• The normally liberal American Civil Liberties Union and the Democrat-leaning afl-cio filed a friends-of-the-court brief September 29 in defense of the Christian Coalition, which is urging the dismissal of a 1996 Federal Election Commission (FEC) lawsuit (CT, Oct. 26, 1998, p. 82). The FEC suit contends that the Christian Coalition violated campaign laws by promoting the campaigns of Republican candidates. But the brief says the suit is a threat to free speech: "Citizens and labor organizations of every stripe will be severely restrained in their ability to speak out on policy issues of concern to their members and to the public."
  • The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has started to gather information to see if there is enough interest to change the name of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. The SBC Executive Committee has two motions to consider from June's annual convention in Salt Lake City: to conduct a feasibility study on renaming the denomination or recommend a specific new name, the Baptist Convention of North America. Proponents of a switch say the Southern designation of the denomination's name hinders growth. Those who want to retain the status quo say a change would be too costly and could cause the denomination to lose its identity.
  • Meanwhile, the 1,350-member First Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina, voted September 23 to end its 153-year relationship with the SBC. The 264-to-23 vote came three months after the denomination issued a statement that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband" (CT, July 13, 1998, p. 21). Members said the vote was in large part a rejection of what they called "authoritarian trend." First Baptist helped create the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and over the years many leaders at the SBC-affiliated Wake Forest and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary have come from the church, which established 38 other Baptist congregations in the region.
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