Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Department of Education to Eliminate 'Mother,' 'Father' From Student Aid Forms
- Saudi Arabia Sentences Men to Prison, Lashings for Role in Woman's Conversion to Christianity
- Georgia Governor Orders Bibles Returned to State-Owned Parks
- Vermont Nears Approval of Assisted Suicide
Department of Education to Eliminate 'Mother,' 'Father' From Student Aid Forms
The U.S. Department of Education has announced that student financial aid forms will begin using the terms "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" rather than the gender-specific terms "mother" and "father," Baptist Press reports. The 2014-15 federal student aid forms will for the first time collect income and other information from a dependent student's legal parents regardless of the parents' marital status or gender, if those parents live together, according to the department. In addition to removing "mother" and "father," the new forms will provide an option for applications to describe their parents' marital status as "unmarried and both parents living together." Traditionally, the forms have been written to collect information about a student's parents only if the parents are married, thus excluding income and other information from one of the student's legal parents when the parents are unmarried, even if those parents are living together. "Gender-specific terms also fail to capture income and other information from one parent when a student's parents are in a same-sex marriage under state law but not federally recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act," the department said. "All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Saudi Arabia Sentences Men to Prison, Lashings for Role in Woman's Conversion to Christianity
Two men accused of helping a young woman flee Saudi Arabia after her conversion to Christianity were sentenced to prison terms and lashes with a whip by a Saudi court last week, International Christian Concern reports. The case comes weeks after an independent U.S. government advisory body listed Saudi Arabia among the top violators of religious freedom. A Lebanese Christian man was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes and a Saudi man was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes by a court in Khobar for their involvement in a Saudi woman's conversion to Christianity and her escape abroad. The men, who worked at an insurance company with the young woman, Maryam, were arrested last July after Maryam appeared on a YouTube video announcing her conversion to Christianity and a complaint was subsequently filed by her father. The case began when Maryam appeared on a YouTube video last July announcing her conversion to Christianity. Maryam fled to Sweden several months ago and is reportedly applying for asylum. Abandoning Islam, also known as apostasy, and proselytizing are illegal under Saudi law, and judges have authority to determine the offender's punishment in accordance to their interpretation of the country's sharia code of Islamic law, which permits the death penalty for apostates. The lawyer representing Maryam's family expressed satisfaction with the men's severe verdict.
Georgia Governor Orders Bibles Returned to State-Owned Parks
Ed Buckner, an atheist, didn’t like the fact that Bibles were in cabins at Georgia state parks, so he protested and they were removed while the state attorney general looked into the matter. Not long afterwards, however, the attorney general issued a ruling saying the state was on firm legal ground because it hadn't paid for the Bibles and therefore wasn't officially endorsing religion, WORLD reports. On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the Bibles returned. According to the Associated Press: "Buckner is pondering his next move. One idea he is considering is to test the state's offer to accept literature from other religions in state-owned lodging. He also said he would be willing to participate if an organization with similar beliefs decides to launch a lawsuit over the issue."
Vermont Nears Approval of Assisted Suicide
Vermont is a step away from becoming the third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, Baptist Press reports. The state's House of Representatives voted 75-65 May 13 to permit terminally ill Vermont residents to use a prescription for a lethal drug dose. The Senate had approved the legislation with a 17-13 vote. Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill into law, and Vermont will join Oregon and Washington as the only states to legalize assisted suicide. However, Vermont will become the first state to do so through the legislative process, as the other states legalized the practice through voter initiatives.
Publication date: May 21, 2013