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Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 11, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 11, 2006

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

  • As Christianity Grows in India, Believers Face Increased Persecution
  • Eritrea's Religious Prisoner Count Tops 1,900
  • Indiana House Prayer Case Argued Before 7th Circuit
  • Judge Lets Calif. Christian School Group's Land-Use Lawsuit Proceed


As Christianity Grows in India, Believers Face Increased Persecution

Attacks against Christians continue throughout India, where last month militant Hindus broke into a Christian pastor's rented house, accusing him of not bowing before Hindu gods. The 50-year-old pastor was forced from his home in the middle of the night as the militant mob threw out all of his personal belongings. Voice of the Martyrs spokesman Todd Nettleton tells AgapePress Persecution against Christians has increased in India in recent years because of the tremendous growth of the church there. "It's a direct result of Christians who are actively involved in outreach to Hindus and literally thousands of Hindus coming to know Christ in a personal way," he explains, "particularly among the Dalits or the untouchables, the lowest caste of Hindus there." This rapid growth of Christianity in India has "really created a lot of uproar among the Hindus," Nettleton says, "particularly among the radical Hindus, as they see so many of the people that were in their religion who are now followers of Jesus Christ." And the ministry representative says he expects Christians in India will continue to face hostility from radical Hindus as the gospel is preached and the church continues to expand.

Eritrea's Religious Prisoner Count Tops 1,900

Newly compiled statistics smuggled out of Eritrea indicate that at least 1,918 Eritrean citizens are imprisoned and being subjected to torture and forced labor because of their religious beliefs. According to a detailed list obtained by Compass last month, 95 percent of these known religious prisoners of conscience are Christians. A total of 35 pastors, priests and church elders are confirmed under arrest in Asmara’s Wongel Mermera investigation center. An additional 1,758 Christians of both evangelical Protestant and Orthodox confessions are jailed in 14 other cities and towns. According to reports compiled by Compass, 163 of these Christian prisoners have been put under arrest since the beginning of 2006. As many as a fourth of all those jailed are believed to have been incarcerated for two years or more. But despite ongoing arrests and surveillance, local evangelicals told Compass they were “continuing to meet for worship, prayer and Bible studies” in their homes. “Please pray for God’s protection, especially when we meet for prayer,” one said. “All the churches are in a desperate need of Bibles for their ministries.”

Indiana House Prayer Case Argued Before 7th Circuit

AgapePress reports that the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Thursday in a case that one Christian attorney says could affect the right of existence of legislative prayers across the U.S. A three-judge federal panel of the Seventh Circuit has been asked to overturn a judge's ban on prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives that mention Jesus Christ or use terms such as "Savior."  District Judge David Hamilton ruled last year in Hinrichs v. Bosma that such prayers, even when delivered by guest ministers, amount to an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, says despite U.S. Supreme Court precedent allowing legislative prayer, the district court ruled that the prayer in this case was unconstitutional. "[In the prayer] they used the name 'Jesus,' and by having 'Jesus' as part of the prayer, [the court decided] it was too sectarian and or proselytizing in his view," Staver explains.

Judge Lets Calif. Christian School Group's Land-Use Lawsuit Proceed

A judge says a California county can be sued for barring a Christian education group from building a new school on property it owns in the area. Redwood Christian Schools (RCS) has been waiting for its day in court for years, and now the wait is finally over. Judge Samuel Conti has ruled that RCS can proceed with its lawsuit against Alameda County. For years, the county has sided with neighbors and others who do not want the Christian group to build its new school near them on its own 45-acre parcel of land. RCS has reported a 25 percent decline in enrollment while the county's efforts have blocked construction of the new campus. Derek Gaubatz is director of litigation for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing RCS. He tells AgapePress the group's claim against Alameda County is based on the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment and on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. And now that a federal judge has rejected the county's arguments to dismiss the case, RCS intends to press forward with its suit. The federal law known as RLUIPA, which was signed by President Clinton in 2000, protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking. "We at the Becket Fund, since this law passed, have taken the lead in trying to develop the precedent under this statute around the country," Gaubatz notes, "and this is going to be one of the first cases to actually go to trial on RLUIPA."