Briefly noted

Utah voters defeated the nation’s first statewide school voucher program that would have been open to all children, even those not from low- or middle-income families. The measure to grant $500 to $3,000, depending on family income, for each child enrolled in a private or a religious school was approved by the Utah legislature in February, but opponents forced a referendum onto the November 6 ballot. The voucher plan lost by about a 60-40 ratio, prompting Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to say, “Lawmakers in other states should sit up and take notice.”

Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher, a Republican hurt by a crony-hiring scandal, lost badly November 6 in his bid for reelection, despite his election-eve order that the Ten Commandments be displayed alongside other historical documents in the state Capitol. He was defeated by Democrat Steve Beshear, 63, a former state officeholder long out of politics who made faith the centerpiece of his campaign. He cited his religious upbringing often and ran TV ads showing him standing before a church in western Kentucky.

A group of Asian and African Anglican leaders back from a visit to China have praised a decision by the country’s ruling Communist Party to include the word religion in its constitution. “This is a recognition of the increasing role that the church plays in the nation’s economic and social development,” the Anglican leaders said after their October 21-30 visit. They met church and government officials and visited theological institutions and sites of early Christian missions. State media said the change, taken by the once–officially atheistic party at its October 15-21 national congress, was to meet demands posed by the “new situation and new tasks.” In recent years, Chinese leaders have said religion can play a role in creating a “harmonious society,” a term they associate with economic growth and social cohesion.

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