News Update-3/8/10

Tempers Flare over Abortion Funding in Senate Health Bill
At the same time as President Obama has stepped up the pressure on Congress to "get it done" on health care reform, Rep. Bart Stupak, the author of the amendment banning abortion funding in the House health care bill, has issued a challenge of his own.

"Mr. president, put it in there," the Michigan Democrat urged, referring to placing his amendment into the Senate bill, in an appearance on FOX Business. 

Stupak pointed out that every poll on the topic of public funding for abortion in the U.S. has found the majority in favor of his funding restrictions. Therefore, he said, the president should show the same level of openness to his amendment that he boasted he had shown to some Republican ideas that were included in the bill.

"If we're trying to reflect the will of the American people," he said, "this certainly is one amendment where you can show your flexibility and actually do what the American people want: no public funding for abortion."

Stupak also asserted that, "in its present form, the Senate health care bill is going nowhere in the House of Representatives." On Thursday, Stupak confirmed to NBC's Chris Matthews that about a dozen lawmakers who voted for the House bill would kill the abortion-expanding Senate version if it lacked his amendment.

Shifts in the House demographic since passing the House health bill last year means Democrat leaders need to net about four more votes from members of their own party who had previously voted against the House bill, to pass the Senate bill-in addition to winning over those dissatisfied with the upper chamber's vastly more liberal version.


Aftershocks, Rain, Hamper Aid Distribution in Chile
Mission News Network reports that continuing aftershocks and rain are making it more difficult for aid groups to reach survivors of Saturday's earthquake in Chile.

Craig Dyer with Bright Hope International says the group is helping local churches gear up to help the country, where an estimated 2 million people were affected. "We're empowering the local churches in these communities to reach out to the other churches so that people's needs can be met. Right now, it's primarily focused on food and safety. We've released the funds to be able to purchase food, and that's being distributed through the local churches."

Parts of the country are currently subject to curfews and military presence in the face of looting and general unrest. Chilean officials said on March 3 that the death toll has reached 795, a number that will likely rise as rescue and aid workers continue their efforts.

Religion Today Summaries

40,000 Haitians Profess Faith in Christ since Earthquake
Baptist Press reports that 40,127 Haitians have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ since a massive earthquake hit the country Jan. 12, according Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d'Haiti.

"Haiti is ripe for a spiritual movement from God," said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida Baptist Convention's partnership missions department, which coordinates the work of the CMBH. During a Feb. 16-17 citywide holiday observance in Cap Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, Culbreth saw "thousands upon thousands filling the streets where people are seeking God and asking Him to spare them from what happened in Port-au-Prince. For me, it was a New Testament expression of what it looks like when the Spirit of God shows up. I have never seen anything like it."

Since the earthquake, the CMBH pastors have distributed 51 tons of rice, which provided 437,750 servings to Haitians in Port-au-Prince and outlying areas where refugees have fled. Additional feedings are expected.

Religion Today Summaries

Two Baptist Volunteers Still in Haiti Jail
Two weeks after their eight team members were released and allowed to return to the United States, two female Baptist volunteers remain in a Haiti jail, optimistic they'll be freed soon but still awaiting the final word from the judge overseeing the case.

Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, have been in jail since Jan. 29 when they and their team members were arrested on charges of child kidnapping and criminal association when they tried to take 33 children out of the earthquake-ravaged country and to a makeshift orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They allegedly did not have the proper paperwork.

Silsby, the group leader, told the Associated Press Wednesday that she and Coulter expect to be released soon, and that they'd even come back to Haiti in the future. "Oh yes, both of us would come back to Haiti because there is so much need here, especially for the children," Silsby said. "We would definitely come back to help them once this misunderstanding or whatever you want to call it is sorted out."

Their friends and family members back home have thought for more than a week they would be released any day-mostly because of repeated media reports that proved to be full of false hope.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil told Reuters "the case will be over this week because we have no criminal grounds to pursue it" and that the two women "could be released this week." But two days later Saint-Vil said the two women would remain in jail because he wanted to obtain more testimony from others.

The other eight team members were released from jail Feb. 18. Saint-Vil kept Silsby and Coulter in jail because he had further questions for them.

Baptist Press

"I Am Not Ashamed" Campaign Hits News Outlets
The Christian Post reports that one Christian ministry is taking to secular media outlets to urge Christians to stand up for their faith. Answers in Genesis's "I Am Not Ashamed" campaign began on Monday, running commercials on Fox News, and

The spots feature a diverse cast of Christians saying they are "not ashamed of the Gospel," the Post reported. The group is also encouraging local churches to take up billboard campaigns with the message. Part of the campaign encourages Christians to visit the website and upload videos of themselves reading or quoting the Bible, thereby producing the world's first online video Bible.

Religion Today Summaries

EU Considers Protecting Rights of Persecuted Christians
Christian Today reports that the European Union has taken the first steps to protecting Christian minorities in member countries and around the world.

"We've set up a working group and are defining what bilateral action can be taken between Europe and the individual countries where Christians' rights are in danger," said Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. "We're studying which international initiatives the EU can adopt to bring this problem more clearly into focus."

 Frattini said this is the first time a "common protocol" has been drawn up to "closely monitor" attacks on at-risk minorities, including Christians. The protocol would be issued to member embassies throughout the world, and will rely on data in watchdog Open Doors' Watch List. "You see, Christians have never had a political group offering them strong support through their governments," Frattini said.

Religion Today Summaries


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