Templeton Prize Given to Novak

Writer Michael Novak, a Roman Catholic lay theologian, has won the 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

“His revolutionary insights into the spiritual foundations of economic and political systems and his articulation of moral ideas of democratic capitalism have secured Novak’s place as one of the world’s most original thinkers in the late twentieth century,” the nine-judge panel said in its March 8 announcement. The annual prize, created by investor John Marks Templeton, is worth $1 million.

Novak, 60, is a former U.S. ambassador and now holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Among his 20 books are Belief and Unbelief, The Experience of Nothingness, and The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. He currently writes a column for Forbes.

Mother Teresa won the first Templeton Prize in 1973, and Charles Colson received it last year. The prize is awarded to a person “who has shown extraordinary originality in advancing humankind’s understanding of God and/or spirituality.”

Is Parents Day Honoring Moon?

A resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to declare July 28 as “Parents Day” is being criticized as an attempt to honor the founder of the Unification Church. The proposal, sponsored by Dan Burton (R-Ind.), does not mention Sun Myung Moon or his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, but critics say it is being pushed by Moon’s supporters.

“It’s one of the symbolic things the Moonies have,” says Anson Shupe, sociology professor at Indiana/Purdue University in Fort Wayne. “They like to honor Moon and Mrs. Moon as the parents of mankind.”

Shupe, a long-time observer of the Unification Church, is critical of its efforts to build bridges to Republicans and evangelical Christians.

Gary Jarmin of the fundamentalist lobby Christian Voice, which supports the proposal, has called Parents Day critics religious bigots.

Pastor Guilty in Immigration Scheme

Abram F. Rodriguez, 53, a minister of the Free Pentecostal Movement, has pleaded guilty to filing phony immigration papers.

Rodriguez, a former president of San Diego’s Latino pastors’ association, claimed he needed special “assistant pastors” from Latin America for his church and charged $3,000 for each fake visa application. Immigration and Naturalization Service investigators estimate Rodriguez may have made $240,000 on the scheme since 1991.

After obtaining their documents, the illegal immigrants left the church, which had under 50 members and three pastors for each member. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to charges of visa fraud, which could place him in federal prison for five years.

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By Lloyd Billingsley in San Diego.

Minister Embraces ‘Dr. Death’

Greeted by a standing ovation, Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian addressed more than a thousand people at Saint Paul’s Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Livonia, Michigan.

Invited by senior pastor Tom Eggebeen to speak following a Sunday worship service on January 30, Kevorkian delivered his first public speech in more than three years, promoting physician-assisted suicide and supporting a drive to put a right-to-die initiative on the November state ballot.

“Whatever people may personally feel about the matter, most people were pleased,” says Eggebeen, a member of the Hemlock Society who is making petitions for the right-to-die amendment available at his church office.

Kevorkian’s speech prompted protests outside the church and several shouting matches inside. Eggebeen says, “Inviting Dr. Jack Kevorkian to speak in this setting is certainly well within the parameters of what a Presbyterian congregation can do.” While he says he receives much “hate mail” from disgruntled Christians—referring to him as a “servant of Satan” and “son of the devil”—Eggebeen says he receives many encouraging phone calls from former churchgoers who “have been hurt by the church concerning suicide.”

But Terry Schlossberg, executive director of Presbyterians Pro-Life, says, “As Christians, we are to preserve and nurture life in all circumstances, not destroy it.”

By Perucci Ferraiuolo.

Dobson Buys Ad to Rebut Sermon

Focus on the Family president James Dobson has responded to a Prairie Village, Kansas, preacher’s sermon by running an $18,000 full-page rebuttal in the Kansas City Star. In the sermon, which was printed in the New York Times, Robert Meneilly of Village Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denounced the political tactics and positions of conservative Christian groups, naming Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Falwell. “The new Religious Right extremists,” Meneilly preached, “want nothing less than to force our American society to enact into law their exclusive religious views.”

Dobson responded with the January 16 ad. “Except in rare circumstances,” Dobson said, “the charge of viciousness by conservative Christians is a pure fabrication. Please note that when men like Meneilly accuse ‘the Christian Right’ of hatred toward homosexuals, lesbians, and others, they never document their claims.” Regarding “stealth candidates,” Dobson said, “every political party and movement is cagey about its plans and strategies. That’s the way the game is played.” Meneilly said his church was picketed by 32 protesters after the ad appeared.

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By Stephen M. Miller.

Abortionist Killer Sentenced to Life

A Pensacola, Florida, jury took less than three hours on March 5 to return a first-degree murder verdict against Michael F. Griffin, making him the first pro-lifer guilty of killing an American abortionist.

Griffin, 32, was convicted of shooting 47-year-old itinerant abortionist David Gunn on March 10, 1993, outside Pensacola Women’s Medical Services.

Judge John Parnham had refused to allow Griffin to use an insanity defense. So Griffin’s defense attorney, Robert Kerrigan, tried to shift the blame for the killing, saying Griffin had been swayed by repeated exposure to graphic anti-abortion literature and videos, and by suggestions from some activists that shooting an abortionist is biblically “justifiable homicide.”

Despite Griffin’s confession to two police officers immediately after the shooting, Kerrigan suggested that another pro-lifer protesting at the abortion facility that day may have killed Gunn.

Prosecutors dropped a request for the death penalty in exchange for allowing the testimony of a jail guard, who said she overheard Griffin tell his wife that he had killed Gunn because of his religious convictions. Griffin was sentenced to life in prison.

In Brief

Roy Hicks, Jr., missions director for International Church of the Foursquare Gospel the past six years, was killed February 10 when the plane he was piloting crashed into the side of a mountain in dense fog in Oregon. He was returning from Foursquare headquarters in Los Angeles to his home in Eugene. Hicks, 50, who composed numerous praise songs including “Praise the Name of Jesus,” pastored Faith Center Foursquare Church in Eugene for 19 years, during which membership grew from 50 to 5,000.

• Keith Tucci, 37, of Melbourne, Florida, has resigned as executive director of Operation Rescue National (ORN). The new leader is 45-year-old Flip Benham, who will move headquarters to Dallas, where he has headed the local ORN office. Tucci will continue pastoring and working with Life Coalition International.

• Darrow Parker, host of the Radio Bible ClassDay of Discovery and Sounds of the Times programs the past seven years, resigned in December after confessing to “personal failures and marital infidelity.” President Martin DeHann said the Grand Rapids, Michigan—based ministry is helping in the process of spiritual restoration, but sexual misconduct disqualifies a person from public ministry and leadership.

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• Fort Worth dentist Richard B. Neill has succeeded in his one-man crusade (CT, March 8, 1993, p. 56) to convince local TV station WFAA that it should cancel Donahue because of inappropriate content. Neill has played the key role in a two-year nationwide effort to convince 220 advertisers to stop sponsoring the show. WFAA will drop Donahue in September, four months before the contract was scheduled to expire. But Neill will have another battle on his hands as KDFW plans immediately to pick up the syndicated show.

• Oregon judge Albin Norblad has upheld the constitutionality of a law passed by the state legislature last July. The ruling voids various anti-homosexual-rights ordinances approved by voters in 11 cities and five counties. A suit had been filed by Oregon Citizens Alliance, which sponsored the initiatives.

• James McLeish, 72, former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the U.S.A., died January 30. McLeish, who had been with InterVarsity from 1951 to 1985, the last three years as president, died of a heart attack at his home in Kissimmee, Florida.

Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, publishers of Daily Walk, launched its seventh publication this month, Tapestry. Brenda Josee will edit the nondenominational devotional monthly for women.

Walter H. Judd, 95, died of cancer February 13 in Mitchelville, Maryland. He served as a Congregational Church medical missionary to China, then returned to the United States to represent Minneapolis for 20 years in the U.S House of Representatives.

Greater Europe Mission (GEM), which has 400 missionaries in 22 countries, will move its U.S. headquarters to Colorado Springs from Carol Stream, Illinois. Christianity Today, Inc., will purchase the GEM building and property, which is adjacent to CTi’s existing headquarters.

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