Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 19, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 19, 2008

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

  • Iran: Death Penalty for Apostasy Likely
  • Laos: Christians Pressured to Renounce Faith
  • Bill Maher Works to Debunk Religion in Next Film
  • Church Abuse Case Goes to Maine Supreme Court

Iran: Death Penalty for Apostasy Likely

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is warning that Iran is set to finalize a law that would make it the first nation to impose the death penalty for people convicted of so-called apostasy, Baptist Press reports. "Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has disparaged foreign criticism of the penal code as 'global arrogance,' but no objective observer can present the recent developments in Iranian law as anything but regression," Felice D. Gaer, USCIRF's chairperson, said in a Sept. 17 news release. The draft bill seeks to add several crimes to the list of offenses that would lead to execution, including "establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy," according to the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The approved bill has been sent back to the Legislative Commission to debate proposed amendments before it is brought before parliament for a further vote. Under current Iranian law, leaving Islam is considered a capital offense, but punishment is left up to the judge.

Laos: Christians Pressured to Renounce Faith

Compass Direct News reports that after being confronted with evidence of rights abuses yesterday, an official in Champasak province, Laos, said district officials had “misunderstood” religious freedom regulations when they arrested and detained two men for converting to Christianity, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). District police officers in cooperation with the chief of Jick village in Phonthong district arrested Khambarn Kuakham and Phoun Koonlamit on Sept. 8, accusing them of “believing in Christianity, a foreign religion,” HRWLRF reported. Both men were placed in criminal detention for five days and ordered to renounce their faith, the Lao Movement for Human Rights confirmed. Three other Christians were arrested on Aug. 3 and have been kept in handcuffs and leg stocks since that date, causing pain as well as infection due to lack of circulation.

Bill Maher Works to Debunk Religion in Next Film

Christian Post reports that Bill Maher's "Religulous" is set to offend starting Oct. 3, when the mock documentary hits theatres. Maher, who hosts "Real Time with Bill Maher" and is openly antagonistic towards all faiths, set up interviews with fringe believers of several religions, pretending to be sincere. Those interviewed, however, ultimately "are made to look as stupid as possible – some just didn't need as much help with that as others, said Kris Rasmussen of Among those interviewed by Maher was a man playing Jesus at a Holy Land theme park in Orlando, Muslims at a gay bar in Amsterdam, and Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, a Puerto Rican heretic who calls himself both “the Second Coming of Jesus” and “the Antichrist.”

Church Abuse Case Goes to Maine Supreme Court

Associated Press reports that a Main Supreme Court case may take away the shield of charitable immunity from clergy, a shield which currently protects a Roman Catholic bishop said to have known one of his priests had "pedophilic tendencies." Rev. Raymond Melville is accused of abusing William Picher while he worked at a parish in August in 1986. As it stands now, the diocese's lawyer, Gerald Petruccelli, says the charitable immunity doctrine was established 98 years ago and reaffirmed as recently as six years ago. According to the Portland Press Herald, Supreme Court Associate Justice Donald Alexander asked about the consequences of abolishing the doctrine of charitable immunity, and holding organizations liable for damages for something such as a slip that occurs in a Grange hall. "If charitable immunity goes, entities like the Grange could be out of business pretty quickly," Alexander said.