For the week of December 12, 2002
Gifts through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program totaled
$16.1 million last month, an increase of $82,157 (0.5 percent) from the previous
November. Two months into the conventions fiscal year, overall gifts total
$29.9 million, an increase of more than $1.1 million (4 percent) from the same
time last year. The total also stands $416,289 (1.4 percent) ahead of budget
at this time. Meanwhile, designated gifts totaled a little more than $3.5 million
last month, a decrease of $233,157 (6.2 percent) from the previous November.
Two months into the fiscal year, overall gifts total almost $6.3 million, a
drop of $793,301 (11.2 percent) from the same time last year.
First Amendment case
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is appealing
a ruling by an appellate court that said it cannot restrict speech on sidewalks
running through its plaza in downtown Salt Lake City. The plaza used to be a
section of Main Street but was purchased by the Mormons from the city in 1999.
Upon purchasing the property, the church placed restrictions on demonstrations,
protests and other activities in the one-block area. The American Civil Liberties
Union and the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City sued the church, but
the case was dismissed. However, a federal appeals court upheld an appeal, saying
the city should protect free-speech rights on sidewalks because they are a traditional
public forum. “The city cannot take action that runs afoul of our first
and primary amendment,” the ruling states. “The city cannot create
a First Amendment-free zone.
LifeWay Web site
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention has redesigned
its Web site at www.LifeWay.com. “Users
of our numerous LifeWay Web sites often have been confused about how to find
information, how one program related to another or how to order materials,”
a LifeWay official said. “They have asked us to simplify how they interact
with us. Our goal is one Web site that makes their online experience with us
more convenient and efficient. The overall design has been improved and updated
to better meet customer needs. A more intuitive navigation helps customers spend
less time finding what they want.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians recently approved
a resolution endorsing homosexual adoption. The 93,500-member medical organization
also adopted a resolution to approve domestic partner benefits. At least one
critic charged the physicians were looking out for their own interests instead
of the interests of children. He noted the resolutions would expand the scope
of health care, ensuring that physicians would be reimbursed for care they provide
to children or adults in such situations. The endorsement of homosexual adoptions
follows a similar one by the American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this year.
In that resolution, academy leaders said children who grow up with same-sex
parents fare as well emotionally and socially as children whose parents are
heterosexual. Critics within the academy charged the endorsement is based on
insufficient and inaccurate data.
For the first time ever, a jury will decide whether a first
trimester abortion takes the life of a human being. The case involves a New
Jersey woman, who sued her gynecologist, contending that he never informed her
that aborting a baby in the first trimester was ending the life of a human being.
Thus, the procedure was performed without informed consent, she said. A trial
court dismissed the suit, saying the state could not make such a decision. The
court said the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion prohibited the state
from recognizing that the child was a human being. However, a New Jersey appeals
court overruled that decision, setting the stage for what could be a significant
case. If the woman wins her argument, every New Jersey doctor would be required
to inform his or her patients that an abortion would terminate a human life.
The new trial is set to begin May 5. And depending on the outcome, the matter
could be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted a case challenging a Texas
law prohibiting homosexual sex, raising the possibility it might be prepared
to reverse itself on the sodomy issue. The high court announced it would review
a lower court decision upholding a Texas law banning sexual relations between
members of the same sex. A ruling is expected by next summer. By agreeing to
hear the case, the court is revisiting an issue it decided in 1986. The justices
ruled in a 5-4 decision that year that a Georgia law barring homosexual sex
was constitutional. Much has changed on the high court and in the states since
then, however. Only three justices remain on the high court from that earlier
decision. Also, since that ruling, the number of state sodomy laws has decreased
from 28 to 13. The courts decision to hear the case comes just days after
a Louisiana appeals court upheld that states sodomy law. State officials
argue the law is needed to promote marriage and encourage procreation. They
also argue that the state has the authority to outlaw “immoral” behavior
and impose penalties. Violations of the Louisiana law is considered a felony
and carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Louisiana Choose Life
The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for Louisiana to
continue to sell “Choose Life” auto license plates. The high court
rejected an appeal by abortion-rights advocates, thereby allowing a federal
appeals court ruling in favor of the pro-life plates to stand. A 1999 state
law established the specialty plate, which features the words “Choose Life”
and the depiction of a baby in a blanket held in the beak of a pelican, Louisianas
state bird. After legal delays, the plate went on sale this Nov. 1, and almost
200 plates were sold in the first month. Six other states Alabama, Florida,
Hawaii, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina have approved similar
pro-life plates. The “Choose Life” plate costs $61.50 for two years,
in addition to the normal license fee. From this cost, $25 will go each year
to the state for distribution to organizations that offer abortion alternatives.
When is a Christmas tree not a Christmas tree? When political
correctness collides with the yuletide season. But that is about to change.
The mayor of Toronto and his council are expected to pass a motion calling a
festooned fir outside city hall a Christmas tree. Politicians were scrambling
to set the record straight after city staff referred to the decorated evergreen
as a “holiday tree.” That triggered thousands of angry calls from
the public. “Calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree is taking
political correctness too far,” one council member said. “Its
like calling the menorah a holiday flame.” Mayor Mel Lastman
is Jewish but agreed city workers went too far with their political correctness.
“They were trying to be inclusive, and their hearts were in the right place,”
he said. “But you cant be politically correct all the time. Let me
set the record straight: Toronto has a Christmas tree.”
Choice on Earth?
Planned Parenthoods distribution of a Christmas card that says “Choice
on Earth” has prompted criticism from pro-life activists. “The group
twists a well-known Scripture in which God offers peace on earth – not
abortion – through the birth of his son Jesus Christ,” said Wendy
Wright, senior policy director for Washington-based Concerned Women for America.
Other pro-life leaders agreed, describing the cards as blasphemous. A Planned
Parenthood President leader dismissed the criticism, noting the card has been
a popular one for almost a decade. The official said Planned Parenthood is printing
more cards – along with tee-shirts that bear the same slogan – for
sale on its Web site.