Religion Today Summaries, December 1, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 1, 2003

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

  • Federal Judge Scolds School Officials for Ruling Out Christian Viewpoint
  • Christian Convert Still Being Held, Four Others Released
  • ACLU Threatens to Sue School to Censor Christmas
  • American Baptist Churches Send Clergy to the Gym

Federal Judge Scolds School Officials for Ruling Out Christian Viewpoint
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A federal judge has expressed outrage over a Michigan public high school's decision to exclude Christian clergy from a discussion of homosexuality and religion, saying the school's actions "smack of government and religious totalitarianism." At a court hearing yesterday, U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen grilled an attorney representing Pioneer High School for two hours, regarding the school's decision to exclude the Christian viewpoint on homosexuality during a "Diversity Week Forum" that was organized by the campus Gay-Straight Alliance. During the hearing on Monday, Rosen scolded school officials for refusing to let the students attending the forum hear the viewpoint that homosexual behavior is incompatible with scripture. Attorney Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center is representing former Pioneer High student Elizabeth Hanson, who sued the school over its censorship. Time and again, he says, "we have schools that want to label Christian students' views toward homosexuality as hate speech. And by labeling it as hate speech, they exclude it." Muise feels the judge's questioning of the defendants and his remarks to them in this case point toward a favorable outcome. A ruling in the case is expected within the next five days.

Christian Convert Still Being Held, Four Others Released
Barnabas News Fund

Police in Cairo have released on bail four more of the Alexandrian Christians originally arrested in late October. However they have called on the services of an eminent Islamic scholar in their case against the last remaining detainee. Of the 22 converts and their supporters who were arrested between 21 and 24 October in Alexandria, Mariam Girgis Makar is the only one remaining in custody. The police seem determined to make an example of her. A scholar from the Al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo has been called in by the police to aid them in their case against Mariam, a convert from Islam. This is a highly unusual step and it is assumed the police are seeking advice about bringing charges concerning crimes against Islam which they could prosecute her for. Although the other converts and their supporters have been released, charges are still outstanding against them. 

ACLU Threatens to Sue School to Censor Christmas
Allie Martin, Agape Press

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is threatening to sue a Colorado public school if the principal refuses to censor Christmas for students.  Recently, the ACLU, along with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), sent a letter to Les Gray, principal of the Elbert County Charter School in Elizabeth, Colorado saying Jewish students do not feel safe at the school.  The letter demanded the school ban all references to Christmas in the school's annual holiday program -- including secular songs such as Jingle Bells.  Barry Arrington is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund representing the school.  He says the demands are outrageous.  "No court anywhere," Arrington says, "has ever said that you have to completely extirpate Christmas from Christmas.  No court has said that you can't use the word 'Christmas' and call it a 'Christmas program.'  No court has said that you can't use or sing religiously-themed traditional songs as part of an overall cultural celebration."  Arrington does not expect the ACLU or the ADL to follow through with a lawsuit because, in this case, this school principal will not give into intimidation.

American Baptist Churches Send Clergy to the Gym
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

The American Baptist Churches have awarded 35 "wellness grants" to ministerial leaders to use toward such health-related activities as a membership in a local fitness club. The $300 grants were distributed during what the denomination's Ministerial Leadership Commission called "Clergy Appreciation Season." That season, from October to November, is part of the commission's Clergy Health Initiative that has sought to make clergy health a priority for American Baptists. "Providing the wellness grant and performing other acts of support during Clergy Appreciation Season and throughout the year are ways in which the local congregation or other American Baptist agency becomes a partner with the ministerial leader in the pursuit of healthy lifestyles,” said the Rev. Ivan George, the commission's executive director. The grants can be used for "wellness opportunities," such as a one-year membership in a local health or fitness club, a family membership at the "Y," or a retreat at an American Baptist conference center or camp. Pastors from across the country and an executive minister of a local Baptist association were among the recipients. The commission previously created a definition of "clergy health" that includes balanced nutrition, emotional well-being, periods of spiritual reflection and a sense of fulfillment from one's job.