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
NFL Ban Fuels Church’s Growth
BY KEN WALKER ©2008 Baptist Press
ven though Fall Creek Baptist Church couldn't host a 2007 Super Bowl party, pastor John Newland said the National Football League did his church a favor.
The Southern Baptist congregation found itself at the center of a national furor last February when the NFL told the church its gathering would constitute a violation of copyright regulations regarding the game's telecast. Besides curtailing the event in the home city of the champion Indianapolis Colts, the dictate led to the cancellation of parties planned at churches across the nation. The NFL is maintaining the same stance for the next Super Bowl on February 3, 2008.
Greg Aiello, senior vice president of public relations, said the league has no objections to churches or other groups hosting viewing parties as long as they don't charge admission and use a type of television commonly found in homes -- a maximum of 55 inches. "We are simply following copyright law and have done so consistently over many years with regard to schools, museums, hotels, theaters, arenas and other such venues," Aiello said.
Ironically, since canceling last February's party, Newland said growth at Fall Creek would make it impractical to consider hosting one for the upcoming game. Newland said over the past year his congregation has grown from 275 to 350 in average attendance despite losing 75 members to job transfers. Members drew inspiration from the last-minute cancellation last February, the pastor said.
"They got busy inviting people to church and said, 'We're not going to let the NFL stop us from doing what God called us to do,'" said Newland, pastor of Fall Creek since 2004. "It became a rallying cry for our church."
The church already is gearing up for the next Super Bowl, when members of its adult Bible fellowships will host in-home parties aimed at building relationships with non-believers, Newland said.
Members did a trial run Nov. 4 when the Colts played the New England Patriots, with more than 300 people attending parties. Newland said hosts snapped photos of the gatherings for a slide show the following week at church.
"Satan can throw up obstacles, but with God's Spirit we can't be stopped," Newland said. "Maybe we'll get more people than we would have here."
Other churches are planning a similar emphasis in light of the NFL's crackdown.
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Analysis Says Clergy Turning Dollars Toward Democrats
BY ADELLE M. BANKS ©2008 Religion News Service
Clergy and staffers of religious organizations are giving more to Democratic campaigns this year, marking a shift from four years ago when Republicans had the advantage.
Contributions to candidates, parties and committees from clergy and other individuals affiliated with religious groups has totaled $655,250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations. Fifty-six percent of that money went to Democrats, based on the center's analysis of Federal Election Commission data on giving in the first three quarters of 2007. By contrast, at the same point in 2003, clergy and religious staffers had given a total of $461,600 in contributions to candidates, parties and committees, with 59 percent going to Republicans.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the top recipient of these funds among all presidential candidates at the end of the third quarter of 2007, with $109,850. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the top Republican recipient, with $39,350. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received the third highest Republican contributions from this category of donors, with $22,900, behind Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who has dropped out of the race.
Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the nonpartisan research center, said there has been a shift in giving among contributors from a range of categories, with more Democratic donations. "That's just the trend that you see all over," he said. "They've at least become more Democratic in their giving ... since the last election. The Democratic presidential candidates have raised far more money than the Republican candidates."
Judge Halts Oregon Civil-unions Law
BY SUZANNE PARDINGTON ©2008 Religion News Service
A federal judge blocked Oregon's domestic partnership law for gays and lesbians from taking effect January 1, saying opponents should have a chance to make their case for a statewide election on civil unions.
The surprise ruling came just days before gay couples would be eligible for most of the same legal benefits of marriage. Couples across Oregon had planned to show up at county offices to register as partners. But U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that they will have to wait.
Mosman set a February 1 hearing to hear a lawsuit by gay-rights opponents challenging the state's methods for verifying voter signatures. Opponents gathered signatures last summer to try to overturn civil unions on the November 2008 ballot but were rejected by state officials.
Elections officials determined that they fell 96 signatures short of the 55,179 needed for a referendum on a law passed by the Legislature. Mosman said attorneys for opponents showed that the rights of voters may have been violated if their signatures were wrongly rejected.
The ruling doesn't affect a companion state law that will take effect next week to ban discrimination against gays in work, housing and public places.
Supporters of the new law were stunned by the judge's decision. "It's unfortunate that families are once again bearing the brunt of this ongoing struggle," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "This is a long-term movement for equality in Oregon. ... In this case, I still believe we will prevail."
Al Gore Named `Baptist of the Year'
BY ADELLE M. BANKS ©2008 Religion News Service
Former Vice President Al Gore has been named "Baptist of the Year"by EthicsDaily.com, the Web site of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
He has pressed for the global good with a compelling message about the danger of climate change and a clear call for moral responsibility, knitting together science and faith, reason and passion," wrote Robert Parham, the center's executive director, in an announcement of Gore's selection. "He has refused to be distracted by the character-assassins, the fear-mongers, the science-deniers and the merchants of short-term gain. He has remained faithful to his mission of protecting the earth and its inhabitants."
The Baptist Center for Ethics, based in Nashville, Tenn., was founded in 1991 and is supported by moderate Baptist groups.
Parham noted that Gore's fellow Baptists have not always supported the vice president's efforts. "Regrettably, no Baptist has received less applause from Baptists than Gore, a shameful but not unexpected reality from a people snarled in religious fear, suspicious of science and stuck in the rut of spiritualized reading of the Bible," Parham wrote.
The EthicsDaily.com honor comes two months after Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for their work on global warming.