Religion Today Summaries, November 3, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, November 3, 2003

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

  • Teacher Protests School District Razing Religious Holidays From School Calendar
  • Pope Seeks Law Guaranteeing Religious Freedom in Multicultural Europe
  • Attackers Critically Injure Turkish Christian
  • Conservative Congressmen Accuse Democrats of Religious Bias

Teacher Protests School District Razing Religious Holidays From School Calendar
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A Florida school district has dumped Good Friday as a school holiday, sparking outrage among members of its predominantly Christian community.  In an effort to have an all-secular holiday calendar, the calendar committee for Sarasota County Public Schools has decided it will no longer give students Good Friday off. Joseph Cirieco has taught for 34 years in the district and is parliamentarian for the local teachers union. He has been fighting the secular calendar idea, and also warned the Sarasota School Board of the committee's motives.  The longtime educator says there are only two conclusions to be drawn from the committee's actions. "One, that the members -- some, if not all -- on the calendar committee have an agenda ... to eliminate religion from everything," Cirieco says, "or two, they showed -- to use the liberals' word -- complete 'insensitivity' to Christians." However, the Sarasota County School Board's position is that recognizing the Good Friday holiday would be insensitive and that it would alienate other religions. But Cirieco feels that, rather than heeding the anti-religious recommendations of the calendar committee, the board should be following the lead of the neighboring school districts, that recognize Good Friday. Years ago the Sarasota County School District dropped all references to Christmas vacation, and began calling the last two weeks in December "winter break."

Pope Seeks Laws Guaranteeing Religious Freedom in Multicultural Europe
Peggy Polk, Religion News Service

Pope John Paul II, addressing European interior ministers, on Friday (Oct. 31) said laws are needed to guarantee religious freedom in an increasingly multiethnic and multicultural Europe. The Roman Catholic pontiff praised efforts by Christian Europeans to enter into dialogue with the tide of immigrants, many of whom are Muslims, seeking work on the continent, but he said more was needed to insure "unity in diversity." John Paul called for "an adequate recognition, even legislative, of specific religious traditions in which all peoples are rooted and with which they often identify in a particular way. The pope received EU interior ministers concluding a two-day meeting in Rome on interreligious dialogue as a "factor of social cohesion in Europe and instrument of peace in the Mediterranean area." Despite his frailty caused by Parkinson's disease, the 83-year-old John Paul has continued to hold a series of daily audiences. Before addressing the EU ministers he received a delegation of ambassadors to the Vatican, who congratulated him on the 25th anniversary of his pontificate, celebrated Oct. 16.

Attackers Critically Injure Turkish Christian
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

A Turkish convert to Christianity who was severely beaten for distributing New Testaments last week in his hometown of Orhangazi in northwestern Turkey has slipped into a coma in critical condition. Yakup Cindilli, 32, was hospitalized on October 23 after a savage attack by three individuals who inflicted heavy blows on his head and face. Both Cindilli and a colleague identified as Tufan Orhan were reportedly distributing New Testaments at the time of the attack. According to an October 26 account in the national Milliyet newspaper, Cindilli and Orhan were beaten for "doing missionary propaganda." Local police have identified and apprehended three suspects in the crime, all jailed by order of the public prosecutor reviewing the case. One of the suspects, Metin Yildiran, is president of the local chapter of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). A far-right political party accused of "neo-fascist" activities during Turkey's violent 1970s, the MHP has historically linked its platform with an Islamic-tinged version of nationalism.

Conservative Congressmen Accuse Democrats of Religious Bias
Agape Press

Some Republican congressmen are accusing a group of Democratic senators of religious bias.  The charge comes as Democrats continue to stonewall several of President Bush's judicial nominees.  The latest rejection came on Thursday when Republicans failed to get enough support in the Senate to end the filibuster against Mississippi's Charles Pickering, a nominee for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Pickering has often been criticized for his conservative Christian views -- and in the eyes of many liberals today, that disqualifies a person to sit on the bench. The House Republicans say the same fate appears to be in store for Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, also nominated for an appeals court post.  On Thursday, a group of House Republicans released a report which specifically names Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, and Patrick Leahy as trying to establish a religious litmus test for these nominees.  Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina says, "We cannot allow this to continue.  Everyone has a constitutional right to practice or not practice their religious faith."  Fellow GOP Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas agrees, saying, "Some senators have decided to assert an unconstitutional religious-beliefs test as they debate judicial nominations."