history,” Rubin observes. “I think that Israel will strike before the elections, when Obama would not come out strongly, at least not publicly against Israel for launching such a strike.” And the expert notes that a pre-election strike could benefit Republican challenger Mitt Romney: “Clearly Romney would come out strongly in support of Israel for launching such an attack.” Meanwhile, Worthy News reports several pro-Israel sections of the 2008 Democratic Party platform have been removed from the platform—on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and Hamas. The new platform represents another shift by the Obama Democrats toward the Palestinian position on key issues in the peace process. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., confirmed that Israel now “is alone” in the world, reports Worthy News.
  • Despite threats from an atheist group, the Memphis City Council intends to continue opening its meetings with prayer, reports onenewsnow.com. The council members refused to be intimidated in 2009 when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a threatening letter against the practice. Now one of FFRF’s attorneys has announced plans to sue. Attorney Allan Wade is representing Memphis. “We don’t promote any particular denomination, religion or irreligion,” he asserts. “We have rabbis, we have bishops, we have prominent citizens provide an invocation. Sometimes it’s prayer-based; sometimes it’s not.” Wade says the practice is completely within legal boundaries, so it is one that the City Council will continue. “In fact, I think invocations are used in Congress and have been used in Congress since Congress began, and I think the Supreme Court has allowed that to continue,” the attorney notes. “We’re confident that the law will allow us to continue what we’re doing.” FFRF contends that Memphis is favoring religion, but Wade suggests the city will not be intimidated into favoring “irreligion.” He believes the Tennessee municipality has remained balanced, which is all the law requires. This is one of the latest threats of legal action from the Foundation.
  • According to an immigration enforcement activist, it is a “huge mistake” for the state of California to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, reports onenewsnow.com. The Sacramento Bee recently reported that California is on the verge of allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to receive driver’s licenses for the first time in nearly two decades. The decision came about because of President Obama’s controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows amnesty to some illegal aliens brought to the country by their parents. Now The Golden State is laying the groundwork for driving privileges for the estimated 400,000 illegal aliens who qualify for that amnesty. Jessica Vaughan, a former Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department who now serves as director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, warns that this “could be a huge mistake for national security or public safety purposes.” “There’s never been a deferred action program like this where hundreds of thousands of people in the state of California are going to qualify,” she notes. And since the Obama administration has made the regulations so lax, she cautions that it will be next to impossible to verify the identities of all the people applying for this amnesty. “We have no idea who’s going to get legal status for this program, so for the state of California to then turn around and bless these people with another form of official identification is a huge mistake,” Vaughan reiterates. “That is why states like Arizona, Nebraska and Mississippi have refused to do that.”
  • American Heritage Girls, a Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts of America, will soon have its National Day of Service to honor the organization’s 17th birthday. Members of American Heritage Girls will turn out in full force September 15 to perform service projects in their own communities. Spokesperson Patti Garibay told onenewsnow.com about a few of the many activities: “Some of the girls are doing walks for pregnancy care centers. Others are doing diaper collections for pro-life ministries, and . . . others are helping international ministries by bringing and collecting goods for children overseas,” she lists. “There are also some park cleanups and environmental stewardship kinds of activities.” The purpose of the celebration is to develop an outward focus on servant leadership. “Starting at the young age of five years old these girls develop a heart and really a soul for wanting to serve others, to truly live out the gospel and put legs on their faith,” Garibay shares. “It is so neat to see the girls just loving to do service, and they actually earn service stars that they can wear upon their uniform.” The AHG spokesperson adds that the emphasis on service helps develop a young girl into a woman of integrity—something American Heritage Girls seeks to do through Christ. The organization is expecting 100 percent growth this year, as parents continue to search for a Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts.
  • Four years ago, Barack Obama had little trouble drawing large crowds on the campaign trail. When he accepted the nomination in 2008, he did so in Denver, Colorado in front of 84,000 people. They had no problem filling the stadium as so many people bought into his promise of change. That’s not the case with this election, reports godfatherpolitics.com. So far this year, the largest crowd Obama has drawn on the campaign trail was a mere 14,000 at Ohio State Universityback in May. To avoid being embarrassed by the low numbers, the Obama campaign says they have purposely kept the numbers down to make security easier and less expensive. Later this week, Barack Obama will be giving his acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The stadium seats 74,000 people. Even though this is 10,000 seats fewer than the Denver stadium four years ago, the Democrats are deeply concerned as to whether or not they will be able to fill the stadium to capacity. If they can’t, they fear this will be used by the Republicans to show how much Obama’s support has dwindled since 2008. In an effort to ensure that the stadium will be filled, the Democrats have resorted to some constructive promotion programs. They have been offering one free ticket to every person who volunteers for Obama’s campaign. In order to receive the free ticket, each volunteer must work a minimum of three three-hour shifts for a total of nine hours. They have also been contacting colleges, universities, and Black churches in North Carolina and surrounding states. At least 100 students from Duke University will be bussing to the event. Additionally, several large Black churches in South Carolina will be sending busloads of members up to the convention and to hear the president’s acceptance speech. North Carolina, where the convention is taking place, has an unemployment record of 9.6 percent, which is 1.3 percent higher than the national average. It is also a right-to-work state and the DNC purposely shunned a number of local businesses and hired out-of-state union companies for a number of jobs.
  • A Raleigh-based group devoted to reducing the potential for voter fraud presented the North Carolina Board of Elections on Friday with a list of nearly 30,000 names of dead people statewide who are still registered to vote, reports clashdaily.com. The Voter Integrity Project compiled the list after obtaining death records from the state Department of Public Health from 2002 to March 31 and comparing them to the voter rolls. “Mainly, what we’re concerned about is the potential [for fraud],” said project director Jay DeLancy. “Since there is no voter ID law in North Carolina, anybody can walk in and claim to be anyone else.” DeLancy said his group has found evidence to suggest voter fraud in these numbers, but will not quantify how much until he is able to do more analysis. Most cases of what look like a dead person voting are likely just administrative errors, such as a son named Junior voting in his father’s name instead of his own. The rolls of registered voters are updated every month when the state Department of Health and Human Services gives a list of all death certificates received that month to the state Board of Elections. Problems arise when the names on the death certificates do not match the names on the voting records, which often happens after women get married, Board of Elections General Counsel Don Wright said Friday. Addresses are also often listed with slight differences, Wright said. An address on West Millbrook Road and Millbrook Road might be the same house, but computers won’t always catch it. “Unless there is an exact match, we do not remove people from the voter rolls,” Wright said. DeLancy said his volunteers work to fix the discrepancies, by examining cases of similar names and addresses and confirming other pieces of data, such as whether the voter has the same date of birth. Wright said the elections board will investigate the names provided by the Voter Integrity Project and take appropriate action. The state board can remove voters from the rolls for inactivity if they haven’t voted in two consecutive elections, which cleans up most problems over time, Wright said.