Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:
- Senate Approves Scaled-Back Aid to Religious Charities
- Education Secretary's Remarks Draw Criticism
- America’s Two Largest Evangelical Associations Form Strategic Alliance
- U.S. Official Makes Fence-Mending Visit to the Vatican
Senate Approves Scaled-Back Aid to Religious Charities
(RNS) The Senate overwhelmingly adopted a scaled-back version of President Bush's plan to aid religious charities, and Republicans signaled the fight to expand government funds for faith-based groups isn't over yet. Senators voted 95-5 to pass the Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act, known as the CARE bill, which provides $10.6 billion in tax incentives for charitable giving and a $1.3 billion increase in money for social services. The bill does not contain the most controversial elements of Bush's plan to allow religious groups to apply for direct government funds. The original Bush plan would have allowed groups to discriminate in hiring and maintain their religious identity while using federal money. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the bill's chief sponsor, said he would continue that fight when the Senate considers a bill to overhaul welfare. The controversial "charitable choice" language that opened government money to churches was first inserted in a 1996 welfare bill. Santorum maintained that churches and other groups have the legal right to make their own decisions in hiring and delivering services. "To roll back that protection, the protection of religious liberty, is a very dangerous thing ... and I won't be a part of it," he said.
Education Secretary's Remarks Draw Criticism
(RNS) Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige about religion and schools have drawn harsh criticism from civil liberties and education groups. Paige was quoted by Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, as saying, "All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith." The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote to Paige on Tuesday (April 8) asking him to apologize or step down. Dan Lengan, Paige's press secretary, told The Washington Post that the quotations in the Baptist Press article, published Monday, were accurate and the education secretary had no plans to resign. Paige went on to say in the interview that he found animosity toward God in public schools to be puzzling. "The reason that Christian schools and Christian universities are growing is a result of a strong value system," he said. "In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values."
America’s Two Largest Evangelical Associations Form Strategic Alliance
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the Mission America Coalition (MAC) are joining forces to form a new strategic alliance that will focus on the heart of evangelism. The new alliance will fuse a close relationship between the Evangelism Commission of NAE and MAC over an initial period of three years. Both groups say together they will collaborate on evangelism strategies for churches, denominations and para-church organizations, coordinate evangelistic activities for NAE and MAC members, and provide evangelism resources, training, and encouragement. “This strategic alliance builds on the strengths of both coalitions,” says Dr. Paul Cedar, Chairman of MAC. “NAE in its historic strong voice for evangelicals in the political and social arenas of our culture, and MAC with its major focus on evangelism.” "The new alliance between NAE and MAC, two of America's largest networks of evangelical ministries, sends a strong signal of renewed interest in evangelism. This coalition of ministries will focus attention and resources toward evangelism that will help insure that the Gospel is communicated effectively to every citizen in our country, in a way they can understand," says Ted Haggard, President of NAE.
U.S. Official Makes Fence-Mending Visit to the Vatican
(RNS) U.S. State Department official John Bolton made a fence-mending visit to the Vatican on Wednesday (April 9) to assure a top aide of Pope John Paul II that the United States will respect international rules of war in Iraq. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement that Bolton "repeated the commitment of his government to respect the rules of war concerning humanitarian issues. The statement gave no indication of whether the postwar role of the United Nations was discussed. John Paul, who sent personal envoys to both Baghdad and Washington in a concerted effort to convince world leaders to avoid war, is now urging a quick end to hostilities and a major role for the United Nations in aid and reconstruction. Bolton expressed Washington's appreciation at the willingness of the Catholic Church "to collaborate in the humanitarian field to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi population." Bolton also "explained the danger represented by the proliferation of arms of mass destruction in various parts of the world" and noted President Bush's call at his Belfast talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair for a "rapid solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to give the entire Middle East a chance for peace.”