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July 14, 1999





NATIONAL NOTES

___bluebull Dole wants to stop library porn. Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole has proposed that public libraries should lose federal funds if they permit access to pornography via the Internet. Dole said the pornography debate is a key part of America's culture wars. "This isn't about First Amendment protections," she said in a campaign speech in Seattle. "It's about our values."
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___bluebull Court rejects appeal on renting school. The U.S. Supreme Court chose not to require a public school in New York state to rent its building to a congregation for Sunday worship services. Without comment, the court on June 24 rejected an appeal in which attorneys for the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Far Rockaway, N.Y., argued the school unlawfully discriminates against religion by permitting its building to be used after hours for non-religious purposes but not for worship. School officials refused to rent space to the church, citing its policy and a state law that bans religious worship services in public schools.
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___bluebull Falwell's newspaper drops Cal Thomas. Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal no longer will carry a syndicated column by Cal Thomas due to what its editors believe is his "repudiation of Christian activism." The decision is an example of the dispute over political activism within conservative circles fanned in part by the publication earlier this year of "Blinded by Might," a book co-authored by Thomas and Ed Dobson, who were top lieutenants for Falwell when he ran the now-defunct Moral Majority. The book questions the political strategies used by the conservative Christian movement while still supporting its moral agenda.

___bluebull Committee passes bill on teen abortions. The House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would make it a crime to take a pregnant minor to another state for an abortion without the knowledge of a parent. By a vote of 16-13, along party lines, the bill was passed June 23. The bill would make it illegal for a person other than a parent, guardian or legal custodian to take a pregnant girl younger than 18 to another state for an abortion if such an act would violate parental involvement laws in the home state of the child.

___bluebull Committee passes religious liberty proposal. The House Judiciary Committee has approved the proposed Religious Liberty Protection Act that supporters hope will protect religious expression when it conflicts with government regulations. By a vote of 16-3, the committee moved consideration of the act to the full House. On the same day, a Senate panel held a hearing on the issue, featuring religious and legal experts. Supporters of RLPA hope it will replace the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was struck down by the U.S Supreme Court in 1997. Under the proposed measure, government would have to demonstrate it has a compelling reason--such as health or safety--and is operating in the least restrictive manner to legally infringe upon religious beliefs or practices.
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___bluebull Lawsuit seeks to void Florida voucher plan. Florida has become the nation's first state to allow students statewide to attend private secular or religious schools with the aid of tax dollars. The voucher plan, which begins with the upcoming school year, is open to students whose public schools are deemed to be "failing." One day after Republican Gov. Jeb Bush signed the plan into law, opponents June 22 filed lawsuit in an attempt to have it declared unconstitutional.

___bluebull Presbyterian body studying creation days. The Presbyterian Church in America, a theologically conservative Reformed denomination, has agreed to take another year to study one of the most contentious issues in the 300,000-member church --the length of the days of creation. Delegates to the PCA's General Assembly that met this summer in Louisville, Ky., gave the committee studying the issue another year before reporting back. Pastors of the denomination are required to affirm the doctrines contained in the 17th century Westminster Confession of Faith. Some consider that to mean endorsement of a literal 24-hour length for each of the six days in which the biblical book of Genesis says God created all things. Others in the denomination consider that those days could have been longer periods of time.
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___bluebull Psychological association reacts to critics. The American Psychological Association plans to consider potential consequences when it publishes future research after drawing criticism for a study that concluded that child sexual abuse may not cause serious long-term effects. Last July, a study published in the APA's Psychological Bulletin concluded that the way scientists classify sex between children and adults should depend on the age and "willingness" of the child. The study has been criticized harshly by conservative Christian groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention. Now the APA said it will consider the "social policy implications" of research it publishes.

___bluebull House votes to bar funding of abortion-inducing drugs. For the second consecutive year, the House of Representatives has voted to ban the government from approving abortion-inducing drugs like the French RU-486 pill. Despite the 217-214 vote last month in favor of the ban, the chances for the bill to become law this year are slim. When the House voted on the same prohibition last year, the Senate did not approve it.
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___bluebull Court sets aside graduation prayer decision. An appeals court has set aside a ruling that declared a Florida school system's policy permitting students to include prayers in graduation messages was unconstitutional. The decision, made by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month, means that the full court will rehear the case. A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit ruled 2-1 in May that the school system's graduation policy violated freedom of religion, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

___bluebull Ban on gambling ads overturned. A federal ban on broadcast advertisements for casino gambling violates the First Amendment in states where such gambling is legal, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. In an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the high court said a 1934 communications law cannot be used to bar advertisements of private casino gambling that are broadcast by radio and television stations in Louisiana.

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