The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service and Baptist Press 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

ABC Draws Heavy Fine FCC Indecency Fine

BY BP STAFF                                                                                                                   ©2008 Baptist Press
he Federal Communications Commission issued a $1.43 million indecency fine against 52 ABC affiliates Jan. 25 for airing nudity during an episode of "NYPD Blue" in 2003, marking the second-largest indecency fine ever proposed for a television broadcaster.

Though ABC has said it will appeal the ruling, The Wall Street Journal said the fine is "notable for its size and because it could signal the beginning of a new round of indecency fines that may soon emanate from the agency."

"Our action today should serve as a reminder to all broadcasters that Congress and American families continue to be concerned about protecting children from harmful material and that the FCC will enforce the laws of the land vigilantly," FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said in a statement.

A decision on the 2003 incident has been so long in coming because the "lightly staffed FCC enforcement bureau must go up against broadcasters, which have more legal and financial resources to battle the proposed fine and have a vested interest in dragging out the proceeding," according to the Washington Post.

The Journal noted that complaints have been mounting at the FCC in recent years while the agency spends time defending previous decisions in federal appeals courts. "We are thankful that the FCC has finally taken a stand for children and families with this unanimous order," said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council. "The delay in getting here has been frustrating, but we are delighted by the decision."

"Despite the TV networks' scurrilous lawsuits claiming a right to air profanity, and that a striptease in the middle of the Super Bowl was somehow not indecent, this order should serve as a reminder to every broadcaster and every network that they must use the public airwaves responsibly and in a manner which serves the public interest," Winter said.

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Grassroots Effort Turns Back Gambling

BY JONI B. HANNIGAN                                                                                                   ©2008 Baptist Press
A Southern Baptist pastor and Sunday School teacher are credited with launching a grassroots effort to turn back plans for a horseracing track that ultimately would have brought the gambling industry to their rural Florida community.

George Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lloyd, about 20 miles east of Tallahassee, and David Hall, a Sunday School teacher at First Baptist, were up against what Smith called "some great odds" and powerful pro-gambling lawyers. But the Jefferson County commissioners voted 4-1 after a public hearing to deny a permit for the development of a quarter horse racetrack on a 117-acre plot of land along Interstate 10. The $16.5 million project would have included the track and a 125,000-square-foot building for a card room, lounge, restaurant, and 12-lane bowling alley.

At a seven-hour public hearing that began January 17, 88 people signed up and nearly 50 spoke about the proposal, with the remainder yielding their time to others. About 200 stayed until the end at 1:30 a.m., while the crowd at times swelled to more than 300.

A week before, about the same number crowded the chamber for a meeting of the county's planning commission, which recorded a 5-4 vote against recommending the proposal to the commission. It still moved forward with a staff recommendation.

Hall had presented a slide show to fellow church members less than two weeks before the county commissioners' meeting, alerting them to the environmental concerns and infrastructure problems associated with the proposed development plan.

One key environmental concern, which people outside Hall's circle of influence also noted, was that runoff from the horse track complex would flow into the protected wetlands and other sinkholes, harming the community's water supply. He also cited insufficient roads to handle an increase in traffic as well as safety concerns related to a lack of fire and police support. Hall spoke at his local Baptist association's regularly scheduled meeting to educate pastors about the proposal and galvanize support for seeing the permit denied.

At the hearing, David Romanik, a prominent south Florida gaming law attorney and the mastermind behind the Lloyd track, teamed up with Marc Dunbar, a leading gaming and pari-mutuel attorney. They were joined by advocates including Ken Smith, a former state representative who wanted to sell his Jefferson County property for the proposed development.

Moderating was Felix "Skeet" Joyner, chairman of the county commission and a member of First Baptist Church in Lloyd, who at the outset of the discussion noted what he said could be a deficiency in the permit application. He recommended the paperwork be returned to the planning department for completion but was outvoted by the other commissioners. Joyner, with a collective 17 years experience on the planning commission and county commission, said he had never seen an application processed so quickly."

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Bush Touts Push for Permanent Faith-based Programs

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                                   ©2008 Religion News Service

President Bush on January 29 visited a Baltimore faith-based program that helps ex-offenders as part of his renewed push for continued federal funding for religious social service programs.

Standing between two men who had been trained for new jobs after leaving prison, Bush said efforts like the Jericho program should not have to worry about losing federal funding when people's needs are being met. "We shouldn't say to programs such as this, `We'll help you with a Department of Labor and Justice grant' and then turn our back on the program when it's successful," Bush said. "There ought to be consistency of policy. ... We ought to say, thank God there are people such as this in our neighborhoods and societies helping these good men."

Bush visited the program run by Episcopal Community Services of Maryland after he used his State of the Union address on Monday to ask Congress to permanently extend a provision of the welfare reform law called "charitable choice." The provision has increased governmental funding of faith-based social services.

In his speech, Bush said such a move would "help guarantee equal treatment of faith-based organizations when they compete for federal funds."

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he doubted Congress would agree to Bush's proposal. "Bush's `faith-based' initiative has been a colossal failure," Lynn said. "It undercut civil rights laws and jeopardized important religious liberty safeguards. I don't believe Congress is going to adopt it at this late date in the administration's tenure."

The Jericho program Bush visited received a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the Department of Labor's Prisoner Re-entry Initiative in 2006. It reports that the recidivism rate of its nonviolent male ex-offenders is 22 percent, less than half of Baltimore's average recidivism rate of 52 percent. 

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