'In God We Trust' in Virginia Schools, Pakistan & more

'In God We Trust' in Virginia Schools, Pakistan & more

In Today's Edition:
  • 'In God We Trust' Signs Go Up in Virginia Schools
  • Nebraska School District Sued After Reprimanding Teacher For Comments at Private Prayer Meeting
  • Christian Girl Attacked and Burned in Pakistan
  • French Protestants Enter 'New Era of Relations' with Taize Community 
  • Kazakhstan: Pentecostal Church "Illegally" Barred From Visiting Prison

> 'In God We Trust' Signs Go Up in Virginia Schools

The Washington Times reports that around the state of Virginia, schools are posting signs proclaiming "In God We Trust," thanks to a state law that went into effect early this month. "In God We Trust" is the national motto, established by Congress in 1956.

While principals expect some opposition, a number looked at the positive side. "I find that sometimes, with religion, we err on the side of eliminating rather than including," said Principal Pamela Latt of Centreville High School in Fairfax County. She told The Washington Times that her school has had a Buddhist club and a Christian club, among others. "The children find it educational and that is how it should be. This [sign] will spur a discussion in classrooms," she said. One parent said she did not see any conflict with separation of church and state. "This nation was founded on Christian principles and trust in our Creator," she said.

According to The Washington Times, the law mandating that the phrase be posted in schools went into effect statewide on July 1. It was expected to affect around 2,000 public schools, including hundreds in the Washington metropolitan region. Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah have similar laws. Mississippi was the first state to pass such a law in 2000, while South Carolina, like Virginia, adopted the mandate this year.

> Nebraska School District Sued After Reprimanding Teacher for Prayer Meeting Comments

Bill Sloup filed a federal lawsuit against the School District of Seward, Nebraska, and District Superintendent Marshall Adams, claiming that the District and the Superintendent violated his First Amendment right to free speech for reprimanding him and threatening dismissal over comments he made about the District's "Reduction in Force" initiative at a private prayer meeting. Sloup is represented by attorneys Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Joel L. Oster.

On March 25, the District sent a letter to every teacher informing them that they could lose their jobs due to a district-wide "Reduction in Force," and that the Board would consider not renewing every teachers' contract. Sloup expressed his concerns with the School Board President in a private meeting. In addition, Sloup participated in a private prayer meeting where he requested prayer for the District as they proceeded with the "Reduction in Force" initiative. Sloup was reprimanded for both incidents, including the comments he made during the church prayer meeting.

Sloup commented that he filed the lawsuit because "there are many problems in education right now and open discussion and open dialogue are the best ways to address these problems. The idea that my private religious expression could ever possibly be threatened is against the very essence of my being. America was founded on the principles of religious freedom, and America is best served when people can address important issues in prayer at places of worship."

> Christian Girl Attacked and Burned in Pakistan

According to a report from The Voice of the Martyrs, on June 15, a young Pakistani Christian girl named Gulnaz (17) from the slums of Faisalabad, was attacked with acid for refusing the sexual advances of a group of Muslim men. The Religious Liberty Commission reported that these men, who worked with her, had been insulting her and trying to get to her leave Christianity and embrace Islam. When Gulnaz could not get support from her employer to stop the harassment, she eventually resigned. Before the end of the day, however, she was sexually assaulted by one of the men. When she fought him off, he threatened to get revenge.

The following day when Gulnaz went to collect her pay, this man and his friends attacked her with sulphuric acid. She is severely burnt on her face, neck, chest, arms and legs. Acid was put in her eyes and down her throat. She may die from her injuries, but her parents, who are extremely poor, are under great pressure to accept money and not file charges.

> French Protestants Enter 'New Era of Relations' with Taize Community

(ENI) -- Leaders of the French Protestant Federation (FPF) have signaled what they are calling a "new era of relations" with Taize, one of the best-known ecumenical religious communities in Europe. The official delegation's recent visit to the hilltop community was the first since 1989.

According to ENI, relations between the FPF and Taize began to deteriorate in the 1970s after several developments offended Protestant sensitivities. Brother Roger, founder of the community, took a stand in favor of priestly celibacy, for example, and his right-hand man, Brother Max Thurian, converted to Roman Catholicism and was ordained to the priesthood in 1987. The community has nurtured close ties with several recent popes.

Taize has always maintained strong ties with foreign Protestant and Anglican churches. This summer, for example, several Lutheran bishops from Sweden and Anglican bishops from Great Britain will spend time at the community. "Taize occupies a particular place in the religious landscape," said Gil Daude, head of the FPF's ecumenical agency. "At Taize young people experience faith in an ecumenical setting. They discover, as it were, the universal church." Taize welcomes more than 100,000 youth every year for prayer and study. "We also are concerned with training a new generation committed to ecumenism," he added.

> Kazakhstan: Pentecostal Church "Illegally" Barred From Visiting Prison

According to Keston News Service, officials of Kazakhstan's prison system have refused members of a Pentecostal church in the south of the country access to local prison camps on the grounds that one of their preachers is a former prisoner, despite requests for such visits from prisoners themselves. Officials of the South Kazakhstan region have told Keston News Service they believe the ban is unlawful, but they are unable to overrule the decision.

"People who remember me in prison want me to tell them how I managed to save myself," former drug addict Aleksandr Karimov told Keston. A senior religious affairs official told Keston he was "astonished" to hear of Karimov's case. "In Kazakhstan prisoners are free to perform religious rituals. Preachers may visit places of detention and associate with believers."

He thought this case was a "simple misunderstanding" and would soon be resolved, but a legal specialist at the prison service told Keston that permission in these cases depends on the service's investigation into a church community and its aims.