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Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 13, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 13, 2013

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Iran Puts Five Christians on Trial for Their Faith
  • Congress to Hold Hearing on American Pastor Being Tortured in Iranian Prison
  • Egyptian Christian Detainee Dies in Libyan Custody
  • Transgender Student Sues Baptist College Over Expulsion


Iran Puts Five Christians on Trial for Their Faith

Five Iranian Christian converts who were detained late last year will reportedly begin trial in Iran's Revolutionary Court this week, according to a human rights group following the case, Fox News reports. The five men were among seven arrested in October when security forces raided an underground house church in the city of Shiraz during a prayer session. They will be tried at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz' Fars Province on charges of disturbing public order, evangelizing, threatening national security and engaging in Internet activity that threatens the government, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. "Judging from recent cases, it is likely that, at the very least, those detained may face lengthy prison sentences," said CSW spokesperson Kiri Kankhwende. According to Kankhwende, the crackdown on Christian converts and house churches parallels a general increase in repression against many -- including journalists, religious and cultural minorities, and others -- as the government is leading up to June's presidential elections. "There has been a noticeable increase in the harassment, arrests, trials and imprisonment of converts to Christianity, particularly since the beginning of 2012," Kankhwende said.

Congress to Hold Hearing on American Pastor Being Tortured in Iranian Prison

A congressional hearing set for this week will include testimony on an American pastor serving a sentence of eight years in a notoriously brutal Iranian prison, the Christian News Network reports. According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress has scheduled a hearing on Friday on the subject of "The Worsening Plight of Religious Minorities in Iran." The hearing will not only discuss religious persecution in general, but will also focus on the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who states that he is being tortured in prison and is enduring "physical violence" and other "horrific pressures" behind bars. The 32-year-old pastor was taken into custody last September while visiting his homeland of Iran to spend time with his parents and continue his charity work of building an orphanage. Last month, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly threatening the national security of Iran by planting house churches, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam. It is estimated he had a role in founding approximately 100 house churches, which yielded 2,000 members combined.

Egyptian Christian Detainee Dies in Libyan Custody

An Egyptian Christian has died in a Libyan jail, CBN News reports. According to Voice of the Martyrs, Ezzat Hakim was detained simply because he knew other Christians accused of evangelizing in Libya. Some of the detainees were reportedly tortured in prison. Hakim already suffered from asthma and other ailments, and in the days before he died he had been sent to the hospital with chest pains and breathing problems. He later returned to prison, but on March 10, he experienced shortness of breath, fell down, hit his head and died.

Transgender Student Sues Baptist College Over Expulsion

A transgender student is suing California Baptist University for expelling him in 2011 after he claimed he was a female despite his male anatomy, WORLD News Service reports. Domaine Javier had been accepted into the school’s nursing program for the fall of 2011, but the university retracted the acceptance after he revealed that he was transgender in an episode of MTV’s “True Life.” The university said he was expelled for “committing or attempting to engage in fraud, or concealing of identity.” Last week, Javier filed a lawsuit in Riverside, Calif., against the Southern Baptist school, claiming it violated California’s civil rights act and breached its contract. He claims he lost about $500,000 in scholarships and future wages because of the expulsion, since he had to delay his career plan for a year. He had received a $3,500 dean’s academic scholarship from the school. In the nursing program application, Javier was asked to check either male or female, and he checked female, even though he had been born a male. Javier said he had identified himself as a female since he was a toddler and started presenting himself as a girl at 13. Javier’s lawyer, Paul Southwick, said he did not lie about his gender because he identifies as female, and did not break the school’s contract because it did not specifically mention transgender students. California Baptist University allows students who are not Christian, but asks every student to sign a contract pledging to attend weekly chapel services, take courses in biblical studies, and abstain from drugs, alcohol and “sexual conduct outside of marriage.” California law does not allow employment, housing and other businesses to discriminate based on sex or sexual orientation; however, private universities are not generally covered. California Baptist University has not responded to requests for comment.

Publication date: March 13, 2013