Friday, March 25, 2011

Church Takes Opportunity On Easter Sunday To Help Visitors With Electric Bill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 24, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- For the second year in a row, The Bridge Church of Jacksonville is taking a bold step this Easter season. The church has launched its campaign to reach the community of Jacksonville, FL. The campaign's message...come hear the message of hope this Easter and get your light bill paid!

Leading up to Easter Sunday, the church will take registrations of families that desire to come and experience worship on Easter. At the end of service, they will select up to eight families from the registered attendees and pay their light bill for the month of April. Last year's campaign saw over 50 registrations and was described by many media outlets that covered the story as one of the most creative outreach ideas in years. The campaign even received mention on the nationally televised "Today Show" with Matt Lauer. This year, the church is planning to double the number of people selected. Additionally, this year's campaign is being done in partnership with other local agencies and business community. The church is planning to offer energy conservation education and many of the light bill sponsorships will be paid for by local companies.

"We were amazed by last year's outreach and are excited to do it again and give back to our city," says Pastor Charlie Campbell, "We know that as we expand the campaign this year through the efforts of other local groups and businesses, that ultimately our community will be blessed and the Lord will be honored." The church has been able to share this successful outreach model with other churches and expects a great Easter season for all involved.

About The Bridge Church
The Bridge is a youthful, diverse congregation looking to meet the needs of Jacksonville, FL. Located in the Arlington/Southside, the church is led by Charlie and Marissa Campbell. The mission of The Bridge is to help individuals experience the life of God made available through Jesus Christ.

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Ireland: Judge Overturns ASA Sodomy Ad Ban

Tue, 22 Mar 2011

A High Court judge has overturned a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that an advertisement by a Belfast church was homophobic.

Sandown Free Presbyterian Church launched judicial review proceedings against the ASA after being found to be in breach of its code of practice.

The judge ruled the ASA's decision interfered with the church's rights to freedom of expression.

The ASA said it was disappointed and was considering the judgment.

However Free Presbyterian minister the Reverend David McIlveen described it as "a landmark ruling".

The case centred on a full-page advert taken out in the News Letter ahead of a Gay Pride parade in Belfast in August 2008.

It was headlined "The word of God against sodomy" and invited people to meet for a peaceful gospel witness against the act.

After receiving seven complaints that the notice was homophobic, the ASA ruled it could not appear again in the same form.

Freedom of expression

It also told the church to take more care in future to avoid causing serious offence.

Sandown Free Presbyterian Church's legal team argued its rights to religious belief and freedom of expression under European law had been breached.

It also claimed the church was not offered the chance to offer an explanation before the ban was imposed.

The church argued the ASA misinterpreted a quotation from the book of Leviticus which branded homosexual acts an abomination.

According to the church the description applied to sodomy itself rather than any individuals.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Mr Justice Treacy stressed the context of the advertisement was important.

'Bible scripture'

The judge noted that the advertisement contained no exhortation to violence and that it also made clear how violent antagonism towards homosexuals was unacceptable and unjustifiable.

He said: "The applicant's religious views and the Biblical scripture which underpins those views no doubt cause offence, even serious offence, to those of a certain sexual orientation.

"Likewise, the practice of homosexuality may have a similar effect on those of a particular religious faith.

"But Article 10 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) protects expressive rights which offend, shock or disturb.

"Moreover, Article 10 protects not only the content and substance of information but also the means of dissemination since any restriction on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information."

Mr Justice Treacy emphasised that his assessment took into account the very particular context in which the advertisement was placed.

He noted: "The fact that the advertisement did not condone and was not likely to provoke violence, (it) contained no exhortation to other improper or illegal activity, (and) constituted a genuine attempt to stand up for their religious beliefs and to encourage others to similarly bear witness."

He said this had been done by citing well-known portions of scripture which underpinned the church's religious faith and its call to bear witness.

"Whilst such views and scriptural references may be strongly disdained and considered seriously offensive by some, this does not justify the full scope of the restrictions contained in the impugned determination," the judge added.

Mr McIlveen expressed delight with the outcome outside the court.

Flanked by the Reverend Ian Paisley, he said: "We want to make it clear we had nothing against the seven people who objected to the advertisement.

"This is a landmark now for future decisions. People can quote the Bible and that's a freedom that we have sought."

Read More From BBC News

ACLU Confronts County Schools Over Bibles

ATHENS, AL (WAFF)- The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama sent a letter to Limestone County School Superintendent Barry Carroll, accusing the Blue Springs Elementary School of violating federal law.

The accusations involve Bible distributions and the teaching of "Creationism".

Barry Carroll conducted his own investigation this morning. "After talking with the teachers, I feel better about the accusations that were made. I feel more comfortable with the way we handled this situation."

Carroll said the Bibles were never physically handed to children. Instead, he said they were placed on a display table and the children were able to pick them up if they wanted one.

The ACLU also raised concerns that a 5th grade teacher promoted creationism in the classroom. The organization has given Dr. Carroll 14 days to respond to complaints. He says he will do so through the board's attorney.

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Inventor Of "A Note To God" Iphone App Recovering After Hit and Run

The young inventor of the iPhone app “A Note to God” has woken up from his coma after being seriously injured by a car last week.

Allen Wright, 18, opened his eyes on Monday and by Tuesday he was able to respond to questions and commands. He had suffered a seizure and fell into a coma after an apparent hit-and-run incident on March 13.

Wright’s friend, who was on the phone with him when the accident occurred, heard only the sounds of traffic but no word from the Sacramento teenager. A few minutes later, Wright’s cousin who was meeting him halfway saw him lying unconscious on the street.

When Wright was transported to Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, Calif., doctors found a bruised lung, broken collar bone and a bruised leg. While doctors only gave him a 30 to 40 percent chance of reviving, they were happy to report he was able to wake up after eight days.

The teen’s father recently reported that Wright has little motor control and shakes uncontrollably.

Wright’s 2009 app “Note to God” has been downloaded more than 9,000 times since news of its creator’s accident spread. The iPhone app allows users to send prayers and read prayers by other users.

Prior to his accident, Wright had shown interest in law enforcement and had signed up to join the Marine Corps after his high school graduation. Doctors say that his plans will have to wait for now because he needs to focus on healing.

Dr. Kavian Shahi told The Sacramento Bee that, "as the healing continues, he will slowly gain more function of his extremities.”

"Slowly, hopefully, he will be able to move his arms and legs under his own control."

Read More From Christian Post

Divorce Is Changing The Face Of Rural America

So it is a bitter mark of modernity that even here, divorce has swept in, up nearly sevenfold since 1970, giving the county the unwelcome distinction of being a standout in this category of census data.

Divorce is still less common here than the national average, but its sharp jump illustrates a fundamental change in the patterns of family life.

Forty years ago, divorced people were more concentrated in cities and suburbs. But geographic distinctions have all but vanished, and now, for the first time, rural Americans are just as likely to be divorced as city dwellers, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times.

“Rural families are going through this incredible transformation,” said Daniel T. Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University.

The shifts that started in cities have spread to less populated regions — women going to work, gaining autonomy, and re-arranging the order of traditional families. Values have changed, too, easing the stigma of divorce.

“In the bottom ranks, men have lost ground and women have gained,” said June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and co-author of “Red Families v. Blue Families.”

“A blue-collar guy has less to offer today than he did in 1979,” Professor Carbone added. Those shifting forces, she said, “create a mismatch between expectation and reality” that can result in women becoming frustrated and leaving, because now they can.

Since 1990, class has become an increasingly reliable predictor of family patterns, Professor Carbone said. College-educated Americans are now more likely to get married and stay married than those with only a high school diploma, a change from 20 years ago, she said, when differences were much smaller.

That trend has been particularly important for rural areas, which have fallen further behind urban ones in education, according to census data. Just one in six rural residents have college degrees, far fewer than in cities, where one in three do. Nationally, there were about 121 million married adults and 26 million divorced people in 2009, compared with about 100 million married and 11 million divorced people in 1980.

Education drew a dividing line for Nancy Vermeer, a 52-year-old resident of Sioux County. She had married her high school sweetheart, a young man from a farming family. He never went further than high school, but she went on to college, and later earned a master’s degree. He worked in a window factory. She became a music teacher. He gambled. They grew apart. Eventually, he asked for a divorce.

“I grew more confident,” Ms. Vermeer said. “We were totally different people.”

When Ms. Vermeer divorced in 2002, she became the first teacher in her Christian school to do so. Divorce was more common than it had been in past decades, but she still felt judged, so she developed habits to keep a low profile, like going to the grocery when no one she knew would be there.

“There’s a perception here that you need to be perfect,” said the Rev. John Lee, a young pastor who has tried to encourage change in Sioux County by taking on taboo topics like divorce and mental illness in his sermons.

“Cars are washed, lawns are mowed in patterns and children are smiling,” Mr. Lee added. “When you admit weakness, you invite shame.”

The reason can be traced to Sioux County’s roots. About 80 percent of residents, most of whom are descendants of Dutch immigrants, belong to a major denomination church, compared with 36 percent of all Americans.

Its main city, Sioux Center, issued its first liquor license in the late 1970s. Stores were closed on Sundays for decades, and women’s participation in the work force was far below the national average.

Very few people divorced. In 1980, there were more than 52 married people for every divorced person, according to census data, a rate not seen on a national level since the 1930s.

Read More From The New York Times

Target Store Sues San Diego Gay Rights Group

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Target Corp. is suing a San Diego pro-gay marriage group to get it to stop canvassing outside its San Diego County stores, alleging its activists are driving away customers.

Rights advocates say the trial between Target and Canvass For A Cause that begins Friday could further strain relations with the gay and lesbian community after controversy over its $150,000 donation to a business group backing a Minnesota Republican candidate opposed to gay marriage.

Minnesota-based Target insists it remains committed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its lawsuit has nothing to do with the political agenda of the organization.

"Our legal action was in no way related to the cause of the organization and was done so to be consistent with our long-standing policy of providing a distraction-free shopping experience by not permitting solicitors at our stores," the company said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

Target says it has taken similar action against a number of organizations representing a variety of causes. It alleges in the lawsuit that the San Diego group's activists harass customers by cornering them near its stores' front entrances and debating with them about their views on gay marriage.

The group says it canvasses at shopping malls, college campus and stores like Target to collect signatures and donations in support of gay marriage.

The corporation says at least eight Target stores in the area have reported receiving more than a dozen complaints daily since canvassers started working outside their stores in October 2010. Target says the activists have refused to leave when asked politely and shown the company's policy prohibiting "expressive activity" on its property.

Read More From The Associated Press

Suspected Breach At Japan Nuclear Plant Has Prime Minister Calling It 'Very Grave And Serious"

TOKYO (AP) - A suspected breach in the core at one reactor at a stricken Fukushima nuclear plant could mean more serious radioactive contamination, Japanese officials revealed Friday - a situation the prime minister called "very grave and serious."

A somber Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded a pessimistic note at a briefing hours after nuclear safety officials said they suspected a breach at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant that would be a major setback in the urgent mission to stop the facility from leaking radiation.

"The situation today at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant is still very grave and serious. We must remain vigilant," Kan said. "We are not in a position where we can be optimistic. We must treat every development with the utmost care."

The uncertain situation halted work at the nuclear complex, where dozens had been trying feverishly to stop the overheated plant from leaking dangerous radiation. The plant has leaked some low levels of radiation, but a breach could mean a much larger release of contaminants.

Kan apologized to farmers and business owners for the toll the radiation has had on their livelihoods: Several countries have halted some food imports from areas near the plant after milk and produce were found to contain elevated levels of radiation.

The prime minister also thanked utility workers, firefighters and military personnel for "risking their lives" to cool the overheated facility.

The alarm Friday comes on a day marking two weeks since the magnitude-9 quake triggered a tsunami that enveloped cities along the northeast coast and knocked out the Fukushima reactor's cooling system.

Read More From My Way News

FAA To Investigate Staffing Problems At Reagan Airport After Traffic Controller Falls Asleep

The nation's top aviation official says he has suspended a control tower supervisor while investigating why no controller was available to aid two planes that landed at Washington's Reagan airport early this week.

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt said Thursday in a statement that the controller has been suspended from his operational duties. He said he was "personally outraged" that the supervisor, the lone controller on duty in the airport tower at the time, failed to meet his duties.

The National Transportation and Safety Board said in a statement Thursday that the controller responsible has admitted to falling asleep on the job. He attributes his fatigue to working four consecutive night shifts.

An aviation official who spoke on condition of anonymity because an investigation is under way said the supervisor fell asleep.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is directing that two people be on duty overnight in the Reagan Washington National Airport control tower following the incident.

"It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space," LaHood said in a statement. "I have also asked FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] Administrator Randy Babbitt to study staffing levels at other airports around the country."

American Airlines flight 1012 was on final approach to the airport at 12:10 a.m. Wednesday and abandoned the descent when the tower was unresponsive, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. United Airlines flight 628T coming from Chicago faced the same experience fifteen minutes later.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said the pilots were able to communicate with a regional air traffic control facility in Virginia, about 40 miles from the airport. Both planes landed safely using “uncontrolled airport” procedures.

Safety officials said controllers at the regional facility were unable to reach anyone at the airport tower by phone.

An aviation official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the single controller -- a supervisor -- was scheduled for duty in the tower at that time but had fallen asleep. The post-midnight shift in the control tower is reserved for supervisors.

The Federal Aviation Administration released a statement confirming the incident.

"The FAA is looking into staffing issues and whether existing procedures were followed appropriately," agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said in an email.

Rep. John Mica, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says the incident is a "serious concern."

“This incident and other recent performance failures, including near miss incidents, are matters of serious concern. I am asking Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Petri and the Committee’s investigative staff to conduct a thorough review of this and other recent mishaps," the Florida Republican said in a statement.

Mica also pledged that the committee would review the matter.

Syrian Troops Open Fire On Protestors

Witnesses say Syrian troops have opened fire on anti-government protesters in Daraa Friday as thousands take to the streets demanding reforms and mourning dozens of protesters who were killed during a violent, weeklong crackdown.

A resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, tells the Associated Press heavy gunfire can be heard in the city center and witnesses have reported several casualties.

He told AP that the shooting started after protesters set fire to a bronze statue of late President Hafez Assad, President Bashar's Assad's father.

One witness tells Reuters that at least 20 people were killed when Syrian forces fired on protesters in Sanamein.

Daraa, the main city of southern Syria's drought-parched agricultural heartland, has become a flashpoint for protests in a country whose leadership stands unafraid of using extreme violence to quash internal unrest. The coming days will be a crucial test of the surge of popular discontent that has unseated autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatens to push several others from power.

Sheltering in Daraa's Roman-era old city, the protesters have persisted through seven days of increasing violence by security forces, but have not inspired significant unrest in other parts of the country.

On Friday, demonstrations took place in Daraa and throughout the country in what organizers called a "Day of Dignity."

But journalists who tried to enter Daraa's Old City -- where most of the violence took place -- were escorted out of town Friday by two security vehicles.

"As you can see, everything is back to normal and it is over," an army major, standing in front of the ruling Baath party head office in Daraa, told journalists before they were led out of the city.

By early afternoon, tens of thousands, many of them coming from nearby villages, gathered in Daraa's central Assad Square, chanting pro-democracy slogans such as "freedom, freedom," a resident said over the telephone.

Islamic Overtake Of France