Religion Today Summaries - December 28, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 28, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • California School Curtails Christian Students' First Amendment Rights
  • Clergy Asked to Reach Out to At-Risk Women During Sanctity of Human Life Week
  • Public Schools Facing Threats of Lawsuits for Stifling Religious Expression
  • Navy Chaplain Begins Hunger Strike

California School Curtails Christian Students' First Amendment Rights
A spokesman for the advocacy group known as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says California State University at San Bernardino is discriminating against a Christian student group in a way that has become all too common on college campuses across the United States. California State University - San Bernardino is refusing to recognize a campus Christian Student Association (CSA) for requiring that its members be Christians and adhere to the group's statements of faith and sexual morality. The university claims that by trying to maintain its evangelical identity, the CSA is discriminating against non-Christians. However, FIRE's legal director, Greg Lukianoff, calls the university's argument absurd. "If you do not share the core beliefs of the group, you do not have the right to join it," he asserts. "Freedom of association means nothing if you don't have the right to exclude people who don't agree with you on the fundamental reason why you associate in the first place." Lukianoff says CSU-San Bernardino's position "just completely turns the idea of discrimination on its head." And if the CSA sues, he adds, a California court may allow the school to continue misusing its nondiscrimination policy, but federal courts will not.

Clergy Asked to Reach Out to At-Risk Women During Sanctity of Human Life Week
Focus on the Family
As churches prepare to celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Week, January 15-22, 2006, Focus on the Family has challenged clergy members to consider recent statistics on abortion in the church when addressing their congregations. A survey by The Alan Guttmacher Institute conducted among women who had abortions found that one in five self-identified themselves as Evangelical Christian. Kim Conroy, Sanctity of Human Life Director for Focus on the Family believes that it’s time for churches to be proactive on this issue. “Every post-abortive woman sitting in our churches needs to know that there is help and forgiveness available—and it’s our hope during this Sanctity Week that pastors and other clergy will extend that to her.” Conroy added that while abortion is always a tough topic to discuss, especially when considering the emotions of someone who has experienced it firsthand, it is vital that churches prioritize talking about this growing problem. “Justice, mercy and compassion must be at the forefront of the conversation if we truly desire to extend healing to the women in our churches affected by abortion—both those who've already experienced it and those who are right now contemplating it,” Conroy said.

Public Schools Facing Threats of Lawsuits for Stifling Religious Expression
A pro-family legal group is warning elementary schools in New Jersey and Colorado that their censorship of Christmas may warrant federal lawsuits. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is considering whether to sue on behalf of a parent whose daughter attends Canfield Avenue School in Mine Hill Township (NJ).  The parent claims his daughter was told the words "Merry Christmas" could not be written in the classroom, and that she could only speak those words in Spanish.  ADF attorney Mike Johnson also notes that in the school's concert this year -- titled "The Xmas Files" -- the words to the carol "Silent Night" were changed from "Silent Night, Holy Night" to "Silent Night, Winter Night." "What we have here is just another example of viewpoint discrimination," Johnson asserts.  "Rather than seeing a tolerance for people of all faiths, what we see more and more sadly is really an outright hostility towards persons of the Christian faith." The attorney explains that ADF monitors numerous similar cases but only has to litigate a "smaller percentage" because, as he explains, "most are resolved when we send an information or a demand letter explaining what the law really says."  Still, ADF is "willing and able" to litigate such cases, he adds -- "and we win at least three of four of those cases when we do take them to court."

Navy Chaplain Begins Hunger Strike
A Navy chaplain and a Christian rights activist will be spending the remainder of this year on a hunger strike.  Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition is concerned about what he sees as a growing war on the Christian religion.  "We've seen all of this with Christmas and all these other issues happening," Mahoney observes.  "Now it's gotten to the point where the military is telling their chaplains how to pray."  The military has told Christian chaplains that they cannot pray "in the name of Jesus."  A Navy chaplain, Gordon Klingenschmitt, has balked at the new directive and is going on a hunger strike to protest.  Mahoney has joined the chaplain in the protest.  They are asking the president to direct the military to allow Christian chaplains to pray as their faith dictates.