Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

"In Brief" Continued...

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

Man knows not his time

Rev. Paul Lindstrom, educator, homeschooling pioneer, and pastor of the Church of Christian Liberty in Arlington Heights, Ill., for 38 years, died on May 22 at his home in suburban Chicago from cancer of the liver. He was 62. He launched the well-known Christian Liberty Academy, a day school now with nearly 1,000 students, in 1968, and began organizing the homeschooling movement the following year. The academy published materials for homeschoolers. He also established an international network of schools; his Christian Liberty Academy School System enrolls more than 35,000 students worldwide. - Edward E. Plowman

And stay out

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., last month upheld the ouster of conservative Episcopal priest Samuel Edwards from Christ Church in Accokeek, Md. In a case followed closely in Episcopal circles, former acting bishop Jane Dixon had refused to accept the newly called rector. She cited his opposition to "un-Christian" developments in the denomination and women's ordination. After he said he could accept her administrative role but not her sacramental role, she ordered him out of the pulpit and off church property. But he and the church's governing board refused to comply. Bishop Dixon filed suit. A lower court said her power was absolute: Rev. Edwards would have to leave. - Edward E. Plowman

Render unto Costco

Zoning disputes that pit city and county agencies against churches are fairly common across the country: Neighbors may object to expansion of facilities, and officials may fight to keep property on the tax rolls by rejecting church bids to buy commercial sites. But the city council of Cyprus in Orange County, Calif., took an uncommon-and drastic-action against 4,000-member Cottonwood Christian Center of neighboring Los Alamitos. The city fathers, acting as the community's redevelopment agency, voted unanimously last month to seize by eminent domain an 18-acre site the church had purchased in 1999 for $14 million with the intent to relocate there. The action would force the church to sell the site, part of a 300-acre tract earmarked for redevelopment, to the city for $14.6 million to make way for a Costco-anchored shopping strip. The church has filed suit in federal court to block the action. Legal authorities described the city's move as the most aggressive one against any church since the passage of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. It is a law that restricts cities from limiting church development in favor of tax dollars churches don't provide. Soon after purchasing the property, Cottonwood applied for a permit to build a $50 million worship center. City officials rejected the application and instead entered into exclusive negotiations with discounter Costco. The church in January sued the city officials, citing the federal land-use law and seeking to force them to permit construction of the building. That case was still pending at the time of the eminent-domain decision. Area residents are divided. Some say new jobs, quality services, and convenient shopping are important to them. Cottonwood's senior pastor, Bayless Conley, wonders why the city wants his church's 18-acre plot when there's so much other available land around it. - Edward E. Plowman

Latino shift

A new study has confirmed a trend that has been making many people sit up and take notice: Growing numbers of Hispanics in the United States, especially younger ones, are moving from Catholic to Protestant churches. And, the study found, many Hispanic Christians think churches should be more involved in public issues. Among those noticing: President Bush. He joined more than 800 Hispanic clergy and lay leaders at the Capital Hilton in Washington last month for a national Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by two evangelical Hispanic alliances. He drew applause when he referred to a "spiritual revolution" that is catching hold among many young Hispanics. And when he said, "For some people, Jesus' admonition to 'care for the least of these' is an admirable moral teaching. For many Hispanic Americans, it's a way of life," he received a standing ovation. He also gave a plug for pending faith-based legislation. - Edward E. Plowman

EEOC vs. Duke Nukem

When Frances Wagner, a software technical support telephone operator in Colorado, was transferred to a call center specializing in problems related to popular kill-'em games Doom, Hexen, Quake, and Duke Nukem, she objected on religious grounds. Such violence conflicted with her strong Christian beliefs, she said. Her employer, the Tampa-based Sykes Enterprises, tried to find another slot for her, but a physical impairment ruled out that particular assignment, and Sykes balked at retaining her in her original job. The company then fired her. That was in 1997. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has now filed a lawsuit against Sykes on behalf of Ms. Wagner, 51. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order aimed at implementing policies to prevent religious discrimination at Sykes. Sykes didn't return media calls seeking comment. EEOC lawyer Karen Weeks in Denver says the lawsuit is unusual in that it is directly related to the work itself. "Normally, in religious-belief cases," she told a reporter, "the conflict comes when the employee wants to leave work and attend some sort of religious event or ceremony." - Edward E. Plowman

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