Religion Today Summaries, October 23, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, October 23, 2003

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

  • Legal Expert Calls Protest Against School Mascot 'Absurdity'
  • Continued Christian Imprisonment Leads to Murder of Vietnamese Pastor
  • GM May Face Suit for Discriminating against Christian Employees
  • Weary Pope Ends Eight Days of Anniversary Celebrations

Legal Expert Calls Protest Against School Mascot 'Absurdity'
Jim Brown, Agape Press

 A constitutional attorney says the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State is becoming "hypersensitive" to the names of high school and university mascots. Americans United claims a Massachusetts public school's use of a crusader as its mascot violates the so-called separation of Church and state. According to the group, the mascot is inappropriate because it conjures up images of "an extremely violent and religiously intolerant time." The activist organization is calling on the district to drop the mascot because of its "historical connotations." But attorney Brian Fahling with the American Family Association says the crusader mascot was not offending anyone, except Americans United. "It's just another example of an effort to literally eviscerate any vestige of Christianity from the public square -- even when it's a name that most people in contemporary American society wouldn't associate with anything distinctly Christian anymore," Fahling says. "We cannot bow and recoil every time somebody takes offense at something," Fahling says, "because whatever name they come up with next is obviously, by the standard employed by Americans United, going to give offense to somebody. And if the standard is that somebody is offended, then we're going to have to reach the point where we don't even name our teams anymore."

Continued Christian Imprisonment Leads to Murder of Vietnamese Pastor
Charisma News Service

A Hmong pastor was recently murdered while in police custody. Mua A Sinh was reportedly beaten to death Aug. 16 while in the Dien Bien Dong police station. Family members said Sinh was arrested and imprisoned for leading local church meetings. Police had tried to force Sinh to agree to disband his house church, but he refused. Authorities also arrested Sinh's brother, pressuring him to sign a confession stating that he had beaten the pastor to death. Because he refused, Sinh's brother was held in prison for about a month and beaten regularly until his release. There are currently an estimated 300 Christian pastors who are imprisoned for holding legal church meetings.

GM May Face Suit for Discriminating against Christian Employees
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A General Motors worker in Indiana may soon have to take his employer to court after the auto manufacturer refused to allow a Christian group to form and meet on company premises. The "Big Three" automaker normally permits employees who share interests to form what it calls "affinity groups." The groups are allowed to hold meetings on company property and to play a role in shaping GM's policies and procedures. But when John Moranski, a longtime employee at an Indiana GM plant, approached management about forming an affinity group for Christians, the request was denied. Barbara Weller of the Christian Law Association says GM is violating federal law. "The Civil Rights Act that deals with employment says you cannot discriminate in the benefits or privileges of employment on the basis of religion," she says. After GM management refused to allow the meeting, the auto worker filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Weller points out that Moranski and the plant's other Christian employees were only requesting fair and equal treatment. "They just want to participate in the program like everybody else, and the law says they have the right to do that," she says. The case is before the EEOC for mediation. The attorney says a lawsuit would be a likely next step.

Weary Pope Ends Eight Days of Anniversary Celebrations
Peggy Polk, Religion News Service

A fragile Pope John Paul II ended an eight-day celebration of the 25th anniversary of his pontificate on Wednesday (Oct. 22), too weary to celebrate Mass with 30 newly created cardinals. The 83-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff was able to carry out the ceremony of conferring gold rings on the cardinals, but he did not leave his mobile throne during the two-hour Mass except to drop painfully to his knees with help from two prelates at the consecration of the host. The Mass, scheduled for St. Peter's Square, was moved into St. Peter's Basilica because of rain. In his homily, read for him by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, assistant Vatican secretary of state, the pope thanked the College of Cardinals, which now has a record 194 members from 68 countries, for "the strong help that you assure me." The pope is crippled by arthritis and suffers from an advanced form of Parkinson's disease, which has affected his vocal chords, but his close associates insist that failing health will not force him to resign. "His evident physical limitations are not obstacles to his apostolic mission," they said. Wednesday's Mass ended celebrations of the pope's silver jubilee, which included a Mass of Thanksgiving he celebrated on Oct. 16, the day and hour of his election; his beatification of Mother Teresa on Sunday (Oct. 19); and a Consistory on Tuesday at which he installed the new cardinals.