Byron Schools Sued, Youth Pastor Faces Sex Charges & Burma

Byron Schools Sued, Youth Pastor Faces Sex Charges & Burma

In Today's Edition:
  • Families Sue Byron School District Over Study of Islam
  • Former Youth Pastor Faces Sexual Abuse Charges in Tennessee
  • Religious Feud Erupts Over Satellite TV Merger Deal
  • Church in Turkey Ordered to Close After 40 Years
  • Burmese Christians Caught in Opium War

Families Sue Byron School District Over Study of Islam ... According to the Associated Press (AP), two families are suing the Byron Union School District for teaching Islam in violation of the constitution. The suit was filed in federal court in San Francisco June 24 by the Thomas More Center for Law and Justice, which is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Seventh grade students at Excelsior School allegedly were "required to participate in simulation exercises including wearing traditional Muslim clothing and memorizing Islamic prayers," according to AP. Richard Thompson, executive director and chief counsel for the center, said, "Is this education or indoctrination? You can teach about religion, but you can't cross the line and promote one religion over another," he said. "The textbook and simulation workbook used in Byron and many schools in California crossed way over the constitutional line in regard to religion."

AP says that the suit is based on a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment concerning separation of church and state. It seeks to prohibit the district from funding and implementing simulations of Islam and monetary damages and legal fees.

Former Youth Pastor Faces Sexual Abuse Charges in Tennessee ... (UMNS) - A former youth pastor in Jackson, Tenn., is in jail on charges of sexually abusing three teen-age boys who attend the church where he worked. Curtis Hudson, 33, was indicted by a grand jury on July 1. He is being held in the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex pending arraignment in circuit court on July 15, according to Lt. Mike Holt, who works on violent crimes for the Jackson Police Department.

Hudson had served as associate pastor for youth at the 1,800-member First United Methodist Church since January 1998. Church youth reported the allegations of abuse to the Rev. Paul Clayton, senior pastor, on June 4, and Hudson was relieved of his ministerial duties pending an investigation that same day. On June 7, he surrendered his clergy credentials. He is charged with one count of rape of a child, three counts of rape and seven counts of sexual battery by an authority figure. The alleged abuse occurred over a period of several months in 2000 and 2001, Holt told United Methodist News Service. The three boys are 14, 15 and 16, said Phyllis Maley, business administrator at First Church. "They have been provided counseling, and certainly the pastors are open to (helping) them at any time."

The developments came as a shock for church and Memphis Annual Conference officials. Hudson "had grown" First Church's youth ministry, Maley said. "I would say that he was very much admired and respected by the congregation.
"The congregation has really been saddened by the whole situation, surprised and disappointed," Maley said. "The congregation's been concerned for the alleged victims and for their families. I would say in response to it the congregation is really showing a lot of unity, and we are just going to do everything we can to not have something like this happen again."

Religious Feud Erupts Over Satellite TV Merger Deal ... From CNS News -- Conservative groups are taking sides in the possible $26 billion merger deal between two big satellite TV firms, DirecTV and EchoStar Communications Corp., and how that deal might affect media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Dave Clark, president of Fort Worth, Texas-based FamilyNET, recently wrote an op-ed criticizing Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition for allying himself with Murdoch in opposition to the merger. As chairman of News Corp., Murdoch had sought his own merger with DirecTV but was outbid by EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen last year.

"As the former chairman and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, and as a current board member of the NRB, I find it difficult to explain how Rev. Sheldon can voice 'moral concerns' over a merger between EchoStar and DIRECTV when those companies have been integral to the dissemination of thousands of family-oriented and religious programs," wrote Clark. Clark supports the merger because he believes it will lead to hundreds of Christian stations being carried on satellite. Sheldon disagrees and says he's miffed with Clark for the public tongue-lashing.

"I got Dave appointed to his first major national post at ... [Christian Broadcasting Network] University (now Regent University)," said Sheldon. "[I'm] shocked that he hasn't had the courtesy, the intelligence or the decency to call an old friend" before going public with his complaints. "And these other [religious broadcasters] are very concerned about him," Sheldon added. "These people, these ministries-John Hagee, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Richard Roberts and the others-have every right" to speak out against the proposed merger, said Sheldon. Hagee, Copeland, and two other ministries delivered 485,000 petitions opposing the merger to the U.S. Department of Justice on June 27.

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), which hosted the meeting with Murdoch at Sheldon's behest, opposes the merger out of fear that the new, combined company would eliminate any satellite television competition in areas of the country not served by cable. The NRB has also criticized EchoStar's "inclusion of pornographic channels" and "bias" against Christian and family-oriented programming.

Church in Turkey Ordered to Close After 40 Years ... Barnabas Fund News Service (BFS) reports that The New Testament Church in Iskenderun, Turkey, which has been meeting for almost 40 years, has been ordered to close. A two-page directive delivered by police on June 14 said the church must close immediately, because it has "no legal basis" and that its activities were harmful to society.

According to BFS, this Protestant church, located 25 miles from Antakya (ancient Antioch), began meeting in 1963. When its place of worship was torn down in 1970, they began meeting in the facilities of the local Armenian Orthodox Church. In 1995, they purchased their own facility and, in accordance to zoning regulations, informed the local authorities and all surrounding residents and shops. "None of them had any problem with this, and all of them signed the notarized forms giving their consent," said Pastor Yusuf Yasmin.

Without warning, a directive was given to Pastor Yasmin on June 14. According to a copy of the directive obtained by Compass Direct, the church was ordered to close "because your activities will incite religious, sectarian and dervish-order discrimination; will harm religious and national feelings; and will create offense in the society." The police order also stated that the location had not been approved in the municipal zoning plan. But in an indirect admission, the order states "there is no provision in our laws concerning the construction and use of 'places of worship.'"

While the Turkish constitution guarantees freedom of religion, according to BFS, there has been increasing pressure on Christians in this predominantly Muslim country. This action by the authorities is one more example of the challenges facing believers in this country where Christianity has had a strong presence since Paul first preached there.

Burmese Christians Caught in Opium War ... From Christian Aid's "Mission Insider" -- Believers in Myanmar (Burma) are caught in a conflict of regional armies warring against each other over the drug trade. According to a confidential report received by Christian Aid, the Shan State Army (SSA) and the United Wa State Army (UWSA) were in a major conflict the third week of June in an area 30 km. from Maesai. In addition, secular news services said Thailand armed forces attacked the UWSA on Myanmar territory last month. In May, Reuters cited "Jane's Defense Weekly" as saying that the UWSA had some 20,000 troops and an arsenal that included surface-to-air missiles.

Such conflicts cause chaos and breakdowns in what minimal communications may exist, and campaigning armies confiscate or at least interrupt the local food harvests and other business enterprises, forcing additional hardship on the residents. "The inhabitants along the border will be forced to carry ammunition for one army or the other," Christian Aid's source said. "Pray for Christian villagers in the area."

In other areas, ministry continues. One ministry leader says that many Lisu tribespeople are coming across the border from China to avoid China's restrictive one-child and forced-abortion policies. Short-term Bible training is being offered them, and churches are being planted among them. For more information about ministry in Myanmar write [email protected] and put MI-327 715-UCM on the subject line.