Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Bill Would Force Churches Not to Discriminate in Hiring
- Air Force Captain Settles Religious Accommodation Suit With Military
- Photographs Document Torture of Christians by Chinese Government
- Study Reports Mixed Results on Charitable Giving
Bill Would Force Churches Not to Discriminate in Hiring
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service
A foe of President Bush's "faith-based initiative" on Wednesday (June 25) introduced a bill that would mandate that religious groups that receive federal money for social services cannot discriminate in hiring. The bill sponsored by Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., would overturn portions of an executive order issued by the president last December. That directive said any group that receives a government contract worth more than $10,000 could hire employees based on their religion. Concerns about federally funded discrimination in hiring has stalled much of the president's plan in Congress. On Tuesday, the White House outlined its positions in a policy paper sent to Capitol Hill. "When they (religious groups) receive federal funds, they should retain their right to hire those individuals who are best able to further their organizations' goals and mission," the administration said. Scott, who has vocally opposed Bush's faith-based plan, called the "roll-back on civil rights protections unwarranted and unnecessary." Since 1972, civil rights law has allowed religious groups to hire only employees who share their beliefs. Critics of the president's plan, however, argue that the provision does not extend to programs run with federal money.
Air Force Captain Settles Religious Accommodation Suit With Military
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
An Air Force captain has settled a suit with the military service after he charged that he was punished for requesting accommodation of his religious beliefs. Capt. Ryan Berry, who served on missile combat crews, filed suit in August 2002 after a commander rejected his request for accommodation of his belief that a married Catholic man should avoid situations where he had to spend 24-48 hours in a small underground bunker with a woman. Berry believed it was inappropriate for him to be in a situation where inappropriate intimacy could be developed with a woman who was not his wife. His suit alleged that the Air Force terminated the accommodation after previously agreeing to it. It also alleged that the Air Force no longer ordered him to perform missile alert duties and placed negative material in his military records. The settlement, approved June 16 by a District of Columbia federal judge, calls for the removal of material in Berry's records that he considered derogatory. The document also states that the settlement does not amount to a finding that the Air Force violated his rights or was involved in wrongful conduct. The Air Force agreed to pay $5,000 of Berry's legal fees.
Photographs Document Torture of Christians by Chinese Government
Photographs smuggled out of the country have chillingly documented some of the physical abuse endured by members of the underground church at the hands of security police. Pictures handed to the Voice of the Martyrs (VM) show one woman being jabbed in the face with an electric prod, another forced to kneel on bricks with her arms raised in the air, a third having a shoe-cleaning rag stuffed into her mouth, and a man being forced to drink water to make his stomach swell. The harrowing photographs have been published in VM's magazine, which names both the Christians being abused and their assailants. The photographer, who told the officers that the pictures would be sent to their superiors to show their "conscientious work," has since gone into hiding, said VM. The arrests and torture took place in Hunan province, which VM says has the heaviest concentration of Christians in China. The ministry's report also tells of a female house church leader who was beaten to death while in custody, and others burned with cigarettes. The photographs have also been reproduced by The Rutherford Institute (RI), which said that the pictures indicate "increasing persecution" in China. RI president John W. Whitehead said: "As a proponent of democracy, the U.S. government cannot afford to turn a blind eye to such atrocities." VM has also reported that a Christian arrested in Zhejiang province and charged with "illegal printing" has been sentenced to five years in prison. During interrogation, his fingernails were torn out, the ministry said. www.charismanews.com
Study Reports Mixed Results on Charitable Giving
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service
Charitable giving reached a historic level of $240 billion last year despite the slow economy, according to Giving USA, a report released by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel. The study, which was conducted by the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, found a growth of 1 percent in charitable giving since 2001. When adjusted for inflation, however, giving in 2002 dropped by half a percent. But given the economic slump, philanthropists were pleased to see levels of charitable giving holding steady. "Donors have strong commitments to charity," Leo P. Arnoult, the chair of the AAFRC Trust, said in a statement. "Given the economic difficulties and other uncertainties of 2002, growth in giving is proof of our nation's philanthropic resilience." About 70 percent of American households donate money to charity in a given year, John J. Glier of the AAFRC said. Although the study's results may offer some hope to many charity groups that reported facing economic hardship, they also show evidence of a sharp decline in giving over the last decade.