Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Half a Million People Call for Release of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi
- N.Y. Senate Committee Passes Bill to Override Ban of Church Services in Schools
- 2012 to Be a 'Nightmare' for China's Underground Churches?
- Teacher Ordered to Remove Christian Banners Appeals to Supreme Court
Half a Million People Call for Release of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi
More than 560,000 people around the world have signed a petition asking the Pakistani government to release Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother falsely accused of blasphemy against Mohammed and sentenced to death, ASSIST News Service reports. Bibi has appealed the conviction to the Lahore High Court, but remains in jail pending the outcome of her appeal. If the High Court upholds the guilty verdict and death sentence, the case could be appealed to Pakistan's Supreme Court. The online petition, at CallForMercy.com, was launched by The Voice of the Martyrs after 150,000 Pakistani Christians started a petition calling for justice for Bibi and better protection of religious minorities in Pakistan. VOM is delivering petition signatures to the Pakistani Embassy in D.C., and the goal is to collect one million signatures asking for Bibi's release.
N.Y. Senate Committee Passes Bill to Override Ban of Church Services in Schools
The New York State Senate Education Committee passed a bill Jan. 24 as the first step toward overriding a New York City policy banning churches from holding weekend worship services in rented public schools, WORLD News Service reports. The city's Department of Education gave churches eviction notices in December after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rule on a 16-year-old viewpoint-discrimination case of a Bronx church that was kicked out of a public school. The city has given more than 60 churches serving primarily low-income neighborhoods until Feb. 12 to find new facilities. "I salute the [Education Committee] on taking bold and decisive action on this important issue," said New York City councilman Fernando Cabrera. If the bill does not pass, New York City would become the first major city in the U.S. to ban churches from meeting in public schools. Several peaceful demonstrations protesting the policy have taken place; Cabrera, who is also a pastor, was arrested along with others at one protest earlier this month.
2012 to Be a 'Nightmare' for China's Underground Churches?
2011 saw the greatest number of human-rights violations in China since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, but some persecution watchdog groups say 2012 might be even worse, the Christian Post reports. "We do expect a much harsher year, even more so than 2011, although 2011 already marked the worst in terms of religious freedom, human rights and rule of law in two decades," said Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid. According to experts, the government will probably not do anything too drastic or obvious; occasional house church raids and removal of leaders one by one seem to be the preferred techniques to avoid drawing too much attention, said Liang Jinglu, a human rights defender in China. One Communist leader reiterated recently that the government's stance "forbidding members from believing in religion has been consistent and has not changed an iota."
Teacher Ordered to Remove Christian Banners Appeals to Supreme Court
A San Diego-area high school math teacher ordered to take down classroom banners that referred to God has appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, WORLD News Service reports. For 25 years, Bradley Johnson had banners hanging in his classroom with mottos such as "In God We Trust" and "God Bless America." School policy allowed teachers to display banners of personal belief, something other teachers also took advantage of by hanging up posters of the Dalai Lama, Malcolm X and Hindu sayings. However, in 2007, the school told Johnson his banners needed to be removed, while the other displays remained. A federal district court in 2008 upheld Johnson's First Amendment rights, but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision last year, then turned down a request for an en banc hearing by the full court. The Supreme Court is a last resort, said Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Johnson's case. "This case is a prime example of how public schools across our nation are cleansing our classrooms of our Christian heritage," Thompson said.
Publication date: January 30, 2012