Religion Today Daily Headlines - August 23, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - August 23, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt Attacked, Beaten and Plundered
  • Report Shows 5,000-Plus Multisite Churches
  • Court: Texas Allowed to Cut Planned Parenthood Funds
  • Conservative Law Firm Fights Atheists' Suit Over Cross at 9/11 Museum


Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt Attacked, Beaten and Plundered

Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt are under attack, hours after a call for their eradication appeared in the form of leaflets calling on Muslims to kill Copts, specifically naming regions of Upper Egypt, International Christian Concern reports. In Al Gallaweya Village in Sohag, Copts have been beaten, their stores burned, and their houses robbed. The attackers have declared that "any Christian who dares to leave his house will be killed," and Christians say the police only arrive after the damage has been done. In Manfalut, a Muslim gang attacked the house of a Coptic Christian, threatening him to either pay a tribute or die, and also kidnapped the son of another Christian, not releasing him until his family paid a ransom. According to reports, the gang "picked this specific village because Copts form 80 percent of its inhabitants." After numerous calls for help and filing several reports in vain, the Christian villagers decided to demonstrate -- gathering before the local security directorate and demanding that police protect them, their children and houses from the gang.

Report Shows 5,000-Plus Multisite Churches

According to a new study by the church think tank Leadership Network, the number of congregations that host worship services at more than one physical location has grown to more than 5,000 in the last decade, the Religion News Service reports. Researchers say these "multisite" churches, which may share worshippers across town or many miles apart, are growing at a much faster pace than traditional megachurches. Without the burden of additional expensive buildings, congregations find they grow faster in new places, said Warren Bird, research director of Leadership Network. Multisite churches -- which come in different models, such as a different "campus pastor" on each site or one senior pastor broadcast via video -- have grown from fewer than 200 in 2001 to 1,500 in 2006 to an estimated 3,000 in 2009 to more than 5,000 today. In comparison, U.S. megachurches have grown from about 50 in 1970 to about 1,650 in 2012. "It's a combination of both evangelism and saying, 'People may not come to this particular building. How can we take where we are to where they are?'" Bird said.

Court: Texas Allowed to Cut Planned Parenthood Funds

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Texas can temporarily stop funding Planned Parenthood, CBN News reports. The legislature had passed a law cutting off funding for the organization, but a lower court blocked the law from going into effect until a suit against it could be heard in October, but the 5th Circuit Court ruling lifted that injunction, putting the ban back into place. "We appreciate the court's ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women's Health Program as quickly as possible," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Planned Parenthood argued the law violated free speech, but the Texas attorney general said lawmakers could decide which organizations to allocate money to.

Conservative Law Firm Fights Atheists' Suit Over Cross at 9/11 Museum

A lawsuit filed by the group American Atheists to keep a revered cross out of the National September 11 Museum is being challenged by the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, the Religion News Service reports. The ACLJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief August 20 on behalf of the suit's two defendants, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site. The 9/11 museum isn't open yet, but the foundation plans to include the 17-foot cross -- actually two intersecting steel beams found on the site of the former World Trade Center -- among more than 1,000 objects, including fire trucks, an ambulance and the 37-foot "Last Column" left standing amid the wreckage. In the suit filed last year in a U.S. district court in Manhattan, American Atheists claimed including the cross in a museum on public property amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion and that the presence of the cross would result in emotional injury, anxiety and feelings of exclusion for atheists. Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ said, "The legal arguments of the atheist organization are both offensive and absurd," adding that 190,000 people had signed a petition opposing the lawsuit.

Publication date: August 23, 2012