|NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- For the second time in three years, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has laid off about 50 employees, this time in order to shift resources to a new online evangelism venture.
In a statement, BGEA said it "continues to seek ways to improve our effectiveness and incorporate advances in technology. We are redeploying resources to support our strategic priorities, one of which includes our new SearchforJesus.net ministry."
The association said the move "in no way reflects the financial health of the organization" but is a strategy change which affects fewer than 50 employees on a staff of nearly 500.
Employees who are losing their jobs are being given severance packages and career assistance, BGEA said, and while some will work only through mid-March, others will remain until mid-June.
BGEA has offices in five countries, coordinating spiritual training and retreats, crusades, festivals, the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., and various book, television, radio and online projects.
Between 2005 and 2008, income at BGEA fell from $126 million to $93 million, according to the Charlotte Observer, and in 2011 the income stood at $91.6 million.
Franklin Graham is president and CEO of BGEA, overseeing daily operations, and his father remains chairman of the organization the renowned evangelist founded in 1950.
SearchforJesus.net launched nearly a year ago and allows users to see real-time decisions for Christ around the globe with Google Earth. When people enter phrases such as "I want to be loved" or "Is there a God?" in popular search engines, BGEA's online outreach tool directs them to Gospel presentations addressing those concerns.
Also in this week's Culture Digest:
PORNOGRAPHY-FREE INTERNET OPTION ADVOCATED -- A national movement is asking Congress to require Internet service providers to offer an alternative online community that complies with federal obscenity laws intended to protect minors.
Scott Cooper of SafeInternetPetition.org cited a study from 2008 that found 93 percent of boys had been exposed to online pornography.
"This is at once extremely harmful and ridiculous," Cooper said. "The government won't enforce its own laws and then won't mandate a safe, legal alternative. ... This is a clear violation of consumer and parental rights and choice."
A Common Sense Media poll found that 85 percent of parents believe the Internet poses the greatest risk to their children among all forms of media.
"They are being socialized to view such images and behaviors as normal, routine and comical," Cooper said. "This would have been unimaginable to past generations. It's time to take a stand on behalf of our children."
IRISH ONCOLOGIST: NO CASE WHERE ABORTION NEEDED TO SAVE MOTHER -- A highly regarded Irish oncologist -- who is not pro-life -- recently said he has never been faced with a situation in which an abortion was needed to save a mother's life.
John Crown, who is a consultant at two Dublin hospitals and recently won election to Ireland's Senate, said on his Twitter account Feb. 22 he had encountered some difficult decisions about chemotherapy during pregnancy. According to LifeSiteNews.com, he tweeted, "I don't think I ever had a case where abortion was necessary to save mom."
Crown's comment came as abortion rights advocates seek legalization of the procedure in Ireland, asserting women are being prevented from receiving "life-saving medical treatment," LifeSiteNews reported.
DUTCH EUTHANASIA UNITS BEGIN HOUSE CALLS -- House calls began having a new meaning March 1 in The Netherlands.
Mobile euthanasia units staffed by doctors and nurses have started traversing the European country to end the lives of people in their homes. The teams -- known as Levenseinde, or "Life End," units -- go to the homes of people who desire to be euthanized but whose physicians have refused to fulfill their requests, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper.
Dutch law supposedly limits those eligible for euthanasia to people who are incurable and in unbearable pain, but the actual practice appears far more expansive. Newborns with disabilities and people with chronic depression, mental pain and even macular degeneration have been euthanized, said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Macular degeneration is an affliction typically in older people that causes a loss of vision in the center of the eye.
"e have serious doubts that a doctor who is only focused on performing euthanasia will actually follow the loose, but often referred to as strict, criteria," Schadenberg said. "We are particularly concerned with the ability to protect someone from elder abuse, which is difficult to identify and a growing problem in society."
More than 3,100 deaths by euthanasia were reported in 2010 in The Netherlands, but another 20 percent may have been unreported, Schadenberg said. In addition, there are about 550 unreported euthanasia deaths that are not requested or consented to, he said. The total also does not include disabled infants who are euthanized, he said.
The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End to Life, which sponsors the mobile units, predicts the effort will result in an additional 1,000 euthanasia deaths a year, according to reports. The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002.
FLA. HOUSE APPROVES STRICTER RULES FOR ABORTION DOCTORS -- The Florida House of Representatives has passed legislation that would strengthen requirements on abortion doctors and clinics.
In a 78-33 vote March 1, the House approved these requirements, according to The Palm Beach Post: (1) Only doctors who specialized in abortion procedures during residency may own abortion clinics; (2) there must be a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion; (3) a woman seeking an abortion must be told that unborn children can feel pain after 20 weeks' gestation, and (4) abortion providers are barred from advertising.
The Senate, however, appears unlikely to take up the proposal, The Post reported.
GA. HOUSE APPROVES PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTION BAN -- The Georgia House of Representatives has voted 102-65 for a proposal that would ban abortions after 20 weeks based on evidence that unborn children feel pain by that point in a pregnancy.
Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, commended the Feb. 29 passage of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which provides an exception to protect the mother's life. Becker said the bill would assure "that horrific late-term abortions will not be performed in our state."
If it becomes law, the bill could save the lives of more than 1,000 babies a year, Becker said. Continued...