Religion Today Summaries, March 28, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 28, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Reform Rabbis Express Solidarity With American Troops
  • Jesuit Priests Say Abortion Must Be a Human Rights Issue
  • Methodist Agency Asks for Change in Gay Policy
  • EEOC Announces $1.11 Million Settlement Between Muslims, Steel Plant

Reform Rabbis Express Solidarity With American Troops
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The nation's Reform rabbis expressed solidarity with American troops in the war with Iraq and mourned the loss of life on both sides of the war. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, meeting here for its annual convention, approved a brief resolution Wednesday (March 26) that supported the armed forces and prayed for their safe return. The rabbis' conference, "many of varied opinion concerning military conflict in Iraq, stands together in its prayers for the security and safe return of military personnel and civilians, separated from home and family, serving bravely far from home," the resolution said. The CCAR represents some 1,800 Reform rabbis in the United States, Israel, Canada and elsewhere around the world. The statement was drafted by the CCAR board of directors and approved by its general membership. The statement prayed that "all despotism vanish speedily from the Earth. We pray that all peoples, here, in Iraq and around the world, be shielded from war and terror."

Jesuit Priests Say Abortion Must Be a Human Rights Issue
Kevin Eckstrom

    (RNS) The nation's Jesuit priests said the fight over legalized abortion must become a human rights issue, not clouded by medical, privacy or civil rights concerns. The Society of Jesus affirmed the "correctness" of the church's teaching against abortion but said the debate must not "be the imposition of a narrowly confined religious position upon an unwilling majority." "Because the state and society as a whole have an intense interest in promoting respect for life, we may not with a clear conscience relegate such life-and-death issues to the private realm," the Jesuits said. The order issued the statement Tuesday (March 25) to mark the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. The six-page statement said the abortion debate has been shaped around the rights of women to have abortions, and said "all too often ... `liberty' and `choice' devolve into code words for utter freedom to terminate a pregnancy without limits or conditions." Catholics who oppose abortion must respectfully engage abortion supporters but never yield the moral high ground claimed by the church, the Jesuits said. "Jesuits are committed to narrowing the gap between the current civil law of our nation and the demands of the moral law as we understand it," the statement said. "Our long-term goal remains full legal recognition of and protection for the unborn child -- from the moment of conception."

Methodist Agency Asks for Change in Gay Policy
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The social policy agency of the United Methodist Church will ask the denomination to soften its position on homosexuality to acknowledge deep divisions and disagreements. The 8.4 million-member church, the nation's second-largest Protestant body, will meet in Pittsburgh next year for its General Conference legislative meeting. The church currently affirms gays and lesbians as "persons of sacred worth" but says it cannot "condone" homosexual behavior because it is "incompatible with Christian teaching." The church's General Board of Church and Society met in Herndon, Va., March 20-23 and voted to ask delegates to change the policy. The proposed language would say that, "Although faithful Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all." An alternative motion that would have left the current language intact and imposed a moratorium on the gay debate failed in a vote of 19-13. Delegates to the 2000 General Conference by two-to-one margins upheld the church’s current language.

EEOC Announces $1.11 Million Settlement Between Muslims, Steel Plant
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced a $1.11 million settlement involving Muslim employees who claimed they were harassed while working at a steel plant due to their religious beliefs. The settlement, announced March 19, involves an employment discrimination lawsuit against Stockton Steel, a subsidiary of Herrick Corp. It resolves a January 2000 lawsuit by the EEOC charging that Pakistani-American employees were repeatedly harassed at Herrick's steel plant in Stockton, Calif. The employees alleged they were ridiculed during their daily Muslim prayer obligations and subjected to derogatory name-calling such as "rag head" and "camel jockey." Stockton Steel denied all charges but agreed to resolve the suit by paying $1.11 million to four former employees. The company also agreed to conduct training to prevent future discrimination and guarantee the right of employees to request that their religious needs be accommodated. "The EEOC is particularly pleased with Stockton Steel's willingness to review their existing policies and to make improvements as needed," said Susan McDuffie, director of the EEOC's San Francisco District, in a statement. "When employers institute training programs and maintain clear anti-discrimination policies, everyone wins."