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Religion Today Summaries, September 15, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, September 15, 2003

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

  • India Prepares National 'Anti-Conversion Rule'
  • Service Disruptions, Fines Continue in Russia
  • Christian School Bomb Scare: Caller Demands Public Support for Homosexuality
  • 'Constitutional' See You At The Pole

India Prepares National 'Anti-Conversion Rule'
Joshua Newton, Compass Direct

India's coalition government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is about to introduce fresh rules to prevent religious conversion across the nation. Entitled "Change of Religion of the Members of SC/ST (Regulation and Approval) Rule," the law will come into effect once published in the official gazette. Framed by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the rule has no approval from the Indian Parliament. The BJP is vigorously opposing conversion of backward Hindus to Christianity and Buddhism. "This will effectively deny a large section of Indians their right to religious faith ensured by India's Constitution," said Oliver D'Souza of the All India Christian Council. "This judgment and the present rule can be questioned on the grounds of fundamental rights. We will make sure that religious rights of the minorities are protected."

Service Disruptions, Fines Continue in Russia
Charisma News Service

Police recently broke up an open-air evangelistic service by Baptists in southern Moscow. A court sided with authorities last month, saying the singing and praying "disturbed public order and the peace of those relaxing nearby." One Baptist was fined the equivalent of $16 after police claimed he swore at them, a charge denied by local Baptists. He has refused to pay, appealing the fine but with no response from city officials so far. Church member Veniamin Khorev described the disruption of the service as "part of the normal life of our church." Because the Baptists refuse to register, authorities say they have no legal status and cannot rent buildings for worship. Their evangelistic events have been disrupted across Russia this summer, with books confiscated, tents taken down and six church members detained for five days and four of them fined.

Christian School Bomb Scare: Caller Demands Public Support for Homosexuality
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A recent bomb threat targeted an Ohio church school because of its strong opposition to homosexuality. Last week, St. Paul Lutheran Church and School in Westlake received a call from an individual who ordered its pastor to go on local television and change his position on homosexual marriage. The caller said if his demands were not met in one hour, the church and school would be blown up. After all 280 students in the school were evacuated, police searched for a bomb but came up empty. St. Paul principal Jim Krupski says the caller disagreed with the Lutheran Missouri Synod's conservative stance on homosexuality. "That's as much as we know," he says, "and we leave it in the hands of God to hopefully turn this person's heart so that they repent of what they've done and come to forgiveness in Jesus Christ." St. Paul is not the only Christian facility in the area that has had to deal with challenges to a traditional biblical stance lately. Just a few weeks earlier, a janitor at a non-denominational church in Westlake was beaten by a group of homosexual men in apparent retaliation for the church pastor's sermon against the sin of homosexuality.

'Constitutional' See You At The Pole
Charisma News Service

A religious liberty legal group has advised public school officials nationwide to allow next week's See You At The Pole (SYATP) events to occur without interference. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) recently detailed the constitutionality of the annual student-initiated prayer gathering in letters sent to 50 state departments of education, the District of Columbia and several of the nation's largest school districts. "We don't want to spend time preparing court papers on something as obviously constitutional as [SYATP]," ADF chief counsel Benjamin Bull said. "Freedom of speech for students on such matters is well-settled in the law." Bull added that students also have the constitutional right to inform their fellow students about SYATP. "Religious speech is protected by the First Amendment and may not be singled out for discrimination," he said. "Nevertheless, from time to time officials have tried to prohibit students from advertising or promoting [SYATP]." The 14th annual grass-roots event is Wednesday, with students slated to gather around their school flagpoles at 7 a.m. "Consumed" is this year's theme, taken from 1 Kings 18:26-39, where the Old Testament prophet Elijah tells a story that shows God's power, organizers say. In 2002, more than 2.5 million teenagers met for SYATP in all 50 states, as well as overseas.