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
'No Right to Homeschool,' California Court Says
BY MICHAEL FOUST @2008 Baptist Press
n a decision that has alarmed the homeschooling community nationwide, a California appeals court has ruled parents have no constitutional right to homeschool their children, and that those parents who do must be credentialed teachers.
The decision was issued February 28 but wasn't picked up by national media until March 6. The court case arose in juvenile court and the parties had court-appointed attorneys, meaning that even some of the nation's leading homeschooling organizations, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association, didn't know about the case until the ruling was issued.
But despite that fact it flew under the radar, it could have broad implications on the state's estimated 166,000 homeschool students--and set a dangerous precedent for other such students nationwide. The decision is particularly troublesome, pro-family leaders say, because California's public schools have some of the more liberal laws in the nation regarding the teaching about sexuality and homosexuality. More than five years ago Focus on the Family's James Dobson said if he had children in California's public schools, he would pull them out.
Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote the ruling for the three-judge panel, which was unanimous in its decision. "California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," Croskey wrote.
California law, the court ruled, requires that children be enrolled and attend a public or private school or be "tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught." Parents who fail to follow the state law could face criminal penalties.
"Because parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling within the provisions of these laws, parents who fail to do so may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program," the court wrote.
"Additionally, the parents are subject to being ordered to enroll their children in an appropriate school or education program and provide proof of enrollment to the court, and willful failure to comply with such an order may be punished by a fine for civil contempt."
The court's ruling overturned a lower court decision that had ruled parents do indeed have a constitutional right to homeschool their children. The appeals court's decision is being appealed to the California Supreme Court.
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Catholics Paid $615 Million on Abuse in 2007
The U.S. Catholic Church paid out $615 million in costs related to sexual abuse claims in 2007, even as the number of victims coming forward fell for the third straight year, according to an annual report issued March 7 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
More than $526 million went to settlements between victims and Catholic dioceses and religious orders last year. That's an increase of 90 percent over 2006 and a new high for the U.S. church. At the same time, according to the report, dioceses and religious orders received 691 credible reports of sexual abuse from 689 victims in 2007, down from such 714 reports in 2006. Most of the sex attacks took place decades ago, according to the report, most frequently during the 1970s. Just five new instances of the molestation of a minor by Catholic staff during 2007 were reported.
The 84-page report is part of a yearly review inaugurated after the sexual abuse crisis exploded in the church in 2002. It is produced by the bishops' National Review Board, with information provided by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate and audits conducted by the independent Gavin Group Inc. of Boston. All but one of the U.S. church's 195 dioceses but one--the diocese of Lincoln, Neb. -- participated with the auditors. Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz has steadfastly refused to comply with any outside audits.
Eleven dioceses, archdioceses, or eparchies were noncompliant with one or more stipulations in the bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, according to the report. Most had not fully addressed the charter's conditions for "safe environment" programs.
David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the bishops' charter "a toothless tiger."
"It's vague, weak, and only sporadically enforced. As a public relations maneuver, it's very effective. As a child safety tool, it's not."
Former British PM Blair to Teach Religion Course at Yale
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has accepted a one-year appointment at Yale University to participate in a course on the connection between religion and globalization.
Blair's appointment as Yale's Howland Distinguished Fellow during the 2008-09 academic year was announced March 7. Blair served as British prime minister from 1997-2007 and converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism last year. He plans to launch a foundation this year dedicated to improving interfaith relations.
Richard C. Levin, Yale's president, said: "As the world continues to become increasingly inter-dependent, it is essential that we explore how religious values can be channeled toward reconciliation rather than polarization. Mr. Blair has demonstrated outstanding leadership in these areas."
Details of the course remain to be worked out; the university said that Blair would work with the faculties of Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Management. Blair's interest in faith set him apart from most other political figures in Great Britain, where public espousal of religious values, common among U.S. political figures, is relatively rare.
The planned Tony Blair Faith Foundation will "promote understanding between the major faiths and increase understanding of the role of faith in the modern world," according to the Yale announcement. It has already been criticized by some in Great Britain in light of Blair's support for the Iraq war.
A Baptist university in southeastern Kentucky should not receive $12 million in state funds to launch a new pharmacy school, a circuit court judge in that state has ruled.
In April 2006, Kentucky legislators approved a $12 million grant to the University of the Cumberlands, a private school in Williamsburg, Kentucky., affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. A homosexual rights group and several state legislators immediately sued the governor of Kentucky, complaining that giving public funds to a private institution violated the state constitution.
The grant gained special attention because it coincided with Cumberland's expelling a student who used his myspace.com website to publicize his homosexual relationship with a student at another school--contrary to the university's guidelines for student conduct.
The state funds included $10 million to finance construction of a building and $2 million to start a scholarship program.
In handing down a summary judgment in the case, Special Judge Roger Crittenden noted, "There is no question that the appropriation of $10 million tax dollars to the university to construct a pharmacy building is a direct payment to a non-public religious school for educational purposes. This type of direct expenditure is not permitted by the constitution of Kentucky."
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