Religion Today Summaries, June 30, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 30, 2003

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

  • Religious Land-Use Law Struck Down
  • Groups Decry U.S. Supreme Court's Gay Sex Decision
  • Abortion Support Declining Among Women, Study Shows
  • Christian Persecution Continues in Laos

Religious Land-Use Law Struck Down
Charisma News Service

In a ruling that could significantly impact land-use issues for congregations nationwide, a Los Angeles district judge this week struck down a federal law that protects churches from attempts by local governments to prevent the practice of religion. In a case involving Elsinore Christian Center, Stephen Wilson ruled that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) is unconstitutional. The bill had been passed unanimously by Congress and signed by President Clinton, the attorney representing ECC noted.  "In its opinion, the court said that the city violated RLUIPA, but instead of sticking with that decision, the court decided to declare RLUIPA unconstitutional," he added, and vowed to appeal Wilson's decision to the Supreme Court.  The case goes back to 2001 when EEC sued city officials after the Assemblies of God congregation was denied a permit to move to a commercial building. Citing RLUIPA, the church also alleged violations of its First Amendment rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and free exercise of religion. The church wanted to buy an old grocery store and move its congregation to the new location. Officials denied the permit, saying that the city would lose sales-tax revenue and downtown residents would lose their only market. As the litigation worked through the courts, the owner sold to another buyer.

Groups Decry U.S. Supreme Court's Gay Sex Decision
Eric Tiansay, Charisma News Service

Pro-family Christian groups condemned the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down Texas sodomy laws, though some leaders say the controversial ruling will "awaken the sleeping giant of Americans who will fight even harder to preserve traditional marriage." In a verdict that gave gay-rights advocates a major victory, the nation's highest court decided that a Texas law violated constitutional privacy rights. The Supreme Court also overturned its 1986 ruling that upheld a law that declared that homosexuals have no constitutional right to engage in sodomy in private. More than a dozen mostly Christian groups filed briefs earlier this year, opposing the challenge to the law because they saw the case as "clearing the way" for gay marriage. A former homosexual who founded a ministry advocating the traditional family, added: "I've lost many gay friends who are dead today because they contracted AIDS from sodomy. To think the Supreme Court has actually sanctioned sexual perversion just amazes me." Matthew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, one of the organizations that filed a brief in February, believes the decision will "serve as a wake-up call to the majority of Americans who believe in traditional marriage."

Abortion Support Declining Among Women, Study Shows
Tom Strode, Baptist Press News

Support for abortion among American women is declining, according to a report released recently by a pro-abortion organization. The study by the Center for the Advancement of Women showed 51 percent of women now believe abortion should be legally prohibited in most cases. The survey found 17 percent believe there should be a total ban on abortion, while 34 percent say it should be outlawed, except in the cases of saving the mother's life and pregnancy as a result of rape or incest. The figures have increased three percent over the results reported in 2001. Overall, the survey found 68 percent believe there should be more restrictions on abortion. The new study also found abortion is not as important to women. Of 12 issues listed in the survey, "keeping abortion legal" ranked 11th as a "top priority." Shannon Royce, consultant to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, "Obviously, we're delighted. It shows we are making progress in winning back the hearts and minds of American women. We look forward to the day when Roe v. Wade is...a part of the sad history of our nation."

Christian Persecution Continues in Laos
Charisma News Service

A St. Paul, Minn., Hmong pastor recently arrested while trying to document human rights abuses and religious persecution, was scheduled to face trial Friday. Naw-Karl Mua, 44, who leads the Light of Life Lutheran Church, was to face undisclosed charges, along with two European journalists arrested by military forces June 3 in Laos. Authorities have been holding the men on accusations of cooperating with bandits in the killing of a security official. "We are very worried and also surprised by the speed of this process, which leaves little time to prepare a defense, and by the place of the trial, which will limit its publicity," Thomas Renaut, a spokesman for the trio's support committee, said. Mua served as a guide and translator for the journalists. Meanwhile, prayer and public awareness is being credited in helping the plight of five Christian families ordered evicted from their homes recently. On June 9, the families were given 10 days to leave their village. But after the Christian Aid Mission sent out an e-mail prayer alert concerning the families, national authorities decided that the eviction order was illegitimate. "I see the Lord's mighty intervention in all of this," a source told Christian Aid. "Please keep praying that we will see religious freedom in Laos."