"It has made a pro-lifer out of me!"
Michael Clancy, responsible for this photograph of a twenty-one-week old pre-born baby clutching the surgeon's finger after undergoing inutero surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Clancy said it was "absolutely the biggest thing" to happen in his eleven-year career as a news and free-lance photographer, according to a January 9 article in Nashville's The Tennessean. In a phone interview he said he couldn't see how anyone could be "pro-choice" after viewing such a sight. The baby responded well to the surgery and was born fifteen weeks later.
Standing Firm for Life
Florida resumed production of its controversial "Choose Life" license plates after a two-week halt. The National Organization for Women had sought a legal injunction in November, but the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles ignored their filing early in December, stating, "the governor and the Cabinet indicated we needed to go ahead and produce the tag." The license plate features a drawing of two children with the words "Choose Life." All proceeds from its sale go to support groups that advocate adoption. Pro-choice groups contend that the tag carries an anti-abortion message.
Religion Today, December 6, 1999
A Millennial Prayer
Britain's pop stars cursed the success of the Lord's Prayer on the billboard charts in Britain. Sir Cliff Richard, a Christian, is an aging pop musician with fourteen No. 1 hits dating back to the 1950s. His latest hit, the Lord's Prayer set to the music of Auld Lang Syne, spent December at the top of the charts. The song's success was unlikely because radio stations initially refused to play it and Richard's recording label turned it down. Christians responded by playing it in their churches and schools and buying it in droves.
… Younger musicians said the song is of poor quality and exploits people's religious beliefs. British singer George Michael has been most critical. "I think the way the single and the way it's been dealt with has been vile. Just knowing there was a Christian campaign for it – I think it is so exploitive of people's religion."
… Richard maintains a clean image untarnished by scandal. "I have just been astounded by the knives that have come out on a personal level," he said. "I am the one who has been dubbed the 'Nice Boy' of pop. Suddenly I find myself hated." All proceeds from the song go to charity.
Religion Today, December 16, 1999
Omni Hotels – Taking A Stand for Families
Omni Hotels announced in November that it would be removing adult pay-per-view movies from its guest room televisions. According to a November 5 press release, the decision to remove the adult pay-per-view movies was "morally and conscionably driven by the company's ownership in response to what it perceives as a growing need for corporate America to support pro-family issues."
Peter Strebel, Omni Hotels vice president of marketing, said the company's "pro-family" stance regarding its business operations was in direct conflict with the movie service. "Money is not the issue in this matter," said Strebel. "Not all business decisions should be fiscally driven. We believe that this is the right thing to do; the right thing for Omni Hotels, our associates, and our customers."
According to the release, Omni Hotels "believes in championing family values and causes" and has already removed adult magazines from the gift shops at its owned and managed properties.
A November 11 Washington Times article said the move will cost Omni $3 million a year in revenues and an additional $3 million to buy new televisions for all of its 9,100 guest rooms.
… The Times article reported Omni owner Robert Rowlings, a pro-family advocate, made the decision because "it was in direct conflict to his moral ethics, and he didn't want to profit from adult movies."
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned the constitutionality of a portion of the Child Pornography Prevention Act. The section in question made it a crime to possess digital images or videos of people who "appear" to be minors engaging in sexual acts, even if the participants are youthful-looking adults who appear to be under the age of consent.
The decision overturns an August 1997 ruling by U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti, who said fake child porn could be regulated because of "the devastating" effect it has on society and on the well-being of children.
The Ninth Circuit December ruling is contrary to rulings by other appeals courts. Two other district courts have upheld the CPPA. Douglas said that's because those cases dealt with pornography involving actual children, while his group's case raised the question of whether movies with characters portraying minors engaging in sexual acts were breaking the law.
YAHOO! NEWS, December 17, 1999
Teaching Children to Deceive, by Action and Example
Teachers and administrators at thirty-two New York City schools helped students cheat on standardized tests by providing them with questions in advance and even marking test forms for them, according to a special investigator for the city's schools.
His report described crude cheating schemes designed to improve elementary and middle schools' performance on city and state tests.
In one case, third-graders reported an exam proctor told them to write their reading test answers on a piece of scrap paper before putting them on the official test, then the proctor – a school principal – allegedly came around to point out incorrect answers.
As a result, scores at the school improved from 29 percent of third graders reading at the appropriate grade level to 51 percent reading at grade level.
According to the report, proctors at other schools gave answers outright or even wrote on a child's exam.
Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew said all fifty-two school employees named in the report have been removed from their jobs pending the results of the investigation.
Associated Press, December 8, 1999
"We've always been able to decide when we pray. Our city council meetings open with a prayer. Our football games have always opened with a prayer. Our people believe in that, and they don't like being told they can't do that."
– Santa Fe, Texas, Mayor Robert Cheek, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review a lower court's ruling that banned student-led prayers over the public-address system at football games. A decision is expected by late June.
Associated Press, November 16, 1999
Abstinence Sex Education – Gaining Momentum
Abstinence is the message of the vast majority of sex education programs in the country, according to two December reports.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which issued one of the reports, finds that abstinence is stressed by 86 percent of school districts with a policy to teach sexuality education. The second, a national survey of school principals by the Kaiser Family Foundation, finds that 94 percent of secondary school sex-ed programs tell students to just say no to intercourse until emotionally ready or married.
Three years after federal legislation gave states financial incentives to encourage no-sex-unless-married policies, 34 percent of 313 principals interviewed and 35 percent of 825 superintendents say abstinence is promoted as the only option for young people, the surveys say.
"School policy at the local level really does promote abstinence overwhelmingly," said Cory Richards, who co-authored the Guttmacher report, published in the December issue of Family Planning Perspectives.
Richards noted that even in schools that allow for discussion of contraception, abstinence is taught as the preferred option.
These programs can be found across the country, but they are most prevalent in the South and least common in the Northeast.
"We teach that abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard for unmarried, school-aged persons," said Stephen Pryor, spokesman for the Mobile County, Ala., public schools. The district, he explained, follows the mandate set by the state.
Fifteen states require that schools teach abstinence until marriage, and thirteen require lessons about contraception. Some require both.
USA TODAY, December 14, 1999; AP, December 14, 1999