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CULTURE DIGEST: Stores selling Mature-rated video games to children, study finds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Video game retailers sold Mature-rated video games to minors 36 percent of the time, according to a study by the Parents Television Council to determine whether age restriction policies were being enforced.

At a Target store in Massachusetts, for example, a cashier informed a 13-year-old boy that the computer was instructing him to ID anyone who looked under 35, PTC said in a news release July 23. The boy started to walk away, but the cashier said, “That’s OK. I’ll sell it to you anyway.”

When a woman confronted a comics store manager with the news that his store had sold an M-rated game to a 12-year-old, the manager replied, “Lady, do you have any idea how many kids we have in here every day buying games? Do you think we have the time to look at each and every purchase?”

Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, said the study shows retailers are failing to prevent children from purchasing violent and sexually graphic video games at least one-third of the time.

“Any failure rate is problematic, but the failure rate we’re seeing is downright pathetic,” Winter said. “Similar to age restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, pornography and other products that are potentially harmful to children, parents deserve a reasonable expectation that age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level.

“It is outrageous that retailers are not exercising greater responsibility, and even more absurd that there are no meaningful consequences for those retailers who ignore their industry’s own age restriction policies,” Winter added. “Countless independent studies confirm that repeated exposure to graphic sexual, violent and profanity-laced video games has a harmful and long-term effect on children.

“It is high time for retailers to follow the video game industry guidelines and check IDs so that children will not be able to purchase M-rated video games.”

The study, which was conducted mainly since May, followed a study released that month by the Federal Trade Commission. That study found that retailers sold M-rated video games to minors 20 percent of the time.

“Perhaps the retailers felt the pressure was off after the FTC’s report was published. But frankly, either rate of failure is wholly unacceptable,” Winter said.

Children who participated in the study were instructed to enter the store, find an M-rated game and attempt to purchase it with cash, PTC said. They were instructed to not lie or misrepresent themselves during the process. When games were purchased, the adult who had waited outside the store would return the game and ask for a refund.

Most children who were able to purchase a game said that when the item was scanned for sale at the register a note came up requesting ID, but the cashier ignored it.

“We encourage concerned citizens to contact their congressional representatives to ensure that the video game industry will become more responsible,” Winter said. “America’s children need to be protected from harmful exposure to these products, and parents should be able to rely on the industry’s promises.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, R.-Miss., introduced a bill July 23 that would enforce the age restrictions on video game sales and rentals.

STATE SCIENCE OFFICIAL SUES OVER E-MAIL — Though it’s typically the educators who criticize evolution who are ousted from their sphere of influence, this time a state science curriculum director in Texas was fired for appearing to criticize Intelligent Design.

Christina Comer served as the state science director for nearly a decade before she was fired last fall, and now she is suing the Texas Education Agency and Education Commissioner Robert Scott, contending that she was terminated illegally for forwarding an e-mail about a lecture critical of the ID movement, The Dallas Morning News reported in July.

A Texas Education Agency policy requires employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism, and officials determined the e-mail implied an endorsement of the speaker’s position, the newspaper said. The speaker had written a book asserting that creationist politics were driving the national movement to have Intelligent Design taught in schools.

In the lawsuit, Comer said she was fired without due process, and she said the education agency’s neutrality policy violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion.

Comer’s departure from the education agency coincided with the State Board of Education planning a rewrite of the science curriculum. Texas is one of the largest and most influential textbook buyers in the world, so the state often is known as a trendsetter among educators.

AUDIO BIBLE IS BOOK OF THE YEAR — A USA Today article noted the “changing tastes among evangelical book buyers” after “The Word of Promise,” a 21-hour audio version of the New Testament, was named the 2008 Evangelical Book of the Year.

It was the first time in the contest’s 30-year history that an audio book won the award, and last year saw another first as a novel, Karen Kingsbury’s “Ever After,” received the honor.

Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, which sponsors the awards, told USA Today the group is aware that “content in the future will come from many sources, including digital downloads, and from Christian and secular outlets.”

The Word of Promise is dramatized by actors such as Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene, Lou Diamond Phillips as Mark and Luke Perry as Judas, the newspaper said. An original musical score accompanies the Scripture readings, which are from the New King James Version of the Bible.

Winners are chosen from among 30 finalists in six categories, and this was the first year that eligibility was extended to audio books.

BARNA EXAMINES WHAT AMERICANS WANT — What Americans want most in life varies clearly depending on their spiritual commitment, a recent study by The Barna Group found. Evangelicals, notional Christians and atheists, among others, gave significantly different answers when they were asked to rate what goals are important to them in life.

“The data provide a distinct image of each faith group,” George Barna said. “Evangelicals are intensely driven by their faith. Their life is substantially influenced by their beliefs, and their lifestyle choices and aspirations reflect the centrality of their spirituality.

“Non-evangelical born again adults consider faith to be important but it is not the defining aspect of their existence; it is influential but not the determining factor,” Barna added. “Notional Christians treat faith as just one of many dimensions of their life that serves a purpose, but it is not a driving force at all.

“Skeptics have replaced faith with a passion for healthy longevity and personal pleasure gained through world travel, sexual experiences and obtaining knowledge,” he said. “They are substantially less focused on relationships and legacy than are other groups. They tend to be less concerned about finding or pursuing a purpose in life because a majority of them believe life has no purpose beyond comfort and pleasure.”

Barna said about 10 percent of Americans included in the study had decided that a pursuit of God was their main goal while about 10 percent wanted the exact opposite.

“And then there are the 80 percent or so who are at every other conceivable point along the continuum in between those two extremes,” he said. “America is a nation dramatically affected by the faith views of its people.”

For more information, visit www.barna.org.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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