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
Federal Judge Rules National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional
federal district judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the 1988 law creating the annual observance of the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
"It goes beyond mere `acknowledgement' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled on April 15. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which filed suit in 2008 to stop the prayer day, hailed the decision as a "sweet victory."
"The law is on our side," said the group's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor. "The judge had the courage to make the decision on the merits of the case and not worry about public opinion."
The White House issued a statement Thursday on Twitter saying: "As he did last year, President Obama intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer."
In 2009, Obama issued a proclamation but did not host the traditional White House observance that his predecessor, George W. Bush, had held while he was president.
The American Center for Justice, which filed a brief in the case supporting the law on behalf of 31 members of Congress, called the decision "flawed" and predicted it could end up before the Supreme Court. "It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it," said chief counsel Jay Sekulow.
The law creating the national observance dates to 1952 and was made more specific in 1988, calling for it to be marked annually on the first Thursday in May.
Survey Finds Africa is Most Religious Part of World
Researchers say they've found the most religious place on Earth--between the southern border of the Sahara Desert and the tip of South Africa.
Religion is "very important" to more than three-quarters of the population in 17 of 19 sub-Saharan nations, according to a new survey. In contrast, in the United States, the world's most religious industrialized nation, 57 percent of people say religion is very important.
"On a continent-wide basis, sub-Saharan Africa comes out as the most religious place on Earth," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which released the study on April 15.
According to the survey, 98 percent of respondents in Senegal say religion is very important, following by 93 percent in Mali. The lowest percentage was reported in Botswana, 69 percent, which is still a healthy majority. "That begins to paint a picture of how religious sub-Saharan Africans are," Lugo said.
The study is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project. More than 25,000 sub-Saharan Africans responded in face-to-face interviews in more than 60 languages.
While the study confirms that Africans are, indeed, morally conservative and religiously pious, researchers explored a variety of topics, including religious tolerance, polygamy, the role of women in society, and political and economic satisfaction.
Islam and Christianity dominate as the most popular religions in the region--a stark reversal from a century ago when Muslims and Christians were outnumbered by followers of traditional indigenous religions.
The study reports that the number of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa grew faster than the number of Muslims, from 7 million in 1900 to 470 million in 2010. One in five of the world's Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa.
Indigenous African beliefs have not disappeared, but are often incorporated into Islam and Christianity, the report found. A number of sub-Saharan Africans believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, reincarnation
Arkansas Judge Strikes Down Ban on Adoption by Unmarried Couples
BY MICHAEL FOUST ©2010 Baptist Press
An Arkansas judge has overturned the state's voter-approved law prohibiting adoptions by unmarried couples, a decision critics say will harm children in the foster care and adoption systems who need a stable home with a mother and father.
The April 16 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Christopher C. Piazza strikes down the Arkansas Adoption and Foster Care Act, which passed 57-43 percent in 2008 and which prohibited cohabitating couples-- heterosexual or homosexual--from adopting. Piazza said the law violates the Arkansas constitution's guaranteed right to privacy and forces couples "to choose between becoming a parent and having any meaningful type of intimate relationship outside of marriage." The law, Piazza said, targets a "politically unpopular group."
"It is not narrowly tailored to the least restrictive means necessary to serve the State's interest in determining what is in the best interest of the child," Piazza said.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of several homosexual couples. Utah is the only other state with a similar law. Although the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee--which sponsored the ballot initiative--said it will appeal, Arkansas attorney general Dustin McDaniel has not given a definitive answer.
To read more, click here.
The governor of Alabama has ordered the state's attorney general to cease efforts to interfere with the Task Force on Illegal Gambling as a battle over the legality of electronic bingo machines continues to escalate.
Attorney General Troy King said in March he would take over the task force, which was established by Gov. Bob Riley in 2008 to enforce the state's gambling laws.
On April 7, Riley sent a letter to King advising him that he is exercising the supreme executive power granted to him under the state constitution, overruling King's directives to the task force to turn over all of the evidence they have collected regarding electronic bingo machine operators in the five Alabama counties in question.
"The attorney general has apparently forgotten what our constitution says," Riley said April 9. "Let me remind him. There are three coequal branches of government. I'm not over the judicial branch or the legislative branch, but the constitution gives me supreme authority over the executive branch. The attorney general is a member of the executive branch."
Both men are members of Southern Baptist churches, and they have been at odds over electronic bingo machines, which the governor says are illegal and the attorney general says could be legal in some cases. Riley's task force has raided some Alabama casinos, a move King says is wrong.
Riley instructed task force members to ignore a letter from King and to continue to fulfill their assigned duties. The state Supreme Court is due to take up the dispute between the governor and the attorney general.
Meanwhile, a federal investigation into possible corruption in the Alabama legislature pertaining to gambling has begun. The state Senate passed a bill that supposedly would allow voters to decide whether electronic bingo machines, which are similar to slot machines, should be legal in the state, and the legislation is awaiting a vote by the House of Representatives.
The Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating reports that certain legislators were offered substantial campaign contributions in exchange for their votes in support of bingo legislation, The Birmingham News said April 11.
To read the rest of the story, click here.