Religion Today Summaries, April 28, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, April 28, 2004

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • Christian GM Employee Taking Automaker to Court 
  • Colombia: Insurgents Kidnap Christian Agronomist
  • Prayer Complaints Bring Ruling on Nebraska School Athletics
  • Blind Christian Lawyer Given Four Years for His Stand for Human Rights in Cuba

Christian GM Employee Taking Automaker to Court
Allie Martin, Agape Press

One of the world's largest automakers is being sued because it refused a request from a Christian employee to start an affinity group. Last year, John Moranski, an employee at a General Motors plant in Indianapolis, asked company officials for permission to organize the GM Christian Employee Network as a GM affinity group.  His request was denied because GM company policy states that affinity groups can be based on race, gender, disabilities, and sexual orientation -- but not on religion. Now Moranski has sued GM, claiming the company's "diversity" policies are discriminatory against Christians.  Barbara Weller is with the Christian Law Association, which is representing Moranski in the lawsuit.  "We're seeing from all the calls that are coming into our office that discrimination against Christians in the workplace is becoming a serious problem," Weller says. "We believe that Christians need to be treated like everyone else in the workplace." The attorney explains that GM's employment policy states that political and religious viewpoints cannot be promoted in the workplace.  She says Moranski's group is not going to do that. "They're not going to be proselytizing, they're not going to be putting any other religious down, they're not going to be promoting their religion.  They just want the opportunity to meet on the same basis as everyone else is meeting."

Colombia: Insurgents Kidnap Christian Agronomist
Compass Direct

Insurgents of the 34th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) confirmed that they are holding Christian agronomist Ahimer Velasquez, the youngest brother of Medellin pastor and Prison Fellowship evangelist Carlos Velasquez, and his co-worker, Luis Carlos Herrera, after kidnapping the two men on March 17. Father Giovani Presiga, a priest of the Diocese of Santafé de Antioquia who mediates hostage crises, said that rebels told him they are holding the two men. Velasquez and Herrera, who work for the municipality of Caicedo, a town about 80 miles west of Medellin, were abducted from a community center where Herrera was holding classes for local crop producers. “We don’t know what they want” in exchange for the men’s freedom, Carlos Velasquez said, adding that he believes the FARC will use the hostages to seek concessions from the government. Ahimer Velasquez and his wife of six years, Mery Gaviria, have two children: Mateo, 5, and Jeronimo, 3.

Prayer Complaints Bring Ruling on Nebraska School Athletics
Jim Brown, Agape Press

Events sponsored by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) should not begin with prayer -- even if they take place at private Christian schools.  That's what the Association is telling Nebraska schools. NSAA executive director Jim Tenopir says he received complaints about prayers that were read over public address systems before a sports game.  He says if a public prayer takes place at a state-sponsored event, the offending school could lose its host privileges. But officials at some Lutheran and Catholic schools across Nebraska say they will not comply with the ban on prayers before activities.  Paul Leckband is principal of Lutheran High Northeast in Norfolk. "It's a disturbing decision and one that I think is an infringement upon the rights of religious schools to their religious expression," Leckband says. The principal says the order will not stop his school from praying at the beginning of regular season competitions.  "Prayer is a very, very important part of who we are and whose we are," he says, "and for the state activities association to tell us we cannot have prayer…that's pretty disturbing to me.  We're going to have to consider our options very carefully." Leckband says it is unfortunate that some groups do not realize the First Amendment ensure freedom of religion -- not freedom from religion.

Blind Christian Lawyer Given Four Years for His Stand for Human Rights in Cuba
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service

Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, a blind Christian human rights lawyer, was given a four-year sentence yesterday for his stand for human rights in Cuba. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Juan Carlos was convicted of "disrespect against the Head of State" along with other charges of "public disorder, disobedience, and resisting authority." The authorities have not yet specified whether the two years he has already spent in prison will count towards the four year sentence.  Juan Carlos acted as his own lawyer and he was tried along with nine others. He is currently being held under house arrest. CSW reports that Juan Carlos was arrested in March 2002 with nine others who had gathered at a local hospital in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of a journalist who had been attacked by Cuban police. The group entered the hospital where they prayed for the hospitalized reporter and shouted slogans like "Up with human rights" and "Christ the King lives." The group was surrounded by the rapid response unit of the local security forces who beat them before taking them into custody. Juan Carlos was severely beaten by government security agents and suffered a blow to the head. He has reported ongoing mistreatment at the hands of the prison authorities, CSW said.