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
10 Commandments Monument
federal appeals court has declared the erection of a Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional, citing the "unusual" circumstances of its placement on the courthouse grounds in a small Oklahoma county.
In its June 8 ruling, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted statements by county commissioners about the monument, including one who said, "I'm a Christian and I believe in this."
The court said "a reasonable observer" in the community would know of the religious motivations of the part-time minister who secured private donations for the monument and the quick approval of the commissioners who heard his request for it. "We conclude, in the unique factual setting of a small community like Haskell County, that the reasonable observer would find that these facts tended to strongly reflect a government endorsement of religion," wrote Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes for a unanimous three-judge panel. "In none of their statements did the commissioners attempt to distinguish between the board's position and their own beliefs."
The court distinguished the county setting, where the monument was recently placed among war memorials and other monuments, from the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. The Texas monument stood with other monuments for 40 years before it was challenged, while the Oklahoma monument was challenged within a year of its unveiling.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit against the county, hailed the decision, which overturned a lower court ruling. "The government should not be in the business of promoting religious viewpoints," said Daniel Mach, director of litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.
The Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the commissioners, said it is considering an appeal. "Small-town government officials have just as much right to express their personal opinions about monuments as those in larger cities," said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot.
Schuller’s Daughter to Lead Crystal Cathedral
BY ADELLE M. BANKS ©2009 Religion News Service
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California, announced on June 7 that he has turned over the administrative duties of his ministry to his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman.
The transition comes after Schuller's son, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, resigned late last year as senior pastor of the church. In October, his father said the two men differed over the "direction and the vision" of the megachurch and its related "Hour of Power" television program.
"I believe God has called me back to give leadership once again to this ministry," the elder Schuller, 82, wrote in a June 10 statement on his Web site. "I have committed to giving two more years of casting God's vision for this ministry and Sheila has accepted my request to put legs to the vision."
Coleman, a 58-year-old author, has been the director of family ministries at the church and the superintendent of its private school. Now, she will be the administrative leader of Crystal Cathedral Ministries. "We're excited that a woman has an opportunity to step forward and do something like this," said church spokesman John Charles.
He said Coleman will assist in the worship services by reading Scripture or making announcements.
"She'll be preaching occasionally," Charles said. "We will still be using Dr. Schuller and some visiting pastors."
The Rev. Juan Carlos Ortiz, who has served as interim senior pastor, will continue at the church as a teaching pastor, Schuller said.
PBS Puts Limits on Religious Programming
PBS officials voted June 16 to not allow new religious programming at member stations, but allowed select PBS stations to continue broadcasting their current faith-based line-ups. The PBS Board of Directors took the action Tuesday after concerns were raised that religious programming could violate the organization's nonsectarian status.
The board unanimously elected to grandfather in the handful of existing shows that are directly religious in nature; the ruling does not affect news shows or documentaries. "The board has basically voted to insure that the religious programming that stations currently provide and that communities have come to rely on are able to stay on air," said PBS spokesperson Jan McNamara.
Only six of over 350 member stations broadcast religious programming, according to McNamara. At stake for at least three of the stations were long-running Sunday Masses, broadcast mostly to the elderly.
For the last decade, the televised "Mass for Shut-Ins" has aired on Denver's KBDI every Sunday at 6:30 a.m. The Archdiocese of Denver produces the program, which has been on-air continuously for 53 years. "I have to say that any time, whether it's weather or a malfunction, if Mass doesn't air, we have voice mailboxes full of the elderly calling us," said Jeannette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
The 30-minute program serves as the only way some homebound seniors and nursing-home residents can connect with their community of faith, said DeMelo.
"Aside from it being the church's role to provide for the vulnerable and the weak, I think society in general seeks to do that," said DeMelo. "That's why we're grateful that PBS has allowed this to continue to happen because I really do think it's a service for the broader public."
Public broadcasting stations in New Orleans and Washington recently have shown similar Sunday Masses. KBYU out of Provo, Utah, which is affiliated with Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, shows daily Mormon programming alongside PBS favorites like "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and "Sesame Street."
The vote may come too little, too late for one program. Washington's WHUT already released its "Sunday TV Mass" from the line-up, according to Archdiocese of Washington spokeswoman Susan Gibbs.
Gibbs said the archdiocese, which funds the long-running televised service, has been shopping around for a new home for the show since March, after word came from WHUT that PBS would be reconsidering its religious broadcasts.
Gibbs said the archdiocese recently signed a contract with The CW-Channel 50, at a price that will cost $60,000 more per year than it did on public broadcasting. Since 1985, PBS has committed its programming to be noncommercial, nonpolitical and nonsectarian in order to guarantee fair and balanced coverage. For the last 18 months, PBS has been conducting an overall policy review to update the organization for the new media age.
Religious Charities Gain in a Down Year
Religious organizations reported a 5.5 increase in donations last year, a marked contrast from the nationwide 2-percent decline in charitable giving, according to a study by Giving USA Foundation. Religious congregations, which accounted for 35 percent of the total $307 billion in charitable contributions, exceeded $100 billion in donations for the second year in a row.
Though public-society benefit and international affairs organizations also cited increases in charitable contributions,two-thirds of public charities reported a decrease for only the second time in the report's 54-year history. The economic recession spurred this decline, Del Martin, the chairwoman of the foundation, said in a statement. "We definitely did see belt-tightening ... but it could have been a lot worse," Martin said.
Even with the cutbacks, the total still exceeded the $300 billion mark for the second consecutive year. The survey showed that 54 percent of human services charities saw an increase in need for their services in 2008, and 60 percent were forced to cut expenses. Organizations serving youth development were hit the hardest, with 74 percent reporting funding shortages.
The majority of donations came from individual contributors, who gave more than $229 billion. Gifts to religious organizations made up half of all individual contributors. Corporate donations totaled $14 billion, a 4.5 percent decrease from the year before.