Religion Today Summaries, November 19, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, November 19, 2003

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

  • Texas Capitol Gets to Keep Its Ten Commandments Monument

  • Federal Law About Religious Inmates Is Unconstitutional

  • Four Christians Killed as Muslims Protest Against Arrests

  • Largest Ever International Christian Human Rights Conference Held in London

Texas Capitol Gets to Keep Its Ten Commandments Monument
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A Texas attorney says a recent ruling by a federal court which allowed a Ten Commandments monument to stay on Capitol grounds in Austin is an example of the need for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue. Last week, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim by an Austin attorney who sued to have a monument of God's laws removed because he claimed it endorsed Christianity and Judaism, made non-religious citizens feel "second-class," and offended him.  But the court of appeals said the monument could remain. The Ten Commandments display was a gift from the Fraternal Order of Eagles more than 40 years ago that was meant, among other things, to encourage morality.  Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, says the appeals court upheld the monument because of its historical significance. "Fortunately so far, the district court and now the federal court of appeals have upheld the monument and said there's nothing unconstitutional about having a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn," Shackelford says.  "It's part of our history, and we don't have to sort of turn a blind eye and treat it like pornography." Shackelford adds that the Constitution does not give someone the right to eradicate religious documents and symbols simply because they feel offended.  The Liberty Legal Institute attorney says he expects the case to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal Law About Religious Inmates Is Unconstitutional
Religion News Service

A federal appellate court has declared unconstitutional a 2000 federal law that permitted inmates to follow religious dietary practices and gather for worship. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act bars the government from limiting the religious freedom of people in federally funded institutions such as prisons unless there is a compelling reason. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 7 that the law violates the separation of church and state because it has "the primary effect of advancing religion.” It does not affect a part of the law that gives religious organizations some protection against zoning regulations. The ruling by a three-judge panel in Cincinnati applies solely to Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. Several other federal courts across the nation have found that the law is constitutional. Ohio prison officials said they were worried that inmates were using the law as a guise for gang gatherings and sought to have the law thrown out. David Goldberger, who represents 156 Ohio inmates in the case, said he is considering an appeal. Judges in five federal appellate courts and two U.S. District courts have said the law is constitutional, while the 6th Circuit and at least two federal district courts ruled otherwise, the judges noted in their ruling.

Four Christians Killed as Muslims Protest Against Arrests
Barnabas News Fund

Four more Christians, including the treasurer of the prominent Central Sulawesi Christian Church (GKST), have been killed in the Poso area. Two thousand police and soldiers have been put on alert as Muslim anger erupts over attempts to arrest those responsible for previous anti-Christian violence. On Sunday 16 November the bodies of Mr Tadjodja and his nephew were found in their car between two Muslim villages near Poso. Mr Tadjodja, 58, was the GKST treasurer and had been sent by the church’s synod to preach in one of the villages hit in the 12 October attacks. His 26 year old nephew was his driver. That same day another member of GKST, known as Dennis, was travelling through Poso on the way to Palu, when an irate Muslim mob forced him to come to a halt and then beat him to death. His body was found near the market area in Poso along with the body of another Christian and GKST member assumed to be Mr Bowo, though his identity is as yet unconfirmed. The Muslim mob had been venting its anger outside the police station in Poso because of the arrest of Muslim suspects in the 12 October attacks.

Largest Ever International Christian Human Rights Conference Held in London
Michael Ireland, ASSIST News Service

More than 1,000 people heard speakers from around the globe give first-hand accounts of the growing hardship faced by the Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith. Impassioned pleas went out for British Christians to use their freedom to speak out for the persecuted church at what is believed to be the world's largest Christian human rights conference in London on Saturday, November 15. The conference was held jointly by two British human rights organizations, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Release International at Westminster Chapel. Delegates heard stories of faith under fire from Indonesia, India, Peru, Nigeria, North Korea, Iraq, Sudan and the Middle East. Christian Solidarity Worldwide's President, Baroness Caroline Cox, warned: "The church is asleep. Militant Islam is rapidly gaining ground.” "In India, if we raise our voice, we become targets for assassins," said Joseph D'Souza. "In the West, if you raise your voices, you become weapons in the hands of God." "I have a problem with the phrase silent majority," said Eddie Lyle of Release International. "We are praying today for a noisy majority that will become the voice of the persecuted church. We have been quiet for too long."