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c. 2004 Religion News Service

Ten Commandments Monument Hits the Road

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (RNS) Motorcycle police with blue lights flashing led former Chief Justice Roy Moore’s controversial Ten Commandments monument out of town on the back of a flatbed truck Monday.

A few dozen spectators and almost as many police and reporters watched as workers with Clark Memorials of Birmingham guided the 5,280-pound block of granite down a ramp from the state judicial building. The monument, stored in an unused judicial building room for most of the past year, was lifted by a crane onto the truck and wrapped in blankets and a green tarpaulin.

A woman began singing “Rock of Ages” and a man shouted “Praise the Lord. The ark of the covenant is out in the open again. Hallelujah!” as the monument rolled into view.

“I’m excited. I’m excited. I’m pleased that it has gone so smoothly,”said Jim Cabaniss, president of American Veterans Standing for God and Country, after the monument was loaded. Cabaniss has signed a contract with Moore on behalf of his Texas-based veterans group to take the controversial monument on a monthslong tour around the nation. He said he’s ready to take it to Washington to be displayed in the Capitol if Congress asks for it.

“I hope that this is the end to this event, which has been tragic, comic and dramatic, and that we can get on with the business of the court,” said Justice Gorman Houston, who ordered the monument removed from the rotunda last year after Moore refused to obey the federal court order to remove it.

Moore said he had the monument placed in the rotunda in 2001 at his expense to fulfill a campaign pledge “to restore the moral foundation of law” by acknowledging God as the source of man’s rights.

Several organizations sued the state in federal court, contending the monument violated the First Amendment ban on state-established religion. After a trial, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled the monument unconstitutional and ordered Moore to remove it. Moore refused, and the other justices unanimously voted to overrule Moore. Moore refused and was removed from office by the state Court of the Judiciary. Houston, as acting chief justice, ordered the monument moved to an unused room in the judicial building.

Moore was not present for the monument’s removal but said earlier Monday that he was pleased the monument will be taken around the country. “I’m very happy that the people of this state and this nation are going to see what has caused all the controversy,” said Moore. “Many of them only saw it being wheeled out. Well, now they’ll see it first-hand, and they’ll see what it is that causes judges, justices, governors, attorneys general, all to want to put it in a closet and hide it from the public view.”

_ Stan Bailey

Update: Vatican to Investigate Sex Scandal in Austrian Seminary

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope John Paul on Tuesday (July 20) named a personal representative to investigate a sex scandal in an Austrian seminary involving child pornography, which has provoked demands for the diocesan bishop to resign.

The Vatican said in a one-sentence announcement that the pope has appointed Bishop Klaus Kung of Feldkirch as his “apostolic visitor for the diocese of St. Poelten and in particular for that episcopal seminary.” Kung will report back to John Paul and the Vatican congregations with jurisdiction in the case.

John Paul acted a day after Austrian police charged an unidentified 27-year-old Polish seminarian with distributing and possessing child pornography. The rector of the seminary, the Rev. Ulrich Kuechl, and his deputy, Wolfgang Rothe, resigned July 5.

In Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn praised the pope for reacting to the scandal “in a timely manner,” the Austrian Catholic news agency Kathpress reported. Austria’s bishops had sought Vatican intervention.

The diocesan Web site said that the bishop of St. Poelten, Kurt Krenn, “saluted” the appointment and hoped that Kung would carry out a “full, careful and objective examination of the diocese and its seminary.”

Authorities said they found some 40,000 photographs and videos of child pornography in seminary computers, allegedly downloaded from a Web site in Poland by the Polish seminarian they arrested. They also found photographs of priests and seminarians kissing and fondling each other.

A poll released Saturday showed that 72 percent of Austrians wanted the bishop to resign, but Krenn, 68, dismissed the photographs as a “schoolboy prank” that had “nothing to do with homosexuality.” and said he had no intention of resigning.

“Although these things naturally fall into my competence, I had nothing to do with them,” the bishop, who is known for his bluntness and his conservative views, told Austrian state television.

Kung, a member of the Opus Dei organization, said in a statement that he took on his appointment with “a heavy heart” but would try to reconstruct the most objective possible picture of events in the seminary.

“In the present situation it is important to start the work at St. Poelten without delay,” he said. “I want to proceed in depth and immediately.”

The bishop told Austria’s Catholic majority that the Vatican is acting “not to disappoint but rather to re-enforce the faith that believers nourish toward the church and the holy father.”

_ Peggy Polk

Regular Baptists, Church of the Nazarene Affirm Traditional Marriage

(RNS) Two more denominations have made official statements about their opposition to same-sex marriage.

The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, which recently met in St. Charles, Ill., for its annual conference, passed a resolution on the subject.

Delegates, or messengers, to the meeting stated that they “affirm that legal and biblical marriage can take place only between one man and one woman.” They also urged their pastors and clergy to consider “the necessity of protecting and exercising our biblical duty and religious liberty in solemnizing only those marriages permitted by Scripture.”

The resolution, passed during the June 28-July 2 meeting, also states: “… we may live to witness the judicial and societal normalization of same-sex marriage, which is roundly condemned in Scripture as depraved in character and destructive in nature both to the individual and to that society that condones it.”

The Church of the Nazarene released a statement to its U.S. church leaders prior to the July 14 Senate vote on a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage. The amendment was defeated 50-48 in a procedural vote.

Nazarene district superintendents were encouraged to have their pastors urge congregants to call members of Congress to express their support for the amendment.

“It has always been the stance of the Church of the Nazarene that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and is the foundation of society,” the statement reads. “To destroy the unique status of marriage is to undermine the very structure of our nation’s social fabric and our hope for the future.”

_ Adelle M. Banks

Yad Vashen Officials Urge Aid for Sudanese Refugees

JERUSALEM (RNS) Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority, is urging countries around the world to aid Sudanese civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan.

In a Sunday (July 18) statement, Yad Vashem called on world leaders to take “immediate concerted action to halt the tragedy in Darfur before it devolves further, to provide effective humanitarian aid to the region and to punish the perpetrators of the heinous crimes that are being committed there.”

Yad Vashem cited news reports of an “escalating humanitarian crisis” that includes “aspects of ethnic cleansing and perhaps even genocide.”

The Holocaust authority recalled that “during the era of the Holocaust the world was slow to respond to news about the murder of 6 million Jews. In the 1990s, unrestrained genocide occurred in Rwanda with little or no international acknowledgement of it until after it had ended.”

It is imperative, Yad Vashem said, “that we learn the lesson from past failures to respond in time to evolving, genocidal evil.”

Human Rights Watch estimates that government forces and members of the government-backed Janjaweed militia have murdered at least 10,000 Sudanese civilians from Darfu, and that another 1 million have become refugees.

_ Michele Chabin

Irish Theologian Named Anglican Communion Secretary General

LONDON (RNS) An Irish theologian who since 1999 has been director of the Irish School of Ecumenics has been appointed to succeed Canon John L. Peterson as secretary general of the Anglican Communion.

Canon Kenneth Kearon, 50, will take over from Canon Peterson at the end of the year.

Announcing the appointment Tuesday (July 20), Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said he was delighted with it. “Canon Kearon will bring to this post a superb knowledge of the worldwide church and invaluable experience, especially in the field of church and community relationships and in mediation and conflict resolution.”

“He comes at a time when the challenges facing our Communion are enormous and the opportunities for mission great,” Williams said.

Welcoming his successor’s appointment, Peterson said he was looking forward to working with him during the period of transition before he left and Canon Kearon took over.

Kearon’s appointment has also been warmly welcomed by Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh and Archbishop John Neill of Dublin.

_ Robert Nowell

Quote of the Day: Organist John Michniewicz of Connecticut

(RNS) “The church is a mixed blessing. It gives the organ tons of exposure. But people associate the organ with funerals and guilt.”

_ John Michniewicz, an organist from Connecticut attending the American Guild of Organists’ biennial convention in Los Angeles. He was quoted by the Los Angeles Times.

DEA/JL END RNS

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