Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Moore Plans Appeal of Ten Commandments Case to Supreme Court
- Government Raids Continue in China
- Seminary Must Pay Fine for Issuing Degrees
- Church Leaders Meet with Mugabe on Zimbabwe Crisis
Moore Plans Appeal of Ten Commandments Case to Supreme Court
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has decided to appeal his Ten Commandments monument case to the U.S. Supreme Court. "I will not delay by seeking further hearings before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals," Moore said in a statement released July 22. "I will personally petition the United States Supreme Court as chief justice of this state to hear me on this matter." On July 1, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 5,280-pound monument in the lobby of the state judicial building violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Moore is receiving support from the Christian Coalition of Alabama. "We will not rest until the preservation of this monument bearing the moral foundation of our law is safely secured," said John Giles, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, in a statement. Three Alabama lawyers sued Moore, saying the monument violated their constitutional rights. An attorney representing Moore argued that the monument should stay in place - despite a lower court ruling to the contrary - because God is the "source of law and liberty."
Government Raids Continue in China
Charisma News Service
Authorities recently raided a house-church meeting, arresting at least three leaders of the fellowship. During the July 13 incident in Xiao Shan City, police broke up an early morning prayer and devotional meeting and assaulted church members. One of those arrested was 80-year-old Shao Cheng Shen, who helped to start the church more than 25 years ago. The other men arrested were Wei Min Xu and Chong Dao Gao, both leaders in the congregation, which is located several hours from Shanghai. The three are being held at an unknown location, and their families had not been told their whereabouts or allowed to see them. The church has had other run-ins with authorities. Authorities have destroyed the church's building three times, but the congregation has rebuilt it each time. An affiliated congregation in Heng Peng Village was raided during July 6 services, when more than 300 police officers demolished their church building. But the believers have continued to meet, gathering in homes and other locations to worship. "These attacks on Christians in China show the fear that the communist government has of the growth of the house churches," a spokesman said. "What possible threat could an 80-year-old man be to the communist government?"
Seminary Must Pay Fine for Issuing Degrees
Charisma News Service
An appeals court ruled that an unaccredited Texas seminary must pay a fine of $173,000 for issuing degrees without state authority to do so. Last Thursday, the Tyndale Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, operated by Hurst Euless Bedford Ministries in San Antonio, was ordered to pay the fine imposed in 1998 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The amount includes penalties for issuing 34 degrees plus the appeals court's reinstatement of a $3,000 penalty because the institution uses the word "seminary" in its name. The court rejected Tyndale's argument that the state's actions violated freedom of religion. "This is an outrageous decision. The state has now been given control of all seminaries across the state and can now dictate the education of the pastors and their churches," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty Legal Institute, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tyndale. Tyndale officials said the college continues to offer courses, but awards only "graduate-level diplomas," not degrees. College officials said enrollment at Tyndale declined from 350 in the spring of 2001, after a judge upheld a $170,000 fine imposed by the THECB for conferring 34 theological degrees. The 1975 Texas Education Code mandates that only accredited institutions have the right to award bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.
Church Leaders Meet with Mugabe on Zimbabwe Crisis
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service
Three prominent Zimbabwe church leaders met with President Robert Mugabe on Friday in an attempt to reconcile the government and its main political opposition. Bishops Patrick Mutume of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Sebastian Bakare of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and Trevor Manhanga of the Evangelical Fellowship met with Mugabe and senior members of the ruling party to discuss the church's role as a mediator in the country's political crisis. An avowed Roman Catholic, Mugabe has criticized the church for meddling in politics in the past. Zimbabwe has been paralyzed by a political stalemate since Mugabe's disputed re-election last year, when he carried a vote human rights groups say was heavily swayed by ruling-party militants. Mugabe's opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, refused to recognize the election results. The MDC has charged Mugabe with mismanaging the economy during his 23 years in power, causing unemployment rates to skyrocket and aggravating a food shortage that the U.N. Food Program estimates will leave 5.5 million of Zimbabwe's people at risk of starvation. As the economic crisis becomes increasingly desperate, the bishops' efforts to facilitate political dialogue may signal an end to church leaders' passivity. Earlier this month, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which represents all of the heavily Christian country's 12 denominations, issued an apology for its failure to fight hunger, poverty and political violence.