Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Court Rules for Pharmacists on Morning-after Pill
- Blasphemy Trial of Five Iranian Christians Postponed
- Persecution of Christians Widespread in ‘Democratic’ India
- 'Rebuild Haiti' Makes Spiritual and Physical Progress
Court Rules for Pharmacists on Morning-after Pill
Pharmacists with religious objections to "morning-after" emergency contraceptives cannot be compelled to sell the product, an Illinois Circuit Judge ruled Tuesday. The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act was passed in 1998 to shield health care workers from going against their own beliefs. In 2005, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a ruling to force "pharmacies to fill prescriptions without making moral judgments." Two pharmacists, Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, sued for the right to not dispense the pills. Religion News Service reports that Circuit Judge John Belz wrote that the 1998 law "was designed to forbid the government from doing what it aims to do here: coercing individuals or entities to provide healthcare services that violate their belief." Attorney Mark Rienzi, who represented the pharmacists with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice, called the ruling "a very good thing."
Blasphemy Trial of Five Iranian Christians Postponed
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that the blasphemy trial of five Christians on Tuesday has been delayed. The trial of Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mehdi Furutan, Mohammad Beliad, Parviz Khalaj and Nazly Beliad was adjourned until April 12 in order to give the prosecution more time to gather evidence. Lawyers representing the five men have consistently maintained that there are no legal grounds for the blasphemy charges, and remain optimistic that the case will eventually be dismissed. In an earlier trial at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, the five men were handed a one-year sentence for Crimes against the Islamic Order, which their legal team believes will also be withdrawn on appeal.
Persecution of Christians Widespread in ‘Democratic’ India
Compass Direct News reports that 14 Christians, including two pastors, were arrested on March 29 for converting to Christianity without official permit in Orissa’s Mayurbhanj district. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the arrests came after a police complaint was filed against pastors Samuel Mohopathra and Manuel Mahopathra and 12 newly converted Christians. The Christians were produced before a court and were released on bail the same day, charged under the “Orissa Freedom of Religion Act,” which, ironically, bans any conversion lacking a permit issued by authorities. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, called on Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to withdraw the accusations and put a stop to anti-Christian violence in the state. “The attempts by lower level police and the Sangh Parivar are scandalous and a travesty of the noble vision and ideals enshrined in Indian constitution,” he said.
'Rebuild Haiti' Makes Spiritual and Physical Progress
Southern Baptist rebuilding efforts in Haiti since the devastating earthquake 15 months ago have made good progress -- and the improvements are as much spiritual as physical, leaders in the effort said. Rebuild Haiti, a cooperative Baptist venture to put as many as 6,200 families in decent housing by the end of 2013, has completed 796 homes, with another 130 nearing completion, according to Baptist Press. "In the aftermath of the earthquake, getting an effective program of rebuilding was very challenging," said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. "Moving people and money into the country, assembling all the supplies needed, just dealing with the nuts and bolts of getting things done in a place devastated by the earthquake was hard. Doing it in a way that enables Haitians to stand on their own, rather than continue the dependency patterns of the past, made it even a greater challenge." The initiative uses local labor and supplies to multiply Rebuild Haiti's impact.