Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Knights of Columbus Urge Supreme Court to Overturn 'Pledge' Ruling
- Indonesian Pastor Receives Three-Year Sentence
- Cross-Wearing Aide Gets Her Job Back
- Anti-Christian, Anti-Western Violence Increases in Malawi
Knights of Columbus Urge Supreme Court to Overturn `Pledge' Ruling
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service
The Knights of Columbus, who successfully lobbied for the words "under God" to be added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the phrase makes the pledge unconstitutional. The Catholic fraternal organization urged the court to overturn last year's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that said "under God" violated the separation of church and state. "At least since the Declaration of Independence was written, our national ethos has held that we have inalienable rights that the State cannot take away, because the source of those inalienable rights is an authority higher than the State," the Knights said in an amicus brief to the court. The Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear the case. The Bush administration, urged the court to take the case and overturn the lower court, said that "whatever else the (Constitution) may prohibit, this Court's precedents make clear that it does not forbid the government from officially acknowledging the religious heritage, foundation and character of this nation." The Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the court not to take up the case. The church-state watchdog group said reciting the pledge in classrooms is an "exercise in religious affirmation."
Indonesian Pastor Receives Three-Year Sentence
Judges have handed down a three-year sentence to Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, an Indonesian pastor accused of illegal weapons possession. Damanik and his defense team now have a week to decide whether they will accept the sentence or appeal the judge's decision. Damanik was found guilty despite clear evidence that witnesses for the prosecution were tortured and intimidated by the police in order to obtain their testimony. The guilty verdict, announced in a trial marked by serious abuse of legal procedure, gives little hope for a successful appeal. Funds for a lengthy appeals process are also in short supply. Damanik was a key member of the Central Sulawesi Christian Church (GKST) Crisis Center working to assist both Christian and Muslim refugees in the troubled Poso area. Damanik was traveling in a relief convoy on August 17, 2002, when police officers stopped him for questioning, and searched his vehicle without a warrant. The following day, local police announced they had found illegal weapons in the vehicle. The Crisis Center said the citizens of Tentena had planned to hold a mass demonstration if Damanik was sentenced. However, Damanik is not in favor of these plans, as his attempts to maintain peace have not ceased despite his position.
Cross-Wearing Aide Gets Her Job Back
Charisma News Service
A Christian teacher's aide in Pennsylvania suspended for wearing a cross in school has won the first round of her suit when a judge said her employer must reinstate her. In granting a request for a preliminary injunction, Arthur Schwab ruled last Wednesday that Brenda Nichol, 43, must be returned to her job as an aide with full back pay and benefits. The order will stay in effect until another hearing on Nichol's request for a permanent injunction, scheduled for Aug. 28. The newspaper observed that the ruling doesn't mean much in a practical sense because school is out for the summer and Nichol's employer has already agreed to pay her through the rest of the year. But it was a symbolic win for her and her lawyers from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a Virginia-based law firm founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson. "We're delighted that the court acted to protect the constitutional rights of our client," said ACLJ attorney Vincent McCarthy in a statement. "This is an important victory for our client and the First Amendment. The decision sends a strong message that laws and policies that result in religious discrimination are not acceptable."
Anti-Christian, Anti-Western Violence Increases in Malawi
Barnabas News Fund
Army units were deployed across Malawi on Sunday, following violence on Friday and Saturday that saw extensive damage to property and three people injured. Muslims were protesting that the government had allowed the US to secretly extradite five suspected associates of al-Qaeda. In recent years, as the growing Muslim population of at least 13 % has become more vocal, tension has increased, but this is the first time that such religiously motivated violence has hit Malawi in any significant way. Said local police commander Patrick Hora "We were taken by surprise and that is why the situation got out of hand, but we are now in control." The disturbance was centered on Mangochi which is a predominantly Muslim district 180 km north-east of the commercial capital Blantyre. A crowd of about 200 Muslims went on the rampage, breaking windows and doors in several churches. Justin Opuku, Save the Children USA Malawi Director, said that the charity had been targeted because of its American connections. Malawi's Muslim President Bakili Muluzi said over the weekend that he would not tolerate religious violence in Malawi. However some Muslims in Mangochi remained defiant, claiming that the President had failed them. (www.barnabasfund.org)