Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2008

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

  • CFI Dispatches Cyclone Aid Despite Confiscation by Myanmar Government
  • Algerian Christian Sentenced for Carrying Bible
  • Pastors Encouraged to Challenge IRS Ban on Political Preaching
  • Poll Shows Shift among U.S. Catholics After Papal Visit

CFI Dispatches Cyclone Aid Despite Confiscation by Myanmar Government

ASSIST News Service reports that Michigan-based humanitarian organization Christian Freedom International is embarking on a unique mission to get desperately needed relief aid into cyclone-ravaged Myanmar despite government confiscation of relief at the international airport in Rangoon. CFI's efforts are coming at a time when other international assistance has been rejected by the Burmese government; as U.N. food aid shipments have already been confiscated by the military for its own use; and, as reported by the AP, a boat laden with relief supplies — one of the first international shipments — sank on its way to the disaster zone. The latest death toll from the storm has climbed to nearly 29,000. Despite the overwhelming need for food, shelter, clean drinking water, and medical supplies for thousands of survivors, the junta remains adamant in its refusal to accept the help of a major international relief operation, insisting that it alone will distribute emergency aid among the cyclone victims. "Conventional ways of delivering aid just doesn't work in [Myanmar]," says Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Freedom International.

Algerian Christian Sentenced for Carrying Bible

An Algerian Christian detained five days for carrying a Bible and personal Bible study books was handed a 300-euro (US $460) fine and a one-year suspended prison sentence last week, an Algerian church leader said. Compass Direct News reports that on Tuesday April 29, a court in Djilfa charged the 33-year-old Muslim convert to Christianity with “printing, storing and distributing” illegal religious material. A written copy of the verdict has yet to be issued. The Protestant, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told fellow Christians in his home city of Tiaret that police pressured him to return to Islam while in custody. The conviction is the latest in a wave of detentions and court cases against Algeria’s Protestants and Catholics.

Pastors Encouraged to Challenge IRS Ban on Political Preaching

The Christian Post reports that "conservative legal advocates are recruiting pastors nationwide to defy an IRS ban on preaching about politicians, in a challenge they hope will abolish the restriction. The Alliance Defense Fund will ask clergy to deliver a sermon about specific candidates Sept. 28. If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, which were enacted in 1954. Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations. However, they cannot endorse a candidate, and their political activity cannot be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly."

Poll Shows Shift among U.S. Catholics After Papal Visit

According to Christian Newswire, new polling data released by the Knights of Columbus shows that Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in April produced a sharp jump in the proportion of American Catholics with a more positive view of the pope following his trip. The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion interviewed 1,013 American adults in the week following the pope's return to Rome. Both practicing and non-practicing Catholics showed increased favor for the pontiff. The proportion of practicing Catholics describing Benedict positively as a spiritual leader went from 70% before the visit to 82% afterward. Among non-practicing Catholics, the proportion went from 62% before the visit to 79% afterward. And a majority of Catholics, 54%, said they were more in touch with their spiritual values as a result of the pope's visit.