Religion Today Summaries, April 30, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 30, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • May 1: A Day of Gratitude, Fasting and Prayer for America
  • Religious Freedom Panel Asks Bush to Push for Iraqi Religious Liberty
  • Southern Baptist Church Could be Expelled from Denomination for Baptizing Gays
  • Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Life in Prison

May 1: A Day of Gratitude, Fasting and Prayer for America
Janet Chismar

This Thursday, millions of people will gather at courthouses, in businesses, around school flagpoles, inside places of worship and in stadiums to participate in the 52nd annual National Day of Prayer. President George W. Bush and all 50 governors are expected to sign proclamations setting aside May 1 as a day of intercession for the nation. This year's theme, "Righteousness Exalts A Nation," is based on Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people." To emphasize this theme of repentance, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Prayer Committee, the Mission America Coalition, the Presidential Prayer Team, the National Day of Prayer Task Force and the Nationally Broadcast Concert of Prayer have all agreed to respond to a congressional call for a "Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer" by combining with the already established National Day of Prayer. The national observance will be held again this year inside the Cannon House Office Building across the street from the nation's Capitol.  Dr. Luis Palau will be the keynote speaker. Along with Palau, St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and representatives of the military and all three branches of the government will participate in the program. To find out more about this year's activities, log onto

Religious Freedom Panel Asks Bush to Push for Iraqi Religious Liberty
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged President Bush to maintain his commitment to religious freedom for all Iraqis. "Now that Saddam Hussein has been ousted, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom believes strongly it is essential to ensure that the Iraqi people can exercise their religious freedom in full accordance with international human rights standards," commission members wrote Bush in a letter dated Monday (April 28). "The United States can help this become a reality." The commission expressed its concern that U.S. leadership is needed to prevent ethnic and sectarian violence and other human rights violations against Iraq's diverse religious communities. "The recent murders of Shiite clerics could be the harbinger of further violence within and between religious groups," they wrote. "Now is the time to prevent such an outcome." In a speech Monday in Dearborn, Mich., the president included the issue of religious freedom in his comments about the future of Iraq. "Whether you're Sunni or Shia or Kurd or Chaldean or Assyrian or Turkoman or Christian or Jew or Muslim -- no matter what your faith, freedom is God's gift to every person in every nation," he said.

Southern Baptist Church Could be Expelled from Denomination for Baptizing Gays

(Charisma News) A Southern Baptist congregation in North Carolina is in hot water with denomination officials over the baptism of two gay men. McGill Baptist Church in Concord faces expulsion from the Cabarrus Baptist Association for the ceremony that took place last month, "The Charlotte Observer" reported.  Pastor Steve Ayers said many in the congregation knew the couple was gay when the baptism took place and that it was held because it's not up to him or the church to decide who deserves salvation. "I think salvation is between them and God," Ayers told the newspaper. "I'm not going to exclude anybody from God's kingdom. Our business is to love and follow His [Jesus'] example." But Randy Wadford, missions director for the association of 78 churches, said baptism is only for those who agree to repent of their sins. In a letter sent to the church last week, the group said: "To allow individuals into the membership of a local church without evidence or testimony of true repentance is to condone the old lifestyle."

Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Life in Prison
Barbara G. Baker
(Compass) A Pakistani Christian in his 50’s has been sentenced to life in prison for committing blasphemy, allegedly by damaging a Muslim signboard during a bishop’s funeral procession five years ago. An estimated 100 onlookers jammed the Faisalabad Additional District and Sessions Court on April 26 to hear the lower court verdict against Ranjha Masih, read out by Judge Mohammed Shahid Rafique. Although the final defense arguments for Masih had been completed before the court in the last week of March, Judge Rafique had postponed the verdict several times. When the judgment was finally announced, the courtroom was reportedly filled with local Muslim activists and journalists. Now 55, Masih has been jailed without bail since his arrest nearly five years ago. Masih’s lawyer said he would file his client’s appeal before the Lahore High Court, which could take another 18 months.