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
IRS Says Complaints of Church
Politicking Up in 2006
BY ADELLE M. BANKS c. 2007 Religion News Service
omplaints about improper politicking by tax-exempt organizations went up 43 percent in the 2006 elections compared to 2004, according to a report released Friday (June 1) by the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS was asked to investigate 237 cases involving churches and other organizations as part of the agency's Political Activities Compliance Initiative for the 2006 election year. In 2004, the IRS received 166 complaints.
However, only 100 cases were retained for examination by IRS officials in 2006, a figure that remained relatively stable from the 110 cases examined in 2004. Forty-four of last year's cases involved churches; 56 were non-church organizations.
"In our view, the IRS public awareness program contributed to the rise in the number of referrals we received," a report on the 2006 initiative states.
Most of the 2006 cases remain open, but cases involving 14 churches and 26 non-church groups had been closed as of March 30. Of the 14 churches, four were issued written advisories for improper political intervention, and 10 were cleared.
Of the 110 cases examined from 2004, all but five had been closed by March 30, the report said. Of the closed cases involving churches, 42 were given written advisories and four were found not to have been involved in political intervention.
Asked why a similar number of cases were determined worthy of a thorough examination even though complaints increased, IRS spokesman Eric Smith said, "It's very much of a case-by-case process."
Allegations about inappropriate political campaigning ranged from distributing documents supporting candidates to improper use of an organization's facilities. Charges that a church official made a statement endorsing candidates during "normal services" were made 13 times in the 2006 election and 19 times in 2004.
Also on Friday, the IRS issued its latest guidelines related to appropriate political activity by tax-exempt organizations.
In the area of individual activity by clergy, the IRS said a minister of a particular church can attend a press conference at a candidate's headquarters and state support for that candidate. Under those circumstances, if ministers do not say they are speaking on behalf of their church, such an appearance would not be considered "campaign intervention" by the church.
In other examples, the IRS said "selectively providing church facilities" to allow one candidate to speak in support of his or her campaign would be inappropriate. Likewise, use of a church Web site to indicate support for a town council candidate would be considered an inappropriate intervention in a political campaign.
Support Strong for Assisted Suicide as Kevorkian Leaves Prison
As Dr. Jack Kevorkian was released Friday (June 1) from a Michigan prison after serving eight years for second-degree murder in the assisted death of a man with Lou Gehrig's disease, new polls suggest his cause retains strong support.
An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released this week showed that 53 percent of Americans believe Kevorkian never should have gone to jail for the assisted suicide campaign he championed in the 1990s; 40 percent supported Kevorkian's imprisonment.
Just 30 percent of the 1,000 adults questioned agreed that doctors and nurses should do everything possible to save the life of a patient. More than two-thirds said there are circumstances where a patient should be allowed to die with help.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, and was conducted from interviews done between May 22 and May 24.
Religion had much to do with people's answers, according to the AP. Only about one-third of those who attend religious services at least once a week said it should be legal for doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. In contrast, 70 percent of those who never attend religious services say doctor-assisted suicide should be legal.
A plurality, 48 percent, said the law should not bar doctors from helping terminally ill patients end their own lives by giving them a prescription for lethal drugs; 44 percent said it should be illegal.
When asked if they would consider ending their own lives if ill with a terminal disease, 55 percent said no.
A Gallup Poll taken earlier this month yielded similar answers on the question of assisted suicide. A majority, 56 percent, of 1,003 adults nationally, said doctors should be allowed to legally assist a suffering, terminally ill patient in his or her death if the patient requests it; 49 percent of those surveyed said doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable.
Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said the church fought Kevorkian's campaign and would continue to do so.
"For 10 years, Jack Kevorkian's actions resembled those of a pathological serial killer," he said. "It will be truly regrettable if he's now treated as a celebrity parolee instead of the convicted murderer he is."
Democratic Candidates Lift the Veil on Private Faith
The stereotypes seemed etched in stone, as definitive as the 10 Commandments: Democratic politicians are hostile to faith; they believe church and state should remain forever separate; they're uncomfortable in front of evangelicals.
The three leading Democratic presidential candidates used a prime-time televised forum on faith and politics on Monday (June 4) to chisel away at those stereotypes and introduce America to a rare glimpse at their soulful side.
Hosted by Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a Washington-based network of evangelical social justice advocates, the forum provided an opportunity for Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards to answer questions on poverty, prayer, and policy.
"It was pretty incredible to sit and watch that happen and to think about how far the Democratic Party has come," said Eric Sapp, a political consultant. Sapp has worked with Democratic candidates on faith outreach, but his firm, Common Good Strategies Inc., is sitting out the primary season.
On a personal level, the three leading Democratic candidates have battled their own critics. Clinton has sometimes been painted as overly ambitious and disingenuous, Obama as lacking policy heft, and Edwards as putting style over substance.
But when talking about their faith, the candidates sought to counter those images and show Americans the person behind the public face.
"People were really able to see into the hearts and souls of these folks ... in a way they hadn't before and really get an idea of what their core values are," Sapp said.
All three used the forum to explain how faith motivates their lives, both personally and professionally:
The Rev. Jonathan Falwell, the younger son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, was unanimously chosen Sunday (June 3) to take his father's place in the pulpit of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Jonathan Falwell, 40, was chosen as senior pastor by a unanimous vote of the membership of the congregation, the church announced on its Web site.
Since 1994, he has been executive pastor of the church, which became affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention in 1996.
His father, who died May 15 at 73, founded the congregation in 1956 with 35 persons. Under his leadership, it grew to a membership of 24,000 with a large campus that houses a day school and is involved in global missionary work. Last year, the congregation moved into a 6,000-seat sanctuary as it marked its 50th anniversary.
Jonathan Falwell has also succeeded his father by writing Falwell Confidential, a weekly e-newsletter of the Moral Majority Coalition, which his father began shortly after the 2004 election to encourage evangelicals to "vote values" at the polls.
Falwell's older son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., 44, is now chancellor and president of Liberty University, the school his father founded in Lynchburg in 1971.