Religion Today Summaries, September 8, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, September 8, 2003

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

  • More Anti-Christian Violence Feared in Iraq

  • City Settles After Trying to Evict Resident Over Religious Sign

  • Barring Cross Pendant Ruled Unconstitutional

  • Mass Arrest of Christians in China

More Anti-Christian Violence Feared in Iraq
Charisma News Service

Christian aid workers fear new violence after a car bomb last Sunday killed about 100 people in a mosque in the city of Najaf. Southern Baptist projects have been delayed for at least two weeks after signs that remnants of Saddam Hussein's faction are planning to target humanitarian workers in the country. "Our workers in Iraq contacted us saying that they felt we needed to delay for at least two weeks sending any volunteers into the country," Mark Kelly of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board told Mission Network News. Aid workers and church officials have also expressed concern about Muslim-violence directed against Christians and missionary workers, who are often identified with the United States-led coalition. Southern Baptist workers and other Christians asked for prayer that the delay in beginning ministry projects would be minimal. "People need to pray because the majority of Iraqis are still positive toward us and open to our ministry," they said. "But if humanitarian workers are going to be singled out as targets, we must not put our people at greater risk than they would be already." Meanwhile, three gunmen sprayed bullets at worshipers in a Baghdad mosque at the end of dawn prayers this morning, wounding three people.

City Settles After Trying to Evict Resident Over Religious Sign
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A Michigan woman who was threatened with eviction for displaying a religious sign has received a settlement of her lawsuit. The housing authority involved in the case has agreed to pay damages and attorneys fees to Johnie Heard, a ten-year resident of a Section 8 housing development. Last year Heard was threatened with eviction from her Taylor, Michigan, residence after she displayed an eight-inch, stop-sign-shaped window sign that said "24-Hr. Prayer Station." Heard says she placed the sign in her window to let fellow residents know that if they ever needed prayer, her door was always open. While the housing development has always permitted signs with secular messages, when Heard refused to remove her sign, the housing facility filed suit with the state court in an attempt to evict her. Liberty Counsel's Mathew Staver filed the federal lawsuit on Heard's behalf, claiming the city violated her constitutional rights and asking for a jury trial and punitive damages. Staver says the city chose to settle rather than go to court. "The housing authority has agreed to revoke the rule that caused the problem, to allow the display of religious signs, to pay attorney fees and costs, and to pay Heard a substantial sum of money for this unconstitutional violation," he says.

Barring Cross Pendant Ruled Unconstitutional
Charisma News Service

A federal judge has ruled that a Kentucky library's dress code that prevented a Christian employee from wearing a cross necklace was an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. Kimberly Draper was fired from the library in Logan County in April 2001 after she refused to take off the pendant. She filed a suit in February 2002, challenging a library policy that read: "No clothing depicting religious, political, or potentially offensive decoration is permitted." But in his ruling last week, Judge Thomas Russell said the library policy violated the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. He noted that Draper's wearing of her cross was "neither disruptive nor controversial until the library dress code made it a source of contention." Frank Manion, Draper's attorney, said the ruling "underscores the fact that employees have constitutional rights to express their faith in the workplace" as long as it doesn't interfere with the work setting. "This decision sends an important message that employers cannot discriminate against employees who choose to express their religious beliefs in the workplace," said Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. Draper did not ask for reinstatement to her library job, but was seeking monetary damages. Russell is expected to address the issue later.

Mass Arrest of Christians in China
Voice of the Martyrs News
One hundred and seventy house church Christians in Nanyang County, Henan Province, China, have been arrested. The believers had assembled for worship when Public Security Bureau officers raided the meeting place. After the arrest, the police started processing the detainees to identify the leaders. They are presently holding 14 leaders, while the rest of the Christians were forced to pay fines before being fingerprinted, warned, and released. The 14 leaders face more serious charges and may be imprisoned. It is usual in such arrests for the leaders to be beaten and tortured at this stage. Nanyang County is one of the strongest Christian areas in China. It first experienced a tremendous revival which started in the 1970s and continues to this day. Perhaps 40% to 50% of the 1.1 million population in the county believe in the Lord Jesus, including many entire villages. Over the years it has been the scene of some of China's strongest and most diabolical persecution. Nanyang has produced many of China's house church leaders.