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CULTURE DIGEST: N.C. pastor may run for Sen.

NASHVILLE (BP) — Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is considering a Republican challenge to incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.

Harris, a Southern Baptist at the forefront of last year’s fight for North Carolina’s marriage amendment, is weighing the bid in response to a group of Republicans who want him to seek the U.S. Senate nomination in next year’s election, the Charlotte Observer reported.

“I’m certainly humbled and flattered by the confidence that these folks have expressed,” Harris said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming, to be honest. Right now we’re doing two things. One … doing a lot of listening to people and the second and most importantly to me is just to pray and seek God’s leadership … and see if that’s His plan for me.”

Harris met in early May with about 70 North Carolinians trying to convince him to run. Top Georgia Republican Tom Perdue, who has worked with North Carolina Republican chairman Robin Hayes, helped orchestrate the meeting in Charlotte. Perdue said he’s helping gauge grassroots support for a Harris bid, although the decision is in God’s hands.

“Go write your neighbors and coworkers and see if there is a groundswell of people who want a godly man like this to run for public office,” the Observer quoted Perdue as saying. “I did make clear the goal is not to get Mark to run for the U.S. Senate. The goal is to get Mark to do God’s will for his life. And everybody left with that.”

Harris was a vocal supporter of Amendment One to define marriage in North Carolina as between a man and a woman, and he has been politically active by hosting Republican precinct meetings at his church, according to the Observer. Former presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have spoken there.

Harris has pastored First Baptist Charlotte five years and formerly led Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons and Curtis Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.

Republicans will choose their nominee for the Senate seat next year. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, N.C. Senate President Phil Berger, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers and former Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Wheeler are said to be considering the race.

BAPTISTS, MUSLIMS AMONG ONLY BRITISH NOT TO BACK ASSISTED SUICIDE — Baptists, Muslims and Hindus in Great Britain have one thing in common: They are the only religious groups whose self-identified members do not support legalizing assisted suicide.

The results of a survey released April 30 showed those three religious groups were the only ones in which a majority did not agree with changing British law to permit assisted suicide for people with incurable diseases. The poll found 43 percent of respondents who identified as Baptists supported legalizing assisted suicide, while only 26 percent of Muslims and 36 percent of Hindus backed such a change.

The breakdown of support among others who self-identified by religious tradition was: Roman Catholic, 56 percent; Presbyterian, 61; Methodist, 62; Jewish, 69; Anglican, 72; and none, 81.

The survey found opposition to assisted suicide was strongest among people “who take authority from religious sources –- like scripture or simply ‘God’ -– rather than from relying on their own judgment, who believe in God with certainty, and who actively participate in a religious group,” according to a release from the Religion and Society Programme. The leading reason such religious adherents gave for opposing assisted suicide was “human life is sacred” at 80 percent.

The survey showed overall, 70 percent of the British public supports legalizing assisted suicide, while only 16 percent oppose and 14 percent “don’t know.”

YouGov conducted the survey for the Westminster Faith Debates.

VIRGINIA ABORTION CLINIC CLOSES AFTER RULES APPROVED — A Norfolk, Va., abortion clinic closed April 20 after 40 years in business.

The Hillcrest Clinic, the first abortion center in the South Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia, shut its doors because of the state’s new clinic regulations and a decline in the demand for abortions, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

The Virginia Board of Health gave final approval April 12 to new rules that require abortion clinics to comply with hospital-like building standards.

Pro-life advocates were thankful for the clinic’s closure.

“Prayers are always answered. And the prayers are answered in God’s time, not ours,” said Christine Martinez, the newspaper reported. Martinez had been picketing outside the clinic for more than 15 years.

EMILY’S LIST PRESIDENT MAY RUN FOR U.S. SENATE — EMILY’s List, which seeks to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, may soon have one of its own to support.

EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock told reporters May 2 she is considering a race for the 2014 Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D.-Mont., according to Congressional Quarterly Roll Call. Baucus recently announced his retirement after what will be 36 years when it takes effect in 2015.

The report came on the same day EMILY’s List announced its Madam President Campaign. The effort to elect a woman to the White House comes as Hillary Clinton weighs a run for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

EMILY’s List recruits, trains and supports Democratic pro-choice women for election to Congress and in the states. EMILY stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast.”
Compiled by Diana Chandler and Tom Strode of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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