Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Petition Catholics to drop blasphemy complaints

By Mathew Goldstein

Sanal Edamaruku is the founder-president of Rationalist International. He is also the president of the Indian Rationalist Association. He is the editor of the internet publication Rationalist International, and author of 25 books and numerous articles. He is a regular TV commentator on various Indian TV channels on superstitions and blind belief and is a major voice in defense of reason and scientific temper in India. He has spent 30 years debunking miracles and exposing fraudulent faith healers. Earlier this year he was charged with blasphemy for debunking a claimed miracle at a local Catholic Church.

A statue of Jesus on a crucifix was dripping water from the toes. Hundreds of people came every day, some from far away, to pray and collect some of the “holy water” in bottles and vessels. A TV channel invited Mr. Edamaruku to investigate the “miracle” that caused local excitement. He went with the TV team to inspect the crucifix in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni. Within half an hour, he identified the source of the water (a leaking water pipe) and the mechanism for the water traveling to the statue feet (capillary action).

In March, a group called the Catholic Secular Forum filed a complaint against Mr. Edamaruku with the police in Mumbai, and two other groups, the Association of Concerned Catholics and Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum also filed complaints at other police stations. The Catholic Bishop of Mumbai called on Mr. Edamaruku to apologize for “hurting” the Catholic community by questioning the motives and sincerity of church authorities who allegedly encouraged people to believe there was a miracle occurring.

Because Mr. Edamaruku can be arrested at anytime (he was instructed by police to turn himself in for arrest), and because he was recently denied "anticipatory bail" (he could spend years in jail waiting for his trial), he was compelled to flee India.

If you have not done so yet, please consider signing the change.org petition appealing to the Catholic authorities in Mumbai, particularly the Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai, and the Vatican and the global Catholic community to clarify their Church's position on the attempts to silence Mr Edamaruku's criticisms through legal channels, and to use their influence with local Catholics to encourage them to publicly withdraw their complaints.

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