Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 23, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 23, 2006

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

  • Pastors Who 'Incited Hatred Against Muslims' Want Decision Overturned
  • Gideons, ACLU At Odds Over Scripture Distribution to Public School Students
  • Four Christians in India Attacked, Arrested after Service
  • Virginia Megachurch Sues County for Barring Theology Courses

Pastors Who 'Incited Hatred Against Muslims' Want Decision Overturned reports that two evangelical pastors in Australia found guilty 20 months ago of vilifying Muslims could go to prison if they fail in an appeal currently underway in Melbourne. Helping them try to avoid that outcome is a Washington-based public interest law firm, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The two are appealing against a decision which ruled that they had violated the state's controversial religious hatred law. More than four years ago, Victorian Christians curious about Islam in the aftermath of 9/11 were invited to attend a seminar to learn more. Pakistan-born pastor Daniel Scot presented the seminar, which was organized by Danny Nalliah's Catch the Fire Ministries. A Victorian Islamic body, which covertly sent members to monitor the event, subsequently brought a complaint under the newly implemented Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, claiming the seminar had incited "fear and hatred" against Muslims. In December 2004, judge Michael Higgins ruled that Nalliah and Scot had incited "hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of" Muslims. In June 2005, the two were ordered to apologize. The pastors vowed afterwards to ignore the VCAT directives, saying they would rather go to jail.

Gideons, ACLU At Odds Over Scripture Distribution to Public School Students

The ACLU is trying to restrict the Gideons from handing out Bibles to fifth-graders at an elementary school in Missouri, AgapePress reports. For years the superintendent of the South Iron R-1 School District in Annapolis, Missouri, has permitted various groups to present information to students at district schools. The open access policy in the district has allowed such groups as Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Union Pacific Railroad to have access to the students during classroom time. The Gideons International has typically had access to schools during a study period. Now, however, The Gideons have been singled out in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, since distributing New Testaments during class time, they claim, is unconstitutional. The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting the South Iron Schools from continuing to allow outside visitors into their classrooms for religious purposes. Orlando-based Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver says the attacks against the school district are unfounded.

Four Christians in India Attacked, Arrested after Service

Four Christians, including a pastor, who were beaten up and later arrested on charges of “forced conversion” in Madhya Pradesh state were released on bail yesterday, Compass Direct News reports. Pastor K.K. Jwala of the Sheopur Bible Fellowship church and three members, identified only as Anup, Jijo and Raju Mathew, were released from the Sheopur district jail at 8 p.m. on Monday. A group of about 15 extremists punched and hit the Christians with hockey sticks soon after worship ended at about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday (August 20). The extremists dragged the Christians to the Sheopur police station about 500 meters away, beating them en route. The police promptly arrested the Christians; the four accused will have to appear before the court on August 30. The officer in charge of the police station, Hukum Singh Yadav, also allegedly beat up Pastor Jwala at the facility.

Virginia Megachurch Sues County for Barring Theology Courses

A D.C.-area megachurch filed a federal lawsuit July 3 challenging a government ruling that it was improperly holding seminary-level classes on church grounds. Christianity Today reports that McLean Bible Church of Fairfax County, VA, partnered with Capitol Bible Seminary in 2001 to offer Bible and religion classes. The church did not issue academic credit or confer degrees, but students could take classes at the church toward a degree from the seminary. Three years after the classes began, Fairfax County officials determined the level of learning went beyond typical Sunday school, meaning the church would need to apply for zoning status as a college or university. McLean, wishing to avoid such status, filed suit after exhausting all administrative remedies with the county.