Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- President Signs Legislation to Fight Global AIDS Pandemic
- First Historic Preservation Grant for Active Religious Site Announced
- Hit Movie Generates Divine Interruption
- Another Pastor Deported from Qatar
President Signs Legislation to Fight Global AIDS Pandemic
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
President Bush's signature Tuesday (May 27) on legislation that will provide $15 billion to fight AIDS globally was cheered by religious leaders concerned about prevention and treatment of the disease. "The suffering in Africa is great," the president said just before signing the bill in a State Department auditorium. "The suffering in the Caribbean is great. The United States of America has the power and we have the moral duty to help. And I'm proud that our blessed and generous nation is fulfilling that duty." The legislation provides additional financial support to the Global Fund for AIDS Relief. It also will help provide medicine, train doctors and support abstinence-based education on prevention. Faith-based and community groups will be among those that will be assisted in providing services to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. Christian groups particularly praised the measure's focus on abstinence. "We are grateful that President Bush rejected a strategy centered on the distribution of condoms -- the same faulty approach that has only increased sexually transmitted diseases here in America," said Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus on the Family. Bush praised the work of religious and educational groups that are working to address the pandemic, including the Catholic Medical Mission Board, which runs clinics in southern Africa and Haiti.
First Historic Preservation Grant for Active Religious Site Announced
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton announced Tuesday (May 27) the approval of the first U.S. historic preservation grant that will be used for religious purposes. The $317,000 grant to the Old North Foundation of Boston will help restore windows in that city's historic Old North Church and make the building more accessible to the public. "This structure played a role in the nation's quest for freedom and independence and the legendary ride of Paul Revere," said Norton in her announcement. It was from the steeple of the 280-year-old church that two lanterns were displayed in 1775 to signal to Revere that British troops were advancing on nearby Lexington and Concord. The church continues to have an active Episcopal congregation. The grant marks a change from previous policy whereby historically significant properties that continue to be used for religious purposes were ineligible for historic preservation grants. Leaders of groups known for their support of church-state separation criticized the move. The Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the new policy "a shocking abuse of taxpayer rights" and Ellen Johnson of American Atheists said it is "just another unconstitutional step toward the public funding of organized religion."
Hit Movie Generates Divine Interruption
In a case of divine interruption, a pastor and a Christian couple have been answering calls to God after their telephone number appeared on a fictional pager in the new Jim Carrey hit comedy, "Bruce Almighty." In the film, Carrey stars as a constant complainer who receives the powers of God, who tries to reach Carrey by repeatedly leaving a phone number on his pager. But instead of the usual fictitious 555 prefix used by most television shows and films, God's exchange is listed as 776. When people in Sanford, N.C. dial the telephone number shown in the movie, they reach Bruce MacInnes, pastor of Turner's Chapel Church, the Associated Press (AP) reported. While most of the callers say nothing, MacInnes is hopeful the message will provide an opportunity to witness. "I had another call [yesterday] from a man who asked to talk to God," he said. "I told him if he was serious I would be happy to talk with him about God. I said if he wasn't serious he could just hang up. He hung up." Several similar phone tales have occurred in Florida, Arkansas and Colorado. A spokeswoman for Universal Studios, which produced the film, said the number was picked because it doesn't exist in Buffalo, N.Y., the movie's setting.
Another Pastor Deported from Qatar
On May 22, Pastor Nemencio Bonton was deported from Qatar to his native Philippines without any reason being given. According to Middle East Concern, this deportation follows a letter he received on April 20 giving him 30 days to leave the country. Bonton was senior pastor of the Qatar International Christian Ministry, which ministers to expatriate workers in Qatar. He also worked as an electrician. Despite appeals from his employer as well as from the Chief Protocol Officer of Qatar's ruler, Bonton was deported along with his wife and four children. He had lived in Qatar for twenty years and had no previous problems with the authorities. This is the second confirmed deportation of a pastor from Qatar for religious reasons this year.