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Adventist Congresswoman Steps Down from Key Posts — and More News Shorts


In this week’s news round-up, Adventist congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee temporarily steps down from key posts amid ex-aide’s retribution claim in sexual assault case, Navesau Adventist High School must now charge students fees, Adventist Health Policy Association establishes Washington D.C. office, LLU School of Public Health recognized as one of five schools offering plant-based nutrition degrees, Tillamook SDA Church provides property for local homeless housing, and a teacher at an Adventist school in Florida admits molesting female student.

Adventist Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Temporarily Steps Down from Key Posts Amid Ex-aide's Retribution Claim in Sexual Assault Case. Houston Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, under fire from a former aide's lawsuit alleging she was fired in connection with a sexual assault complaint, said that she will step down temporarily as chairwoman of a key House Judiciary subcommittee on criminal justice. Jackson Lee, a Seventh-day Adventist in her 13th term, also resigned as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a post that helped raise her national profile. The lawsuit, filed by a woman who worked in Jackson Lee's office from November 2017 to March 2018, claims that she was dismissed after notifying the congresswoman's chief of staff that she planned to take legal action against the foundation over an alleged sexual assault involving one of the group's supervisors. Jackson Lee issued a statement "adamantly" denying the woman's allegation and recounting her record of advancing civil rights and non-discrimination legislation, including a law that applies to Congress. She also has been a key voice in the push to extend the historic 1994 Violence Against Women Act. The loss of a leading role on the criminal justice subcommittee was a setback for Jackson Lee, who would have been the first black woman in that post overseeing an important issue in the African American community. While Jackson Lee battles the woman's allegations, it became clear Wednesday that the case was costing her support among key allies, including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, which announced that the group could no longer "support her continued lead sponsorship" of the Violence Against Women Act. From Houston Chronicle, “Sheila Jackson Lee steps down from key posts amid ex-aide's retribution claim in sex assault case.”

Navesau Adventist High School in Fiji Must Now Charge Its Students Fees. Navesau Adventist High School, operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has had to introduce school fees after it was privatized earlier this year, despite the Government’s free education initiative which frees parents of the burden of paying tuition fees. Now privatized, the school does not receive the free education grant and has to pay for salaries of teachers and ancillary staff in its employ. The privatization of the school was revealed as the SDA Church supported the call made by the head of the Catholic Church recently to include faith as a criteria in the selection of leaders of faith-based schools. Navesau Adventist High School principal Sailosi Baleiwai told the Fiji Sun that the church privatized the school because Adventist education was the main priority. “At this school, the students study basics of education through the fundamentals of Adventist beliefs. Here we emphasize prayers every morning; the students pray before they begin their day,” he said. “We educate children here spiritually, academically and base the priority on educating their heart and their soul. That is not done at Ministry of Education schools because it is not part of the curriculum. Adventist Schools have moved out from the ministry as we focus on the beliefs and culture of the church,” Baleiwai said. School fees are inclusive of boarding fees, tuition, building, and registration which contributed to the infrastructure and operation of the school, food rations for boarders, and salary of the 17 staff members, including teachers. Baleiwai said all teachers, including him, resigned from the ministry and were now employed by the Fiji Adventist Mission. Of the 200 students boarding at the school, five are from Tuvalu, three from Vanuatu, six from Papua New Guinea and one from New Zealand. From Fiji Sun, “Privatised Church School Charges Students Fees.”

Adventist Health Policy Association Establishes Washington D.C. Office. Carlyle Walton was named the president of the Adventist Health Policy Association last summer. In his new role at AHPA, an affiliation of five Seventh-day Adventist healthcare systems, he is building up the first Washington policy shop and establishing a stronger national voice for the faith-based nonprofits among federal agencies and congressional offices. Walton expects to spend most of his time at meetings on Capitol Hill, pushing for policy and advocacy priorities with chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and legislative aides, he said. AHPA represents more than 90 hospitals in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and its affiliated health entities include more than 350 other provider organizations. AHPA's board of directors expects to finalize strategic priorities for 2019 in April. "Whether that is about innovation or about basic things like food security, we want to be a meaningful part of the dialogue," Walton said. "Our focus is being part of that discussion and debate in how can we be creative in ensuring healthcare providers are paid for providing value?" Walton said. "It got a lot of debate when HHS Secretary Alex Azar made the statement in a recent speech suggesting we find ways to take Medicaid dollars and pay for housing. Well, that's fundamental to someone's health."

More specifically, the AHPA's focus areas include advancing evidence-based policies "that promote human wholeness" and the transition to value-based care. For instance, they are supportive of recent opioid legislation which put resources toward prevention and treatment which passed Congress last fall. Beyond that: "340B, the drug discount program, does a lot to fund our community needs. Those are things we're actively advocating for," he said. "With the Stark anti-kickback reform, we firmly believe that, to make a meaningful transition to value-based care, we can't be constantly hitting up against regulations that limit us from doing those things." From Fierce Healthcare, “Adventist health systems opens up first Washington policy shop.”

LLU School of Public Health Recognized as One of Five Schools Offering Plant-based Nutrition Degrees. Up until very recently, one had to be self-taught to become an expert within the plant-based “niche.” Be it in nutrition or a professional kitchen, today’s vegan professionals learned the basics of their work in an animal-focused world, having to break some of the rules, experiment, and discover industry-specific reading material on their own. Now, higher education institutions, from culinary schools to universities, are starting to realize the potential of the plant-based movement. Five institutions offer programs that meet students’ needs: Loma Linda University in southern California has made academic history by offering the region’s first and only doctoral program in nutrition. The Loma Linda University School of Public Health launched its Ph.D. program in plant-based nutrition in fall 2018. The program is heavily research-based, as the school is surrounded by a vegetarian-dense community. In fact, the school has hosted the International Conference on Vegetarian Nutrition, an event that occurs every five years, for the past 35 years. Other schools offering plant-based degrees are University of California Berkeley, Cosumnes River College, Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, and Institute of Culinary Education. From VegNews, “These 5 incredible colleges have vegan food courses.”

Tillamook SDA Church Provides Property for Local Homeless Housing. Pastor Timothy Mayne and the Tillamook Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oregon are giving aid to many local county residents who are having a hard time finding housing. According to Community Action Resource Enterprises (CARE), some are having to resort to tent camping, car camping, and couch surfing. “CARE recently received funds from the State of Oregon to create temporary shelter for our residents,” CARE Housing Consultant Heather Bohannon wrote to the Tillamook City Council. “We have been working with Pastor Mayne and the Seventh-day Adventist Church as they have available property and want to help the city control the homeless issues on the Tillamook Slough.” Bohannon detailed that the church board has approved use of the land to provide some temporary shelter opportunities for the homeless who are working with CARE to get stabilized and find permanent housing. From Tillamook Headlight Herald, “CARE looks to build temp housing on Adventist property.”

Teacher at Florida Adventist School Admits Molesting Female Student. Daniel Joseph Azemar, a teacher at Sinai Haitian Seventh-day Adventist School in Plantation, near Miami, Florida, is facing several charges after being accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a student. Plantation police said Azemar began a relationship with a 13-year-old student back in August. The victim’s mother discovered sexually graphic conversations on the girl’s phone, according to the arrest report. When pressed, her daughter admitted to her mother that the texts were from her math and social studies teacher. The mother contacted police, and the child told detectives that it all started when Azemar lured her to the back room with the pretext of needing help to organize supplies at the school. Police said he had several encounters with the child on school grounds. The arrest report says Azemar had feelings for the child, even expressing his intention to marry her. Azemar, who is married, was arrested and confessed to authorities of having romantic feelings for the child. He faces several charges including lewd and lascivious battery and lewd and lascivious molestation on a child. From CBS Miami, “Plantation Educator Accused Of Sexual Battery On Student He ‘Wanted To Marry.’”


Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.

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