Religion Today Summaries, November 19, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, November 19, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • Federal Court to Judge Roy Moore: Ten Commandments Monument Impermissible'
  • Three Vietnamese Christians Put to Death for Participating in Peaceful Demonstrations
  • Era of Freedom Over in Russia?  Ex-KGB Renews Interest in Religion
  • Persecution Checked in Chiapas Mexico

Federal Court to Judge Roy Moore: Ten Commandments Monument 'Impermissible'

(Baptists Press) Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has 30 days to remove a 5,300-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state judicial building, after a federal judge ruled the monument violates the constitution's ban on government promotion of religion.  In a ruling handed down Nov. 18, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said he does not believe all Ten Commandments displays in government buildings are illegal, but that the monument in the judicial building crosses the line "between the permissible and the impermissible."  The monument features the King James Bible version of the Ten Commandments sitting on top of a granite block.  Around the monument are quotes from historical figures and documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, but critics contend the commandments dominate.  Moore testified during the trial that the commandments are the moral foundation of American law.  He said the monument acknowledges God, but does not force anyone to follow his religious beliefs.  Moore's attorneys have said in the past that they would appeal such a ruling.

Three Vietnamese Christians Put to Death for Participating in Peaceful Demonstrations

(Charisma News Service) Three Christians have been killed by lethal injection as part of a "massive crackdown" on rural believers, according to the U.K.-based Christian human rights group, Jubilee Campaign.  The three who died Oct. 29 were executed "simply for taking part in peaceful demonstrations" in February last year.  Jubilee said that a report claimed security police tried to make a nurse administer the injections, but when she refused officers injected the trio with an unknown drug, killing them "in convulsing spasms within minutes."  The three victims were members of the Montagnard community, a group of around 600,000 hill-tribes people, two-thirds of whom are Protestant and Catholic Christians.  Vietnamese authorities have imposed martial law on the Montagnards, who have a separate language and culture from the majority ethnic Vietnamese.  Entire villages have been put under arrest, and hundreds arrested, beaten and tortured with electric prods.  "For many years Christians all over Vietnam have been persecuted for their faith," said Jubilee's Parliamentary Officer, Wilfred Wong.  "However, this must be one of the darkest periods ever of anti-Christian persecution, and the ethnic minorities such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Hmong are bearing the brunt of this appalling brutality."

Era of Freedom Over in Russia?  Ex-KGB Renews Interest in Religion
Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service (Special to ASSIST News Service)

(Assist News Service) -- For the first time since the end of the Soviet regime, an Eastern-rite Catholic priest in Omsk region of western Siberia reports that he is being regularly questioned by an officer of the local Federal Security Service (FSB) formerly known as the KGB.  An FSB officer first contacted Fr. Sergi Golovanov this spring, as we told in the Keston News Service in September, "in order to discuss the prevention of religious extremism."  The FSB officer also reportedly asked for the names of teachers in higher educational institutions frequenting Omsk's Catholic parish and questioned him about the German Catholic charitable foundation Renovabis.  He then politely invited Fr. Sergi to contact him should he receive "threats from extremists."  The same FSB officer subsequently telephoned him every month to ask about his church's activity, Fr. Sergi told Keston.  "From this I understood that the era of Freedom is over," commented Fr. Sergi.  "Again someone [is] looking over my shoulder: I don't like it."

Persecution Checked in Chiapas

(Compass) When the Tzotzil-speaking people of Chiapas, Mexico, began coming to Christ in the 1960s, opposition from religious traditionalists surged. Tribal chiefs assaulted Christians and destroyed their homes. A few evangelicals suffered martyrdom. Thirty years later, some 25,000 Tzotzils live in exile. However, an underground church formed in the province of San Juan Chamula, heart of traditionalist Tzotzil religion, and today half the population of some villages is evangelical. Two years have passed since the last major attack against Christians. Chiapas-based missionary Vern Sterk credits the decrease in persecution to greater cooperation among local churches, pressure from international groups and improved state government under Pablo Salazar, the first evangelical governor in Mexican history.