The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


October 1999 Worldscan

• India's National Commission for Minorities called for the end of discriminatory provisions against religious minorities. The commission demands that the forced reconversion of Christians by Hindu fundamentalists be outlawed by existing state laws that ban conversion by fraud or inducement. They also are calling for an end to discrimination against Muslim dalits, and Christians.

• The Boy Scouts of America will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a decision that its ban on gays violates New Jersey's anti-bias laws. The state Supreme Court's decision was a victory for James Dale, an assistant scoutmaster who was kicked out of the group nine years ago when leaders found out he was gay. He sued, seeking reinstatement.

• A national coalition of religious, civil rights and anti-discrimination groups, launched a hate crimes awareness initiative, co-sponsored by the National Council of Churches. The group traveled the path of Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, who killed two people and injured nine others in Illinois and Indiana during the July 4th weekend, to present information about the presence of hate groups in the Midwest.

• With an annual increase of 6 million new Christians, Africa has one of the fastest Christian growth rates of any continent in the world. The statistics were reported by David Barret, a British minister who observed that in Africa, Christians increased from 9.9 million in 1900 to 203 million by 1980.

• Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are more likely to refer to God as "Father" than "Mother," according to a denominational poll. Despite the increasing use of inclusive language, 89 percent of pastors and 94 percent of elders and members say they are "extremely likely" or "somewhat likely" to imagine God as "Father." Clergy are more apt to think of God as "Mother" or "Lover" while lay people are more likely to imagine God as "Judge" and "Master."

• Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Coalition, said it might be practical foreign policy to assassinate some international leaders. "I know it sounds somewhat Machiavellian and evil to think that you could send a squad and take out somebody like Osama bin Laden or to take out the head of North Korea," Robertson said on The 700 Club. "But isn't it better to do something like that ... rather than spend billions and billions of dollars on a war that harms innocent civilians and destroys the infrastructure of a country?" Criticizing his statements, Americans United for Separation of Church and State asked if it "should post the Ten Commandments in Robertson's office." Robertson responded, "I just think it's the intelligent thing to do, and I don't see anything un-Christian about it."

• Hate crimes against Latinos and their houses of worship are rising, according to a report by the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group. The study showed that "24 Hispanic places of worship throughout the country are on the list of church arson sites to be investigated."

• More than 300 religious leaders asked President Clinton to preserve roadless areas — also known as unprotected wilderness — in national forests by drafting a strong and effective policy that protects these regions from road building, logging and mining. "We value these untouched forests not only for the vital ecological functions they provide, but also because they so clearly reflect our Creator's handiwork," the religious leaders wrote. "Forests are like a temple constructed by God, where we can worship and draw close by marveling at God's endless wisdom and creativity."

• The school board told Ryan Green, a student at Harrison Central High School, Gulfport, Miss., that he can't display his Star of David pendant because it could be mistaken for a gang symbol. The star has been associated with Jews for centuries. But school officials said it is being incorporated into some gang symbols. They hope to avoid violence by banning all clothing or items that might be construed as a gang symbol.

• Indonesian security forces denied firing on civilians inside a church during Christian-Muslim riots that left nearly 100 people dead in the Maluku province. Witnesses said at least 24 people died when security forces fired on rioters in and around a Protestant church in a suburb of Ambon, the provincial capital. A police spokesman said the bodies of dead rioters were brought to the church after they were killed elsewhere.

• Officials in Republic, Mo., held a sale of all city items displaying the Christian fish symbol after a federal judge ruled its city seal unconstitutional. Officials will use the money to defray the cost of replacing the seal, which was adopted in 1990 and designed by a resident who thought the fish represented all religions.

• The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada assembly affirmed the action of its National Church Council in taking steps to create an environment that assists the church in becoming a more inclusive and welcoming place for gays and lesbians. The assembly also passed a resolution to make available to congregations "Six Studies on Homosexuality," a church resource published in 1985.

• The Pennsylvania Council of Churches, in cooperation with the National Council of Churches, was awarded a $77,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation to operate an eight-month planning project, "Quality Public Education for All of Our Children." The project's goals include exploring the importance of public education from the perspective of the faith community. The council will develop a team from its 22 member denominations to work on the project. Roman Catholic, Jewish and other faith communities will be drawn into partnership to the fullest possible extent to develop substantive conversations about greater equity in public education.

• Five Florida students filed suit against Miami Dade Community College after they were threatened with arrest for handing out business cards with a phone number that answers with a recorded religious message. The lawsuit charges that the school's literature-distribution policy violates freedom of speech because it requires students to clear the documents with school officials and violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on excessive government entanglement with religion.


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