CULTURE DIGEST: Graham assoc. lays off 50
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- For the second time in three years, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has laid off about 50 employees, this time in order to shift resources to a new online evangelism venture.
In a statement, BGEA said it "continues to seek ways to improve our effectiveness and incorporate advances in technology. We are redeploying resources to support our strategic priorities, one of which includes our new SearchforJesus.net ministry."
The association said the move "in no way reflects the financial health of the organization" but is a strategy change which affects fewer than 50 employees on a staff of nearly 500.
Employees who are losing their jobs are being given severance packages and career assistance, BGEA said, and while some will work only through mid-March, others will remain until mid-June.
BGEA has offices in five countries, coordinating spiritual training and retreats, crusades, festivals, the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., and various book, television, radio and online projects.
Between 2005 and 2008, income at BGEA fell from $126 million to $93 million, according to the Charlotte Observer, and in 2011 the income stood at $91.6 million.
Franklin Graham is president and CEO of BGEA, overseeing daily operations, and his father remains chairman of the organization the renowned evangelist founded in 1950.
SearchforJesus.net launched nearly a year ago and allows users to see real-time decisions for Christ around the globe with Google Earth. When people enter phrases such as "I want to be loved" or "Is there a God?" in popular search engines, BGEA's online outreach tool directs them to Gospel presentations addressing those concerns.
Also in this week’s Culture Digest:
PORNOGRAPHY-FREE INTERNET OPTION ADVOCATED -- A national movement is asking Congress to require Internet service providers to offer an alternative online community that complies with federal obscenity laws intended to protect minors.
Scott Cooper of SafeInternetPetition.org cited a study from 2008 that found 93 percent of boys had been exposed to online pornography.
"This is at once extremely harmful and ridiculous," Cooper said. "The government won't enforce its own laws and then won't mandate a safe, legal alternative. ... This is a clear violation of consumer and parental rights and choice."
A Common Sense Media poll found that 85 percent of parents believe the Internet poses the greatest risk to their children among all forms of media.
"They are being socialized to view such images and behaviors as normal, routine and comical," Cooper said. "This would have been unimaginable to past generations. It's time to take a stand on behalf of our children."
IRISH ONCOLOGIST: NO CASE WHERE ABORTION NEEDED TO SAVE MOTHER -- A highly regarded Irish oncologist -- who is not pro-life -- recently said he has never been faced with a situation in which an abortion was needed to save a mother's life.
John Crown, who is a consultant at two Dublin hospitals and recently won election to Ireland's Senate, said on his Twitter account Feb. 22 he had encountered some difficult decisions about chemotherapy during pregnancy. According to LifeSiteNews.com, he tweeted, "I don't think I ever had a case where abortion was necessary to save mom."
Crown's comment came as abortion rights advocates seek legalization of the procedure in Ireland, asserting women are being prevented from receiving "life-saving medical treatment," LifeSiteNews reported.
DUTCH EUTHANASIA UNITS BEGIN HOUSE CALLS -- House calls began having a new meaning March 1 in The Netherlands.
Mobile euthanasia units staffed by doctors and nurses have started traversing the European country to end the lives of people in their homes. The teams -- known as Levenseinde, or "Life End," units -- go to the homes of people who desire to be euthanized but whose physicians have refused to fulfill their requests, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper.
Dutch law supposedly limits those eligible for euthanasia to people who are incurable and in unbearable pain, but the actual practice appears far more expansive. Newborns with disabilities and people with chronic depression, mental pain and even macular degeneration have been euthanized, said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Macular degeneration is an affliction typically in older people that causes a loss of vision in the center of the eye.
"[W]e have serious doubts that a doctor who is only focused on performing euthanasia will actually follow the loose, but often referred to as strict, criteria," Schadenberg said. "We are particularly concerned with the ability to protect someone from elder abuse, which is difficult to identify and a growing problem in society."
More than 3,100 deaths by euthanasia were reported in 2010 in The Netherlands, but another 20 percent may have been unreported, Schadenberg said. In addition, there are about 550 unreported euthanasia deaths that are not requested or consented to, he said. The total also does not include disabled infants who are euthanized, he said.
The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life, which sponsors the mobile units, predicts the effort will result in an additional 1,000 euthanasia deaths a year, according to reports. The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002.
FLA. HOUSE APPROVES STRICTER RULES FOR ABORTION DOCTORS -- The Florida House of Representatives has passed legislation that would strengthen requirements on abortion doctors and clinics.
In a 78-33 vote March 1, the House approved these requirements, according to The Palm Beach Post: (1) Only doctors who specialized in abortion procedures during residency may own abortion clinics; (2) there must be a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion; (3) a woman seeking an abortion must be told that unborn children can feel pain after 20 weeks' gestation, and (4) abortion providers are barred from advertising.
The Senate, however, appears unlikely to take up the proposal, The Post reported.
GA. HOUSE APPROVES PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTION BAN -- The Georgia House of Representatives has voted 102-65 for a proposal that would ban abortions after 20 weeks based on evidence that unborn children feel pain by that point in a pregnancy.
Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, commended the Feb. 29 passage of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which provides an exception to protect the mother's life. Becker said the bill would assure "that horrific late-term abortions will not be performed in our state."
If it becomes law, the bill could save the lives of more than 1,000 babies a year, Becker said.
Five states have enacted such legislation, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
WISCONSIN SENATE VOTES TO PROHIBIT 'TELEMED' ABORTIONS -- The Wisconsin Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit "telemedicine," or Webcam, abortions.
On Feb. 22, senators voted 17-15 along party lines, with Republicans in the majority, for legislation that would require a doctor to perform a physical exam and be in the same room with a woman before giving her the abortion drug RU 486, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The bill also calls for a physician to consult with a woman at least 24 hours before providing the drug to make certain she is not being coerced into the procedure.
Typically, "telemed" abortions involve a doctor counseling by means of videoconferencing with a woman seeking an abortion in another city. After reviewing sonogram images and visiting with the woman, the physician can dispense RU 486, which involves a two-step process, to her by pressing a computer button, thereby opening a drawer from which the woman in the remote clinic may remove the pills.
"Telemed" abortions are being performed in the neighboring states of Iowa and Minnesota, according to Wisconsin Right to Life.
MANDATE TO COVER ABORTION WITH MATERNITY CARE FALTERS IN WASH. -- An attempt by the Washington legislature to become the first state to require health insurance plans to cover abortions if they provide maternity coverage appears to have ended for now.
The state Senate failed to bring the controversial measure to the floor March 2, the last date on which non-budgetary bills could be introduced, the Associated Press reported. Washington's House of Representatives had passed the bill in a 52-46 vote Feb. 13.
The bill could be considered in a special session if one is held this year.
The state has a "conscience clause" law that permits insurance plans sponsored by religious organizations to be exempt from paying for abortions.
"Everyone in Washington state should be very concerned that the bill actually got serious consideration, because it's such an anti-freedom, anti-American idea," said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, according to CitizenLink.com.
180-PLUS BABIES SAVED SO FAR IN 40 DAYS FOR LIFE -- At least 182 unborn babies were saved from abortion in the first 14 days of the latest 40 Days for Life campaign, the organization reported March 5.
The campaign -- which focuses on peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics -- began Feb. 22 and will conclude April 1. The latest 40-day effort is the largest spring campaign in 40 Days for Life's history, with initiatives in 258 cities in the United States, plus sites in Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and Spain.
The semiannual campaigns consist of 40 days of prayer and fasting to end abortion, as well as community outreach and prayer vigils outside clinics. The effort, which began in Texas in 2004 and went national in 2007, has received reports of more than 5,000 unborn lives saved from abortion as a result of its campaigns.
SCOTTISH COURT REJECTS MIDWIVES' CONSCIENCE CLAIM -- A Scottish court has ruled against two Roman Catholic midwives who objected to being required to supervise abortions.
Lady Smith, judge of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland, decided Feb. 29 that the conscience clause in Great Britain's abortion law does not cover the roles performed by Mary Doogan and Connie Wood.
"The nature of their duties does not in fact require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly," Smith said, according to LifeSiteNews.com. "They are sufficiently removed from direct involvement as, it seems to me, to afford appropriate respect for and accommodation of their beliefs."
Doogan and Wood, who had worked for more than 20 years at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, said they had not been required to supervise abortions until the hospital moved second- and third-trimester procedures to the labor ward, LifeSiteNews reported.
The judge's ruling means "believing Catholics, Muslims and others will never be able to take any form of supervisory or management role as midwives or nurses unless they are prepared to be complicit in the provision of abortions," said Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre in England, according to LifeSiteNews.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).