Religion Today Summaries - August 2, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - August 2, 2011

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

Rick Perry Sued for Endorsing Prayer
Norway's Churches Foster Healing after Attacks
Legislation Would Create Special Envoy for Religious Minorities
New York’s Gay Marriage Law Claims First Casualty

 

Rick Perry Sued for Endorsing Prayer

Texas governor Rick Perry promoted Aug. 6, 2011 as a day of prayer and was sued. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, on behalf of a group of atheists and agnostics, filed a federal lawsuit against him on July 14, 2011. The complaint, reports WORLD News Service, said Perry violated the First Amendment, which bans government from endorsing a preferred religion.  The day of prayer, called The Response, will take place at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Although The Response is privately sponsored by The American Family Association, it is open to anyone. Thousands of people have already registered.   The Freedom from Religion Foundation, however, argues that the prayer rally is “intended for evangelical Christians.” Those who disagree with the event “are excluded from intended attendance.”  The founder of the American Family Association, Don Wildmon, refutes these claims. “Anyone who wants to pray to Jesus for a nation in crisis is welcome to attend,” he said. He also dismissed claims that the event was political. “The Response is a prayer event. No political candidates will be speaking.”

Norway's Churches Foster Healing after Attacks

A Norwegian bishop addressing the recent bombing and shooting attacks in Norway said his country has "countered this insane terrorism by demonstrating love and solidarity," reports RNS News. "We have brought out a social capital we maybe even did not know was there. We must rebuild our trust in human beings as fellow human beings," said Church of Norway Bishop Tor Singsaas of Nidaros at the opening of the annual St. Olav Festival in Trondheim on Thursday (July 28). Since the attacks, Norwegian priests and church workers have joined in caring for the survivors and the victims' families, with churches opened for people seeking comfort and community. Oslo's Lutheran Cathedral, situated a few blocks from the damaged government buildings, has become a center for mourners. Last Sunday, Oslo Cathedral changed its regular service into a televised "Mass of grief and hope." "We will not let fear paralyze us,"said Church of Norway Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien in her homily.

Legislation Would Create Special Envoy for Religious Minorities

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would create a special State Department envoy for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, where Christians have come under attack in recent years, particularly in Muslim majority nations. RNS News reports that Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., introduced the bill in January after a spate of violence against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and in response to persistent concerns for religions minorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, among other nations. The bill passed last Friday (July 27, 2011) by a 402-20 tally. "The U.S. government needs an individual who can respond and focus on the critical situation of religious minorities in these countries whose basic human rights are increasingly under assault," said Wolf. In March, for example, gunmen assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in Pakistan's cabinet. Bhatti had campaigned for changes in Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which prescribe the death penalty for anyone who defames the name of the Prophet Muhammad and have been used to justify religious discrimination. "If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak," said Wolf, who has long argued that the State Department must make persecuted religious minorities a higher priority. The bill now goes to the Senate.

New York’s Gay Marriage Law Claims First Casualty

According to WORLD News Service a town clerk in upstate New York, Laura Fotusky, resigned her position rather than compromise her religious belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. “There was no protection provided in (New York’s) legislation for town clerks unable to sign these marriage licenses due to personal religious convictions,” Fotusky said. “I had to choose between my job and my God.”  New York legalized same-sex marriage in June. On July 24 the law takes effect and obligates town clerks to officiate same-sex marriage. The law provides protection for religious professionals, such as pastors, but fails to protect common citizens who morally disagree with the law. Clerks who refuse service to same-sex couples can be sued.


 

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