Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
No Change in Repressive Religious Policies
- Christian Youth Speaker Battles Montana School Board
- Church of Scotland Official Urges Bush to Explain Iraq Mission
- Not All Religious Displays Deemed Unconstitutional
No Change in Repressive Religious Policies
Any hope that the new state leadership in China , headed by President Hu Jintao, would usher in more liberal policies towards religious believers appears to be premature. A senior house church leader interviewed in October confirmed that repression still continues in many areas. Unregistered house churches are harassed, their members fined and leaders sent without trial to “re-education through labor” camps. Underground Roman Catholics loyal to the Vatican also face continuing opposition. Repression of religion, though not as all-encompassing as in the days of Chairman Mao, is still a familiar feature of everyday life.
Christian Youth Speaker Battles Montana School Board
Jim Brown, Agape Press
A Montana school board is being accused of violating the First Amendment rights of a Christian youth speaker who was prohibited from addressing a middle school in the state. Last fall, school board members denied motivational speaker Jaroy Carpenter permission to speak to students at Dillon Middle School. Carpenter, who was initially approved by the board, often gives secular speeches in public schools as well as religious presentations at Christian youth rallies. Carpenter had been asked to help Dillon's students who were coping with a string of teen suicides and automobile deaths. But board members later retracted their permission, telling him that his affiliation with a Christian group called the "Dawson McAllister Association" precluded him from speaking to the students. Attorney Casey Mattox with The Rutherford Institute says the school board violated the youth speaker's First Amendment rights. "Basically they erred so much on the side of avoiding a lawsuit from the ACLU that they just trampled over someone's religious freedom," Mattox explains. "We're trying to make the point that they have to weigh these things fairly and not just go with the default decision to discriminate against a religious person." The attorney says his client was censored because he is a well-known Christian and because of his association with a Christian ministry. Mattox has filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to rule that the school violated Carpenter's constitutional rights.
Church of Scotland Official Urges Bush to Explain Iraq Mission
Robert Nowell, Religion News Service
A leading member of the Church of Scotland has welcomed the visit to Britain next week by President George Bush on the grounds it gives the U.S. president an opportunity to give a convincing explanation of the reasons for war against Iraq -- "something our own prime minister (Tony Blair) has so far failed to do and seems now to wish to avoid." Recalling the views expressed by this year's general assembly on the issue, the Rev. Alan McDonald said the denomination had stressed the central role the United Nations ought to have in dealing with the situation in Iraq. "Therefore the committee welcomes President Bush's visit as the chance for him to demonstrate the kind of international cooperation his administration has found so difficult on a whole range of issues," he said. The committee also welcomed the president's visit "so that he and the American media representatives who will accompany him may have the chance more closely to listen to the views of the people of the United Kingdom." Citing Blair's recent statement that the task now is not to argue about what had been but to work for the future, McDonald said: "We believe a just and peaceful future can only be reached by a truthful confrontation and acknowledgement of the past."
Not All Religious Displays Deemed Unconstitutional
While a federal judge and state authorities in Alabama have concluded Roy Moore has no right to place a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building, officials in other states are taking a very different view on such displays. A federal court in Texas has given its blessing to a public Ten Commandments display; and at police headquarters in New York City, a display of the Qu'ran has been deemed to be just fine. In Austin, Texas, a federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit demanding removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the Texas State Capitol grounds. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the state's contention that the monument is more historical than religious, with key segments of law founded upon the Commandments' cultural ethics and morality. That is the same argument that Roy Moore made in Alabama. Meanwhile, in New York City, a Muslim chaplain with the police department has placed a copy of the Qu'ran in the lobby of the headquarters building. It is contained in a glass tube atop a brass pedestal to coincide with the Muslim Ramadan period which began October 27. An official with the American Civil Liberties Union says the display is likely a violation of the Constitution -- but there is no indication that her organization plans to take the matter to court.