Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Vanderbilt Faith Groups Form Coalition to Oppose 'All-Comers' Policy
- Arizona Passes Bill Banning Late-Term Abortions
- British Lawmakers Approve Prayer at Town Halls
- Pakistani Woman Accused of 'Blasphemy' Illegally Held in Jail
Vanderbilt Faith Groups Form Coalition to Oppose 'All-Comers' Policy
A coalition of 11 Christian student groups at Vanderbilt University are insisting they should be allowed to choose their leaders based on shared faith and not the university's "all-comers" policy, the Religion News Service reports. The groups, which are calling themselves Vanderbilt Solidarity, joined together to oppose the university's policy that campus groups, and their leadership positions, must be open to all students; the religious groups say they cannot be led by students who do not share or profess their group's faith. "Until recently, Vanderbilt explicitly protected the freedom of all student organizations to select members and leaders who shared and supported the group's purpose, including -- for religious groups -- its faith," the Solidarity groups said Monday. Stating that the policy violates "the central tenets of our faith," the religious groups applied for registered status on campus, but included their own constitutions containing faith-based requirements for leadership positions. If the school does not recognize the constitutions, the groups would be considered unregistered next year. Solidarity's decision comes two weeks after the campus Catholic group, Vanderbilt Catholic, decided not to register as an official student organization because of the policy. Beth Fortune, vice chancellor for public affairs, said the university stood behind its policy. "This debate is about nondiscrimination, not religious freedom," she said.
Arizona Passes Bill Banning Late-Term Abortions
Arizona lawmakers have passed a bill banning most late-term abortions and putting in place new requirements that could prevent more abortions, CBN News reports. A month after state Senate leaders approved the legislation, the Arizona House yesterday voted 37-22 to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergency, and to require the state to maintain a website depicting fetuses at different stages of development and presenting women with alternatives to abortion. State Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) said her vote was based on the answer to one question: "Is the baby inside a woman's body a human?" she said. "My answer, I believe, is yes. It is unacceptable to end the life of a human." Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign the bill into law; it would go into effect this summer, making Arizona the seventh state to ban abortion after 20 weeks.
British Lawmakers Approve Prayer at Town Halls
The British government has fast-tracked a move to restore the rights of towns and cities to hold prayers as part of their official business, effectively overriding a High Court order to stop the practice, the Religion News Service reports. In February, the High Court ruled that it was illegal for town halls to continue with the centuries-old practice of conducting prayers at the start of official meetings, but Communities Secretary Eric Pickles spearheaded the introduction of a new "general power of competence of local authorities in England" to give new powers to local governments to resume prayers and sidestep the court ruling. The parliamentary order took effect immediately when Pickles signed it on April 6. "Parliament has been clear that councils should have greater freedom from interference," the British government said, adding that the new powers enable councils to "innovate" and "hands them back the freedom to pray." Pickles said the measure "sends a strong signal that this government will protect the role of faith in public life."
Pakistani Woman Accused of 'Blasphemy' Illegally Held in Jail
The mother of a 6-month-old girl has been wrongly jailed for more than a month, as Pakistani authorities have failed to file a charge sheet within the mandatory 14-day period against the young Christian woman accused to "blaspheming" the prophet of Islam, Compass Direct News reports. Shamim Bibi, 26, was charged under Section 295-C of Pakistan's "blasphemy" statutes after neighbors accused her of uttering remarks against Muhammad, and she was arrested Feb. 28. Under the blasphemy laws, speaking ill of Muhammad is punishable by life imprisonment or death. According to Bibi's lawyer, Mahboob A. Khan, police said they forwarded the charge sheet to the prosecution department, but there has been no word from them, nor has there been any response to a bail application Khan filed on March 17. "The judicial process is painfully slow, and it's even slower in such sensitive matters," Khan said. "I just hope the judge realizes the gaps in the case, and even if he does not muster enough courage to quash the case, he should at least set her free on bail." Bibi's husband, Bashir Masih, said she continued to hold fast to her Christian faith and firmly believed God would rescue her soon from the false charge.
Publication date: April 12, 2012