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Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 20, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 20, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • 'The Bible' Creators Deny Satan Meant to Look Like Obama
  • Support for Gay Marriage Grows as Supreme Court Cases Near
  • Kazakhstan: Another Strike to Religious Freedom as Court Orders Destruction of Bibles
  • Group Urges Prayer for Gay Marriage Cases


'The Bible' Creators Deny Satan Meant to Look Like Obama

The creators of the miniseries "The Bible" and the History Channel are denying reports that the character Satan intentionally resembles President Barack Obama, Fox News reports. The couple behind the show, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, dismissed in a statement what they called "foolish" reports: "This is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several Biblical epics -- including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our president." Downey added: "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love for our president, who is a fellow Christian. False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of the Bible." The History Channel also set out to put an end to the rumors, saying the show aims to feature "a diverse cast of respected actors." The network said in a statement: "History Channel has the highest respect for President Obama. It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History's 'The Bible' is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history."

Support for Gay Marriage Grows as Supreme Court Cases Near

A new national poll reflects the continued cultural shift in attitudes toward gay marriage one week before it faces a monumental test at the Supreme Court, PBS reports. The Washington Post/ABC News survey released Monday found that 58 percent of Americans believe it should be legal for gay couples to get married. Thirty-six percent of respondents opposed making same-sex marriage legal. The survey "reflects a remarkable -- and remarkably fast -- turnabout in American public opinion one of the most emotionally raw and politically divisive issues of the past decade," according to the Washington Post. It also found a "broader shift in American attitudes about homosexuality. ... Two decades ago, fewer than half of all Americans said being gay was an identity people are born with, not a choice; today, a sizable majority, 62 percent, says so." Among certain demographic groups, the survey revealed dramatic splits on the issue: voters ages 18-29 support legalizing gay marriage 81 percent to 15 percent; non-white voters support legalizing gay marriage 61 to 32 percent; and college-educated whites support legalizing gay marriage 65 to 29 percent. All of these constituencies have favored Democrats in national elections.

Kazakhstan: Another Strike to Religious Freedom as Court Orders Destruction of Bibles

Religious freedom is losing even more ground in Kazakhstan: For the first time since the country gained independence in 1991, a court ordered religious literature to be destroyed, Mission Network News reports. According to Forum 18 News, 121 pieces of religious literature, mostly in the Kazakh language, were taken from a Christian in the northern part of the country. Vyacheslav Cherkasov was reportedly handing out the literature on the streets when police arrested him. He was fined a month's wages, and a suitcase full of Bibles, children's Bibles, books and Christian tracts were confiscated. This month, a judge ordered the literature to be destroyed. "Most likely the books would be burnt," an official told Forum 18. Authorities accused Cherkasov of violating Kazakhstan's Religion Law, which was rewritten in 2011 to include more things as "religious offenses." Cherkasov is currently appealing his case. "We know that religious literature has frequently been confiscated since the new Religion Law came into force in 2011," said human rights defender Yevgeni Zhovtis. "But I've never heard that religious literature is being destroyed, unless it is extremist. This is terrible, terrible!"

Group Urges Prayer for Gay Marriage Cases

A prominent Christian legal group is urging Christians nationwide to pray as the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to decide the legal definition of marriage, Baptist Press reports. The court will take up two separate cases March 26-27 -- a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 -- and will either affirm the traditional definition of marriage or redefine it to include same-sex couples. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has been heavily involved in defending the traditional definition of marriage, is in the midst of a "nine weeks of prayer for marriage" initiative that includes weekly downloadable printouts naming attorneys and Supreme Court justices for whom to pray. "They need your prayers like never before," said ADF's president and CEO, Alan Sears. "God's design and purpose for marriage does not change, no matter what today's politicians, activists or courts choose to accept." For more information about the prayer initiative, click here.

Publication date: March 20, 2013