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
R.I. Court Says No to 'Gay Divorce'
BY BAPTIST PRESS STAFF ©2007 Baptist Press
he Rhode Island Supreme Court Dec. 7 handed conservatives another victory in the nationwide legal battle over "gay marriage," ruling that a same-sex couple who obtained a marriage license in Massachusetts could not get a "divorce" back home in Rhode Island.
The seemingly obscure case was being closely watched by pro-family organizations who feared that it could be used as a backdoor way to legalizing "gay marriage" itself in the state. The case involved two lesbian women, Margaret Chambers and Cassandra Ormiston, who were "married" in Massachusetts in 2004, only subsequently to file for a divorce in Rhode Island.
In a 3-2 decision, the court ruled that Rhode Island law clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman and that the state's family court -- which rules on divorces -- has no authority to grant a "divorce" to a homosexual couple.
"With respect to the case at hand, there is absolutely no reason to believe that, when the act creating the Family Court became law in 1961, the legislators understood the word marriage to refer to any state other than 'the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex,’" the court wrote.
The Supreme Court's role, the majority asserted, simply is to "interpret what was enacted" and not to change the law.
Study: Only 7 Percent of Churches Sought Government Grants
A distinct minority of U.S. congregations--just 7 percent--sought government grants in the past four years, a new study shows.
"Government grant activity is not tremendously important for congregations ... even though they're engaged in social services in a wide variety of areas," said John C. Green, a political science expert at the University of Akron and author of the study.
The study, released Wednesday (Dec. 5) at the annual conference of the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy at the National Press Club, also showed that marriage counseling is the most commonly provided social service by U.S. churches. Two-thirds, or 68.5 percent, of congregations surveyed said they offered marriage counseling. More than 50 percent of respondents said they provided a food pantry (63.5 percent), family counseling (58.8 percent), and senior citizen services (58.3 percent).
Most congregations were not familiar with "charitable choice," a provision of the welfare reform law that increased governmental funding of faith-based social services. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat familiar with charitable choice, while 72 percent said they were not very familiar with it. Just 6.5 percent of congregations said a representative of their congregation had attended an outreach conference that related to charitable choice. Green said this was one area in the study that showed a variation between religious traditions.
"The historical black churches were much more likely to report a familiarity with charitable choice and attendance at conferences," he said, with 42 percent of them knowing of charitable choice and 24 percent having attended a conference such as the ones offered by the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
Congregations tended to get most of their revenue from individual contributions or special fund-raising efforts.
The study was based on 1,692 responses to surveys that were sent to congregations; it has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
Businessman Pledges $70 Million to Oral Roberts University
A Christian businessman whose family owns hundreds of retail stores known for closing on Sundays recently offered beleaguered Oral Roberts University 70 million reasons to clean up its act. Mart Green, founder and CEO of Christian office and educational supply store chain Mardel, said his family gave the financially troubled, charismatic Christian university in Tulsa $8 million to help with immediate needs.
Green said the family would donate an additional $62 million in 90 days--but only if an in-depth business review confirms that ORU has straightened out financial, leadership and governance concerns. "ORU must restore its trust, its battered reputation and its beaten spirit," Green said. "Now begins a time of healing. The board and Oral have agreed that significant changes need to take place."
Mardel has 25 locations in six states; Green's family also owns 395 Hobby Lobby arts and crafts stores in 32 states. Both Oklahoma City-based chains close on Sundays to allow employees to attend church and spend time with family.
Green, who has no personal ties to ORU, said he read about its problems in the newspaper. He spoke at a news conference at ORU after two days of closed-door meetings by the university's board of regents.
Regents voted unanimously to accept embattled President Richard Roberts' resignation and begin a search for a new president, said the Rev. George Pearsons, the board's chairman. Roberts, the son of ORU's namesake founder, submitted his resignation as university president on November 23 amid intense scrutiny over allegations of financial, political and other wrongdoing.
He was the second president in the 42-year history of ORU, succeeding his father, Oral Roberts, in 1993. ORU has been embroiled in controversy again since a lawsuit was filed October 2 by three former professors who claim efforts to act as whistleblowers cost them their jobs.
"We live in a litigious society," Richard Roberts told a campus chapel service. "Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."
Beliefnet Acquired by Fox
Beliefnet, one of the country's leading Web sites devoted to religion and spirituality, is under new management as part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the Fox Entertainment Group. The deal, announced December 4, gives Beliefnet a new sense of permanence after it emerged from bankruptcy protection five years ago. The site is now profitable and gets 3 million unique visitors each month.
Steve Waldman, who co-founded the site nearly eight years ago, said the deal would give Beliefnet access to News Corp.'s advertising, video and technology expertise and allow "content collaboration that runs in both directions."
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, although Waldman said he was approached by Fox. "There was no huge rush to sell the company," said Waldman, who will serve as president and editor-in-chief of the revamped company.
The acquisition adds to News Corp.'s $64 billion media empire, including the 20th Century Fox film studios, the Wall Street Journal, MySpace, the Fox Faith film division and HarperOne and Zondervan, two of the biggest names in Christian publishing.
Waldman said the site will retain its distinctly interfaith character even as News Corp. expands its mostly Christian media portfolio. “We're confident that we will maintain our strong commitment to serving all faiths," he said. "It's part of what enabled us to create our reputation, and our reputation is part of what they're buying."