Religion Today Summaries, May 2, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, May 2, 2003

In Today's Edition:

  • Political, Religious Leaders Mark National Day of Prayer
  • Christian Families Evicted from Homes in Laos
  • Bush Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case
  • Evangelicals Welcomed in Roman Catholic Capital

Political, Religious Leaders Mark National Day of Prayer
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Religious and political leaders joined together for the National Day of Prayer observance Thursday (May 1) on Capitol Hill as similar gatherings were held across the nation in locations ranging from the White House to stadiums to office buildings.  Hundreds of Christians meeting at the Cannon House Office Building were urged by speakers to foster a movement of prayer intertwined with humility and repentance.  "God lifts up a nation through individuals who are righteous," said evangelist Luis Palau. Attorney General John Ashcroft continued the theme, saying freedom is granted by God, not by people. "It's important for us not to become intoxicated with the power that America now has," he said. "Greatness isn't to be found in power but it's to be found in humility and righteousness. President Bush commands the good and the mighty armed forces of the United States, but he understands that it is faith and prayer that are the sources of this nation's strength."  At this ceremony and others, religious leaders and politicians took turns sharing the importance of faith in their personal lives. "Millions of Americans seek guidance every day in prayer to the Almighty God," Bush said in early-morning remarks at the White House. "I'm one of them." 

Christian Families Evicted from Homes in Laos

(Charisma News Service) In a move condemned by the U.S. government, authorities in the country's southern region have evicted three Christian families from their homes for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs. According to Radio Free Asia, the families from the Muang Phine district in Savannakhet Province are now in the care of a church after being forced out of their homes last month, the Associated Press (AP) reported. U.S. State Department officials also cited reports that Christians in the northern city of Luang Prabang and elsewhere were facing pressure from Lao authorities to renounce their faith or face eviction or detention.  Some people have been arrested "just for speaking freely and openly about their faith and in other parts of the country, Lao Christians have been ordered to close their churches and to stop their worship practices," said William Inboden, special adviser to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom.  In a letter sent last Friday to President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, seven members of Congress said Laos should not be rewarded "for the consistently dreadful behavior," the AP reported.  Laos "continues to be one of the world's most reprehensible abusers of human rights."

Bush Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) The Bush administration has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a lower court decision and allow the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words "one nation under God."  U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson said last summer's ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the pledge violates the separation of church and state is "manifestly contrary" to previous church-state cases.  "Whatever else the (First Amendment) may prohibit, this court's precedents make it clear that it does not forbid the government from officially acknowledging the religious heritage, foundation and character of this nation," Olson wrote Wednesday (April 30) in his argument.  California atheist Michael Newdow sued in 2000, saying his daughter should not be forced to listen to the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom.  The San Francisco-based appeals court ruled in Newdow's favor, with a three-judge panel finding that the phrase "one nation under God" -- inserted into the pledge in 1954 -- amounts to government endorsement of religion. The court's ruling affected only the nine Western states in its jurisdiction.  But after a public outcry, the court stepped back and stayed its decision pending appeals. On March 3, the court refused to change its decision.

Evangelicals Welcomed in Roman Catholic Capital
John Lindner

(Christian Aid Mission) Lujan is known as the National Faith Capital of Argentina and is considered the most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage center in Latin America. Yet the economic crisis stagnating in the country has hit this city of 100,000, as well.  At the same time, in this community an evangelical ministry is working energetically to bring real help--material and spiritual--to people victimized by the economic disaster beyond their control. And that help is apparently welcomed by local authorities.  Some of the material projects include soup kitchens that provide food for the neediest children. Many parents who bring their children for a meal have found Christ at the soup stall.  The ministry also is making available to local families simple machines that make bricks or noodles. The families then sell the products they make, providing some small income where before they had none.  The church operates a kindergarten that is highly respected in the community, and wants to begin an elementary school.  The church's genuine contribution to the welfare of the local community has placed it in good standing with the authorities. Because of lack of space, the growing church holds its meetings on the street. Local authorities even blocked the street so the church could have its Sunday worship meetings undisturbed.