Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 15, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 15, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • Torture Likely Led to Death of Egyptian Christian in Libya, Sources Say
  • Pastor Saeed Abedini Petition Nearing 500,000 Signatures Before Congressional Hearing
  • First 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Ban Struck Down by Court
  • 50th Suit Filed Against HHS Contraceptive Mandate


Torture Likely Led to Death of Egyptian Christian in Libya, Sources Say

Repeated electrical shock torture of an Egyptian Christian accused of "proselytizing" in Libya likely exacerbated his heart ailment, leading to his death in custody, Morning Star News reports. Ezzat Hakim Atallah, 45, died March 10 in a Tripoli jail while in the custody of an Islamic militia group known as the Preventative Security Unit. He was arrested without being formally charged in Benghazi on Feb. 13 as Preventative Security -- an internal police force formed during the Libyan Revolution by regional rebel leaders -- was rounding up expatriate Christians and accusing them of spreading Christianity to Muslims. Sources close to Atallah said he had a "serious chest condition" that would have cost him his life under the repeated beatings and electrical shocks. Atallah was taken to a hospital once during his captivity, on March 6, but he returned to jail after medical personnel were either unwilling or unable to properly treat him, they said. Libyan authorities told his family he collapsed in jail and that he died of high blood pressure. The embassy of Egypt, a country where a majority believes those who leave Islam should receive the death penalty, has claimed he likely died of "natural causes." Atallah also reportedly suffered from diabetes. He leaves behind his wife, Ragaa Nagah, a 15-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter.

Pastor Saeed Abedini Petition Nearing 500,000 Signatures Before Congressional Hearing

petition for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American citizen currently serving eight years in prison in Iran, has reached nearly half a million signatures a day before an important congressional hearing concerning his case, the Christian Post reports. "This is a crucial moment and our best chance yet to spur the United States government into action," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. "We need to send a message. We need 500,000 signatures to help save Saeed by the time I testify." The ACLJ, which is representing Pastor Saeed's wife and two young children in America, has been petitioning for the pastor's release ever since his imprisonment last year and subsequent trial in Iran, which the legal firm called a "sham." Sekulow will speak before the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday about Pastor Saeed and the persecution many Christians are facing in Muslim-dominated countries, and he hopes to inspire action from congressmen. To read more about Pastor Saeed's case and sign the petition, visit

First 'Fetal Pain' Abortion Ban Struck Down by Court

A U.S. district judge has overturned Idaho's so-called "fetal pain" law, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- the point at which a fetus reportedly begins to feel pain, Christianity Today reports. Lawyers for plaintiff Jennie Linn McCormack had argued that the law unjustly punished women, and Judge B. Lynn Winmill, citing Roe v. Wade, wrote that "the state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women's paths." Attorney Richard Hearn told the Huffington Post that "Winmill's ruling makes it clear that any attempts by states to ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb are unconstitutional." However, of the 10 states with existing fetal pain laws on the books, only three have faced legal challenges. Nebraska was the first state to adopt such a law in 2009, and Idaho was one of seven states to enact bans on abortions after 20 weeks. Earlier this month, Arkansas approved a ban on abortions after 12 weeks, becoming one of the most restrictive bans in the nation. According to Politico, many experts say fetal pain laws could be the next abortion debate battlefield and "could reach the Supreme Court."

50th Suit Filed Against HHS Contraceptive Mandate

The CEO of an electric company in Florida has filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services over the "preventive services" mandate, making it the 50th such lawsuit filed against HHS, the Christian Post reports. Thomas Beckwith, CEO of Beckwith Electric of Largo, filed the suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. "This is a case about religious freedom," reads the first point under the "Nature of the Action" section of the 48-page suit. "The mandate forces employers and individuals to violate their religious beliefs because it requires employers and individuals to pay for and provide insurance from insurance issuers which fund and directly provide for drugs, devices and services which violate their deeply held religious beliefs." Beckwith is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, which has already brought several challenges against Obamacare and the HHS mandate.

Publication date: March 15, 2013