Chuck Colson, who became a born-again Christian amid the Watergate scandal and later became the most prominent advocate for the spiritual transformation of prisoners, died Saturday afternoon, according to Prison Fellowship ministry and reported in The Christian Post. He was 80. Colson had suffered from intracerebral hemorrhage, which resulted in him undergoing surgery about two weeks ago to remove the blood clot on his brain. Initially his condition improved and he was able to talk to his wife and children. But late last Tuesday, his condition took a turn for the worse and doctors had advised the Colson family to gather by his bedside in preparation for his departure. While Colson was facing arrest for his involvement in the Watergate scandal in 1973, a friend gave him a copy of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, which led to his dramatic conversion. He published his memoir Born Again in 1975, two years after becoming a Christian. The memoir was made into a film in 1978 carrying the same title. After his conversion, Colson dedicated his life to helping prisoners experience the radical transformation possible in Christ through his non-profit Prison Fellowship. For more than 30 years, Colson kept the tradition of ministering to prisoners in jail every Easter Sunday. “Whatever good I may have done is because God saw fit to reach into the depths of Watergate and convert a broken sinner,” said Colson in a statement in 2008 in response to receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal. “Everything that has been accomplished these past 35 years has been by God’s grace and sovereign design.” President George W. Bush in 2008 awarded Colson the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest honor to a private citizen, for his Christian-based outreach to prisoners, ex-convicts, crime victims, and their families. The award was created by President Richard Nixon to recognize citizens “who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.” “Through his [Colson’s] strong faith and leadership, he has helped courageous men and women from around the world make successful transitions back into society,” the White House had stated in the recipient citations. “The United States honors Chuck Colson for his good heart and his compassionate efforts to renew a spirit of purpose in the lives of countless individuals.”
- A prominent persecution ministry leader has died, and his death is now being described as a suicide in the wake of a molestation investigation by local police, reports Christianity Today. Tom White, executive director of The Voice of the Martyrs, was found dead last Wednesday morning in a warehouse at the ministry’s headquarters in Bartlesville, Okla., according to Tulsa CBS affiliate News on 6. Court records indicate that Bartlesville police were investigating a molestation allegation against White, regarding inappropriate contact with a young girl. VOM responded, “We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken. However, the work that God has called VOM to do is bigger than any one of us. There are persecuted Christians who need our help. The legal process will go forward, and we will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters. We appreciate the many who are praying for our work, and we encourage you to join us in praying for Tom’s family during this difficult time.”
- A former Navy chaplain who fights to defend religious freedom says it’s an outrage that Air Force officials appear ready to remove a requirement for Bibles to be placed in on-base lodging rooms, reports onenewsnow.com. The Warner Robins Patriot, a Georgia newspaper, recently reported that officials with Air Force Services Operations have apparently agreed in principle to remove the requirement that Bibles be placed in base lodging by the Gideons. That report—though disputed somewhat by an Air Force spokesman—comes following protests from a group called the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. MAAF claimed that the placement of Bibles in on-base rooms was a “special privilege for Christianity,” and an Air Force agency said that a legal review showed “no requirement to have Bibles in the lodging checklist.” The atheist group, which says it had been contacted by a “cockpit atheist” in Kadena Airbase in Japan, had complained that the accreditation checklist specifying the exact contents of a room included a Bible.
- A group of Baptists have turned up their fight against the Texas Lottery Commission, arguing that the lotto has proved unsuccessful in raising funds for state education and wrongly exploits the poor, reports chron.com. The Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas has lobbied against the expansion of the lottery and specific parts of the system, including the introduction of a $50 scratch-off ticket, but this is the first time they’ve proposed the abolition of the lottery entirely, according to Suzii Paynter, the group’s director. “Having a deceptive product that is supported by the state is morally wrong,” she said. “From a Christian perspective, that is wrong. We have a moral aversion to exploiting poor populations.”
- After holding vigil inside their closed church for the past seven years, about 30 angry parishioners protested outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston this past week, one day after they discovered the Archdiocese of Boston apparently changed the locks to the building, reports bostonherald.com. “We thought it was vandalism,” said Steve Ashcraft, pointing out a broken key jammed in the front door’s key hole, adding that a side door was glued shut. “We were put on notice that if we go into the church we’d be arrested.” A group of about 70 people regularly attended services at the church since the archdiocese closed it about seven years ago. The archdiocese allowed them use of the building even though it was officially closed—until now. The archdiocese released a statement yesterday through spokeswoman Kellyanne Dignan, who refused to elaborate on what the organization intends to do with the property, which includes a rectory and convent. “For the better part of seven years, we have permitted the vigil while the petitioners pursued various appeals,” the statement said. “The time for this vigil to end has come.” Ashcraft said the protesters, who lost a recent church ruling, have 60 days to appeal to the Vatican supreme court. “Churches shouldn’t be equated in dollars and cents,” Ashcraft said. “A lot of our parishioners were born in Italy. They don’t close churches in Italy and tear them down to build condos.”
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says President Barack Obama’s political machine is pulling out all the stops to defeat him in the pivotal June 5 recall election—a race that could determine the future of many efforts around the country to curb runaway government spending. “I think you’ll see the most radical elements on the left are going to be involved in this recall, because again for them, this is so critically important,” Walker told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “I think they understand that when we win, this will send a powerful message not just to other Republican governors, but to even some of the discerning Democrats who hold governorships and even mayoral positions across the country.” If he loses the June 5 recall election, Walker would be just the third governor in U.S. history to be recalled. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators are subject to recall elections as well. But a GOP victory in June would signal a “huge success” and could have national implications in November, he suggested.
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is questioning the U.S. Secret Service about possible involvement of White House staff in the Colombian prostitution scandal, reports The Washington Times. Given the close working relationship among members of the Secret Service and other White House advance teams, Grassley wants to know whether Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards is investigating the possibility that staff from the White House Communications Agency and White House Office of Advance also may be involved in the scandal. Grassley’s questions come following a Friday Senate Judiciary staff briefing the Secret Service provided.
- Alton L. Hayes III of Illinois, charged with a hate crime, told police he was so upset about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida that he beat up a man early Tuesday because he was white, reports Patriot Update. Hayes and a 15-year-old Chicago boy walked up behind the 19-year-old victim and pinned his arms to his side, police said. Hayes, 18, then picked up a large tree branch, pointed it at the man and said, “Empty your pockets, white boy.” The two allegedly rifled through the victim’s pockets, then threw him to the ground and punched him “numerous times” in the head and back before running away, police said.
- While much of the political world obsesses over Twitter fights and Seamus the dog, Barack Obama has set himself up for a high-profile defeat on one of the most important issues of the campaign, according to a report in Patriot Update: “The president has put his feet in cement in opposition to the Keystone oil pipeline. But on Capitol Hill, more and more Democrats are joining Republicans to force approval of the pipeline, whether Obama wants it or not.” The latest action happened last Wednesday, when the House passed a measure to move the pipeline forward. Before the vote, Obama issued a veto threat. The House approved the pipeline anyway—by a veto-proof majority, 293 to 127. Sixty-nine Democrats abandoned the president to vote with Republicans.
- When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it’s an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them. Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney vowed Friday that, if elected president, he would build the controversial Keystone Pipeline linking oil deposits in Canada to refineries on the Texas gulf coast. “I will build that pipeline if I have to do it myself,” Romney said during a speech before state Republican Party leaders gathered at a retreat in Arizona, reports conservativebyte.com. In other news, Republican senators are accusing President Obama of pushing a “less-than-honest” claim about the scarcity of domestic oil, after a U.S. Geological Survey study showed the United States might actually hold a quarter of the world’s untapped, undiscovered supply, reports cowboybyte.com. The president often uses a much different statistic in speeches. He said last Tuesday, as he has before, that “the problem is we use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil and we only have 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.”