Trumpet Notes: May 24, 2023

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Taxpayers Still Subsidize the Arkansas Lottery’s Scholarship Fund

A state budget appropriation measure passed last month serves as a reminder that taxpayers in Arkansas are still heavily subsidizing the Arkansas Lottery’s college scholarship fund. When voters passed the constitutional amendment legalizing the state-run lottery in 2008, Arkansans were promised that lottery ticket sales would generate $100 million per year for college scholarships. Since then, the Arkansas Lottery has struggled to live up to those promises, and the Arkansas Legislature has continued to budget millions of dollars in taxpayer funding to supplement lottery scholarships each year.

In April, the legislature appropriated $25 million for the Academic Challenge Scholarship (the scholarship the lottery funds) for the state’s upcoming 2023-2024 budget cycle. Even though the Arkansas Lottery makes hundreds of millions of dollars every year, relatively little money goes to students — and regular taxpayers still end up footing part of the bill for the scholarships. (familycouncil.org)

Major Film Studio Acquires Distribution Rights to ‘The Chosen’

“The Chosen” has found a new home as filming for the hit Bible series’ fourth season is underway. Lionsgate, the Canadian-American film studio, has acquired worldwide distribution rights to all seasons of the Christian series, created by writer, director and producer Dallas Jenkins.

As a property of Angel Studios, the series’ original distributor, “The Chosen” saw great success as the largest crowdsourced project in entertainment history. The show chronicling Jesus’ earthly ministry has reached more than 110 million viewers in 175 countries, and is set to be translated in 600 languages. Since the first season, “The Chosen” has been streamed more than 500 million times and has earned $35 million at the box office in theatrical releases connected to the hit series.

Jenkins, while filming season three last fall, told CBN’s Faithwire it has been “very clear” from the start that God is orchestrating the success of “The Chosen.” As for ensuring the Bible-based series stays true to its source material, Jenkins said he sets aside time each morning before they begin filming to “get with God” to be certain his motivations are in the right place. That, of course, comes after weeks of research conducted alongside historians and theologians who thoroughly review the scripts of each episode to be certain they mesh with first-century culture and the biblical accounts. (faithwire.com)

Baby Safely Surrendered at Safe Haven Baby Box in Benton

A baby was surrendered earlier this month at one of Benton’s two Safe Haven Baby Boxes. It is the second baby surrendered in Benton and the fourth surrender in the state. The first baby was surrendered in May 2020 at the same Benton Fire Station.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes are installed on the exterior wall of a designated fire station or hospital. Other boxes are located in Rogers, Springdale, Mountain Home, Jonesboro, Conway, Fort Smith, Maumelle, DeQueen, Nashville, Magnolia and El Dorado.

Arkansas Right to Life has promoted the Safe Haven Law through a billboard campaign that began in Harrison in June 2019. Since then, billboards have been placed in 30 Arkansas counties.

The Safe Haven Law, enacted in Arkansas in 2001, is designed to protect babies from being hurt or killed from abandonment by parents who are unwilling or unable to provide parenting. Under the law, a parent may give up an infant anonymously at a hospital emergency room or law enforcement agency, but in 2019 the law was amended to include manned fire stations as a surrender location. The amended law sponsored by Arkansas Sen. Bledsoe and Rep. Rebecca Petty, also approved the installation of newborn safety devices at surrender locations. (familycouncil.org)

Earliest Hebrew Bible Sells for $38M

The auction house Sotheby’s recently sold a 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible for $38 million in New York. It is one of the world’s oldest surviving biblical manuscripts and brought the second-highest price at auction for a historical document. The 26-pound book, whose five-inch stack of parchment contains 396 pages, sold following a five-minute battle between two bidders vying mainly over the telephone. The final price, with Sotheby’s fees, fell short of breaking the record currently held by a $43.2 million copy of the U.S. Constitution bought by billionaire Ken Griffin two years ago, according to The Wall Street Journal. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester sold for $31 million in 1994 or around $60 million in today’s dollars.

Known as The Codex Sassoon, the leather-bound, handwritten volume containing a nearly complete Hebrew Bible, was purchased by former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Alfred H. Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and donated to ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, where it will join the museum’s collection, Sotheby’s said in a statement.

This ancient copy of the Bible is believed to have been put together sometime between 880 and 960 AD. The auction house’s completed auction page lists it as “Circa 900” and as “The earliest most complete Hebrew Bible.” Jaqui Safra, the Bible’s seller, paid to have carbon dating done to try to definitively date the manuscript’s origin. Testing confirmed the book’s dates to the late ninth century or early 10th century, Sotheby’s said. 

Scholars consider this Bible to be the earliest and most complete collection of Hebrew writing gathered into a book instead of spread across a scroll. The book contains 24 smaller books that sweep across the Old Testament, better known to Jews as the Tanakh, according to The Wall Street Journal

The Bible was renamed “Codex Sassoon” by the auction house in honor of David Solomon Sassoon, who purchased it in 1929. The son of an Iraqi Jewish business magnate, Sassoon filled his London home with his collection of Jewish manuscripts. Sassoon’s estate was broken up after he died and the biblical codex was sold by Sotheby’s in Zurich in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund for around $320,000, or $1.4 million in today’s dollars. The pension fund sold the Codex Sassoon 11 years later to Safra, a banker and art collector. He bought it in 1989 for $3.19 million ($7.7 million in today’s dollars). (faithwire.com)

 “Smash Away Feelings, Fund Abortion”

A pro-abortion group is inviting its supporters to come “smash away your feelings” and “fund abortion” at an event in Little Rock later this week. In a promotional email obtained by Family Council, Arkansas Abortion Support Network writes, “Do you need to get some aggression out? Do you like funding abortion? Have we got a deal for you! Join us for Smash-A-Thon on Saturday, May 27! We’ll have dishes, glasses, bottles, maybe some electronics and a car that you can smash, break and destroy. We’ll provide all smashing implements and safety gear. You bring your rage, some enthusiasm for smashing and a desire to fund abortion.”

A registration web page for the event advertises, “Fund Abortion. Build Power. Smash the Patriarchy.” The event is part of the National Network of Abortion Funds’ annual Fund-A-Thon and will take place on Office Park Drive in Little Rock — across the street from what used to be a surgical abortion facility. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, the abortion facility closed, and Arkansas Abortion Support Network began utilizing the location.

Arkansas Abortion Support Network refers women to abortion facilities in other states. The group’s website promotes information about “self-managed” abortions via abortion-inducing drugs, and historically has lobbied against pro-life legislation at the Arkansas Capitol.

All of this underscores what we have said in the past: It’s important to prohibit abortion through legislation, but we also need to work to eliminate the demand for abortion. One way Arkansans can do that is by supporting pro-life organizations that empower women with real options besides abortion.

Arkansas is home to more than 60 organizations that assist pregnant women — including some 45 pregnancy resource centers that help women with unplanned pregnancies. The State of Arkansas is nearly finished awarding $1 million in grants to pregnancy-help organizations for the 2022-2023 budget cycle and is set to provide additional funding in the coming months. That money is going to help a lot of women and children in Arkansas. (familycouncil.org)

Poll Finds Religious Attendance Declining

For American religion in recent years, the story has often been one of decline. A shrinking number of Americans (16%) say religion is the most important thing in their lives, down from 20% in 2013. And nearly 3 in 10 (or 29%) say religion is not important to them at all, up from 19% 10 years ago. Those are among the findings in a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute on religion and congregations fielded in 2022 and published May 16.

The survey of 5,872 American adults finds that 57% seldom or never attend religious services (compared with 45% in 2019), and some of those who do are restless. The survey finds that 24% of Americans said they now belong to a religious congregation other than the one they grew up in — that’s up from 16% in 2021.

But among those who remain churchgoers, there’s a happier story, too. Most churchgoers across Christian traditions (59%) have attended their current church for more than 10 years, revealing remarkable stability. An overwhelming number of regular attenders (82%) say they are optimistic about the future of their congregation, and a whopping 89% say they are proud to be associated with their church.

Americans who attend church at least a few times a year are slightly more likely than those who seldom or never attend church to be civically or politically active. The survey shows they are more likely to have contacted a government official (23% vs. 19%), served on a committee (17% vs. 10%), or volunteered for a political campaign (7% vs. 4%).

The survey also asked Americans what subjects they hear about from the pulpit. Most churchgoers reported poverty and inequality, followed by racism and abortion. While 71% of churchgoers identified in the survey said their congregations should provide perspectives on social issues, only 45% agreed with the statement “Congregations should get involved in social issues.”

The survey did find a growing number of people switching their religion — now about a quarter of all Americans. Catholics appeared to be the biggest losers in this game of musical chairs. Among Americans who left their religious tradition, 37% say they were formerly Catholic, more than any other group.

Catholics also scored poorly on the question of whether religion is important to them. White Catholics were twice as likely in 2022 as they were in 2013 to say religion is not important (16% vs. 7%), and this gap is larger among Hispanic Catholics (13% vs. 2%).

The survey was fielded in August 2022. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.86 percentage points. (baptistpress.com)