Religion Today Summaries, February 21, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, February 21, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Federal Religion Guidelines for Public Schools Underscore Students' Freedoms
  • Mainline Denominations Face Possible Schism Over Homosexuality
  • India: Anti-Christian Tensions Mount
  • City Lets Street Preachers Stay

Federal Religion Guidelines for Public Schools Underscore Students' Freedoms

Tom Strode

(Baptists Press) New guidelines have been issued by the Department of Education on what it considers unconstitutional government speech on religion and protected private religious speech in the country's elementary and secondary schools.  Among specific applications listed in the guidelines are:
-- Students may communicate their religious beliefs in class assignments without being discriminated against.
-- Students may pray and read their Bibles or other religious materials during non-instructional time "to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities."
-- Students may organize prayer meetings and Bible or religious clubs before school hours to the same extent other extracurricular student activities are permitted.
-- Students selected on a neutral basis to speak at assemblies may express religious views, and school officials may clarify through disclaimers the schools are not endorsing those beliefs.
-- In order to receive federal education funds, school districts must certify they have no policies limiting constitutionally protected religious expression.
--The guidelines may be accessed on the Internet at

Mainline Denominations Face Possible Schism Over Homosexuality
Al Dobras

(CWFA) Several mainline denominations are being pulled apart over attempts by homosexual activists to redefine Biblical sexual morality.  Same-sex “marriage” and ordination of practicing homosexuals are the prime points of contention.  How these issues are resolved will likely determine whether or not several of the largest denominations will avoid a costly schism.  During the past year in the Presbyterian Church (USA), charges have been filed against 20 clergy in 10 presbyteries for openly defying the “fidelity and chastity” rule, which calls homosexual ministers to live a chaste life.  Other Christian denominations have similarly witnessed disdain for established church law for the primary purposes of ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions.  The quest for homosexual rights in the Anglican Church (In America, the Episcopal Church) has been particularly pervasive and contentious.  During the August 1998 Anglican worldwide Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, a resolution was passed — primarily through the efforts of African bishops — that declared the Conference “upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union [and] cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions, nor the ordination of those involved in such unions.”  The resolution has largely been ignored.

India: Anti-Christian Tensions Mount

(Missions Insider) The pace of harassment, intimidation and persecution of India's own missionaries seems to have quickened since the state of Tamil Nadu passed its anti-conversion law last October.  In Orissa State, radical Hindus fabricated false charges of forced conversions against a certain missionary, and acts of harassment and intimidation have been going on for weeks. His very life might be in danger.  "Missionaries in Chattisgarh are facing tough opposition," says a mission leader in Maharashtra State.  One pastor could not even conduct a prayer and fasting meeting in his own church due to interference by Hindu radicals.  Many others have suffered physical violence at the hands of militants.  "And for every incident we hear about, there are probably 100 that we don't know about," said Christian Aid's senior news editor, John Lindner.  It is of note that despite the enactment of anti-conversion laws in four states and the rabid harangue of Hindus against alleged forced conversions by Christians, not one case of forced conversions has ever been documented.  The only documented forced conversions are those of Hindus forcing Christians to revert back to Hinduism.

City Lets Street Preachers Stay

(Charisma News) At the advice of their lawyer, officials in a Florida community decided not to take action this week against street preachers described as "fixtures at the city's busiest intersection for as long as anyone can remember."  A standing-room-only crowd packed DeLand's City Hall Monday night, telling commissioners that they believed their right to free speech was under attack because their evangelism sometimes collided with those who are trying to do business on downtown streets, "The Daytona Beach News-Journal" reported.  Merchants have complained that some of the street evangelists -- who hold signs, hand out tracts and preach at the intersection almost every Friday -- are costing them business, distracting traffic and causing an impediment for pedestrians.  "Whether they like a group or not, they have a right to be there," said DeLand attorney Kirk Bauer, the "News-Journal" reported.  "There isn't any reason for [the commission] to take any action."  The commission voted unanimously to drop the issue.  Located near Orlando, DeLand has a noise ordinance that prohibits preachers and protesters from using a bullhorn.