New York state's highest court has ruled that state courts can enforce the clause in a Jewish couple's prenuptial agreement that requires them to resolve marital disputes before a religious court. The case involves a woman whose former husband has refused to appear before a Jewish religious court to give her a religious divorce; without it, she cannot marry again under Jewish law.
In the 4-to-3 decision, the New York State Court of Appeals said court enforcement does not violate church-state separation but constitutes enforcement of a contract. The ruling was the first on the subject by the highest court of any state.
The case involves Susan and Boaz Avitzur, who before their marriage in 1966 signed a "ketubah," or agreement, in which they pledged to appear before the Beth Din, or Jewish tribunal, for rulings on matters concerning their marriage. The ketubah is common in Conservative Jewish marriages.
The couple obtained a civil divorce in 1978. But the husband refused to appear before the Jewish tribunal to give his wife a religious divorce, or "get." Without it, she is known in Hebrew as an agunah, a chained woman who is forbidden to remarry.
The court ruling says the ketubah "should ordinarily be entitled to no less dignity than any other civil contract." The ruling, if not appealed to the federal courts, means the case will be returned to the New York Supreme Court for decision on whether the Avitzurs' ketubah does require him to appear before the religious court.
Pope Pius XII, the pontiff often accused of having kept silent in the face of Nazi atrocities, burned a protest letter he had written because of fear of endangering more lives, says the German nun who was his housekeeper for 40 years.
Sister Pascalina Lehnert told the Italian Catholic monthly, Jesus, that Pius condemned the Nazi massacres in the Netherlands in a scathing letter but decided at the last minute against its publication.
The pope was "profoundly shaken" when the Nazis reacted to a critical pastoral letter of the Dutch bishops by deporting 40,000 more people to concentration camps, she said.
She quoted the pope as saying, "If 40,000 people ended up in the death camps because of the Dutch bishops' words, Hitler would inter at least 200,000 for those of the pope."
The chief of security police of South Africa has recommended that the South African Council of Churches be barred from receiving any foreign funds. The foreign funds now account for more than 95 percent of the income of the council, a longtime foe of the government's apartheid policies.
Lt. Gen. Johan Coetzee made the recommendation to the Eloff Commission on Inquiry, which was appointed last year by the South African government to investigate the church council. He also recommended that the church council's domestic fund-raising activities be put under government control and that government approval be required of how council funds are spent.
Coetzee charged that the council, headed by Anglican Bishop Desmond M. Tutu, has been used to advance the interests of the outlawed African National Congress. The council represents 15 million South African Christians, about 80 percent of them black.
CBS News has refused to give the National Council of Churches (NCC) air time to respond to a recent, critical "60 Minutes" segment called "The Gospel According to Whom?" The segment asserted that some NCC funds filter down to finance international communism.
"We believe the broadcast was, in all respects, fair and accurate," Robert Chandler, CBS's senior vice president for documentaries and operations, said in a letter to NCC General Secretary Claire Randall. Randall had called the "60 Minutes" report "highly inaccurate and unfair" in a critique sent to program producer Don Hewitt.
The NCC, with 32 Protestant and Orthodox denominations the largest ecumenical organization in the country, had outlined "misrepresentations and distortions" in the program and said that "while the technicalities may not require you to offer us equal time, we believe you are obligated to do so on moral and journalistic grounds."
Leaders of five Protestant denominations also demanded time from the station under "personal attack" rules and were refused in a letter from Chandler. The request was made by top executives of the United Church of Christ, United Presbyterian Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Bishop John Burt of Ohio, and the United Methodist general commission on Christian unity and interreligious concerns.
In a case involving California's Faith Center, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand this week a ruling upholding the government's power to regulate how an "electronic" church solicits funds.
The court declined to hear an appeal by Faith Center from lower court rulings that backed the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) refusal to renew the church's license for a San Bernardino television station.
The FCC turned down the church's application for the license renewal in 1980 after the church refused to give information in a FCC investigation of the church for possible wire fraud. The FCC was investigating allegations that donations collected by Dr. W. Eugene Scott, president of the center, in over-the-air solicitations were not spent for the projects described.
The church said the government's request for information violated First Amendment church-state separation rights.