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Dispatches Human Race

Human Race

LGBT activists at the UMC Conference in St. Louis (Kathleen Barry, UMNS)

Decided

The United Methodist Church at an international conference in St. Louis, Mo., voted to reject a proposal that would have left decisions about same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT pastors to regional and local churches. The conference instead voted to strengthen enforcement of the denomination’s bans on such practices. Forty-three percent of the delegates to the Feb. 23-26 conference were from outside the United States, mostly from Africa, and they overwhelmingly uphold the Biblical stance on marriage. “We Africans are not children in need of Western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics,” the Rev. Jerry Kulah, dean at a Methodist theology school in Liberia, said in a speech. The vote will likely prompt a fracture in the UMC.


 

Josiane Kouagheu/Reuters/Newscom

Saint Augustin (Josiane Kouagheu/Reuters/Newscom)

Freed

Unknown gunmen kidnapped 176 students and staff from Saint Augustin’s College in Kumbo, Cameroon, on Feb. 16. Church officials negotiated a safe return of all hostages, but they had to agree that the school would close. The diocesan communications director, Elvis Nsaikila, told the BBC that the diocese had not involved the army on purpose to avoid unnecessary deaths. Human Rights Watch says rebel groups were behind the kidnapping. Militia groups began to operate in the area after violence over protests by English speakers calling for schools and courts to use English. The rebel groups want to create their own, independent state.


 

Arrested

Federal officials arrested a Coast Guard officer who allegedly made plans for a mass killing. Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson now faces charges of illegal possession of guns and drugs. When agents searched his house, they found 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. According to a statement by Coast Guard spokesman Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane, the investigation is still open, forcing the Coast Guard to keep further details private. However, court documents suggest Hasson is an alleged white supremacist who was following the manifesto of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian who killed 77 people. The documents alleged that Hasson had a hit list that included famous Democratic Party politicians and CNN journalists.


 

Charged

Chicago police say actor Jussie Smollett staged a fake hate crime on himself in order to boost his career. Smollett, who is black and gay, reported to police that two people shouted racist and anti-gay slurs at him, beat him, threw bleach at him, and put a noose around his neck. Smollett’s story received immediate media attention, and support poured in. Detectives, however, found evidence Smollett had staged the incident with two friends. A grand jury charged Smollett with falsifying a police report, a crime punishable with up to three years in prison. The actor claims innocence.


 

Died

Seweryn Bialer, Soviet defector and U.S.S.R. expert, died on Feb. 8 at age 92. Bialer was born in Germany in 1926 and raised in Poland as part of a prominent Jewish family. He was 13 when the Nazis invaded. He spent the first years of the war in a ghetto before being imprisoned in the Auschwitz and Friedland camps. After the war, Bialer became a member of the Polish government and the Polish Communist Party. In 1954, he traveled to the U.S.S.R. and began to see similarities between Stalin’s Russia and the Nazi regime. He defected in 1956 and began to write and testify about what he had seen. He joined the faculty of Columbia University and earned his Ph.D. in political science. Bialer taught at Columbia for 33 years.