For the published week of February 5, 2004
Grand Canyon dispute
Officials at the Grand Canyon National Park have ordered additional copies
of “Grand Canyon: A Different View” – a hardcover book of photos
and essays advocating creation science and being sold in the parks bookstores.
A National Park Service confirmed additional copies have been ordered. In recent
weeks, the debate about whether the park should offer the book for sale has
been detailed in reports in various news media. Critics have protested the books
creationist theme, saying it amounts to an endorsement of religion by the park
service. However, the park service spokesperson said their offices will review
the matter and work toward a general policy on such issues. The spokesperson
said e-mails on the issue are running about 50-50 in support and opposition.
The spokesperson also noted the bookstore has carried books based on Native
American spiritual beliefs for several years.
Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion, assisted suicide or any other
“life issues” out of step with church teachings should refrain from
Holy Communion, a New Orleans archbishop has declared. The statement by Archbishop
Alfred Hughes is in stride with other Catholic bishops across the country, who
are trying to enforce orthodoxy among Catholics in public life. “When Catholic
officials openly support the taking of human life in abortion, euthanasia or
the destruction of human embryos, they are no longer faithful members in the
church and should not partake of Holy Communion,” Hughes wrote in his statement.
Several Louisiana Catholic politicians declined to comment on the matter. But
the pronouncement comes on the heels of several recent steps the church has
taken to try to bring elected Catholics into line with Vatican doctrine on abortion,
euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, cloning and the death penalty. A Catholic
spokesperson later clarified that Hughes statement calls for voluntary
withdrawal of opposing politicians from communion and does not mean priests
should refuse to serve them.
Radio listeners across the United States soon will have the opportunity to
hear biblical perspectives on current issues from Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary President Al Mohler Jr. “The Albert Mohler Program” was scheduled
to begin a run on selected stations from coast to coast beginning Feb. 2. The
show formerly was known as “Truth on the Line” and has aired daily
in Louisville, Ky., since Sept. 2, 2003. “From the beginning, our hope
was to take what were doing with Truth on the Line to a national audience,”
Mohler said. “Our agenda is to confront the culture and help Christians
to think through the issues of the day.” In addition to individual radio
stations, the program will be heard on XM (satellite) radio channel 170.
William Jewell College students voted 279-266 late last month against an amendment
to the student bill of rights that would have prohibited discrimination based
on sexual orientation. Last fall, the student senate had approved a student
vote on the issue. However, that action was vetoed by the senates president,
who said he acted on his beliefs as a Missouri Baptist to stand against sin.
Supporters of the amendment then gathered needed signatures to override the
veto and allow the student vote. Conservative Southern Baptists in Missouri
regarded the vote as an example of William Jewells increasing tolerance
of unscriptural behavior. It was part of the concerns that led the Missouri
Baptist Convention to sever ties with the college in 2003, costing the institution
about $1 million a year in support. Despite the recent vote, the issue could
resurface in 2005.
A federal appeals court recently upheld a Florida law that prohibits homosexual
adoption, unanimously ruling that the state has a legitimate interest in seeking
to place children in homes with a mother and father. In a 3-0 decision, the
court ruled that the 1977 adoption law does not violate homosexuals rights
under the U.S. Constitution. The court said adoption is a privilege, not a right
guaranteed to all people. The decision likely will be appealed. Florida, Mississippi
and Utah are the only states that prohibit same-sex couples from adopting. Floridas
law is considered the toughest because it prevents homosexual singles from adopting
as well. During the appeal, state attorneys argued that a traditional family
home offers something unique – the presence of both male and female figures
– necessary for the childs optimal development. The court agreed.
“Although social theorists from Plato to Simone de Beauvoir have proposed
alternative child-rearing arrangements, none has proven as enduring as the marital
family structure, nor has the accumulated wisdom of several millennia of human
experience discovered a superior model,” the court said.
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed its largest fine ever for
broadcast indecency. The commission announced a proposed fine of $755,000 against
Clear Channel Communications for 26 indecency violations by four of its radio
stations. The commissions penalties came at the maximum of $27,500 per
violation for material reportedly broadcast on the “Bubba the Love Sponge”
program. A commission report indicates the violations involved “graphic
and explicit sexual and/or excretory material and were designed to pander to,
titillate and shock listeners.” The large fine was not enough for two of
the FCCs own commissioners. One said the commission should hold a hearing
on revocation of the stations licenses or level a higher fine. Another
said Clear Channel should be fined for 49 violations. Congressional legislation
already has been introduced to strengthen the regulation of broadcast indecency.
The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (H.R. 3717) would increase the fine for
each decency violation to a maximum of $275,000 and a total for continuing violations
not to exceed $3 million.
Thousands of anti-abortion-rights activists marked the anniversary of the Supreme
Court decision that legalized abortion across the country on Jan. 22. As in
previous years, opponents of the Roe vs. Wade ruling in 1973 held a rally near
the White House and then marched to the Supreme Court building. President George
Bush addressed the marchers via telephone from New Mexico. “During the
past three years weve made real progress toward building a culture of
life in America,” Bush said. “In the Declaration of Independence,
our founders stated this self-evident truth: The right to life does not come
from government; it comes from the creator of life.” The past year has
seen a victory for abortion opponents. Last fall, Bush signed a law banning
partial-birth abortions, a late-term procedure in which a baby is almost fully
delivered, then aborted. In his remarks to marchers, Bush also touted the Unborn
Victims of Violence Act, which would allow prosecutors to recognize fetuses
as victims when a pregnant woman is attacked or murdered. The bill awaits action
in the U.S. House.
Texas Baptist volunteers have been some of the first responders among faith-based
disaster-relief workers during the last three decades. But the Texas Baptists
who recently returned from Iran said they were glad an Alabama group paved the
way for them. The Alabama Baptist disaster-relief team was among the first relief
groups in Bam, Iran, site of a devastating earthquake in December that left
the ancient city in ruins and more than 25,000 dead. In early January, the Alabama
volunteers supplied daily meals to survivors living in a refugee camp outside
the city. Iranians who saw the name “Alabama Disaster Relief” on the
side of supply crates warmly welcomed the Americans. Since “Ala” sounded
like the Iranian word for God, “ba” like “with” and “ma”
like “us,” the group became identified locally as “God with us
disaster relief.” When the Texas Baptists arrived in Iran, they said they
received a cold greeting. But when an official learned they were related to
the “Ala-ba-ma” group, “it was an open door,” one work leader
reported. The Texas Baptist team then spent nine 14-hour days at the 341-tent
refugee camp, cooking meals and providing medical care.