Religion Today Daily Headlines - November 1, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - November 1, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Massachusetts Supreme Court to Hear Case Against 'Under God' in Pledge of Allegiance
  • Fifth Ad Continues Obama Spotlight on Abortion
  • Sudanese Bible School Re-Opens Despite Islamist Intimidation
  • Persecuted Indonesian Congregation Refuses to Relocate


Massachusetts Supreme Court to Hear Case Against 'Under God' in Pledge of Allegiance

Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a non-religious family who is challenging the mandatory daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in their children's classrooms, the Religion News Service reports. The family of secular humanists claims the phrase "under God" in the pledge is a violation of the state's constitutional ban on religious discrimination. In June, a lower court ruled against the family, saying the required recitation of the pledge was not discriminatory because it did not uphold one religion over another. The family appealed, and will now gain a hearing from the state's highest court. "There is very little case law that precedes this," said Bill Burgess, director of the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which is representing the plaintiffs. "The court will be making new law when it issues its decision." The appeal in the case, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, has not yet been scheduled.

Fifth Ad Continues Obama Spotlight on Abortion

President Barack Obama's campaign has launched its fifth television ad targeting Mitt Romney's pro-life views, Baptist Press reports. With polls showing most voters saying the country is on the wrong track, the Obama campaign has tried to make abortion an issue in swing states with the goal of energizing its base, particularly women voters. The latest Obama ad criticizes Romney's opposition to Roe v. Wade and his desire to pull federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. According to Michael Foust of Baptist Press, "Obama's five ads spotlighting abortion are unprecedented. Earlier this year Baptist Press watched every Democratic nominee's television ads from 1976-2008 -- that is, post-Roe v. Wade -- and found that only one other campaign (Bill Clinton's, 1996) discussed abortion in an ad, and that reference ('choice') came in a TV ad that was not abortion-centric but instead discussed several issues." Pro-life groups hope the Obama campaign's abortion spotlight will backfire by benefiting Romney -- that is, regularly reminding voters that Romney opposes Roe v. Wade.

Sudanese Bible School Re-Opens Despite Islamist Intimidation

Amid threats of further losses, classes resumed in October at a Bible school and church compound in Khartoum, Sudan, that Muslim extremists torched in April, ASSIST News Service reports. Students and administrators at Gerif West Bible School have yet to fully recover their losses from the April 21 attack, but classes began again on Oct. 15 even as area Muslims try to take school land and broadcast anti-Christian messages from a nearby mosque loudspeaker most Fridays. Muslim leaders have said through the loudspeaker that Christian institutions should not be allowed in Sudan and that the country should be a "purely Islamic state" since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. "We are expecting the level of persecution to rise in Sudan in the coming days," said a pastor who works at the Bible school, adding that hostilities against churches and Christians were intensifying. Islamist attackers shouting threats against Christians and "Allahu akbar [Allah is greater]" on April 21 broke down the Christian compound wall with a bulldozer and set fire to the school and a church building. Also damaged were a clinic, a home for the elderly, and living quarters. On Sept. 21, the Muslim sheikh who led the attack, Muhammad Abdelkrim, urged area Muslims to tolerate no Christian presence and to have no dealings with them because they were "infidels."

Persecuted Indonesian Congregation Refuses to Relocate

Bogor City, 60 kilometers south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, is reported to be one of the world’s most densely populated areas. And, although not an Islamic state, Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, with 86.1 percent of Indonesians being Muslim, according to the 2000 census. In April 2010, Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) was closed by order of the mayor and city government. In December of that year, the Indonesian Supreme Court affirmed the church's constitutional right to freedom of worship; however, the mayor refused to reopen the church. The Indonesian Ombudsman’s Office also urged the Bogor city administration to withdraw its later 2011 decree annulling the church’s construction permit. But now, in the latest twist in the long-running saga, Indonesia’s Interior Minister, along with the Bogor City authorities, decided at a meeting in September that the church would not reopen, but instead should relocate about 7 kilometers away, Open Doors News reports. In addition to the mayor and Interior Minister, representatives of the Muslim Communications Forum (Forkami) – a hard-line religious group known for its stance against GKI Yasmin – attended the meeting. Understandably, the church is refusing to comply with this order. "No matter where, no matter how beautiful or how expensive the new location, we will not accept," said the GKI Yasmin spokesman, Bona Sigalingging. He said if the church was evicted it would mean that the rule of law in Indonesia has collapsed. "There will be a separation and segregation based on racial intolerance. It means betraying Bhinneka Tunggal Ika." Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, the motto of Indonesia, means "Unity in Diversity."

Publication date: November 1, 2012