Wednesday, June 13, 2007

June 13, 2007

[ ] Religious Discrimination in Sports Is Out-Of-Bounds
[ ] Bible Verses in Veggie Tales Offensive, But Not Madonna's Mockery
[ ] Fire Guts Lincoln Church
[ ] Pittsburgh PC(USA) Congregation Departs to EPC
[ ] Gael Matheson Awarded C$600,000
[ ] Religious Discrimination in School Employment Condemned


On 11 June the North Oldham County School District in Buckner, Kentucky reversed a decision that discriminated against junior Kim Osborne because of her religion, after receiving a demand letter from Liberty Counsel.

Kim had attempted to get approval from Coach Brian Jones in January to miss practice, a full six months before a national church youth event. Coach Jones told the Kim that summer practice was absolutely mandatory but allowed two other players to miss a week of summer practice to attend the Governor's Scholars Program.

After receiving the letter from Liberty Counsel, the school district agreed to allow Kim attend the Christian event without losing her place on the volleyball team.

+ Liberty Counsel, Suite 1100 - 1015 Fifteenth St NW - Washington, DC 20005


NBC anti-Christian bigotry continues. This time NBC censored Bible verses and expressions of Christian love from the children's cartoon Veggie Tales being shown Saturday mornings on NBC. NBC says comments such as "God made you special and He loves you very much" were offensive and censored them from the show.

In response to the outrage over the allegations that NBC was ordering the removal of any references to God and the Bible from the animated series, the network first issued a flat denial. As reported in Broadcasting & Cable, NBC said they had to "clip off the beginning and ending tags, which are Bible verses, but they were also arguably the easiest cut to make."

The creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer, said NBC's excuse for censoring the Bible verses was not true. Vischer said, "Well, that's kinda funny, because as the guy required to do all the editing, I know that statement is false...The show wasn't too long, it was too Christian. The show was already cut down to the proper length, so timing had nothing to do with it."

NBC then backpedaled: "NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of Veggie Tales. Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view." Evidently NBC considers not being truthful as one of their "universal values."

Vischer said had he known how much censorship NBC would exercise, he would not have signed on for the network deal.

Censored were comments such as: "Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies." And "the Bible says Samson got his strength from God. And God can give us strength, too."

NBC says using Bible verses or referring to God is offensive to some non-Christians. But NBC doesn't hesitate to offend Christians by showing Madonna mocking the crucifixion of Christ. Neither do not mind offending Christians in their new program Studio 60 with a segment called Crazy Christians.

+ American Family Association, PO Drawer 2440, Tupelo, MS 38803


Fire officials say it took firefighters from nine units about three hours to extinguish a fire that gutted a brick church building south of downtown Lincoln in the morning of 9 June. Deputy fire chief Pat Borer says most of the church roof has collapsed and the main floor has fallen into the basement.

Flames shooting 15 to 20 feet high were visible when firefighters pulled up at Zion Church about 5 o'clock in the morning. No injuries were reported.

The congregation is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, a result of a merger between the former Zion Congregational Church and the former Covenant Presbyterian Church.

+ Zion Church, 610 "J" Street, Suite 20, Lincoln, NE 68508 (402) 476-2524


In a move emblematic of mainline Protestant divisions over sexuality, members of the largest church in the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join a smaller, more conservative denomination. There were 951 members of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in McCandless Township who voted to be affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Fifty-two percent of the 1,450-member congregation needed to approve the plan.

+ Memorial Park Community Presbyterian Church, 8800 Peebles Road
Allison Park, PA 15101 (412) 364-9492


A Presbyterian minister who was subjected to hate mail, stalking and a whisper campaign against her by members of her congregation has been awarded more than C$600,000 in compensation. The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Commission also ordered the Presbyterian Church of Canada to reinstate Gael Matheson as a minister and apologize to her for not properly dealing with the harassment to which she was subjected.

The human rights panel decision on compensation was released 1 June.

It followed an earlier decision that upheld her complaint alleging that the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island and the Murray Harbour North Pastoral Charge, where she was posted, had discriminated against her on the basis of sex. It said Matheson experienced an offensive working environment, and when she sought help for her problems, she was blamed.

"Not only was there a lack of support for Rev. Matheson, but many members of the Charge viewed her with animosity. The members were not attending church or volunteering their time to help with church business. Consequently, this...left Rev. Matheson in a precarious position," the panel ruled.

The Presbyterian Church has already filed notice of appeal of that decision. Alex Godfrey, lawyer for the church, said they now have 30 days to examine Friday's decision. Published reports noted, "We are weighing our options right now with respect to a possible judicial review ... to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island," Godfrey said. "We've already launched a judicial review with respect to the liability - the main question - whether they're liable for anything at all. So now we have to decide whether we want to review the amount of damages as well," he said.

The Presbytery was ordered to write Matheson a letter of apology and a letter of reference. Among the costs, the Presbytery was instructed to pay $425,000 for lost income, $50,000 in damages and $102,000 in court costs. It was ordered to reinstate her to a ministerial position.

When Matheson was first posted to the eastern P.E.I. congregation in 1986, she got anonymous letters against the ordination of women. The letters alleged she was a lesbian and that she was sexually abusing children. One member of her congregation called her a "whore of Babylon." She was also stalked by a church official, who was found guilty in 1991 of criminally harassing her.

In its response, the Presbytery of Prince Edward Island said it acted in good faith towards Matheson, but it blamed her for the incidents and the erosion of her relationship with her congregation. It said it had no choice but to remove her from the ministry in 1996. [CW]

+ The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 50 Wynford Drive, Toronto Ontario M3C

+ Canadian Press


The right of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland to select teachers in denominational schools on the basis of their religion was criticized on 31 May by John Quigley, the outgoing president of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Quigley described the powers as "iniquitous" and said: "How do you measure somebody's religious commitment and moral standing with a view to establishing whether a skilled and qualified teacher should be denied employment on these grounds alone? Yet we have a law which says you can make such judgments and on these grounds alone deny jobs to people in schools which they are funding through their own rates and taxes."

Under the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act, the Roman Catholic Church has the right to veto teachers on grounds of faith. But there are concerns the law conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights which protects people from discrimination on religious grounds.

+ National Secular Society, 25 Red Lion Square, London, England WC1R 4RL

Synod and Assembly Reports Begin Next Week