- Judge Orders Ten Commandments Removed From Rutherford County Courthouse
- Morality in Media Launches ObscenityCrimes.org
- Vietnam Church Leader Felled By Heart Attack
- Church Leaders Welcome American Role in Mideast Peace Efforts
Judge Orders Ten Commandments Removed From Rutherford County Courthouse
On June 21, Chief Judge Robert Echols ordered that the Ten Commandments be removed from a display of historical documents in the Rutherford County (Tenn.) Courthouse. Rutherford County is represented by Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Erik W. Stanley, litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel. On April 11, 2002, the Rutherford County Commission, in a vote of 16-5, voted to place several historical documents, including the Ten Commandments, on display in the Rutherford County Courthouse.
The Resolution states, "It is recognized by this Commission that many documents, taken as a whole, have special historical significance to our community, our county and our country." The Resolution goes on to state, "A sense of historical context, civic duty and responsibility, and the general appreciation and understanding of the law of this land are all desirable components of the education of the citizens of this county. We believe these above-named documents positively contribute to the educational foundations and moral character of the citizens of this county." The display contains the Preamble to the Tennessee Constitution, the National Motto, the National Anthem, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, the United States Constitution, the Mayflower Compact and the Ten Commandments.
The judge ordered that the Ten Commandments be removed during the pendency of the ACLU's lawsuit. Judge Echols' order is a preliminary injunction and his order notes that Rutherford County may still prevail at trial on the ultimate issue of the constitutionality of the historical documents display. Significantly, Judge Echols held that the display on the wall would likely be found constitutional, but that Rutherford County had a religious purpose in hanging the display and so the display must be removed pending the resolution of the case.
Erik Stanley, Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel stated, "Rutherford County is committed to constitutionally displaying historical documents, including, the Ten Commandments. We believe that ultimately a display of historical documents containing the Ten Commandments will be found constitutional." Mat Staver also stated, "The Supreme Court has consistently held that displays of religious symbols in context with secular symbols are constitutional. This issue is far from over. Rutherford County's display is no more unconstitutional than a display of a nativity scene at Christmas time which has been upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court."
Morality in Media Launches ObscenityCrimes.org
Morality in Media has launched OBSCENITYCRIMES.ORG, a new Web site where people can report possible violations of federal laws that prohibit the distribution of obscene materials (hard-core pornography") on the Internet. MIM will forward such reports to the appropriate United States Attorney and to the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in Washington for investigation and possible prosecution. MIM President Robert Peters commented that, "The ObscenityCrimes.org Web site shortens the distance between citizens, whose homes and places of business have been invaded by Internet obscenity, and federal prosecutors, who have the responsibility to enforce federal Internet obscenity laws."
Visitors to the site begin the reporting process by clicking on the button "Make a Report," which takes them to the ObscenityCrimes.org Report Form. To complete the form, visitors must give their name, address and county of residence, and provide the Internet "address" (URL) of the offending site. They may describe the hard-core material by selecting words or phrases in a multiple-choice list provided by Morality in Media. They need not identify their United States Attorney; MIM adds that information. The Report Form does not accuse anyone of a crime. It simply asks the U.S. Attorney to investigate for possible violations of Internet obscenity laws.
Visitors to Morality in Media's OBSCENITYCRIMES.ORG site who want to report child pornography or other sexual exploitation of children, rather than hard-core adult pornography, will be referred to the CyberTipline Web site operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Vietnam Church Leader Felled By Heart Attack
(Compass Direct) -- The Rev. Pham Xuan Thieu, president of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South), died of a heart attack June 24 in Ho Chi Minh City. He was 61. The Rev. Thieu, a professor of theology, had been elected president of the ECVN (South) in February 2001. He was hospitalized with a variety of infirmities only weeks before his election, which he reluctantly accepted. He later testified to being healed of "many weaknesses" after he accepted the leadership of the church organization.
After the government confirmed the legal recognition of the ECVN (South) in April 2001, the Rev. Thieu had the task, as he described it, of "rebuilding a building out of complete rubble." For 26 years since the fall of South Vietnam to the communist regime, the ECVN (South) had been alternately ignored, harassed and persecuted. The Rev. Thieu kept a heavy schedule of visiting churches and of receiving pastors of harassed churches from around the country.
A friend close to Rev. Thieu recently remarked that he feared the pressure on him was unbearable. Some of the pressure was from ECVN members whose expectations following legalization were "unrealistically high." Government authorities have kept the church heavily restricted, and a few pro-government pastors were lobbying against Thieu's leadership. House church leaders criticized the Rev. Thieu for his visit to the U.S. in May with the Bureau of Religious Affairs. But he told friends that he feared consequences from the government for not going would be worse than criticism for going.
Church Leaders Welcome American Role in Mideast Peace Efforts
(ENS) -- American church leaders representing the nation's mainline Protestant churches, as well as Catholic groups, welcomed the renewed U.S. involvement in Mideast peace efforts as reflected in President George W. Bush's June 24 address. While most of the media focused on the president's call for new Palestinian leadership, "in reality he made significant demands of Israel, too," said the Rev. Daryl Byler, director of the Mennonite Central Committee's Washington office. The president challenged Israel "to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state," steps that "would lead to an end of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory," he added. "I am pleased that the president recognizes that both parties must work hard to reestablish the peace process," he said in a release from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of denominational offices and agencies responsible for monitoring peace efforts.
The Rev. San DeBoe of the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, chair of the CMEP board, said that he hopes the president enables Secretary of State Colin Powell to follow through with the peace process. "President Bush showed that he understands the need for international involvement to move the process forward and demonstrated his trust in Secretary Powell to do that on behalf of the United States."