Religion Today Summaries, November 5, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, November 5, 2003

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

  • Saudi Prince Orders Jailed Christians Released
  • Pro-Family Firm Sues After Court Tells Christian Mom: 'No Homophobic Teaching'
  • Bush Praises 'Church-Based Strategy Designed to Rebuild Lives'
  • Fla. Church Sues Over County Rejection of Religious Display

Saudi Prince Orders Jailed Christians Released
Barbara Baker, Compass Direct

Two Egyptian Christians jailed 10 days ago for leading a house church were ordered released this morning by a Saudi prince. Sabry Awad Gayed, a pediatrician, and Eskander Guirguis Eskandar, employed as a carpenter, were arrested and jailed on October 25 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh . When brought before the prosecutor, they learned they stood charged with evangelism and “establishing a temple [non-Muslim place of worship].” The two Coptic Christians have met privately for worship in homes with other expatriate Christians since they took jobs in Saudi Arabia several years ago. After receiving a written complaint that the two had been jailed “for apparently no reason,” Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, who serves as Saudi Arabia ’s Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, reportedly reviewed their file yesterday, leading to their release. It is unclear whether Saudi authorities will allow the two Christians to continue in their job contracts, or if they will deport the men to Egypt .

Pro-Family Firm Sues After Court Tells Christian Mom: 'No Homophobic Teaching'
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A Colorado mother has been ordered by a trial court not to expose her child to "homophobic" religious upbringing or training, but her attorneys are saying the court has gone too far. Recently the mother was granted a legal separation, and she and her former partner -- a practicing homosexual -- were awarded joint parenting responsibilities for their daughter. What makes the case unique is the fact that the court said the mother -- who is a Christian -- must ensure that there is nothing in the religious upbringing or teaching that the child is exposed to that would discriminate against homosexuals. Mat Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, has filed a lawsuit with the Colorado Court of Appeals on the Christian mother’s behalf. He says in all his years of practice, he has never encountered a case like this one. Staver says his team is arguing that the warning to the mother "has clearly gone beyond the permissible boundaries of courts -- that this ruling interferes with her constitutionally guaranteed right to free exercise of religion and her rights as a parent to be able to direct the upbringing and teaching of her own child." Liberty Counsel’s lead litigator believes a favorable review of the ruling will eventually be forthcoming.

Bush Praises 'Church-Based Strategy Designed to Rebuild Lives'
Charisma News Service

President Bush has renewed his push to let religious groups compete for government money, saying "it's hard to be a faith-based organization when you're forbidden from practicing your faith." "Government has no business funding religious worship or teaching," he told cheering members of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship church in Dallas last Wednesday. "However, our government should support the good work of religious people who are changing the world." Bush toured the newly opened Christian Education Center across the street from the 7,000-member church. He praised the church's Project Turn Around, described by the pastor as "a church-based strategy designed to rebuild lives from the inside out." About 1,000 volunteers run programs ranging from money management and family counseling to medical testing and child mentoring. "The best way to help the addict ... is to change their heart," Bush said in a reference to how he stopped drinking at age 40. When the federal government is awarding contracts or grants for social services, religious organizations should not be excluded or be forced to remove religious practices or symbols from their organizations, he said. Under Bush's executive order, some federal departments, such as Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, have begun opening the competition for funds to religious organizations.

Fla. Church Sues Over County Rejection of Religious Display
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., church has sued county officials, claiming they reneged on an agreement for the church to display a "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season" display during a holiday lights event in a county park. The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based legal firm, filed suit in district court Oct. 22 on behalf of Calvary Chapel Church. According to court documents, the nondenominational church paid $15,000 to participate in the two-mile "Holiday Fantasy of Lights" event, a series of drive-through displays. The church alleges that it reached an agreement over the summer with county officials to display a cross and the words "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season -- Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale." But in late August, the church was informed that the approval had been revoked. The suit claims that church officials were told that there was a new policy that permitted sponsors of the event "to select only from a pre-existing inventory of displays." The church argues that the denial of its sponsorship of a display violates its rights of free speech and free exercise of religion. It seeks a declaration by the court that the county's actions amounted to unconstitutional censorship.