As expected, Bush backs Senate bill
In the Oval Office yesterday, President Bush heralded "a great accomplishment, which is an agreement to move a faith-based initiative out of the United States Senate" (text | audio | video). Allowing folks who don't itemize deductions on their tax returns to deduct for charitable giving is apparently huge. Bush is acting like a guy who didn't get the burger he ordered at BurgerMeister, but is afraid to complain lest they spit in his next one. The Washington Post details other items in the Senate bill:
The Senate proposal would also let IRA holders make charitable contributions from their accounts, enhance deductions for donations of food and books, raise caps on corporate charitable contributions and introduce individual development accounts, which are savings accounts for low-income families providing incentives for home buying, education or starting a business. The compromise also contains provisions to outlaw discrimination against groups that have religious names or display religious icons, but these are far narrower than House provisions that would have allowed religion to be blended with charity more openly.
But just because the President is supporting the bill, don't expect other Republicans who supported the House version to roll over. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is now busy trying to avoid a squabble, says the Post:
Santorum, a conservative, called on House Republicans to put off discussion of the controversial "charitable choice" proposals until Congress renews the 1996 welfare reform law in a few months. A House leadership aide said Santorum's suggestion was "an option," but Rep. J. C. Watts (R-Okla.), the sponsor of the House measure, said the Senate compromise will require "a little more faith" to pass both chambers.
(The New York Times says Watts isn't offering much opposition: "In a statement released by his office, Mr. Watts said that he remained committed to charitable choice but that he had the 'utmost confidence that once the Senate finally passes a bill we can work out our differences and put the armies of compassion in the field.'")
The Associated Press says, "the compromise is likely to anger people on both sides of this issue," but the news service quotes only one opponent: Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). He worries that the bill doesn't include sections obligating religious groups to adhere to local anti-discrimination laws. "Anything that passes anywhere close [to the House bill] will give the administration moral authority to go ahead and start discriminating." Someone should pull Rep. Scott aside and inform him that the proposed bill has already dropped all charitable choice provisions. Adding a line mandating this for religious groups that don't even receive government funds would be a constitutional disaster.
The Salvation Army, which got caught up in the House bill controversy last year, is supporting the Senate bill, but only as a preliminary measure. "It's going to stimulate charitable giving in the country," Maj. George Hood tells The Washington Times. "It's a wonderful first step." He says he's still concerned about local antidiscrimination laws, and Congress must do more to allow religious organizations to maintain their religious identity.
The New York Times quotes a surprising group of critics: philanthropy groups. They're not upset about the Senate bill (in fact, they like it) but they say charities won't see much benefit from it. They'll be too busy nursing their wounds from the repeal of the estate tax. "When you look back over the last year, this modest benefit doesn't help much," Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, tells the Times. "The scope and dimension of the estate tax is beyond comparison with the new proposal."
Lieberman and Santorum may introduce their bill, called the Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act, as early as today.
World pulls out the big guns against the TNIV
Weblog was surprised last week when World magazine only devoted a few words to the introduction of the TNIV. After all, this was the magazine that raised such a ruckus over the Inclusive Language New International Version five years ago. It turns out the magazine was just taking its time to load for bear. Both publisher Joel Belz and editor Marvin Olasky devote their columns to the new translation this week. "Those of us at World find it hard to comprehend how the publishers of the TNIV would—for the second time in five years—play so fast and so loose with the trust it took a whole generation to build," writes Belz. Olasky is even more pointed: "It may be time to add IBS [the International Bible Society] and Zondervan to a long list of illustrious names: universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and hospitals with 'Presbyterian' and 'Baptist' in their titles, that lost their theological saltiness over the years. So many groups once stood for biblical truth and no longer do so."
This week also saw a column Weblog has been expecting since the announcement of the TNIV: the liberal response. "I'd argue that the IBS isn't going far enough," Desiree Cooper writes in the Detroit Free Press. "Even as they are changing 'brothers' to 'brothers and sisters,' one thing will remain the same: God will still be a 'He.'"
Freeing the Burnhams:
- 'Are they [free] or are they not?' Senator asks Armed Forces on Burnhams | Statements of denial by government officials of the story are not sufficient, says Opposition Sen. Blas Ople (The Daily Tribune)
- Burnham letters sporadic, fearful | The latest developments in the attempts to rescue American missionaries in the Philippines (The Wichita Eagle)
- U.S. troops to remain at field camps | Manila says Americans training soldiers to fight Muslim extremists won't patrol. (Associated Press)
- N.Y. school ordered to let kindergartner say grace | Kayla Broadus, 5, was stopped from praying with friends Jan. 15 at her elementary school in suburban Wilton (Associated Press)
- U.S. judge upholds pants-only policy | Manufacturing firm had faced a civil-rights suit by woman who's religion doesn't allow her to wear men's clothing. (The Indianapolis Star)
- Woman asserts right to wear her cross | Says she was fired for not taking it off (The Washington Times)
- McSally believes career has been harmed | Lt. Col. Martha McSally believes the U.S. military's embrace of a Muslim black garment has cast a shadow on her career (Associated Press)
- China lets Bush speak out on freedom | President is to put religious freedom at the top of the agenda for his visit this month to Beijing (The Times)
- China Bible smuggler 'appeals conviction' | Yu Zhudi says he was forced into confession (BBC)
- In Russia, regions curb spread of foreign faiths | Orthodox Church sees others as rivals (The Washington Post)
Church and State:
- Panel likes patriotism of 'In God We Trust' | State House committee votes to post motto in every public school in Florida. (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Declaring Liberia a Christian state wouldn't help | In the long run, the society could be plagued with religious intolerance, thereby sparking off a new wave of civil strife. (Editorial, The News, Monrovia)
- High school faces fight over Satan reference | Church of Satan says ban on "satanic" clothing violates Constitution (KITV, Honolulu)
- Church-state battle lines drawn | Complaint heads to IRS over political signs on grounds (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- Bush urges U.S. to turn to prayer | NYFD workers, Lisa Beamer attend National Prayer Breakfast (Associated Press)
- Plus: Bush lauds U.S. return to prayer (The Washington Times)
- Plus: Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast (White House)
- An act of faith? | Florida governor's selection of Christian conservative for circuit bench spurs concern about litmus test (Miami Daily Business Review)
- Bush shaky on women's rights | In his state of the union, Bush said America will always stand for "respect for women," but based on his actions so far, that's gibberish (Derrick Z. Jackson, The Boston Globe)
- Family planning and the religious right's overseas reach | President Bush has backed himself into quite a corner over an issue that for most Americans is a no-brainer: whether or not to continue US funding for the United Nations Population Fund (Steven W. Sinding, The Christian Science Monitor)
- U.S. intervenes in abortion case | Intervening for the first time in a case involving abortion, the Bush administration asked a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that struck down an Ohio law banning the controversial procedure known to critics as "partial birth" abortion (The Washington Post)
- Plus: Justice supports Ohio in ban on partial-birth abortion (The Washington Times)
- Seeing heresy in a service for Sept. 11 | In the eyes of his critics, the Rev. David Benke worshiped publicly in the company of unbelievers. For that, they say, he stands guilty of heresy and idolatry. (The New York Times)
- Money has demonized Christians - evangelist | Ghanaian Christians consult fetish shrines, dwarfs among others and enforce satanic rites in the name of Christianity and church worship, says leader of Ghana Evangelical Society (The Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra)
- Doomsday pastors expelled | Leaders of the International Christian Gospel Preachers of God Church, said the two ministers had enticed members into a cult where they teach false doctrines about the return of Jesus Christ (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)
- Star-spangled idolatry? | Isn't calling the flag sacred idolatry? (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)
- Minister refuses to baptize sick boy | Parents are not regular churchgoers (The Times, London)
Missions and ministry:
- Reading, writing, being there | All the angst over whether a secular program could be run in faith-based centers without violating our precious devotion to the separation of church and state is almost beside the point. (Jane Eisner, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Falwell mixes his evangelism with recruiting | While pitching for Liberty University, pastor meets with homosexual opponent (Palm Beach Post)
- Church buys nude dance club for youth ministry | Terrace Shores Evangelical Free Church didn't buy a nude dance club to shut it down. That was just a fringe benefit, the church's leader said. (Associated Press/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- United Methodist Church of the Resurrection to become nation's largest Methodist congregation | The church will own almost 1 million square feet of worship, educational, fitness and multipurpose space in the next 10 or so years (Kansas City Star)
- Will pastor's 'divine order' meet its match in bureaucrats? | Just where is it appropriate for a church congregation to meet? (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)
- Conservative groups seek FCC probe of Fox network | Focus on the Family, National Association of Evangelicals, others oppose Boston Public (Reuters)
- Buying like there's no tomorrow | Apocalyptic science fiction series becomes a long-running smash hit (ABCNews.com)
Religion and computers:
- Monks confess to spamming habit | Russian Orthodox monastery sent thousands of e-mails soliciting donations (Ananova)
- Hot-synching with a heavenly presence | A growing number of people are finding that pocket-size computers are useful for religious purposes (The New York Times)
- Spanish gays urged to leave the Church | Spain's leading gay organization has urged homosexuals to leave the Catholic Church in protest at the suspension of a priest who came out in a magazine last week. (BBC)
- Earlier: Gay Spaniard stripped of priesthood | The Church said it was acting against Father Jose Mantero for abandoning his post and breaking his vow of celibacy (Reuters)
- Pastors urged to discuss sex issues | Church members need help, says director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt University (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
- At N.J. parish, all Latin all the time | Completely Tridentine parishes are extremely rare (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- The sins of the fathers | By now, it's obvious that the church has suffered a great loss of moral authority. It can't recoup that loss until it deals convincingly with the terrible evils wrought by its priests. (John Leo, U.S. News & World Report)
- Unholy crisis | After more sex-abuse scandals, what's next for the Catholic Church? (U.S. News & World Report)
- Six priests suspended after claims of sex abuse | Suspensions come two weeks after Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in announcing a policy to report past accusations of abuse, said there were no active priests in the archdiocese who had been accused of that (The New York Times)
Church of England:
- Britons 'spiritually hungry' says Britain's former foreign secretary | Douglas Hurd opposes disestablishing church (BBC)
- The institution that invented the 'mission statement' now badly needs one | The Church of England has not made the best or most imaginative use of its privileged position. (David Rogers, The Times, London)
Other stories of interest:
- Dinner on deadline | Washington's Christian press corps. (Fred Barnes, The Wall Street Journal)
- Arthur Andersen and the Baptists | Enron's auditor is no stranger to accounting disasters — including one of the largest religious foundation bankruptcies in the history of the U.S. (Terry Greene Sterling, Salon.com)
- Museum refuses to return Ethiopian sacred relics | The British Museum has rejected a plea from an Ethiopian cleric to return sacred artifacts, saying a 250-year-old Act of Parliament prevented it from doing so. (The Scotsman)
- Pentecostal progress for the long run | An interview with David Martin, author of Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish (UPI)
- Rwandan genocide priest surrenders | Human rights associations say he was behind one of the most horrifying incidents in the Rwandan genocide—the destruction by bulldozers of the church at Nyange and the 2,000 Tutsis who had taken refuge inside it. (BBC)
- Facing suit, Hare Krishna temples eye bankruptcy | Abuse victims say religion trying to reduce payments (Chicago Tribune)
- Also: Hare Krishnas to file Chapter 11 (Associated Press)
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