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Religion Today Summaries - April 8, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 8, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:

  • Angling Ministries Uses ‘Fishing as a Lure’ to Hook Unchurched

  • Believers Worldwide Gear Up for Public Bible-Reading Events 

  • Laos: 17 Christians Imprisoned, Tortured in Recent Wave of Arrests

  • Lawyer Views Suit Against Prison Ministry as Attack on Faith-Based Initiatives 

Angling Ministries Uses ‘Fishing as a Lure’ to Hook Unchurched
Charisma News Service

People used to skip church to go fishing. Nowadays they go fishing to have church. A growing number of churches, fishing ministries and parachurch groups nationwide are targeting unchurched anglers and outdoor enthusiasts-people outside the typical church's radar. The U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are approximately 50 million sport fishermen in the United States. The success of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society has spawned fishing ministries that evangelize, disciple and encourage bass anglers. In 1983, well-known bass pro Jimmy Houston started the Fellowship of Christian Anglers Society (www.focas.org). Based in Arkansas, FOCAS today boasts 8,000 members, with 128 chapters in 25 states. A spokesperson for the group says thousands of anglers have accepted Christ because of the organization. Team Jesus Ministries (www.teamjesusministries.org), uses fishing, hunting and other recreational activities for evangelism. Launched just seven years ago, South Carolina-based Fishers of Men (www.fishersofmenministries.com) already has more than 3,800 members in 25 states. Focusing on outreach evangelism, founder and national director Al Odom said the ministry has witnessed more than 2,500 professions of faith. Jim Grassi started California-based Let's Go Fishing Ministries (www.letsgofishing.org) in 1981. The outreach holds outdoor activities to strengthen families and encourage spiritual growth. Leaders of fishing ministries point out that the New Testament is replete with references to angling and that Jesus often taught and performed miracles with fishing as the backdrop. (www.charismanow.com)

Believers Worldwide Gear Up for Public Bible-Reading Events
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, Agape Press

Officials with a Tennessee-based ministry say an upcoming scripture-reading marathon that will be taking place all across America and in other nations around the free world is more than just a symbolic gesture. It is also a celebration and a chance to spread the knowledge of the Word of God. Back in 1990, Christians gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC, for a continuous public reading from the Holy Bible, leading up to the National Day of Prayer. The approximately 80-hour Bible Reading Marathon events have been held several times over the years since. Barbara Bivens of Bible Pathway Ministries says similar planned scripture-reading marathons will be going on early next month at public places throughout the United States and Canada. Bivens notes that Bible Reading Marathons have been held not only in North America but in nations around the world. Bivens points out that public scripture readings are protected by the Constitution of the United States, so those involved in the event should not put up with being harassed by authorities. The nationwide Bible Reading Marathons, scheduled for next month on dates leading up to the May 5 National Day of Prayer, will take place in cities across the U.S. at such venues as county courthouses, town squares, at State Capitol buildings.

Laos: 17 Christians Imprisoned, Tortured in Recent Wave of Arrests
Christian Aid Mission

An apparent government crackdown on Christians in Phin district, Savannakhet province in southern Laos has led to the arrest and torture of 17 Christian men, some of whom were church leaders. Two men were arrested on March 27. The next day, eight more believers were arrested. Muang Phin district police made the arrests after warning the group of believers on March 10 that they were to stop all Christian evangelism. When the men refused to heed the warning, they were confined to their villages for 14 days, after which time they were all arrested and charged with "possessing illegal weapons," a kind of charge often levied at Christians to divert attention from the real reasons for arrests. While the first two men were taken directly to Muang Phin district prison, the other eight were made to endure a severe torture. Christian Aid received word on March 30, Phin district authorities imprisoned seven more Christian men. According to Christian Aid's contacts in Laos, what awaits these innocent believers in prison is incomprehensible suffering. Though prison guards' goals in their treatment of Christians is to break them down and force them to deny their faith, often believers' presence in prison leads to the spread of the gospel. Persecution of Christians by certain district authorities is rampant despite the federal government's official policy of religious freedom and tolerance.

Lawyer Views Suit Against Prison Ministry as Attack on Faith-Based Initiatives
Ed Thomas, Agape Press

Last month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State jointly filed suit in a U.S. District Court against Firm Foundation of Bradford County (PA), a Pennsylvania prison outreach, and various Pennsylvania government offices. The Christian ministry, which provides an inmate vocational training program, receives substantial funding through local, state, and federal grants. The two groups filing the lawsuit claimed that the religious character of Firm Foundation's inmate training program disqualifies the ministry from receiving government funding. However, Tim Tracey, Christian Legal Society (CLS) defense counsel believes the eventual ruling in the case will establish precedent that may determine two important questions for the future. At issue, he says, is "whether or not the faith-based initiative will stand up to attack from the other side -- whether or not it is acceptable under the Establishment Clause." Secondly, it "will answer the question of whether or not ... organizations that require their employees to adhere to a statement of faith or to adhere to a particular set of religious beliefs" can receive federal funding or, if they do receive such funding, "whether or not that violates the Establishment Clause." Tracey says he intends to argue that the law already makes the prison ministry's program constitutional, and that religious organizations do not have to secularize their faith-based programs in order to receive government funding.