David Barton on Thomas Jefferson – Did Jefferson approve church in the Capitol?

 
UPDATE: For more information about Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President, go to GettingJeffersonRight.com.
David Barton claims that Thomas Jefferson approved the use of the Capitol building as a church in 1800. On his April 11 podcast, Barton claimed that Jefferson was so religious that he would look like a “Bible thumping  evangelical” with the following example given as evidence:

And I’ll give you a great example. We moved into the US Capitol in 1800, November of 1800. And when we moved in, one of the first acts of Congress was to approve the use of the Capitol as a church building. You can find that in the records of Congress, Dec 4 1800. Now, who did that? You had the head of the Senate and the head of the House, the speaker of the House was John Trumbull, the president of the Senate who approved that was Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson approves church in the Capitol? Yep, he went there as Vice President, he went to the church at the Capitol for 8 years as President, and as President of the US, he’s going to church, and this is recorded in all sorts of members of Congress, their records, their diaries, because they went to church at the Capitol too. And so, Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, thinks, you know I think I can help the worship services at this new church at the Capitol, they met in the Hall of the House of Representatives, so Jefferson ordered the Marine Corp band to come play for the worship services, in the church services at the US Capitol. The worship band is the Marine Corp Band? Pretty good worship band. Thomas Jefferson did that. I thought he wanted separation of church and state. If you read his letter on separation of church and state, he said separation of church and state, he makes it very clear, separation of church and state will keep the government from stopping a public religious activity.

In fact, the records of Congress do note the request for use of the House of Representatives for church services. Here is the entry marking the occasion:

Note that the Speaker informed the assembled representatives that the Chaplains proposed to hold services in the Chamber.  Apparently, it was agreeable to the House of Representatives since there is no recorded objection or vote on the matter. The Senate chaplain was Dr. Thomas John Claggett, an Episcopalian, and the House chaplain was Rev. Thomas Lyell, a Methodist. Both had begun their appointments in November, 1800.
Barton said that John Trumbull was the Speaker of the House but it was Theodore Sedgwick who raised the matter to the House on December 4, 1800. Jefferson was indeed President pro tempore of the Senate. However, according to the records of the Senate that same day (general business and the executive committee), nothing was mentioned about use of the Capitol building as a church.
In fact, the Senate did not need to approve the matter since the request came to the House for their Chamber. I can find no vote, affirmation or acknowledgement by the Senate. Unless Barton can demonstrate otherwise, it is incorrect to say that Thomas Jefferson approved, in some official manner, church services in the Capitol.
Jefferson did indeed attend church in the chamber which is not too surprising given the lack of churches in the District of Columbia at the time, as well as the general lack of social life. About church in DC at the time, Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan wrote in his book, A History of the National Capitol:

It will be noted that the period of 1801-1813 in the case of the churches was one of development and expansion. For at the beginning there were three church organizations, only one of which owned the building which it occupied, while twelve years later there were seven churches and a chapel, all of which owned the buildings which were used for the services. While in most instances the congregations were small in numbers and limited in resources, yet on the whole the church expansion reflected the growth of the community as well as its material condition…

Then Bryan discusses the Capitol church and the social aspects of the events. Bryan describes the Capitol as “a forum” where many religious views were discussed. The event was apparently quite a social happening:

At the same time the speaker’s desk in the hall of the house of representatives Sunday after Sunday was a forum from which was presented a wide range of religious belief. The chaplains of congress officiated there, as did also ministers representing various denominations. Frequently the religious atmosphere was lacking, sometimes due to the audience turning the occasion into a social function and then again to the eccentric character and views of the preachers. Rev. Manasseh Cutler was not pleased with the discourse of Rev. John Leland, who arrived in the city January, 1802, with the mammoth cheese which was presented to President Jefferson. On the following day he officiated at the capitol. The president was in the congregation, as it was his custom to be in the early years of his administration.

Incidentally, John Leland was one of the fiercest proponents of religious freedom and personally lobbied James Madison for a religious liberty clause in the Bill of Rights. The whole thing sounds religious in the general sense but not doctrinaire.
Barton also claims that Jefferson ordered the Marine Band to play in order to aid the worship. I can find no proof of that. If Mr. Barton has documentation of that claim, he should offer it. According to the record of the House and Bryan’s observations, the Chaplains were in charge. I suspect they invited the band to play. Bryan comments about the Marine Band:

It was apparently a new feature of the capitol services when in February, 1805, the Marine Band was stationed in the gallery and “after the preaching . . . the marines . . . played Denmark. Were there next Sunday. Two pieces of psalmody by the band of the marine corps. They attended in their uniforms about eighty or one hundred.”

One of sources of information about Jefferson, the Capitol church forum and the Marine band is a book by Margaret Bayard Smith, wife of a newspaper publisher.  The book is a free ebook via Google and can be read there. I am producing a lengthy section titled Jefferson at Church from her book.

At this time the only place for public worship in our new-city was a small, a very small frame building at the bottom of Capitol-hill. It had been a tobacco-house belonging to Daniel Carrol1 and was purchased by a few Episcopalians for a mere trifle and fitted up as a church in the plainest and rudest manner. During the first winter, Mr. Jefferson regularly attended service on the sabbath-day in the humble church. The congregation seldom exceeded 50 or 60, but generally consisted of about a score of hearers. He could have had no motive for this regular attendance, but that of respect for public worship, choice of place or preacher he had not, as this, with the exception of a little Catholic chapel was the only church in the new city. The custom of preaching in the Hall of Representatives had not then been attempted, though after it was established Mr. Jefferson during his whole administration, was a most regular attendant. The seat he chose the first sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him and his secretary. I have called these Sunday assemblies in the capitol, a congregation, but the almost exclusive appropriation of that word to religious assemblies, prevents its being a descriptive term as applied in the present case, since the gay company who thronged the H. R. looked very little like a religious assembly. The occasion presented for display was not only a novel, but a favourable one for the youth, beauty and fashion of the city, Georgetown and environs. The members of Congress, gladly gave up their seats for such fair auditors, and either lounged in the lobbies, or round the fire places, or stood beside the ladies of their acquaintance. This sabbath day-resort became so fashionable, that the floor of the house offered insufficient space, the platform behind the Speaker’s chair, and every spot where a chair could be wedged in was crowded with ladies in their gayest costume and their attendant beaux and who led them to their seats with the same gallantry as is exhibited in a ball room. Smiles, nods, whispers, nay sometimes tittering marked their recognition of each other, and beguiled the tedium of the service. Often, when cold, a lady would leave her seat and led by her attending beau would make her way through the crowd to one of the fire-places where she could laugh and talk at her ease. One of the officers of the house, followed by his attendant with a great bag over his shoulder, precisely at 12 o’clock, would make his way through the hall to the depository of letters to put them in the mail-bag, which sometimes had a most ludicrous effect, and always diverted attention from the preacher. The musick was as little in union with devotional feelings, as the place. The marine-band, were the performers. Their scarlet uniform, their various instruments, made quite a dazzling appearance in the gallery. The marches they played were good and inspiring, but in their attempts to accompany the psalm-singing of the congregation, they completely failed and after a while, the practice was discontinued,—it was too ridiculous.

So Jefferson and the Marine Band were in the same church services. The Marine Band did play, but  there is no evidence that he ordered the Marine Band to play. Jefferson attended the services but there is no evidence that he approved them officially. If anything, it sounds like they were ecumenical events with all sects and groups allowed to speak.
This is a situation which generally supports the idea that religion in some general sense was supported by the politicians of the time. It seems unnecessary for Barton to embellish the narrative.
I should hasten to add that I would be happy to issue a correction if Mr. Barton or any reader has evidence that Jefferson had some role in approving the services or ordering the Marine band to play.
Previously:
David Barton on Thomas Jefferson – Gnadenhutten and the Christian Indians
David Barton on Thomas Jefferson – United Brethren and the Christian Indians
David Barton on Thomas Jefferson – In the Year of Our Lord Christ
David Barton on Thomas Jefferson: The Kaskaskia Indians
Was the Jefferson Bible an evangelism tool?
More on Thomas Jefferson and Christianity
David Barton: Pluralism not the goal of the First Amendment
Related:
Did the First Amendment Create a Christian Nation?

The website that cried wolf: World Net Daily and death panels

Today, the far right website, World Net Daily, is accusing the President of using the Food & Drug Administration drug approval process as a way to ration health care via “death panels.”  As evidence for the claim, this front page story by Greg Koprowski states that “new drug approvals declined dramatically last year” citing a drop in such drug approvals from 25 in 2009 to 21 in 2010.

Although website claims the article is “breaking news,” the other evidence offered is a quote from a July 27, 2010 letter to FDA official Dr. Richard Pazdur from Senator David Vitter (R-LA) writing in support of the anti-cancer drug Avastin.  The FDA recently made a recommendation to remove the breast cancer indication from the Avastin drug label. In the letter, Senator Vitter worries that the approval process may signal the beginning of treatment rationing.

I spoke with Sandy Walsh at the FDA who called the claim that the FDA was using cost as a measure of approval “absurd.” She also noted that recent approvals are in line with past years.  As a review of FDA data demonstrates, she is correct.  For perspective, here are numbers of new medicines approved by the FDA from 2000 to the 2010 estimate.

2010 – 21 (estimated)

2009 – 25

2008 – 24

2007 – 18

2006 – 22

2005 – 20

2004 – 36

2003 – 21

2002 – 17

2001 – 24

2000 – 27

Mr. Koprowski called the drop from 25 new drugs in 2009 to a “mere 21 new drugs in 2010” a dramatic decline. Not at all. An examination of the approvals over time tells a different story. Clearly, Obama’s FDA is keeping pace with the record of the Bush administration.

Regarding Avastin, the maker of the cancer fighting drug is appealing the decision but it is simply wrong to assume that the FDA decision was based on cost considerations. The FDA panel that voted 12-to-1 to recommended the action consisted of physicians and patient advocates. FDA spokesperson Erica Jefferson told me that “no political appointees were involved in the decision-making” adding that “most of the reviewers have been with the agency close to 15 years.” Moreover, the decision was endorsed by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, which said about the action, “We applaud the FDA for responding to the scientific evidence in the face of significant political and public pressure.”

By reading WND, one would never know the rest of the story. Selective reporting is just one reason to question crying wolves at WND. Enter the Medicare death panel scare.

In late December, World Net Daily published an article that said the Obama Administration was slipping death panels back into Medicare via a regulation defining patient-physician discussions of advance directive planning. Yesterday, the Obama administration rescinded that rule, in part because of the misinformation campaign waged by social conservatives.

Judie Brown of the American Life League was quoted as saying:

Nothing good can come of this,” said Judie Brown, the president of American Life League. “This will affect everybody’s parents and grandparents and preborn babies, and it will not affect anybody for the good.

She added ominously:

Congress must step up to cancel the regulation, Brown added. “If not, a death certificate is written for an awful lot of elderly people.”

Ratcheting up the rhetoric, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver told WND that the Medicare regulation was not just a death panel, but a “super death panel,” saying

When you have the government mandating this end-of-life counseling, they’re conscripting doctors to do end-of-life counseling on a massive scale. It will be the equivalent of a super death panel. Elderly patients will get confused and will end up signing documents without having a clue what they’re signing, and they will sign away care they might really want.

As I noted in a previous post, claims that the just rescinded Medicare regulation required doctors to persuade senior citizens to refuse care are just false. The new regulation was an extension of a definition of advance care planning which remains a part of the initial Medicare visit, a provision that was added by Congress in 2008. That bill was passed via override of a President Bush veto. The veto however, had nothing to do with end-of-life counseling, but rather concerns over cost. As far as I can find via search engines, there was no outcry from conservatives then over the end-of-life provision. No one cried death panels then.

As an administration official told me yesterday, Medicare does not prescribe any conversation between patients and physicians about end-of-life issues. Patients are free to use pro-life resources and advance directives to plan their end-of-life care. The only reason the definition was included was to alert physicians that these conversations are important. There is neither a separate reimbursement for advanced care planning now nor would there have been if the rule, rescinded yesterday, would have remained viable.

In the case of the advance care planning regulation, the scare tactics worked. The Obama administration backed off of a reasonable definition of advanced care planning, a practice that pro-life groups actually recommend to their constituents. However, hysteria and spin won out over good policy. In the case of FDA approvals, it is clear that there is no trend specific to this administration. At what point, do readers realize that those crying death panels are crying wolf?

Obama Administration rescinds voluntary advance care planning rule

Just about an hour ago, the Health and Human Services Department rescinded the Medicare rule on voluntary advance care planning that had been misrepresented as the return of “death panels” by some social conservatives. I will comment more on this story but for now here is a link to the Federal Register and relevant portions of the order.

II. Provisions of the Amendment

In the July 13, 2010 Federal Register (75 FR 40039), we published the proposed rule entitled “Medicare Program; Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2011.” In response to this publication, we received comments from health care providers, and others urging us to add voluntary advance care planning as a specified element of the definitions of both the “first annual wellness visit” and the “subsequent annual wellness visit.” The commenters stated that their recommendations were based upon a number of recent research studies, and the inclusion by the Medicare initial preventive physical examination (IPPE) provisions of a similar element in the existing IPPE benefit.

CMS agreed with the commenters that voluntary advance care planning should be added as a specified element in the definitions of both the “first annual wellness visit” and the “subsequent annual wellness visit” based on the evidence provided and the inclusion of a similar element in the IPPE benefit (also referred to as the Welcome to Medicare CMS-1503-F2 3 exam) since January 1, 2009, and incorporated it into the final rule.

It has since become apparent that we did not have an opportunity to consider prior to the issuance of the final rule the wide range of views on this subject held by a broad range of stakeholders (including members of Congress and those who were involved with this provision during the debate on the Affordable Care Act). Therefore, we are rescinding the provision of the final rule that includes voluntary advance care planning as a specified element of the annual wellness visits providing personalized prevention plan services, and returning to the policy that was proposed, which was limited to the elements specified in the Act. We are revising our regulation at §410.15(a) to remove voluntary advance care planning as a specified element from the definitions of “first annual wellness visit providing personalized prevention plan services” and “subsequent annual wellness visit providing personalized prevention plan services” and to remove the definition of “voluntary advance care planning.”

And the rule is now amended to read:

For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services amends 42 CFR part 410 as set forth below: 

PART 410–SUPPLEMENTARY MEDICAL INSURANCE (SMI) BENEFITS

1. The authority citation for part 410 continues to read as follows:

Authority (42 U.S.C. 1302, 1395m, 1395hh, and 1395ddd). Secs. 1102, 1834, 1871, and 1893 of the Social Security Act Subpart B–Medical and Other Health Services § 410.15 [Amended]

2. Section 410.15 is amended as follows:

A. In paragraph (a), in the definition of “First annual wellness visit providing personalized prevention plan services” removing paragraph (ix) and redesignating paragraph (x) as paragraph (ix).

B. In paragraph (a), in the definition of “Subsequent annual wellness visit providing personalized prevention plan services” removing paragraph (vii) and redesignating paragraph (viii) as paragraph (vii).

C. In paragraph (a), removing the definition of “voluntary advance care planning”.

Let me note here that in 2008, the same concept was included in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 and remains a part of Medicare regulations for the first visit by a Medicare enrollee to a physician. George Bush vetoed that bill in 2008 but not because of the end-of-life counseling was included in the bill. He did so because he was concerned that the bill was too costly. I have looked in various search engines for record of opposition to the end-of-life provisions by social conservatives at that time. I found none.

Slain Pakistani Governor had received death threats

As is being widely reported, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assasinated earlier today by his own security guard. The guard apparently heeded the fatwa issued by Islamic extremists who were angry about Taseer’s advocacy for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was recently sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam. Taseer had petitioned the government for her pardon.

Over the past several weeks, I have had contact with Raza Anjum, a city Councillor from the UK, who is in Pakistan trying to win freedom for Asia Bibi. Just hours after the shooting, Anjum (on left below) issued a statement describing a meeting he had with Governor Taseer less than a week ago.  In that meeting, Taseer (on the right in the picture below) said that a fatwa had been issued on him due to his support for Asia Bibi and his opposition to the nation’s blasphemy laws.         

Anjum said that Taseer spoke strongly against religious extremism, saying that  “one needs to be determined and brave in standing up for human rights,” adding that “the extremists aim to install fear in the minds of the people.” According to Anjum, Taseer said he was “prepared to stand up to them to help bring about a progressive and peaceful Pakistan.”

That peaceful Pakistan now seems elusive. 

On New Year’s Eve, thousands went on strike warning of violence if the government amended the blasphemy laws or freed Asia Bibi. On Sunday, the second largest political party in Pakistan pulled out of the coalition goverment citing corruption and economic differences.   

About the tragedy, Anjum said, “The assassination of Salman Taseer is a huge blow to all those who are working for an enlightened and progressive Pakistan. His death has left the country in shock at a time when it faces an imminent political crisis.”

On Taseer’s Twitter page, an associate posted “R.I.P. Lion of the Punjab Salmaan Taseer (31 May 1944-04 Jan 2011)” According to Mr. Anjum, the Pakistan People’s Party said it would observe two weeks of mourning over Taseer’s death. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani “strongly condemned” the incident, according to CNN.

Here is a Wall Street Journal news report that fills in additional information:

Governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province killed by his own security guard

This is a shocking and ominous development in Pakistan. Increasing calls from outside Pakistan for reform of blasphemy laws and the release of Asia Bibi has been met with a rise in violence from far right Islamic forces.

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — The governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own security guard Tuesday, according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, apparently because he spoke out against the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

The security guard was arrested, Malik said. The shooting occurred at Islamabad’s Kohsar Market, which is frequented by foreigners.

Taseer went into the market to make some purchases, and he was shot by his guard as he left, said Naeem Iqbal, spokesman for Islamabad police. He was taken to a hospital, where he died, apparently from blood loss.

Malik told Pakistan’s GEO TV that Taseer was assassinated because he spoke out against Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

A spotlight was put on the law in November when a Christian woman, Asia Bibi of Punjab province, was sentenced to death for blasphemy. A court found the 45-year-old woman guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a 2009 argument with fellow Muslim field workers.

When I spoke recently with Raza Anjum, UK city official now in Pakistan trying to win the release of Asia Bibi, he told me that Taseer was a fair man who saw the injustice being done in the name of Islam. He spoke out in her favor and worked to get a fair hearing for her case. For that reason, he was under constant threat.

Pakistan is no stranger to such violence but the issues surrounding the blasphemy laws appear to be giving extremists a rallying cry for opposition to moderate elements. The government recently demonstrated weakness by backing away from a bill that would reform the blasphemy laws. It shows no signs of an effective response to the far right.

I will be adding updates and information as I get it. Here is an interview with Taseer about why he took up Asia Bibi’s cause. Note his confidence in the ruling party. This was before the party began to capitulate to extremists.

Who not to vote for in 2012

Bryan Fischer is doing people like me an enormous favor. He is handicapping the 2012 GOP field and will apparently in his next column tell us who he thinks would a great GOP candidate for President. Knowing what I know thus far, this should be a pretty good sign of not to vote for in 2012.

First, he claims evangelicals are key to the next election. This could be true if they voted as a group. However, as Fischer points out, 2008 saw erosion in this demographic with seven million evangelicals preferring Obama over McCain. Two years from now, a case could made that evangelicals will continue to fragment with moderates and social justice evangelicals going one way and social conservatives another.  Fischer’s prescription seems to be an inspiring candidate that is even more socially conservative than McCain.  I doubt evangelicals who were attracted to Obama in 2008 (and to be clear, I was not one of them) will rally around someone who is farther to the right than McCain.

Fischer then rules out Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich for various reasons, some of which are on target, some of which are questionable. For instance, for the same reasons Fischer rejects Mitt Romney, I suspect the party as a whole might make him the nominee. He will almost certainly look reasonable and mainstream next to the far right candidate preferred by Fischer.  

He promises to reveal who he thinks the GOP should select soon. I suspect it will be Mike Pence or Jim Demint. I know it won’t be Mitch Daniels (someone I believe is a compelling figure). In any case, the revelation will likely help my process of elimination.

Pakistani coalition government fragmenting

It is hard to see how this could be anything positive for the minority Christians and Asia Bibi.

Party Leaves Pakistan’s Ruling Coalition…

With the far right Islamic parties crippling the country with strikes and threats, weakness in the central government does not give the President or Prime Minister much room to pardon Asia. The opposition parties are looking for reasons to undermine the ruling party and appearing too pro-US is probably not a big winner at home.

Pakistan crippled by strike over blasphemy laws

To me this says volumes about the difficulty of advocating for human rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan is crippled today by a strike prompted by religious extremists who are threatening the government over potential changes to the nation’s blasphemy laws.

Friday’s strike saw businesses shuttered and transport workers walking out in towns and cities across the country.

There was no public transport in the southern city of Karachi, where demonstrators blocked traffic as part of the industrial action.

The BBC’s Ilyas Khan says bus owners in the Sindh province capital may have feared their vehicles could be torched if put on the road.

Quetta, the capital of the southern province of Balochistan, also ground to a halt.

There was a partial shutdown in the national capital of Islamabad, the north-western city of Peshawar and Lahore, capital of Punjab.

One Sunni cleric in Islamabad warned in his Friday sermon that any change to the blasphemy law would happen “over our dead bodies”.

The strike was held to protest against a private member’s bill submitted to parliament.

It seeks to amend the law by abolishing the death sentence and by strengthening clauses which prevent any chance of a miscarriage of justice.

Pakistani official claims govt will not change blasphemy law

I am looking for the actual statement but here is a news report of reassurances to the right wing religious elements that the Pakistani government does not intend to support the private member bill of Sherry Rehman. Her bill would amend the blasphemy law to remove the death penalty and require criminal intent for conviction.

Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah interrupted proceedings in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament yesterday to make a policy statement that the government has no intention to repeal the blasphemy law enacted during the regime of late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Shah also disowned a private bill moved by ruling Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Sherry Rehman proposing changes in the law to abolish a mandatory death sentence and to guard against its misuse.

The government’s assurance came ahead of a countrywide strike called for December 31 by the Tehrik Tahafooz Namoos-e-Risalat, a grouping of hardline religious groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

The groups have also asked the government to explain its stance on the blasphemy law.

“The government considers that its prime responsibility is to protect this law and it will never support any private members’ bill even from the treasury benches in this regard,” said Religious Affairs Minister Shah.

While he may not be speaking for all members of government, this seems like a negative development for Asia Bibi and others who have been jailed for violating this archaic law. As this report notes, even Muslims are at risk:

The blasphemy law has been at the centre of a contentious debate after a lower court in Punjab province sentenced Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman, to death last month for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia Bibi has denied the charges and said she was framed following a row with some Muslim women of her village. Rights groups and liberals have complained that the blasphemy law in often misused to settle personal and political scores.

In a recent case, a doctor from a minority Islamic sect was arrested for alleged blasphemy after he threw the visiting card of a sales representative with the first name Muhammad in a dustbin.

In his policy statement, Shah assured Parliament that the government will not allow any wrong to be done to minority communities, who have often complained of false accusations made against them under the blasphemy law.

Pakistani Islamic parties call for a strike on New Years Eve in support of blasphemy laws

Spokesman Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed calls himself a professor, but he is not teaching truth if this news report is citing him accurately. He says the US and UK also criminalize blasphemy. Sadly, many of his listeners probably believe him and assume efforts to change blasphemy laws in his country are reflections of a religious war.

Addressing a crowded press conference at Idara Noor-e-Haq, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed said that Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the blessing of Allah to whole humanity. He said Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the most respected person ever born on earth. He regretted anti-Islam elements and their local agents were out to repeal the blasphemy law in Pakistan to achieve their malicious goals against Muslims. Dispelling the misconceptions about the blasphemy bill, he said it was drafted by the clerics hailing from all schools of thought and passed by National Assembly, unanimously. He said that the noble personality of Mohammed (PBUH) is the center of love and respect for the Muslims, adding anti-Islam elements were jealous of this huge respect and love. Citing the laws in the US, UK and other western countries, Professor Ghafoor said that that sentences have also been incorporated in laws of these countries on blasphemy of Hazrat Essa (AS), adding no religion in the world allows blasphemy of the True Messengers of Almighty Allah.

These parties are set to strike on Dec. 31.

KARACHI: Religio-political parties including Jamaat-e-Islmai (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Jamait Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, Tanzeem-e-Islami, Tahreek-e-Islami and others would observe a complete shutter down strike across the country on 31st December 2010 against the conspiracies of present rulers to repeal blasphemy law, said Deputy Chief JI Pakistan Professor Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed on Tuesday.

I am becoming convinced that Asia Bibi and her family will require asylum in the US or UK if she is released.