Religion Notes


Issue: "The gay getaway," May 2, 1998

$4 mil replenishes PK

When Promise Keepers in February announced the layoff of its entire staff of 345 effective March 31, CEO Bill McCartney and other top executives predicted it might be August before finances would permit recall of the workers. But early last month the employees were told to report for work April 16. Records were still incomplete last week, but it appeared about 270 showed up at work in Denver and several small field offices, PK public affairs director Steve Ruppe said. The other 75 or so already had taken jobs elsewhere, he added. An additional two dozen temp-agency employees, unaffected by the layoff, remained in place. The early recall was possible because donors, in response to the crisis, sent more than $4 million to PK's Denver headquarters during March-the best contributions month in the 8-year-old ministry's history, Mr. Ruppe said. Contributions ranged from $5 to $2,000 for individuals to as much as $25,000 given by a California church. Executives said that was enough to meet payroll another two months, keep bills current, and reserve the first few stadiums. They expressed hope that enough money would keep flowing in to enable the ministry to get through the spring and summer conference months and to complete its restructuring. The crunch occurred partly because the ministry had decided to stop charging men $60 fees, due in advance, to attend its 2-day stadium conferences and to depend entirely on contributions instead. This year's target budget is $48 million, including $24 million for operating and payroll costs as well as the conferences. Income last year was $70 million, and in 1996, $87 million. As of mid-April, more than 140,000 men had preregistered for the 19 events this year, Mr. Ruppe said. The figure includes 30,000 for the 80,000-seat Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit May 15 and 16. Normally, he said, the number of advance registrations is much higher by now, but many men have not gotten the message yet that they still need to preregister, even though the event is free. PK expects large numbers of walk-ups at every site. Last year, nearly 640,000 attended 18 stadium events, compared to 1.1 million at 22 events in 1996.

The right to remain silent

The Supreme Court last month declined to hear a professor's challenge to "generic" prayers and moments of silence at Tennessee State University functions. Left undisturbed was a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that generic prayers and moments of silence at university events do not violate the First Amendment. The suit was filed by mechanical engineering professor Dilip Chaudhuri, a Hindu. He had objected to a custom of prayers being offered at graduation exercises, faculty meetings, dedication ceremonies, and guest lectures at the Nashville school. In response, TSU officials decided that all such prayers at university events would be "generic" and nonsectarian. Not satisfied, the teacher then filed suit in federal district court. After he filed the lawsuit, TSU changed its policy to include a moment of silence, rather than a verbal prayer, at graduation exercises. The court dismissed the teacher's claims. In upholding that decision, the appeals court said that generic prayers have a secular purpose of dignifying or memorializing a public event, that they do not entangle church and state, and that they do not impermissibly advance or inhibit religion. The appeals court noted that since Mr. Chaudhuri was not required to participate in any religious exercise, his free exercise claim was "without merit."

In bad faith?

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Four of every five sick children in the United States who died after their parents put their trust in faith healing could probably have survived if medical treatment had been sought. Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, examined 172 child deaths in faith-healing families from 1975 to 1995. Its study concluded that 140 of them, or 81 percent, were due to conditions that had a survival rate exceeding 90 percent with treatment. They also said 18 others would have had better than a 50 percent chance of living if they had been treated. And all but three would have benefited in some way from medical help.


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