Traditional Christmas Story Reading Restored

Weekly summary of world news

Norm Olson November 24, 2010

City officials in Maryville, Tenn., have restored the traditional Christmas story reading at its Christmas celebration this year, reports  The Christian Post. After a year of silence, residents of Maryville will once again hear the Bible reading of Jesus’ birth at its annual Christmas tree lighting in December. The reading, a 22-year-old tradition in Blount County, was cut last year due to legal concerns. “We congratulate the city for returning the reading of the Christmas story to its celebration. It is sad when government official[s] censor the essence of Christmas based on misguided opinions of the Constitution,” remarked Liberty Counsel, a Christian litigation and policy organization, in a statement last Thursday. Liberty Counsel became involved in the dispute after the city’s attorney told Maryville officials that the Christmas reading, taken from the book of Luke, was unconstitutional. Maryville attorney Melanie Davis said she had come to that conclusion based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Maryville public information officer Pam Arnett told Blount Today that an individual had contacted the city last year to express concern about the reading. “The individual was not upset, but was concerned about the separation of church and state,” Arnett told Blount Today. However, Liberty Counsel Founder Mathew Staver met with Maryville city officials and asserted that the reading is a protected free speech. Banning the reading, he argued, would be unconstitutional. Staver explained that this case was the result of a misunderstanding of the Constitution. Though the event is sponsored by the city and county governments, the readings are presented by a local church. Staver’s organization sponsors the Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, which seeks to educate government agencies and privately run companies about legal ways to celebrate the holiday. He noted that sometimes Christmas celebrations are banned due to opposition to the Christian faith more than anything else.

Other news

  • The International Planned Parenthood Federation is promoting a new bill in Peru that would lower the age of sexual consent to 14 years of age, provoking outrage from pro-family groups and warnings that the country could be converted into a “sexual paradise” for child predators, reports LifeSiteNews. While the bill’s proponents claim that the law is necessary to prevent teens from being prosecuted for consensual sexual intercourse, opponents say that it will increase the level of sexual activity among teens, who rarely have sexual relations in conservative Peru, and open them up to easy exploitation by adults.
  • The UK’s Daily Mail last week finished a three-part series on the sexual habits of modern Britons with a feature linking casual sex and Britain’s notoriously high rates of abortion among single women, reports LifeSiteNews. The Mail’s survey showed that almost half of British women (48 percent) in their 20s have had a one-night stand. For women in their 30s and 40s, the percentage was 46 and 45 percent, respectively. Twenty-three percent of women in their 20s have had at least one abortion, with 17 and 22 percent for women in their 30s and 40s. More than one-third of women surveyed in their 50s have had casual sexual encounters. Anthony Ozimic, communications officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews that the pro-abortion lobby is largely to blame for having created this sexual free-for-all that is damaging women.
  • Despite the rising figures for cohabitation, divorce, and single parent child rearing, a new study by the Pew Research Center on how Americans view marriage and family shows only 5 percent of those under 30 don’t plan on getting married, reports LifeSiteNews. With the marginally misleading title of “The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families,” the study, based on census data and a telephone poll of 2,691 adults conducted Oct. 1–21, found that traditional marriage as the most viable basis of society is in no danger of disappearing. “Marriage, while declining among all groups, remains the norm for adults with a college education and good income but is now markedly less prevalent among those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder,” the Pew report states. The survey found that those in this less-advantaged group are as likely as others to want to marry, but they place a higher premium on economic security as a condition for marriage. However, the survey also found striking differences by generation. “In 1960, two-thirds (68%) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26% were,” the report revealed. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, charged that mainstream media interpretations of these statistics have been bent on distorting the value of true marriage and natural family. “The media is putting an anti-marriage, anti-traditional family spin on a new study from the Pew Research Center,” he said. “A decline in the percentage of adults (twenty-somethings) who are married is largely because people delay marriage, not because they forego it altogether. . . . Only 5% of Americans under 30 don’t plan on tying the knot. This doesn’t sound like ‘the end of marriage,’ as some are claiming the survey indicates.”
  • Chinese officials in Guangzhou have banned house churches from holding services while the city prepares to host the 16th Asian Games, reports Worthy News. Local congregations were warned not to meet during Nov. 12–27, according to lawyer and house church member Tang Jingling. “(Officials) have been seeking out the pastors of these groups and ordering them to stop holding meetings,” said Tang. But house churches don’t really pose a security threat, according to Wang Dao, pastor of the Guangzhou Liangren church. “There isn’t an issue with security,” he said. “I think it’s just an excuse, so they can undertake a total crackdown and cleanup of house churches.” Officially atheist, Chinese officials scrutinize any faith-based activity; party officials officially oversee Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants.
  • Two years after losing relatives and property to anti-Christian violence, survivors in India’s Orissa state are still being pressured to return to Hinduism, according to a private investigation, reports Worthy News. According to the preliminary report of a fact-finding team, “Despite the state administration’s claim of normalcy, a state of lawlessness and utter fear and sense of insecurity” is prevalent among the Christians in Kandhamal district who experienced anti-Christian violence in 2008. The team, composed of attorney Nicholas Barla, rights activists Jugal Kishore Ranjit and Ajay Kumar Singh, visited four villages in three blocks of Kandhamal in early November. In Bodimunda village in Tikabali, the team met a pastor who said he was closely watched after Hindu extremists forced him to become a Hindu. The pastor, whose name was withheld, said he had to convert to Hinduism to spare his aged mother, who could not have escaped the violence as she was not able to walk. In the same village, Hindu nationalists also baned any vehicle used to transport Christians or their belongings while prohibiting Christians from obtaining basic needs. We are not allowed to bring in provisions or medicines, said an anonymous local Christian, nor are we allowed to buy anything from local shops; since we do not have any shops of our own, we are struggling to survive. The team also found pictures of Hindu gods that Christians were forced to publicly display to protect their families from retaliation; many Christians complained that local administrators did little to protect them and suspect these same officials colluded with local Hindu nationalists against them. Violence in Kandhamal and other districts in Orissa occured after the assassination of Hindu nationalist leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Aug. 23, 2008; the ensuing rampage killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions, according to estimates by human rights groups. The attacks began a day after the assassination as Hindu nationalists blamed Christians for Saraswati’s murder even though local Maoists claimed responsibility for his death. According to a 2001 census, of the 648,201 people living in Kandhamal district, 117,950 are Christians, most of whom are Dalit, formerly referred to as “untouchables.”
  • In a series of brazen attacks against a besieged religious minority, gunmen broke into a home in northern Iraq, killing two Christian men while a bombing of a Christian home in Mosul Monday wounded a bystander, reports Worthy News. Fayez al-Shamani, a priest in Mosul’s Mar Afram Syrian Orthodox church, said Christians there live in fear in spite of an increased police presence. “Security officials gave us assurances,” said al-Shamani, “but we know they cannot put a police car near every Christian house in the city. The two people killed were only guilty of being Christians.”
  • As if air travel over the Thanksgiving holiday isn’t tough enough, it could be even worse this year: Airports could see even more disruptions because of a loosely organized Internet boycott of full-body scans, notes Even if only a small percentage of passengers participate, experts say it could mean longer lines, bigger delays, and hotter tempers. The protest, National Opt-Out Day, is scheduled for Wednesday to coincide with the busiest travel day of the year. “Just one or two recalcitrant passengers at an airport is all it takes to cause huge delays,” said Paul Ruden, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, which has warned its more than 8,000 members about delays resulting from the body-scanner boycott. “It doesn’t take much to mess things up anyway—especially if someone purposely tries to mess it up.” Body scans take as little as 10 seconds, but people who decline the process must submit to a full pat-down, which takes much longer. That could cause a cascade of delays at dozens of major airports, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. “I don’t think it would take that much on the busiest day of the year to slow things down,” said Gerry Berry, a Florida-based airport security expert. “If I was an airport guy, a screener, a traveler—I’d be concerned.” Not all airports have the machines, which resemble large refrigerators. And not all travelers are selected for scans. But Berry estimated that up to 20 percent of holiday fliers will be asked to use the full-body machines—meaning tens of thousands could be in a position to protest. The full-body scanners show a traveler’s physical contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches. The protest was conceived in early November by Brian Sodergren of Ashburn, Va., who built a one-page website urging people to decline the scans. Public interest in the protest boomed this week after John Tyner of Oceanside, Calif., famously resisted a scan and groin check at the San Diego airport with the words, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” A cell-phone video of the incident went viral. Other groups have since taken up Sodergren’s cause. “I had no idea what was being started and just how upset people were,” said Sodergren, a health industry employee. “I’m just a guy who put a website up.” The Transportation Security Administration has a new pat-down procedure that includes a security worker running a hand up the inside of passengers’ legs and along the cheek of the buttocks, as well as making direct contact with the groin area. Pat-downs often take up to four minutes, according to the TSA’s website, though that could be longer if someone requests it be done in a room out of public view or if an ill-at-ease traveler asks for a full explanation of the procedure beforehand. Factoring in those time estimates, it would take a total of around 15 minutes to put 100 people through a body scan—but at least 6 hours to pat down the same number of travelers.
  • An advocacy group partially funded by the U.S. government is helping illegal immigrants who work with fake Social Security numbers recover unclaimed income tax refunds, according to Vision to America. The New York nonprofit, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, has so far helped a dozen illegal aliens get back thousands of dollars in state tax refunds, according to a local newspaper report. In some cases the undocumented aliens use bogus Social Security numbers, which is a serious federal offense. In most instances the illegal immigrants filed taxes using a special identification number that rarely receives scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service and allows workers to get federal refunds. However, New York’s tax agency flags employees who provide mismatched information like a Social Security that doesn’t correlate with a name and doesn’t mail refunds to those candidates.
  • Printer bombs planted on two cargo flights last month cost only a few thousand dollars and were intended to affect the American economy, according to a newly published al Qaeda affiliated magazine, reports Vision to America. The attempt, Operation Hemorrhage, cost al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, only $4,200. Yesterday a special edition of Inspire magazine—an English-language propaganda publication produced by AQAP—gave a detailed description of how the attempted attack was conceived and produced.
  • Illegal immigrants in California are eligible to pay lower college tuition than documented out-of-state students, according to a ruling by the state’s highest court, reports Personal Liberty Digest. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Supreme Court has reversed a lower state court decision that struck down a law that provided reduced tuition rates for illegal aliens. Nine other states also have laws that allow undocumented students to receive financial benefits. The news provider reports that about 400 in-state students at the University of California are illegal immigrants, while other state colleges say they do not monitor students’ citizenship status. The New American reports that the the UC in-state fee is approximately $12,000 per year, compared to about $35,000 each year for out-of-state students. Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a nonpartisan organization, has condemned the court’s decision and hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the ruling. “Our infrastructure is crumbling in an overpopulated, financially-strapped California, and the legislature provides an additional $23,000 per year to each illegal, foreign student—a gift that is not available to U. S. citizens in other states,” said Marilyn DeYoung, chairman of the board of CAPS.
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is outraged that convicted terrorist Ahmed Ghailani was just acquitted in civilian court of all but one of the 286 charges against him. “It’s clear to me that Attorney General [Eric] Holder should resign,” he told in an exclusive interview. Gingrich was in Palm Beach, Fla., attending Restoration Weekend, a conservative conference organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Gingrich angrily denounced Holder’s handling of this and other terror cases.
  • The American Principles Project, a group devoted to promoting the U.S. Constitution, is refusing to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference this year because a homosexual activist organization is being permitted to participate. “We want to highlight the incompatibility of the homosexual agenda, to redefine marriage, with the conservative principle of supporting the institution of marriage as the fundamental unit of society,” APP communications director Thomas Peters told World Net Daily.
  • Britain’s violent crime record is worse than any other country in the European union, Vision to America reports. Official crime figures show the UK also has a worse rate for all types of violence than the U.S. and even South Africa—widely considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries. The figures come on the day new Home Secretary Alan Johnson makes his first major speech on crime, promising to be tough on loutish behaviour. The Tories said Labour had presided over a decade of spiralling violence. In the decade following the party’s election in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks soared by 77 percent to 1.158 million, or more than two every minute.
  • House Republicans shouldn’t bend their principles on cutting government spending, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a Newsmax contributor. If that ends in a shutdown of the government like in 1995, tough luck, he stated. Participants in this month’s elections “were voting to stop the Obama spendathon, and that’s what people were sent to Washington to do,” Norquist maintains. “That’s what all the freshmen are going to do. That’s what the fight’s going to be about.” Republicans are poised for a conflict with President Barack Obama. The president “will be less popular if—in the service of overspending and wasting people’s money—he closes the government down, as opposed to now, when he’s just wasting people’s money.”