Church & World May 2000

Tennessee School District Offers Bible Studies

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (EP) Public school students in Chattanooga, Tenn. are able to study Bible history as a sodal studies elective, thanks to an independently funded community program. Since 1922 the Public School Bible Study Committee has collected donations from community and business leaders to underwrite the program in the Hamilton County Unified School District, thus avoiding constitutional problems. The program has only one serious problem. The class is so popular that the committee’s $750,000 annual budget can’t keep up with demand.

“In 1997, for the first time, we had to turn down five principals who wanted the curriculum,” Henry Henegar, a board member on the Bible study committee told Conservative News Service, an on-line news organization.

About 3,400 students partidpated in the classes last year, and 3,600 are expected this year. The classes are offered in 17 middle schools and high schools in Hamilton County, which includes Chattanooga. Prindpals like the Bible course because it lets them expand their school’s curriculum without additional cost. Henegar supports the program for another reason; he believes no person can be “truly educated” without knowing something about the Bible.

The committee successfully defended itself against the only legal challenge to the program in 1979. In a lawsuit brought with the support of the American Civil Uberties Union, U.S. District Frank Wilson ruled that privately-funded classes which present the Bible as literature or history, rather than doctrine—are legal. In his decision Wllson wrote, “To ignore the role of the Bible in the vast area of secular subjects…is to ignore a keystone in the building of an arch, at least insofar as Western history, values and culture are concemed.”

Canadian Association of Journalists Condemns Arrest of Pro-Life Reporters

TORONTO, Ont., Canada (EP) The arrests of three journalists by Canadian police during a pro-life demonstration on Oct. 15 were denounced recently by the Canadian Assodation of Journalists (CAl). The CAJ, a professional organization with more than 1,500 members across Canada, condemned the arrests as an intimidation tactic by Canadian police. Steve Jalsevac, Gord Truscott and Sue Careless were arrested and charged with obstructing a peace officer. Police also seized camera film belonging to the journalists. Careless appeared in Provincial Court Dec. 3.

“While we understand the journalists are pro-life supporters, that in no way gives police the right to infringe upon freedom of the press,” said Boni Fox, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. “This is the kind of muzzling that limits the coverage of important events as they unfold and ultimately threatens public debate.” The CAJ demands the charges against the journalists be dropped and that police issue apologies to the joumalists immediately.

According to CAT this is only the latest example of what it calls ((police efforts to silence journalists involved in reporting controversial or sensitive stories.” CAJ reported several inddents during the last year in which police have wire-tapped the phones of journalists, seizea their notes and placed them under arrest for doing their jobs.

“There seems to be a feeling within some police departments that it’s appropriate to arrest or intimidate journalists when their reporting becomes bothersome,” said Fox. “It’s an attitude that ignores the vital role journalists play in informing us all about the issues and institutions that shape us.”

The CAJ contends that the so-called “bubble zone” injunction, which formed the basis for the arrests of the journalists, does not apI!ly to journalists covering protests and gives police no right to arrest reporters or photographers.

The injunction prohibits pro-life demonstrations within 60 feet of clinics during working hours. “It is an appalling abuse of power in a democratic sodety and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” said Fox. “Journalists are the eyes and ears of the public and we aim to deliver information to our readers, listeners and viewers in a fair, balanced and timely matter. In carrying out the course of our duties we do not expect to be accosted and arrested by overzealous police.”

Church Growing Fast, But at a Cost

The church is expanding faster than ever in history, but it is not without a horrible cost, said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom and author of Their Blood Cries Out.

“We are living in the greatest age of the expansion of the church ever” he said. As evidence, Marshall cited the growth of the church in China from one million in 1980 to an estimated SO million in 1999. Marshall made his comments at a town hall meeting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The growth, he said, is not coming in Western Europe or in the United States, but in places outside the West. If “Africa will soon be the continent, if not already, with the greatest number of Christians,” Marshall said. “Christians in the world are more likely to be Chinese or Nigerian or Sudanese than to be Westerners,” he continued, adding that about 80 percent of the church lives outside the West.

Marshall concluded that the cost of . this growth has bee)1 persecution of the church. “These are evil unjust things that should be fought,” he said. “But what is…the good news of which this is the dark side? The good news is the spread of the gospel, the growth of the church, the power of the gospel in people’s lives.”

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (EP) — Florida will poceed with the planned introduction of new “Choose Life” license plates. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles temporarily halted production of the optional license plate design because of a lawsuit by the National Organization for Women. However, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reportedly told the department to go ahead with its plans. The license plate design, which is available for an additional fee, features a drawing of two children with the words “Choose Life”. Proceeds from the sale go to support groups which advocate adoption. Abortion advocates contend that the tag carries an anti-abortion message.

DENVER, Colo. (EP) — Posting the Ten Commandments in Colorado schoolrooms could help prevent another massacre, according to a state lawmaker, Sen. John Andrews (R-Golden) has introduced a bill to post the Ten Commandments in the state’s schools. Gov. Bill Owens said he will sign the bill if it is passed “Since Columbine, we’re dealing with a new level of concern that value-free education is failing,” Andrews said. The bill also requires students to take a moment each day for silent reflection on their priviledges as citizens in a free nation under God. “Our arugment is that an educated young person cannot be ignorant of the fact that this country was founded on the principles embodied by the Ten Commandments,” Andrews said. “Call us old-fashioned, but it hasn’t been too many years since our professed beliefs were the accepted norm in America. Society has changed to the detriment, we believe, of us all as a people.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) — The Clinton Administration’s proposed education budget increases spending by 12.6 percent but eliminates Title VI Innovative Grants which allow state agencies to purchase library books and other education materials for loan to private schools, including church-related schools. The administration has proposed elimination of Title VI Innovative Grants in the past, but has always been overridden by Congress. The Clinton education budget also includes incentive programs to encourage students to enter teaching as a profession, but students who wish to teach at private schools are excluded from these programs.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (EP) — About one million college students and faculty across the nation will receive a pro-life message through college newspapers as part of a campaign by the Human Life Alliance. The eight-page inserts contain facts on abortion’s physical and emotional effects, along with pictures, testamonies and articles to educate readers on the humanity of the unborn. The inserts will be distributed at 100 academic institutions in the U.S.

NEW YORK, N.Y. (EP) — Facing a financial crisis, the National Council of Churches (NCC) is reconstructing. Under the new plan, Church World Service, NCC’s humanitarian aid and relief arm, will become semi-autonomous. Other NCC programs will be merged into a single unit to be called “Unity and Justice.” The organization’s headquarters staff has been reduced by one-third with the elimination of 34 jobs. The NCC still faces financial and management difficulties, and has an unresolved budget shortfall of $4 million.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (EP) — A chain of redistribution weekly newspapers in central California has come under fire for refusing to present pro-homosexual and pro-abortion viewpoints. More than a dozen editorial employees at two of the newspapers have quit, and hundreds of people canceled subscriptions. The controversy began with a calendar listing for a group called Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered Persons, which ran in the Atascadero Gazette. The paper’s editor, Ron Bast, was told the chain’s owner had ordered the listing removed, and that there were to be no pro-gay or pro abortion stories. A statement by company owners David and Mary Weyrich said, “The issue has everything to do with integrity and nothing to do with journalistic ethics.

WASHINGTON D.C. (EP) — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 268–158 to eliminate the “marriage penalty,” a provision from the tax code which forces married couples to pay more in tax than they would if they were co-habitating singles. The penalty requires some 25 million couples to pay an average of $1,400 in extra taxes each year. The proposed change increases the lower tax brackets to include more of a married couple’s income, raises the standard deduction for married couples to twice that of a single person, and allows more low-income married couples to claim the earned income tax credit. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R–Ill.) said, “This isn’t about tax cuts. This is about tax fairness. We need a tax code that doesn’t punish married couples.