- High on God: Christians for Cannabis
- Christians and Jews Plan Interfaith Solidarity Tour to Israel
- Beating World Hunger
- Religion Now More of an Issue for Human Resource Managers
High on God: Christians for Cannabis ... ABC News reports that a Christian woman who examined research on marijuana found "no evidence to back up the horrible things she had heard about the drug." A Bible study on the topic turned up nothing negative, so "she began to wonder why some religious leaders seemed to favor stiff penalties for marijuana users." She even decided to try smoking pot.
According to ABC, the woman, who is 35 and a mother of five, then decided to launch a "Christians for Cannabis" Web site, and to begin a grass roots campaign aimed at encouraging legislators, religious leaders and newspapers to rally for an end to the marijuana prohibition. The mission of Christians for Cannabis is "to provide encouragement, support and prayer for the [Christian cannabis user] subculture as a whole and those that work on its behalf."
ABC notes that while Christians for Cannabis is a bit unusual, it is not the only religious group advocating an end to the war on drugs. The Presbyterian Church (USA), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and the Progressive Jewish Alliance are among the groups that have "lent their support to a call by the National Coalition for Effective Drug Policies to redirect efforts to curtail drug use. These organizations all make clear that their opposition to current drug policy is based not on support for drug use, but out of a belief that the war on drugs has done more harm than good and that it is essentially immoral."
Christians and Jews Plan Interfaith Solidarity Tour to Israel ... (ANS) -- At a time when many are shrinking away from travel to Israel, one intrepid interfaith group plans to show their support to the embattled nation on an intensive trip July 18-25. "We stand together in God's purposes for Israel," says Garry Ansdell, pastor of Hosanna Chapel in Bellflower, California. He is joining Rabbi Haim Asa and other concerned Jews and Christians for the eight-day trip.
"There needs to be international support for Israel," Ansdell says. "It's hard to understand what is happening unless you go personally," he says. The tour is being organized by a grassroots organization called MERIT (Middle East Reporting in Truth), formed to combat what they perceive as inaccurate reporting of events in the Middle East by the news media.
"This tour is not about religion," says Pnina Shichor, founder of MERIT, who just returned from a two-week trip to Israel. "It's about our American values and beliefs," she says. "Our platform is to support Israel and to send a message that there is no excuse for terrorism."
Beating World Hunger ... (Baptist Press) -- A dire United Nations report issued May 30 underscores the problem of hunger still looming large for many people around the world. And a recent 1996-98 U.S. Department of Agriculture study noted that some 10 million U.S. households did not have enough food to meet their family's basic needs. "Most Americans hardly ever miss a meal unless it is their choice to do so, but many people in the U.S. and around the world are not so fortunate," said Steve Nelson, director of hunger concerns for the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Even in this day of material abundance, hunger remains a serious life-threatening issue for many people."
Southern Baptists have an extremely efficient funding vehicle for domestic and international hunger projects, Nelson explained. Gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund provide the means for Southern Baptist missionaries and volunteers in the United States and around the world to feed the needy while introducing them to the gospel of Jesus Christ. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the fund goes to the field, he said, noting that nothing is skimmed off the top for administrative or promotional purposes. Yet Nelson said giving to the World Hunger Fund is down dramatically from previous years, and that leaves many missionaries unable to start or sustain relief projects for the hungry.
Because of the drop in giving and out of his concern for the plight of the needy and for the missionaries who are stymied in their ministry initiatives, Nelson and the SBC's Inter-Agency Hunger Council, composed of representatives from several SBC entities, decided to challenge churches to hold a BEAT Hunger Weekend. BEAT Hunger, which stands for Believers Everywhere ATtack Hunger, was launched three years ago as a program for youth groups to dedicate 24 hours to gaining an awareness of hunger issues and then devising a "hands-on plan to attack" the hunger problem in their community. Nelson said BEAT Hunger Weekend is an extension of the original emphasis and is designed to include the entire church.
Nelson said churches that participate in the BEAT Hunger Weekend are asked to address hunger needs in their town by hosting a canned food drive or serving at a local shelter, and to have church members raise money in support of the SBC World Hunger Fund. Registration for the event, with a suggested date of Oct. 11-13, 2002, is available at www.beathungerweekend.com, Nelson said.
Religion Now More of an Issue for Human Resource Managers ... From the Tampa Bay Business Journal -- The federal government's religious discrimination lawsuit against Sykes Enterprises Inc. brings up issues that human resource managers face now more than ever. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges Tampa-based Sykes violated Francis Wagner's civil rights when she was fired after taking a stand on a religious issue. Wagner, who is Christian, refused to work on an account that included support for video games "with violent depictions that she considered vile and pornographic," the suit stated.
According to the TBBJ, "Changing demographics are making reasonable religious accommodations for employees more of an issue." Kathryn Davanza, president of the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management says, "In today's work environment, we're going to be faced with more requests for accommodations for religion. Today's workers have needs. Primarily what we see in this area are issues about prayer and dress."
Davanza advises her clients to look at these issues more from an employee relations standpoint, said the TBBJ report. Large companies are changing benefit policies and paid time off plans to accommodate employees' religious beliefs, she said. For instance, some companies give employees a "floating" paid holiday that can be used for a religious holiday. "If a person's dress is not a safety issue, figure out a way to accommodate it," Davanza said. "And why not let an employee have a break to pray, when other employees get a break to smoke?"