Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Presbyterian Court Clears Pastor in Gay Marriage Case
- ChinaAid Releases Video Showing Illegal Detention
- Air Force Academy Holds Prayer Luncheon; Lawsuit Dismissed
- CSW Urges Indonesia to Defend Religious Freedom
Presbyterian Court Clears Pastor in Gay Marriage Case
The top court of the Presbyterian Church (USA) found a Boston minister not guilty of violating church rules against performing gay marriages. Religion News Service reports that the narrow ruling keeps the church-wide ban in place. On Feb. 2, the court cleared the Rev. Jean Southard on charges she violated church rules and her ordination vows by marrying two women in 2008 in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. The wedding took place before the PCUSA had determined, later in 2008, that the ban on same-sex marriage is "mandatory" for ministers, the 16-member court ruled. The court said that ruling should not be applied retroactively to Southard's case. Clergy in the PCUSA, which has about 2.2 million members, are allowed to bless same-sex relationships, but are not permitted to "state, imply, or represent" those ceremonies as marriages.
ChinaAid Releases Video Showing Illegal Detention
In the first news of blind human rights activist Chen Guancheng in five months, ChinaAid has released a video showing the persecution he and his family must endure. Chen has been under illegal house arrest since his release from prison. ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu has met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Michael Posner and two deputy secretaries of state on Chen's situation. The hour-long video shows that "Mr. Chen is living in miserable conditions, cut off from all outside contact," Fu said. In the video, Chen describes being monitored daily by three shifts of agents with each shift consisting of 22 people. The video was reportedly leaked by a Chinese government source sympathetic to Chen's cause.
Air Force Academy Holds Prayer Luncheon; Lawsuit Dismissed
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello allowed the U.S. Air Force Academy's prayer luncheon to happen on schedule yesterday despite a lawsuit challenging the event. The Christian Post reports that Arguello said the plaintiffs, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Air Force Academy professor David Mullin, had no legal standing to challenge the event. The plaintiffs alleged the event violated separation of church and state because of its Christian keynote speaker, Marine Corps Lt. Clebe McClary. Air Force Academy professor Mullin said he felt he had to attend the event or face retribution. But a Justice Department attorney said the plaintiff's fears of retribution were "entirely speculative." The U.S. Air Force investigated the Academy in 2004 for alleged religious intolerance.
CSW Urges Indonesia to Defend Religious Freedom
Christian Solidarity Worldwide called on the Indonesian government to take action to protect religious minorities in the country. The call follows several violent attacks this week. On Tuesday, three Christian churches in Temanggung, Central Java, were attacked by a mob of extremist Islamists following the trial of a Christian charged with blasphemy against Islam. The accused, Antonius Bawengan, was sentenced to five years in prison, a sentence regarded by extremists as too lenient. Two days earlier, a crowd of up to 1,000 people attacked 20 Ahmadiyya Muslims in Cikeusik, Banten province. Three Ahmadiyya Muslims were killed, and five others were seriously injured by the attackers, who were armed with machetes, spears, knives and other weapons. At the same time, leaders of major religions in Indonesia are increasing efforts to promote inter-faith dialogue and harmony. On 6 February, 6,000 people participated in a celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week at Jakarta Sport Palace.