Religion Today Summaries, January 29, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, January 29, 2004

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

  • Church's Discrimination Lawsuit Against School District Given Go-Ahead
  • Pastor 'Challenges' Members to Pray for 100 Soldiers in Iraq
  • Attack on Church by 20 Men in Sri Lanka
  • Trial of Vietnamese Pastor Postponed

Church's Discrimination Lawsuit Against School District Given Go-Ahead
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A federal judge has ruled that a church's discrimination lawsuit against a school district in Washington can go forward. For four years, the Northview Community Church near Seattle rented space from the Everett School District for Sunday services.  Under district policy, religious groups were levied a higher rental fee for school facilities than were secular non-profit groups.  The lawsuit alleges that over the course of the rental period, the school district overcharged the church almost $30,000 for use of public school facilities. Gary McCaleb is senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the church.  He says the school district is violating the church's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. "Neutrality means neutrality," the attorney says matter-of-factly.  "You do not act in a neutral manner when you discriminate on the face of your policy against religious uses."  Apparently the federal judge who ruled last week that the case could go forward agrees, saying there is strong evidence of discrimination against the church. McCaleb says the school district has never stated why churches were to be charged a higher rate to rent public facilities. The school district later changed it policy, but demanded the church turn over membership lists as a condition of access.  The court stated such a requirement was undefined and unevenly applied. 

Pastor 'Challenges' Members to Pray for 100 Soldiers in Iraq
Charisma News Service

A Texas pastor is challenging his small congregation to intercede for U.S. troops in Iraq. David Dodge, who leads 50-member Christian Community Church in Kerrville, launched "100 Soldier Challenge," which encourages members to pray daily for 100 days that God would protect the lives of at least 100 American soldiers in the war-torn nation. "We're asking God to spare a minimum of 100 soldiers, which could impact at least 100 families, 100 marriages and 100 children," Dodge, 60, said. Dodge's campaign coincides with the death this month of the 513th American military personnel since the invasion of Iraq began. Dodge noted that the idea for the 100 Soldier Challenge comes from a daily habit of "anti-death prayers" he has prayed since his 17-year-old son drowned in 1981. His petitions have included asking God to save 100 young people from hell, 100 suicides prevented and 100 automobile accidents averted. Dodge said he has been encouraged by recent news reports from Iraq, including a grenade thrown at U.S. soldiers that did not go off and an American helicopter that crashed -- but no one was hurt. "There's no proof that those two incidents were a result of our prayers," said Dodge, who welcomes churches nationwide to join the effort. "But believing in God, those kinds of things can happen again and again."

Attack on Church by 20 Men in Sri Lanka
Voice of the Martyrs

In the latest of a series of a string of attacks (30-60 churches have been attacked since November) in Sri Lanka, there was an attack on a Catholic church in Mattegoda Tuesday. The church was not occupied. A mob of about 20 men smashed statues and firebombed the church. Such attacks are usually justified by charges of "unethical conversions" (false accusations of offering people cash to become Christians). This is a charge that is baseless and is thought to be a justification for attacks based on hatred and fear. Usually these attacks come when Christianity is growing at a fast rate and traditional religious leaders fear loss of culture and identity. The attackers have stoned pastors' houses at night, assaulted church workers, issued death threats and pressured several churches to close down.

Trial of Vietnamese Pastor Postponed
Compass Direct

Less than 24 hours before his trial for “resisting an officer doing his duty” was to begin in Ho Chi Minh City, Rev. Bui Van Ba was served a notice postponing the trial to a later date, ostensibly because a judge was unable to attend. Rev. Ba has been under house arrest since a police raid of a prayer meeting at his home on August 18, 2003. But local sources believe vigorous and direct appeals by house church leaders to authorities -- including the threat to send demonstrators into the streets, the wide international publicity and interest shown by Western embassies -- are the real reasons for the postponement. Christian leaders in Vietnam warned that authorities could announce a new trial date for Rev. Ba at any time, and asked Christians worldwide to pray with them in the battle to secure rule of law and religious freedom.