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
High Court Weighs Lethal Injections
he U.S. Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the country's most common form of capital punishment January 7, only three weeks after a state outlawed the death penalty for the first time in more than three decades.
The high court heard oral arguments in a case out of Kentucky in which two death row inmates challenged the state's method of lethal injection as "cruel and unusual punishment," thereby violating the Constitution's Eighth Amendment.
Kentucky is one of 36 states that use a three-drug protocol to execute prisoners. Sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride are used to render the inmate unconscious, cause paralysis, and stop the heart, respectively.
The case, Baze v. Rees, concerns the constitutionality of a method of execution, not capital punishment itself, but it came on the heels of New Jersey becoming the first state since 1976 to abolish the death penalty. The Supreme Court ruled that year that states could reinstate capital punishment. New Jersey reinstituted the death penalty in 1982 but never executed anyone in the 25 years that followed.
On December 17, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole. Corzine said in a written statement he was "moved by the passionate views on both sides of this issue, and I firmly believe that replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole best captures our State's highest values and reflects our best effort to search for true justice."
The Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution at its 2000 meeting supporting the "fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death." In support of its position, the resolution cited God's authorization in Genesis 9 of capital punishment for murder and Romans 13's approval of the death penalty as "a just and appropriate means" to be used by government authorities.
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Episcopal Head Says U.S. Church is Held to "Double Standard"
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says other members of the Anglican Communion hold a "double standard" against the U.S. church for having an openly gay bishop and blessing same-sex unions.
Other provinces in the 77 million-member communion have gay bishops and blessing ceremonies, Jefferts Schori told BBC Radio in an interview broadcast January 1, but are not as open about it. "There is certainly a double standard," she said.
The election of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 prompted deep divisions among the family of Anglican churches over sexuality and the Bible. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the communion. But Jefferts Schori said Robinson "is certainly not alone in being a gay bishop; he's certainly not alone in being a gay partnered bishop. He is alone in being the only gay partnered bishop who's open about that status."
Jefferts Schori also said other Anglican provinces hold same-sex blessing ceremonies. "Those services are happening in various places, including the Church of England, where my understanding is that there are far more of them happening than there are in the Episcopal Church," Jefferts Schori said.
`In God We Trust' Will Move From Edge of New Coins
The national motto "In God We Trust" will move from the edge of new dollar coins honoring U.S. presidents to the front or back of the currency. A provision in the $555 billion domestic spending bill for 2008, which President Bush signed into law on December 26, calls for the change to take place "as soon as is practicable." Greg Hernandez, a spokesman for the U.S. Mint, said the change will occur in 2009.
The Mint began producing presidential one-dollar coins in 2007, honoring George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, the first four presidents. The words "In God We Trust" were placed along the edge of the coins, as instructed by Congress, Hernandez said. "It wasn't the Mint's decision to move the motto (to the edge); it was according to law," he said.
But critics complained about the placement and thought the words belonged on the front or back of the coins instead. "There have been people who either have e-mailed their comments to our Web site, called us, or contacted their representatives," Hernandez said.
The dies have already been produced for the 2008 coins--which will feature James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren--so those will still have the motto along the edge.
But come 2009--when William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor will be honored--the motto will be moved. "We have to then redesign either the heads or the tails in order to comply with that," Hernandez said of the new law.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said he was pleased with the change, saying that his group had been concerned that "moving `In God We Trust' off the face of our coins was just one step toward removing it altogether."
The motto first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864. "In God We Trust" was included on the back of dollar bills in 1957, a year after Congress declared those words as the country's motto.