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
wo months after issuing its landmark "gay marriage" decision, the California Supreme Court handed conservatives a victory July 16, allowing a proposed constitutional marriage amendment to stay on the November ballot.
Without comment the justices denied to hear a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and other liberal and homosexual activist groups that sought to prevent the initiative--which easily qualified for the ballot with 1.1 million submitted signatures--from going before voters.
Some of the legal arguments were viewed as long shots, but pro-family attorneys--having lost confidence in the justices after the May ruling--remained at least somewhat concerned about what the court might do. The liberal groups argued that the amendment would "revise" the constitution and take away constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights; such fundamental revisions cannot be placed on the ballot via voter initiative and must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature.
The amendment is known as Proposition 8 and, if passed, would reverse the 4-3 decision that made California only the second state to recognize "gay marriage."
"Time and time again, the opponents have attempted to circumvent the democratic process, but the fact remains that the people of California have a right to vote on this issue," Ron Prentice, chairman of the ProtectMarriage.com coalition, the group behind Proposition 8, said in a statement.
Churches in the state seem to be getting behind the amendment. In late June more than 1,600 pastors and church leaders gathered at roughly 100 sites for a conference call to pray for and plan strategy for the amendment's success. Focus on the Family's James Dobson and the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins took part, as did David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, who is known nationwide for his television and radio ministry.
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Saudi King's Conference Rejects Terrorism, Urges Dialogue
A global conference of about 300 interfaith leaders concluded July 18 in Spain with a declaration that rejects terrorism and
calls for a special United Nations session on dialogue.
Calling terrorism "one of the most serious obstacles confronting dialogue and coexistence," the four-page "Madrid Declaration" was issued after a two-day summit convened by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
The declaration was released by the Saudi embassy in Washington, and the conference was organized by the Mecca-based Muslim World League. Prominent leaders of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Shintoism attended.
The statement affirmed human unity, peace, the family and environmental preservation. It emphasized the need for cooperation among people from different backgrounds. "Diversity of cultures and civilizations among people is a sign of God and a cause for human advancement and prosperity," the declaration reads. It rejected "theories that call for the clash of civilizations" and urged the building of a "culture of tolerance" through conferences and media programs.
Last March, Abdullah said he wanted to launch a new dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims, but the proposal drew headlines because Saudi Arabia's exclusivist version of Islam does not allow non-Muslims to openly practice their faith in the kingdom. In addition to a special U.N. session to enhance dialogue among people of different religions and cultures, the Madrid statement called for the development of a "working team" to study problems that inhibit dialogue.
It urged governmental and nongovernmental organizations to make a statement "that stipulates respect for religions and their symbols, the prohibition of their denigration and the repudiation of those who commit such acts."
Churches Claim Victory With N.J. Housing Law
In the steamy atmosphere of a tent revival meeting, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine on July 17 signed what proponents described as landmark legislation to help develop affordable housing.
Surrounded by legislators, clergy and housing activists, Corzine signed the legislation in an open-sided tent at an affordable housing development. Mount Laurel is where a lawsuit began in 1971 that led to a precedent-setting state Supreme Court decision requiring towns to help provide affordable housing.
"Through this measure, we are ending decades of unfair, unbalanced and insufficient provision of affordable housing in New Jersey," Corzine said. "The fact is this legislation holds much promise for the thousands of New Jerseyans who want to stay in their hometown -- to work there and raise their families there -- but simply can't afford to live there."
Caught up in the shouts of "Amen!" from the audience of 530 people, clergy and state officials alike said they saw God playing a role in the shaping of the legislation. "Generally, I am for the separation of church and state," Corzine said, "but I must tell you the spirit of God is moving through this audience."
The legislation ends a two-decade-old system that allowed upper-income suburban towns to meet at least part of their affordable housing obligations by paying poorer cities to build the housing there.
Those regional contribution agreements, or RCAs, contributed to a form of segregation that kept the poor trapped in the struggling cities and children in poor schools, supporters of the new law said.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, a Democrat who spearheaded the bill, said it is the climax of a three-decade crusade.
"I was told it would be a cold day in hell when they eliminated RCAs in New Jersey," he told the crowd. "RCAs have been insidious public policy for this state. To advance as a state, we have to move forward together. We can't pay people to stay behind."
AME Zion Church Elects First Woman Bishop
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church elected a Los Angeles pastor as its first female bishop during the denomination's 48th quadrennial General Conference in Atlanta on July 19.
The Rev. Mildred "Bonnie" Hines, pastor of First AME Zion Church of Los Angeles, was the third bishop elected from a pool of 25 candidates, three of whom were women.
It was standing room only for the crowd of more than 3,000 people who waited late into the night for election results, and "suspense was high," according to a church news release. After votes for the third bishop failed to meet a required two-thirds majority, a second ballot was cast, declaring Hines the winner and "with a loud clamor, it was history in the making."
Hines serves as a board member for the Los Angeles Council of Churches, and also on the Traditionally Black Methodist Church Council. She received her Doctor of Divinity degree from Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
The Rev. Darryl B. Starnes, who heads the church's Board of Evangelism in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Rev. Dennis V. Proctor of Baltimore were elected bishops alongside Hines.
The AME Zion Church was formed in 1796 in New York City when black members faced discrimination from white Methodists. The AME Zion Church today boasts 1.2 million parishioners in the United States, and overseas missions on every continent except Australia.