May 24, 2006

World News

Gallup Poll: 58 Percent of Americans Oppose 'Gay Marriage,' Half Support Amendment

BY MICHAEL FOUST                                                                                                     © 2006 Baptist Press

capWith Senate debate on a federal marriage amendment only days away, a new Gallup poll shows that exactly half of American adults support passage of such an amendment, and even more of them -- nearly three out of five -- oppose "gay marriage."

The poll of 1,002 adults May 8-11 shows that by a 58-39 percent margin American adults oppose redefining marriage to include homosexuals. Additionally, 50 percent favor and 47 percent oppose a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate an amendment beginning June 5, with a possible vote to follow around June 7.

The numbers are similar to other Gallup polls in recent years. An August 2005 poll had 59 percent of American adults opposing "gay marriage," while a May 2004 poll had opposition at 55 percent. Support for the amendment also has been somewhat consistent -- it was at 50 percent in March 2004, 57 percent in March 2005 and 53 percent last April and May.

But the new poll shows that opposition to "gay marriage" -- as well as support for an amendment -- varies wildly according to sex, age, religion and party affiliation:

-- 66 percent of Republicans favor a constitutional marriage amendment, while 55 percent of Democrats oppose it. Likewise, 79 percent of Republicans oppose "gay marriage" while 53 percent of Democrats support it. Independents are split evenly -- 49 percent opposing it, 45 percent supporting it. 

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Students, at Graduation, Pray to Protest Judge’s Ruling

BY STAFF                                                                                                               © 2006 Baptist Press
RUSSELL SPRINGS, Ky. (BP)--About 200 seniors at a high school graduation in Kentucky stood to recite the Lord’s Prayer May 19 in response to a federal judge banning prayer at the ceremony after an ACLU-affiliated lawsuit.

School officials said voluntary prayer had been a part of graduations at Russell County High School in Russell Springs for decades without a complaint until May 16 when an anonymous graduating senior collaborated with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky to file a lawsuit claiming he was offended by graduation prayers.

“My high school graduation is a very important event for me and I want to attend my graduation without having to compromise my Constitutional rights,” the student said in an affidavit. He chose to be identified only as John Doe because he said he feared retaliation.

U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinney granted a temporary restraining order about 12 hours before the start of graduation, ordering school officials and a peer-elected student not to proceed with a scheduled prayer in the ceremony.

But during the principal’s opening remarks, students stood and said the Lord’s Prayer in unison, drawing a standing ovation of support from the crowd of 2,000 people, according to the Associated Press.                                                

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Life Goes From ‘Bad to Worse’
For Holy Land Christians, Says Charity

                                                                                              c 2006 Presbyterian News Service 
Ecumenical News International

JERUSALEM—The situation has deteriorated for minority Christians living in the Palestinian territories since the Islamist organization Hamas took control of the Palestinian legislature, according to a Roman Catholic charity report. 
 “Life has turned ‘from bad to worse’ since a Palestinian election in January which Hamas won,” the Aid to the Church in Need charity published in May 2 report based on accounts from Palestinians living in Bethlehem, the city in which Jesus was born in the area on the West Bank (of the River Jordan). 
“With a squeeze on public finances and frequent problems traveling to Jerusalem where many Palestinians work and shop, the crisis for the area’s about 150,000 Christians has deepened, especially with increased intolerance to non-Muslims,” the report says. 
“It has become awful living here,” the charity quoted Bethlehem gift shop owner Victor Tabash as saying. “We do not believe what is happening. Since the election, things have been getting worse and worse,” Tabash added. 
Hamas has said it will not impose strict Islamic law, or Sharia, in the Palestinian territories, a move seen as an attempt to ease the concern of Christians and secular Palestinians.  
But since Hamas’ election there has been a spate of violence against Christians, including arson attacks against a parish school in the West Bank city of Bethlehem and other violent incidents against churches and Christian charities. It is not known whether the culprits are Palestinian gangs opposed to Hamas or supporters of the movement. 
The violence has highlighted the plight of Christians in the Holy Land whose numbers have dwindled over the past century as more and more emigrate for better lives abroad rather than stay in a land inflicted with economic, political and security problems.  
The Aid to the Church in Need charity, which operates under the authority of the Vatican, supports persecuted and poverty-stricken Christians around the world. It runs a program selling West Bank handicrafts to generate funds for local Christians. Products that are sold include hand-made olive wood devotional items including crucifixes, cribs and rosaries.

As Spirituality Grows, Employers Strive to Be Fair

BY CANDACE GOFORTH                                                                c. 2006 Religion News Service
A Muslim employee's daily prayers. A lunchtime Bible study group. A Jewish employee's observance of the High Holy Days.
What does any of this have to do with conducting business? These days, plenty.

More Americans are bringing their faith to work, and employers need to be sure their workplace policies are keeping pace with the trend.    That doesn't mean simply putting a menorah next to the Christmas tree in the lobby once a year. It means balancing the needs of expressively religious workers with those of employees who may think the only higher power that matters at work is the one signing the paychecks.

Two studies, one by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Studies and another by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, indicate religion has taken on a more prominent role in American culture. That translates to an increasing emphasis on those issues in the workplace.

"I notice that there seems to be more of an acceptance of talking about" religion, said Andrea Capuano, director of human resources for ComDoc Inc., an office-machine supplier based in Ohio. "It used to be something you wouldn't talk about. Now more people feel like, `Why do we have to leave (our beliefs) at the door?'"

Experts on the subject suggest four factors are contributing to the

  • Baby boomers are aging and searching for meaning.
  • Expressions of faith have become part of the nation's political
  • discourse, from city halls to the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • As people are spending more time at work, the line between personal life and professional life is being blurred.
  • The workplace is a microcosm of an increasingly pluralistic society. That may cause some to hold tighter to their own traditions and declare them more loudly. Whatever the cause, the Rev. Norm Douglas is happy to see spiritual forwardness coming into fashion. Douglas and attorney Larry Vuillemin founded Akron, Ohio-based Heart to Heart Communications 16 years ago to encourage the integration of faith and work. The idea was that greater mutual understanding and ethical commitment would follow.

"We have a separation of church and state, but that doesn't mean we can't show our faith," Douglas said. "And we can find values that a lot of faith traditions hold in common. All emphasize living with integrity, caring for each other, having a higher purpose in life than making money."

Some experts suggest the most valuable accommodation may be creating a workplace atmosphere that welcomes talk of faith and spirituality. That has been ComDoc's approach. And it has worked without controversy, Capuano said. "I'm not seeing people preaching in the workplace," she said. "I don't see people coming in and hanging big crosses at their desk. It's more of a subtle thing."

It might be a break-room prayer group, a conversation about a church fundraiser or an employee sharing details of a particularly moving worship service. And it all plays out with ComDoc's corporate blessing. The company has sent more than 30 employees, including Roy Ismail, through Heart to Heart Communications' leadership program.

Ismail, who is Muslim, said the spiritually open environment -- one that is predominantly Christian -- has helped him connect with some of his co-workers in a way he might not have done otherwise. "Everyone should be proud of who they are and where they come from and be able to share that at work," said Ismail, a technical support analyst for the company. "I think ComDoc is on the right track."