Religion Today Summaries, October 16, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, October 16, 2002

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • Attacks in Bali and on Christian Targets in Indonesia May be Linked to Al-Qaeda
  • Faith-Based 'Welfare-to-Work' Program Free to Proceed in Texas
  • Lawsuit Alleges Navy Discrimination Against Evangelical Applicants for Chaplain Corps
  • School Anti-Violence Program Accused of Hiding Religious Agenda

Attacks in Bali and on Christian Targets in Indonesia May be Linked to Al-Qaeda

( The horrific car bomb attack in Bali has demonstrated to the world, in a most chilling and shocking way, the influence of Al-Qaeda on extremist Islamic groups in Indonesia.  Evidence is emerging that also links Al-Qaeda with attacks on Christian targets.  An Islamic extremist arrested in connection with the series of bombings of churches in Indonesia at Christmas 2000, is reported to be an Al-Qaeda operative.  Omar al-Faruq was arrested by Indonesian police in June 2002 and handed over to the US authorities.  Secret US documents are said to indicate that al-Faruq was a senior Al-Qaeda representative in Southeast Asia with responsibility for planning and coordinating attacks against American targets in the region.  He has also been linked to attempts to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati.  Although al-Faruq’s origins and movements are shrouded in mystery, there is some evidence that he was involved in training and leading Islamic extremist groups during the anti-Christian violence in the Malukus in 2000 and 2001, in which an estimated 15,000 Christians were killed.

Faith-Based 'Welfare-to-Work' Program Free to Proceed in Texas
Allie Martin – Agape Press

The American Jewish Congress has withdrawn its second appeal to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, officially ending the highest reaching court battle over the president's faith-based initiative. In the case, the AJC demanded that 17 businesses and churches -- a coalition known as Jobs Partnership -- repay the State of Texas all funds received in the charitable choice program.  Kelly Shackelford with Liberty Legal Institute says there are some liberal groups who will not listen to reason, even though the program is constitutional and effective.  "Everybody else [could] participate in these government programs, but religious groups could not."  Participants in the Jobs Partnership program are taken off welfare into working jobs. Participants are offered different venues available, some including a faith-based aspect.  According to Shackelford, five years after going through the program, 80% of those who participated were still off welfare and employed. Despite that success, he says, groups opposed to the program on the grounds of separation of church and state were offended by the Christian alternative being offered to individuals who wanted that alternative.

Lawsuit Alleges Navy Discrimination Against Evangelical Applicants For Chaplain Corps
Ken Walker – Baptist Press

Four evangelicals have sued the United States Navy for alleged discrimination that they say kept them out of the Chaplain Corps.  The sixth lawsuit against the Navy in recent years represents a new set of claims.  In five previous suits, evangelicals charged that discrimination caused them to be passed over for promotions, often forcing them into early retirement. But the four new plaintiffs believe bias against non-liturgical applicants prevented them from even pursuing careers as Naval chaplains.  Neither the U.S. Justice Department, which represents the Navy, or its public affairs office, will comment on pending litigation.  ”The Navy's refusal to consider [the plaintiffs’ applications], in the face of a shortage of chaplains, was based on [its] illegal preference for liturgical faith group clergy and bias against non-liturgical faith groups."  The lawsuit contends that such prejudice denied all four plaintiffs a fair opportunity to be considered for a commission in the Chaplain Corps and violated their First and Fifth Amendment rights.

School Anti-Violence Program Accused Of Hiding Religious Agenda
Robert B. Bluey -- CNS News

The Anti-Defamation League is accusing an evangelical Christian group of using manipulative tactics in public schools to lure unsuspecting students to their faith.  Joel J. Levy, regional director of the ADL's New York chapter, said the program presented during the school day is masked as an anti-violence initiative, when in fact it is actually the stepping-stone to a free off-campus evangelical-themed concert.  The concerns expressed by Levy were a surprise to Mark Sutherland, spokesman for Rage Against Destruction. He said Levy has misinterpreted the meaning of the program and the concert.  "When we go to schools, we are just trying to present a community service to the public," Sutherland said. "We're seeing in the schools that we go to that violence and negative issues decrease."  "We present the students with any solution that we think will work," Sutherland continued. "We have found that students who are involved in organized religion are less likely to be involved in negative lifestyles. The violence statistics are incredibly less for those who are involved in organized religion."