Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Morocco: Expelled Christians Refute Proselytism Claims
- Federal Appeals Court Upholds 'Under God' in Pledge
- Pakistan's 'Blasphemy' Laws Claim Three More Christians
- Lutheran Bishops Prepare to Welcome Gay Clergy
Morocco: Expelled Christians Refute Proselytism Claims
The Christian Post reports that the Christian foster parents expelled from Morocco say the country had no reason to force them to leave. Moroccan officials accused the Christian group Village of Hope (VoH) of proselytizing in the Muslim country, which the 16 group members deny. "[T]here is absolutely no legal merit to the action taken against VOH," they group said in a statement Thursday. "It has also always been understood that the children would be raised in a Muslim/Christian environment but would also be fully immersed in their Moroccan culture in terms of love for their country, language, education and knowledge of Islam," stated Village of Hope. The Moroccan government defended its decision, saying the group's work targeted impoverished families and their children "in violation of kafala (adoption) procedures for abandoned or orphaned children."
Federal Appeals Court Upholds 'Under God' in Pledge
The Washington Post reports that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a Sacramento atheist who challenged the Pledge of Allegiance inclusion of the phrase "under God." This is the second challenge Michael Newdow had brought before the court; he won the first case in 2002, but Supreme Court later struck down that ruling, saying Newdow did not have standing based on his arguments. The most recent lawsuit is identical to the first case, except Newdow filed on behalf of other parents who object to the pledge in schools. His brought his first suit in his daughter's name, though he did not have custody of her. Writing the majority opinion in Thursday's 2-1 ruling, Judge Carlos Bea said, "The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded." Students are not required to recite the pledge in schools.
Pakistan's 'Blasphemy' Laws Claim Three More Christians
Compass Direct News reports that a Christian couple was sentenced to 25 years in prison for violating Pakistan's widely condemned "blasphemy" laws two weeks ago. Another Christian was allegedly convicted without basis under the same statutes the previous week and received the same sentence. Ruqqiya Bibi and her husband Munir Masih had been arrested by Mustafabad police in December 2008 for touching Islam's sacred scripture without ritually washing. According to their defense, the matter began as a quarrel between Muslim and Christian children and turned into a clash between their parents. Qamar David was convicted for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages in May 2006. His lawyer said the conviction was without basis as all 16 witnesses at the trial said that not David but the owner of the cell phone through which they received the blasphemous messages was guilty. The cell phone is owned by a Muslim, Munawar Ahmad.
Lutheran Bishops Prepare to Welcome Gay Clergy
Religion News Service reports that bishops in the nation's largest Lutheran denomination have approved preliminary steps to welcome a group of openly gay and lesbian ministers. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ECLA) Conference of Bishops approved a draft proposal on March 8 for the new liturgical rites, which include prayers and the laying on of hands by the local bishop. The proposal only applies to 17 pastors who had followed normal ELCA procedures for education and ordination, but remained barred from the denomination's official clergy roster because of their sexuality. The clergy are all members of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a group devoted to gay rights in the ELCA. Last summer, the ELCA, which has about 4.6 million members, voted to change its longtime policy barring noncelibate gays and lesbians from the pulpit. The church's executive council is expected to vote on the proposed rites at its meeting in Chicago next month, when it is also expected to draw up new rules for other gay and lesbian clergy candidates.