In The News

Charitable Choice Unproved

The colleague of President Bush's new "faith czar" John J. DiIulio, told the New York Times (April 24, 2001) there is scant evidence that religious programs are effective, or work better than secular social service programs.

"From the left to the right, everyone assumes that faith-based programs work," said Prof. Byron R. Johnson, University of Pennsylvania. "Even the critics of DiIulio and his office haven't denied that. We hear that and just sit back and laugh. In terms of empirical evidence that they work, it's pretty much nonexistent.

"We've created an office out of anecdotes."

Johnson joined the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, started by DiIulio, last year. DiIulio now leads the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Division over "Faith-based" Funding

The Mormon Church in April announced it would not seek funding under President Bush's "charitable choice" proposal to give tax money to overtly proselytizing churches and groups to provide social services. While the Mormon church eschewed such grants itself, spokesman Dale Bills said: "We're neutral. That's not saying we think it's wrong for every organization, but we just don't need it."

Top Roman Catholic social action official, John Carr, however, went on record saying Bush's "faith-based" plan has "the right tone." The secretary of the Department of Social Development and World Peace for the U.S. Catholic Conference told the Wisconsin Catholic Conference in April:

"We're open to the 'faith-based' initiatives."

A poll released on April 10 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that three of four people surveyed favor "government funding of faith-based organizations," but 78% would be opposed if groups receiving tax money are allowed to hire only people of the same faith. Majorities also opposed giving tax money to unfamiliar, nonWestern or new religions. Only 38% favored allowing Muslim mosques or Buddhist temples to apply for funding, 29% approved the Nation of Islam, and 26% the Church of Scientology.

"Bigots" on GOP Faith Board

Republican Congressional leaders came under fire for appointing two controversial ministers to a GOP summit on faith-based initiatives.

Two Wisconsin Democrats opposed the appointment of former Green Bay Packer Reggie White as one of 31 advisers to the April 25 summit. In 1998, White told the Wisconsin legislature that homosexuality is a sin, and made many stereotypic racial remarks.

Also drawing objections was the appointment of Cleveland minister Bishop J. Delano Ellis, who in 1994 gave a radio sermon calling Jews "carnal, selfish . . . dirty and lowdown and wicked." Ellis is pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Christ.

Other GOP advisers included Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the "Traditional Values Coalition."

Alabama House OK's Decalog Bill

The Alabama House voted 93-0 in late April to allow public schools to display the Ten Commandments in exhibits with "other historic documents," such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and Magna Carta.

The state Senate already approved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow schools and other public buildings to display the Commandments alone.

Colorado Decalog Challenged

The ACLU in April sued officials in Grand Junction, Col., on behalf of five residents objecting to the presence of a bible tablet outside City Hall, which was given to the city in the 1950s by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The council voted in March to allow it to remain outside City Hall with a "disclaimer" that there was no intent to establish a religion. It also drew up plans to transform the area into a "cultural heritage" plaza.

Mayor Gene Kinsey lost his bid for re-election in April, which he attributed to his vote to move the tablet.

Bible Mural Suit Dismissed

U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert of Milwaukee on March 29 dismissed a lawsuit by two students who sued the Kenosha Unified School District, Wis., after it barred them from including a cross in their bible club mural.

The "Trojans Loving Christ" were allowed to paint a permanent mural that depicted a bible, but were told by the principal not to use a cross.

Muslim Student Sues Louisiana School

A Muslim student, 11, filed a lawsuit on April 10 against the Rapides Parish School Board, La., claiming she was forced to accept a bible, participate in a "Jesus" game at school, and was told by classmates she would "burn in hell."

Joe Cook, director of the Louisiana ACLU, which filed the lawsuit in federal court, said: "This little girl has been the target of severe persecution and harassment by her classmates because of her religious beliefs."

The principal, John Cotton, presented the child's fifth-grade class with bibles on Dec. 14, 2000, in his office, while wishing each of them a "Merry Christmas." When Hesen Jabr said, "No thank you," the principal pressured her to accept it. Other classmates harassed her as a "Jesus hater."

Cotton has been distributing bibles in school for 35 years.

Five days later, her teacher arranged a quiz game about Christmas and Jesus, suggesting that Hesen serve as scorekeeper because she "might not know the answers to the questions."

North Dakota Pushes Religion

The North Dakota Senate in April approved a bill earlier passed in the House to permit schools to show "a religious object or document of cultural, legal or historical significance" as part of a broader historical display.

Until 1980, North Dakota's public school and college classrooms were required by state law to display "the Ten Commandments of the Christian religion." A federal judge declared the 1927 law unconstitutional after a suit was filed by Grand Forks residents.

Gov. John Hoeven has already signed into law a bill that explicitly allows "voluntary prayer or religious speech" any time student secular speech is allowed. It would also allow school boards to establish a minute of silence for meditation or prayer.

Ex-Nun Details Priest Abuse

Nuns are exploited for sex by priests, claims former nun Yvonne Maes of North Vancouver in an interview (Vancouver [B.C] Sun, March 29, 2001):

"The women's orders are very poor in Africa. If some priests want to target them for sex, they don't have a hope in hell. The bishops wouldn't listen to any of their complaints," said Maes, who worked as a Catholic high school teacher and principal for most of her 21 years as a nun in Lesotho.

Maes, who wrote The Cannibal's Wife: A Memoir (Herodias, 2000) was sexually abused by a white Catholic priest in Lesotho when she was 45. She also counseled many Innu Indian men in Canada who were abused by clergy, including several who filed lawsuits.

African nuns were exploited for sex by priests because, unlike prostitutes, they were free of AIDS, according to recent reports based on signed testimonies of high-level nuns and doctors, authorized by two Catholic groups, Caritas International and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Developments. Catholic researchers found a "high incidence" of abortions among nuns and novices in Africa. The Vatican had been presented with damning reports in 1995, but only acknowledged the issue in March.

Sexual exploitation of nuns is also common in Brazil, Colombia, India, Ireland, Italy, New Guinea, the Philippines and the United States.

One priest was accused of preying on so many nuns there were 20 pregnant at one time.

No Tax $$ for Tucson Prayer

Taxpayer money cannot be used to support a religious organization, a federal appeals court ruled in March, in overturning an earlier order that Tucson, Az., reimburse a Christian group that rented a park.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a decision by the circuit's 3-judge panel that had ordered Tucson to pay the group $340 for expenses related to a National Day of Prayer event. For the 8-3 opinion, Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote: "The federal Constitution provides all the defense Tucson needed in this lawsuit."

Film: Pope Traitor to Jews

Left-wing Greek filmmaker Konstantinos Costra-Gavras, after a four-decade delay, is directing a film that will portray Pope Pius XII as a traitor to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The film, whose working title is "The Vicar," will be based on the play "The Deputy," by German dramatist Rolf Hochhuth, published in 1963. Bucharest will stand in for Rome during the filming since the Vatican is not cooperating. Peter Ustinov and Dustin Hoffman reportedly have been approached about the role.

British Catholic historian John Cornwell's book Hitler's Pope, documenting that Pius turned a blind eye to Hitler's atrocities, has fueled opposition to the beatification process of Pius, the last step before canonization.

Maryland: Church Can Discriminate

The Maryland Court of Appeals on April 13 dismissed lawsuits by three employees fired from a church school because they were not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church.

The employees had invoked a local law allowing religious groups to hire employees of a particular religion only "to perform purely religious functions." The court unanimously overturned that portion of the Montgomery County law. Eighteen school employees were fired in 1996 for being the wrong religion.

Check All Catholic Clergy, Staff

A report released in April commissioned by the British Roman Catholic church advises that police should check all clergy, staff and volunteers in the Catholic Church to stamp out sexual abuse of children. Also advised was a national database for all candidates for the ministry.

The report recommended setting up a national child protection unit with a representative designated in every parish. Bishops and religious superiors should not overrule selections boards.

The report in part was influenced by the decision of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, to assign a priest to the Gatwick airport chapel despite concerns about his conduct. The priest was subsequently convicted in nine sex attacks, including one with a boy he met at the chapel, serving 42 months in prison.

Twenty-one Catholic priests in England and Wales were convicted of offenses against children between 1995 and 1999.

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