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
Voters Face Range of Social
Issues on November Ballots
lthough the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in California is garnering the most attention, Arizona and Florida both have proposals to amend their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage.
A similar amendment was defeated in Arizona in 2004. For theamendment to pass in Florida, 60 percent of voters must support it.
More than two dozen states have passed similar amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. State ballots across the country will include amendments and initiatives for a number of social issues:
ADOPTION -- The Arkansas ballot will have an initiative to ban unmarried couples from adopting or providing foster care to minors. Originally proposed to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting, the ban will apply to all unmarried couples.
ABORTION -- A Colorado amendment seeks to define a person as any fertilized egg, embryo or fetus. South Dakota will include an amendment to ban abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the mother's health. A California measure would require parental notification for minors to obtain abortions.
STEM CELL RESEARCH -- A Michigan proposal would lift a 30-year-old ban on stem cell research that destroys embryos.
GAMBLING -- In Maryland, voters will be asked to support adding slot machines in locations throughout the state. Voters in Colorado will consider extending the hours of operation for casinos, with a percentage of the revenue going to higher education. Arkansas voters will consider a state-run lottery to fund college scholarships.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION -- Colorado and Nebraska will include initiatives to end race and gender preferences in government hiring and college admissions.
California Clerics Ousted For Leaving Episcopal Church
An Episcopal Church committee voted on October 17 to oust more than 50 California clerics who left the denomination last year to join a more conservative province in the Anglican Communion.
The 16 deacons and 36 priests have six months to recant and return to the Episcopal Church before they are defrocked by Bishop Jerry Lamb of the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin, according to Episcopal News Service (ENS).
Charged with "abandoning" the Episcopal Church, the 52 deacons and priests would no longer be allowed to function as Episcopal clergy.
Diocesan spokeswoman Nancy Key said two clergy have decided to rejoin the Episcopal Church since the committee began considering charges against them. "It is our hope, actually, that everybody will decide to remain part of the Episcopal Church," Key told ENS.
In late 2007, 42 of 47 parishes in the diocese left the Episcopal Church and joined the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Bishop John-David Schofield, who seceded with his diocese, was defrocked by the Episcopal Church last January, though he remains a bishop in the Southern Cone.
The Episcopal Church has since worked to rebuild the San Joaquin Diocese, appointing Lamb to oversee the estimated 1,500 Episcopalians who stayed with the denomination.
Last month, a conservative majority in the Diocese of Pittsburgh also split from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and aligned with the Southern Cone. Two more dioceses -- Fort Worth, Texas, and Quincy, Illinois--are poised to make similar moves next month.
Baylor States Regret For Cash Incentives
Baylor University's vice president for marketing and communications told Baptist Press Oct. 16 that the school regrets offering students cash incentives for retaking the SAT, a program he said was motivated by a desire to permit students access to additional financial aid.
"In retrospect, we regret now the cash incentive," John Barry said.
"We've heard the criticism; we understand the criticism. It at least has the appearance of impropriety. I would tell you that was never our intent. Our intent was to try to be creative and to encourage students to take a test that would then allow them access to financial aid money that we thought they were entitled to."
In response to inquiries from students and parents, Barry said Baylor decided to move up the admissions process last year so they could notify students of award packages earlier, presumably to help students decide which college to attend.
"So we began encouraging applications and accepting applications in July and August and September," Barry said. "We promised those candidates that if they got their materials in early, we'd render a decision in November. Furthermore, we told them that we would accept no scores, no further information after February. So we pushed our whole process, all our deadlines up further."
In May, Baylor administrators noticed that the school had committed less financial aid than they had expected to award by that time, Barry said.
"The other thing was that our SAT scores were down. We kind of put those things together, and we talked as a group and tried to understand what might be happening," he said. "Our conclusion was that in pushing our processes so far forward, what we might have done is prohibit smart students, capable students, from retaking the SAT and scoring and doing better on their scores and therefore qualifying for higher levels of merit aid.
"In effect, we felt like we were penalizing students. We were trying to help them by moving the deadlines up, but our conclusion was that we might be penalizing them by our processes," Barry added. "Our plan was to distribute that financial aid, and we were committed to doing that, so that's when we came up with this idea of what if we forget the February deadline we established, let's go out to our incoming class and invite them -- should they care to -- to retake the SAT.
"Our concern was it was going to be summer and the students were going to be moving on with other things, and we were concerned that they wouldn't take advantage of that offer. That's when we came up with the idea of what if we provide an incentive of some kind," he said.
Baylor, a 14,000-student Baptist-related university, opted to give each incoming freshman a $300 book scholarship redeemable at the campus bookstore just for retaking the exam last June.
"We were concerned that maybe that wouldn't be enough, and we thought, 'OK, well how about then in addition if a student does well and scores 50 points or more, we provide that additional $1,000 incentive?'" Barry recounted. "Obviously the goal was if a student sits for the SAT and in fact scores at a level that now qualifies them for one of the established merit scholarships we have, which are a combination of SAT score and class rank, then they would obviously qualify for that merit aid additionally."
Since news of the incentive program broke October 9 in the Baylor campus newspaper, The Lariat, controversy has ensued, including several academic experts who have said Baylor misused the SAT in order to boost their status in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of colleges and universities. Baylor now stands at No. 76 and has expressed a fervent desire to rank in the top tier of schools by 2012.
Baylor's Faculty Senate passed a motion criticizing the incentives program October 15, saying the practice is "academically dishonest and should be discontinued."
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Amish Report Shows Strong Growth Beyond Pennsylvania Homeland
The Amish are often portrayed as the most rooted of communities, who seldom venture off the farm except for short trips by horse and buggy.
In fact, nearly 11,600 Amish households have picked up and moved to a different state since 1992, according to a new study. And that doesn't include migration within states, said the study's author, Amish expert Donald B. Kraybill.
Even though more than 2,000 Amish households left traditional settlements in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the communities there grew by at least 60 percent, owing to extremely high birth and baptism rates.
The Amish population continues to explode, growing 84 percent from 1992 to 2008, without the help of immigration or many religious conversions. Kraybill now counts some 231,000 Amish adults and children spread across 28 states.
The Amish believe the Bible calls on them to refrain from using many forms of modern technology, such as cars and computers, and to keep separate from the rest of the world, said Kraybill, a senior fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist & Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
So Amish households, typically two or three at first, have been moving further afield from rapidly suburbanized communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania in search of cheap farmland and pastoral isolation elsewhere.
"The Amish feel the rural setting nourishes their way of life," Kraybill said. In search of such outposts, he said, the Amish have founded communities in seven new states: Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Washington and West Virginia.
Ten states saw their Amish population increase by more than 100 percent between 1992 and 2007, led by Virginia (a 400 percent increase) and Kentucky (a 200 percent increase), the study found.
As the Amish establish new communities, however, their ways sometimes create misunderstandings with local officials. Often it's the more conservative Amish groups that relocate, hoping to avoid the squeeze of the suburbs and finding new trouble with local laws on building codes, selling produce and traffic issues raised by horse-and-buggy travel.
"Often the local officials don't know what to make of the Amish," Kraybill said, "and they don't know how to make exemptions on the basis of religious freedom."
Thus, some Amish choose to stay where they're comfortable. Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania remain home to more than three in five members of the community. But that's a decline from 1992, when nearly 70 percent of the Amish lived in those three states.