Religion Today Summaries, February 13, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, February 13, 2004

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

  • School District Appeals in the Name of Non-Discrimination
  • Arsonists Torch Charity Office
  • Activist Calls Chinese Ministry Conference 'Staged' Communist Propaganda
  • Hindu Fundamentalist Target the Catholic Church

School District Appeals in the Name of Non-Discrimination
Agape Press

An Ohio school district has asked a federal appeals court for permission to give flyers promoting religious events to elementary school students. The Crestview School District is hoping the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will reverse a Toledo judge's 2002 ruling that bars teachers from passing out flyers for religious groups. Although secularists claim activities such as passing out flyers that promote religious events are in violation of the so-called "separation of Church and State," Crestview Superintendent John Basinger says such activity is protected under the First Amendment. He suggests that the schools' interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is not in agreement with the 2002 court decision. "We really felt that [court decision] forced us to discriminate against the religious groups in our community," Basinger says. He adds that the district "didn't feel that was appropriate for our community or for the mission of our school, and so we consequently appealed that to the Circuit court there in Cincinnati." The school administrator says, contrary to what opponents claim, the district disagrees that the flyer distribution represents an unconstitutional endorsement of a particular religion. Basinger insists that the district's policy is one of non-discrimination. According to the superintendent, the majority of families in his community hold to strong conservative values and are outraged by the earlier court-imposed censorship. A ruling from the Cincinnati-based appellate court is expected in several months.

Arsonists Torch Charity Office
Voice of the Martyrs News

Arsonists and Buddhist monks firebombed the office of a Christian charity last Friday amid increasing religious tensions in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, officials said. More than a dozen men hurled petrol bombs at a building in Anuradhapura housing the World Vision office, setting it ablaze, police said. The Christian humanitarian has been conducting social work in Anuradhapura for years. "Nine men, including three Buddhist monks and a university professor, have been arrested for the attack," said MN Junaid, secretary to the interior ministry.  Attacks on churches have escalated since December following the funeral of a Buddhist monk, Gangodavila Soma, who led a campaign against religious conversions by Christian groups. Although medical reports said he died of a heart attack, some Buddhists have blamed Christians for his death. Buddhists make up 70 per cent of Sri Lanka's 18.6 million people. Buddhist groups have urged the government to introduce legislation against religious conversions. About 6 per cent of Sri Lankans are Christians.

Activist Calls Chinese Ministry Conference 'Staged' Communist Propaganda
Allie Martin, Agape Press

An outspoken Christian activist based in Wisconsin is leading an informational protest this year at an annual symposium on ministry in the People's Republic of China. As the Sixth Annual Symposium on Church Ministry in China kicked off earlier this week in Cypress, a suburb of Houston, Texas, Pastor Ralph Ovadal of Wisconsin Christians United (WCU) was on hand to lead a protest at the four-day gathering. WCU's executive director says that symposium, which is being presented and underwritten by the Christian Leadership Exchange, is nothing more than a shameless propaganda stunt, completely staged on behalf of the Chinese government's state church. He notes significantly that this year's symposium features no Chinese house church Christians or pastors, and no representatives of the unofficial or "underground" Christian movement China. Ovadal says the symposium organizers came with an agenda. "These people are here to convince Americans that there is no persecution in China for the Christians and that if everyone would just get on board and join the state church, then everything would come up roses," he says. But the pastor contends that the view of Chinese Christianity being presented at the symposium is false. "Of course we know that we have Christian brothers and sisters suffering greatly in China," he says, "and so we're here to expose what's going on." To that end, Ovadal's group has been handing out leaflets, talking to attendees, and holding up signs at the entrance.

Hindu Fundamentalist Target the Catholic Church
Compass Direct

Hindu fundamentalists have launched an attack against the Catholic Church in India in the rural Catholic stronghold of Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, and the more sophisticated region of Goa. The attacks are directly linked to conversion issues in both states. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India spoke out against the potential misuse of anti-conversion laws in its 26th biennial general meeting on January 7. In response, Hindu activists demanded an inquiry into the assets and activities of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Meanwhile in Jhabua, government officials claimed the January 13 murder of a nine-year-old girl, whose body was found in the grounds of a Catholic school, was a “well-planned conspiracy” against the Catholic community. Finally, Hindus claim a stone found recently in the Bishop’s Palace in Panaji, Goa, is an ancient Hindu relic. Catholic officials fear the stone may give grounds for “re-possession” of the Palace, which some Hindus claim was built on the ruins of an old Hindu temple.