NEWS ANALYSIS: Ten Commandments Symbolize the Sacred for Evangelicals

c. 2003 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ To Alabama’s dominant evangelical Christian population, the Ten Commandments stand as a powerful symbol of the sacred, not a quaint myth about the origins of law. “Evangelical Christians, particularly here in Alabama, have a strong conviction that it’s part of biblically inspired Scripture,” said Don Hawkins, president of Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham and former host of the “Back to the Bible” radio program broadcast on 600 stations worldwide. “They take this literally.” Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore put that belief into a symbol _ a hulking, 2.6-ton monument in the Alabama Judicial Building that, graven image or not, still stands for many as an embodiment of biblical principles.

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c. 2003 Religion News Serevice Presbyterians Tweak Late-Term Abortion Policy DENVER (RNS) The Presbyterian Church (USA) revised its position on late-term abortions Thursday (May 29) to say a fetus should not be aborted to save the life of the mother if it could survive outside the womb. Delegates to the church’s annual General Assembly meeting revised the abortion policy first set in 1992 and then amended in 1997 and 2002. Though the policy remains essentially the same, the 548 delegates rejected an alternative statement that would have been slightly more restrictive. The policy calls late-term, or “partial-birth,” abortions a “matter of grave moral concern” that should be used only in cases of rape or incest, a threat to the mother’s health or a fetus’ “untreatable life-threatening medical anomalies.” The revised policy, adopted on a 405-108 vote, says that when a mother’s health is threatened by a pregnancy and if the “baby may be able to live outside the womb, a procedure should be considered which gives both the mother and the child the opportunity to live.” In one minor addition to last year’s policy, the church said it “appreciates the challenge each woman and family face when issues of personal well-being arise in the later stages of a pregnancy.” Delegates rejected a measure that would have removed the rape and incest provisions in a 353-150 vote.

NEWS FEATURE: At West Point Graham Grandson Marches To Different Drum

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Three decades ago, West Point awarded the Rev. Billy Graham its highest civilian honor _ the Sylvanus Thayer Award. Today, the evangelist’s grandson Edward Graham looks forward to his West Point graduation and a military commission for active duty at a time when war seems imminent. In an interview with Religion News Service, the third son of evangelist Franklin Graham and grandson of the legendary the Rev. Billy Graham said he wears his family stripes as proudly as he wears the West Point grays. His conversation, disarmingly earnest, reflects easy confidence tempered with a pronounced humility, strong convictions and a deep faith in God.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Poll: Active Churchgoers More Likely to Express Life Satisfaction (RNS) Americans’ views about life satisfaction are shaped by their faith and religious practice, a Barna poll shows. Pollsters questioned people with an active faith _ those who attend church, read the Bible and pray during a typical week _ and found that 73 percent strongly agreed that they were very happy with their lives, compared to 64 percent of those who are less active. The poll was released Wednesday (April 23) by Barna Research Group of Ventura, Calif. Eighty-three percent of those in the active-faith category said their faith is consistently growing deeper, compared to 38 percent of the less-active group.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Presbyterians: Jesus is True, But Not Necessary for Salvation (RNS) Nearly three-quarters of Presbyterians believe that the “absolute truth for humankind is in Jesus Christ,” but fewer than half say that only Christians will be saved, according to a new church survey. The periodic poll of members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) found that 70 percent of members, 75 percent of elders, 71 percent of pastors and 55 percent of specialized clergy (such as chaplains) agreed that the “only absolute truth for humankind is in Jesus Christ.” When asked if “only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved,” 43 percent of parishioners, 50 percent of elders, 39 percent of clergy and 24 percent of specialized clergy agreed. The poll comes as the church awaits a report from a 20-member task force that is studying the theological unity of the 2.5 million-member church. The task force is expected to issue its final report in 2006.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service `Best Christian Places to Work’ Survey Results Announced (RNS) Organizations ranging from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Brea, Calif., to Colorado-based Group Publishing have been named some of the “Best Christian Places to Work” in a new survey commissioned by Christianity Today magazine. The look at Christian workplaces was administered by Best Christian Workplaces Institute, which accepted applications for the designation from organizations with a Christian mission, more than 15 full-time employees and a Christian product or service. More than 8,500 employees of applicants answered an online survey and their responses were judged by a panel that selected 40 finalists in 10 categories. The results were announced Monday (Feb.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Wheaton College Adds Dancing, Faculty Drinking to Community Covenant (RNS) Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Wheaton, Ill., will allow dancing and permit faculty to drink alcohol and use tobacco products off campus according to its new “community covenant.” “On-campus dances will take place only with official college sponsorship,” according to the covenant approved in mid-February. “All members of the Wheaton College community will take care to avoid any entertainment or behavior, on or off campus, which may be immodest, sinfully erotic, or harmfully violent.” The college included the new language in a list of “frequently asked questions” that accompanies the covenant and is posted on its Web site. “First, for not a few of our students, dancing was a significant part of their lives before they came to Wheaton, even though they come from strong Christian backgrounds,” the college said. “Across the country the evangelical world is today very mixed on this issue.” It noted it has held “innocent and wholesome” dances, such as square dances, since the 1970s.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service ADL: Anti-Jewish Incidents Up 25 Percent on Campuses (RNS) The number of anti-Jewish incidents in the United States increased slightly from 2001 to 2002 but similar incidents reported on campuses rose 25 percent in 2002, the Anti-Defamation League reported in its annual audit. The total of anti-Jewish incidents reported against Jews and Jewish institutions rose from 1,432 in 2001 to 1,559 in 2002, reports the ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, issued Wednesday (March 26). “We are deeply concerned that despite the strides we have made over the years, anti-Semitic incidents continue to be carried out in large numbers,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “While we can take comfort that this year’s numbers have not increased substantially, it is unsettling that we are still experiencing anti-Semitism at an average rate of four incidents per day.” The incidents cited in the report include physical and verbal assaults, property defacement and vandalism, hateful e-mail messages and harassment.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Agency Recommends Driver Training for Vans Often Used by Churches WASHINGTON (RNS) The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states require special training for drivers of 15-passenger vans after investigating accidents involving vans used by churches. The agency also recommended more stringent measures for detecting tire pressure since pressure levels that are significantly below manufacturer-recommended levels can adversely affect the handling of vehicles such as 15-passenger vans. “The NTSB’s recommendations are based on fact, science and data and our analysis in these accidents demonstrate that we must do more to protect children and adults who travel in 15-passenger vans,” said Ellen G. Engleman, the board’s chairman, in a statement. “Our recommendations are attainable, doable and will make an immediate impact for safety.” In the Tuesday (July 15) announcement of the recommendations, the agency cited its conclusions on the probable cause of two accidents involving 15-passenger vans used by churches.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Vatican Opens Archives on Pre-World War Relations with Germany VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has given historians access to 394 folders of documents dealing with pre-World War II relations with Germany, which it hopes will help to remove doubts about Pope Pius XII’s attitude toward the Nazi persecution of the Jews and clear the way for his beatification. Professors Agostino Giovagnoli of Catholic University of Milan and Emma Fattorini of Rome’s Sapienza University were the first of some three dozen applicants to have access to files when they were unsealed on Saturday (Feb. 15). The documents deal mainly with diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Germany during the pre-war years of 1922 to 1939 when Pius XI was pope and Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, served first as ambassador to Germany and then as secretary of state.

NEWS FEATURE: A Book of Nun Fun: Sisters Share Tales of What School Kids Say

c. 2003 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The sermon went on and on, and a little boy in the front row started talking during Mass. Sister Adelle told the child sitting next to her to go up and tell him to keep quiet. The boy dutifully walked up to the front, then past the boy in the first row and up to the lectern. There he told the priest, “Sister said you should stop talking.” The tale from the Catholic school front is one of 150 told by Cleveland Sister Mary Kathleen Glavich in her new book from Paulist Press titled “Catholic School Kids Say the Funniest Things.” In recent years, Catholic nuns have been the target of humor on shows like “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You” and movies in which sisters are portrayed as ruler-wielding battle-axes.

NEWS STORY: Archbishop Criticizes Official Hired to Assess Church’s Sex Abuse Reforms

c. 2003 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ Newark Archbishop John J. Myers has delivered a stern rebuke to Kathleen McChesney, the former FBI official hired by U.S. Catholic bishops to assess church reform in the wake of the priest sex-abuse scandal, saying her decisions have perplexed a number of church leaders. Myers’ remarks came in a letter declining an invitation to attend an upcoming meeting of a reform-minded group of Catholics, Voice of the Faithful. McChesney, executive director of the Bishops’ Office of Youth and Child Protection in Washington, is scheduled to speak at the group’s meeting May 13 in Little Falls, N.J. McChesney, once the third-highest official in the FBI, was hired in November by a national panel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I have met with Dr. Kathleen McChesney,” Myers wrote to a member of Voice of the Faithful April 21.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Bush Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case WASHINGTON (RNS) The Bush administration has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a lower court decision and allow the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “one nation under God.” U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson said last summer’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the pledge violates the separation of church and state is “manifestly contrary” to previous church-state cases. “Whatever else the (First Amendment) may prohibit, this court’s precedents make it clear that it does not forbid the government from officially acknowledging the religious heritage, foundation and character of this nation,” Olson wrote Wednesday (April 30) in his argument. California atheist Michael Newdow sued in 2000, saying his daughter should not be forced to listen to the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. The first court to hear the case dismissed it, but the San Francisco-based appeals court ruled in Newdow’s favor.

NEWS FEATURE: Agnostic Questions if AA Is the Way

c. 2003 Religion News Service TOLEDO, Ohio _ Lou Peters accepts that he was wrong for driving drunk three years ago. But he cannot accept that God is the answer. Peters, 59, is an agnostic. So when a judge ordered him to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, the former hobby shop owner chose 30 days in jail instead.