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Religion Today Summaries - July 14, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 14, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Iran: Written Verdict Confirms Pastor's Death Sentence
  • 3 in 4 Americans Say Church Presence Is Positive
  • Panel Says Judges Have Been Too Hard on U.K. Christians
  • NBC Apologizes to Congress for Edited Pledge


Iran: Written Verdict Confirms Pastor's Death Sentence 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has received a copy of the verdict for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani handed down by the Supreme Court of Iran. The verdict upholds the pastor's death sentence. The written ruling confirms a verbal notification earlier this month indicating that his appeal had been unsuccessful. The written verdict is dated June 12, 2011, but the document was only made available to Nadarkhani’s lawyer within the last week. A similar delay occurred when the pastor was initially tried and found guilty of apostasy in September 2010. The verdict was delivered verbally in court, while written confirmation of the death sentence was received over one month later. The original verdict was based on fatwas by Iran's most powerful religious leaders - Ayatollahs Khomeini, Khamenei and Makarem Shirazi - meaning the Supreme Court may have been reluctant to overturn the verdict for fear of inviting controversy. CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “We are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling, which has simply handed Pastor Nadarkhani’s case back to the court that found him guilty in the first place."

3 in 4 Americans Say Church Presence Is Positive

A new survey from the Barna Group shows that most Americans still think churches are an asset to the community around them. The nationwide study shows that three-quarters of U.S. adults believe the presence of a church is “very” (53 percent ) or “somewhat” positive (25 percent) for their community. In contrast, just 5 percent of Americans believe that churches are a somewhat or very negative presence. About one out of six adults (17 percent) are indifferent toward the role of churches. Addressing poverty and helping the poor was the most common top-of-mind response Americans offered as to how churches can positively influence their communities (29 percent). This includes helping the needy, poor and disabled, distributing food and clothing, and assisting the homeless. "Churches are perceived to be an important element of a community, even among the unchurched," said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, in the report. "So, although they may be wary of personal involvement, they have an understanding of the service and assistance that churches can provide to their communities."

Panel Says Judges Have Been Too Hard on U.K. Christians

A government-funded panel said British judges have erred in supporting employers who try to fire Christian workers for religious reasons. According to Religion News Service, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said Monday that employers should ease up, saying current interpretations of the law are "insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief." The commission's ruling came barely a day after the Church of England's General Synod called on the British government to give Christians the legal protection to defend themselves against prosecution for faith-based decisions. In a string of legal cases in recent years, Christians have faced labor and legal disciplinary action for wearing religious symbols such as crucifixes on the job or refusing services to gay couples because of religious beliefs. Only seven months ago, the human rights commission had backed a gay couple in their suit against a hotel's Christian owners who had refused to allow them to share a single room.

NBC Apologizes to Congress for Edited Pledge

NBC has issued a formal apology to more than 100 members of Congress for omitting the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance in a broadcast last month. The letter, signed by Kyle McSlarrow, president of NBC Universal, comes in response to a complaint by 107 members of Congress alleging that a montage shown during coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament obscured America's religious heritage. According to Religion News Service, the montage featured video of schoolchildren saying the pledge alongside images of soldiers and American flags, but did not include the phrase "under God." It also omitted "one nation" and "indivisible." McSlarrow expressed regret over the segment, saying "a serious error in judgment was made by a small group of people. To be absolutely clear, this was not an ideological decision by the company and was not discussed with or approved by any senior NBC official."