Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 1, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 1, 2008

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

  • Malaysia Reversal on 'Allah' Ruling
  • 'Very Religious' Town Ditches 666 Area Code
  • Jurors' Use of Bible Questioned
  • Churches Hesitant to Sue NFL

Malaysia Reversal on 'Allah' Ruling

According to, the Malaysian government has reversed a decision to ban the Malay-language section of a Catholic newspaper amid a row over the use of the word "Allah" as a synonym for God. In a surprise about-turn, officials approved the publication permit for The Herald which reports on Catholic community news in English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese. The internal security ministry gave no reasons for the earlier ban but the unusual delay in getting the permit renewed had followed a warning over the publication's use of the word "Allah", which officials had said could only be used to refer to the Muslim God.

'Very Religious' Town Ditches 666 Area Code

The Christian Post reports that a small, highly religious town in southwest Louisiana has finally gained the right to change their 666 area code, which they consider a stigma. For 40 years the town of Reeves, La., has battled to change the phone prefix, but has failed at least four times, Mayor Scott Walker told The Associated Press. But beginning this month, residents and businesses can apply to change their area code from 666 to 749. “This boils down to, this is a very, very religious community,” Walker said. In the Bible, the number 666 is marked on the beast which some interpret to be the antichrist or a Satan-possessed human.

Jurors' Use of Bible Questioned

The Associated Press reports that jurors with Bibles have created an ongoing controversy over the death sentence of a Waco man convicted of killing an East Texas farmer during a home burglary nearly a decade ago. Khristian Oliver, now 30, was condemned by a Nacogdoches County jury in 1999. He got the death penalty. In his appeals, lawyers argue that jurors improperly consulted Scripture that called for death as punishment for murder. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld Mr. Oliver's conviction, but agreed to consider written arguments on Bible-related claims and then hold oral arguments. "This is headed toward a showdown on a very fundamental question on the use of the Bible," said Winston Cochran, Mr. Oliver's lawyer.

Churches Hesitant to Sue NFL

According to Baptist Press, John Whitehead is aching to take the National Football League to court but can't find a church willing to take on the influential pro football colossus. "You go to any bar on Super Bowl Sunday and they'll be showing the game on their [big screen] TVs," the president of The Rutherford Institute said. The conservative nonprofit legal organization represented Fall Creek Baptist Church last February in its legal tussle with the NFL. "They want to restrict it to a 55-inch screen, which in a big church you'd need binoculars to see," Whitehead said. "It's designed to prevent churches and groups like that from doing this. If churches en masse wanted to do this, they could get the law changed." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the reason bars and sporting establishments are permitted to show the game on larger screens is a legal exemption for organizations that use them year-round instead of for a one-time event. Baptist Press knows of at least one unidentified church that called the NFL earlier this year and cited the exemption for those who use large screens year-round. The church argued that because it uses its screen year-round, it should be exempted. The NFL allowed the church to hold the party without interference.