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Religion Today Summaries, December 15, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 15, 2003

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

  • Liberty Counsel Defends Christian Counselor's Confidentiality Claim
  • Islamic Militants Launch Series of Attacks on Indonesian Christians
  • Legal Defense Organization Protects Religious Rights of Student
  • President Receives Evangelical Ambassador

Liberty Counsel Defends Christian Counselor's Confidentiality Claim
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A Florida pastor is fighting to keep private the details of counseling sessions with an individual who has been charged with a crime. Two years ago, Dr. Joseph Nussbaumer, Jr., pastor of Groveland Free Church, began counseling an individual referred to him by a fellow pastor. Some time later, the man Nussbaumer had been counseling was arrested and brought up on charges, and the State Attorney's office subpoenaed the pastor, requiring him to turn over all his counseling records on the individual. Mat Staver is president of Liberty Counsel, which has taken legal action on Nussbaumer's behalf to try to protect the confidentiality of those counseling sessions. Staver believes that it is essential for the communications exchanged between clergy and those they counsel during a session to remain confidential. "It would absolutely undermine a pastor's role," the attorney says, "if the state could ultimately come into that situation and determine what was actually said, because, if the person who is confessing their sin or wanting spiritual guidance has to fear that that information would be released at a later time, then it would certainly break down that relationship." Nussbaumer has been pastor of Groveland Free Church since 1969.

Islamic Militants Launch Series of Attacks on Indonesian Christians
Barnabas News Fund

On 29 November in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, two Christians, Ruslam and Arifin, were gunned down in front of their young families as Islamic militants raided the church service they were attending. Two gunmen had pulled up on a motorbike outside the church in Tabamawo, and fired through the door just as the service was coming to a close. The worshippers had just been praying for peace. The attackers also hit the pastor’s wife, Mrs Sandra Tengker, who was speaking at the time. She and two others are being treated at Ampana Hospital. The attackers reportedly used Indonesian military automatic weapons. Shortly beforehand some 20 well armed men descended upon the predominantly Christian village of Kilo Trans. They killed village chief, I Ketut Sarmon, and a close member of his family, both Hindu migrants from Bali. They liberally strafed the houses of the village. Most Christians, however, were attending a prayer meeting in the church, which the attackers were not aware of; hence there were no Christian fatalities. On 1 December the neighbouring Christian village of Tiwaa was attacked. Gunmen focused their fire on the house of the Christian chief.

Legal Defense Organization Protects Religious Rights of Student
Agape Press

A legal defense organization has helped a Louisiana family win a small victory for religious freedom. When eight-year-old Harrison Kravat brought a book of Bible stories from home to read during his school's  individual "quiet reading time," he was told not to bring the book back to school, supposedly because it was "too thick to fit in his desk." But his parents learned the true reason after the child complied by returning to school with a thin New Testament and received a reprimand from the teacher, who told him he would just have to read the other books available in class. After Harrison's mother tried to resolve the matter by speaking to the teacher and even appealing to the school principal for help, without success, the Kravats contacted Alliance Defense Fund, a public interest law firm with expertise in defending against attacks on religious liberty. Attorney Mike Johnson immediately sent a letter to the superintendent of schools and the school board president, demanding that they cease and desist in denying Harrison's right to read his New Testament. The superintendent of the school district immediately took action to correct the problem.

President Receives Evangelical Ambassador
Compass Direct

Three weeks after assuming office, President Carlos Mesa of Bolivia met with evangelical leaders in La Paz , the first official meeting in more than a decade between Bolivian Protestants and their head of state. “We expressed evangelical support for the democratic process in Bolivia ,” said Johan Candelin, Goodwill Ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance, who met with Mesa on November 7. “The situation is so fragile and difficult, that any support for the democratic process is badly needed.” Congress elevated Mesa , 53, to the presidency on October 17 after his predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, was forced to resign and leave the country following weeks of unruly protests which left more than 60 people dead. The meeting provided an opportunity for evangelicals to raise an issue close to their hearts: religious liberty. “The basic understanding during the talks with President Mesa was that religious freedom is an important issue and that evangelicals should have the same religious freedom as all other citizens,” Candelin said. “It has permitted us to harmonize and adapt our national strategy for the defense of religious liberty within our Biblical principles,” added Bruno Ossio, president of the Evangelical Alliance of Bolivia, who arranged the audience.