November 2, 2006

World News 2

Quebec Says Private Schools
Must Teach Evolution or Close


BY RON CSILLAG                                                                                   ©2006 Religion News Service
capQuebec's education ministry has warned private, unlicensed evangelical schools in the province they must teach Darwin's theory of evolution and sex education or face closure.
The education ministry said on October 24 that the province will negotiate for several weeks with an unspecified number of evangelical schools to determine whether they can meet provincial standards that include the teaching of evolution.
"Schools must, of course, follow the curriculum, which includes the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution," Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said in a statement.
The directive came following a complaint from a school board in Quebec's southwestern Outaouais region that children at a small evangelical school near Saint-Andre-Avellin were not being taught the full provincial curriculum.
But supporters of the school, which enrolls 20 students, counter that it teaches a "worldview" that is essential for their students. "We offer a curriculum based on a Christian worldview rather than a humanistic worldview," said Alan Buchanan, a former public school teacher and head of a committee that reorganized the school's administration this past summer.
Buchanan told the National Post newspaper that the school teaches evolution as well as intelligent design, the idea that the natural world is too complex to be explained by natural selection. "We want the children to understand what they're going to meet in the outside world, and also what's wrong with the theory," he said. "We also teach a better theory -- that God created the universe and so on."

With 2008 China Olympics in View, Baptists Plan Ministries


BY BP STAFF                                                                                                                  ©2006 Baptist Press
As China races to spiff up for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Southern Baptist workers are preparing for a different kind of gold.
Ministry teams are working with churches in the United States for thousands of volunteers to sow Gospel seeds through Olympic-related ministry events.
“It’s encouraging and exciting to see the interest level among Southern Baptist churches,” said Richard Darby*, a Southern Baptist worker helping organize ministries for the games. “Our people understand that coming into China for the Olympics is more than the games. It’s about actually impacting the country and the people of China. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”
Anticipation is at a fever pitch in Beijing. Advertisements displaying the “Friendlies,” the five Beijing Olympic mascots, dot the city’s buses and billboards. A citywide tangle of construction cranes signals the progress of new sporting venues. The government even has mobilized a squad of “hygiene police” who levy fines against Beijing residents found spitting or littering.
And while China prepares for an Olympiad unlike any other, Christian ministry teams are preparing for a spiritual harvest unlike any other, with Darby noting that the games have motivated a focus on China among both small and large U.S. congregations, many of whom previously have shied away from the magnitude of the China task.
“We are seeing an awakening of our people to go through that window of opportunity into what has long been seen as such a closed-off place,” he said.
As the Olympic Games draw closer, Chinese organizations from all sectors are seeking innovative ways to connect with the world. For Southern Baptists, these relationships are a natural bridge to share Christ with a spiritually hungry nation.
Opportunities abound for involvement before, during and after the games. Possibilities include crisis intervention, counseling, first aid, sports camps and clinics, dramas, musical performances, face painting and humanitarian work.
Project leaders emphasize that volunteers are desperately needed long before the torch is lit in 2008. Prayerwalking teams are a necessary precursor to a successful ministry during the Olympics. English speakers also are in high demand to help public-sector workers struggling to meet mandatory English requirements before the games start.               
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Survey: Half of Evangelicals Oppose
Federal Funding of Religious Groups


BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                               ©2006 Religion News Service
Half of the nation's evangelical Christians do not support government funding of faith-based organizations, a survey shows.
New data released Wednesday (Oct. 25) from the Baylor Religion Survey show that 50 percent of evangelicals, and 65 percent of the total population, think federal funding of religious organizations is inappropriate. Twenty-six percent of the total respondents surveyed said they agree with such funding.
Byron Johnson, a sociology professor at Baylor University, said the finding about evangelicals may be the product of misinformation and rumors about the work of faith-based initiatives.
"For example, a lot of groups will not even entertain the idea of applying for public funds because they feel like if they do that the cross or the menorah or the Star of David has to come down," he said. "I think it reflects a horrible miscommunication about the initiative."
Johnson said others fear recipients of faith-based services might have to pray or be proselytized.
In addition to being a member of the research team on the Baylor study, Johnson has served as an intermediary in a $3 million Justice Department program that supports small faith-based and community programs addressing domestic violence.
A team of researchers from Baylor University, a Baptist university in Waco, Texas, released the initial findings of their study in September. They define evangelical respondents as those who belong to evangelical denominations or state a belief in the authority of the Bible, salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus and the need to evangelize.

Supreme Court to Weigh Ban on Late-term Abortion


BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                           ©2006 Religion News Service 

The controversial issue of abortion will again be the center of attention when the Supreme Court hears arguments on Nov. 8 in two cases about the constitutionality of a ban on a late-term abortion procedure.
A bill passed in 2003, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, has since been declared unconstitutional by several federal courts. While abortion opponents argue the ban should be permitted, abortion rights advocates say it should not stand because it does not contain an exception related to the health of the mother.
The battle over late-term abortion represents the latest and sometimes most emotional skirmish in the 33-year war over abortion. Conservatives want to place limits around a procedure President Bush has called "abhorrent," while liberals see any restrictions as a threat to abortion rights that were outlined in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Jan LaRue, chief counsel of the Washington-based Concerned Women for America, said congressional testimony demonstrated that the health exception was not needed.
"This is never the only or best procedure for a late-term abortion," said LaRue, whose organization submitted a joint friend-of-the-court brief with the National Association of Evangelicals that called the procedure "a barbarism that may and should be prohibited."
The Rev. Carlton Veazey, president of the Washington-based Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, argues that a health exception is necessary and thus, the ban, without it should be unconstitutional.
"This is an issue that doctors have to decide," he said. "How can somebody say there shouldn't be a health exception until they're in a position to know that particular woman and that particular circumstance?"
The rarely used procedure in question, medically known as intact dilation and extraction, has been labeled "partial-birth abortion" by critics. A fetus is partially extracted through the birth canal and its skull is collapsed by suctioning out the brain.
In their joint brief filed with the Supreme Court, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family argue that recognizing a woman's right to such a procedure "would promote infanticide."
NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, in its brief, cautions that the law in question "will have a chilling effect on physicians that deters at least some of them from performing legal abortions."
When the high court considered the issue in 2000, it struck down a Nebraska law banning the procedure because it lacked the health exception. Congress attempted to address the court's concerns by creating a more precise definition of the procedure with the new law, but did not include the health exception because lawmakers said it was not necessary.
The two cases, Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, will be heard in back-to-back sessions. The first case is being appealed from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the medical community has not reached a consensus on the necessity for the banned procedure. The second was considered by the 9th Circuit, which not only ruled on the lack of a health exception but also said the law was "impermissibly vague" and places an "undue burden on women seeking abortions."