Ronald Reagan’s budget cutting would not harm the “truly needy,” the president’s men said, because a safety net would be provided. But a December budget decision has shown that nonprofit magazines and newspapers—including hundreds of Christian periodicals—are fish too small to be caught in the safety net.
To the surprise and dismay of publishers nationwide, the second-class postal rates for nonprofit bulk mailers (the rubric under which most Christian publications fall) more than doubled in January. The heaviest blow affecting most Christian magazines came in the category called per-copy surcharge, with the cost springing from 3.5 cents per piece to 7.1 cents.
“There’s no doubt this is a serious, even devastating, thing,” said James Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Press Association. “One of the dangers is that the religious press is going to be muted, if not in some places silenced.”
Indeed, John Stapert, the Evangelical Press Association’s postal liaison, estimates up to 10 percent of all religious periodicals in the nation will be forced out of operation by the increase. Another 50 percent will reduce the size or number of issues.
The higher rates affect not just religious publications, but art societies, labor unions, college alumni associations—any nonprofit organizations mailing under the second-, third-, and fourth-class rates.
Meanwhile, many who read religious periodicals can anticipate higher subscription costs. Doyle said members of the Catholic Press Association expect to raise rates anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars per year. The evangelical magazine Eternity, said publisher William Petersen, will have to raise subscription prices. Edgar Trexler, editor of one of the largest denominational magazines, the Lutheran, said he will have to do the same. And the Reformed Church in America’s Banner has been hit by a double punch. Nearly a quarter of its circulation is in Canada, where a volcanic surge in postage will force Canadian readers to pay an $8.60-per-year mailing charge, as opposed to $4.30 last year. A Banner official said the magazine expects to pay $70,000 more in postal costs in 1982 than in 1981.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY will face postal costs 82 percent greater than last year’s. Adding to that the higher costs for mailing LEADERSHIP magazine, and for mailing promotional letters, the corporation will pay about $250,000 more this year.
Adding to the frustration of editors and publishers is the fact that the increased costs are partially a mistake. Emmett Lucey, a Washington, D.C., attorney, serves as counsel for the Evangelical Press Association, American Jewish Press Association, American Church Press, and Catholic Press Association. He said part of the increased costs are due to an oversight by staff members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Nonprofit periodicals have long been subsidized for a portion of their mailing costs, but Congress decided in 1971 to eliminate the subsidies gradually, making the nonprofits responsible for all their mailing costs by 1987. In recent years, however, Congress has balked at renewing the subsidies—a mood especially heightened last year with the “Reagan mandate” to lance the bloated federal government.
Scurrying to finish work before the Christmas break, the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to allocate $22 million for subsidizing the postal costs of nonprofit organizations. (The $22 million would have been a greatly reduced subsidy, but at least slightly helpful to nonprofit publications.) The committee’s staff was instructed to distribute the $22 million in funds for libraries, agricultural, religious, and other nonprofit organizations, Lucey said. But several of those categories, including the religious one, were overlooked, and the mistake was signed into law.
Lucey and others are quick to emphasize the government was not discriminating against religious or other nonprofit publications. “We are but a grain in the sand [of the multibillion-dollar federal budget],” Lucey said. Religious publication editors say they are willing to give up the subsidy and “pay our own way,” but not so suddenly. Said Lutheran editor Trexler, “Congress made an arrangement for a phase-in” to culminate with the complete removal of the subsidy by 1986. “It should keep faith in it,” he added, “and not knock the pins out from under us all at once.”
“There won’t be any winners, only losers,” Trexler contended. Some magazines will go under, others will reduce their number of issues, and still others will drop to cheaper third-class rates.
Trexler testified before Congress about threatened higher postal rates last year and repeats what he said then. Large magazines like his, which goes to 600,000 members of the Lutheran Church in America, will be able to adjust and carry on. “But dozens [of smaller periodicals] run right on the line between disaster and success already,” he said. For them, one more cost is one more cost too many.
Publications that will be hit worst are those light in weight, without ads. One such publication is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Decision magazine. Mailing an astronomical 24 million copies annually, Decision will now be mailed third class instead of second class. In the past, third class was actually more expensive than second class. But that is no longer true under certain circumstances. Most of the 280 members of the Catholic Press Association are parish newspapers, lightweight, and carry little advertising. Likewise, the Baptist Press reported an uproar from editors of state Baptist magazines—also lightweight, with little or no advertising.
The escalating costs of paper, printing bills, and postage have kept religious publishers gasping for years. The January postage hike left most dazed but not panicked, and forced them to pore over the budget books anew. The publishers can all agree on one thing: accepting the gospel may be free, but it is getting more and more expensive to communicate the gospel’s work.
Californians Will Monitor Evolution Teaching In Schools
Last spring Kelly Segraves, a fundamentalist Christian from San Diego, went to court to protect his children from being taught in science classes that they were descended from apes. The news media flocked to superior court in Sacramento for the trial that everybody hoped would be “Scopes II,” a descendent of the famous confrontation between lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.
That did not develop, because the Segraves family and their organization, the Creation Science Research Center, were not seeking to prove evolution false. All they wanted was to get the state board of education to reaffirm a 1973 policy of teaching evolution as theory, not dogma. The policy was reaffirmed, so the creationists folded their tents and left the courtroom, to the disappointment of many reporters and creationists who were yearning for battle.
Now, the Segraveses have embarked on phase two of their plan to rid California public schools of dogmatic evolutionism. Kelly Segraves, along with Robert Grant of the conservative lobby Christian Voice, announced the formation of the Creation Creed Committee, a consortium of laymen and clergymen who intend to make sure local school boards carry out the antidogma directive, especially in science textbooks that are purchased for classes.
Said Grant: “We are no longer going to sit quietly on the sidelines while our children’s cherished religious beliefs are violated by the teaching of evolution as fact and by the ridiculing of creation theories.”
Grant and Segraves said that in each local school district a network of parents and church congregations will review textbooks and monitor classrooms to make sure the state policy is enforced. (There were no details on how the monitoring would take place.) The group intends to use direct mail as well as radio and television commercials to raise awareness in the religious community that the policy against dogmatic views on evolution exists.
Mosley Collins, attorney for the committee, plans to solicit each of the 1,100 local school boards around the state for evidence of their efforts to comply with the directive, as well as their actions to correct violations of it.
Among clergymen who plan to be active on the committee is E. V. Hill of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, an influential black minister.
Grant and Segraves maintain they are not practicing censorship and that they do not desire further litigation. All they want is to see that existing rules are enforced. As Grant put it: “We are on the side of the angels.”
Private Schools Escape Irs—For A While, Anyway
For the last 12 years, the Internal Revenue Service has had authority to deny tax exemptions to private schools thought to be discriminating racially. Last month President Reagan took that power away, not because he thinks discrimination is a good idea, but because he thinks Congress, not the IRS, should decide whether schools that discriminate should be denied tax exempt status.
His decision raised a furor. “This represents a retreat to a sad era of racial injustice in our nation’s history, which most Americans have worked to put behind them,” said U.S. Senator Gary Hart, a Democrat from Colorado. He and other political liberals announced immediate plans to draw up a bill that would reinstate the IRS policy.
Shortly after announcing the change in policy, the Reagan administration seemed to reverse itself, apparently in an effort to correct a misunderstanding about where Reagan stood on the issue of discrimination. Actually, the sudden change was only a clarification that Reagan would not wait for Congress to act, but would propose legislation himself.
Others believe the federal government has no business using its tax powers to force people to conform to public policy, especially when it violates their religious beliefs.
The IRS has been trying to take away the tax exemption of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, because of its policy against interracial dating and marriage, and because, until 1975, it declined to admit most blacks. The school fought the government all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was to hear the case during its present term, until the issue was rendered moot by Reagan’s decision. The arguments used by Bob Jones will come up again as the Religious Right lobbies against any bill reestablishing the discrimination policy.
In its legal brief submitted to the Supreme Court, Bob Jones argues that it is an exclusively religious institution, deriving its beliefs on interracial marriage exclusively from the Bible—an argument with which lower courts generally have agreed. (Most conservative Bible scholars would be hard put to find Scripture backing the Bob Jones view.) The school argues that the federal government, by wielding its tax powers against the school, is “prescribing a minimum floor of acceptable church doctrine to which every religion must subscribe or else suffer taxation.”
The school argues that the IRS violates the religious protection guaranteed by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”). Finally, the school argues that the antidiscrimination policy creates tax preferences for conforming religions and calls for excessive entanglement of government with religious bodies.
William Ball, the attorney for Bob Jones University, said that news accounts of the change in the IRS policy seem to emphasize the racial discrimination issue and neglect the religious base on which many legitimate Christian schools are seeking to free themselves from the government.
Three years ago the IRS tried to make private schools prove they do not discriminate by requiring them to enroll a quota of minority students and vigorously recruit minority teachers. There was such a storm of protest that Congress passed a law preventing the IRS from acting.
Acting under the protection of a federal court order, however, the IRS has begun doing the same thing in Mississippi, but there only. Christian schools in Mississippi, caught in the net, have protested vigorously, and lawsuits have sprung up in an effort to knock out that IRS offensive. The Mississippi situation was not immediately clear in light of the new change in IRS policy, since a federal court order is involved. Many of the Christian schools in Mississippi have no fear they will be found discriminatory, for their purpose is genuinely religious. They are fighting the notion that the government can dictate to a religious institution whom it can hire and whom it can enroll.
David McKenna will leave his post as president of Seattle Pacific University (SPU) to become president of Asbury Theological Seminary. McKenna, an ordained minister in the Free Methodist Church, was SPU president for 14 years. He will become president at Asbury on July 1.
William A. Dyrness has been elected president of New College Berkeley, Berkeley, California. Dyrness, currently on the faculty of Asian Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines, succeeds W. Ward Gasque. Gasque will return as vice-principal to Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.
James P. Schaefer is the new editor of the Northwestern Lutheran, the official semimonthly magazine of the Wisconsin Synod. Schaefer is a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin. He succeeds the retiring Harold Wicke, editor of the magazine since 1970.
Faith, prayer, and love played a big part in Reagan Press Secretary James Brady’s recovery, his physical therapist believes. The therapist, Cathy Wyne, hesitates to call his recovery from brain injuries a miracle, “but faith, people’s prayers and his own inner strength had a lot to do with it.” Brady was seriously injured during last spring’s assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Elmer G. Homrighausen, 81, dean emeritus of Princeton Theological Seminary, first secretary for evangelism of the World Council of Churches, translator of Karl Barth; January 4, at Princeton Medical Center, of a heart attack.
Charles Mellis, 60, former president of Missionary Aviation Fellowship, author and editor; December 22, in Fullerton, California, after a brief illness.
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