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FL Court Denies Schiavo's Parents' Argument for Life

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Politics and GovernmentThe Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied a request from the parents of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo for a new trial on whether her husband, Michael, should have the right to terminate his wife's water and nutrition, effectively starving her to death. The battle has been ongoing for years and has involved Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature intervening unsuccessfully on Terri's behalf.

Michael's attorney, George Felos, said that when Wednesday's ruling is formally published in 15 days, Michael may then have the legal right to terminate the care his wife has been receiving for the 14 years since her initial collapse.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bush has appealed the Florida state Supreme Court ruling overturning the special legislation crafted by him and the legislature that mandated continuing nutritive and fluid care of Terri. Bush, through the conservative advocacy organization American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), has asked the US Supreme Court to review the state court's rejection of his legislation. ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said, "This is a case that certainly deserves consideration by the Supreme Court and we are supporting the governor's office."

There is no word on whether Michael will order her nutritive care suspended in 2 weeks or will wait for further legal issues to be heard and accepted or rejected.

For the full story: Fla. Court Won't Reopen Schiavo Case.


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Israel Files Criminal Indictments Against James Ossuary Owner, 3 Others

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Answers In Action NewsAfter nearly 2 years of investigation and rumor, the Israeli government [in conjunction with its Antiquities Authority (IAA)] Wednesday filed criminal charges against Oded Golan, the major Israeli antiquties collector and dealer, and at least 3 other men, Robert Deutsch, Shlomo Cohen, and Faiz al-Amaleh, charging them with operating a forgery ring for profit. Golan was the owner of the ancient burial ossuary whose inscription led observers to believe it could have belonged to James, the brother of Jesus. According to the IAA, the men bought genuinely ancient but insiginificant artifacts and then engraved them and performed other operations on them to give them the appearance of unique significance. Golan and the others have steadfastly affirmed their innocence. In a statement released after these charges were filed, Golan said, "There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations related to me."

In addition to the James ossuary the IAA has identified as forgeries a tablet known as the Joash stone referring to the First Temple (Solomon's) in Jerusalem and also a small ivory pomegranate.

For the full story: Isaeli Police Accuse 4 of Forging Biblical Relics.


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American Baptists Weigh Gay Issues

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Answers In Action NewsIn a joint statement from the 25 regional executives of the 1.5 million member American Baptist Church, leaders announced that the continuing controversy among members and clergy over homosexual issues threatens to split the denomination.

The denomination this month released a pastoral statement to "preserve unity," announcing that to do so, the leaders had personally agreed to "voluntarily refrain from" appointing sexually active gays and lesbians to national or regional positions of leadership. They also agreed to refrain both from blessing same-sex "marriage ceremonies," and to shun "homophobic behavior."

For the full story: Leaders Say Gay Issue "Threatens to Break Us Apart".


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Christian Group Sues University for Banning Campus Chapter

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Answers In Action NewsStudents at a well-known law school who were refused the right to establish an official student branch of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at Arizona State University (ASU) have sued ASU. ASU had declined campus status to the group because it excludes non-Christians and homosexuals.

The CLS national society chose to sue because it says the anti-discrimination policy must make a Constitutional exception for religious belief. CLS members must sign a statement of faith similar to the Apostles' Creed. The CLS lawsuit says that the ASU chapter "interprets its statement of faith to require that officers adhere to orthodox Christian beliefs, including the Bible's prohibition of sexual contact between persons of the same sex." The suit continues, "A person who engages in homosexual conduct or adheres to the viewpoint that homosexual conduct is not sinful would not be permitted to become a member or serve as an officer."

ASU staff attorney Nancy Tribbensee has said the school is planning to "aggressively" defend its non-discrimination policy and is drafting its response to the lawsuit. In other judicial decisions in the US, exemptions on the basis of Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion have been established, providing for religious exceptions to the non-discrimination policies.

For the full story: Christians Sue Arizona SU to Exclude Gays.


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Defrocked Lesbian Pastor to Appeal

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Answers In Action NewsIn response to a pastoral defrocking conducted against her by the United Methodist Church last month, the former Rev. Elizabeth Irene Stroud has decided to appeal the 12-1 conviction by a panel of fellow ministers.

The United Methodist Church explicitly forbids practicing lesbians or homosexuals to serve as ministers. According to the verdict, Stroud violated that prohibition when she announced in a recent Sunday morning sermon that she was a practicing lesbian. She could have remained as a minister if she had abstained from lesbian relations, and she remains as a lay Methodist member despite her active lesbian status.

Stroud bases her appeal on 2 issues. First, she is appealing the presiding bishop's exclusion from her jury of any minister who could not in good conscience uphold the church's Book of Discipline, which bars practicing homosexual ministers. Second, she maintains that the prohibition contradicts a United Methodist constitution statement that "calls us as a church to stand against every form of discrimination," and to "treat all people as equally loved by God."

Stroud's appeal will be heard by a panel of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the 8.5 million member denomination and could eventually reach the national Judicial Council.

For the full story: Lesbian Methodist to Appeal Defrocking.


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Young Canadians More Often Attend Church

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Answers In Action NewsA Canadian University of Lethbridge sociologist says research shows that church attendance, especially among young people, is up, in some cases by as much as 4-5% since the late 1990s. Sociologist Reginald Bibby, a well-known Canadian pollster on religion, conducted a 2003 survey in which he found that 26% of Canadians said they attended religious services about once a week, up 5% from a similar 2000 poll. Another 50% said they were open to attending, and just needed a good reason to do so. The Catholic archdiocese of Toronto has conducted surveys showing that 43-48% of those who self-identify as Catholic are going to church each week, a substantial increase over previous rates.

The 26% attendance rate for church means that church going is higher than the numbers for any other group activity in the country, including watching the Super Bowl.

Bibby attributes the rise to a number of factors, including that baby boomers, who began the long slide in church attendance in Canada, now have adult children who are rediscovering the church for themselves in distinction from their parents. Other factors include the more participatory services of many churches, updating of music, involvement of multi-media and entertainment models of worship, and such practical considerations as day care and central locations. Many young people told Bibby they were going to church in order to establish values and a safe learning, growing, and friendship environment for their young children and to bring families closer together.

As baby boomers accounted for larger portions of the active adult participation, Canadians professing "no religion" represented a larger portion, too. Bibby says the numbers prove, however, that the mostly young people who profess no religion generally gravitate to religion within 10 years or so. Consequently, as the large baby boomer section aged, church attendance even among them increased, as did that of their own children.

For the full story: Young People Return to Church, Says Sociologist.


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Catholic Church Condemns Spanish Plan to Legalize Same Sex Marriage

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Answers In Action NewsSpain's socialist government is poised to legalize same sex marriage and adoption for same sex couples this year but the Catholic Church has announced that such action is against God and the Church. Through his Vatican office, Pope John Paul II warned other countries that the church will not remain silent if they copy Spain.

The day after Christmas the Spanish Catholic Bishops' office issued a statement calling the concept of "sexual orientation" "erroneous." The statement included, "One cannot choose between man and woman." Marriage is "always and solely the union of a man and a woman. . . . Two people of the same sex have no right to contract a marriage. The state, for its part, cannot recognize this right which does not exist, without acting in an arbitrary manner."

In his after Christmas message the pope called on the Holy Family (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus) to "keep watch on all the families of the world, especially those who face difficult conditions." The pope continued, "Likewise, help men of culture and political leaders so they can defend the family institution based on marriage and sustain it in facing the grave challenges of present times."

For the full story: Catholic Church Launches Two Pronged Attack on Gay-Marriage.


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CA Episcopal Bishop to Suspend Same Sex Blessing to Win Back Dissenting Congregations

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Answers In Action NewsLast month 3 major congregations in Southern California of the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) voted to withdraw from the Los Angeles diocese because its bishop, J. Jon Bruno, had participated in blessing same sex unions in church services. The congregations -- St. James in Newport Beach, All Saints' in Long Beach, and St. David's Church in North Hollywood -- said such actions by their bishop were unbiblical, immoral, and violating church law. In an effort to win the congregations back, Bishop Bruno has announced that he would stop blessing same sex unions, but he added that any priests under his jurisdiction could continue the ceremonies without discipline from the diocese. Bishop Bruno also called for a internaitonal church summit in Los Angeles that would include the African bishops who have agreed to accept governance of the dissenting parishes.

The ECUSA is the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The dissenting parishes have asked for oversight from the AnglicanChurch of the Province of Uganda.

Within hours, Bishop Bruno's offer was rejected by Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi and his associate, Bishop Evans Kisekks. In a letter faxed to Bruno they said, "Our churches in Los Angeles came to us like children who were running away from home, and we have offered them a safe place to be. We will not relinquish them into a spiritually dangerous situation." The fax called on Bruno and his diocese to repent from "your participation in and promotion of unbiblical behavior and teaching."

For the full story: Bishop Willing to Sacrifice Same-Sex Unions for Church Unity.


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CA History Teacher Barred from Distributing Declaration of Independence to Class Because of "G-D" Words

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Politics and GovernmentSteven Williams, a 5th grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in northern California's Cupertino, has filed suit against his principal and the local school district, claiming that he has been discriminated against because he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar simply because he is a Christian.

Williams' case is being handled by the conservative first amendment rights organization, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). His ADF attorney, Terry Thompson, remarked, "It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful." According to the suit, since May, Williams has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Principal Vidmar for approval, and the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity. Thompson says, "Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country. There is nothing in the Establishment Clause [of the US Constitution] that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence." The suit says that among the documents forbidden by Principal Vidmar are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's Journal, John Adams' Diary, Samuel Adams' The Rights of the Colonists, and William Penn's The Frame of the Government of Pennsylvania.

Thompson concluded, "He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10%refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote. The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."

Speaking for the Cupertino Unified School District, assistant superintendent Phyllis Vogel declined to comment, saying that the suit had been forwarded to a staff attorney for review.

For the full story: Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School.


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20 Year Old Arrested for Satanic Graffiti at Baptist Church

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Cults, Religions, and Faith TraditionsHenry Finn (20) has been arrested by police in Hillsborough, North Carolina for using orange spray paint to deface the outside of Crossroads Baptist Church on Grove Church Road last Wednesday. The graffiti included occultic symbols, including "666," upside down crosses, and pentagrams. In addition, the lock on the church's outside bulletin board had been smashed and the letters on the board re-arranged to say "Hail Satan!" and to call parishioners fools for praying to God.

Finn faces charges of ethnic intimidation and damage to property. If he had any cohorts, they have not been identified or arrested.

For the full story: Arrest Made in Church Vandalism Case.


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The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26