Notebook > Religion

Religion Notes


Issue: "Stand in the gap," Oct. 18, 1997

CAN can sue

The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) may pursue its 1995 lawsuit against the Church of Scientology International and the church's Illinois unit, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. The decision reversed a Cook County court's dismissal of the suit. In its suit, CAN complained that 21 lawsuits filed against it in 1992 and 1993 by Scientologists proved a "conspiracy to maliciously prosecute" it out of business. The high court, noting that the suits were filed within a short period and were either dismissed or settled out of court, said CAN must be given opportunity to prove they were brought "without probable cause and with malice."

Sabbath soccer

They're arguing about kids' soccer on Sundays in Milwaukee. Methodist minister John Sumwalt wrote a letter, asking coaches and tournament organizers not to schedule games on Sunday mornings. More than 50 area clergy joined in the request. Sunday morning soccer conflicts with Sunday school and confirmation classes in many churches, Mr. Sumwalt told reporters. It forces parents and children to make a difficult choice they shouldn't have to make, he said. Weekend tournaments with more than 200 teams and thousands of children make Sabbath-sensitive scheduling next to impossible, organizers said. They did acknowledge switching some games from Saturday to Sunday to accommodate Jewish parents. But relatively few games are scheduled on Sunday mornings, and few parents complain, they insisted. Coaches and parents have been told that religious observance is a valid reason for missing a game or practice, they said. However, soccer official William Gromacki told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he wonders at times whether religion and family togetherness have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of organized soccer and other children's activities. Meanwhile, Mark Botterill, director of a club that fields 11,000 youngsters ages 5 to 19 to play each weekend, suggested that clergy be invited to conduct pre-game services at game sites. In nearby Waukesha, a tournament late last month involving 188 teams and 3,600 players ages 8 to 19 was hosted by a Catholic church. A priest conducted a 7:30 a.m. pre-game mass for parents and players. But that practice may end. A spokesman said the archbishop plans to ban church-sponsored leagues from playing on Sunday mornings.

Return to North Korea

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Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, spoke briefly at one of only three government-sanctioned churches that are open in North Korea during a six-day visit to the famine-stricken communist-run country. As a youngster in the 1930s, she had attended a school in Pyongyang for children of missionaries. She told a Sunday morning congregation at Bongsu Church how those were important years in her spiritual development. Among those accompanying her were son Ned Graham, who heads East Gate Ministries in Seattle. East Gate does Bible distribution and outreach work in China, but also has provided aid to North Korea during the food crisis, according to a release from the Billy Graham organization. The tour included a visit to a tuberculosis diagnostics center where the visiting Americans helped dedicate a modern X-ray unit. It had been donated by Samaritan's Purse, led by the Grahams' older son, Franklin.

Easy come, easy go

Sam Moore, founder and president of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the Nashville-based religious publishing giant, settled a complaint against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC alleged he had illegally pumped up the price of Nelson stock just prior to a 1995 secondary public offering. The SEC said he bought large numbers of shares through his sister's account to overcome a dip in price and push it back up to $20. That was the amount the Nelson directors attached to the offering. As a result, the company took in nearly $360,000 more than if Mr. Moore had not intervened, according to news reports citing SEC documents. Without admitting or denying guilt, Mr. Moore agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty. He also promised not to violate anti-fraud rules in the future. The company agreed to reimburse shareholders who paid more than they should have. Mr. Moore retains the confidence of the board and will remain CEO, a company spokesman told The Washington Post. He suggested Mr. Moore didn't know he was breaking the rules.

And stay out

In Congress, the House International Relations Committee approved a proposal that would ban U.S. visits by representatives of China's officially recognized churches and other religious groups. Human rights violators from China also would be barred from entering. China's government-recognized churches are often a charade, helping to mask persecution of other believers who don't toe the government line. The proposed measure is intended to send a message about persecuted Christians in China prior to the upcoming meeting between President Clinton and Chinese strongman Jiang Zemin. Critics argued that the ploy could backfire, resulting in a ban against American evangelists and others who carry on ministry in China.


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