Religion Today Summaries, July 24, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 24, 2003

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

  • Church-State Groups Petition Court on Scholarship Case

  • Christians Charged with 'Hate Crime' in Brazil

  • Christians Fear Anti-Conversion Law for Kerala State in India

  • Couple Sues Over Banned 'Jesus Inscription'

Church-State Groups Petition Court on Scholarship Case
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

A coalition of liberal groups has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Washington state policy that prohibits state scholarships from being used for theological studies.  The four groups -- the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund -- said a student's religious freedom rights are not violated under the policy.   The high court agreed to hear an appeal after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last July that state officials were wrong to deny Joshua Davey a scholarship to pursue a theology degree from a college affiliated with the Assemblies of God.  The Washington state policy allowed scholarships for other majors such as business but not religious studies. The appeals court said the state policy infringed on Davey's constitutional right to exercise his religion. "The lack of a scholarship does not coerce Davey to perform forbidden acts or forego religious training," the groups said. "Furthermore, the scholarship does not discriminate on the basis of the recipient's religion."  The joint brief said the country's founders abhorred the idea of state-funded education of clergy, and said allowing the scholarships would raise "free exercise questions for those taxpayers of differing religious beliefs who prefer not to subsidize core religious activity of others."

Christians Charged with 'Hate Crime' in Brazil
Charisma News Service

Two Christians were recently fined the equivalent of $300 each for their participation in an annual evangelistic outreach on the beaches of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Umbanda and Candomble spiritist groups sued Baptist pastor Joaquim de Andrade, 41, and Aldo dos Santos Menezes, 33, accusing them of violating Brazil's "hate crime" law by distributing tracts that spiritists say disparaged the African goddess Iemanja. They charged Andrade and Menezes with "inciting evangelicals to commit acts contrary to the liberty of religious belief." During an April 16 hearing, a Sao Paulo judge fined Andrade and Menezes and warned them that if they did not stop proselytizing spiritists, they would face stiffer consequences next time. "This is a precedent-setting case," said former Brazilian resident Paul Carden, director of the Centers for Apologetics Research. "If Christians cannot freely share their faith with interested bystanders in a public place without the potential of some punishment under the pretext of having committed a hate crime, then this profoundly alters the spiritual equation in that country."

Christians Fear Anti-Conversion Law for Kerala State in India
Christian Aid Report

Christians are worried that the south Indian state of Kerala may be in danger of joining five other Indian states in passing an anti-conversion law. The chief minister of neighboring state Tamil Nadu, is fierce in her promotion of Hinduism. After facilitating the passing of an anti-conversion law in Tamil Nadu she threatened to visit Kerala to press for a similar law there. Christians are worried that such a law could be passed, since they have passed in five states. Ram Madhav, from a strongly Hindu nationalistic movement, said in June that the laws were necessary because the activities of missionaries have led to tensions threatening "peace and harmony." At the same time he said the conversion activities of the World Hindu Council did not create a problem because these were just calling people to a Hindu "homecoming." Under the anti-conversion laws, it is illegal to offer inducements or force anyone to convert. The fact that there is no record of forced conversions to Christianity and that the only forced conversions (or "reversions") are by Hindus making Christian converts "revert" back to Hinduism does not affect these Hindu zealots. Their intent seems to be to stop the spread of Christianity and further the influence of Hinduism. Already these laws have emboldened radical Hindus in their persecution of Christians.

Couple Sues Over Banned 'Jesus Inscription'
Charisma News Service

Claiming their freedom to express their faith has been violated, a devout Christian couple sued Chicago officials yesterday for rejecting their Jesus inscription on a commemorative brick at a park near their home. Robert and Mildred Tong had paid $50 for a brick last October as part of a fundraising effort to help pay for new playground park equipment. But park officials objected to the Tongs' message to their children: "Jesus is the Cornerstone." "We are Christians, and we want to set an example for our children by living out our faith, showing that we can be public about our belief in Christ, that he is the cornerstone of our life," Mildred Tong said. Days after the Tongs sent in their $50 for the brick, the park's advisory council called the family to express concern about the inscription, suggesting they change the reference on the brick from "Jesus" to "God." The suit contends the park officials improperly censored the message solely because it bore a biblical reference to Jesus, even though the commemorative brick campaign didn't restrict the subject matter of the donor's message. Park officials said that it had constitutional concerns over their message. To allow the Tongs' inscription to be used would create an impression that the Chicago Park District was "endorsing expressions of religious belief."

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