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Religion Today Summaries, March 4, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 4, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Bush Administration Most Resolutely Faith Based in modern Times Says Newsweek
  • Appeals Court Sticks by `Under God' Ruling in Pledge
  • Muslims Rebels in Philippines Kill Fourteen Christians Including Children
  • Bible School Wins Fight to Drop 666 in Phone Number

Bush Administration Most Resolutely Faith Based in modern Times Says Newsweek
Andy Butcher

(Charisma News) According to a cover story profile in this week's "Newsweek," although President Bush's Christianity is well known, the anticipated conflict in Iraq has highlighted that the president and his administration are "the most resolutely 'faith-based' in modern times, an enterprise founded, supported and guided by trust in the temporal and spiritual power of God."  The administration is "dedicated to the idea that there is an answer to societal problems here and to terrorism abroad: give everyone, everywhere, the freedom to find God, too."  The report traces the president's "defining journey" of faith, beating a drinking problem after becoming a Christian through a small-group Bible study it describes as "a baby-boomerish mix of self-help, self-discipline, group therapy ... and worship."  It tells how he "talks regularly to pastors, and loves to hear that people are praying for him."  Insiders say that the atmosphere at the White House is "suffused with an aura of prayerfulness," it adds.  According to "Newsweek," aides say that President Bush's "quiet but fervent faith gives him strength but does not dictate policy."  He only appears to be "preacher in chief" because of "a confluence of events" -- the 9/11 attacks, the terror alerts and the Columbia shuttle loss -- they say.  Meanwhile, the news weekly notes, President Bush has recently been finding comfort and strength in his daily, early morning devotions from Oswald Chambers' classic "My Utmost for His Highest."  www.charismanews.com

Appeals Court Sticks by `Under God' Ruling in Pledge
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The federal appeals court that last June struck down the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the words "under God" refused Friday (Feb. 28) to reconsider its ruling.  The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals defended last year's decision and said it will not be swayed by public opinion in favor of the pledge.  The court, however, stepped back from its original ruling that invalidated the 1954 law that inserted the words "under God" into the pledge.  In the new ruling, the court focused only on the requirement to force school children to recite the pledge; the pledge's constitutionality remains intact.  Attorney General John Ashcroft promised to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which legal scholars said is likely to hear the case.  Members of Congress, most religious groups, and the vast majority of American citizens quickly condemned the ruling last year.  The ruling was also criticized by other members of the 9th Circuit, including Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, who wanted to rehear the case.  "We should have reheard the case ... because it was wrong, very wrong -- wrong because reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is simply not `a religious act,' wrong as a matter of Supreme Court precedent properly understood … and wrong as a matter of common sense."

Muslims Rebels in Philippines Kill Fourteen Christians Including Children

(Barnabas Fund) Fourteen Christians, including three children, have been brutally killed in an attack on a Christian village in the southern Philippines by Islamic separatists.  Some 50 rebels entered the village, located on the southern island of Mindanao, late last month and rounded up the villagers before opening fire on them.  One child is reported to have died in his mother’s arms, three others were injured and three more are reported missing.  Grenades were also thrown into homes; others were raked with bullets and set ablaze.  Islamic separatists in the Philippines, where the majority of citizens are Christians, have been fighting for an independent Islamic homeland in the south of the country for the 5 million Muslim Filipinos since 1972.  Two Islamic militant groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the smaller and more extreme Abu Sayyaf are at the forefront of the current violence.  The attack on the Christian village is believed to have been staged in response to a recent army offensive against the rebels, although no group has claimed responsibility.  Islamic militants often target Christian villages.  Christian ministers and missionaries have in the past been singled out for particular torture and gruesome execution because of their faith.  www.barnabasfund.org

Bible School Wins Fight to Drop 666 in Phone Number

(RNS) For too long, according to officials at Kentucky Mountain Bible School, when you dialed his number -- 666 -- you got their school in VanCleve, Ky., instead.  Officials at the school now say they are "elated" that they were finally able to have their phone number changed from the old 666 prefix to a 693 prefix.  "It was like we had this Scarlet Letter attached to us," college Vice President Rob Roy MacGregor told the Associated Press.  According to the Book of Revelation, 666 is the mark of the anti-Christ or the devil in the last days.  MacGregor said the number represents Satan, and many Christians have been reluctant to use it.  The need for more phone lines forced the local telephone company to add another prefix for Vancleve, about 80 miles southeast of Lexington.  The school petitioned for a new phone number that begins with 693, and is now changing its publicity materials.  "If people start giggling when I give my phone number, I know they have at least read the Bible," the Rev. Vaughn Rasor, pastor of First Baptist Church in nearby Jackson, which also has 666 phone numbers, told the Associated Press.