Religion Today Summaries - March 19, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 19, 2007

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

  • Ninth Circuit Decisions on Religion, Hate Speech to Be Appealed
  • Atheists Celebrate, Christians Lament Lawmaker's Stance on God
  • My Homosexual Agenda is Jesus, Bishop Declares
  • Pastor Condemned to Four Years in Uzbek Gulag

Ninth Circuit Decisions on Religion, Hate Speech to Be Appealed
Two controversial decisions by the 9th Circuit Court forbidding religious activities in public libraries and branding such terms as "natural family" and "marriage" as hate speech are being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, two conservative legal organizations have announced. According to, the Alliance Defense Fund said this week it would appeal a ruling in a case denying a Christian ministry access to community meeting rooms that are open to other groups at a California library. Last Friday, the court declined to rehear the case after the ADF appealed an earlier decision favoring the library's policy prohibiting "religious services.""Library officials should not be allowed to discriminate against Christian community groups by treating them differently than they treat other community groups," said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull. "Once a library opens up a community room to the public, it is then unconstitutional for librarians to discriminate against patrons."

Atheists Celebrate, Christians Lament Lawmaker's Stance on God
A U.S. Congressman has caused a stir by becoming the first member of the legislative body to declare himself not to believe in God. The announcement by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) was celebrated by atheist and humanist groups Tuesday, while one Christian group described his proclamation as "unfortunate." Stark, a member of Congress since 1973 and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, made the unprecedented disclosure in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition of America (SCA). Stark acknowledged that he was a Unitarian - a creedless system that does not require belief in a deity. The SCA held a contest offering $1,000 to the person able to identify the nontheist holding the highest public office in the country. Four elected officials were willing to announce their status, but as a member of Congress, Stark trumped the other three - a school board president, a school committee member, and a town meeting member. "It is unfortunate in a society that is going down the path of godlessness and making right wrong and wrong right, that we continue down this path by celebrating one member of Congress who denies that God exists altogether," Concerned Women for America Director of Legislative Relations Mike Mears told Cybercast News Service.

My Homosexual Agenda is Jesus, Bishop Declares
An openly homosexual Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire Wednesday asserted that the "500-year experiment in Anglicanism is being tested right now." The election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 prompted some Episcopal parishes in the U.S. to leave the worldwide Anglican Church. reports that during a panel discussion hosted Wednesday by the Washington Region for Justice and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., Robinson said "you see a mainline denomination risking its life for some people on the margins." "It is my great privilege to be a small part of that," he added. Episcopal bishops met in Houston, Texas Wednesday to discuss the schism within the church. Following Robinson's elevation in 2003, individuals from the Anglican Church worldwide and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. called for a change in leadership if the church intended to continue its support of homosexuality and bless same-sex unions. But on Wednesday, Robinson noted that "it was the people of New Hampshire that wanted me to be their bishop. Many people beyond the gay and lesbian community found hope in what New Hampshire had done.

Pastor Condemned to Four Years in Uzbek Gulag
An Uzbek criminal court has sentenced Christian pastor Dmitry Shestakov to four years in a prison colony for alleged “illegal” religious activities. Judge M. Tulanov of the Andijan Criminal Court handed down the harsh verdict against Shestakov on Friday (March 9), nearly three weeks after his trial began in the Ferghana Valley region of eastern Uzbekistan. Yesterday one of the nation’s leading evangelical pastors said Shestakov’s unexpected conviction could have “grave consequences” for Protestant Christians in Uzbekistan. “Perhaps it already has,” the pastor told Compass, saying that over the past weekend, many more incidents had been initiated against Christians in a number of places across the country. “Some serious things are taking place in different regions,” he said, declining to give precise details. Shestakov, 37, was accused in January by state prosecutors of operating an illegal religious organization, distributing materials promoting religious extremism and inciting religious hatred. Although the court has yet to issue its written verdict, the third charge was apparently dropped during trial proceedings. An evangelical pastor affiliated with the legally registered Full Gospel Church, Shestakov was arrested in a January 21 police raid on his church in Andijan. Shestakov has denied all the accusations, maintaining his innocence throughout his interrogations and the trial proceedings.