Religion Today Summaries, December 13, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, December 13, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • Bush Signs Executive Order to Protect Faith-based Ministries Seeking Federal Grants
  • Even Among Many Atheists, Christmas Strikes a Chord
  • St. Paul to Change Unconstitutional Ordinance Targeting Pro-Life Message 
  • Liberia: Leader Tells of Ministry in War-Weary Land

Bush Signs Executive Order to Protect Faith-based Ministries Seeking Federal Grants

(Family Research Council) President Bush took decisive action on Thursday to assure that faith-based community and charitable groups will be able to preserve their views and values while competing on a level playing field for federal grants.  President Bush signed an executive order requiring that federal agencies ensure their policies do not discriminate against organizations based on their religious nature.  The order should end the practice of government bureaucrats discouraging faith-based organizations from seeking federal grants for social service programs.  President Bush reaffirmed his conviction that faith-based charities should be allowed to compete for federal funds on a level playing field.  For decades, faith-based groups have helped people in need.  Regrettably, however, the federal government has too often discriminated against faith groups.  There is a danger, however, that faith-based groups could become dependent on government funds and tempted to dilute their doctrines in exchange for federal dollars.  And there is a move afoot to force faith-based groups to hire those who do not share their same views and values in exchange for public funds. The president's action today will help preserve the rights of faith-based charities to espouse their values and hire only those who share those values.

Even Among Many Atheists, Christmas Strikes a Chord

(Baptist Press) Nearly half of adult Americans report they personally know someone who doesn't believe in God but will celebrate Christmas this year anyway, according to a recent study by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.  The survey of 1,001 people conducted in October found that more people will set up a Christmas tree than will attend a worship service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  Americans also overwhelmingly believe Christmas has become less focused on the birth of Jesus than it used to be, the report said.  "As a free thinker, I believe the holidays are a great tradition regardless of the underlying basis for them," Ron Barrier, a New York leader of American Atheists, a 2,500-member national organization defending the rights and interests of atheists, said in the report.  Atheists like Barrier are likely to enjoy celebrating holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even the winter solstice.  James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, meanwhile, exhorted fellow believers, "Do you know someone who is hurting during this Christmas season?  Reach out with the love of Christ. Give the gift of hope that is only possible through a relationship with the Savior who came to earth at Christmas."

St. Paul to Change Unconstitutional Ordinance Targeting Pro-Life Message

The American Center for Law and Justice announced today that the City of St. Paul, Minnesota and its police department have agreed not to issue citations or arrest anyone who is engaging in protected First Amendment activity and have agreed to begin a process to ensure that the city code complies with the First Amendment.  The action brings to an end a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed by the ACLJ against the city on behalf of two pro-life women who were told by police to leave a public sidewalk outside an abortion clinic because they did not have a permit required by a city ordinance.  “From the very beginning, we wanted to protect the constitutional rights of our clients to share a pro-life message on a public sidewalk,” said Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, which filed the suit.  “The city ordinance went well beyond the city’s legitimate desire to regulate parades and large-scale demonstrations through the issuance of a permit.  We’re delighted that the city has agreed to no longer rely on that portion of the ordinance and is moving to change the ordinance to comply fully with the First Amendment.   This is an important victory for free speech and for the citizens of Minnesota.”

Liberia: Leader Tells of Ministry in War-Weary Land
(Mission Insider) A mission in Liberia is making remarkable headway despite hardships in a land ravaged by 10 years of civil war.  James Cuffee, who came to the Lord in 1978, began Christ Evangelical Fellowship Ministries in 1983.  During those 19 years he has succeeded in planting one church per year, with a total of 2873 baptized believers.  The ministry also assists 67 orphans and operates two primary schools and one junior high school.  The civil war (1989-1997) was followed by several years of continued rebel activity after Charles Taylor, leader of the original rebel movement, assumed the presidency in 1997.  "At present, war is raging in the North and Northwest of our country," Cuffee wrote in late November.  "Many persons have been killed, property looted and destroyed by this senseless war, which has displaced over one million people in rural Montserrado, Bong and Margibi Counties.  The economic situation is deplorable. At present almost 90% of our people are jobless. “