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
Democrats to End Abstinence-Only Funding
ongressional Democrats say they will pull the plug on abstinence-only sex education when a $50 million grant expires on June 30, a move sparking outrage among social conservative groups.
"As the House works to eliminate abstinence funding, their solution is simple--provide more pills that prevent and abort pregnancies," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Perkins, in an e-mail to supporters, said Democrats are pushing a "radical agenda that few voters expected--or supported--when they propelled the Democrats to power."
Democrats would still include money for abstinence teachings in schools, but would combine it with comprehensive sex-ed programs that would teach about birth control and other safe sex methods.
States currently pay for abstinence-only education in public schools by matching $3 for every $4 they receive from the federal government. Congress initially approved the Title V funding as part of welfare reform.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Wednesday (May 16) that the decision to stop funding for the program wasn't difficult at all.
"Abstinence-only education seems to be a colossal failure," Dingell said, according to the Associated Press. Dingell backed that statement with a recent study by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. that showed students in four abstinence-only education programs were equally likely to have sex at the same age as those not in abstinence programs.
"With all we know about how to prevent teen pregnancy and reduce sexually transmitted diseases, it is high time to redirect the millions of federal dollars that we squander every year on abstinence-only education to programs that actually work," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., according to the AP.
Gay Marriage Rate Drops in Massachusetts
As Massachusetts marked the third anniversary of legalized same-sex marriage Thursday (May 17), the state released statistics showing the number of gay marriages has dropped sharply since 2004.
According to the state Department of Public Health, 6,121 gay couples married in the first seven months after gay marriage became legal on May 17, 2004. In 2005, 2,060 gay couples married, and in 2006, the number declined to 1,427, down 31 percent from 2005. During this year through April 26, only 87 gay couples have tied the knot.
The statistics also show that 9,695 gay couples have married in this state. Of that total, 6,209 marriages, or 64 percent, consist of women.
Kristian M. Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute in Newton, said that if there's such a great need for same-sex marriage, then the number of married gay couples should be increasing.
"The numbers are relatively small and dwindling rapidly," Mineau said. "The actual institution of marriage is not being sought after by the gay community."
Governor Deval Patrick opposes a move to put a question on the 2008 statewide ballot that, if approved by voters, would ban future gay marriages. Legislators are scheduled to vote June 14 on whether to place that measure on the 2008 ballot.
Methodist Official Questions Display of U.S. Flag in Churches
Displaying a U.S. flag during United Methodist worship services is "inappropriate and unwise" because the flag may become an object of worship and could imply an endorsement of the government's policies, according to a member of the denomination's public policy arm.
"In a worship setting nothing should come before the center of our faith in whose presence we have gathered to worship, the Triune God," said the Rev. Clayton Childers, director of annual conference relations for the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society.
Writing in the May 10 edition of the board's newsletter, Faith in Action, Childers also argues that "the presence of a national flag in worship can imply endorsement of national policies which often run counter to the teachings of Jesus Christ and our Christian faith."
President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, as are 61 members of Congress, including 2008 Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
Childers was sharply criticized for a "lack of patriotism" by the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a conservative watchdog group that is often critical of mainline Protestant churches.
"Religious Left figures, like (Childers), are hardly concerned about idolatry when their politically correct, rainbow paraphernalia and peace banners are woven into church worship services," said Mark Tooley of the IRD. "They oppose the United States Flag because they are contemptuous of our country, its history, its institutions, its culture.... "
Childers wrote that he addressed the "treacherous terrain" of the flag's presence at worship services after discussions arose about churches placing it "in the sanctuary, by the altar ... or at another prominent location on the church grounds."
The tradition of placing a U.S. flag in the sanctuary began during the Civil War, when churches used it to promote the Union's cause, according to Childers. He said there is no official United Methodist policy on the issue.
Guilty Pleas Close Alabama Church Arson Cases
Two men pleaded guilty on May 16 to burning a church in Pickens County, a step that ends federal and state prosecution in a 2006 arson spree that targeted nine rural churches.
"As far as court goes, this is it," said Pickens County District Attorney Chris McCool. "The next step is that they go to federal prison."
Matthew Cloyd and Benjamin Moseley, both 21, pleaded guilty to arson and burglary charges, acknowledging they set fire to Dancy First Baptist Church, one of the nine churches burned in February 2006. A friend, Russell DeBusk, was involved in five of the fires and earlier pleaded guilty to his role.
Wearing buzz cuts and orange jail jumpsuits at the county courthouse, Cloyd and Moseley pleaded guilty to second-degree arson and third-degree burglary charges. The men will serve two-year state prison sentences that will run at the same time as prison sentences that were previously handed down in Bibb, Sumter, and Greene counties.
The concurrent state sentences will begin once they complete an eight-year federal prison term ordered by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor in February.
DeBusk, 20, will also serve a seven-year federal prison term followed by a two-year state sentence for the fires in Bibb County.
"They're ready to go," said Cloyd's attorney, Tommy Spina.
In addition to federal prison, the three men must pay $3.1 million in restitution, with Cloyd and Moseley to pay a greater share. They also are to perform 300 hours of community service work at the churches once they are released.
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