January 2008
NEWS OF INTEREST

AFA ACTIVISM

Religious PC yields to public outcry

Sometimes one person can make a difference, and sometimes it takes thousands of people getting active. The latter was the case in three distinct instances when political correctness sought to remove references to God from public display.

After thousands of AFA supporters contacted the Veterans Administration (VA), officials there clarified a directive limiting the use of a religious recitation at flag-folding ceremonies during military funerals.

In September a senior VA official told directors of the agency’s 125 cemeteries not to distribute or post non-government handouts on “The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag.” The recitations in that document include references to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” and to “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

The memo also said the handout should not be recited at graveside services by cemetery workers or by VA-sponsored volunteer honor guards.

Public outcry was swift, with more than 200,000 e-mails sent to the VA. Subsequently a VA spokesperson said volunteer honor guards may recite any text requested by next of kin.

In October, in another case of apparent censorship, a replica of the capstone atop the Washington Monument was displayed in a way that hid a God-honoring phrase from public view. The Latin phrase “Laus Deo,” meaning “Praise be to God,” adorns the original, but the replica on display had been turned toward the wall so that the phrase could not be seen. The capstone has engravings on all four sides.

A spokesman with the National Park Service said the placement of the replica was not intentional, and that it will be moved to another location in the center of a room where all inscriptions will be easily viewed.

Also in October, thousands of AFA supporters complained to the office of U.S. Architect of the Capitol Steven Ayers, who had ruled that members of Congress were prohibited from using references to God in certificates of authenticity accompanying flags flown over the Capitol and bought by constituents.

U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) publicized Ayers’ decision, which banned the use of phrases such as “under God” in the pledge, “God bless you,” and “in the year of our Lord.”

Ayers said he prohibited the use of the words because reference to God and the Lord might offend some Americans.

Public response to Ayers’ decision prompted his office to issue a statement which explained the origins of the policy. The statement said “[t]he policy disallowing political and religious statements on flag certificates has been [officially] in place” since 2003, prior to Ayers stepping into his role. The press release also said the policy had been unofficially used since the 1970s.

Nevertheless, the statement also announced that Ayers was overturning the policy. “My review revealed that, in fact, these rules have been inconsistently applied and that it is inappropriate and beyond the scope of this agency’s responsibilities to censor messages from members,” it said.

AFA director of special projects Randy Sharp said, “All of these incidents prove that many people are tired of efforts to eradicate references to God from the public square, and are willing to get involved and express their displeasure when those efforts are brought to light.”

archives.onenewsnow.com, 10/31/07

CULTURE
Record-setting increase in STD cases reported
According to a new report issued in November by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has just set a rather dubious record: More than a million cases of chlamydia for the first time ever.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that, according to the CDC, “can progress to serious reproductive and other health problems with both short-term and long-term consequences,” including infertility.

Although easily treated, chlamydia is considered a sometimes “silent” STD because it often has no symptoms, and people infected with it often spread it unknowingly.

However, according to John Douglas, director of STD prevention at the CDC, the actual number of new cases of chlamydia each year may be 2.8 million.

“We have reason to believe that chlamydia is dramatically underreported,” he told USA Today.

According to other statistics released by the CDC, there are also 20 million people in the U.S. infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), with six million new cases each year. There is no cure or treatment for HPV, although most cases clear up on their own as the body fights off the virus. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer.

There are also 50 million Americans with genital herpes, and one million new cases each year. The disease can be fatal to infants when a mother has the STD and does not know it. Genital herpes has no known cure, although drugs can be taken to mitigate the severity of the disease’s outbreaks.

According to USA Today, for STDs other than AIDS, the CDC said there are roughly 19 million new infections each year – with about half of those cases in young people ages 15 to 24.

The medical cost for treating these new STD cases is almost $15 billion a year, the CDC said.

www.usatoday.com, 11/13/07; www.cdc.gov/std/stats, 11/26/07; Associated Press, 11/13/07

California STDs soar despite sex ed in schools
The number of young people in California infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is vastly greater than previously thought by health experts, despite a massive commitment to sex education by the state since the early 1990s.

According to an article in the California Catholic Daily, a study published in September revealed 1.1 million new cases of STDs among young people ages 15 to 24. The study was published in the Californian Journal of Health Promotion.

“The 1.1 million figure is 10 times higher than previously believed, and it means that in the 15-24 age group, diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV and HIV now infect almost one out of every four young Californians,” the article said.

These alarming numbers exist despite California’s commitment to what the state department of education calls “comprehensive sexual health education,” a euphemistic phrase which essentially means condom-based sex education.

The article noted that California state law prohibits an abstinence-based approach to sex education. “In addition, California may be the only state in the country that has refused to accept millions of federal dollars for abstinence education,” it said.

www.calcatholic.com, 10/17/07

Teen risk factors tied to early sex
Things like the lack of a close relationship with parents, lots of television and low self-esteem were linked to earlier sexual experiences by teenagers, a recent study found.

University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologists Janet Shibley Hyde and Myeshia Price co-authored the study which examined the sexual activity of 273 youth.

“It isn’t any one thing. It’s cumulative, and the more risks there are, the greater the chances that they’ll begin sex early,” Hyde told USA Today.

The study found that each risk factor pinpointed in the lives of the young teens raised the odds of sexual activity by 44%. With regards to television, Price said that the more television a teen watched the greater were the odds that he or she would start having sex between the ages of 13 and 15.

One encouragement for parents: A close relationship with parents provided some protection from kids who felt pressured to start having sex early.

“Warmth from parents and clear, firm guidelines can make a big difference to kids this age,” Hyde said.

www.usatoday.com, 11/13/07

ENTERTAINMENT
Violent TV linked to boys’ aggression
A new study says watching a single hour of television violence per day is enough to increase the likelihood that young boys will exhibit antisocial behavior later in life.

Published in the November issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the study examined the viewing habits of 330 children ages two to five, and then evaluated their behavior five years later.

Study author Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute told Reuters that about 14% of the boys in the study later had “serious problems with aggression and for each hour on average per day they had watched violent TV, they were three times more likely to be in that group” than those who did not watch on-screen violence.

While finding that exposure to violent television programming was associated “with an increased risk for antisocial behavior for boys,” no such increased risk appeared for girls who watched such programming.

As an explanation for this dichotomy, Christakis said it might be because boys were more genetically predisposed to aggression, “so the same level of exposure brings out aggression in them where it doesn’t in girls. It also could be boys are socialized to respond aggressively,” he told Reuters.

Pediatrics, 11/07; www.news.yahoo.com, 11/5/07

Study says sex, violence increasing on television
If TV seems to be getting worse in terms of the amount of sex and violence, it is. That was the conclusion of a study in September by the Parents Television Council (PTC, www.parentsTV.org).

The PTC study found that the so-called “family hour” exists only as a memory. The phrase is used to describe the voluntary practice of the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX – to reserve the first hour of prime-time television for tamer content, produced with family viewing in mind.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the PTC research, which compared the content from the 2006-07 season with that during 2000-01, found that instances of violence had risen 52.4% and sexual content had increased 22.1%. (The study included the four major networks, MyNetworkTV and the CW.)

As the Times also noted, even though profanity had dropped by 25.4% over that period, the number of times that harsher profanity was used had increased by 40%. That included incidents in which a word was bleeped but still easy to figure out by reading lips or hearing the first and last letter of the profanity.

“There is no longer a family hour,” Timothy Winter, PTC president, told the Times. “For people who grew up watching The Cosby Show or The Wonderful World of Disney … those days are gone.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has been critical of the networks, and has not only called for stricter enforcement of network content by the Federal Communications Commission but also for extending FCC regulation to include cable.

“The stakes are too high to allow the status quo to continue. Since the broadcasters have continually failed to self-regulate their product for the good of the children, it falls on the government to step up to the plate,” he said in a press release.

www.latimes.com, 9/6/07; www.senate.gov/~rockefeller, 2/1/07

RELIGION
Appeals court allows ‘Jesus’ in legislature
Legislative sessions in Indiana may open with invocations in the name of Jesus. The practice is again allowed after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed an earlier ruling which prohibited the practice.

Four Indiana citizens represented by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ACLU affiliate) sued to have Christian prayers stopped in the state legislature, and U.S. District Court Judge David F. Hamilton ruled in their favor. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosna, target of the ICLU suit, filed the appeal. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and Family Research Council filed a friend-of-the-court brief.

“The Indiana House has opened each meeting day with an invocation for the last 189 years,” said ADF senior counsel Glen Lavy. Nor was it a sectarian practice. A Muslim imam, a Jewish rabbi, a layman and a number of the legislators themselves had offered the invocations.

“The ICLU’s arguments about the impermissibility of Christian prayers at legislative sessions did not square with history,” Lavy said, “and certainly not with the beliefs of the very people who wrote the Constitution.”

www.alliancedefensefund.org, 10/31/07

Christian TV draws big audience in Iran
Many reports from the Middle East indicate that growing numbers of Muslims are converting to Christianity through the medium of Christian TV on satellite.

Debbie Brink, executive director of SAT-7 TV, told Mission Network News that the network is receiving “a lot of reports on people watching this channel more than almost any other channel in Iran.” Brink believes the Iranian people are tired of war and conflict, and they are finding a message of peace and hope in the Gospel.

A parallel phenomenon is the proliferation of house churches in Iran. Stefan De Groot, field worker with Open Doors Middle East, said, “The house church movement has seen spectacular growth.” He said the majority of converts are coming to the Christian faith through multimedia, especially satellite TV.

SAT-7 reaches 8-10 million viewers in the Middle East and North Africa. It is the first Arabic language Christian satellite channel to broadcast successfully in the Middle East.

www.christianpost.com, 9/21/07

New women’s magazine hits stands
Life: Beautiful is a visually stunning new magazine for contemporary women. The mazagine “is a national, Biblically based, inter-denominational, Christian lifestyle magazine that celebrates an active, integrated faith,” according to its Web site.

Editor Wanda Ventling said the magazine uses photos and words to send the message “that God is part of every minute of every day. And that through simple daily tasks, such as raising kids, being good spouses or friends, and most importantly, coming to a full understanding and acceptance of God’s personal love for us, is how we can all live beautiful lives.”

The magazine provides articles and information on parenting, cooking, decorating, teaching, working, volunteering, resting, traveling, and hospitality. Joyce Meyer, Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Gary Smalley provide inspirational insights in each issue.

A sample of other contents in the premier issue include:

•Craft ideas and projects such as scrapbooking and storing family memories, using color to dress up home entrances, and solutions for reducing clutter.

•Beautiful table setting ideas and recipes geared toward healthy living.

•Features about real families and how they cope with issues such as medical, abusive home life, and financial issues.

•Travel ideas and media reviews.

•Three-month calendar suggestions along with daily Bible passages to enhance life.

•Beautiful photos on heavy glossy paper, many with scriptures.

•Informative columns written by well-known Christian contributors.

There are plans to increase the frequency of publication, but as of now, Life: Beautiful publishes four times a year and is available by subscription and at newsstands. To subscribe, go to www.lifebeautifulmagazine.com or call 888-525-6876.

www.lifebeautifulmagazine.com, 11/28/07