Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 23, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 23, 2007

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

  • Lawsuit Claims School Prevented Boy From Wearing Jesus Costume for Halloween
  • Egypt Detains Copts after Anti-Christian Attack
  • Attorney General Launches Religious Freedom Initiative at SBC Meeting
  • Mozambique Floods Endanger Thousands

Lawsuit Claims School Prevented Boy From Wearing Jesus Costume for Halloween

According to a FoxNews story, a Christian legal group has sued a school district on behalf of a 10-year-old boy who claims his rights to religion and free speech were violated when he was not allowed to wear a Jesus costume during Halloween activities. The Alliance Defense Fund says Willow Hill Elementary School told the boy that he could not wear his false crown of thorns or tell others he was dressed as Jesus, citing promotion of religion. However, while the boy's was rejected for its religious nature, the principal allowed other students to dress as witches and devils. The boy and his mother are Christians who object to the pagan elements of Halloween, but the mother did not want the boy isolated for refusing to wear a costume.

Egypt Detains Copts after Anti-Christian Attack

Police detained Christian families in Upper Egypt and forced them to deny arson attacks on their homes during a spate of anti-Christian violence last week, the families said. Two Coptic Orthodox families said police detained them for 36 hours when they attempted to report a February 13 assault on their homes in Armant, 600 kilometers (373 miles) south of Cairo. The fires came five days after Muslim groups set four Christian-owned shops alight on February 9. International media reported that rumors of a love affair between a Christian man and Muslim woman sparked the violence, but local papers said hostilities began over accusations that Christians were blackmailing Muslim women to convert. Authorities detained the Christians when they tried to report the February 13 arson attack on their homes. “Police asked them to sign statements that they had attempted to set their own homes on fire to claim that they were being attacked by Muslims and to demand police protection,” one source told Compass Direct News.

Attorney General Launches Religious Freedom Initiative at SBC Meeting

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with Southern Baptist leaders Feb. 20 to unveil a new Department of Justice initiative aimed at educating Americans about their religious liberties and to ask for the Southern Baptist Convention’s help in identifying and reporting abuses of those liberties, Baptist Press reports. Gonzales noted that he is charged by the president with “protecting and preserving not only the safety and security of all Americans, but also their rights, liberties and freedoms,” including “one of our most cherished freedoms, one we’ve sacrificed greatly to defend... our religious liberty.” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Gonzales’ action. “The attorney general’s desire to address a major meeting of SBC leaders to announce this initiative shows both the importance of the issue and the commitment of the justice department at the highest levels to defend every individual American’s religious freedom rights, particularly their free exercise rights, which are too often infringed. This initiative is needed and should make a real difference.” Among the cases included in the report is one defending the right of senior adults to pray, sing religious songs and hold Bible studies at a community senior center.

Mozambique Floods Endanger Thousands

Cyclone Favio (equivalent to a category 3 hurricane) is quickly closing in on an already disaster-stricken region of Mozambique, and Operation Blessing relief teams are bracing for the worst. In the community of Canga, villagers told OBI relief teams that three children had already died from starvation due to the recent floods. OBI's assistant director of international programs, David Darg, is on the ground in Mozambique. He reports that the flooded areas stretch on both sides of the Zambezi River as far as the eye can see. An air assessment near Caia spotted a white flag with a red cross and a group of 1,200 people standing underneath it, screaming and signaling at the passing helicopter. A local Red Cross representative was among the stranded; it was his idea to erect the flag. All this week, OBI and German partner, Humedica, have been working with Mercy Air to travel by helicopter over flood-ravaged areas and locate pockets of survivors huddled on "islands" created by rising floodwaters. OBI teams are making daily deliveries of food, medical aid, tarps, blankets and other relief items.