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 Court Says Church Bells
BY ELEANOR GOLDBERG ©2010 Religion News Service
n April 19, a federal court ruled an ordinance in Phoenix, Arizona, trying to limit the sound of church bells is an unconstitutional impingement on religious expression.
In 2007, one day after Christ the King Cathedral moved two miles from its former location to a space near a fire station, neighbors complained the church's electronic bells--rung every hour, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.--violated the city's noise ordinance.
The ordinance, which prohibits "any unusual or disturbing" sound, also allows ice cream trucks to ring at 70 decibels. The church's bells rang at 67 decibels. "This is almost unheard of in American law," said Gary McCaleb, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund legal firm, who worked on the case.
Sergeant Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department agreed that the complaint was fairly "unusual," but said the hourly ringing of the bells made Christ the King perhaps a bit different from other churches. "We value the First Amendment," Thompson said Wednesday. "But then we have the city ordinance. We were stuck in the middle."
Although the church attempted to appease neighbors by erecting a buffer on its speakers and passing out informational flyers, the city filed a misdemeanor complaint last year. The church's pastor, Bishop Rick Painter, was found guilty in city court and sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years probation, though he never served time in jail.
When Painter appealed that decision, a state court limited the chiming to Sundays and designated holidays, and set a limit of 60 decibels. Two nearby churches, St. Mark Roman Catholic Church and First Christian Church, joined Painter in a federal lawsuit last September.
The federal court ruled in favor of the church bells, saying the city cannot prohibit "sound generated in the course of religious expression."
The ADF's next stop is the state court, where the verdict against Painter is already on appeal. "We want to have the state court clear the bishop's name," McCaleb said.
Faith Leaders Decry `Anti-immigrant' Immigration Law
BY ADELLE M. BANKS ©2010 Religion News Service
Religious leaders planned legal action and civil disobedience after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law, on April 23, they believe is "anti-immigrant" and will foster racial profiling.
The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders is developing a suit against the law that allows law enforcement agencies to detain people who cannot immediately prove their U.S. citizenship.
"There is no fairness or respect for due process in the implementation of this law and we expect the courts to find it unconstitutional," said the Rev. Miguel Rivera, chairman of the coalition and its legal defense fund.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, who had joined other religious leaders in petitioning Brewer to veto the bill, said the law crosses both legal and moral lines. "This law will make it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona, and will force us to disobey Jesus and his gospel," the founder of the anti-poverty group Sojourners said of churches. "We will not comply."
Other groups weighing in -- from the National Council of Churches to the Unitarian Universalist Association to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism -- decried the law as "inhumane," "invasive" and a demonstration of the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Brewer said Friday she listened to both sides and "prayed for strength" as she made her decision, which she says enforces laws against illegal immigration and racial profiling. The governor said law enforcement officers will be trained so they know how to define "`reasonable suspicion" a person is not legally present in the United States."
White House to Appeal Day of Prayer Ruling
BY TOM STRODE ©2010 Baptist Press
The Obama administration will appeal a federal judge's ruling that invalidated the National Day of Prayer.
The decision was revealed April 22, a day after members of Congress gathered at a Capitol Hill news conference to urge the White House to work vigorously to overturn the decision. Joining the House of Representatives members in calling for action by the Justice Department were the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and other organizations.
Barbara Crabb, a federal judge in Wisconsin, ruled April 15 that a law setting a National Day of Prayer violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion. She said the observance "serves no purpose but to encourage a religious exercise, making it difficult for a reasonable observer to see the statute as anything other than a religious endorsement."
The U.S. Department of Justice informed Wisconsin's Western District Court of its decision to appeal Crabb's ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Seventh Circuit consists of federal courts in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
More than two dozen House members joined together April 21 in support of the National Day of Prayer. Representatives Randy Forbes (Virgina) and Mike McIntyre (North Carolina)—co-chairmen of the Congressional Prayer Caucus—led their colleagues in calling for the Obama administration to file an appeal and in announcing the introduction of House resolutions supporting the annual observance. The representatives expressed sharp disagreement with Crabb's opinion.
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Court Rejects Unemployment Pay for Jehovah's Witness
BY NICOLE NEROULIAS ©2010 Religion News Service
A Pennsylvania judge has denied unemployment benefits to a Jehovah's Witness who quit her job in a jewelry store, when her responsibilities conflicted with her religious beliefs against celebrating birthdays.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's ruling reversed a decision by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review to grant benefits to Trista Reichman after she quit working as a part-time salesperson at Calhoun Jewelers in Royersford, Pennsylvania, northeast of Philadelphia.
In addition to birthdays, Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas or most other holidays.
The court determined that Reichman's decision to quit after being asked to print messages on promotional birthday cards--although she had been willing to sell and wrap jewelry for birthday presents—did not merit compensation.
Neither Calhoun Jewelers nor Reichman could be reached for comment.
According to the court memorandum, during her two years at the store, Reichman had refused to sing or eat cake when co-workers celebrated birthdays, though she did eat other food brought in for the parties. She also typed up a list of employee birthdays, including her own, at her employer's request.
Three years ago, a Jehovah's Witness who had refused to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers at a Texas restaurant, where she worked as a waitress, won a $38,750 settlement. Based on the case, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidelines on religious discrimination, advising employers to make "appropriate accommodations" to allow Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid celebrations that conflict with their beliefs.