Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Christians Evicted to Make Way for Muslims in Pakistan, Says Bishop
Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service
Hundreds of Christian families in Pakistan are being kicked out of their homes to make way for Muslims left destitute by the Kashmir earthquake, Catholic Bishop Anthony Lobo said. The Pakistani government has evicted Christians to solve the problem of how to house some 3 million people left homeless by the disaster. The Oct. 8 earthquake killed more than 73,000 people, but those left homeless continue to be threatened with death from exposure to single-digit winter temperatures. Christians in the neighboring Sind province, which was unaffected by the earthquake, might now also perish because they were being turned onto the streets without alternative accommodation provided for them. At least 40 families, or about 200 people, had been evicted around Joharabad, near Karachi. "All the people are being thrown out, all of them are Christians," Bishop Lobo said. "There is a lot of land which the government has at its disposal, but they (government officials) prefer to select a place that is already developed. Lobo said he feared that across the region the number of Christians evicted under the policy would run into the thousands. The forced evictions come amid claims that the 5-million strong Christian minority in Pakistan is being persecuted.
Federal Judge Bans 'Jesus' from Indiana Legislative Prayers
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
Ministers who open Indiana legislative sessions with prayer must refrain from praying "in the name of Jesus" and from using Christ's name, a federal judge ruled Nov. 30. U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton cited Supreme Court precedent in ordering Speaker of the House Brian Bosma to keep future ministers from using "Christ's name or title or any other denominational appeal." The prayers, Hamilton wrote, must be "non-sectarian." "All [ministers] are free to pray as they wish in their own houses of worship or in other settings," Hamilton wrote. "The individuals do not have a First Amendment right, however, to use an official platform like the Speaker's podium at the opening of a House session to express their own religious faiths." Bosma, a Republican, said he was "shocked" and "dismayed" by the ruling. "I find the court's unprecedented decision disturbing in that it directs me, as speaker, to advise people that they are prohibited from using 'Christ's name or title or any other denominational appeal' when offering the invocation in the Indiana House of Representatives," he said in a statement. "It is intolerable that a court in this free society would ask a person to censor the prayer they offer in the tradition of their faith. Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, a Democrat, also criticized the decision and said he would support Bosma if he decides to appeal.
Christians Applaud Acceptance of Ex-Gays into Priesthood
Bill Wilson, Family News in Focus
The Vatican’s requirement that seminary candidates be free from homosexual tendencies for at least three years will not prevent ex-gays from entering the priesthood. Regina Griggs of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays is applauding the stance. “I think it is so important for the church to recognize and honor those who have struggled with same-sex attractions and have overcome them for they are the living proof that change is possible.” Griggs hopes other churches follow the lead of the Vatican by embracing those who are coming out of the homosexual lifestyle. “If you have not been involved in over three years, to organizations like ours, you have become ex-gay. You don’t identify as a homosexual.” Pia de Soleni of the Family Research Council says those who have truly left the homosexual lifestyle could present powerful testimonies to others. According to de Soleni, the Vatican has held this policy for many years, but is restating it to avoid confusion with its new pronouncement on gay seminarians.
Lawsuit Threatened Over Student-Initiated Graduation 'Altar Call'
Jim Brown, AgapePress
The Arkansas chapter of the ACLU is threatening to file suit against Jonesboro High School for allowing a student to give an "altar call" during a graduation ceremony last May at Arkansas State University. Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas ACLU, claims senior Jessica Reed violated the First Amendment when she told fellow graduates "in the closing moments of this service, if you would like to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, here's your chance." Nedd Kareiva of the Stop the ACLU Coalition believes the ACLU is contradicting its own precedent. "The ACLU has said in past public policy that, if a student initiates something, it's legal; but if a school official, board member, or administrator initiates something like that, then it's illegal and unconstitutional." Following the ACLU's own reasoning, Kareiva does not view Reed's invitation as unconstitutional. “They are in contradiction to what their precedents have stood for." Kareiva notes that the ACLU is searching for a plaintiff in Jonesboro in hopes of suing the school for an alleged unconstitutional endorsement of religion, but has yet to find one.