Christianity and Current Events

Roland Hegstad is editor of Liberty and a special contributor to Ministry.

Prayer rugs?

The North Carolina Department of Corrections now allows Moslem inmates of State prisons to buy prayer rugs as "approved religious items." The State's Inmate Grievance Commission had ruled that the prayer rugs are necessary to the practice of the Islam religion. The ruling follows the generally more relaxed approach of prison systems in allowing First Amendment rights to prisoners. And, in this case, the prison authorities did not neglect the "establishment clause" in their application of the "free exercise clause": prisoners must pay for the prayer rugs out of their own pocket.

One wonders, however, at the stipulation that rugs cannot be larger than 24 by 44 inches. Think of the prayers that might ascend from a 4-by-6-foot rug!

But let's give the authorities credit for good sense. Anyone who's seen pictures of Arabs at 20,000 feet over Baghdad, on a rug, should appreciate the size restriction!

High stakes

By some measurements, Atlantic City's legalized-gambling operation is a great success. Says a report issued by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs: "If there are twelve casinos operating in 1982, we can expect 148,000 new jobs in three years, rather than the (previously) forecast 77,000 in eleven years."

So what's the problem? Atlantic City's gambling success doesn't extend to other sectors of the economy, which have been described by the State report as "stagnant or declining." Some 600 jobs in retail trade have disappeared, as five supermarkets and a department store have closed. Manufacturing employment has declined by 500. And "skyrocketing land values and tax increases can be expected to dislocate area businesses and prevent new retail businesses from locating," the report says.

Still, so infectious is the gambling bug that 43,000 new housing units will be needed for each of the next three years, estimates Joseph A. LeFante, State commissioner of community affairs, who predicts the population of Atlantic City will rise from its present 200,000 plus to 530,000 by 1982. Governor Brendan Byrne describes the situation as "crucial" and has hinted that State agencies may be asked to approve licenses only for casino owners willing to "assume a fair share of the regional burden for housing and other impacts of development."

We would suggest that the governor add a few welfare agencies to care for families who have lost their monthly paycheck; funding for twenty chapters of Gamblers Anonymous; costs of monthly lie-detector tests for all public officials having anything to do with the gambling operation; and a restitution fund for gamblers who have begged, borrowed, or stolen their stake. And we have a suggestion for the casino opera tors also: When the governor comes with his proposals, suggest that they be negotiated over a game of blackjack. Chances are he'll go home with less than he bar gained for far less.

Indonesian laws cause concern

Christians already concerned about Israel's antimissionary law now have new cause for worry—Indonesia's recently enacted laws restricting missionary work. One new law, S.K. 70, says missionary work should not be directed toward those who already profess a religious belief. However, the Indonesian minister of religious affairs, Alamayah Ratu Perwirabegara, has stressed that a person who decides voluntarily to change his religion may do so. Another law, S.K. 77, regulates material and financial aid to religious bodies. The explanation of Prof. T. M. Soelaiman, of the Indonesian embassy in Washington: "All this is to ensure that the aid goes to the right addressee." Professor Soelai man said that regulation of missionary personnel under S.K. 77 is because of the government's interest in their country of origin and the duration of their stay.

Indonesia is a predominently Moslem country. Only 5 percent of its population is Christian. Three percent is Hindu.

Ordaining homosexuals

Controversy in the United Church of Christ over ordaining known homosexuals seems likely to go on for at least four more years. A ten-man panel is to make recommendations for policy development at the General Synod in 1983.

Whatever their advice, homosexuality—and discrimination, as we shall see—may be pretty well entrenched by then.

During the biennial convention last June, the Reverend Loey Powell publicly disclosed her homosexuality when she led a worship service. She was ordained in 1978 with two other lesbians, in the same church in Mill Valley, California, where the Reverend William R. Johnson in 1972 became the first admit ted homosexual to be ordained in a major denomination.

Now to the discrimination: It would seem that the United Church of Christ is violating the Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sex among other things. To ordain admitted homosexuals without ordaining admitted adulterers is a discriminatory practice.— Several church-related colleges have incurred the wrath of government regulatory agencies for lesser offenses.

From another viewpoint, however, one wonders how the Saviour looks on the affair. Did He come to ordain Adam's fallen children in their sins or to save them from their sins?

A good home?

Meanwhile, a family-court judge in Albany, New York, has granted permanent custody of a 13-year-old boy to an avowed homosexual minister who has adopted the boy.

Said Judge James Battista, of Greene County Family Court in Albany: "The reverend is providing a good home." The minister, John Kuiper, 36, of Catskill, New York, adopted the boy a year and one-half ago. A court investigation was begun after Kuiper admitted publicly that he was living with a 40- year-old man, Roger Hooverman.

Mr. Kuiper, an ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America, is pastor of the Good News Metropolitan Community Church in Albany, which serves mainly homosexuals. The Re formed Church is seeking to cancel Kuiper's ordination.

Kuiper, who was married for eight years, said he didn't think his example would influence his adopted son toward homosexuality.

Maybe not. Roses do grow on com post piles. But to write off parental influence as meaningful to siblings is to write off a fundamental of Judeo-Christian civilization—the influence of the home. It is to say that children do not strive to emulate parents whom they ad mire. Or to say that a parent's moral standards have no influence on his child.

Someone had better ask Judge Battista for his definition of a good home.

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Roland Hegstad is editor of Liberty and a special contributor to Ministry.

April 1980

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