Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 17, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 17, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Two Pastors Set on Fire, Burned to Death in Kenya
  • Faith Groups Oppose Bill Banning Teen 'Conversion Therapy' for Same-Sex Attractions
  • Eritrea Protest Vigil Marks 10th Anniversary of Church Closures
  • Church Sues Former Member for Online Criticisms


Two Pastors Set on Fire, Burned to Death in Kenya

Last Tuesday, May 8, two pastors were burned to death in Mombasa, Kenya, Mission Network News reports. Yesterday, police arrested five suspects who may have instigated the crime, and they will be arraigned in court once investigations are complete. The two pastors, Benjamin Juma of Nyali Baptist Church and Jackson Kioko of Melchidizek Church, were planning to hold an evangelistic outreach in the Jomvu area of Mombasa, but while they were planning, a crowd gathered and suddenly accused them of being thieves. Without waiting for any confirmation of the supposed crimes, members of the crowd set the two pastors on fire. By the time the pastors' friends and families heard about what was happening, it was too late. New widow Mrs. Juma described the scene: "I don't know what they used, whether it was petrol or whatever else it might have been, but [after the fire] you could not see a thing [body parts] -- there were just charcoal-like bits [left]!" Although the majority of Kenyans adhere to some form of Christianity, Christians in the country have recently been under increased persecution and serious attacks, including bombings.

Faith Groups Oppose Bill Banning Teen 'Conversion Therapy' for Same-Sex Attractions

As California lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban teens and children from receiving "conversion therapy" for unwanted same-sex attractions -- the first bill of its kind in the country -- faith-based groups are speaking out in opposition, CBN News reports. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, said supporters of the bill "want to institutionalize homosexuality, and they don't want anything at all in any way to treat homosexuality as something that can be changed." Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu, the bill's author, said conversion therapy -- also known as reparative therapy -- can be "dangerous" and "cause extreme depression and guilt," but mental health experts argue that research on the issue is lacking proof of those claims and is therefore inconclusive. Dr. Mark Yarhouse, leader of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity, said that without significant research on conversion therapy, it was premature to try to ban the practice. "I think we should be cautious," he said. "But that's a far cry from making [it] illegal." Many opponents of the bill say it violates parents' rights. "Parents certainly have the right to direct the health care of their children, and that should include their mental healthcare as well as their physical health care," said Peter Spring of the Family Research Council.

Eritrea Protest Vigil Marks 10th Anniversary of Church Closures

Representatives of seven organizations from the UK and Ireland will take part in a protest vigil outside the Eritrean embassy in London today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Eritrean government's closure of every church except those belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations and the beginning of an era of mass detentions of Eritrean Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. The vigil will be followed by an evening of prayer for the thousands of Eritrean Christians currently being held without charge or trial in inhumane conditions in detention centers throughout the country. Eritrea is one of the world's most repressive regimes, often likened to North Korea. The regime demands total allegiance, and Christians are perceived as a threat to national unity. On May 15, 2002, all denominations except Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran were banned, and the government began its mass arrests of Christians, particularly singling out evangelical and charismatic churches.

Church Sues Former Member for Online Criticisms

An Oregon pastor has sued a woman for $500,000 in damages, alleging that her online critiques of her former church amount to defamation, Christianity Today reports. Julie Anne Smith and her family left Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) a few years ago and, she says, were subsequently shunned by their church friends. "If I went to ... any place in town, if I ran into somebody, they would turn their heads and walk the other way," Smith said. "All we did was ask questions. We just raised concerns. There's no sin in that." Smith posted critical reviews of the church on Google that were later removed, and in February, she started a blog, Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors, in which she accused BGBC of spiritual abuse and its pastor, Charles O'Neal, of "narcissism in the pulpit." Within days, BGBC filed its lawsuit against Smith, her daughter and three other former members. The suit goes before a judge later this month, though Smith has filed a motion to dismiss it. The church has made no statement regarding the case, but Smith wrote on her blog that she has no plans to back down. "People are being hurt emotionally and spiritually by pastors who use bully tactics and we need a place to learn, to talk freely, and to heal," she said. "I will not be silenced."

Publication date: May 17, 2012