We're in this together
Promise Keepers founder and president Bill McCartney was in tears as he made the stunning announcement to more than 300 PK employees at an extended three-hour morning chapel session Feb. 18 in Denver: All staff will be laid off as of March 31, and unpaid volunteers would try to keep the financially troubled ministry going until things stabilize, he hopes by August. A series of stadium conferences in 19 cities (down from the 46 announced last fall), scheduled to start this spring under a new no-charge policy for participants, will take place only if "national sponsors" and local organizers pay for them, he announced. (Headquarters volunteers will help with preparations for the rallies, a news release said.) "I have a broken heart," the former head football coach at the University of Colorado told his staffers. But he held out hope for a financial miracle, saying God had told him to ask America's churches to send $1,000 each to save the ministry. "We have seen how God has used this ministry to change men's lives and lead them back to church. Now, as the fees to all events are removed, it is time for those churches to assist us in our mission to men." Gathered with Mr. McCartney on the dais at the downtown church used for PK's chapel services were PK's senior managers, most also in tears. A few in the audience broke down and wept as Mr. McCartney explained PK's plight, witnesses told WORLD later the same day. Hardly anyone in the auditorium, however, was caught by complete surprise. It was no secret that income had been shrinking steadily and the ministry had been struggling to make payroll of late. Some department managers had been informed of the announcement the day before, and word spread rapidly through employee ranks overnight, sources said. Reached at his desk following the chapel session, a PK mid-level executive summarized PK's predicament in two words: "We're broke." At the beginning of that week, another PK source said, the ministry potentially owed $5 million but had only $40,000 in the bank, a figure that could not immediately be confirmed. (In his chapel talk, Mr. McCartney pledged that all PK vendors would be paid.) In previous years, $60 registration fees for the two-day stadium events covered costs and provided a steady stream of income, accounting for about 70 percent of PK's revenues. Donations accounted for 10 percent, sales the remainder. Altogether, 64 conferences have been held since the first one in 1991 in Boulder, Colo., with more than 2.5 million men in attendance. PK grew rapidly its first four years. Too fast, says a retired ministry manager who has studied PK but asked not to be identified for professional reasons. PK was exceeding its ability to recruit enough capable administrators and give them time to test systems, consolidate gains, and track finances-a sure prescription for bankruptcy in the business realm, he told WORLD. Warning signals appeared in July 1996, when the 62,000-seat Superdome in New Orleans was only half-filled, and PK took its first big loss. Last year, 40 percent fewer men attended conferences than in 1996. PK's budget was a record $117 million, but income fell shy of $70 million. Perplexed, Mr. McCartney called for elimination of the conference fees so there would be no financial barriers to participation, and reliance instead on contributions to take up the slack. The PK board unanimously approved. PK leaders counted on fundraising appeals to bring in enough money to pay for the gigantic Washington, D.C., mall rally in October, which attracted hundreds of thousands of men (WORLD, Oct. 18, 1997), and to carry the ministry well into 1998. However, donors gave barely enough to pay for the $9.8-million rally itself. The chapel ended with the staffers dividing into threesomes for 10 minutes of prayer for each other and the ministry. In a sense, Mr. McCartney was making good on a promise. Last July, with red ink flowing heavily, PK reduced staff from 525 to 367 with early buy-outs and layoffs. Staff morale sagged as the crisis worsened following the Washington gathering. At a staff retreat in November, he pledged there would be no further reductions. "We're all in this together," he said. "If one can't get paid, then no one will be paid."
And the winner is
What would constitute a presidential dream team for Christian voters? A poll last week of 65 top leaders of the Christian Coalition yielded a surprising ticket: Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.). Such a ticket has several problems: First, nominees from neighboring midwestern states don't provide much geographical balance. Besides that, Mr. Huckabee has not expressed any desire to run in 2000. Nevertheless, the poll is interesting as an indication of the leaders some Christian voters may identify with most strongly. The third-place finish by Steve Forbes shows he's come a long way in rebuilding his appeal after largely dismissing Christian voters in 1996. Tying for third was Rep. J.C. Watts (R.-Okla.), who, like Mr. Huckabee, is popular with religious audiences but has no national organization. Dan Quayle, on the other hand, is building an organization and raising lots of money, yet making little headway. He finished sixth.
The day after she was convicted of capital murder last week, former Naval Academy midshipman Diane Zamora used a razor blade to cut herself on the upper left arm, prompting prison authorities to place the 20-year-old woman under a 24-hour suicide watch. A jury convicted Ms. Zamora of killing a 16-year-old romantic rival in 1995, rejecting her defense that an abusive boyfriend manipulated her into a confession. Her ex-fiancé David Graham will be tried later for his alleged role in the slaying.
Settle matters quickly
A Houston man who sued the Hertz car rental company over $17.90 lost his case last week and is out almost half a million dollars in legal fees. Hertz attorney Geoffrey Harrison said the verdict sends a message that people "ought to at least pick up the phone and try to resolve their differences before running down to the courthouse to sue."
Red taping the red-light district
If you can't legislate morality, at least in Pikeville, Ky., you can regulate immorality. Realizing perhaps the potential ACLU legal headaches that might have arisen from banning so-called escort services, city officials enacted an ordinance "so tight you couldn't run a church under it," in the words of the would-be founder of LaFemme Erotica/Fantasy Girl Escort Service. Actually, the churches do just fine in Pikeville. But now, those who would operate escort services-such as Eugene E. King, who sought the business license that led the city commission to act-must comply with a dizzying new array of rules. Besides requiring background checks on escort service owners and their employees, the ordinance sets a curfew of midnight to 8 a.m.; prohibits escorts from drinking alcohol on duty; forbids escorts to "remove or offer to remove any article of clothing ... or to allow or offer to allow the exposure or contact with the sexual organs ..."; and requires escorts' hemlines to be no higher than 6 inches above the knee, necklines no lower than 4 inches below the collarbone. In addition to the $3,500 licensing fee, fingerprinting, and criminal background check, there's still more: While on the job, escorts are required to wear a photo ID card, which must carry "across the top in bold type" the title ESCORT. Larry Webster, a local newspaper columnist, put it in perspective: "Imagine that your station in life had come to the point that you had to hire a prom date, and then you go to take this escort with you that has a sign that says, 'Hello, my name is Trixie. I was hired. This guy can't get a regular date.'" Now, this guy will have to do without, because Mr. King has left town. "I guess it was a small-town city commission's best effort at protecting our people from something we were all vehemently opposed to," said Pikeville mayor Steve Combs. "I don't think we need it here. We like to grow, but that's one way we don't want to grow."
With scandal brewing and sabers rattling, most Americans no doubt paid scant attention to a disturbing new report about the Immigration and Naturalization Service. An extensive audit of the INS's work from August 1995 to September 1996 discovered an almost total breakdown of proper immigration procedure, resulting in citizenship's being granted to almost 39,000 immigrants who failed to meet the basic requirements. Nearly a third of those have prior criminal convictions, which by itself should have barred them from citizenship. The INS audit, conducted by the accounting firm KPMG Peak Marwick, also found that immigration workers apparently aren't paying very close attention to their work. Auditors discovered one or more processing errors in over 90 percent of the cases reviewed. INS error rates in Miami, New York, and Newark, N.J., topped 99 percent. INS "removal teams" are working on revoking citizenship for as many as 6,300 immigrants who wrongly were made citizens (that compares with only eight revocations from 1993-1996). And what about the rest of the 39,000? Immigration officials say all they can do is shrug their collective shoulders and forget about them. The standards for taking away citizenship are more stringent than the standards for granting citizenship. To Republicans, the new audit is further evidence of the politicization of the INS by the Clinton White House. During the period examined by Peat Marwick, the administration was pushing its Citizenship USA campaign, which critics charge was a thinly veiled attempt to swell the voter rolls with people likely to pull the lever in favor of Democrats in 1996. Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in Sacramento, Calif., added to concerns about the INS's apparent lack of care and diligence when it charged 20 people with running a scheme to falsify results on citizenship tests. Investigators believe the 20, who were private testers under contract to the INS, helped as many as 13,000 immigrants pass the tests illegally. U.S. Attorney Paul Seave called the testing scheme "appalling," saying it cheapened the honor of U.S. citizenship. "Generations of immigrants have sacrificed and labored mightily" to become citizens, he said. "These defendants have tarnished that honor for everyone." True. But the INS itself, under the direction of the Clinton White House, seems to have done a good bit of tarnishing of its own.
Wake up and smell the KoFi
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan traveled to Iraq in a mission he hoped could mean the difference between war and peace. The UN leader hoped to persuade Saddam Hussein to comply with UN resolutions and avert U.S. air strikes. Diplomats in Iraq, including some of the UN's own employees, meanwhile, were preparing for war: UN humanitarian workers were moved to Jordan and several embassies began evacuating "nonessential" personnel in anticipation of a military showdown. The State Department, which does not have an official delegation in Baghdad, warned Americans in Kuwait and throughout the region to assemble their belongings and papers in anticipation of sudden departure. A town-hall meeting at Ohio State University Feb. 18 made plain that President Clinton's popularity does not extend to his foreign policy team. An audience of 6,000 persistently jeered at Defense Secretary William Cohen, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger as they tried to drum up support for the "moral right" to use force against Iraq. Civilian concern about the campaign against Iraq is echoed among military leaders. The Wall Street Journal reported that military experts and unnamed generals question whether the limited airstrikes can achieve the president's goals.
The delegation of American religious leaders visiting China asked the communist government to release about 30 religious prisoners. Delegation leaders gave the list of names to Ye Xiaowen, the government official in charge of religious affairs. The American group, which includes Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, attended services Feb. 15 at two Beijing churches-Catholic and Protestant-sanctioned by the Chinese government. The delegation is scheduled to return in March to the United States.
Burden of proof
A federal judge last week made it nearly impossible for Texas cattlemen to win their product libel case against Oprah Winfrey. Their beef with the TV megastar cannot continue under a Texas food defamation law, the judge held, but can proceed under statutes that require a much heavier burden of proof. The cattlemen claim Ms. Winfrey's anti-beef remarks caused cattle prices to plummet.
British officials threatened to expel Sinn Fein from Northern Ireland peace talks for its link to two killings by the IRA. Leaders of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, took their case to the Irish Republic's High Court in Dublin for an order forbidding their expulsion from the talks. Lawyers for the British argued that the Irish court had no jurisdiction because it was established under legislation approved by the British Parliament.