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CULTURE DIGEST: Most in Ala. favor Ten Comm. displays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A majority of people in Alabama strongly support the public display of monuments to the Ten Commandments, a new poll has found, but they also think the controversy has received too much attention.

The issue has been prominent in the state since last year when former Chief Justice Roy Moore refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

An “Ask Alabama” poll conducted by Auburn University’s Center for Governmental Services found that 54 percent “strongly support” the display of monuments to the Ten Commandments in public or government buildings. Fifteen percent said they “mildly support” such displays, and just 19 percent either strongly or mildly oppose them.

Though most favor the monuments, 58 percent of Alabamians said the issue has received too much attention. Just over 30 percent said the issue had received too little attention, according to a Sept. 7 news release from Auburn University.

Currently about 25 lawsuits alleging that Ten Commandments displays are unconstitutional government endorsements of religion are being waged in state and federal courts.

Concerning the display of religious documents other than the Ten Commandments, 50 percent said they would oppose the public display of material from a non-Christian religious text, such as the Torah or the Koran. Only 29 percent would support such a display, the poll found.

When asked about other issues, nearly 57 percent of the respondents said they would favor a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriages,” while just over 50 percent said they would support state laws making it illegal to discriminate against homosexuals, the news release said.

Ask Alabama was conducted through telephone surveys of 609 voting-age Alabamians in June, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

HOMOSEXUAL BISHOP CRITICIZES CONFLICT — Gene Robinson, the man ordained by the Episcopal Church as the first openly homosexual bishop last year, says people should focus on more important issues than the subject of homosexual rights.

“How self-absorbed can we be, to be fighting over this when people are dying everywhere?” Robinson said at a forum in New York Sept. 9, according to The New York Times. The issues the New Hampshire bishop would rather focus on include the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the victims of genocide in Sudan and the global spread of AIDS.

A church commission in London, meanwhile, has completed its yearlong deliberations on preventing a split over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion spurred by Robinson’s ordination. The commission announced that it will make its recommendations public Oct. 18 and hinted at “radical changes.”

Bishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America have announced they will no longer meet with leaders of the American and Canadian churches in response to their approval of homosexual clergy, and breakaway Episcopal churches in America have increased in the wake of the controversy. Nine of the 112 dioceses in the Episcopal Church USA have voted to affiliate with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, a conservative alliance against ordaining homosexuals, according to The Times.

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council approved a $40 million budget this year, reflecting a 4 percent overall cut in expenses. The move was a response to the expected reduction in financial support, according to Episcopal News Service.

Some Anglicans have called on Robinson to step down from his position in order to calm the crisis, but he has refused and said that would not really help the controversy, The Times said.

Referencing the biblical account of the lame beggar who walked into the temple after being miraculously healed, Robinson said, “I [now] know what it feels like to be inside the temple…. [O]nce liberated, you’re never going to be satisfied being outside.”

Robinson also was quoted as saying, “We have allowed the conservative religious right to take our Bible hostage, and I think it’s time we took it back.”

PATRIOTIC HYMN BANNED IN ENGLAND — A bishop with the Church of England has called on churches to ban the singing of the first verse to “I Vow to Thee, My Country,” a popular hymn for national occasions, because he says it is heretical and contains racist overtones, the Daily Telegraph in London said.

Stephen Lowe, the Bishop of Hulme, said the hymn’s popularity is a symptom of a “dangerous” increase in English nationalism that has parallels with the rise of Nazism. The words, written by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice in 1918, are “totally heretical” because they suggest that people should pledge their allegiance to their country before God, Lowe said.

The hymn was sung at the wedding and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and a version was adapted as the anthem for the Rugby World Cup.

Lowe said he quoted the hymn as one example of his concerns about growing nationalism, according to the Telegraph.

“While I am proud to be English, it is dangerous for a nation to suggest that our culture is somehow superior to others,” he said.

“It is like American culture where there is this view that America is the land of the free when we know it is not. But there are those in America who want to maintain that it is and want to impose their understanding, their culture, their way of doing things on everybody else. That is dangerous,” the bishop added.

SMALL CHARITY MAKES BIG DIFFERENCES — Keith Taylor remembers what it was like to be a financially struggling college student with the generosity of friends and family to help him make ends meet in the worst of times, so he started a charity to facilitate the same kind of small-scale help for hundreds of people who are one missed payment away from losing everything.

Taylor’s endeavor was featured on FoxNews.com Aug. 26. Modest Needs, founded in 2002, is described as an innovative philanthropic organization that uses small donations to help people facing short-term financial problems with a goal of keeping the recipient off public assistance.

“I remember in undergrad and graduate school how I was just scraping by,” Taylor, now a professor of medieval British literature at Middle Tennessee State University, said. “There were lots of times when an unexpected expense — a car repair or a medical bill — could have put me in real trouble. Fortunately, I had people who came through for me.”

Taylor added that the people who helped him were not wealthy but were able to find some modest help to get him through and enable him to become productive.

The average Modest Needs grant is $180, and a single applicant can receive no more than $1,000 for things like a utility bill, a rent check or healthcare invoice, Fox said. Taylor estimates that the $234,000 Modest Needs has given out has saved its recipient families about $7.7 million in possible lost income.

Modest Needs only accepts donations from private individuals, and unlike government aid, checks are sent directly to the creditors of the beneficiaries to prevent abuse of the system.

“What’s been most heartwarming about this project is seeing how everyday people — people who don’t have a lot of money to throw around — are willing to forego [something like] a night out to dinner … to make a modest donation that could mean a world of difference for someone they’ve never met,” Taylor said.

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  • Erin Curry