Archive for May 22nd, 2006

Judge Blocks Prayer at High School Graduation

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

I am very proud of the students of this school, and also the administrators for their stand.  I’m going to put together a page for the web site that will point out what the Constitution says about prayer and government.  It is obvious that the majority of people disagree with this activist judge.  If you folks are upset with him, you can get him removed.  It will be a shame if you don’t at least try.

RUSSELL SPRINGS, Ky. (AP) – The senior class at a southern Kentucky high school gave their response Friday night to a federal judge’s order banning prayer at commencement.About 200 seniors stood during the principal’s opening remarks and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, prompting a standing ovation from a standing-room only crowd at the Russell County High School gymnasium.The thunderous applause drowned out the last part of the prayer.

The revival like atmosphere continued when senior Megan Chapman said in her opening remarks that God had guided her since childhood. Chapman was interrupted repeatedly by the cheering crowd as she urged her classmates to trust in God as they go through life.

The challenge made the graduation even better because it unified the senior class, Chapman said.

“It made the whole senior class come together as one and I think that’s the best way to go out,” said Chapman, who plans to attend the University of the Cumberlands with her twin sister Megan.

The graduation took place about 12 hours after a federal judge blocked the inclusion of prayer as part of Russell County High School’s graduation ceremonies.

U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley granted a temporary restraining order sought by a student who didn’t want prayer to be part of the graduation exercises at the south-central Kentucky school, about 110 miles southeast of Louisville.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed suit on behalf of the unidentified student on Tuesday.

ACLU attorney Lili Lutgens said she was pleased with the judge’s order and “very proud of my client for standing up for the Constitution.” Lutgens said prayer would be unconstitutional because it would endorse a specific religion and religious views.

“He did not feel that he should have to sit through government-sponsored prayer just to receive his diploma,” Lutgens said of the student.

The student, through his attorney, had previously appealed to Russell County High principal Darren Gossage to cancel the prayer, a request Lutgens said the principal denied.

Keith Ellis, an assistant principal at Russell County High School, said the school has a long tradition of prayer at graduation, something that will change with the judge’s ruling.

“It will definitely change what we’ve done in the past,” Ellis said.

Russell County School Superintendent Scott Pierce called himself a “person of faith” and said he was pleased with the response to the ruling by the senior class.

“This was a good learning process for them as far as how to handle things that come along in life,” Pierce said. The response of the students showed an ability to be “critical thinkers.”

“They exhibited what we’ve tried to accomplish in 12 years of education – they have the ability to make these compelling decisions on their own,” Pierce said.

Chapman said the ceremony turned out better than it would have without the controversy.

“More glory went to God because of something like that than if I had just simply said a prayer like I was supposed to,” Chapman said.

Before the graduation ceremony, some students said they weren’t upset with the classmate that brought the legal challenge, just disappointed that there wouldn’t be a sanctioned prayer during the ceremony.

“There’s no hard feelings toward him whatsoever. That was his opinion and it was something that he felt,” graduating senior Mandy Chapman said.

Gabe McNeil said during a rehearsal on Thursday, other students booed the student suspected of filing the challenge when he walked across the stage.

“They’ve been giving him crap,” McNeil said.

A sign across the street from the high school at a garden center declared “We believe in prayer” in response to the judge’s ruling.

“In our little town, we’ve always had that prayer at commencement,” said Brenda Hadley, owner of Anna’s Garden. “Why not? That’s part of our everyday life.”

Garden center employee Angela Dick put up the sign. Dick said student prayer has always been a way of life at commencements in the rural county that bumps up against Lake Cumberland, a popular recreation area.

“I’m disappointed in a judge who won’t hold up the Christian values that our country was founded on,” said Dick, who was wearing a gold cross on a chain around her neck.

Original Article.

Porn Industry Insiders Undone Over ‘Rule 2257’

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Rule 2257 says that a Porn “star” must be at least 18 years.  Apparently the porn industry has a problem with this.

People need to understand just how destructive porn is.

(AgapePress) – Lawyers defending the smut industry are concerned about “Rule 2257” (18 U.S. Code 2257) which requires pornographers to provide physical evidence that porn performers are of age (18 years or older). The newly updated federal code effects video, still images, and Internet content produced since July 3, 1995.

Jeffrey Douglas of the Free Speech Coalition — a porn industry advocacy legal group — feels the law places an “undue burden” on the industry. The group has filed a lawsuit in a Denver court asserting the code violates the industry’s First Amendment rights.

Porn industry lawyer Paul Cambria conducted a seminar earlier this year at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas instructing industry producers of the nuances of Rule 2257. Adult Video News reports that during the seminar Cambria explained that “performers in sexually explicit material need to provide government-approved forms of identification.” He also clarified the difference between the “primary” and “secondary” producers as it pertained to the newly updated code.

Comments by District Court Judge Walker D. Miller indicate that the thrust of the newly updated federal code is generally in compliance with the court’s opinion. Walker indicated that the industry coalition has yet to establish “a strong likelihood of success in their First Amendment claim” (Wall Street Journal>). It is generally understood that the Justice Department will begin to enforce Rule 2257 after years of stonewalling by the porn industry.

Dr. Judith Reisman, author of the upcoming Kinsey’s Attic: The Shocking Story of How One Man’s Sexual Pathology Changed the World (WND Books, November 2006), recalls that the U.S. Commission on Pornography recommended in 1986 that adult performers should be 21 years or older. However after several years of debate, Congress lowered the age to 18. Reisman believes that U.S. agencies “that have pledged and are paid to protect the health and welfare of the American public have failed us.” In making a case for a lower age of consent, pornographers can exploit and entice young girls who are desperate and in need of money so that they perform in adult venues, explains Reisman.

After Congress passed the consent and identification law in 1988, it was soon challenged by the porn industry. It has taken more than 17 years of legal challenges to get to the point where the law might finally show some teeth. According to the Wall Street Journal, “first-time violators can face prison sentences up to five years.”

U.S.C. 2257 derives from the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988.

See the original article here.

Re-Post: Why Ears Itch for the Theology of The Da Vinci Code Film

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Analysis by Dr. Marc T. Newman
MovieMinistry.com
May 19, 2006

[Note: This analysis of the film The Da Vinci Code contains spoilers. Discussing these plot points helps to uncover some of the persuasive devices at play in the film, but those who wish to be surprised should print this out for reading later, or revisit the site.]

(AgapePress) – Da Vinci Code director Ron Howard was given a tall order. First, how do you make a talky thriller work when nearly your entire pre-sold audience has already read the book, and therefore knows the ending? The Da Vinci Code is not like the films made from the Bourne books, which can sustain their tension on action alone. Let’s face it, Dr. Robert Langdon, the “symbologist” protagonist of Dan Brown’s bestseller, is no Indiana Jones. Second, your supposedly “fact-based” source material that had faded into relative obscurity is now back on the front pages and everyone is reminded that it is a hoax. The answer? Make significant plot changes to keep ’em guessing and deny, deny, deny.

What is important for Christians to know, if they are thinking of using The Da Vinci Code film as an opportunity to talk about their faith, is that some of the plot changes are rhetorical devices designed to make the arguments in the film appear even more persuasive than in the book. Through these changes, Howard has tried to preempt the hoax criticism, use the conversion of a respected, yet hostile-source, character to bolster the credibility of the film’s arguments, and try to blunt reaction from Christians by giving them a place (albeit a much smaller place) at the theological table — all the while making everyone else feel good about themselves.

Preempting Criticism
When a book as popular as The Da Vinci Code claims that aspects of its story are based on fact, it may as well have thrown down a gauntlet to relentless hordes of apologists and historians. The response didn’t take long. The major source material for The Da Vinci Code is Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book that was dismissed by historians as pseudo-history shortly after its publication in 1982. The entire Priory of Sion hoax had been exposed — the “organization” did not date from 1099, but from the 1950s, built from thin air by Pierre Plantard and “supported” by forged documents surreptitiously deposited in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in the early 1960s. By the time filming began, the filmmakers must have decided that their two fictional scholars, Langdon and Sir Leigh Teabing, would not be ignorant of the hoax claim.

Unlike the book, in which Langdon is depicted as a collaborator with Teabing, the film version of The Da Vinci Code paints Langdon as an unaffiliated lapsed Catholic skeptic who challenges Teabing’s conspiratorial assertions about Church history. After Teabing explains to police cryptologist Sophie Neveu about the shadowy Priory of Sion, Langdon explodes, forcefully asserting that the Priory had been exposed as a hoax. Teabing, matching Langdon’s intensity, replies, “That’s what they want you to think.” Of course, he never identifies who “they” are. I guess that the conspiracy now extends to such “friends of the Church” as all of mainstream academia, the New York Times, and the BBC. Using such an argument, Teabing places the conspiracy beyond dispute. Anyone with counter-evidence is merely a part of the cover-up. It is a classic form of the Begging the Question fallacy. It tries to provide cover for those who want to use these arguments to disparage Christianity.

The Reluctant Convert
Another way that the film attempts to make its arguments more compelling than the book is to cast Langdon as a reluctant convert. In the book, when Langdon brings Sophie to meet Teabing it is out of the respect Langdon has for Teabing’s mastery of Holy Grail lore. In other words, Langdon is a fan. But in the film, Langdon and Teabing are portrayed as debaters trying to convince Sophie of alternate views of Church history. And while Langdon is not exactly championing the cause of the Church, he constantly throws cold water on Teabing’s conspiratorial assertions by at least presenting the other side.

That the Church’s position was given any credibility in the film was a surprise. But to have Langdon making these claims — even lukewarmly — was a shocking deviation. It seemed designed to let Christians in the audience breathe a little. But I had read the book, so I knew how this would end.

As I watched the film, I could not discern the precise moment that Langdon becomes a convert, but the longer the film runs, the more Langdon begins talking as if Teabing’s assertions now have his Seal of Approval. There is something especially persuasive in seeing a respected person move from hostile source to confederate. It’s as if to say, “If someone of Langdon’s stature is convinced, then why can’t I be more open-minded toward these ideas?”

The Unfulfilling Smorgasbord of Postmodernism
But Howard and company keep hedging their bets. They want to have it both ways, and apparently think that New Age polytheism will be okay as long as Christians have a place at the table. By the end of the film Langdon is waffling — trying to incorporate a personal religious experience with Jesus into this newfound world of goddess worship. What Langdon essentially says is, “Maybe it’s all true. Maybe the human is the divine. All that matters is what you believe.” Howard’s argument is a perfect example of what New York University professor Thomas de Zengotita describes in his book, Mediated: “Name a topic and, presto, everyone has an opinion, everyone can speculate, everyone has a ‘take,’ as we say nowadays — implicitly acknowledging that no one has time for much more than that — so, what the heck. Mine could be as good as the next one. To each his own worldview. Once again, it’s all about you.”

Christianity’s exclusive claims are odious to those who demand an “inclusive” spirituality. The Bible claims truth, and many in the West echo Pilate, asking dismissively “What is truth?” Christ did not come to soothe the world but to save it. It is a demanding process; it cost Jesus His life. No watered-down version will do. The message of the Gospel is not compromise, but loving, “seasoned-with-salt” confrontation.

The Draw
What is it about these kinds of conspiracy-theory, Gnostic tales that people find so compelling? For some it is just the lure of a good, fast-paced thriller — which is actually in short supply in the film. But I think that some devotees of the book (who are most likely to see the film early) like the idea that they can vicariously be a part of something larger than themselves. By sharing secret knowledge they enter the “in-group” — joined to the luminaries of the Priory of Sion: Newton, Da Vinci, and Victor Hugo. If they are especially gullible, it might even make them feel smart.

The Opportunity
Despite the bad theology, false history, rhetorical attempts to make the film’s arguments more compelling, and the uninspired filmmaking, The Da Vinci Code still represents a unique opportunity for Christians to engage their culture. Just last night, while checking in at a hotel for an academic conference, I spoke for about 30 minutes with a young hotel desk clerk. She was a Da Vinci Code fan, and said that she planned to take her mother to the film today. She thought there was something to the claims in the book, particularly concerning the authenticity and accuracy of the Bible. I introduced her to arguments I learned more than 30 years ago in From God to Us, by Norman Geisler and William Nix. She had never encountered those ideas before. The odds the conversation would have arisen in that lobby would have been small were it not for the presence of The Da Vinci Code to drive it.

In order to take advantage of this theatrical gift, it is not absolutely necessary to endure the film — people in your sphere will talk about the film and the book. But reading the book and/or seeing the film will heighten your credibility and give you a greater appearance of objectivity when you discuss it. Now you aren’t a crank, you are a fellow reader and viewer. But you must be prepared.


Order The Da Vinci Delusion featuring Dr. D. James Kennedy
There are a number of excellent books and articles that Christians can read to have the answers to the questions that arise from The Da Vinci Code. Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason, and Dallas Theological Seminary both have outstanding articles and resources. MovieMinistry.com has created a Bible study designed for the film that goes beyond the factual debate. It can be used as an outreach to explore the itchy-ear syndrome that has affected a culture that will not endure sound doctrine, and challenges Christians to do something about it.

Films come and go, but the theater screens remain. Before long, and perhaps not too long, The Da Vinci Code will move from the cinema to the video store and other films will take its place. But Hollywood has seen that films with religious content (not necessarily accurate) can attract an audience. These movies will stir people, anger them, make them thoughtful, and (most important) provoke conversation about spiritual issues that might not arise in other contexts. Christians need to remain on the alert so that we can take advantage of every opportunity.
Marc T. Newman, PhD (marc@movieministry.com) is the president of MovieMinistry.com — an organization that provides sermon and teaching illustrations from popular film, and helps the Church use movies to reach out to others and connect with people.

Original Article