August 17, 2006

World News

Poll: Four in Ten Americans
Admit Prejudice Against Muslims

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                   ©2006 Religion News Service

capAlmost 40 percent of Americans acknowledge having some prejudice against Muslims, but those with Muslim acquaintances are more likely to show favorable attitudes, a new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans asked to "honestly" assess themselves said they have "at least some feelings of prejudice against Muslims" while 59 percent said they did not.
Respondents were fairly evenly divided about whether Muslims are respectful of other religions, with 47 percent agreeing and 40 percent disagreeing. There was clear disagreement about whether Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs, with 44 percent saying yes and 46 percent saying no.
A substantial minority--39 percent--of Americans favor more strict security measures for Muslims than other U.S. citizens, such as requiring Muslims to carry a special ID; 59 percent said they would oppose such a requirement. Forty-one percent favored Muslims undergoing more intensive security checks at U.S. airports, while 57 percent opposed such action.
When comparing feelings based on whether respondents personally know a Muslim, pollsters found dramatic differences. Forty-one percent said they personally knew a Muslim.
Nearly a quarter of those who said they know a Muslim--24 percent-- favored a special ID for Muslims; 50 percent who do not know someone of that faith favored the special ID. Ten percent of those who know a Muslim said they would not want a Muslim as a neighbor, compared to 31 percent of those who did not know one.
Some of the findings were based on interviews of a random national
sample of 1,007 adults between July 28-30 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Others were based on a "half-sample" of 500 national adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Supreme Court Sets November 8
for Partial-birth Abortion Arguments

                                                                                                      © 2006 Baptist Press
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Nov. 8 on the constitutionality of a federal ban on the procedure known as partial-birth abortion.
The high court announced August 14 it would hear arguments in two cases involving the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act the day after the general election. The justices will consider in back-to-back proceedings Gonzales v. Carhart, an appeal from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, out of the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court, which will open its next term October 2, is expected to issue an opinion in the cases before it adjourns next summer.
The 2003 law bars a procedure typically used in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. Three different appeals courts at the federal level have ruled the prohibition is unconstitutional. The Eighth Circuit invalidated the law based on its lack of an exception for the health of the mother, while the Ninth Circuit said the ban imposes an undue burden on women and is too vague.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed in May in the Eighth Circuit case in support of the law. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops submitted the brief.
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Pope Says Women Will `Make Their Own Space' in Church

BY KRISTINE CRANE                                                                           ©2006 Religion News Service
Pope Benedict XVI said women should not have to face obstacles as they seek a greater role in the church even as he reiterated church teaching against female priests.
In an interview aired Sunday (Aug. 13) with German broadcasters and
Vatican Radio, the pope responded to a question on the feasibility of women assuming roles of greater visibility and responsibility in the church.
"I believe that women themselves, with their energy and strength, with their superiority, with what I'd call their `spiritual power,' will know how to make their own space," Benedict said. "And we will have to try and listen to God so as not to stand in their way."
The pope supports church law that prohibits women from being ordained as priests or making legally binding decisions for the church. But he said that women today are "very present in the offices of the Holy See," and praised women throughout church history, such as St. Catherine of Siena, who mediated Pope Gregory XI's return to Rome from Avignon in the 14th century.
In the rare and lengthy interview given at his summer palace in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome last week, the pope also emphasized that the church should not be seen as an institution that only says no to things like abortion and gay marriage.
"Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions -- it's a positive option," Benedict said, explaining that marriage fits into the development of love that includes sexuality and procreation.
Bush Signs Law Putting Controversial
Cross Under Federal Control

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                        ©2006 Religion News Service
President Bush signed a measure into law Monday (Aug. 14) that aims to preserve a controversial cross on public land in San Diego. The law permits the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial to be owned by the federal government, marking the latest juncture in a legal battle over its constitutionality.
In July, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy issued a stay that suspended a lower court decision that would have forced the city to remove the 29-foot cross from public property.
Even as further court action is expected, groups on both sides of the issue reacted to Bush's signing of the law. "This legislative victory is an important step in safeguarding the Mount Soledad cross," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, which has represented members of Congress who wanted to preserve the cross. "While we applaud the legislative victory, our focus remains on ensuring that we secure a decisive and lasting legal victory to keep the Mount Soledad cross in place."
While supporters argued that the religious symbolism of the memorial did not merit its removal, opponents said its use of the symbol of the Christian faith was inappropriate because veterans have a range of religious backgrounds.
"Americans of many different faiths and none fought in our wars," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "It is wrong to use the symbol of only one faith to memorialize all those who died in service to their country."
The American Humanist Association was disappointed that a federal judge in San Diego denied a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the transfer. But further legal action is expected as soon as September.
"Transferring control of the cross to the federal government does nothing to resolve the basic issues of the case," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the Washington-based association.