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CULTURE DIGEST: Republican lawmakers spar with Supreme Court; Anglican Council upholds marriage standards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Congressional Republicans are not giving up the fight against what they consider to be inappropriate and inconsistent rulings by the Supreme Court, with some members of their ranks proposing legislation to balance the impact of various controversial decisions.

“This Congress is just not going to sit by and let an unaccountable judiciary make these kinds of decisions,” Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House Republican leader, said at a news conference June 30, according to The New York Times.

Highest on the list of grievances some Republicans have with the nation’s top court are the recent split decisions over the Ten Commandments and the ruling that would allow government to claim private property for economic development.

Representative Ernest Istook, R.-Okla., announced from the Supreme Court steps June 30 that he was proposing a constitutional amendment backed by 109 House members that would guard references to God on public property, The Times reported.

“This amendment will protect displays of the Ten Commandments, in Kentucky as well as Texas,” Istook said. “It will protect the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. It will protect the ability for school children to pray at school, individually or together. It will protect our national motto of ‘In God we trust.'”

The same day, the House voted 231-189 in favor of a measure that would limit the government’s power of eminent domain by prohibiting federal financing for property seizures, The Times reported.

DeLay expressed discontent with the Supreme Court’s “incredibly confusing” decisions in the past 20 years on the Ten Commandments and the role of religion, according to The Washington Times.

“To base decisions on religion upon a letter written by Thomas Jefferson and having no relevance to the Constitution of the United States gets you into this mess,” he said, referring to an 1802 letter in which Jefferson coined the phrase “a wall of separation between church and state.”

ANGLICAN COUNCIL STANDS AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY — The international Anglican Consultative Council voted June 22 to reaffirm traditional Christian teachings that advocate sexual relations inside a marriage between one man and one woman and oppose all other forms of sexual activity.

The resolution also called again for the Episcopal Church USA and the Canadian Anglicans to “voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council” and other decision-making bodies until 2008, according to a report by the Institute on Religion and Democracy. The Anglican primates had made the original request in response to the two groups’ acceptance of homosexual ordinations and blessings for same-sex unions.

Erik Nelson, managing editor of IRD’s “Faith & Freedom” commended Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola for petitioning the council to make room on its agenda to address the homosexuality matter. Anglican delegates from Africa, Asia and Latin America, often called the Global South, stood strong against the antics of the Episcopal Church and the Canadian Anglicans, IRD noted.

“It seems clear that, in defending its actions, the Episcopal Church was not offering an argument from Scripture and Christian tradition — as had been requested,” Nelson said of the meeting. “Instead the Episcopal delegates tried to argue against Scripture and the tradition, suggesting that they did not apply or gave no clear teaching regarding homosexuality. But delegates from the Global South weren’t buying it.”

COURT UPHOLDS GOV. ABSTINENCE WEBSITE — In a ruling against the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal court in Louisiana said a website promoting abstinence run by the state government does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous ruled June 23 that the Governor’s Program on Abstinence website, which includes religious references, does not constitute an excessive entanglement between government and religion.

The decision follows a 2002 court order also initiated by the ACLU and decided by Porteous that required the state to stop using public money to promote religion in any way. Porteous found that the Governor’s Program on Abstinence had been using taxpayer dollars to purchase Bibles and religious tapes.

In his latest decision related to the program, Porteous said religious references on the website do not amount to an endorsement of religion.

ACLU members are considering an appeal.

“If telling kids that abstaining from sex will bring them closer to God isn’t religion, I don’t know what is,” Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU, told the Associated Press. “Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to deliver sermons.”

Among the complaints raised by the ACLU were a script for a “Wedding Skit” featuring a minister figure making reference to God and a link to religious material declaring sex outside marriage as “one sin above all others as the most destructive to your soul and spirit.”

The state defended the website by saying religious references in the linked material are accompanied by an advisory warning, “Faith-based content,” AP said.

METH SURPASSES POT AS WORST DRUG — Law enforcement agencies have now declared methamphetamine the No. 1 illegal drug problem in the nation, ranking it above cocaine, marijuana and heroin.

A survey of law enforcement officials in 500 counties in 45 states released July 5 by the National Association of Counties said less than 20 percent of law enforcers consider marijuana their top obstacle these days. Meth, they said, was behind an increase in other crimes and was seen as the largest drug problem in every area of the nation except the Northeast, USA Today reported.

Methamphetamine, which can be made from basic ingredients like cold medicines and fertilizer, is a form of speed that is usually smoked or injected.

“On the national level, the federal government still considers marijuana as the No. 1 drug problem in America, but county law enforcement officials have a different perspective on this ranking,” the association said.

David Murray, a policy analyst for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told USA Today the Bush administration is developing a national response to the meth problem while remembering that marijuana is still a substantial threat. He noted that marijuana remains the most commonly used illegal drug with 15 million users, while about 1 million people routinely use methamphetamine.

But local law enforcement officials are calling for help in curbing the meth trend because dealing with individuals caught for the crime is draining their budgets. About 90 percent of the survey respondents reported increases in meth-related arrests in their counties over the last three years, the Associated Press reported.

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  • Erin Curry