December 31, 2008

1536 RNS News 2

The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors

Bush Administration Gives
Protection to Pro-life Doctors

BY TOM STRODE                                                                                              ©2008 Baptist Press

capThe Bush administration has issued a rule affirming the right of doctors and other health care providers to refuse to participate in abortion and other medical procedures to which they object.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the new regulation December 18. The rule will take effect 30 days after its publication December 19 in the Federal Register, which means it will be in force when President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in January 20.

In the wake of the announcement, abortion-rights advocates called on the Obama administration to overturn the new HHS regulation.

The regulation makes clear that institutions that receive certain HHS funds, as well as employees of such institutions, are protected from discrimination. Recipients of such HHS funds must verify their compliance with laws safeguarding the conscience rights of health care providers.

The rule impacts more than 580,000 hospitals, nursing homes, medical schools, doctors' offices, and other recipients. Noncompliance could result in the withholding of federal funds from those entities.

"Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said in a written release. "This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience."

Pro-life advocates applauded the new regulation. "Obviously, this is a banner day for freedom of conscience in America," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "I think it's very important that we respect freedom of conscience, and these regulations will help protect the consciences of pro-life, health care professionals to keep them from having to face the choice of either leaving the health care profession or compromising their consciences by being forced to perform or assist in procedures that they find morally repugnant." 

To read the rest of this story, click here.


Church Searches For Answers After `Santa Claus Massacre'

BY DAVID FINNIGAN                                                                   ©2008 Religion News Service

This Los Angeles suburb of Covina remains numb from the Christmas Eve murders carried out by a distraught ex-husband who dressed as Santa Claus and allegedly killed 10 people at the home of his ex-wife's family.       
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo killed 10 people at the Covina home of his ex-wife's parents before torching the house with a homemade flame-thrower, officials say. Pardo, who was badly burned in the attack, later killed himself at his brother's home in Sylmar, Calif.
Pardo, a 45-year-old unemployed engineer, was a volunteer usher at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose. At the 10 a.m. Mass on December 28, a priest read a brief statement on the massacre written by the church's pastor.
"We pray for the victims, those who died, those who are wounded, for their families and their loved ones, even for Mr. Pardo," the statement said. "May God have mercy on their souls."
It remained unclear which, if any, church was attended by Pardo's ex-wife, Sylvia Ortega, who was living with her elderly parents. All three are presumed dead, along with seven others presumed dead or missing as officials try to identify the badly burned bodies.
At the curb in front of the home's rubble, a memorial of flowers and cards grew over the weekend. By Sunday afternoon, traffic to the site of the burned home averagrf about 60 cars per hour. Families left candles bearing images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary; a half-dozen rosaries were placed on a brick post at the house's curb.
Teddy bears and other plush dolls also were left there to comfort an 8-year-old girl shot in the face by Pardo when she ran toward him at the front door on Christmas Eve. Pardo later shot a 16-year-old girl in the back as she fled the house. Both girls were released from a hospital late Saturday and are now recovering at home.
Outside the ruins of the house, workers in pick-up trucks parked and walked to the charred rubble, studying the flowers, rosaries, cards, and dolls, some making the sign of the cross. As two men left the memorial and climbed back into their truck, one of them said quietly, "Santa Maria."

Gallup: Americans See Religious Influence Waning

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                           ©2008 Religion News Service

Two-thirds of Americans think religion is losing its influence on U.S. life, a sharp jump from just three years ago when Americans were nearly evenly split on the question, according to a new Gallup Poll.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans think religious influence is waning, while just 27 percent say it is increasing. That perspective demonstrates a continuing downward trend, Gallup said.
But the 27 percent figure is still higher than the record low, set in a 1970 poll, when just 14 percent of Americans thought religion was increasing in influence.
Those who regularly attend worship services are more likely to say religion is losing its influence; three out of four weekly attenders (74 percent) said religious influence is falling, compared to 24 percent who thought its influence is on the rise.
At other times in American history, religion has been perceived by more Americans as having increasing significance. In 1957, 69 percent thought its influence was increasing, compared to 14 percent who thought it was declining. Likewise, in 2001, three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 71 percent saw an increasing religious influence, compared to 24 percent who said it was decreasing.
The latest poll also finds that the percentage of Americans believing that religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" has reached an all-time low. Slightly more than half of those surveyed -- 53 percent -- held that view, while 28 percent say it is "largely old-fashioned and out of date."
The poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted December 4-7 with 1,009 adults; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.