EDITOR'S NOTE: Culture Digest will not be published Dec. 28 and Jan. 5, resuming publication Friday, Jan. 12.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury warned his country that society is devaluing the elderly and can't wait for them to die.
In his last speech to the House of Lords before he resigns from his position, Rowan Williams said elderly people are being merely tolerated rather than valued, according to the Telegraph, a British newspaper.
"We tolerate a very eccentric view of the good life or the ideal life as one that can be lived only for a few years between, say, 18 and 40," the Telegraph reported the archbishop as saying.
Williams lamented the tendency to view older people as "dependents" or "problems," also warning that society has become "frenetically oriented towards youth."
"Its effect can be both to ignore the present reality of responsible, active people in older life, who are still participants in society, not passengers -- and to encourage younger people to forget that they are ageing themselves, and that they will be in need of positive and hopeful models for their own later years," he said, according to the Telegraph.
Williams cited studies showing that more than half of people over age 60 do some form of volunteer work to "support the fabric of society." He added that that if the culture wants its older citizens to support society, it should put to rest the stereotype of the passive elderly.
"And that means in turn that we may stop seeing the older population as primarily 'dependents' on the goodwill of family or neighbourhood or state," the Telegraph reported the archbishop as saying.
PERRY CALLS FOR PRO-LIFE LAWS IN TEXAS -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry has unveiled proposals for the next legislative session that would ban abortions in the last half of pregnancies and strengthen requirements for abortion doctors and clinics.
Speaking Dec. 11 at a Houston pregnancy help center, Perry said he would call for the Texas legislature to pass a bill that would prohibit abortions at 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.
The candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination also said he would urge legislators to approve a measure to require a doctor who performs abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital. In addition, he plans to seek passage of a measure to mandate that abortion clinics meet the licensing standards of ambulatory surgical centers.
Those two proposals are intended to protect the health and safety of women who choose to have abortions. Foes of such bills complain they are costly to abortion providers and can restrict abortion rights.
"Over the last decade, Texas has taken extraordinary steps to protect the lives of the unborn, but when 80,000 lives continue to be lost to abortion each year in our state, we know our work is far from over," Perry said, according to a written release. "In Texas, the Legislature meets for only 140 days every other year. As supporters of life, we have an obligation to make sure that every one of those days counts when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable citizens."
MAINE NOTARIES MUST WED SAME-SEX COUPLES -- Notaries public in Maine who officiate weddings but refuse to marry same-sex couples could be subject to discrimination claims under the Maine Human Rights Act.
According to the Bangor Daily News, the Maine secretary of state's office sent the notice to municipal clerks in December to clarify the policy before a new law allowing same-sex "marriage" goes into effect at the end of the month.
Notaries are not required to perform weddings, so the only way they could avoid marrying same-sex couples would be to stop officiating weddings entirely.
"The new law authorizing same-sex marriage does not provide any exemption from liability for Maine Notaries who refuse to perform marriages for same-sex couples," Cathy Beaudoin, who oversees the Maine Secretary of State's licensing of notaries, wrote in the emailed notice, according to the Daily News.
While the new same-sex "marriage" law approved by voters in a Nov. 6 referendum allows clergy with religious objections to not perform such marriages, notaries are not afforded the same right.
Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, advised notaries who object to same-sex "marriage" to stop officiating weddings altogether to avoid potential conflict with the law.
"There are ambiguities in the law you could drive a truck through," Conley told the Daily News. "The attorney general's office and the secretary of state's office wouldn't talk about the possible implications before the election, so now we're trying to identify and define where the conflicts are."
YOGA CLASSES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS CRITICIZED -- Yoga classes in public schools are facing a backlash from parents who are concerned the practice will indoctrinate their children with Eastern religion.
While yoga is taught at schools across the country on a limited basis, the Encinitas Union School District in California will be the first to have yoga instructors teach fulltime as part of its wellness curriculum, according to the Associated Press.
"This is 21st century [physical education] for our schools," Encinitas superintendent Timothy Baird told AP. "It's physical. It's strength-building. It increases flexibility but it also deals with stress reduction and focusing, which kickball doesn't do."
The program, which will go district-wide in January, has endured months of protest by a group of parents, AP reported. Mary Eady removed her first-grade son from the program after witnessing kindergarteners do what the teacher called an "opening sequence," known in yoga as a sun salutation, in which the children stood up and swept their arms toward the sky. As she saw it, they were learning to worship the sun, which went against her Christian beliefs.
"It will change the way you think," Eady told AP. "What they are teaching is inherently spiritual, it's just inappropriate therefore in our public schools."
A lawsuit to stop the program may be on the horizon, AP reported, while constitutional law experts say the courts have yet to clearly define what constitutes religion.
"You might get litigation on a program like this because it's not totally settled what the boundaries of religion are," New York University law professor Adam Samaha told AP.
Encinitas assistant superintendent David Miyashiro told AP the district is making sure cultural references and other potential concerns are removed from the program, which he said should continue.
Principal Stephanie Casperson praised the yoga program, telling AP that fewer students are sent to her office for acting out. Maria Walsh, 11, noted that although she was never into other sports, she enjoyed yoga.
"It's just a fun way for me to exercise," she said.
PRO-LIFERS AGAIN TO SING CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT ABORTION CLINICS -- The singing of Christmas carols has saved at least one unborn child's life, and pro-life advocates hope it will help rescue more during this season.
The Pro-life Action League will hold its 10th annual "Empty Manger" Christmas Caroling Day Dec. 22 at abortion clinics in the Chicago area. Similar caroling events will be held in other locations in the United States. During such an event, carolers stand around an empty manger and sing traditional carols outside an abortion center.
One year, the caroling reached the heart of a mother preparing to abort her child in a Chicago clinic.
"We were singing 'Silent Night' at American Women's Medical Center when a young woman came out of the clinic," Eric Scheidler, Pro-life Action League's executive director, recounted in a written release. "She approached one of our pro-life counselors and said we got her thinking about Mary and Baby Jesus. She just couldn't go through with her abortion."
The counselor referred her to a nearby pregnancy help center for assistance.
SUPERVISORS CELEBRATE ROE IN CONFLICT WITH WALK FOR LIFE -- The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to celebrate Roe v. Wade in a resolution pro-life advocates say seems to be more of a reaction to the popular Walk for Life West Coast than the 1973 Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion.
In a 10-0 vote Dec. 11, the board declared Jan. 26 to be a celebration of Roe and voiced support for a rally that day in honor of the decision that has resulted in about 55 million legal abortions in the last 40 years. The anniversary of Roe is Jan. 22. The Walk for Life West Coast -- which drew more than 40,000 participants last year -- is Jan. 26, however.
"Although the mainstream media virtually ignores the Walk for Life West Coast and 40,000+ people we have brought to the streets of San Francisco, it appears the San Francisco Board of Supervisors does not," said Eva Muntean, co-founder of the Walk for Life, according to the California Catholic Daily. "Why else would they choose January 26, the day of the Walk for Life, to commemorate 40 years of Roe v. Wade when the actual anniversary is January 22?"
BOXER SPEAKS FOR LIFE AFTER KNOCKOUT LOSS -- Manny Pacquiao, boxing's first champion in eight different divisions, spoke for the pro-life cause in the Filipino legislature only four days after a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao, 34, is a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. On Dec. 12, he said in a floor speech against a bill providing government funds for contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs:
"In the dying seconds of the sixth round of my fight against Marquez, a single punch knocked me out. For more than two minutes, I was lying unconscious, motionless. My wife cried, members of team Pacquiao cried, my friends and fans cried when they saw that I was not moving at all. Some thought I was dead. What happened in Vegas strengthened my already firm belief of the sanctity of life. Manny Pacquiao is pro-life. Manny Pacquiao is voting no to House Bill Number 4244."
Despite Pacquiao's appeal, the House voted 113-104 for the measure on its second reading, according to LifeSiteNews.com.
Critics of the legislation fear it will lead to the legalization of abortion in the Philippines.
LIBERTY COUNSEL NAMED SPONSOR OF LIFE DIRECTIVE -- The country's largest Hispanic evangelical Christian association has named Liberty Counsel as senior sponsor of its Life Directive.
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which consists of more than 40,000 churches, has seven directives that guide its work. Liberty Counsel will work to help the NHCLC in its promotion of a culture that protects life from conception to natural death. Liberty Counsel also will act as the association's legislative and policy arm, it was announced Dec. 13.
"We believe that the Hispanic community, with its long-standing tradition of strong families and faith, holds the key to restoring pro-life and pro-family values in America," said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel's chairman, in a written statement.
REPORT: NEW ORLEANS DOWN TO ONE ABORTION CLINIC -- New Orleans has only one abortion clinic remaining 17 years after it had seven, according to a new report.
Midtown Medical was the latest abortion clinic to decide to shut down, LifeNews.com reported Dec. 17. The clinic's closing followed the Dec. 1 death of abortion doctor Kiat Varnishung.
Compiled by Tom Strode of Baptist Press and John Evans, a writer in Houston. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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