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Religion Today Summaries, January 23, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, January 23, 2004

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

  • Michigan Senate Says Theology Students Should Retain State Scholarships
  • Trial Date of Vietnamese House-Church Leader Set
  • Indian City in Uproar over Death of Nine-Year-Old Girl
  • Ten Commandments Monument Erected in Israel

Michigan Senate Says Theology Students Should Retain State Scholarships
Jim Brown, Agape Press

Students could major in theology and still qualify for state scholarships under bills that have passed the Michigan Senate. The bills, which now go to the Michigan House, would allow state scholarship recipients to major in theology, divinity, or religious education without losing their money.  Currently under Michigan law, students seeking a degree in those areas of study are ineligible for the competitive scholarships. Attorney Pat Gillen, who is with the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, is representing Teresa Becker -- a student at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti who sued state officials for revoking her financial aid because she chose a theology major.  Gillen says the lawsuit raised some eyebrows. "The attention brought to the legislation by Teresa Becker's case made some people sit back and look at why, in heaven's name, any state would have an interest in penalizing a student because they decided to study religion," the attorney says.  "Thankfully, it looks like the Michigan Senate is going to get the ball rolling in terms of changing that invidious discrimination." At issue, of course, is the constitutionality of allowing religious majors to be state financial aid.  Opponents claim state scholarships for theology students violate the so-called "separation of Church and State."  Becker's case has been stayed until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in a similar case, Locke v. Davey.  A ruling in that case is expected by the end of June.

Trial Date of Vietnamese House-Church Leader Set
Voice of the Martyrs

The trial of Pastor Bui Van Ba, a house-church leader arrested in August for "resisting an officer doing his duty," is set to begin January 13th in Ho Chi Minh City. Back on August 18, around 25 Christians were attending a prayer meeting on the second floor of the Ba home when a local public security officer entered without a warrant and demanded to search the house. When Ba's wife tried to prevent him from doing so, she was thrown aside so violently that she required hospital treatment for her injuries. Additional police arrived and attacked a pastor, hitting his head repeatedly against a cement wall. When Pastor Ba arrived home, he tried to reason with the officers, but they also beat him violently and took him to jail in handcuffs. He has been under house arrest ever since. Friends who want to build a legal case for him - asserting that the rights of Ba and his family were violated - will not be allowed to help defend him.

Indian City in Uproar over Death of Nine-Year-Old Girl
Vijayesh Lal, Compass Direct

Citizens of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh are enraged over the murder of a nine-year-old girl whose body was discovered in a mission school compound on January 14. Hindu protestors allege that Sujata, the daughter of a fruit-seller, was lured into the school compound and killed there. The day after the girl’s body was found, a mob gathered outside the school grounds demanding the arrest of mission school staff. Police later arrested Manoj Jadhav, who reportedly confessed to the crime of raping and killing Sujata before throwing her body into the mission compound. However, Khumsing Maharaj, local leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council), claimed Jadhav was not responsible for the crime and threatened to take drastic steps if the “real culprits” were not caught. Local government minister Kailash Vijayvargiya believes the violent clashes in Jhabua were the result of a “well-planned” conspiracy against the school. He has called for a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Ten Commandments Monument Erected in Israel
Agape Press

A stone monument of the Ten Commandments has now been erected in Israel.  The 800-pound monument was sent to the Jewish nation by a coalition of groups and churches in America who are fighting to defend the display of the Ten Commandments in their own country.  It was Orthodox Jew Dr. Phil Gerber of the Shomrom Regional Council in Israel who requested the monument for the Holy Land as a unifying gesture.  "A sense of morality is shared between Jews and Christians," Gerber explains, "and I thought to myself that it would be a wonderful opportunity to have the Ten Commandments monument shipped and proudly displayed in the biblical scenario."  The monument is a replica of the ones that are at the heart of a court battle in Adams County, Ohio.