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Religion Today Summaries, January 27, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, January 27, 2004

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

  • Virginia AG Hopes High Court Will Rethink VMI's Mealtime Prayer Ban
  • Sharia Continues in Nigeria
  • Mel Gibson 'Anticipates Worst Is to Come' for Jesus Film
  • 'Super Bowl Baptists' on Site in Houston

Virginia AG Hopes High Court Will Rethink VMI's Mealtime Prayer Ban
Chad Groening, Agape Press

The attorney general of Virginia is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling that declared dinner-time prayers at Virginia Military Institute unconstitutional. Last year, a U.S. federal appeals court panel upheld a lower court ruling that said VMI's emphasis on conformity pressured cadets to participate in the pre-meal prayers. But Tim Murtaugh of the Virginia Attorney General's office disagrees with the court's contention. He says there is no such pressure to participate in the prayers. "The mealtime prayer at VMI is in fact voluntary," Murtaugh says. "There is no requirement that anyone participate.” Moreover, the VMI prayers are no different from those recited in the U.S. military or at the Naval Academy.  And he insists that any military environment could be perceived as coercive by those unfamiliar with military discipline. For people who understand and respect the tradition of such institutions, Murtaugh says these complaints make no sense. "If you're going to enroll at a school like VMI, you know exactly what the program of VMI is before you go there," he says. Murtaugh says he hopes the Supreme Court will agree to review the Virginia Military Institute decision and ultimately overrule it, thus restoring the right of VMI cadets to pray before their meals.

Sharia Continues in Nigeria
Voice of the Martyrs

Christian leaders in northern Nigeria report that enforcement of the Islamic legal code known as sharia is continuing despite protests and drastically impinges on the religious liberty of Christians. According to reports, 23 Christian women have been arraigned in Islamic courts over charges ranging from non-compliance with the Muslim dress code to prostitution. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said that the accusations of prostitution are false. “A woman not married, irrespective of her religious background, is seen by Muslim enforcers of the sharia as a prostitute,” said Rev. Linus Awuhe, CAN chairman in Zamfara state. Eight women in Bauchi state were arraigned in an Islamic court for being unmarried; they were reportedly required to pay a $300 fine and given ten lashes. Dr. Peter Jatau, archbishop of Nigeria’s Roman Catholic Church, said that strict enforcement of sharia law could lead to “the incarceration of innocent Christian victims whose sin is that they are Christians.” If that happens, Jatau warned, “There would be increased tension, which would no doubt result in the occurrence of more religious conflicts.”

Mel Gibson 'Anticipates Worst Is to Come' for Jesus Film
Charisma News Service

A month from the premiere of his controversial film of the last 12 hours of the life and resurrection of Jesus, Mel Gibson says he expects more criticism for the movie he produced and directed. Slated for theaters on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday, "The Passion of the Christ" has been condemned by some Jewish groups who fear it could spark anti-Semitism because it portrays Jewish authorities as largely responsible for Christ's death. "I anticipate the worst is yet to come," Gibson told more than 5,000 pastors and Christian leaders representing more than 80 denominations and 43 countries last Wednesday during the Global Pastors Network conference. Using "stealth tactics" to view the invitation-only screening of the film at the conference held in the Orlando, Fla., area, national Jewish leaders blasted the movie as anti-Semitic. Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the group's interfaith consultant, bought tickets to the conference in their own names, but both men registered for the conference as representatives of "The Church of Truth," in Brooklyn, N.Y. "I am sorry we had to engage in stealth tactics, but only because he [Gibson] forced us to," Foxman said. For six months, Gibson's Icon Productions has previewed the film for conservative Christians, often at large churches or conventions in at least a dozen cities. Tens of thousands of Christian and conservative leaders have uniformly endorsed the movie.

'Super Bowl Baptists' on Site in Houston
Allie Martin, Agape Press

Thousands of Baptists will be in Houston this weekend to take part in evangelism activities leading up to Super Bowl XXXVIII. More than 3,000 local and out-of-town Southern Baptists will assist with NFL—and locally—sponsored events such as greeting visitors at airports or working in the "NFL Experience," an interactive, football-oriented theme park.  David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church and chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Evangelism Project, says while the Super Bowl itself is not an evangelistic event, there are many opportunities for Christians to share Christ. "We want the Christian community to be involved in those projects via volunteering to work in and around them so that we could have a Christian presence there to kind of permeate that event," Fannin says.  The objective, he says, is that participation will open the door for witnessing opportunities -- "not only with those who they work with, but perhaps with others as the Lord might open that door." More than 200 of the area's Southern Baptist churches have registered to take part in a variety of Super Bowl outreaches.  The goal, says Fannin, is to have a Christian presence in many of the activities and event surrounding the NFL championship game on Sunday. More than 500 church volunteers are expected to pray over all 69,500 seats at Reliant Stadium.