News Articles

CULTURE DIGEST: Ashley Smith gave kidnapper crystal meth, she says in book

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Fans of Ashley Smith, the young woman who was taken hostage by a man charged in the Atlanta courthouse shootings and read him portions of “The Purpose-Driven Life” in persuading him to surrender, were shocked Sept. 26 when news surfaced that she also gave the man some of her crystal methamphetamine and did not immediately tell police.

The information was disclosed in her book, “Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero,” which was released this week. Apparently, the night she was held captive, Smith was asked by escapee Brian Nichols if she had any marijuana. She told him she did not, but she did have some “ice,” or crystal meth, The New York Times reported Sept. 28.

Smith revealed that she had been struggling with a methamphetamine addiction when she was taken hostage, and the drug problem had even led to time spent in a psychiatric hospital and the loss of custody of her 5-year-old daughter.

The last time Smith used crystal meth, Smith said, was 36 hours before Nichols held a gun to her and entered her home. Nichols wanted her to use the drug with him, but she refused.

“Suddenly, looking down at my drug pouch,” Smith wrote, “I realized that I would rather have died in my apartment than have done those drugs with Brian Nichols. If the cops were going to bust in here and find me dead, they were not going to find drugs in me when they did the autopsy. I was not going to die tonight and stand before God, having done a bunch of ice up my nose.”

A special agent with the FBI has said the news of Smith’s use of crystal meth in the past should not cause her to lose any of the $72,500 in reward money she received after Nichols was taken into custody, The Times said.

‘ATHEIST LOBBYIST’ TAKES ON WASHINGTON — Lori Lipman Brown has arrived in Washington with an agenda to keep religion out of government and change the way most Americans view atheists.

As the executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, Brown, who described herself to USA Today as a “soft, fuzzy atheist,” plans to give a voice to those non-believers who says they have been squelched for far too long by powerful networks of conservative Christians in the nation’s capital.

The Secular Coalition for America was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, when atheists were made uncomfortable by the linking of God and patriotism.

Brown compares atheists today to homosexuals in the 1970s who were hesitant to come out of the closet and fight for acceptance, USA Today reported Sept. 18. She believes the atheists, humanists and “freethinkers” have been disrespected, stigmatized and ignored long enough, and the time has come for someone to stand up for their rights.

USA Today referred to a recent Pew Research Center poll which said just 1 percent of respondents claimed to be atheists. Brown believes people are waiting until it’s safe to announce they do not believe in God.

In her role as atheists’ first lobbyist, Brown, who was a Nevada state senator from 1992-94, intends to join coalitions that fight government policies rooted in religious beliefs, such as limits on stem cell research and access to emergency contraception, USA Today said.

She also will join with groups opposed to policies that blur the line between separation of church and state, she said, such as giving taxpayer dollars to faith-based initiatives.

But when it comes to fighting for removing the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, she need only sit tight, she said, because “the courts are on our side.”

Though she doesn’t expect to radically change the political climate early on, Brown does hope to raise awareness of atheists’ views on important issues, USA Today reported.

IT’S BARBIE IN AN ABAYA — As many Muslims in the Middle East tend to be appalled by the sex-drenched American culture, one toymaker has unearthed a gold mine of sorts by offering an alternative to the curvy blonde American icon known for decades as Barbie.

Fulla, a dark-eyed doll with “Muslim values,” emerges from her shiny pink box wearing a black abaya and matching headscarf, The New York Times reported Sept. 21, and is accompanied by a tiny prayer rug made of pink felt.

Girls in the Middle East are overtaken by Fulla fever, begging their parents for everything from Fulla breakfast cereal, Fulla bikes, Fulla backpacks and Fulla chewing gum to girl-size prayer rugs and scarf sets in Fulla pink, The Times said.

“This isn’t just about putting the hijab on a Barbie doll,” Fawaz Abidin, the Fulla brand manager for Syria-based creator NewBoy, said. “You have to create a character that parents and children will want to relate to. Our advertising is full of positive messages about Fulla’s character. She’s honest, loving and caring, and she respects her father and mother.”

To help convey Fulla’s values, a cartoon image of the doll glides across the screen in commercials on children’s television in the Middle East, The Times reported, saying her prayers as the sun rises, baking a cake to surprise her friend and reading a book at bedtime. All this as high-pitched voices sing the Fulla song in Arabic, with lyrics like, “She will soon be by my side, and I can tell her my deepest secrets.”

But there may be more to the Fulla revolution than excitement over her “new spring abaya,” according to Maan Abdul Salam, a Syrian women’s rights advocate who told The Times the doll represents a trend toward Islamic conservatism sweeping the Middle East. The percentage of young Arab women who wear the hijab is much higher now than just a decade ago, he said.

“If this doll had come out 10 years ago, I don’t think it would have been very popular,” Salam told The Times. “Fulla is part of this great cultural shift.”

CREATION MUSEUMS JOIN EVOLUTION BATTLE — Debate over the origin of living things on the planet has heated up again in recent months, and museums that tout the creationist view are gaining in popularity nationwide. In fact, a new one with a $25 million price tag is being built just outside Cincinnati, Ohio, promising to be the nation’s largest museum devoted to creation science.

The half-finished 50,000-square-foot museum will feature animatronic dinosaurs, state-of-the-art models and graphics and six staff scientists, according to a report by The Washington Post Sept. 25. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to enter the doors once it officially opens in early 2007.

“Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back,” Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the group building the museum, told The Post. “This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God.”

Dinosaurs are a key element in the debate over whether the earth is millions of years old or just 6,000 years old, as the creation account in the Book of Genesis and other evidence leads some to believe.

The Post cited polls taken last year that show 45 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago or less and that man shares no common ancestor with the ape. Just 26 percent believe that all life descended from a single ancestor, the poll said.

Young-earth creationists, like those at the creation museums, believe dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together in the Garden of Eden and then aboard Noah’s Ark, The Post noted.

“We call him our missionary lizard,” Mark Looy, a tour guide and vice president at the Answers in Genesis museum, said of a T. rex during a walk-through at the facility. “When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the Gospel.”

In Colorado, B.C. Tours, which the owners tout as “biblically correct,” takes a different approach by offering escorted visits to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature and local zoos and art museums where participants can hear biblical explanations for the exhibits, The New York Times reported Sept. 20.

“Take a journey with our tour guides and examine the evidence of an ancient world. Decide if the evidence supports the theory of evolution or special creation,” the website for B.C. Tours, www.creationtours.com, says about a visit to the Denver science museum.

Ham believes he is standing on solid ground in the creation/evolution debate because of his source of information.

“We admit we have an axiom: We have a book and it’s the Bible and it’s revealed history,” he told The Post. “Where the Bible teaches on science, we can trust it as the word of God.”

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry