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Religion Today Summaries - October 28, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - October 28, 2004

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

  • Report Details Hostility to Religious Expression in America 

  • Peru: Isolated Aguaruna Tribe Reached by Native Missionaries 

  • Attorney Argues NY Schools Discriminate Against Christian Students 

  • Vietnam: New Restrictive Law On Religion

Report Details Hostility to Religious Expression in America
Jody Brown, AgapePress

Thanks to the efforts of a Texas-based legal group, the nine members of one Senate subcommittee now have in their hands a document that outlines literally hundreds of examples of violations of individuals' religious freedoms -- in the United States. In September, the U.S. State Department reported in its sixth Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom that eight national governments are designated as being of particular concern as violators of internationally acknowledged religious freedom rights.  Now comes a report from the Liberty Legal Institute (LLI) in Plano, Texas, that reveals what the group describes as "widespread religious hostility" across the U.S.  That report, titled "Examples of Hostility to Religious Expression in the Public Square," documents acts of hostility towards, and discrimination against, expressions of faith by students, faculty, government employees, churches, religious organizations, and ordinary citizens. The LLI report was presented on Wednesday (October 20) to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property, chaired by Republican John Cornyn of Texas.  The 51-page document identifies three organizations that LLI contends have led a nationwide campaign to remove religious expression from the public square: the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and People for the American Way. Copies of the report are available from Senator Cornyn's website at http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/LLI.pdf.

Peru: Isolated Aguaruna Tribe Reached by Native Missionaries
Christian Aid

Native gospel workers in Peru rejoice that they were recently able to send a team of nine to two communities of the Aguaruna tribe. Through a series of evangelistic meetings, some 101 souls were led to Christ. Missionaries report that many of the tribal people they contacted had never before heard the gospel of salvation. The Aguaruna tribe live in the northern jungles of Peru, along the Ecuadorian border. This semi-nomadic people retain many of their ancient traditions, such as worshiping ancestors, consulting shamans (witchdoctors), marrying multiple wives and hunting with poisoned darts. Many Aguarunas face extreme poverty as their forest homes have been slowly destroyed by outsiders who are using the region for cattle ranching, mining and logging. Frustration over this loss of land reached a breaking point in January 2002, when a group of 200 Aguaranas attacked a settlement of farmers who had intruded into their territory. They killed about 30 people with machetes, shotguns and poisoned arrows. Native missionaries are working to bring the love of Christ to this suffering people, relieving physical and spiritual poverty. They plan to return to these tribal communities this month to follow-up on those they have led to the Lord. Please pray with them as they carry the gospel to these remote people.

Attorney Argues NY Schools Discriminate Against Christian Students
Jim Brown, AgapePress

A school district that limits the religious expression of Christian students is allowing Muslim students to skip class to observe the month of Ramadan. The New York City Department of Education has given Muslim students at Brooklyn International High School permission to miss class four consecutive Fridays to observe the religious holiday. To Rob Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, the district's actions suggest that it is employing a double standard. The Law Center lawyer notes that he believes providing students with a reasonable accommodation to exercise their religious freedom is a good thing -- as long as this is done fairly. "The Establishment Clause requires the government to be neutral towards all religions," he says, "and here, what the school is claiming [is] that, while there's a lot of Christianity and a lot of Christian symbols, [the schools are] trying to create parity." The problem with this policy, Muise says, is that the school district seems to be "trying to create this affirmative action prong to the Establishment Clause, but there isn't one." In fact, the attorney points out, the government is obligated to remain impartial and to "treat all religions equally. But in the New York City Public Schools, they're certainly not treating Christianity the same way they treat Judaism and, certainly, Islam."

Vietnam: New Restrictive Law On Religion
Charisma News Service

House-church leaders are requesting urgent prayer for Christians in the communist nation as a new restrictive law on religion is due to take effect on Nov. 15. According to Open Doors, the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship (VEF) says the new law "is likely to permanently outlaw our house-church organizations, none of which have been recognized since 1975. Many articles in this ordinance will also provide a legal basis for local authorities to hinder and persecute the church." The VEF asked for prayer that the government will withdraw the law issued on June 18 and stop all forms of persecution and hindrances to church activities. The law purportedly guarantees religious freedom in one article, but uses most of the remaining 40 articles for detailing a long series of complicated regulations to ensure close state management of religious activity. According to Compass Direct, pastors and leaders from more than 50 house churches and indigenous mission organizations also signed a petition delivered in Hanoi on Sept. 27, appealing to the communist government's leadership for greater religious freedom and reconsideration of the religious law. Open Doors is also urging Christians to take part in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) on Nov. 14, when thousands of believers around the world are expected to pray for suffering believers. For more information on IDOP, visit www.idop.org.