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
Poll: Southern Evangelicals
Say Torture is Justified
new poll released September 11 finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.
The poll, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57 percent of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.
But when asked if they agree that "the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers," the percentage who said torture was rarely or never justified rose to 52 percent. "Presenting people with this argument and identifying with the golden rule really does engage a different part of people's psyche and a part of their heart, their soul, and really does shift their views on torture," said Robert Jones, president of Public Religion Research, which was commissioned to conduct the poll.
The findings of this poll, which did not define torture, compared to a Pew Research Center poll from February that found that 48 percent of the general public think torture can be justified. The new poll found that 44 percent of white Southern evangelicals rely on life experiences and common sense to determine their views about torture. A lower percentage, 28 percent, said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.
The poll was released on the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and comes after several religious groups have joined a public campaign to oppose the use of torture in interrogating suspected terrorists. Results were unveiled during the National Summit on Torture at Mercer in Atlanta, which was co-sponsored by Evangelicals for Human Rights.
David Gushee, a Christian ethics professor at Mercer and the president of the evangelical group, said the poll numbers should tell leaders, including presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain, who oppose torture that people can change their minds about this issue if it is discussed from a moral standpoint.
"Opinion on this question is movable," he said. The telephone poll of 600 white evangelical Christian adults in 14 Southern states was conducted Aug. 14-22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Slaughterhouse Charges Spark Debate Over Kosher Labeling
Criminal charges filed against the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant have added fuel to the debate about kosher standards within the Jewish community.
The Iowa attorney general filed more than 9,000 charges September 9 for child labor violations against the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse, owner Aaron Rubashkin, his son Sholom, and three managers.
In response, Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of kosher supervision for the Orthodox Union, the largest organization that certifies products as fit for traditional Jewish consumption, announced the organization will
withdraw its seal of approval within two weeks unless the plant-–which produces more than half of America's kosher meat--hires new management.
But Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl, who also certifies meat at the plant, told Jewish news agencies he would only remove his seal if the plant were not meeting the religion's food preparation restrictions, unrelated to legal or ethical work environment standards.
Kosher standards should include the ethical concerns, however, said Rabbi Morris J. Allen, a Conservative rabbi spearheading the Hekhsher Tzedek "ethical kosher" movement. He and other Jewish leaders had raised numerous concerns about worker age and safety after visiting the plant two years ago, he said, but no improvements were made. "Had the Rubashkin family accepted our recommendations that we made on September 11, 2006, the Jewish community would not be in this situation today," Allen said.
Neither Aaron nor Sholom Rubashkin could be reached for comment. Plant spokesman Chaim Abrahams has denied the accusations and said the minors found working in the plant had lied about their age to company
officials. The defendants were to appear in court September 17.
In the meantime, Hekhsher Tzedek is testing out standards for its own seal of approval, which will certify that kosher products were also made in an ethical work environment, Allen said.
The movement has urged rabbis to address this issue in sermons during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the upcoming Jewish high holidays.
"As Jews, we have a responsibility to maintain high ethical standards in the production of food, and that transcends all Jewish denominational boundaries," Allen said. "We have to be sure that the food that we know may be produced in a ritually kosher fashion is also produced in a fashion that speaks to who we are as human beings."
Do military chaplains have the right to pray in Jesus' name in ceremonies outside of chapel services? The military insists they do, but U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R.-N.C., is attempting to write that guarantee into federal law.
Shortly before Congress' summer recess, Jones introduced H.R. 6514, which would ensure chaplains the right to close a prayer outside of a religious service according to the dictates of the chaplain's conscience. "For Christian chaplains, closing their prayers in the name of Jesus is a fundamental part of their beliefs," Jones said in a statement. "To suppress this form of expression would violate their religious freedom."
No hearings have been scheduled yet on the bill, which has attracted former presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R.-Texas, and Rep. Christopher Smith, R.-N.J., as co-sponsors.
Jones said he regularly has received complaints from officers and chaplains about such restraints. Among them is a Marine officer who recounted a chaplain's statement that he and others had been asked not to mention Christ. Jones' office quoted the Marine officer as saying, "This startles and frightens me that our faith is being infringed upon, even within our own military."
An army chaplain told Jones' office that he experienced opposition during his basic chaplain course when a Christian group leader ridiculed him for praying in Jesus' name and suggesting he would have an altar call during his services. "Both of these things ... are part of my religious tradition," the chaplain said. "Additionally, [the leader] said, it is offensive to pray in the name of Jesus and is against Army policy to do so."
Jones' press secretary, Kathleen Joyce, said the representative prepared the legislation after attempts in 2006 failed to persuade President Bush to issue an executive order on the matter. "Congressman Jones introduced H.R. 6514 as a next step," Joyce said. "The language of the bill is intentionally very narrow -- focusing on how chaplains may close their prayer."
However, Eileen Lainez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, told Baptist Press its policy regarding religious accommodation for personnel states that a basic principle of the nation is free exercise of religion. "The Department of Defense does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military services," Lainez said. "The department respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs."
While chaplains perform religious ceremonies in the context of their faith group and in accordance with those traditions, Lainez said they are often invited to participate in command-sponsored events. In such cases, there is an expectation that they will understand how to balance that privilege with the beliefs of those attending so "the event is as inclusive as possible," Lainez said.
The Air Force was the only military branch that responded to a request for comment. Although Capt. Michael Andrews termed it "inappropriate" to discuss complaints from other service chaplains, he said his branch never tells a chaplain how to pray, since that is the responsibility of the denomination or faith group.
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Calif. Episcopal Bishops Oppose Gay marriage Ban
Episcopal bishops from all six California dioceses are urging voters to defeat a state referendum that would outlaw gay marriage this November.
"We do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage," nine bishops said in a joint statement September 10. "Rather, the Christian values of monogamy, commitment, love, mutual respect ... are enhanced for all by providing this right to gay and straight alike."
Californians will vote November 4 on Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to reserve marriage for heterosexual couples. In May, the state supreme court overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage. Other religious groups, including Catholics, evangelicals, Hindus and Muslims, are advocating for the referendum.
The bishops acknowledged that there is no consensus in the 2.2-million member Episcopal Church on gay marriage. The diocese of San Joaquin, California, seceded from the Episcopal Church last year in protest of the church's growing liberalism, particularly on sexuality.
Bishop Jerry Lamb, the provisional bishop who was installed by Episcopal Church leaders to lead the San Joaquin diocese, joined in signing the statement. Even among the nine California bishops there is disagreement: some want to authorize clergy to officiate and bless same-sex marriages, while others want to wait for churchwide approval. In 2006, the Episcopal Church voted to oppose federal or state amendments that would prohibit same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Anglicans worldwide--the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion--generally oppose homosexuality on biblical grounds. At an international summit this summer, Anglican bishops asked
churches to honor a moratorium on public rites for same-sex blessings.
Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, said the California bishops "believe that continued access to civil marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation ... promotes Jesus' ethic of love, giving and hope."