Clergy Tax Breaks, Holman Bible & Persecution in Vietnam

Clergy Tax Breaks, Holman Bible & Persecution in Vietnam

In Today's Edition:
  • House Votes to Protect Clergy's Housing Tax Break 
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible: Skirting the Gender Minefield 
  • New Evidence of Vietnam's Anti-Christian Campaign
  • Thousands of Black Sudanese Slaves Liberated 
  • Other Headlines at a Glance

House Votes to Protect Clergy's Housing Tax Break ... The U.S. House of Representatives voted 408-0 on April 17 to protect a long-standing tax break for clergy, reports the Washington Times. Ministers and other clergy have been exempt since 1921 from paying taxes on housing allowances they receive from their churches. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit questioned the constitutionality of the break, causing Congress to "clarify and preserve" the exemption.

According to the Washington Times, the issue developed after a Baptist minister in California challenged an IRS rule that limits the housing-allowance exemption to the fair market rental value of the minister's home. The U.S. Tax Court backed the California pastor, so the IRS appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, which is now reviewing the overall constitutionality of the clergy tax benefit. The Times report explains that rural and inner-city churches will be most affected if the exemption is removed. The issue now moves to the Senate.


Holman Christian Standard Bible Tries to Avoid Gender Minefield ... Several articles from Baptist Press Thursday detail the development of the new Holman Christian Standard Bible, which is being produced by a 95-member team of interdenominational Bible scholars and editors for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to Baptist Press, scholars debated at length over how extensively "he," "him" and "his" should be replaced by gender-neutral language in Bible translations.

"Scholars on all sides regard the debate as highly significant in terms of a translation's integrity, readability and cultural sensitivities. Yet the thrust of the Southern Baptist Convention entity producing the HCSB ... is far broader than staking out ground as a gender-accurate translation within the biblical inerrancy tradition."

Broadman & Holman's publisher, Ken Stephens, told Baptist Press, "The goal of the Holman Christian Standard Bible project is translation accuracy and readability. Our language guidelines have specified from the beginning that inclusive pronouns are used only where the original text, not our contemporary culture, allows it. Those guidelines also prohibit changing gender references to achieve inclusiveness and from adding to the inspired writings of the biblical authors. This is compatible with the Colorado Springs Guidelines endorsed more than four years ago by Broadman & Holman, Focus on the Family and other organizations and biblical scholars. To read the full text of the article, visit:


New Evidence of Vietnam's Anti-Christian Campaign ... During a fact-finding mission to Vietnam in mid-March, a team from the Washington, DC based International Christian Concern (ICC) obtained documentation of the continued oppression of Christian believers in Vietnam. Five of these documents originated in the Tran Xoan hamlet of Bao Thang district, Lao Cai province, where Christians of the Hmong ethnic minority petitioned the government for the freedom to practice their faith without governmental interference.

While some of the information in the documents obtained by ICC is not new, the documents provide fresh confirmation to reports that have already been released by other human rights groups. What is of special significance, according to a news release from ICC, is that these latest documents offer unique and undeniable evidence of the government of Vietnam's anti-Christian campaign.

The documents are significant for two reasons. First, they are very recent and prove that the Vietnamese policies of oppressing religion is no less as intense in 2002 as in the past. Second, while other petitions to the government have been submitted by Christian believers over the years, the reply letter from Lao Cai province officials represents one of the few responses ever received by the government. It also clearly reveals that the government of Vietnam has no intention of giving religious freedom to the Hmong people.


Thousands of Black Sudanese Slaves Liberated ... Human rights organization Christian Solidarity International (CSI) reports that it has redeemed 2,993 black slaves during an eight-day visit to Sudan. CSI liberated the slaves from Arab masters in northern Sudan and returned them to their homes in the south through Sudan's "Underground Railroad" -- a civil society initiative involving CSI and its non-governmental partners, African community leaders, and some of their Arab counterparts.

Among the redeemed slaves were 700 women and children captured in the vicinity of the Canadian Talisman oil fields in the western Upper Nile region. CSI paid Arab retrievers the local equivalent of two goats - 50,000 Sudanese Pounds ($33 U.S.) for each freed slave. Since 1995, 69,061 slaves have been freed though this grassroots initiative.

Since last year, an additional 12,478 slaves have been liberated and returned to their families without redemption fees through a new CSI-supported local peace agreement initiated by Arab Dinka Peace Committees. "This historic development in the relations between Sudanese Arabs and black Africans is one that CSI has long worked for, and we will do all in our power to nurture it," said CSI president, Rev. Hans Stuckelberger.

Other Headlines at a Glance:

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