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Religion Notes


Issue: "Clinton: Final straw?," March 28, 1998

Missing the jackpot

Eighteen percent of men and women at America's rescue missions cite gambling as a cause of their homelessness, according to an informal survey conducted by the International Union of Gospel Missions. The study also found that 82 percent of mission clients gambled or played the lottery when they had steady employment. The figure shrank to 23 percent as they became homeless, but rose to 37 percent once they began to pull their lives together, an IUGM report said. Lotteries are the most popular method of gambling: 86 percent said they used to play or still play the lottery, compared to 34 percent at casinos and 25 percent at horse and dog tracks. Overall, 86 percent of respondents said that gambling, including lotteries, is addictive. The survey involved a random sample of 1,100 clients at 42 of the nearly 250 IUGM missions across the country; 92 percent of the clients were male and 56 percent aged 31-45. Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president of the American Gaming Association, alleged the survey was a sensationalistic attempt to tarnish the gaming industry. Homelessness "is a complex issue with many facets," the former Republican National Committee chairman said. Mr. Fahrenkopf's group insists that fewer than 2 percent of the people who gamble in casinos become addicted to it. But experts say gambling addiction is a growing problem. A federal commission has estimated that 4.4 million Americans are compulsive gamblers. "With the expansion of legalized gambling ... it was just a matter of time before we would see an increase of compulsive gamblers in homeless shelters," said Valerie Lorentz, executive director of Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore.

Feds ease regs on Christian stations

Religious broadcasters may now use religious belief or affiliation as a job qualification for all positions at their stations, Federal Communications Commission officials announced last month. The FCC generally requires broadcasters to adhere to its equal employment opportunities rules, but it had granted a limited exemption for religious broadcasters that applied to employees hired to "espouse religious views over the air." The FCC said that the new policy "will eliminate the potential danger of impermissible governmental interference with a religious broadcaster's judgment in the conduct and definition of its religious affairs." It also will end the FCC's time-consuming practice of deciding on a case-by-case basis which job category involves espousal of the broadcaster's religious views.

Keep off the Sabbath

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The Massachusetts Council of Churches, noting a "pattern of public insensitivity to the religious traditions of our churches," has asked schools, sports leagues, and charity organizers to rethink their schedules. Increasingly, sports events and other activities are competing with churches for the involvement of their parishioners-or disturbing services, MCC officials said. They cited as an example a public parade that disbanded on a church's lawn during Sunday worship.

In Egypt: Palau packs them in

Overflow crowds of more than 4,000 greeted Oregon-based evangelist Luis Palau this month during a four-day campaign centered at Cairo's largest Protestant church but involving more than 500 other churches across Egypt. Videotapes of the Cairo meetings were shown the following night at the other churches. Campaign chairman Sameh Tewfik, associate pastor of the Kasr-el-Bobara Church, where Mr. Palau preached, estimated attendance at the other churches at more than 100,000 per night. Churches in Aswan that seat as many as 400 reported having to turn people away, he said. As part of the preparations, he said his church, using Palau materials, had trained 3,200 church members to serve as counselors. At a Friday meeting, the evangelist addressed some 1,200 Egyptian pastors and Christian leaders from other Middle Eastern nations.

President Patterson?

Paige Patterson, the theologian who helped bring about conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention nearly 20 years ago and also led the SBC battle against gender-neutral Bibles last year, likely will become the SBC's next president. His candidacy was announced at an annual SBC pastor's conference last month, and he will be nominated at the SBC annual convention in June at Salt Lake City by James Merritt, a Georgia pastor who chairs the influential SBC Executive Committee. Mr. Patterson is president of Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. In the late 1970s, he and Paul Pressler, an appeals court judge in Houston, crafted a plan to mobilize conservatives to capture and retain the SBC presidency. Their idea, which largely succeeded, was to use the office's appointive powers to gradually turn the nation's largest Protestant denomination from a leftward theological drift.


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