Religion Today Summaries - December 10, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 10, 2004

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

  • Called To Be A Light; Then Forced To Assemble Lights

  • Church With Small Budget Transforms Store Into High-Tech Worship Center

  • Another Appeals Court Upholds Inmates' Religious Rights 

  • Nigeria: 10 Muslim Militants Arrested

Called To Be A Light; Then Forced To Assemble Lights
Jeremy Reynalds, Assist News Service

Christian doctrine calls its believers to be lights in a dark world. However, pastors of the Underground Church in China are not only called to be lights. Many times they are imprisoned and forced to assemble Christmas lights under incredibly harsh conditions. A special Christmas project is reminding Christians of the circumstances faced by these pastors. WorldServe Ministries' Lights of Christmas program does not call for a boycott of Christmas lights, but promotes awareness about the conditions under which they are constructed. Tom Henry of WorldServe Ministries said the project encourages prayerful support of the persecuted pastors in China. "Their only crime is proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Henry said in the release. "It's important that we pray for these pastors and the work they are doing." According to WorldServe, persecution of the Chinese underground church has been growing recently. During this year alone, well over 600 pastors have been arrested and sent to prison because of their evangelistic activity. An estimated 80 million believers participate in secret, illegal church gatherings in China. To bring awareness to the plight of the imprisoned pastors and their families in China, WorldServe Ministries created the Lights of Christmas initiative. The program, WorldServe commented, promotes an awareness of the conditions in China and serves as a reminder to support the Underground Church through prayer and financial support.

Church With Small Budget Transforms Store Into High-Tech Worship Center
Charisma News Service

A Florida congregation has transformed an abandoned supermarket to a high-tech worship and outreach center -- all on a shoestring budget. Five years ago, Living Word Fellowship Church (LWFC) was an abandoned grocery store -- 35,000 square feet of abandoned mattresses and debris from homeless people who had made the building their temporary home. Now, 650 worshipers from 35 nations call this Lauderhill church home, and the building serves as a model of what a congregation can do in an area where property is scarce and resources limited. Tony Palmisano planted Living Word 13 years ago in a former Shriners Hall three miles from its current location. His desire was to build a multiethnic church, reflecting the diversity of the greater Fort Lauderdale area. But the neighborhood surrounding the church was a primarily white, affluent community -- and that became the makeup of the church. The change came when Living Word was given the opportunity to purchase an abandoned supermarket in an area of town known for its cultural diversity. Electricians and plumbers donated labor and supplies for restoring the building, and the city of Lauderhill waived fees. Almost five years later, Living Word has utilized all but 8,500 square feet of the facility. (

Another Appeals Court Upholds Inmates' Religious Rights
Baptist Press

The federal judiciary has delivered another victory for prisoners' religious rights. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) does not violate the First Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion. The court became the fourth federal court of appeals to uphold RLUIPA. The Fourth, Seventh and Ninth circuits also have ruled in favor of the law's prisoners provision. The Sixth Circuit is the only appeals court to strike down the law, and the Supreme Court has agreed to review that decision to determine RLUIPA's constitutionality. RLUIPA, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, bars government policies that substantially burden free exercise of religion by prisoners and, in land-use cases, by a person or institution. The government, however, can receive an exemption if it can demonstrate it has a compelling interest and is using the least restrictive means to advance that interest. The 11th Circuit's Dec. 2 affirmation of RLUIPA came in Benning v. Georgia, which involves the state prison system's refusal of an inmate's requests to practice his Jewish faith. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Benning, applauded the decision and expressed hope it would be a preview of the Supreme Court's ruling next year. Congress passed RLUIPA after the more expansive Religious Freedom Restoration Act was struck down by the high court.

Nigeria: 10 Muslim Militants Arrested
Charisma News Service

Police have arrested 10 Muslim militants for recently attacking a team of evangelists. According to police, the militants' action against the New Life for All gospel team on Nov. 23 provoked a violent clash with local Christians in Dutse, the capital of the state of Jigawa, located in the country's northern region, Compass Direct reported. The incident reportedly resulted in two deaths and caused injuries to at least 20 people. Police said the 10 heavily armed extremists attacked the gospel team and members of the public during an open-air preaching event. Police arrived to restore order and arrested the militants. New Life for All is an interdenominational gospel ministry launched in 1969 as a united effort of evangelical churches in northern Nigeria to preach the gospel in the area. Members of the evangelistic team were among those injured in the attack. In November 2003, Muslim extremists burned down 10 churches and destroyed more than 100 properties belonging to Christians in Kazaure town, located in Jigawa. A number of Christians were killed during the attacks. "The attack on us is premeditated and [shows] continuous persecution of the Christian community here," Dutse said. "We have faced these attacks over the years, and the situation is becoming more difficult for us." (