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Religion Today Daily Headlines - September 21, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - September 21, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Afghanistan: Growing Number of Christians Causing Unease Among Muslim Leaders
  • Cheerleaders Banned From Using Religious Banners at Texas High School
  • Pentecostal Pastor Shot Dead in Colombia
  • Report: Marriage Cuts Child Poverty by 80 Percent


Afghanistan: Growing Number of Christians Causing Unease Among Muslim Leaders

The growth of Christianity in Afghanistan is causing unrest among Muslim clerics, leading them to call for action against believers, Mission Network News reports. According to a recent report by the Mohabat News Agency, Islamic seminary students and Muslim clerics have "warned the country's government against the spread of Christianity" and called on President Hamid Karzai to "limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan" to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity. Recent turmoil began after a Kabul-based TV station reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and aired photos of them praying and being baptized. This reportedly sparked anger in the parliament, and some members asked to convict believers under sharia law -- which decrees that if someone leaves Islam and converts to another religion, he or she can be executed. The Afghan church is completely underground; the last church building was destroyed two years ago and the small number of known believers risk their lives each time they gather in small house meetings.

Cheerleaders Banned From Using Religious Banners at Texas High School

A national legal group is investigating claims that a Texas school district censored religious speech on student-made banners at football games, CBN News reports. Cheerleaders at Kountze High School were told they could not use Bible verses on signs they created for the football team to run through after an anonymous complaint was made to the school's superintendent. One banner in question read "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Phil. 4:13." The Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending religious liberties, is investigating the Kountze Independent School District's move. "We are disappointed that Kountze ISD is banning student speech on banners because it is from a religious viewpoint," said attorney David Starnes. "Such discrimination and censorship is unfortunate and illegal. Once we complete our investigation, we will take appropriate action." A Facebook page created in support of the cheerleaders and their signs already has more than 35,000 supporters, and some parents have even created T-shirts and signs to display around the area.

Pentecostal Pastor Shot Dead in Colombia

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling for a full investigation into the murder of pastor Henry Rodriguez, 44, who was shot dead as he exited United Pentecostal Church in Bogota, Colombia, on September 16. The reasons behind the murder are unknown, but according to local press reports, witnesses said it was carried out by what appeared to be professional hit men. Pastor Rodriguez was leaving the church after an afternoon service when he was shot multiple times by two men on a moped, a method commonly used in professional hits in Colombia. Hospital staff were unable to resuscitate him. While the assassination of a pastor is extremely unusual in Bogota, countrywide church leaders are frequently targeted by illegal armed groups. The Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches Peace Commission estimates that on average, 20 to 30 church leaders are killed each year. In general, leaders are targeted because of their refusal to cooperate or support the objectives of the illegal armed groups; however, the reasons behind the murder of Pastor Rodriguez are unclear, as he had not reported receiving any threats prior to Sunday. Rodriguez, who was on course to graduate from seminary in October, is survived by his wife and three children.

Report: Marriage Cuts Child Poverty by 80 Percent

Being raised in a married family reduces a child's probability of living in poverty by more than 80 percent, according to a recent report by The Heritage Foundation that found the chief cause of child poverty is the absence of married fathers in the home, Baptist Press reports. "Some of this difference in poverty is due to the fact that single parents tend to have less education than married couples, but even when married couples are compared to single parents with the same level of education, the married poverty rate will still be more than 75 percent lower," said Robert Rector, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. "Marriage is a powerful weapon in fighting poverty. In fact, being married has the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent's level of education has." The United States is steadily separating into a two-caste system with marriage and education as the dividing line, Rector said; on average, high school dropouts who are married have a far lower poverty rate than single parents with one or two years of college. The report noted that in 2010, only 59 percent of all births in the United States were to married couples. In 2011, federal and state governments spent more than $450 billion on welfare for low-income families with children, about three-quarters of which went to single-parent families.

Publication date: September 21, 2012