Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 28, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 28, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • Massachusetts Schools to Allow Boys in Girls' Restrooms
  • California Bill Seeks to Punish Boy Scouts for Prohibiting Gay Leaders, Members
  • Obama Administration Urges Supreme Court to Rethink DOMA
  • India: Attack on Revival Meeting Sends Christians Underground


Massachusetts Schools to Allow Boys in Girls' Restrooms

Under a sweeping directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education, boys and girls who identify as the opposite sex are now allowed to use whichever school bathroom and locker room they feel most comfortable in, and schools are discouraged from using gender-based clothes and from conducting gender-based practices such as lining up children based on their sex, Baptist Press reports. The 11-page directive to the state's public schools was issued Feb. 15, supposedly in light of a new Massachusetts law that adds "gender identity" to the state's nondiscrimination code. Traditional groups argue the new law did not require such a wide-sweeping directive from the education department, but say it demonstrates the repercussions of passing any law that adds gender identity to state non-discrimination policies. "Transgenderism is only part of what same-sex marriage is plowing the way for," said Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family. Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, says the new policy puts students -- particularly girls -- in harm's way: "The School Commissioner's first duty is to protect all students ... not endanger them. The overriding issue with this new policy is that opening girls' bathrooms to boys is an invasion of privacy and a threat to all students' safety."

California Bill Seeks to Punish Boy Scouts for Prohibiting Gay Leaders, Members

A bill proposed in the California legislature seeks to punish the local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America for prohibiting homosexual leaders and members from joining the organization, the Christian News Network reports. Senate Bill 323, introduced last week by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, serves to revoke the tax-exempt status of any youth organization that excludes homosexuals. If passed, the bill would also keep the group from obtaining sales tax and corporate tax exemptions. Lara said he had planned to propose the bill earlier, but held off because it seemed the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts would make a decision first on whether to lift the organization's ban on homosexuals. However, when the Boy Scouts postponed the decision until May, Lara decided to step in on the state level. The gay-rights group Equality California had a part to play in pushing the bill onward; however, the Pacific Justice Institute, a Christian legal organization in Sacramento, has vowed to vigorously oppose it. "We have been warning for years that the gay lobby would eventually use tax exemptions to force non-profits to capitulate to their demands, but it's still shocking to see it actually in print and on its way to becoming law," said Brad DacusPJI president.

Obama Administration Urges Supreme Court to Rethink DOMA

In a legal brief submitted late last Friday, the Obama administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, WORLD reports. "The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples," government lawyers wrote. DOMA does not forbid states from approving same-sex "marriage," but it prevents the federal government from recognizing those unions. In its brief, the administration also described sexual orientation as a core aspect of human identity: "Its expression, particularly in loving and committed relationships, is an 'integral part of human freedom.'" The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on DOMA on March 27, the day after it considers a challenge to California's Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that defined marriage in the state as between one man and one woman. The Obama administration also indicated possibly weighing in on Prop 8; government lawyers have until Thursday to file a "friend of the court" brief in the case.

India: Attack on Revival Meeting Sends Christians Underground

As police looked on, militants attacked a Christian church in central India earlier this month, causing severe injuries to some and sending the pastor into hiding, World Watch Monitor reports. The assault took place during the second day of a Feb. 7-9 revival meeting at India Christian Assembly of God Church in the city of Rajnandgaon, in the overwhelmingly Hindu state of Chhattisgarh. The revival meeting included a graduation ceremony of 14 students who attended a short Bible-training program, and around 300 Christians had gathered for the event. Around 3 p.m. on the second day, a group of more than 30 young men from several Hindu nationalist groups disrupted the meeting and started to interrogate the pastor and other church leaders. "They started to manhandle and beat people, tear Bibles, abused the God of Christians and strode over children," witnesses said. More attackers joined in, beating men, women and children with sticks and iron rods and damaging church property and vehicles. "There was chaos and Christians started to flee for their lives in whichever direction they could," witnesses said. Police were summoned, but they did not intervene and "played the role of mere spectators." Attacks continued until 6 p.m., and some Christians were admitted to a nearby hospital for treatment. Christian leaders approached the police superintendent, who came to the scene and began an investigation. He was stymied, however, because pastor Thomas Abraham had disappeared. Police are watching the church building and are still searching for Abraham.

Publication date: February 28, 2013