Clergy Wary of Faith-Based Plan, Pakistan, Las Vegas & RICO

Clergy Wary of Faith-Based Plan, Pakistan, Las Vegas & RICO

In Today's Edition:
  • Protestant Clergy 'Lukewarm' about Faith-Based Initiatives Act
  • Las Vegas Ripe for Urban Ministry
  • ACLJ Urges Supreme Court to Overturn RICO Case Against Pro-Life Group
  • Another Christian Receives Death Sentence for Blasphemy

Protestant Clergy 'Lukewarm' about Faith-Based Initiatives Act ... From CNS News -- A new study reveals that support for President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Act remains "lukewarm" among Protestant clergy across the nation. The results of the study have led some to question whether the president's priorities have taken a focus elsewhere. Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Ariz., said the faith-based agenda is just "swirling around" out there among larger issues like corporate scandals, pedophile priests in the Catholic Church and homeland security issues. The Bush administration so far has not been successful in creating greater acceptance of its faith-based agenda among the Protestant clergy, Sellers said. On the other hand, opponents of the agenda have also failed to undermine it, he said.

Sellers said the survey conducted by his firm illustrates the "entire landscape" of Protestant clergy, including the United Methodist Congregation, Presbyterian Church USA, Pentecostal Protestants, Lutherans, evangelicals and all of the "real small, little 50-church denominations" that are scattered across the United States. Of the 567 Protestant ministers surveyed, 67 percent support Bush's faith-based initiatives; 32 percent oppose it, and one percent remain undecided.

The survey revealed that 62 percent of the pastors agreed that "certain" religious groups should not be eligible for funding through the faith-based program. Sellers said one of the greater concerns of the ministers is the notion that some non-mainstream groups such as Atheists, Wiccans, Druids, and voodooists could receive funding.

ACLJ Urges Supreme Court to Overturn RICO Case Against Pro-Life Group ... The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, has filed a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the high court to overturn a lower federal court decision that permitted the use of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute to be used against pro-life organizations resulting in a racketeering judgment against pro-life activists that included damages awarded to abortion businesses and a nationwide injunction against pro-life groups.

"This is a very important case that will ultimately determine whether the federal RICO statute can be used to silence social protests in this country," said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. "The RICO statute was designed to combat drug dealers and organized crime and never intended to be used against those who wish to express their opposition to abortion or any other issue. The misapplication of the statute is not only troubling for the pro-life movement but should concern all Americans. If RICO can be used to shut down the pro-life message, it can also be used to silence other protests as well. We're hopeful the Supreme Court will correct this injustice and overturn the judgment."

The ACLJ filed its brief on behalf of Operation Rescue in the consolidation of the cases of Scheidler v. National Organization for Women (NOW) and Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women. The ACLJ addresses two key issues in its brief urging the court to find that only the federal government - not private parties like NOW -- can use RICO to sue for injunctions. The ACLJ also contends that that a non-violent pro-life sit-in at an abortion business does not qualify as federal criminal extortion.

The 16-year-old case culminated in October 2001 when a federal appeals court upheld a finding by a federal district court and jury that several pro-life groups engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to shut down the abortion industry and were punished with damages totaling more than $250,000 and an injunction under provisions of the federal RICO statute.

Las Vegas Ripe for Urban Ministry ... When seeking to buy property, many people look for quiet, safe, attractive neighborhoods. Brice Maddock is doing the opposite, according to the A/G News Service. He is searching for a building in one of the toughest neighborhoods on Las Vegas' West Side for a Teen Challenge center to offer spiritual help, temporary housing and vocational training for displaced men. "Crack deals take place in the open in that part of town," Maddock said. "There needs to be a light in that dark place."

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, Las Vegas grew 85 percent during the past decade, making it the fastest-growing U.S. city. Its rapid growth and reputation for gambling and indulgent living have created a climate ripe for Teen Challenge. Maddock and his wife, Jaylyn, previously helped open an adolescent Teen Challenge in Reno.

"Las Vegas has the image of a fun city where the lights never go off," said James R. Braddy, assistant superintendent of the A/G Northern California-Nevada District. "We want to provide places of restoration for those whose spiritual and emotional light has
gone off."

Another Christian Receives Death Sentence for Blasphemy ... Barnabas Fund News Service (BFS) reports that a Pakistani court passed a death sentence for blasphemy and also fined Pakistani Christian Kingri Masih. Kingri's lawyers intend to appeal against the sentence. The case is complicated by the fact that Kingri Masih (also known as Augustine Ashiq Masih), born into a Christian family, converted to Islam before reconverting to Christianity. A confrontation about his re-conversion with a Muslim leader in the area where he lived led to an accusation that he had denied Islam and made derogatory remarks about the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. As a result on March 17, 2000, Kingri was charged under the notorious blasphemy law, section 295-C of Pakistans penal code.

According to CLAAS (a Pakistani Christian legal group) this case demonstrates the inequality and injustice that exists concerning changing religion in Pakistan. A Christian can freely convert to Islam, but a Muslim who embraces Christianity is considered as an apostate. Islamic law (Shariah) states that an apostate should be executed, but there is no law against apostasy from Islam in Pakistani legislation. An accusation under Pakistans blasphemy laws, however, can be seen by some Muslims as a means of achieving the killing of an apostate.