Religion Today Summaries, April 24, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 24, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Justice Department Ends Probe of Texas Professor's Evolution Policy
  • Pace of Donations for Iraq Disappointing, Relief Groups Say
  • Southern Baptist Convention Membership Hits 16.2 Million, Record High
  • Christian Senator Defends Remarks on Gays

Justice Department Ends Probe of Texas Professor's Evolution Policy

(RNS) The Justice Department has ended its investigation of a complaint against a Texas Tech University biology professor after he stopped requiring that students believe in evolution to receive a letter of recommendation. The department said Tuesday (April 22) that it dropped its probe after professor Michael Dini eliminated the evolution belief requirement in his recommendation policy. He replaced it with a requirement that students have the ability to explain the theory of evolution, the Associated Press reported. Micah Spradling, a student at the university in Lubbock, Texas, filed the complaint, accusing Dini of refusing to write letters of recommendation based on religious beliefs of his students. Spradling said as a creationist he couldn't state a belief in human evolution to receive a recommendation. "A biology student may need to understand the theory of evolution and be able to explain it," said Ralph Boyd Jr., the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for civil rights, in a statement. "But a state-run university has no business telling students what they should or should not believe in."

Pace of Donations for Iraq Disappointing, Relief Groups Say
Mark O'keefe
(RNS) Charities ramping up U.S. campaigns to benefit war-torn Iraq are finding the early fund-raising climate much cooler than the 100-degree temperatures that troops faced in the desert. The reason? Many potential donors haven't yet perceived a compelling need. "Iraq has not resonated with the American public as an object of private philanthropy," said Richard Walden, president of Operation USA, a Los Angeles-based relief group. "If we could put the solution in a bottle, we would." Experts offer a variety of explanations for the sluggish start:
-- The war hasn't caused the full-blown humanitarian crisis many had expected. The United Nations, for example, had predicted up to 1.5 million Iraqi refugees would flee for neighboring countries, but only a handful of refugees have come.
-- Many charities, unable to enter the country during the war, are only now assessing Iraqi problems, much less prescribing specific solutions that some donors, especially large ones, require before giving generously.
-- Some Americans figure that whatever problems do emerge are the
responsibility of their government.

Southern Baptist Convention Membership Hits 16.2 Million, Record High
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) The Southern Baptist Convention's membership has reached an all-time high of 16.2 million. The denomination announced Tuesday (April 22) that total membership in Southern Baptist churches reached 16,247,736 in 2002, a 1.21 percent increase, or 194,816 additional members, over the previous year. The total number of Southern Baptist churches increased to 42,775, an increase of 441 churches, or 1.04 percent, from the 2001 total of 42,334. While membership totals grew, other figures showed some decreases. There was a slight decline in baptisms. The total, 394,893, was a decline of 1,037, or 0.26 percent, from the previous year. Sunday school enrollment declined 8,251, or 0.10 percent, to a total of 8,174,493. Church reports indicated growth in average worship attendance to 5,839,945, an increase of 108,965, or 1.9 percent. The statistics are compiled by the denomination's LifeWay Christian Resources division in the Annual Church Profile, drawn from church reports received from local Baptist associations and state conventions.

Christian Senator Defends Remarks on Gays

(Charisma News) A respected member of the U. S. Senate who is a dedicated Christian yesterday defended comments he made regarding homosexuality. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., ignored demands that he apologize and resign from his Senate leadership post, Reuters reported. In an interview with the Associated Press published Monday, Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, had discussed a Texas sodomy law now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery," Santorum reportedly said. "You have the right to anything." The court is weighing whether the Texas law violates privacy rights and unfairly targets same-sex couples or if the state has a legitimate interest in setting moral standards, Reuters reported. In his statement yesterday, Santorum said: "My discussion was about the Supreme Court privacy case, the constitutional right to privacy in general, and in context of the impact on the family. I am a firm believer that all are equal under the Constitution." Santorum's comments sparked a firestorm of criticism from some Democrats as well as gay rights groups.