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Religion Today Summaries -- June 7, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries -- June 7, 2004

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

  • Suspension of Student Spawns Lawsuit Against San Diego School District
  • Iranian Pastor's Wife, Children Released
  • Christians Urged to Pause on World Refugee Day
  • Four Indonesian Churches Targeted in 'Coordinated Attack'

Suspension of Student Spawns Lawsuit Against San Diego School District
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A San Diego school district is being sued after a student was suspended for wearing a T-shirt displaying the messages "Homosexuality is Shameful" and "Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned." The Poway Unified School District is accused of violating the 16-year-old sophomore's civil rights.  The federal suit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) claims that Chase Harper was suspended for expressing his Christian beliefs during the pro-homosexual "Day of Silence" observance in April.  During that national event, high school and college students were urged to show support for homosexual, bisexual, and trans-gender students. ADF lawyer Robert Tyler says public school officials engaged in unconstitutional suppression of speech. "Our client wore a T-shirt that had a religious message with regard to homosexuality, and the school district disagreed with our client's viewpoint and told him to either take the T-shirt off or he would be disciplined," the attorney explains, noting the ironic nature of the warning. "On a day that allegedly attempts to promote tolerance, apparently it's only tolerant of viewpoints that promote homosexuality and those viewpoints that school district agrees with -- not alternative viewpoints that may be more mainstream in America," Tyler says.  According to Tyler, a school administrator told Harper to "leave his faith in the car" when his faith might offend others.  The attorney says such a statement "in this age of alleged tolerance ... is disappointing, to put it mildly."

Iranian Pastor's Wife, Children Released
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

The wife and children of an Iranian Christian pastor have been released from jail a week after their arrest in northern Iran, although the pastor and three other local church leaders remain imprisoned in an unknown location. Pastor Khosroo Yusefi’s wife Nasrin, the couple’s 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter were allowed to return home to Chalous, a town near the Caspian Sea in Mazanderan province, on Sunday evening, May 30. Two other church leaders arrested a month earlier on unspecified charges were also released on May 30, sources in Iran confirmed to Compass. But the same day, Iranian police arrested another Protestant church leader off the street in Nowshahr, less than 20 miles from Chalous. The latest Christian under arrest is believed to be jailed together with Yusefi and two other Christians arrested earlier in May. (www.compassdirect.org)

Christians Urged to Pause on World Refugee Day
Agape Press

A social justice advocate with the Christian Reformed Church noted in a recent article that June 20 is World Refugee Day. He suggests it would be "a good time for people concerned for the 'least' among us to reflect on what's happening to this huge segment of humanity" and to consider ways to help. Peter Vander Meulen, the CRC's social justice and hunger concerns coordinator, says current news about the world's refugee situation is mixed: Last year the refugee population dropped from 12 million to 10 million -- largely due to Afghan, Sierra Leonean, and Angolan refugees returning home. Resettlement in America is slowly increasing, with 26,800 refugees resettling in the U.S. last year (down from a high of 70,000 before 9/11); and more than 10,000 refugees resettled in Canada last year. But Vander Meulen says these positive developments "mask the appalling fact that more and more of the world's refugee population is being 'warehoused' in camps or detention centers for longer and longer periods of time." The latest World Refugee Survey reports that more than seven million refugees have for years been confined to camps or otherwise deprived of basic rights. Vander Meulen says it is time to change the way refugees are treated everywhere, and he urges Christians to pause, particularly on June 20, to "pray, reflect, and resolve to take one simple action for justice -- in Christ's name."

Four Indonesian Churches Targeted in 'Coordinated Attack'
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

Mobs armed with sticks attacked four churches in Banten province, Indonesia, on Sunday June 6, doing minor damage to church furniture and windows. Attackers punched one pastor in the head, although he was not seriously injured. Captain Hamdani of the local police department said the attacks were a reaction to churches meeting in unregistered places of worship. Under Indonesian law, churches must apply for permission to construct a building or meet in privately owned or rented facilities. However, permission is rarely granted, forcing some churches to worship without the required permit. Muslims object to the presence of unregistered churches, and observers believe this is the reason behind the recent attacks. A similar incident occurred on April 6 in Menteng, southern Jakarta, where a clinic operated by the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) church was attacked and church property damaged. Ten churches which met in a shopping mall in Tangerang were forced to close on March 1 because they did not have the required permits. (www.compassdirect.org)