ACTIVISM
High school agrees to permit Bible club
The principal of a Miami, Florida, high school agreed in mid-February to permit a student-led Bible club to be photographed for the yearbook after being threatened with a federal lawsuit by attorneys from the AFA Center for Law & Policy (CLP).

Felix Varela High School principal Millie Fornell had told 17-year-old Elizabeth Alboniga, a student leader of the school’s Choose Life Bible Club, that the group could not be photographed because school policy prohibited religious or political clubs from receiving school support. When Elizabeth learned that the school’s Animal Rights Club and its Gay-Straight Alliance club were photographed for the yearbook, she contacted the CLP for help.

Senior trial attorney Brian Fahling wrote a letter explaining to the school that it was in violation of the federal Equal Access Act, and the principal reluctantly agreed to permit the club to be photographed.

The principal then told Alboniga that, although the club could be photographed, it could not use the name “Choose Life” because students who support abortion might be offended. When Alboniga explained that the name did not address abortion, but referred to God setting before us a choice between spiritual life and death, school board attorneys agreed to allow the name.

Alboniga has now expressed an interest in forming another club to promote birth over abortion.

“This is another case in which school officials simply did not understand the law,” said Fahling. “The school board’s written policy was in compliance with the law but, obviously, the principal’s decision was not. It is regrettable that religious students must threaten litigation in order to be treated equally under the law.”

Florida statutes stricken by judge
In early January, Federal District Judge John Antoon II struck down two Florida statutes that restricted free speech rights of Christians protesting the policies and practices of The Walt Disney Company.

Vicki Stites and Cheryl Bischoff challenged the state laws in 1998 after being threatened with arrest while distributing literature critical of Disney on public traffic islands near the Magic Kingdom. The literature informed customers of Disney’s dedication to the advancement of the “gay” agenda.

Three others were arrested and jailed under the statutes while Bischoff and Stites looked on. When irate sheriff’s deputies warned the pair and all others that they would be similarly arrested if the literature distribution did not cease, Bischoff and Stites abandoned the traffic islands. Later, they went to federal court with the aid of AFA attorneys.

CLP litigation counsel Michael J. DePrimo said the federal judge struck down the statutes because “the laws were employed to shut down speech which offended the government or powerful corporate interests.” He also noted that the laws granted political campaigners copious exemptions.

PayLess ShoeSource drops ABC’s ‘Are You Hot?’
The Disney/ABC show Are You Hot? was too hot for a retailer to handle, after members of OneMillionMoms.com (OMM) and OneMillionDads.com (OMD) expressed concerns about the show’s lewd content.

PayLess ShoeSource informed OMM and OMD members that they would no longer sponsor Are You Hot? PayLess ShoeSource spokesman Tim Clothier told OMD members that the retailer’s presence as an advertiser on the Disney/ABC show was unintentional and regrettable.

Are You Hot? is a tribute to hedonism and self-obsession at its worst, as judges interview, ogle and rate contestants to choose the nation’s sexiest man and woman. Participants “audition” in regional try-outs by showing skin and sensuous moves, sometimes exhibiting near nudity, while the judges rate the various parts of their bodies.

ENTERTAINMENT
Network TV: More cussing, fewer protests

An article in The New York Times took note of a rather surprising cultural phenomenon: While the amount of profanity is increasing on television, fewer and fewer people seem to be complaining about it.

“Broadcast television, under intensifying attack by saltier cable competitors, is pushing the limits of decorum further by the year,” said Times writer Jim Rutenberg, “and hardly anyone is pushing back.”

The article pointed to recent examples, such as the unedited use of the f-word at the Golden Globe Awards on NBC; the use of the s-word on ABC’s notorious cop drama NYPD Blue; and the increasing frequency of clearly decipherable, though bleeped, uses of once verboten profanity – such as the multiple uses of the f-word on the American Music Awards (ABC).

Rutenberg said that, following each of those programs, “[t]he telephones hardly rang at the Federal Communications Commission ….” He added, “Though the changing standards of prime time have evolved gradually, the pace has accelerated in recent years. But the falloff in protests over those changes has been sudden.”

Some see TV content as merely reflecting the culture, Rutenberg said, so if people’s personal moral standards have become more lax, then they are less likely to be offended when the networks express similar beliefs through their programming.

Source: The New York Times, 1/25/03

MEDIA
Media show bias on evolution

Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian apologetics ministry, said the mainstream media is biased against presenting anything that supports the creationist viewpoint of the origins of life. Yet the scientists and activities that support the theory of evolution are readily featured in the news.

He gave a typical example: When a meteorite from Mars was believed to contain some form of life, the news resounded around the world. But when it was agreed, even by secular scientists, that no life existed in the rock, the secular media were scarcely to be found.

It has even become necessary for those embracing the creationist philosophy to produce their own scientific journals, said Ham, because “no matter how scientific our scientists are, if they come from a creationist perspective, [the evolutionists] won’t publish [the findings].

“And then they turn around and tell the public [it] can’t trust creationists because they don’t publish reputable papers in scientific journals,” he added.

AgapePress, 2/11/03

Public radio station ousts ‘God’

Though its slogan touts “diverse programming for a multi-cultural world,” National Public Radio affiliate KSUT in Ignacio, Colorado, apparently doesn’t live up to that claim.

The Durango Herald (Colorado) reported that Glenn Rutherford, a Pagosa Springs dentist, was told by KSUT officials that they were discontinuing the broadcast of a radio spot promoting his practice because it contained the word “God.”

“Gently Restoring the Health God Created” is the motto for Rutherford’s practice. The dentist, a devout Christian, said he uses the slogan in other print and electronic media sources without problems. Ironically, he noted that one reason he chose KSUT to promote his practice was “to share in the free interchange of ideas which we believed was the mission of public radio.”

AFA Chairman Don Wildmon said this is a typical example of National Public Radio’s bias against Christianity. He said since public radio stations like KSUT are supported by tax dollars, they, in essence, engage in a form of government-sponsored censorship.
Durango Herald 2/7/03; AgapePress, 2/18/03

PORNOGRAPHY
Adelphia enters cable pornography business
Troubled cable television company Adelphia has changed its course from a family-friendly company, opting instead to begin distribution of “adult programming.”

The move is primarily about money. In a December 2002, internal memo obtained by AFA, CEO Erkie Kailbourne says the motive behind offering adult sex pay-per-view programming is based on “enhancing stakeholder value.” Kailbourne told managers and vice-presidents that Playboy TV and other pay-per-view movie channels would become part of the company’s programming offerings beginning in early 2003.

Last year, Adelphia was the largest cable company in America that refused to offer pornography. “Adelphia executives have abandoned a moral obligation to our families and theirs,” said AFA Chairman Don Wildmon. He said Adelphia’s decision is an indication of how corporate executives have placed their personal careers ahead of their wives and children, and he wonders how many other families will be affected by the results of Adelphia’s porn distribution.

“Pornography has two primary effects,” Wildmon said. “It inherently teaches boys and men to devalue and disrespect a woman as a person, and it causes married men to lust after someone who is not their wife.”

Citizens concerned about Adelphia’s decision can voice their opinions to company officials by calling Adelphia headquarters at 1-814-274-9830.

Also, AFA is urging its members to send a direct E-mail letter to CEO Kailbourne. Kailbourne’s personal E-mail address is erkie.kailbourne@adelphia.com.

Britain mulls banning pedophiles from Internet
British authorities are considering ways to protect children from convicted pedophiles in light of some 1,600 arrests spurred by a probe that began in the United States. One idea has pedophiles being banned from using the Internet.

The nationwide hunt for people suspected of trading and downloading child pornography, known as Operation Ore, began when U.S. officials alerted U.K. police about credit cards being used on a U.S.-based site for child pornography. Some 6,500 names are being investigated by British authorities, and officials say it could be another year or two before the investigation is complete.

Jim Gamble, assistant chief constable of Britain’s National Crime Squad, has urged authorities to find ways to restrict or even ban pedophiles’ use of the Internet. “I think there are opportunities to further tighten legislation in respect of how we intrusively maintain surveillance of the online activity of known pedophile offenders,” he said.

As a result of the investigation, at least 40 children in Britain have been taken into state custody in order to protect them from potential abuse.

While Operation Ore continues, a move is on in some European countries to change the term “child pornography” to “child abuse pictures.” The move is supposed to put more attention on the victims in the photos and to eliminate the commercial connotation of the word “pornography,” according to The New York Times.

“A lot of people say, ‘I was just trading pictures,’” said Lars Underbjerg, a child pornography investigator with the Danish National Police. “We say, ‘No you weren’t. They were child abuse images.’”

Source: BBC News, 2/5/03; The New York Times, 2/9/03


RELIGION
America a ‘confusion of spiritualities’
R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, painted a fairly bleak picture when asked his views on the spiritual state of America. Mohler, in an interview with Focus on the Family, said he believes “it is a mixed picture.”

Although Americans continue to demonstrate high levels of religious participation and even claims of religious belief, he said, they are obviously having difficulty in their everyday lives in applying the beliefs they claim to hold.

“Postmodern America is such a confusion of spiritualities that authentic Christianity unfortunately appears to be just one option among the others,” Mohler said. “It gives a whole new meaning to being ‘salt and light’ in the midst of this culture.”

Part of the problem, he said, is with professing Christians who blend in with the culture: “[T]here clearly is a great deal of compromise and accommodation in the church.” Liberal denominations have bought into the premise that accommodation (to worldly views) is the only way to minister to this society, Mohler said.

Source: Baptist Press, 2/10/03

‘Christian‘ candy canes lead to lawsuit
Six Massachusetts high-school students who were suspended for passing out candy canes that contained Bible verses have filed a federal lawsuit against their principal and district superintendent.

The L.I.F.E. Bible Club members at Westfield High School were told they could not hand out the candy canes because the Christian message attached might be offensive to other students. Both Principal Thomas Daley and Superintendent Thomas McDowell refused the club’s request to distribute the candy during non-class time.

Florida-based Liberty Counsel has asked a federal court to strike down the literature-distribution policy.

According to president and general counsel Mat Staver, students in public schools have the right to communicate verbally, as well as in writing, to one another during non-class time.

AgapePress, 1/14/03; WorldNetDaily, 1/14/03


UMC dismisses charges against heretical bishop
A committee of United Methodist Church (UMC) bishops has dismissed charges against a fellow bishop who denies the basic teachings of the Christian faith.

Many United Methodist members have expressed outrage over the publicized beliefs of Bishop Joseph Sprague of Chicago. In a speech made at the UMC’s Iliff School of Theology in Denver last year and in his book, Affirmations of a Dissenter, Sprague said he believes that the virgin birth is a myth, Jesus Christ was not physically raised from the dead, the blood atonement is nothing but superstition, and that faith in Jesus Christ is not the only way of salvation.

Based on those beliefs, a group of about 30 Methodists filed charges against Sprague late last year, calling for his removal. However, a committee of bishops that dealt with the charges has dismissed them. They said that after reviewing the case, they are convinced that Sprague “knows Christ as Lord and Savior, has faith in Christ’s saving and transforming power, and is obedient to Christ’s teachings.”

According to United Methodist News Service, the committee stated that the theological and doctrinal issues raised by Sprague are already “a matter of considerable public debate” within the United Methodist Church. In fact, the only criticism to arise from the committee’s report was directed against those who filed the complaints. The committee said their charges should not have been made public.

“Bishop Sprague’s heretical statements were made public by his own volition, and I think there’s nothing wrong with church leaders challenging him in public,” said AFA Chairman Don Wildmon, a UMC minister. “I think Methodists in the pew expect their leaders to take a firm stand against teachings that are nothing less than the spirit of antichrist.”

United Methodist News Service, 2/18/03; AgapePress, 2/19/03

Church-attending kids do better in school
Taking your kids to church may be one of the best ways to improve their performance in school. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Notre Dame concluded that students perform better and are less likely to drop out of school when their families regularly attend church.

The study, which examined Hispanic families, further revealed that parents who go to church with their kids are more likely to help them with homework, and to become involved in extracurricular school activities.

“Public schools need to realize that there is a tremendous reservoir of resources in the religious community,” said Edwin Hernandez, who heads the university’s Center for the Study of Latino Religion.

One important way churches can be of help to schools is through “concrete activities that are educational, such as parents reading and discussing the Bible … with children, and children reading and memorizing the Bible, learning to sing in a choir, and so on,” the study concluded. Also, many churches provide tutoring for children and organize trips and outings that involve educational activities such as attending museums and cultural events.

Source: Family News in Focus, 1/29/03; www.nd.edu/-latino

New school prayer rules bring praise, criticism
Advocates of school prayer are pleased with the new federal guidelines released in early February. Conversely, those supporting the “separation of church and state” are not happy.

The key thrust behind the new guidelines is language that declares “in the manner in which students are able to engage in secular expression, they must be allowed to engage in religious expression,” according to Mat Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel.

Staver said the new guidelines also address “the rights of teachers to be able to engage in religious activities if the context makes clear that they’re not acting in their official capacity.”

One bone of contention for those advocating the separation of church and state is that the guidelines say schools not allowing students to pray outside the classroom will jeopardize receipt of federal funds. For example, schools barring graduation prayers or religious speeches at student assemblies could lose federal money.

“The Bush administration is clearly trying to push the envelope on behalf of prayer in public schools,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Quoted in USA Today, Lynn said the funding threat is “a harassment tool designed to force public schools into following these flawed guidelines.”

However, Staver said, “Schools that want to receive federal funds under the No Child Left Behind Act must now comply and stop discriminating against students’ religious expression – and also allow teachers the freedom to engage in certain religious activity, during school and, indeed, even after school.”

USA Today, 2/11/03; AgapePress, 2/13/03