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
Salvation Army Reports Record
Donations Despite Sour Economy
ickels, dimes and quarters added up quickly last Christmas despite the economic slump as Americans donated a record $139 million to the Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign.
"America is an incredibly generous nation and philanthropy is alive and well, despite the current economic conditions impacting so many," said Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, national commander of the Salvation Army.
"We are grateful for every donor, volunteer and corporate partner for supporting the Salvation Army's mission by giving more than ever during a time when some have so little to give."
Bell ringers set up the signature red kettles in front of an estimated 25,000 locations across America on Thanksgiving Day. The Salvation Army reported a 7 percent increase in giving over the $130 million record of 2008.
The Red Kettle campaign, the nation's longest running annual fundraising campaign, helps Salvation Army provide more than 28 million Americans with food, shelter, rent, substance abuse treatment and Christmas assistance each year. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations partnered with the Salvation Army to raise 29 percent of the total amount of the campaign. The Wal-Mart Foundation also made a direct donation of $1.25 million.
Kroger stores in nearly 2,000 locations accounted for $11.3 million or eight percent of the total. In addition to hosting kettles, Target stores teamed up with toymaker Hasbro, Inc. and donated 5 percent of some sales of selected Hasbro toys to the Salvation Army. Target donated more than $1.25 million total.
Catholic Bishops, Hospitals Split on Health Care
In a break with Catholic hospital administrators, the nation's top Catholic bishop says the health care reform bill "must be opposed" because it does not adequately ban federal funding of abortion.
"The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected," Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Monday March 15.
President Obama, who is pressing Congress to pass a health care bill this week, has pledged to exclude federal funding of abortion from the legislation except in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's health is in jeopardy, as has been federal law since the 1970s.
Obama and others say the health care bill passed by the Senate in December fulfills that promise. The Catholic bishops argue that it does not, and that only the version passed by the House in December contains the necessary ban.
Because of congressional rules and partisan politics, Democratic leaders are pushing the House to adopt the Senate version. The Catholic Health Association, which represents 2,000 health care sponsors, systems, hospitals, and long-term facilities, calls the Senate bill a "major first step" toward covering all Americans. CHA officials say the abortion language can be "corrected" after it passes.
George acknowledged the CHA's difference of opinion. "The bishops, however, judge that the flaws are so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote," he said.
"Assurances that the moral objections to the legislation can be met only after the bill is passed seem a little like asking us, in Midwestern parlance, to buy a pig in a poke," he said.
State Dept. Highlights Religious Freedom Violations
The State Department issued its annual human rights report on March 11, noting religious freedom violations in countries ranging from China to Iraq to Saudi Arabia.
The report on 194 countries called 2009 "a year in which ethnic, racial, and religious tensions led to violent conflicts and serious human rights violations."
The State Department said "no genuine freedom of religion" exists in North Korea and Cuban law permits punishment of "any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons, including those for private religious services in private homes."
The report said religious minorities continue to face "escalating discrimination and persecution." In Iraq, for example, despite the government's public calls for tolerance, attacks on places of worship by extremist and insurgent groups limited their ability to practice their faith.
In China, repression of Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs increased, the report said. Non-Muslims are prohibited from expressing their religion publicly in Saudi Arabia.
The department noted that several countries with "generally strong" human rights records had been home to religious freedom violations in 2009, citing the recent ban on construction of minarets in Switzerland as an example. "Discrimination against Muslims in Europe has been an increasing concern," the report said.
Survey: Less Than Half Link Easter to the Resurrection
While most Americans describe Easter as a religious holiday, less than half of U.S. adults surveyed link it specifically to the Resurrection of Jesus, a Barna Group study shows.
Seven in 10 respondents mentioned religion or spirituality in their response to an open-ended question about how they describe what Easter means to them personally. But just 42 percent tied Easter to the Resurrection.
At 73 percent, baby boomers (ages 45 to 63) were the most likely to describe Easter as a religious holiday, compared to two-thirds of those ages 26 to 44 and Americans 64 and older. The youngest group of adults (ages 18 to 25) were least likely, at 58 percent, to use that kind of description.
Other than the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, respondents described Easter as "a Christian holiday, a celebration of God or Jesus, a celebration of Passover, a holy day" or a special day to go to church, Barna researchers said.
"The Easter holiday in particular still has a distinctly religious connection for people but ... the specifics of it are really fading in a lot of people's minds," said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, which is based in Ventura, Calif.
The findings are based on phone interviews of a random sample of 1,005 U.S. adults from February 7-10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.