Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Debate Heats Up over Religious Rights in China
- Appeals Court Considers 'God' in Pledge
- Fox Entertainment Group Acquires Beliefnet
- Sudan Ecumenical Forum Questions Sharia for Non-Muslims
Debate Heats Up over Religious Rights in China
Few would deny that, over the past 20 years, there has been genuine improvement in human rights for many Chinese Christians – so long as they register as government-controlled “patriotic” religious bodies of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But Compass Direct News reports that the majority who on conscientious grounds refuse to accept the atheist Communist Party domination of, and interference in, church affairs still face a rough ride. According to a leaked internal document, the Chinese Communist Party waged a secret campaign against unregistered house churches for nearly six months, from mid-June until the end of November. The July 24 document, first disclosed by the Texas-based China Aid Association, reveals that leading central government figures called for a crackdown and investigations into “the content of sermons, personal history of [house church] evangelists, the sources of their funds, the system of their activities, key members, and the ordinary people who participate.”
Appeals Court Considers 'God' in Pledge
The Washington Times reports that a federal appeals court in San Francisco heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a Sacramento man who says the words "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. The suit, brought by atheist Michael Newdow in 2004, alleges that the words are unconstitutional. Separately, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also heard arguments brought by Mr. Newdow regarding the national motto, "In God We Trust," claiming that too is unconstitutional. Newdow, a doctor and a lawyer, believes the motto violated the First Amendment clause requiring separation of church and state. After initial arguments, the appeals court panel appeared divided but there was no consensus on how it might rule.
Fox Entertainment Group Acquires Beliefnet
CNNMoney.com reports that News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox Entertainment Group unit said it has acquired the faith-based website Beliefnet, which also houses online spiritual communities. Fox said Beliefnet will become part of Fox Digital Media, and that the acquisition offers an online platform for Fox Entertainment to distribute content and for News Corp. to expand faith-based businesses. Terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.
Sudan Ecumenical Forum Questions Sharia for Non-Muslims
In the aftermath of the teddy bear row the chairman of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum has questioned the wisdom of the Sudanese judicial system, ASSIST News Service reports. The Islamic Sharia should not have been upgraded to the state penal code applicable to all inhabitants of the North, says the retired German Protestant church leader Gerrit Noltensmeier, who heads the forum. There are non-Muslim minorities in Northern Sudan. The fact that they are unfairly subjected to the Sharia is scandalous, said Noltensmeier. The Ecumenical Forum, a platform for the churches and Christian relief organizations in Sudan, will discuss the teddy bear row concerning the British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons at its next meeting in December. Noltensmeier emphasized the need for religious sensitivity in the Muslim world.