March 4, 2009

1506 RNS News2

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

Dobson Retires From Focus on the Family Board

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                     ©2009 Religion News Service

capF 4ocus on the Family founder James Dobson has resigned as chairman of the Colorado ministry he started 32 years ago, but will continue to host his daily radio broadcast and is expected to stay involved in national politics.

Both Dobson and his wife, Shirley, have departed from the board, the ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, announced February 27. The move is considered "the next step in a transition plan" that started in 2003 when James Dobson stepped down as president, the ministry said.

"One of Dobson's objectives during the last decade has been to help identify the next generation of leadership for the ministry, and to see it established securely before he stepped away from administrative oversight," said the board of directors in a statement. "That purpose has now been fulfilled."

In addition to hosting the "Focus on the Family" radio program, Dobson will continue writing a newsletter that Focus says is received by 1.6 million supporters each month.

"One of the common errors of founder-presidents is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority," Dobson said in a statement.

"I have wanted not to make that mistake with Focus on the Family, which is why I stepped back. ... Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do."

Longtime Dobson colleague Gary Bauer, president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, called Dobson a "visionary pro-family leader" who still has contributions to make.

"At a time when few were sensitive to the struggles and pressures facing the American family, Dobson and Shirley saw that something had to be done," said Bauer, a former senior vice president at Focus on the Family. "They have been warriors for faith, family, and freedom, and I trust they will continue to fight the good fight for many more years to come."

In recent years, Dobson used his political heft to criticize candidates he doesn't like, such as President Obama, and praise those he does, such as Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.

"Despite my differences with him, if Dobson were truly retiring, I would wish him well," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "But I know that Dobson and so many other leaders of the religious right intend to remain active, working to force their exclusionary worldview onto the rest of us."

Obama Moves to Rescind 'Conscience Clause'
for Healthcare Workers

BY MATTHEW BERGER                                                                                     ©2009 Religion News Service

The Obama administration has announced plans to rescind regulations that allow healthcare workers to abstain from performing medical procedures they object to on moral grounds.

The Bush administration authored the rule shortly before leaving office last December, primarily to shield those with religious or moral opposition to abortion. It said healthcare workers cannot be discriminated against for refusing to participate in objectionable procedures, and facilities that did not accommodate employees with objections could lose federal funding.

It is one of several abortion-related measures the new White House is seeking to overturn. Last month, the administration changed regulations that had previously forbidden foreign aid from benefiting entities that provide abortion.

Federal law allows healthcare providers to abstain from performing abortions. The HHS regulation instituted last year was interpreted to protect additional procedures, like sex change operations and assisted suicide, as well as possibly even vaccinations and family planning. Obama administration officials told The Washington Post they believe the rule is too broad and could prevent women from receiving the care they need. They held open the possibility of a more narrow regulation.

The reversal in policy at the Department of Health and Human Services drew strong support from reproductive rights advocates, who said the rule placed doctors' views above the patient.

"The bottom line is that, under the guise of protecting the conscience of healthcare providers, the regulation would have denied women the right to follow their conscience and make reproductive decisions according to their religious and moral beliefs," said Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Conservative groups raised concerns that, with the reversal, doctors could once again face professional repercussions for not performing abortions.

"These regulations would have ensured that healthcare workers are not forced to participate in the performance or promotion of abortion against their will," said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council. "President Obama's intention to change the language of these protections would result in the government becoming the conscience and not the individual."

Deirdre McQuade, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said "efforts to nullify or weaken any conscience protection will undermine our national heritage of diversity and religious freedom," among other negative consequences.

The White House Office of Management and Budget said t would review the regulation, the first step towards reversing it, and will eventually hold a 30-day comment period before acting. The rule remains in effect until it is reversed.

Poll: Most Teens Think Lying and Cheating can be Ethical

BY JERRY L. VAN MARTER                                                                             ©2009 Presbyterian News Service

A new survey finds that 80 percent of American teenagers believe they are “ethically prepared” for life in the real world, but 40 percent believe they have to “break the rules” to succeed.

The poll of 750 teensâ??conducted by Junior Achievement (JA) and Deloitteâ??doesn’t bode well for religious leaders. It shows that only 3 percent of teens see members of the clergy (pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam) as “role models.”

In contrast, most teens (54 percent) see their parents as role models, followed by friends (13 percent), teachers or coaches (6 percent) and brother or sister (5 percent). About one in 10 teens (11 percent) say they have no role models.

“In large numbers, teens today express a troubling contradiction when it comes to ethical readiness for the workforce,” said Ed Grocholski of The Lindberg Group, which aided the study and analyzed its results. 

“At the same time they express confidence in their preparedness to make the right choices in the future, they freely admit to unethical behavior today,” he said. “The results reveal considerable ethical confusion among teens regarding what types of behavior are appropriate in order to succeed.”

Key findings of the survey:

  • 80 percent of teens either somewhat or strongly agree that they are prepared to make ethical business decisions when they join the workforce, yet more than a third (38 percent) think they have to break the rules at school to succeed.
  • More than one in four teens (27 percent) think behaving violently is sometimes, often or always acceptable. Twenty percent of respondents said they had personally behaved violently toward another person in the past year, and 41 percent reported a friend had done so.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) of those who say they are ethically prepared believe that lying to parents and guardians is acceptable, and 61 percent have done so in the past year.
  • Teens feel more accountable to themselves (86 percent) than they do to their parents or guardians (52 percent), their friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent).
  • Only about half (54 percent) cite their parents as role models. Most of those who don’t cite their parents as role models are turning to their friends or said they didn’t have a role model.
  • Only 25 percent said they would be “very likely” to reveal knowledge of unethical behavior in the workplace.

"If teens lack accountability to others,” Grocholski said, “the data suggests that their choices may be driven purely by self-interest and not by interest in the greater good …Teens seem to be experiencing a sense of ethical confusion and relativism—an endemic ethical attitude of ‘the ends justify the means.’”

That attitude is compounded by the absence of adult role models, “which can leave a vacuum of ethical guidance as young people enter adulthood,” Grocholski said. “With a significant number of teens reporting they don’t have an adult role model for ethical behavior, the data raises even more questions about why adults are not viewed as role models and what can be done to fill the gap.” 

The survey was used by JA and Deloitte to develop “JA Business Ethics” and “Excellence Through Ethics” programs as part of a $2 million initiative to address the issues identified in the survey. 

Information for this story furnished by Ed Grocholski, The Lindberg Group, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Court Sides With Montana Church Over Free Speech

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                     ©2009 Religion News Service

The free speech rights of a Montana church were violated when it was told to register as a political committee after hosting an anti-gay marriage event in 2004, an appeals court ruled on February 25.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, Montana, overturned a lower court decision.

The church participated in a "Battle for Marriage" satellite simulcast in 2004 and distributed petitions in support of a successful initiative to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman in Montana's constitution.

"We conclude that, by applying its disclosure provisions to the church's (minor) in-kind contributions in the context of a state ballot initiative, the commission violated the church's First Amendment rights," wrote Judge William C. Canby, Jr.

In a concurring opinion, Judge John T. Noonan wrote that "An unregulated, unregistered press is important to our democracy. So are unregulated, unregistered churches."

Dale Schowengerdt, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund who represented the church, welcomed the decision. "Churches shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs," he said.