Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Philippines Typhoon Death Toll Still Rising
- Church Cancels 'Charlie Brown' Over Atheist Outrage
- Chen Guangcheng: Forced Abortion in China 'Still Extensively Exists'
- Court Upholds Indiana's Ban on Secular Wedding Officiants
Philippines Typhoon Death Toll Still Rising
The death toll is continuing to rise from a powerful typhoon that flooded much of the southern Philippines, CBN News reports. More than 280 people have been reported dead, at least 151 of those in the worst-hit province of Compostela Valley, and more than 50,000 have been forced to flee from flooded villages. "The waters came so suddenly and unexpectedly, and the winds were so fierce -- that compounded the loss of lives and livelihood," Compostela Valley provincial Gov. Arturo Uy told Reuters. Officials fear the death toll from Typhoon Bopha will increase as rescue crews and soldiers reach other hard-hit areas that had been isolated by landslides and flooding.
Church Cancels 'Charlie Brown' Over Atheist Outrage
A Little Rock church has canceled a matinee performance of "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" for local school children after critics complained the show was too religious and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, Fox News reports. Students at Terry Elementary School had been planning to attend a school-day field trip to watch a stage version of the holiday classic hosted by Agape Church. The event was strictly voluntary and teachers sent home letters explaining the purpose of the trip. However, a parent objected and contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, a self-described community of atheists, agnostics and humanists. When the group told a local TV station they had received legal advice on pursuing a possible lawsuit against the school district, Agape Church took the school matinees off the table. "It is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm's way," said pastor Happy Caldwell. A spokesperson for the school district said school officials had nothing to do with the cancelation of the program, but that they had consulted with their legal team and determined the trip was appropriate. Caldwell praised what he called the "courageous stand" that the school's principal took in "not succumbing to the pressure of one complaint voice" and said it was clear the film did not post a constitutional threat, adding that the school children were more than welcome to attend weekend performances of the show.
Chen Guangcheng: Forced Abortion in China 'Still Extensively Exists'
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, whose dramatic escape from house arrest and flight to New York captured the attention of the world in May, has issued a powerful video calling on the Chinese Communist Party to account for crimes committed against the Chinese people, ASSIST News Service reports. These include crimes committed against Chen's own family -- such as his nephew, who was just given a three-year jail sentence for defending himself when officials broke into his house and savagely beat him and his parents. Instead of improving, Chen says "the human rights situation in China is, in fact, getting worse. ... In China, no one is safe." Moreover, Chen says "the violence in maintaining China's one-child policy still extensively exists. It is a sin, because life is sacred." In 2006, Chen was detained and tortured for exposing the massive, systematic use of forced abortion and involuntarily sterilization in China. According to Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers: "Chen Guangcheng has endured incalculable suffering for human rights in China, and in particular, for the rights of women not to be forcibly aborted or sterilized. He has confirmed that these barbaric practices are still being used 'extensively.' ... The leaders of the United States should join Chen in calling for a peaceful transition away from policies that are oppressing and terrorizing the people of China, who are one-fifth of the population of the earth."
Court Upholds Indiana's Ban on Secular Wedding Officiants
A federal court in Indiana has rejected atheists' requests to preside at wedding ceremonies, saying only clergy or public officials are licensed to solemnize marriages, the Religion News Service reports. A lawsuit filed by the Indiana chapter of the Center for Inquiry argued that an Indiana law requiring marriages to be "solemnized" -- made official by signing a marriage license -- only by clergy, judges, mayors or local government clerks violated the Constitution. The New York-based secular humanist organization claimed barring "secular celebrants" from solemnizing marriages provided preferential treatment to religious celebrants. But Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled Nov. 30 that since marriage has religious roots, government regulation of marriage is therefore an act of religious accommodation -- not endorsement -- and protected by the Constitution. She also noted that Indiana's law did not limit who may marry the plaintiffs, but only who may sign their license. The Center for Inquiry has promised an appeal of Barker's ruling.
Publication date: December 6, 2012