Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 17, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 17, 2009

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

  • 59 Christians Released From Jails in Pakistan
  • Non-Discrimination Act 'Would Burden' Religious Groups
  • Evangelical Churches Seen as 'Sects' in Belarus
  • Report: Americans Still Favor Faith-Based Programs

59 Christians Released From Jails in Pakistan

ASSIST News Service reports that 59 imprisoned Christians in various jails in Pakistan received news of their freedom on Friday, Nov. 13. The Christians were released after Rizwan Paul, president of the Christian group Life for All, presented a petition to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari for the pardon of these Christians who he stated had been "falsely accused of minor crimes." Extremely emotional scenes were seen outside the jails when the prisoners were released. Family members were present to greet their loved ones and they thanked Life for All for their efforts. The group estimates that there are still more than 2,500 Christians in jails all over Pakistan who cannot afford the legal assistance for their release.

Non-Discrimination Act 'Would Burden' Religious Groups

Baptist Press reports that some religious organizations will be prevented from acting on their beliefs in making employment decisions if the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is passed. "ENDA, in its present form, would impose a substantial or unconstitutional burden on religious organizations and would interfere in their effectiveness in terms of pursuing their vision," lawyer Craig Parshall said in testifying against the bill in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The legislation would make discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" illegal in such areas as hiring, firing and compensation for both the private and public workplace. Parshall said the exemption for religious organizations is insufficient for those motivated by a biblical conviction that homosexuality is sinful.

Evangelical Churches Seen as 'Sects' in Belarus

Mission News Network reports that Protestant Christians in Belarus are increasingly scrutinized as "sects" by police. According to Deputy Chief of Minsk's Frunze District Police Dinas Linkus, "We have Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims: these are the religions. All the others are sects." The police began monitoring evangelical churches, communities with fewer than 20 members, and all unregistered religious activity after the passage of a 2002 religion law. According to Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association, these churches are often subject to arrests and false charges from authorities. "They [evangelical Christians] have to battle false rumors like this all the time that get spread around by various people. It definitely is a concern, but I also want to praise the Lord for the progress that's been made in spite of some of the opposition." 

Report: Americans Still Favor Faith-Based Programs

The Christian Post reports that most Americans support the continuation of government funding for faith-based programs. According to a new study, 69 percent of Americans believe funding for faith-based initiatives should continue as a way to aid community work by religious groups. The study found that people under 30 were more likely to support faith-based initiatives than older Americans. Some Americans expressed concern that such action might cause programs to succumb to federal regulation, or force people in the programs to participate in religious practices. Faith-based initiatives first won government aid under former President George W. Bush, and the program has been expanded to secular community-based groups under President Barack Obama.