Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Religious Oppression Escalates in Turkmenistan
- Undergraduates Ignorant of Religious Aspects of First Amendment
- Attorney Doubts High Court Will Reverse Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Ruling
- Florida Baptist Association Ousts Church With Husband-Wife Clergy Team
Religious Oppression Escalates in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is already infamous for its strict religious control. Now a new law has been approved that will criminalize the activities of religious minorities. Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, Turkmenistan has long been notorious for its harsh control of religious minorities. On 10 November a law came into force that will entrench the oppression of all religious communities apart from Sunni Muslims and Orthodox Christians. Whereas breaking the previous regulations was only punishable under the Code of Administrative Offences, the new law actually criminalizes "offenders". A parallel amendment to the criminal code means transgressors could now face a fine of between 10 and 30 times the average monthly salary or up to a year of hard labor. The new law also requires that the government "coordinate" any contact religious minorities might have with foreigners. Furthermore special permission will now have to be obtained to receive literature or financial support from abroad. Even before the enforcement of this law Turkmenistan had the strictest religious controls in any of the countries that used to make up the old Soviet Union. This is despite the fact that it has signed international human rights commitments binding it to freedom of religious expression.
Undergraduates Ignorant of Religious Aspects of First Amendment
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service
The nation's undergraduates are mostly ignorant about the First Amendment's proclamation about freedom of religion, a survey shows. A survey released Nov. 20 by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 30 percent of students overall named freedom of religion when they were asked to name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. But when asked to specify which freedom is addressed first in the amendment, 10 percent of public college students and 5 percent of private college students correctly said freedom of religion. "If the American experiment in liberty is to survive, citizens must both keep alive and cherish the free exchange of ideas, values and convictions," said Alan Charles Kores, president of the foundation, in a statement. "These survey results are disheartening, but they unfortunately are not surprising." Far more students overall mentioned freedom of speech when asked to name any specific right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Kores' Philadelphia-based foundation seeks to preserve the liberty of students on college campuses and has defended students whose religious rights it believes have been abridged.
Attorney Doubts High Court Will Reverse Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Ruling
Chad Groening, Agape Press
A pro-family attorney is not optimistic that the United States Supreme Court will ultimately do the right thing and overturn last week's ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, mandating that homosexual marriages be allowed in that state. Steve Crampton is chief counsel of the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy. He says pro-family Americans should not get their hopes up about the Supreme Court coming to the rescue of traditional marriage by reversing the Massachusetts ruling. "I would say that the Supreme Court, judged on its past behavior, is favorably inclined toward the homosexuals," the AFA lawyer says. Crampton feels this past summer's decision by the high court to strike down the Texas statute against sodomy is an ominous sign. The pro-family attorney believes the Texas sodomy ruling has set a precedent that could ultimately lead to statutory acceptance of homosexual marriage. "The Lawrence v. Texas decision issued this past June removed most of the legal arguments against same-sex marriage," he says. Crampton believes another way will have to be found to head off the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court since, given the lawless rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court in the past, that is the last place pro-family activists will want this issue finally decided.
Florida Baptist Association Ousts Church With Husband-Wife Clergy Team
Religion News Service
A Florida church has been removed as a member from its local Baptist association because it has a husband-wife team as co-pastors. Central Baptist Church of Daytona Beach was unanimously ousted from the Halifax Baptist Association at a meeting of the association's executive committee on Nov. 18. The Rev. Dave Phillips and the Rev. Sonya Phillips have been co-pastors since earlier this year. "It saddens us that we have to take this position," said Dennis Littleton, association moderator and pastor of a Palm Coast church, "but Central Baptist's action prompted this action." Dennis Belz, director of missions for the association, said the calling of a woman pastor was "in direct opposition" to the Bible and to the revised faith statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, which declared in 2000 that "the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." The association is comprised of 33 Southern Baptist churches. Central was one of the group's charter members and its removal is the first such action in the association's history. "We understand the actions of the association and will certainly abide by its ruling," Phillips said. "We're just going to continue doing the Lord's work here."