Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 9, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 9, 2007

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

  • North Korea Holds No. 1 Spot as Top Persecutor of Christians
  • Evangelical Lutherans Defrock Gay Pastor
  • ADF to Represent Gideons Arrested for Distributing Bibles on Public Sidewalk
  • Uzbek Government Denies Religious Freedom Violations

North Korea Holds No. 1 Spot as Top Persecutor of Christians

For the fifth straight year, North Korea has been named the worst country for Christian persecution, according to a comprehensive survey released by Open Doors. "It is certainly not a surprise that North Korea remains No. 1,” said Dr. Carl Moeller, president and chief executive officer of Open Doors USA.  “Tens of thousands of believers are in captivity in the hermit country. There is certainly no other nation in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner.” The list ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. The list is compiled based on the answers to 50 questions covering various aspects of religious freedom from Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers and persecuted believers. Following North Korea, the report lists Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia and Maldives – all of which made the top of last year’s survey. Rounding out the top ten: Yemen, Bhutan, Vietnam, Laos and Afghanistan.

Evangelical Lutherans Defrock Gay Pastor

According to The Christian Post: "The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said Thursday it is removing from the clergy a gay minister from Atlanta who announced he has a partner. The Rev. Bradley Schmeling, who has led St. John's, Atlanta's oldest Lutheran church, since 2000, will be removed from the roster effective Aug. 15... Schmeling, who was open about his sexuality when he took the job, announced last year he had found a lifelong companion. Bishop Ronald Warren asked the 44-year-old pastor to resign, but Schmeling refused. Warren then began disciplinary proceedings last year against Schmeling for violating church rules barring sex outside of marriage."

ADF to Represent Gideons Arrested for Distributing Bibles on Public Sidewalk

Two members of Gideons International arrested for distributing Bibles on a public sidewalk will be represented by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys. Anthony Mirto and Ernest Simpson were arrested, booked into jail, and charged with trespassing. “The First Amendment protects the right to engage in religious speech on a public sidewalk,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman.  “Members of the Gideons have been highly respected for decades as peaceful providers of free Bibles to those who want them.” On Jan. 19, Mirto and Simpson began distributing copies of the Bible on a public sidewalk outside Key Largo School. Neither man entered school grounds. After the school’s principal called police, a Monroe County Sheriff’s officer asked the men to leave immediately or face trespassing charges. As the men prepared to leave, the officer decided to arrest both individuals.

Uzbek Government Denies Religious Freedom Violations

According to a news release from human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Uzbekistan's harshening crackdown on religious freedom began in 2005. An anti-Protestant and anti-Jehovah’s Witness campaign has seen increasing restrictions, including inspections of all religious communities, religious investigations in schools, police raids, closures and destruction of churches and mosques, and the expulsion of foreigners linked with religious communities, ASSIST News Service reports. The majority religious community, Islam, is also suffering. According to CSW, authorities in the strongly Muslim Andijan region of the country have instituted a new ban on the Muslim call to prayer from mosques, another court has ordered the confiscation and burning of Christian literature and the government’s Religious Affairs Committee has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses from importing Bibles. Even so, a Dec. 2006 non-governmental poll allegedly found that only 3.9 per cent of those surveyed feel religiously oppressed.