Religion Today Summaries, May 19, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, May 19, 2004

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

  • NC High School Changes Course in Christian T-Shirt Censorship Case 
  • Court Declines Christian Group's Stay Request to Stop Gay Marriage 
  • Myanmar Forces Conversion from Christianity
  • Meeting Turnout Shows Support for Jewish State

NC High School Changes Course in Christian T-Shirt Censorship Case
Jim Brown, Agape Press

North Carolina school district has agreed to apologize for engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination against three Christian students who wore shirts bearing biblical messages opposing homosexuality. Watauga High School in Boone, North Carolina, recently suspended the students for wearing T-shirts bearing Bible verses and statements such as "Homosexuality is sin" and "Hell is real." But after the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP) threatened to sue over the censorship, the school board vowed to revise its clothing policy. That policy bars items or content that is "offensive to any race, gender, or religion." Watauga principal Gary Childers told junior Mark Austin that the message on his shirt was offensive on the point of gender. But Mike DePrimo, senior litigation counsel for the CLP, feels Principal Childers simply overreacted. "The clothing policy as it currently exists says that any clothing that is offensive to race, gender or religion cannot be worn. Of course that's over-broad and vague -- what does it mean to be offensive?" the attorney asks. DePrimo says what the school really needs to do is "to be more specific as to what particular type of clothing is prohibited." But the attorney says viewpoint discrimination against Christian students has become the norm in public schools all over the U.S.

Court Declines Christian Group's Stay Request to Stop Gay Marriage
Charisma News Service

Same-sex couples started registering to marry yesterday in Massachusetts after the U.S. Supreme Court declined a request by a Christian legal group to issue an emergency order stopping homosexual marriages. Massachusetts is the first state to make it legal for gay couples to marry based on a Nov. 18 decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, striking down the heterosexuals-only restriction in the state's marriage law. Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme declined without comment to intervene and block clerks from issuing gay-marriage licenses. The Liberty Counsel, a coalition of state lawmakers and conservative activists sought a stay, claiming the Massachusetts judges wrongly redefined marriage. Mathew Staver, president and general counsel for Liberty Counsel, argued that the task should be handled by elected legislators. "We will continue to press this case as far as necessary to ensure that the separation of powers principle is upheld in Massachusetts," Staver said in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling. "The battle over same-sex marriage is far from over. In fact, it is just beginning." Pro-family Christian groups say the launch of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts underscore the need for a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage. "President Bush and members of Congress must realize that protecting marriage is worth the same effort given to other policy issues," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said. "If we do not immediately pass a constitutional amendment protecting marriage, we will not only lose the institution of marriage in our nation, but eventually all critics of the homosexual lifestyle will be silenced," he added.

Myanmar Forces Conversion from Christianity
Charisma News Service 

In Myanmar, children from Christian families have been lured from their homes and placed in Buddhist monasteries. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the children between the ages of 5 and 10 reportedly have their heads shaved and trained as novice monks, never to see their parents again. During a visit with Chin and Kachin refugees in India in March, CSW officials also heard other accounts of persecution and discrimination. The government of the Southeastern Asian nation, located between India and Thailand, offers incentives to impoverished villagers to convert from Christianity to Buddhism in Chin state, an area which is 90 percent Christian. Mountain top crosses have been destroyed and villagers forced to build Buddhist pagodas in their place, often having to contribute finances and labor, CSW said. Additionally, Christians are required to obtain permits for special events and any renovation or construction work. No permission for new church buildings has been given since 1994.

Meeting Turnout Shows Support for Jewish State
Agape Press
The 50th meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is setting records as more than 6,000 supporters of the Jewish state have gathered in Washington, DC, for the three-day event, running from May 16-18. AIPAC spokesman Josh Block says the turnout for the meeting and the caliber of the speakers -- such as President George W. Bush, Senator Joe Lieberman, Congressman Tom DeLay, and the State Department's counter-terrorism coordinator, Cofer Black -- shows what a high level of support the Israeli people have in the United States. "With the number of attendees and the level of participation, and the speakers," Block says, "it's really a tremendous show of support from both our policymakers and the American public as to just how important America's relationship is with our only democratic friend in the Middle East." President Bush delivered an early morning speech to the conferees Tuesday, vowing to continue U.S. support for Israel.