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Religion Today Summaries - March 3, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 3, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Supreme Court Sides with Anti-Gay Westboro Baptist 
  • Christian Leaders Condemn Murder of Pakistani Minister
  • On Evangelical Campuses, Rumblings of Gay Acceptance
  • Sudan: Locals Fear Abyei Region May Be Taken by Force

Supreme Court Sides with Anti-Gay Westboro Baptist 

The U.S. Supreme Court reluctantly sided with the members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas yesterday, saying the anti-gay group has a right to carry on their protests at U.S. troops' funerals. The Los Angeles Times reports that the 8-1 decision upholds an appellate court's decision to strike down a jury verdict against Fred Phelps and his church. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that when the disputed words "address matters of public import on public property" and when the protest is conducted "in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials," they are protected and may not be sued. Westboro Baptists members have picketed funerals with signs saying, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates Fags." The church believes that the United States is too tolerant of sin and that the death of American soldiers is God's punishment.

Christian Leaders Condemn Murder of Pakistani Minister

Christian leaders around the world quickly condemned yesterday's murder of Pakistan's Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti. Christian Today reports that Bhatti was assassinated just outside his home after leaving for a cabinet meeting. The group targeting him left behind pamphlets detailing their commitment to Islam and the killing of the "infidel." Two leaders of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, said the murder is a "further instance of sectarian bigotry and violence" within Pakistan. In a statement, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Bhatti's murder was a "terribly grave new act of violence" which "demonstrates that the Pope's insistent addresses regarding violence against Christians and religious freedom have been justified." Bhatti was an outspoken critic of the country's draconian blasphemy laws. 

On Evangelical Campuses, Rumblings of Gay Acceptance

Late last week, the provost of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., announced that the school officially had recognized its first gay student organization. According to Religion News Service, the announcement came barely a month after the Christian school changed its anti-discrimination policy to include homosexuals, after a popular women's soccer coach was forced out last December. The gay student group had twice been turned down for official recognition. Belmont Provost Thomas Burns said the change of mind reflected an "ongoing campus dialogue about Christian faith and sexuality." The college's policy change is the latest in a series of events at Christian campuses involving homosexuality. Last month, the student newspaper at Westmont College in California printed an open letter signed by 131 gay and gay-supportive alumni who said they had experienced "doubt, loneliness and fear due to the college's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues."

Sudan: Locals Fear Abyei Region May Be Taken by Force

Leaders in the Abyei community in central Sudan are again asking the international community to help resolve tension in the area before the situation worsens. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that Dr. Zachariah Bol Deng, a former politician and prominent Abyei elder, reiterated his call after fighting broke out in the oil-rich area on Feb. 27. Both the nomadic Arab Misseriya tribe and the Dinka Ngok residents accused each other of initiating the violence that killed at least seven. The clashes are the first since a peace deal was negotiated between the two sides last month.  Southern sources believe that the Khartoum government is inciting attacks by the Misseriya and pro-government militias in order to disrupt the process of southern separation and border demarcation. They also believe Khartoum wants to secure a place for the Misseriya at upcoming talks on the future of Abyei, due to be held next week in Addis Ababa. Some also see the recent violence as an indication that preparations are underway for the invasion of Abyei and other areas in the south.