Religion Today Summaries - October 14, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - October 14, 2004

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

  • Religion Playing Critical Role In Presidential Election 

  • Waning Christian Presence May Determine Iraq's Future 

  • Peru: Remote Tribe Reached through Medical Team

  • Calif. School District Grants Ministry Equal Access

Religion Playing Critical Role In Presidential Election
Baptist Press

It may not be front-and-center, but religion is taking on an ever-increasing role in this year's presidential campaign. In an effort to boost the prospects of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Democratic National Committee launched a website aimed at religious voters. The website,, includes information about ethical and moral issues -- including the hot-button topics of abortion and same-sex "marriage." President Bush's campaign has long considered evangelicals a significant part of his base and has attempted to keep them in the fold by signing the partial-birth abortion ban and supporting a constitutional marriage amendment. He spoke via satellite to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June and is trying to boost the evangelical turnout from 2000, when several million evangelicals sat out the election. Polls show that Kerry is facing a religion gap. An Oct. 4 Pew Research Center Poll showed white evangelicals supporting Bush by a margin of 73-21 percent and white Catholics supporting him by a margin of 49- 33 percent. People not identifying themselves with any religion favored Kerry by a margin of 55-31 percent. Kerry, who has struggled to be as open about his faith as Bush has, is trying to close the faith gap.

Waning Christian Presence May Determine Iraq's Future
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, AgapePress

The head of a ministry that serves persecuted Christians around the world says the future of the Church in Iraq is threatened if believers continue leaving the country. Kidnappings, written threats, bombings, and murder by Muslim terrorists are driving thousands of Iraqi Christians out of their homeland. Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, says while it is understandable that many Iraqi Christians fear for their lives, the exodus is leaving a spiritual void in the country. "Without a strong Christian presence in Iraq," Moeller explains, "the candidates in the upcoming elections who insist on a separation between religion and the state will have more of a say. They're going to move the country basically towards an Islamic theocracy. And that is, of course, something that will create more instability in the Middle East and not true democracy." A steady outflow of believers is under way in that country, and little is being done to stem the tide. But while many believers are fleeing Iraq, Dr. Moeller says others are choosing to stay and minister to their countrymen. Moeller says the upcoming elections set for January will be pivotal in determining the future -- not only of Iraq as a nation, but also of the Church in that country.

Peru: Remote Tribe Reached through Medical Team
Christian Aid

Scattered throughout the jungles and mountains of Peru are at least 45 tribal groups, many of which have never heard the gospel. Because of their isolated locations and innate distrust of outsiders due to past prejudiced treatment, these poverty-stricken people are often difficult to reach. Yet one indigenous ministry is finding the doors of their hearts opening through a medical outreach. Missionaries recently traveled to an unreached village with a group of doctors and dentists. When they first arrived, they were met with suspicion, as most villagers had never seen a doctor before. Yet after a leader in the community paved the way by submitting to having his teeth worked on, tribal people, intrigued by his good results, flocked to the makeshift clinic. Doctors ended up seeing 100 patients over the four days they were there. Gospel workers seized the opportunity to preach the word of Christ. For many villagers, this was their first time to hear the truth of the Bible. The villagers were sad to see the missionary team go and begged them to return soon. Their chief even promised to accompany the gospel workers when they visited neighboring communities, assuring his fellow tribal people of the missionaries' goodwill.

Calif. School District Grants Ministry Equal Access
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, AgapePress

A California children's ministry has claimed victory in a battle over rental fees for public facilities. For several years Sonshine Haven, an organization that provides after-school programs and spiritual guidance to disadvantaged children, has rented a facility from the Santee School District. As far as the ministry knew, they were paying for the use of the public space on an equal basis with other community groups. This year the school district increased Sonshine Haven's rental fees more than tenfold while rental fees for similar groups did not change. Representatives from some groups, such as the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, say they were not charged any fee at all to use school facilities as long as they agreed to avoid any religious teaching. The children's ministry contacted Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties. PJI president Brad Dacus says the Institute sent a legal demand letter to Santee School District officials, notifying them of the rights and protections the law accords to ministries like Sonshine Haven. The district not only reversed their policy and agreed not to charge the children's ministry a rental fee, but they also promised to review all of the district's policies and its entire fee structure for the use of school property in order to ensure compliance with state and federal law.