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Religion Today Summaries, January 9, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, January 9, 2004

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

  • Candy-Toting Kindergartner's Case Appealed to High Court
  • Protestant Pastor Assassinated in Pakistan 
  • Trial Starts for Preachers Arrested Outside Pro-Homosexual Celebration
  • House Church Leader About To Go To Trial

Candy-Toting Kindergartner's Case Appealed to High Court
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A civil liberties group has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a kindergarten student whose religious expression was censored by his New Jersey school. Back in 1998, Egg Harbor Township Public Schools barred Daniel Walz from passing out pencils and candy canes bearing Christian messages to his classmates.  The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the school's actions, even though Daniel's classmates were allowed to distribute non-religious items at holiday parties. Now the Rutherford Institute is appealing the case to the highest court in the land.  Institute attorney Rita Dunaway says the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution does not justify censoring speech because of its religious nature. "In the Supreme Court's voluminous jurisprudence just on free speech in general in any context, [it] has been very clear that viewpoint-based discrimination against speech is never permitted -- no matter what the form is," the Rutherford attorney says. According to Dunaway, the only reason Daniel was prevented from handing out his gifts was because they had religious messages printed on them.  She says the Supreme Court has yet to address a case dealing with student speech in an elementary school context.

Protestant Pastor Assassinated in Pakistan
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

A Protestant pastor in Pakistan's Punjab province was murdered in the early hours of January 5, just minutes after he left his home to catch a train to Lahore. Pastor Mukhtar Masih, 50, was shot once in the chest at close range with a 32-caliber pistol sometime after 3 a.m. in Khanewal, 180 miles southwest of Lahore. Police officials ruled out robbery as a murder motive because 3,500 rupees ($58) were found untouched in Masih's pockets and there were no signs of struggle. Police suspected it was a grudge killing. As pastor of the local Church of God, Masih regularly conducted 10 minutes of prayer and Bible reading over the church loudspeaker each day at 6 a.m., a common practice in areas that, like Khanewal, have large Christian populations. Parishioners from Masih's congregation confirmed that Muslims had threatened their pastor "on many occasions" and several times tore down the speakers. Nonetheless, they could not identify any recent incident that might have provoked his murder.

Trial Starts for Preachers Arrested Outside Pro-Homosexual Celebration
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A trial begins today for four ministers arrested in Philadelphia while preaching outside of a "gay pride" celebration event. Jim Lymon, a New York evangelist, and Pennsylvania pastors Jim Grove, Stephen Garisto, and Michael Marcavage were arrested last July and charged with disorderly conduct and defiant trespass while evangelizing on a public street outside of "PrideFest" -- an annual homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered event.  Marcavage says all four ministers cooperated with police but were arrested simply for preaching the gospel. "There was no unlawful thing that we were doing.  We were just out there talking to people," Marcavage explains.  "We had a lot of good discussions going, and it was very unfortunate that this would come about." In Marcavage's opinion, the arrests underscore the need for spiritual awakening in America.  He says what he and the others are involved in "is a spiritual battle" -- and that without the prayers of fellow believers, it is difficult to continue to stand against the opposition. Despite that opposition, Marcavage promises to continue preaching the gospel and to do what is right -- "to stand on God's truth."  Grove, Garisto, and Marcavage were jailed until the event was over.  Lymon, the first to be arrested, was cited and released.

House Church Leader About To Go To Trial
Voice of the Martyrs News

The trial of a Vietnamese house church leader arrested in August for "resisting an officer doing his duty" is set to begin January 13. Pastor Bui Van Ba, general secretary of the Full Gospel House Church organization, will be tried before the People's Court of District 11 in Ho Chi Minh City. Ba has been under house arrest since August 18, 2003. On that date, about 25 Christians were attending a prayer meeting on the second level of the Ba home when a local public security officer entered without a warrant and demanded to search the house. When Ba's wife, May, tried to prevent him from doing so, the officer threw her aside so violently she required hospital treatment for her injuries. When additional police arrived, they attacked Pastor Nguyen Nhu Hanh, hitting his head repeatedly against a cement wall and destroying a camera with which he had been taking photos. Pastor Ba arrived home at that moment and sought to reason with the officers, but they beat him violently and took him to jail in handcuffs. Advisors to Pastor Ba have used Vietnamese law to build a legal case asserting that the rights of the Ba and family were violated, but the country's legal system will not allow them to help defend him.