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Archive for Friday, July 28, 2000

Religion news

July 28, 2000

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Groups sue over church-based job-training

Two civil rights groups have sued to recover state money given to a church-based job-training program and questioned state contracts that use religion-based programs to help people get off welfare.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Travis County district court by the American Jewish Congress and the Texas Civil Rights Project seeks to recoup state funds given to the Jobs Partnership of Washington County. The lawsuit said the program used state money to purchase Bibles and promoted evangelical Christianity.

An evaluation by state agency employees stated that biblical references were used to teach subjects such as attitude, integrity and money, the lawsuit said.

"They teach that you can find a job through a relationship through Jesus Christ," said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. "That's a bit much."

The lawsuit names the Texas Department of Human Services, commissioner Eric Bost and other state officials as defendants.

The jobs program in Brenham, about halfway between Austin and Houston, received $8,000 in state funds in 1999. It no longer receives any state money, said the Rev. George Nelson, who sits on the program's board of directors.

The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of the "charitable choice" contract -- which allows the state to give money to religious groups for job training and other services to former welfare recipients so long as secular alternatives are available.

Hewbrew Academy hopes to attract top students

Greensboro, N.C. (ap) -- A group working to create the nation's first boarding high school for students from the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism plans to offer free tuition during the school's founding years.

"We want to ensure the quality of the school and to ensure that this would be available to any kid who could qualify for it," said Rabbi Alvin Mars, the American Hebrew Academy's headmaster, who is busy planning the school's curriculum and infrastructure.

The academy is scheduled to open in fall 2001 on a 100-acre campus in northwest Greensboro. For the first year, the academy will enroll 100 boarding students and an unspecified number of area day students in the ninth grade. Classes will be limited to 12 students.

During the first few years, students who are accepted by the school and maintain high grades will be able to attend tuition-free for the full four years of high school. Founders have yet to decide when the school would begin asking students to pay their own way.

Mormon church removes missionaries from Fiji

Salt Lake City (ap) -- The Mormon church has pulled missionaries out of Fiji due to continuing unrest there, church officials said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nearly 200 missionaries on Fiji, which has experienced increasing ethnic division and political strife.

Foreign missionaries were sent to New Zealand, and those with Fijian citizenship will remain and continue their work "in areas of the island unaffected by recent disturbances," church spokesman Randy Ripplinger said.

The Mormon church has 58,600 missionaries around the world. Most are young men, who serve for two years, and young women, who serve for 18 months. Couples also serve field missions for six to 30 months.

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