Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Most Americans Feel Religion Is 'Under Attack,' Poll Shows
Melanie Hunter, CNSNews.com
A new survey shows the majority of Americans think religion is "under attack" and "losing its influence" in American life. According to the poll, American Attitudes Toward Religion In the Public Square, 64 percent (out of 800 adults polled) agreed with the statement that "religion is under attack" in America, and 80 percent of those who identify themselves as evangelical Christians were in agreement. "The findings suggest that American public opinion is starkly divided when it comes to the role of religion in the public square, and that our nation's proud tradition of church-state separation is threatened as never before," said Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham H. Foxman. "Unfortunately, too many people believe that religion is under attack in America, when in fact religion is stronger in the United States than in any other Western country.” The poll also found 53 percent of respondents believe that religion is "losing" influence in American life, while 35 percent said it is "increasing influence." Among those who think religion is "losing" influence, 60 percent are evangelical Christians, while 33 percent of that same group said religion is "increasing" in influence. The poll also covered questions regarding public displays of the Ten Commandments, and the creation/evolution debate.
Catholic Majority on the High Court?
Religion News Service
If Judge Samuel Alito is confirmed as the next member of the U.S. Supreme Court, he will usher in the Court's first-ever Catholic majority. Alito would join Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts on the Court. John Paul Stevens and David Souter are Protestants, while Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are Jewish. The development is significant in a number of ways. First, anti-Catholicism in politics is ‘’much deader than people have thought," said theologian Michael Novak. "You almost have to go looking for it." Additionally, Alito's and Roberts's strong support from evangelical Christians shows how much relations within the Christian faith have improved since the days when many Protestants were deeply skeptical of John F. Kennedy's run for the White House in 1960. But now, evangelicals and Catholics have cemented a powerful social-political alliance based on shared values. "I've got a lot more in common with Pope John Paul II than I do with Jimmy Carter or Al Gore, who are both Southern Baptists," said Richard Land, the top Baptist spokesman on moral-political issues and a supporter of Alito. Of the 109 Supreme Court justices in U.S. history, only 11 have been Catholic. All five Catholic justices — if Alito wins consent — would be selections of Republican presidents.
Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design
The Vatican's chief astronomer said Nov. 18 that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms. The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside evolution in school programs was akin to mixing apples with oranges. "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," said Coyne. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science." Proponents of intelligent design are seeking to get public schools in the United States to teach it as part of the science curriculum. Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism — a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation — camouflaged in scientific language, and they say it does not belong in science curriculum. Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe. “Religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly." Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent. Last week, Pope Benedict XVI waded indirectly into the evolution debate by saying the universe was an "intelligent project."
Russia Considers Further Restrictions on Foreign Missionaries, Religious Organizations
The Christian Post
The Russian government said that within the coming weeks it may begin tightening control of foreign missionaries and religious organizations. According to reports, the Justice Ministry is considering adopting stricter rules on granting visas to foreign missionaries – an action that, if effective, would lead to the limitation of missionaries to Russia. The government also expressed plans to make the suppression of religious centers easier while causing registration of religious organizations more difficult. “It sounds like it's all going back like it was during the Soviet time,” commented Sergey Rakhuba, vice president of Russian Ministries. Rakhuba believes the Russian Orthodox Church is involved in the proposal. "Russian Orthodox Church initiates all of this. And they inspire the Russian government to help control other religious groups. Basically it means they want to monopolize all religious activity.” Even if restrictions on foreign missionaries are forthcoming, Rakhuba said church growth and evangelism in Russia will not be hindered. “I don't think that it will affect evangelism because you cannot stop people from talking about Christ. You cannot stop people talking about their experiences with Jesus. And that's what Russian Ministries is doing."