Religion Today Summaries - September 29, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 29, 2004

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

  • Pakistan Sentences Mental Patient to Life in Prison

  • Black Faith-Based Coalition Defends Biblical Values in Political Arena

  • Pro-Life Organization Forcing Bishops To Follow Church Law

  • Female Brigadier General Has Double Duty as Pentecostal Evangelist

Pakistan Sentences Mental Patient to Life in Prison
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

A Pakistani court in Faisalabad has sentenced a mentally handicapped Christian to life in prison, declaring 26-year-old Shahbaz Masih guilty of blasphemy against the Quran. Despite medical evidence of the defendant's manic-depressive condition, Judge Mohammed Shahid Rafique announced the sentence on September 25. More than 60 Muslim clerics and their supporters, many of them armed, were present in the court room. Muslim cleric Qari Mohammed Rafiq accused Masih of tearing up leaflets containing verses from the Quran and scattering them at a shrine near Faisalabad . Article 84 of the Pakistan penal code prohibits the conviction of a person who suffers "unsoundness of mind," according to defense lawyer Khalil Tahir. "But because of pressures from the Muslim clergy and religious fanatics, the judge has announced his verdict against an innocent, mentally retarded young man," Tahir said. The attorney plans to appeal the sentence before the Lahore High Court within the next few days. Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws were toughened under the Zia ul-Haq regime, ostensibly to target members of the Ahmadi sect, who are defined as non-Muslims under Pakistani law. But during the past two decades, Muslim extremists have used the harsh, vague statutes as a pretext to jail Christians, who then face death or life-term sentences if convicted of blasphemy.

Black Faith-Based Coalition Defends Biblical Values in Political Arena
James L. Lambert, AgapePress

In a press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, several weeks ago, Oliver Kellman introduced a new coalition that he hopes will change the direction of the faith community throughout black America in the near and distant future. The National Faith Based Coalition (NFBC) was formed this year as a "527" political organization that "fights for the preservation of moral and conservative values, and social reform through economic empowerment." Ultimately, Kellman envisions NFBC uniting hundreds of black religious congregations and leaders in the U.S. by spreading the compassionate conservative message throughout the country. Kellman's own story reflects some of the reasoning behind the creation of this new political organization. As a longtime political strategist he has worked for several high-profile members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Kellman believes that many in the black community prefer a political agenda that is more in line with their personal beliefs. His group, for example, endorses the President's faith-based initiatives programs, and they support President Bush's tax cuts which place less of a financial burden on middle America. NFBC intends on working towards conveying the compassionate conservative message to the hundreds of thousands of black Americans among that group who not only share the same values but will express it in the voter's booth.

Pro-Life Organization Forcing Bishops To Follow Church Law

It has not been an easy task, but it now appears a pro-life organization is forcing bishops to follow church law.  For years, Judie Brown of American Life League has been urging bishops to follow Catholic church law which requires them to deny communion to politicians who advocate pro-abortion stances.  It appears some are beginning to get the message.  "We're very encouraged that so many bishops have come out and publicly said that they will deny Holy Communion to those public figures who support abortion," Brown says.  "I wish I could said there were 260 bishops doing that, because that's how many we have, but the 10 who have courageously stepped forward are to be commended."  Church canon declares that those who deny the sanctity of life should not be allowed to participate in communion.  Brown's organization was among the first to call this to the attention of the bishops.

Female Brigadier General Has Double Duty as Pentecostal Evangelist
Charisma News Service

A Brigadier General is recruiting soldiers for Christ as a Pentecostal evangelist. Sheila Baxter, the Army Medical Service Corps' first African American female general is a licensed minister with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). She believes God destined her military career and provided her with a broad audience to share His message. "Your steps are ordered by the Lord," she told "Charisma" magazine. "I believe He just pulled my star out of the sky and dropped it down because He felt that I was ready," Baxter added. "Every day He reminds me, 'To whom much is given, much is required.'" As the assistant surgeon general and deputy chief of staff for force sustainment, Baxter oversees medical logistics policy, contracting, information management and facilities for the Army's medical department. In her companion role as a licensed evangelist for COGIC, she advises, teaches and prays for those needing God's direction. "I have tough jobs with lots of responsibility," said Baxter, who received her general's star in June 2003. "You want to make certain you're giving right counsel. But I'm confident because I have God in me and there's no doubt He helps me daily." Baxter, 49, who has earned a Bronze Star and Legion of Merit award, credits several superiors for paving her way to the Army's top echelon. (