- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2007

Background checks irk some volunteers

PITTSBURGH — A new reality of American Catholic life — background checks on volunteers who work with children — is generating criticism in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The diocese, which covers six counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, is following a national standard by running checks on its estimated 30,000 volunteers. Some volunteers, however, said they feel the step doesn’t address the issue of sex abuse and invades the privacy of people who often have little contact with children and teenagers.

Dr. Mark Stehlik, a lector coordinator at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pittsburgh, said two volunteers quit in protest over the screening process. Dr. Stehlik said he does not think they were hiding anything.

“For a community, meaning the Catholic community, that has been built up on the backs of willing parish volunteers, there had better be a really good, verifiable return to justify putting anything onerous in the way of that volunteerism,” Dr. Stehlik said. “In my mind, that return is just not there. We are paying a huge price for a very small likelihood of something actually happening.”

Anglican province to skip Lambeth

NEW YORK — Another group of Anglican leaders is planning to boycott the fellowship’s once-a-decade assembly as divisions over the Bible and homosexuality threaten to split the world Anglican Communion.

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda said June 19 that its members won’t attend the Lambeth Conference next year in England because five Rwandan bishops weren’t invited.

Those bishops oversee the Anglican Mission in America, a breakaway group of theologically conservative parishes that are not recognized by the Anglican Communion.

The communion’s spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has said that he did not invite bishops connected to the Rwanda-led mission or to other breakaway groups because he thought it would disrupt efforts at the conference to keep Anglicans together.

The world fellowship has been in an uproar since the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican body in the United States, consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene. Robinson of New Hampshire.

Judge rules against evangelist over speech

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Pentecostal evangelist familiar to both college campuses and courtrooms has lost his initial bid to speak at Murray State University in western Kentucky.

James G. “Brother Jim” Gilles of Symsonia, Ky., sued the university in 2006, claiming that MSU deprived him of his rights to free speech and to exercise his religion by rejecting his requests to preach at the Curris Center, a campus spot frequented by students and visitors.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell, however, ruled that the school’s campus speech policy, which requires speakers to obtain on-campus sponsors, is legal and not a burden on Mr. Gilles.

Mr. Gilles contends that he was not required to have a sponsor before 2004 and that MSU officials are arbitrarily enforcing the student handbook’s solicitation policy.

Since 1981, the year Mr. Gilles says he found God while attending a Van Halen concert, the preacher has traveled across the nation to speak at dozens of universities and state capitals. He’s fought speaking restrictions at other colleges, with some success.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a national legal organization founded in part by the Christian group Focus on the Family, represented Mr. Gilles in the lawsuit.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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