Religion Today Summaries, August 6, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 6, 2003

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

  • Buddhist Mobs Attack Five Churches in Sri Lanka
  • Calif. Governor Signs Bill Protecting Cross-dressers
  • Majority of Americans OK with Ten Commandments, Pledge
  • Groups Accuse Wal-Mart of 'Slashing Family Values'

Buddhist Mobs Attack Five Churches in Sri Lanka
Sarah Page, Compass Direct

Mobs attacked five churches in southern Sri Lanka on August 2. Initial information from the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL) suggests the organized attack is part of the government's plan to introduce anti-conversion legislation. Police thwarted an attempted attack on the Methodist church in Rathgama that a crowd of Buddhist monks and youth mounted on July 27. However, the monks returned the following Saturday. They stoned the building, destroyed pews and benches, and beat two church workers so badly that they required hospital treatment. Other churches in the area were attacked on August 2, including the Assemblies of God in Thanamalwila and Lumugamvehera, and the Calvary church in Hikkaduwa. According to the EASL, attackers are attempting to incite Buddhists against the Christian community in order to create an environment of religious disharmony, which, in turn, will allow the government to argue convincingly for the introduction of anti-conversion laws. 

Calif. Governor Signs Bill Protecting Cross-dressers
Michael Foust, Baptist Press News

Already facing a recall election, California Gov. Gray Davis has signed into law a controversial bill protecting "transsexuals" and "cross-dressers" in hiring and employment practices. Because the bill does not include an exemption for religious businesses, those such as Christian bookstores could be faced with a $150,000 fine if it is proven they discriminated against a transsexual or cross-dressing applicant -- for example, a man wearing a dress. While the bill does have an exemption for religious nonprofit organizations (churches, etc.), it does not include an exemption for non-religious nonprofit organizations, such as the Boy Scouts. Davis signed the bill into law Aug. 2. Randy Thomasson, founder and executive director of the Campaign for California Families, said in a release that Davis has awarded cross-dressers "unprecedented power" to "persecute the Boys Scouts and religious businesses" as well as "the power to financially crush a Bible bookstore." "People aren't going to sacrifice their dearly held values," Thomasson said. "What small business or nonprofit organization could financially survive a government investigation and a $150,000 penalty? [The bill] is grossly intolerant of religious freedom. This radical bill engages in reverse discrimination and will do real harm to persons of conscience." By signing the bill Davis has "earned his recall," Thomasson said.

Majority of Americans OK with Ten Commandments, Pledge
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

More than 60 percent of Americans think government officials should be able to post the Ten Commandments in government buildings and believe it is constitutional for teachers to lead the recitation of "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, according to the "State of the First Amendment 2003" survey, released Aug. 1. It reported that sixty-eight percent of respondents said the words "one nation under God" did not violate the principle of separation of church and state. Twenty-six percent disagreed.   Sixty-two percent of those surveyed agreed that government officials should be allowed to post the Ten Commandments within government buildings, while 35 percent said they should not. Researchers found that 60 percent of respondents favored allowing the government to give money to religious institutions to help them operate programs that aim to prevent drug abuse. Kenneth A. Paulson, executive director of the First Amendment Center, said the reason for these statistics could lie in "how Americans view God in the context of government activities. Most of those surveyed regarded government references to God as civic rather than spiritual."  He cited the finding that 73 percent of respondents said the pledge, including the words "one nation under God," is "primarily a statement related to the American political tradition," while 18 percent said it was primarily a religious statement.

Groups Accuse Wal-Mart of 'Slashing Family Values'
Eric Tiansay, Religion News Service

Accusing the world's biggest mega-retailer of "slashing family values," some pro-family Christian groups are urging Wal-Mart to reverse its recent decision to include gay employees in nondiscrimination policies. They say Wal-Mart has succumbed to the pressures of homosexual activists, who have been lobbying the mega-retailer for a while. "To please a few, Wal-Mart caved in to coercion," Phil Sheldon, of, which is affiliated with Traditional Values Coalition, said. "Slashing traditional family values like it claims to do prices, the nation's largest retailer is revamping its nondiscrimination training program for all employees to include pro-homosexual propaganda." Last month, Sheldon called on supporters to sign a petition, demanding Wal-Mart reverse its policy. "This is an ominous threat for all of America, one that must be stopped before it spreads to our nation's detriment." Focus on the Family is also fighting the policy change. The ministry said it "is profoundly disappointed that the largest family-friendly company in the nation has surrendered to a small handful of homosexual activists and will subject 1.3 million employees to 'sensitivity training' on homosexual issues." Wal-Mart claims its decision is based on fairness and good business, but homosexual activists are taking credit for pressuring the company into changing.