Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 7, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 7, 2008

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

  • Pope Believes Martin Luther 'Not a Heretic'
  • Belarus: Religious Freedom Petition Delivered, but Protestant Fines Continue
  • Study Shows 1 in 100 Americans in Prison
  • Exit Poll: McCain Still Not Attracting Evangelicals

Pope Believes Martin Luther 'Not a Heretic'

An article in the London Times states that Pope Benedict XVI is to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices. The Pope will issue his findings on the reformer in September after discussing him at his annual seminar of 40 fellow theologians at the papal summer residence. Vatican insiders say Benedict will argue that Luther, who was excommunicated and condemned for heresy, was not a heretic, a move which Cardinal Walter Kasper said would help to promote ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants. Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X, who dismissed him initially as “a drunken German who will change his mind when sober.”

Belarus: Religious Freedom Petition Delivered, but Protestant Fines Continue

ASSIST News Service reports that Belarusian authorities appear to be increasing their use of building regulations to harass Protestant churches. "Orthodox churches are full of wood and use open flame during services, yet we're supposed to be the most dangerous in terms of fire risks!" a Pentecostal pastor fined for fire safety violations pointed out. The fire safety demands for which one church was fined would have involved moving walls, Pastor Mikhail Kabushko, a Pentecostal, said: "Every time they check, there is something new. Even if we were to fulfill everything now, there's no guarantee they won't come up with something more." A 50,000-signature, 3,442-page long, petition from across Belarus, calling for a change to the Religion Law has been submitted to the Constitutional Court, Parliament and Presidential Administration. State bodies now have a month to reply to the petition. Pastor Kabushko believes the unrealistic nature of the fire safety demands means they are a less obvious way of putting pressure on the church.

Study Shows 1 in 100 Americans in Prison

According to Baptist Press, more than one in every 100 American adults are in jail or prison. A recent study by the Pew Center for the States also found that about half of released inmates return to jail or prison within three years. Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, told BP the Pew report signals a significant social and moral crisis in the country that should be addressed in part by Christians heeding a parable found in Matthew 25. "Jesus said, 'If you visit a prisoner, you visit Me,'" Earley said. "So we have a mandate from our Lord to care for, to visit and to seek the transformation of those who are in prison." John Robson, assistant professor of Christian ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's extension center at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, said the prison problem can be attributed to an amoral, postmodern society, and he said the solution lies in granting inmates access to a faith-based education.

Exit Poll: McCain Still Not Attracting Evangelicals

Evangelicals sent a strong message in Tuesday's Republican primaries in Texas and Ohio by voting overwhelmingly for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, while almost every other Republican demographic group chose Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), exit polls show. reports that this was despite the fact McCain had already been dubbed the "presumptive nominee" of the Republican Party by the national media and political pundits. As predicted, Huckabee was soundly defeated in all four of Tuesday's primaries and caucuses and subsequently withdrew from the race. Some analysts say that if McCain expects to capture evangelical vote in November, he must tailor his approach toward conservatives. Exit polls provided by MSNBC reveal that the most devout Christians voted for Huckabee in large numbers.