Religion Today Summaries, July 10, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 10, 2003

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

  • Teacher Wins Christian Club Ban Lawsuit 
  • Human Rights Groups Keep Spotlight on Sudanese Slavery
  • Three Christians Arrested on Bogus Charges in Nepal
  • Cumberland Presbyterians Turn Down Flag Resolution

Teacher Wins Christian Club Ban Lawsuit
Charisma News Service

A teacher has won her lawsuit against a South Dakota school district after officials prohibited her from participating in an after-school Christian club that meets on campus. Last Thursday, a Sioux Falls federal court ruled in favor of Barbara Wigg who sued officials earlier this year, claiming her constitutional rights were violated after administrators told her she could not help the Good News Club. The district's policy prohibits teachers from involvement with religious groups unless the organization has leased school space. The district's lawyer said that Wigg was banned from being involved with the Good News Club because a teacher leading the group would give students the impression that the district adopts the Christian faith. The district's policy was struck down, as it trumped Wigg's free speech rights. "The district policy of prohibiting a teacher from living out his or her faith during her private time, after school is out of session, is astounding and unprecedented," said the president of Liberty Counsel, a Florida based law firm that represented Wigg. "The court has now vindicated our arguments.... To single out the Good News Club because it teaches religion and to bar teachers from participating in such clubs is clearly unconstitutional."

Human Rights Groups Keep Spotlight on Sudanese Slavery
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

As President Bush continues his tour of Africa, a Christian human rights organization is calling on the Bush administration to push for the eradication of slavery in Sudan. Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a human rights group for religious liberty that has been working to free enslaved Sudanese since 1995, is pressing for greater U.S. involvement on behalf of tens of thousands who remain in bondage. During a briefing in Washington on July 9, activists called U.S. inaction on the issue unacceptable. "President Bush is in Senegal saying what a horrible crime slavery was several centuries ago, and it is going on right now," said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom. Abolitionists worry that any peace-agreement will take attention away from slavery and other crimes against humanity. During Sudan's 20-year civil war, government forces used slave raids against non-Muslim and black African communities as "an inexpensive means to pursue a counter-insurgency policy against the Dinka population," said CSI's executive director.  While slave raids have largely stopped, efforts to free those who remain in bondage must continue. CSI researchers found that nearly 70 percent of female slaves had been raped and 95 percent of male slaves had been forced to work without pay. Sixty percent of male slaves reported that they were forced to convert to Islam.

Three Christians Arrested on Bogus Charges in Nepal
Charisma News Service

A gospel worker and two local believers jailed for four months on bogus proselytism charges in Nepal's western region have been released. According to Christian Aid Mission, a 34-year-old worker from a church in Pokhara District, his 26-year-old assistant and a 46-year-old retired soldier from the Royal Nepal Army were freed June 20. Earlier this year, the three were on their way to visit a Christian family in the Pyuthan District when they were stopped and interrogated by police. After finding Bibles and other Christian literature in their bags, authorities arrested them on charges of "carrying Christian literature, preaching Christianity, and attempting to convert others to Christianity." The believers never denied their Christian faith throughout all of their hearings, but they did deny ever attempting to force others to become Christians, which is a crime in Nepal. False witnesses were brought forward during their trials. If convicted, they face three to six years in prison.

Cumberland Presbyterians Turn Down Flag Resolution
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

A small Presbyterian denomination rejected a move to require the church to display the American flag at its meetings in the United States. Delegates to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church's recent General Assembly meeting in Knoxville, Tenn., turned down the flag resolution, which was sponsored by churches in Nashville. The defeat came after delegates heard a letter from the Rev. Masaharu Asayama, the church's former moderator, who lives in Japan. Asayama said displaying the U.S. flag was inappropriate for a multinational church. "Suppose there is a presbytery of our church in Iraq. Suppose they send their commissioners to the General Assembly," Asayama said. "Suppose the commissioners bring in their national flag to the GA hall. Suppose they spontaneously start to sing `God Save Iraq.' The capacity of our imagination as a Christian person and a church is now in question." After the reading of the Asayama letter, the resolution was swiftly defeated. The resolution would have called on the church to "proudly display" the U.S. flag and nondenominational Christian flag at all General Assemblies in the United States. The resolution said, "Following the terrorist attack on our nation on Sept. 11, 2001, there seems to be in our nation a renewed patriotism."