CULTURE DIGEST: Entertainment industry's violence in spotlight
NASHVILLE (BP) -- With Vice President Joe Biden's attention particularly attuned to gun violence following the tragic school shooting last month, a pro-family organization is urging concerned citizens to ask him to consider more fully the role the entertainment industry plays in perpetuating the problem.
"Given the recent concern for violence in the media, voiced just this month in no less a place than the White House, it is appalling how Fox is able to ignore its own claims of being a responsible member of the entertainment industry," Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, said Jan. 22.
Fox recently premiered a show called "The Following," which PTC describes as "one of the most unrepentantly violent television shows in recent memory on network television." The show features a serial killer with followers who commit suicide out of devotion to him, and it airs at 9 p.m. Eastern with a TV-14 rating.
"Is this what the broadcast networks think is appropriate for a 14-year-old kid?" Winter asked.
PTC noted Fox chairman Kevin Reilly's comments that Fox was accustomed to being "the edge of what was bold" before cable's proliferation, and now the network must compete for viewers with every show on cable -- the most popular last year being "Walking Dead."
"What Mr. Reilly and others at the broadcast network need to do is read the terms of their broadcast licenses which say nothing about 'competing with cable' but rather demand that they serve the public interest," Winter said.
In December, PTC commended the entertainment industry for its response to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., but also called on leaders to maintain sensitivity to the effect entertainment has on impressionable minds.
"If a music mogul makes a passionate plea for civility, why would there be a later time to profit from lyrics and videos that eschew civility? If producers and performers rightly question whether their industry is complicit in creating a violent media culture that feeds real-life tragedies, why would there be a later time to produce and distribute more of it?"
PTC is urging Americans to ask Biden to continue pushing the entertainment industry to be more responsible.
MOST EVANGELICALS SAY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DECLINING IN U.S. -- Nearly two-thirds of evangelicals believe religious freedom has declined in the United States in the past decade, and even more fear further restraints in the next five years, according to new Barna Group research.
While 33 percent of all adults in the United States say religious freedoms have declined in the past decade, the number is nearly twice that among evangelicals, 60 percent. What's more, 71 percent of evangelicals believe such freedoms will decrease over the next five years, compared to 29 percent of all adults.
The results released Jan. 18 are based on a Barna survey of 1,008 U.S. adults encompassing the religious spectrum and all age groups.
Americans widely agree on the definition of religious freedom, with 90 percent agreeing that "true religious freedom means all citizens must have freedom of conscience, which means being able to believe and practice the core commitments and values of your faith." Among practicing Protestants, agreement with the definition is 97 percent, researchers said.
While most Americans, 57 percent, share a consensus that "religious freedom has become more restricted in the U.S. because some groups have actively tried to move society away from traditional Christian values," there is less consensus on which groups to blame.
Specifically, 72 percent of evangelicals blame the gay and lesbian community, but only 31 percent of the general population does so, researchers said. "By comparison, people of a faith other than Christianity (16 percent) and religiously unaffiliated adults (11 percent) were much less likely to embrace this viewpoint," researchers wrote.
Younger Americans generally are less concerned with religious liberty, researchers found.
"Younger adults are less likely to believe religious freedom has gotten worse in recent years; less likely to think some groups have actively tried to move society away from religious freedom; less likely to assert gays and lesbians have been part of this effort," researchers wrote, "and more likely to believe no one set of values should dominate the country."
Specifically, only a quarter of youth ages 10-28 believe religious freedom has declined here in the past 10 years, and only 15 percent believe it will grow worse in the next five years, researchers calculated.
The Barna Group markets itself as a private, non-partisan organization that since 1984 has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
LOUISIANA RANKS AS MOST PRO-LIFE STATE -- Louisiana again is the most pro-life state in the country, according to the latest rankings by Americans United for Life (AUL).
The Bayou State gained the top spot on AUL's "Life List" for the second consecutive year and third time in four years. The top ranking means Louisiana is considered by the Washington, D.C.-based organization as the leader in protecting life in its public policies on such issues as abortion and physician-assisted suicide.
Meanwhile, AUL again ranked Washington at No. 50, making it the least life-affirming state in its policies for the fourth consecutive year.
Released Jan. 17, AUL's eighth annual ratings show these states in the top 10 behind Louisiana: (2) Oklahoma; (3) Pennsylvania; (4) Arkansas; (5) Arizona; (6) Nebraska; (7) Indiana; (8) Missouri; (9) Georgia; and (10) Virginia.
Joining Washington in the bottom 10 were: (49) California; (48) New York; (47) Vermont; (46) New Jersey; (45) Connecticut; (44) Oregon; (43) Maryland; (42) Hawaii; and (41) Montana.
The most-improved state was Arizona, which jumped from No. 14 to No. 5. Arizona enacted seven laws restricting abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization affiliated with abortion rights advocates. Those measures included a law banning abortion at 20 weeks gestation or later based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point and such a late-term abortion is a risk to a woman's health. That law was based on model legislation drafted by AUL.
States approved 43 abortion restrictions last year, making 2012 the second highest ever for such laws, Guttmacher reported. The record came in 2011, when states adopted 92 restrictions.
The most common state measures in 2012, according to AUL, included "prohibitions on government funding and insurance coverage for abortion, legislation and resolutions related to pregnancy care centers, informed consent for abortion, ultrasound requirements, restrictions or regulations on abortion-inducing drugs and [Webcam or] 'telemed' abortions, and abortion clinic regulations and other abortion provider requirements."
AUL President Charmaine Yoest predicted in a written statement there will be "a large number of bills this year that also work to protect the First Amendment freedom of all Americans who do not want to be forced into business with Big Abortion."
The latest rankings may be accessed online at http://www.aul.org/aul%E2%80%99s-life-list-2013-state-rankings/.
CHINESE OFFICIAL REJECTS REPEAL OF 'ONE-CHILD' POLICY -- China's leading family planning official appears to have squelched hopes that the world's most populous country may be near repeal of its notorious "one-child" policy.
"We must unwaveringly adhere to the One Child Policy as a national policy to stabilize the low birth rate as the primary task," said Wang Xia, chairman of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission.
Speaking at a national conference, Wang said the panel's four primary jobs this year included maintaining "the One-child policy ... and then improve the policy gradually.... It's our priority."
The Zhong Xin China News Agency reported Wang's comments Jan. 14.
The remarks regarding a population control program that has forced abortion and sterilization upon millions of its citizens during the last three decades "should end speculation that China will abandon the One Child Policy in the foreseeable future," pro-life leader Reggie Littlejohn said in a written statement. "Forced abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy, and gendercide -- the sex-selective abortion of baby girls -- will continue until all coercive birth limits are abolished.
"The central issue in the One Child Policy is not whether the government allows couples to have one or two children," said Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers. "Rather, it is the coercion with which this limit is enforced. Even with a two-child policy, women will still be subject to forced abortion if they get pregnant without a birth permit."
Reports from China in recent months had raised hopes for some pro-lifers that the country might be prepared to rescind its "one-child" policy. A Chinese government institute recommended in October that the Communist regime establish a two-child policy in some provinces immediately and an end to all birth limits by 2020.
China's population control program, which began officially in 1980, generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. Couples who violate the policy face the threat of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.
The policy also has resulted in many accounts of authorities carrying out forced abortions -- even in the last three months of pregnancy -- and sterilizations. There also have been many reports of infanticide, especially of female babies. The policy has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.
DEAF TWINS FIND DOCTORS TO EUTHANIZE THEM IN BELGIUM -- Twin brothers who were deaf and had learned they were going blind died by legal euthanasia in what appears to have been a questionable application of Belgian law.
Eddy and Marc Verbessem, 45, died Dec. 14 by lethal injection at the hands of doctors at Brussels University Hospital in Jette. They found doctors in that municipality of the Brussels region willing to euthanize them after their local hospital rejected their requests to kill them, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported Jan. 14.
Doctors at the Verbessems' local hospital -- they lived in the village of Putte -- refused the twins' request because they were not experiencing unbearable pain, a requirement in Belgium for euthanasia.
"If any blind or deaf are allowed to [be euthanized], we are far from home," the local doctors said, according to The Telegraph. "[We] do not think this was what the legislation meant by 'unbearable suffering.'"
Wim Distelmans, the Brussels University doctor involved in euthanizing the twins, said in defense of the action, "It is certain that the twins meet all conditions for euthanasia."
Chris Gastmans, a medical ethicist at Catholic University in Leuven, said the implications for the disabled are troubling.
"Is this the only humane response that we can offer in such situations? ... Today it seems that euthanasia is the only right way to end life. And I think that's not a good thing," Gastmans said, according to The Telegraph. "In a society as wealthy as ours, we must find another, caring way to deal with human frailty."
Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).