Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Obama Administration Defends Massive Phone Record Collection
- Acceptance of Homosexuality Varies by Nation, Survey Says
- Nigerian Village Attacked Just Prior to Boko Haram Being Officially Banned
- Church of England Backs Down on Same-Sex Marriage
Obama Administration Defends Massive Phone Record Collection
The Obama administration on Thursday defended its collection of a massive amount of telephone records from at least one carrier as part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, re-igniting a debate over privacy even as it called the practice "critical" to protecting Americans from attacks, Reuters reports. The admission came after Britain's Guardian newspaper published on Wednesday a secret court order related to the records of millions of Verizon Communications customers. A senior White House official said the metadata request included phone numbers and length of calls but not users' personal information or the calls' content. Such information is "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It allows counter-terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States." But privacy and free speech advocates say the president has overstepped his bounds, again. His administration is already under fire for searching Associated Press journalists' calling records and the emails of a Fox News Channel reporter as part of its inquiries into leaked government information. Verizon has declined to comment. It remains unclear whether the practice extends to other carriers, though several security experts and at least one U.S. lawmaker said that was likely.
Acceptance of Homosexuality Varies by Nation, Survey Says
The world is divided over the acceptance of homosexuality, a survey released Tuesday finds, the Religion News Service reports. There is broad acceptance of homosexuality in North America, the European Union and much of Latin America, according to the Pew Research Center survey, which was conducted by telephone and face to face in 39 countries among 37,653 respondents from March 2 to May 1. Juliana Horowitz, the report's lead author and a senior researcher at Pew, said: "I can’t think of any question we have asked where we have this sort of global polarization. In North America, Europe and several countries in Latin America, we have really high acceptance of homosexuality. In predominantly Muslim nations and in sub-Saharan Africa, we have equally widespread views on the other side." African nations and predominantly Muslim countries are among the least accepting of homosexuality. For example, about 98 percent of people in Nigeria say homosexuality should not be accepted. In Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, 93 percent say homosexuality should be rejected. About 60 percent of Americans say society should accept homosexuality -- a substantial increase from 2007, when 49 percent said homosexuality should be accepted. In several countries, younger respondents expressed more acceptance of homosexuality than older people. For example, in Japan, 83 percent of those younger than 30 say homosexuality should be accepted, compared with 71 percent of those ages 30-49, and 39 percent of those 50 and older. The survey is the first in the series "LGBT in Changing Times" that the center will release in the weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.
Nigerian Village Attacked Just Prior to Boko Haram Being Officially Banned
On Tuesday morning, gunmen surrounded the village of Rubuki in Nigeria's Nasarawa State, killing at least 16 people and destroying at least 25 homes, Open Doors USA reports. The motive for the attack is unknown, but it appears that the perpetrators may have been members of the Islamist group Boko Haram escaping the government clampdown under the state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The Nigerian government carries on efforts to bring an end to the Boko Haram insurgency; on Wednesday, Boko Haram was officially banned while the U.S. government declared a $7 million bounty for the capture of its leader, Abubakar Shekau. Boko Haram has killed hundreds of Christians and moderate Muslims and has a goal of establishing sharia law in all of Nigeria.
Church of England Backs Down on Same-Sex Marriage
The Church of England is ending its battle against a government bill to legalize same-sex marriage, according to a statement released Wednesday, Christianity Today reports. Although the Church of England does not support the proposed legislation, the church's bishops in the U.K. Parliament's House of Lords will now turn their attention to improving the bill rather than opposing it outright. According to The Telegraph, the statement from Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens, the lead bishop of the 26 who hold seats in the House of Lords, "represents a dramatic change of tack in the year since the Church insisted that gay marriage posed one of the biggest threats of disestablishment of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII." The reversal of tactics came a day after the House of Lords voted down an amendment that would have killed the bill. The resounding 390-148 vote indicated widespread support for the bill, which had already passed in the House of Commons. Interestingly, though, the Church's change in approach follows Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby's warning that "the reform 'weakened' the concept of the 'normal' family as the basis for a strong community and replaced traditional marriage with something 'less good.'" The Church will now focus its efforts on improving the bill, including "its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children."
Publication date: June 7, 2013