Religion Today Summaries - December 9, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 9, 2004

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

  • School's 'Inclusive' Holiday Program Challenged for Excluding Christ

  • Pastor's Crusade Targets 'Clandestine Effort to De-Christianize Christmas'

  • Texas High Court Agrees to Hear Critical Church-State Case

  • Australian Tower-Top Prayer Meetings Offer High Place for Intercession

School's 'Inclusive' Holiday Program Challenged for Excluding Christ
Jim Brown, AgapePress

A Chicago attorney has urged a suburban school not to discriminate against people of faith during the Christmas season. Spring Grove Elementary School recently staged a holiday program that celebrated Hanukkah and Kwanzaa but excluded references to Christ and the Christmas story.  School officials claim the multicultural concert, which also included references to Santa, was designed to be more inclusive of all holiday traditions and cultures.  But attorney Andy Norman with the Alliance Defense Fund says the school engaged in illegal discrimination against Christians. Norman says, "know your rights, talk about your rights, use your rights, and, if necessary, defend your rights."  Such an approach, he says, is effective. "We're finding ... that when administrators are confronted with the fact that the Supreme Court disallows a religion of secularism or, like in the case of Spring Grove, favoring some religions and excluding others, that's illegal," he says.  "They tend to change. They back off." Last month, Norman sent letters to about 350 school districts in the Chicago area, informing superintendents that legal precedents "allow and sometimes require officials to permit religious expression in public schools."

Pastor's Crusade Targets 'Clandestine Effort to De-Christianize Christmas'
Charisma News Service

A North Carolina pastor recently sparked a firestorm when he urged shoppers to avoid stores that don't include "Merry Christmas" in their holiday advertisements. Patrick Wooden, who leads Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, took out a $7,600 full-page ad in the Nov. 24 edition of The Raleigh News and Observer, challenging Christians to shop with merchants who include the Christmas greeting, the newspaper reported. Under the heading "Attention Christians," the ad asked: "Have you noticed you don't hear 'Silent Night'" and other traditional Christmas carols? "Our hope," Wooden said, "is for those who profess to be Christians to say, 'Hey, come to think of it, you don't see 'Merry Christmas' anywhere or hear Christmas carols anymore.'" Wooden told the News and Observer that he feels the absence of Christmas carols is part of a "clandestine effort to de-Christianize Christmas." He said response to the ad has been "overwhelmingly positive," noting that opposition has come from "multiculturalists with a desire to do away with Christmas. ... They want to re-name it 'the winter festivals.'" Wooden denied that his ad excluded people of other faiths. He is taking his campaign national, asking other ministers to take out newspaper ads like he did in order to spread his message. (

Texas High Court Agrees to Hear Critical Church-State Case
Allie Martin, AgapePress

The Texas Supreme Court has decided to hear a case which will determine whether seminaries in the state will be regulated by the government. The case is known as The HEB Ministries, Inc., et al. v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, et al.  It began in 1998 when Tyndale Theological Seminary, operated by HEB Ministries, was fined $173,000 by the state for operating as a seminary and issuing theological degrees without a license from the state. Tyndale and two other Texas seminaries -- Hispanic Bible Institute of San Antonio and Southern Bible Institute in Dallas -- filed a lawsuit, arguing that government attempts to control the religious training of future clergy members are unconstitutional. Under current state law, no seminary is allowed to exist unless its board, curriculum, and professors are approved by the state. Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty Legal Institute in Plano, says the outcome of the case could conflict with a right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The state, the attorney says, has no constitutional right to control the training of the future members of the clergy. He believes this case could potentially deliver a strong message favoring religious freedom. The case will be heard before the Texas Supreme Court in early January.  Shackelford says a ruling on the case should come by next summer.

Australian Tower-Top Prayer Meetings Offer High Place for Intercession
Charisma News Service

Australia's tallest office building has become a high place for intercession. Since 1996, Christians have gathered in the 800-foot tower in Melbourne to pray for transformation in their city and nation. Elevated 55 floors above the sidewalks of Melbourne, Rialto Towers has served as the regular interdenominational meeting place for as many as 120 intercessors who have united to intercede for their nation and the city of 3.5 million people. The brainchild of Transforming Melbourne coordinator Rob Isaachsen, a 61-year-old charismatic Anglican minister, the Rialto prayer meetings are seen as a strategic rallying point for a range of local and national activities significant to Australian Christians. "The Rialto meetings provide a unique opportunity to worship and pray as we look out over the whole city, allowing us to worship Jesus as Lord over the city, with a sense of how He sees Melbourne," Isaachsen told Charisma magazine. Pentecostals, charismatics and more traditional believers are all represented in the quarterly prayer meetings at Rialto. Isaachsen estimated that 20 denominations figured in the average attendance of between 40 and 60 people. The tower-top gatherings were originally intended for church ministers, but it became difficult to get pastors to come out on Saturday mornings, and the prayer meetings shut down temporarily. (