National | Religion

Issue: "Why the long face, Fidel?," May 1, 2004

Banned in Beijing

Su Wenxing is an orchestra and chorus conductor in Hebei, China, the populous province that surrounds Beijing. He also is a 1996 convert to Christianity. Last year he led Handel's "Messiah" as a guest conductor in the cities of Guangzhou in China's south and Qingdao in the east. Both concerts were first canceled by local officials but then reinstated. He was to lead a concert of Christian-themed music by the prestigious chorus of the China National Orchestra in Beijing one Saturday last month. The concert was to include "Easter Chorus," a medley based on Bible narratives. At the last minute, the Ministry of Culture ordered the orchestra to withdraw.

Mr. Su said officials declined to explain their action. He insisted there was nothing political about the music. China's Communist government, officially atheist, allows worship in government-monitored churches; public and cultural activities require government permits. Authorities are said to be nervous about the rapid growth of Christianity throughout the country.

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One Army that asks- and tells

The new leaders at the Salvation Army's New York City unit are placing greater emphasis on the church's evangelical faith. They also are requiring more information and closer evaluation of Army social workers' "character and fitness to work with children." (The New York Army branch's Social Services for Children unit employs about 1,000 social workers and receives $80 million annually in city and state grants.)

But the changes have gotten the Army into trouble with the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU charges in a lawsuit that the Army, among other things, is requiring too much private and sensitive religious information from its workers. The legal-activist group also objects to giving the Army taxpayer funds "to practice religious discrimination against its social services employees." Army officials told reporter Mark Kellner that the Army may have to revise some of its forms, but it won't back down from its requirement that employees respect the Army's Christian mission. They said that even if the city cuts off its funding, the Army will still be a Christian church and do the work it can.

Chaplain Yee goes free

U.S. Army Muslim chaplain Capt. James Yee, 35, is off the hook. The general who heads the Southern Command threw out the reprimand he received for committing adultery and downloading pornography-violations the military rarely prosecutes. Capt. Yee earlier spent 76 days in detention after the military linked him to a possible espionage ring involving suspected Muslim terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The military dropped those charges for lack of evidence. As for the morals infractions, Gen. James T. Hill said he thinks Capt. Yee's "misconduct was wrong," but he doesn't believe "further stigmatizing" him "would serve a just and fair purpose."

Bulletin Board

A security camera caught Svend Robinson, 52, a member of the Canadian parliament since 1979, stealing an expensive ring at a public jewelry sale on Good Friday. He is the author of the controversial bill that adds sexual orientation as a protected category in Canada's genocide and hate-crimes legislation. Violators face jail sentences of up to five years. Many foes of the bill, including some members of parliament, say it is a dangerous law that will muzzle free speech. Mr. Robinson, who has stepped down from his post for the investigation, confessed his crime at a news conference: "Something just snapped."

Programs that challenge young people to abstain from sexual activity until marriage significantly reduce the rate of out-of-wedlock births, according to a national study of adolescent health released by the Heritage Foundation. The study began tracking teens and young adults in 1994. It found that young women who take a virginity pledge are at least 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock and 12 times more likely to be virgins when they marry.

Move over, New International Version (NIV, Zondervan) and English Standard Version (ESV, Crossway); here's the newest evangelical-produced Bible on the block: the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). A team of 100 translators, editors, and biblical scholars sought to avoid "slang, regionalisms, or changes made specifically for the sake of political or social agendas"-a slap at "gender-neutral" language in some modern Bible versions (including an NIV makeover due next year, Today's New International Version).

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal from an Indiana state trooper fired for refusing to work at a casino for religious reasons. Trooper Benjamin Endres said he couldn't comply when the state assigned him as a full-time gaming officer and ordered him to report to a casino. He sued the state but lost. A federal appeals court said the law doesn't require police and fire departments to assign workers to duties compatible with their principles.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman


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