Religion Today Summaries, October 15, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, October 15, 2003

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

  • Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case

  • Christian Village Suffers Midnight Attack in Indonesia

  • Seventh-day Adventists Suit Dismissed in Uganda

  • Church's Rejected Cross a 'Censorship Issue'

Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case
Michelle Gabriel, Religion News Service

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to decide whether the Pledge of Allegiance should continue to include the 50-year-old phrase "under God," prompting renewed debate among religious groups and church-state separationists. The court will hear oral arguments in the case sometime next year. "Including the words `under God' does not render the pledge unconstitutional because it just acknowledges that we are a religious people," said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee. The atheist father of a California girl sued her school, Congress and the president to remove "under God" from the pledge she, like millions of other schoolchildren, recites every day. When a federal appeals court upheld the decision to strike the words from the pledge, many were outraged at the decision to change a daily fixture in American schools. Some say the long-held tradition of repeating the pledge make the words in question innocuous. But a spokeswoman from Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, "No one should feel coerced to take part in a religious exercise to express patriotism." The Interfaith Alliance, a group that monitors religion and public policy, said the words both violate the Constitution and demean religion. The pledge was adopted by Congress in 1942 and "under God" was added in 1954.

Christian Village Suffers Midnight Attack in Indonesia
Geoff Stamp, Compass Direct

Indonesian Christians in Old Beteleme (Bethlehem), Central Sulawesi, suffered a night-time attack Friday that left two people dead, six missing and 38 homes destroyed. Shortly after midnight, villagers heard white-clad assailants cry, "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar!" as they attacked the quiet community. One resident, Wedlrina Mbae, a 55-year-old teacher, was killed by a hail of bullets when she answered a knock at her door. Oster Tarioko, 40, died on the way to the hospital after suffering gunshot wounds. A third, Mr. Deki Lingkua, 20, is critically ill with stab wounds, and several more Christian villagers are hospitalized. Others fled into the nearby jungle and watched helplessly as their homes were looted, set on fire and burned. An Assembly of God church was also razed. It is suspected that a Muslim extremist group is responsible.

Seventh-day Adventists Suit Dismissed in Uganda
Adelle Banks, Religion News Service

A suit by Seventh-day Adventist university students in Uganda was recently dismissed after they sought a court's help in resolving a dispute about taking exams on their Sabbath.  The Constitutional Court in Uganda dismissed the case in late September, agreeing with assertions that the students at Makerere University could attend other schools, including Adventist ones. "The Makerere University policy complained of by the Seventh-day Adventist students was fair and its students, including the petitioners, voluntarily joined the university," the court ruled. Mutuku J. Mutinga, public affairs and religious liberty director for the Adventist Church in east-central Africa, said the church will support the students in an appeal. "Makerere is our university, it's a public university, so no one has a right to say, `Hey, you don't belong here,'" he told the news agency for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. "A lot lies at stake." The three law school students at the university in the capital city of Kampala decided not to appear for exams on a Saturday in January and were later asked to repeat an entire year of school. They sued after their request to take the exams at an alternate time was denied.

Church's Rejected Cross a 'Censorship Issue'
Charisma News Service

One of the largest churches in a south Florida community is up in arms after local officials recently denied the church permission to display a large cross emblazoned with the words "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season" during the city's annual December show. Bob Coy, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale, said he is ready to sue and marshal his church's 17,000 members and Christian activists nationwide to defend what he calls his civil rights. "This is a censorship issue," Coy said. "They are telling us what we can say and what we can't say in a public park. I believe every religion should have the right to display what they want. ... Christians should have the right to talk about Jesus." Broward County sells sponsorship of individual light displays for the Holiday Festival of Lights, which draws 250,000 annually. Religious themes are forbidden. Negotiations over what Calvary could display if the church paid $15,000 to be one of the sponsors started in May, but broke down last month. The county's final offer, which the church has rejected, would have allowed the display of a sign which says "God Bless America," a small Christmas star and the church's logo, which contains a small cross. Coy said Calvary's board of directors decided to file suit recently.