Religion Today Summaries, November 11, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, November 11, 2003

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

  • French Bishops Dismayed at Religious Symbols Ban

  • Turkish Christians Refused New Religious Identities

  • Christian Critic Warns Parents of Dangers of Mass Media

  • Saudi Police Fail to Obey Prince's Orders

French Bishops Dismayed at Religious Symbols Ban
Elizabeth Bryant, Religion News Service

French Roman Catholic bishops expressed dismay Monday (Nov. 10) over new efforts to ban the wearing of religious symbols, like crosses, in public and some private schools in France. "The proposal to ban students from wearing all religious symbols in schools, when it does not trouble public order, seems to us a regression of freedom of expression," said Bishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the Council of Bishops in France, during a closing speech of the group's annual meeting in Lourdes. The question of wearing religious accessories to public school surfaced earlier this year, after Muslim girls refused to take off their veils or head scarves in French public schools. The furor sparked calls for new French legislation that would ban wearing not only veils in public schools, but also Catholic crosses, Jewish skullcaps and other religious symbols.    The issue of banning religious symbols in school is being debated elsewhere in Europe, notably in Italy and Germany. France's center-right government is divided over passing a law. A government-appointed secularity commission is expected to give its opinion on the matter next month, and President Jacques Chirac is expected to make a decision early next year. The French parliament has formed a similar commission.

Turkish Christians Refused New Religious Identities
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

Two months after Deniz Kasan and Turgay Papakci said their wedding vows before 200 relatives and friends at the Istanbul Presbyterian Church this summer, the bride’s application to change her religious identity was refused. Her local population bureau told her she could not change her religious identity from Muslim to Christian, as her new husband had done two years earlier, because her church was “not recognized as an official house of worship.” Begun nine years ago, the steadily growing Istanbul Presbyterian Church congregation has met in the historic All Saints Anglican Church in Istanbul ’s Moda district since late 1997. Another new Christian in the church, 21-year-old Beyza Gun, received an identical refusal the same week. The pastor, Rev. Turgay Ucal, responded, “Any Turkish citizen over the age of 18 has the legal right to change his religious affiliation by signing a simple statement to that effect.” Accordingly, Ucal’s congregation has hired a local lawyer to contest the rejection of both applications.

Christian Critic Warns Parents of Dangers of Mass Media
Agape Press

For 25 years, Dr. Ted Baehr has reviewed secular movies and shows from a Christian perspective.  The entertainment critic says now more than ever, concerned parents need to be on guard when it comes to entertainment for their teenagers and children.  Baehr says sex and violence are so common in television and movies that, unfortunately, many Christian parents do not adequately monitor Hollywood entertainment.  The Christian media expert says by age 17, the average child has spent anywhere between 40,000 and 63,000 hours watching television and movies and playing video games.  Parents, he says, need to be informed about what their children and their peers are watching.  "That is a tremendous amount of time when you consider that they only go to church for 11,000 hours," he says.  "Forty or fifty years ago, we didn't see what they do today [in the media]. They've seen 50,000 murders; children today have seen over a million sex acts -- things that you wouldn't have thought about years ago."  Baehr says parents should to go God's Word for guidance -- specifically, the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, which warns believers not to speak any foul or vulgar language.  "And those who do are in danger of not getting into the Kingdom of Heaven -- so it's a very serious issue," he says.  Earlier this year, the American Medical Association said violence in the mass media is leading to increased violent behavior in teens and young adults.

Saudi Police Fail to Obey Prince's Orders
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

Six days after the third-ranking official in the Saudi government ordered their release, two Egyptian Christians remain in police custody in Riyadh . Arrested on October 25, Dr. Sabry Awad Gayed and Eskander Guirguis Eskander were reportedly accused of establishing a non-Muslim place of worship. The two Coptic Christians were active in a house church of expatriate Christians meeting privately for worship in the Saudi capital.