|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
British Parliament Backs
COMPILED BY TOM STRODE ©2008 Baptist Press
embers of the British Parliament have handily defeated attempts to block the legalization of human-animal hybrids and "savior siblings" in a series of votes that left pro-life advocates aghast.
Acting May 19 and 20, the House of Commons also rejected efforts to lower the time limit for most abortions from 24 weeks and turned back an effort to prevent fertility clinics from providing their services to lesbian couples and single women without restriction.
The votes served as victories for the Labor Party-controlled government, which backed the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill. Here are the vote totals on amendments to the legislation, according to Parliament's website and news reports:
-- 336-176 against banning the creation of hybrid embryos by placing a human nucleus in an
-- 286-223 against prohibiting the creation of hybrid embryos by using human sperm to fertilize an animal egg, or the reverse;
-- 342-163 against barring the creation of "savior siblings" in order to provide treatment to ill relatives who are a genetic match. With this method, embryos are screened to determine if they are a match to the relative, and the ones that are then placed in the mother's womb, where if successful they will implant. The additional embryos often are destroyed.
"The irony is that while some MPs are trying to roll back the legal limit on abortions, others have been working hard to permit the destruction of human embryos in research. It's nothing less than political schizophrenia," said Mitchell, director of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in suburban Chicago and a consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Human-animal hybrid embryos are created to produce stem cells for research into treating numerous afflictions. Researchers typically permit them to mature to six days of age before extracting stem cells for experimentation. The removal of stem cells kills the embryo.
The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced in January it had approved licenses for two groups of scientists to create human-animal hybrids for research.
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Alabama Governor Says Churches,
Not State, Must Rehab Prisoners
Governor Bob Riley on May 20 asked Alabama churches to shoulder the burden of caring for newly released inmates, saying the state lacks the flexibility and funds to help them successfully re-enter society.
Leaders from churches and charitable groups were asked to provide a wide range of services to former inmates, including employment assistance, housing, clothing, health care and cash.
Riley said the state's churches can rise to the challenge just as they do in response to natural disasters such as hurricanes. "If we can motivate the faith-based community in the state the way we do during an emergency, then we can make a difference," Riley said to a group of about 500 people, mostly religious leaders.
Bill Johnson, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said the state releases 11,000 inmates a year and isn't capable of providing the services necessary to help them readjust. Even if the state had the funds, such programs aren't popular with taxpayers, he said.
The state will provide no direct funds to the program, called the Community Partnership for Recovery and Re-entry, but will coordinate the efforts of the churches and other volunteer groups. "We're admitting we can't solve the problem," Johnson said.
At a meeting that vacillated between policy seminar and revival, Deborah Daniels, state director of the Prison Fellowship Ministry, drew a chorus of "amens" when she said faith is a necessary component of rehabilitation. "We allowed government to come in and take over what God's people are supposed to do," she said. "We talk about crime. But crime is sin. Apart from God, every child is troubled."
Vickie Locke, director of the new state program, told potential participants that they have an advantage operating outside of government. If a church wants to buy a car for a newly released inmate who lacks transportation, it can do so, she said. Government has to provide cookie-cutter solutions to sometimes complex problems.
In a written program overview distributed to religious leaders, the state suggested 80 ways churches can help, including everything from financial counseling to cash for emergencies. They also could mentor former inmates, provide day care for their children and help them write resumes.
Alex Luchenitser, senior attorney with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said it's too soon to know whether the program will raise constitutional issues. But if the state government's involvement with the program ends with referring inmates to churches, then it likely would pass constitutional muster.
"There's certainly nothing wrong with religious charities providing care for inmates and recently released inmates," he said.
Court Backs Oregon Gay Marriage Ban
The Oregon Court of Appeals on May 21 upheld the ban on gay marriage that state voters approved by a wide margin in 2004. The court rejected two procedural arguments that attacked the scope of the initiative, known as Measure 36, and whether it ever should have appeared on the ballot.
There are two ways to change the Oregon Constitution: by initiative, which allows citizens to propose discrete changes; and by revision, which allows the Legislature to propose sweeping changes.
Gay-rights advocates argued that Measure 36 was a revision because it fundamentally altered the Constitution. "Our Constitution was created to perpetuate liberty and establish justice," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, the gay-rights group that brought the legal challenge. "And Measure 36, by denying a portion of our community access to equality of the law--that's a serious change in what the Constitution promises."
But the Court of Appeals said Measure 36 "is not so far-reaching" that it should be overturned as a revision. Supporters of Measure 36, which passed by 57 percent to 43 percent, applauded the ruling. "Marriage between one man and one woman is the ideal for raising children," said Nick Graham of the Defense of Marriage Coalition. "And the government should be in the business of promoting the ideal for children and families."
Gay-rights advocates promised to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Churches Applaud Agreement
Between Burger King, Farm Workers
Burger King Corp. has reached an agreement with a migrant workers' advocacy group that is backed by U.S. churches to improve working conditions by raising wages for tomato pickers by one cent per pound.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has received financial support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith groups, announced the agreement with the hamburger chain on May 23 in Washington.
The penny-per-pound raise could add about $20 to workers' daily wage of $50, according to the coalition. The agreement also adds a half-cent per pound to help tomato growers cover costs.
Long Island Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the Catholic bishops' committee on domestic justice and human development, called the agreement "an important step toward greater justice for farm workers in Florida."
Mainline Protestants, including the National Council of Churches and the Presbyterian Church (USA), have also supported the Immokalee, Florida-based coalition. Similar deals have been reached with McDonald's and Yum! Brands, the parent of Taco Bell.