Zhao Wenquan, a leader in China's unofficial Christian house church movement, has been seized by the government during a church festival attended by thousands of people. It is likely that Zhao, in his 60s, will endure three years in a government labor camp as punishment for his Christian activities.
Recently the government has campaigned against unregistered religious activities, including destroying buildings used for church services, arresting pastors and sending them to labor camps, and intimidating Christians from meeting for worship or prayer. Those within the country who have leaked information about the crackdown have been charged with revealing state secrets and could be executed.
Zhao was taken in the village of Hegou in the eastern province of Anhui on May 9 after more than 4,000 attended a Christian festival there. The average sanctioned church gathering draws a tenth of that number, according to the US-based China Aid Association.
Under the policy by which Zhao was detained, he can be sent to the labor camp for 3 years without a trial or conviction. While China reports that 14 million Christians worship in registered churches, observers say nearly 30 million worship in unregistered (illegal) churches.
An entry-level aide to Republican Senator Mike DeWine, 24 year old Jessica Cutler, has been dismissed from her job because she used government computers on government property to post her sexual exploits on the Internet. Said to be the first Washington sex scandal of the season, the episode has Washingtonians searching Cutler's personal web log, attempting to identify the individuals with whom she claims she had numerous sexual encounters.
The blog included admissions that she supplemented her small salary ($25K) with cash "favors" from "a few generous older men." At one point she logged, "I just took a long lunch with F, and made a quick $400."
DeWine's office issued a press release Friday saying an unnamed aide had been dismissed for using government computers "to post unsuitable and offensive material to an internet Web log." It added, "Other inappropriate material was found in the employee's work area."
Cutler says she doesn't know if she'll get another job in Washington or head back to New York. "Now I'm realizing I may have to go back to New York. In New York, they love this kind of thing. They'll ask what happened at my last job, and I'll say I was fired for a sex scandal!"
Tuesday, May 25 2004 @ 11:00 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Although Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) has a non-discrimination policy that forbids discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, because it allows special-interest groups that are not religious, they have made an exception for the Stewart Cooperative, a Christian women's residential group. The Cooperative had contacted an non-profit Christian legal rights group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), for support after the university threatened eviction from the house it owned.
FIRE requested the school to reverse its decision since it allowed other special interest groups and so its decision to ban only the Christian women's special interest was itself discrimination. "Common sense should tell you that if you have a Christian group, it should be allowed to 'discriminate' against non-Christians [for membership purposes]," explained Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. He continued, "There's nothing wrong with that -- the integrity of the group depends on the right to exclude people from membership who don't share their point of view."
The university reconsidered and then reversed its ruling. If the special interest is religion, its rights to congregate with those who share its views will be upheld.
Poland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia -- 7 nations in the European Union (EU) have submitted a letter to the rotating EU presidency (Ireland) requesting that the Constitutional Treaty under construction contain statements affirming the Christian roots of Europe.
According to the letter, "the governments of those countries consider as a priority the recognition of the Christian tradition in the Preamble." The letter was announced by the Polish Foreign Ministry.
Miniters to the EU are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss unresolved issues in the current draft of the Constitution. A preliminary draft should be ready for the June 17-18 summit meeting in Brussels which will include all 25 EU countries.
Thursday, May 20 2004 @ 04:19 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
A recent directive from the Vatican to American Catholic bishops to refrain from serving communion to politicians who repeatedly and openly supported abortion rights has not only divided the ranks of American bishops, it has also provoked a protest letter from 48 Roman Catholic members of Congress.
The letter, sent to Theodore McCarrick, the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington DC, said the bishops were "allowing the church to be used for partisan purposes." The letter also argued that the directive was only aimed at Catholics who supported abortion rights, not those who supported other views contrary to Vatican views. A final argument was that members of Congress must represent all of their constituents and could not let their private beliefs over-ride that obligation.
Signers included Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, House minority leader), Rosa DeLauro (CN), John Dingell (MI), Edward Markey (MA), George Miller (CA), Dennis Kucinich (OH), and Nick Lampson (TX), as well as others.
Thursday, May 20 2004 @ 03:02 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
A former member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Lyndsay McIntosh (Conservative, 1999-2003) has written a strongly worded article in the government periodical urging the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation allowing assisted suicide. Former MSP McIntosh cited her experience with the last few days of her father's life, admitting that if she could have legally shortened his life, she believes she would have helped him by reducing the length of his suffering. Referring to critics who argue that assisted suicide laws would encourage families to urge their ailing members to die rather than exhaust family financial resources or be a burden on government health services, McIntosh said, "Perhaps the time has come for mature debate that doesn't indulge in scaremongering statistics about the scarcity of health-care resources and our aging population."
A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said, "The Executive has no plans to change the current legal position on euthanasia. Euthanasia remains a criminal act under Scots law."
Thursday, May 20 2004 @ 02:55 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Although use of government funds for stem cell research using stem cells from human embryos is almost entirely banned in the US, in the UK a new £2.6 million government stem cell bank has opened at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in Hertfordshire, England.
The UK Stem Cell Bank has on deposit two lines of human embryonic stem cells that were developed separately by researchers at King's College London and the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Embryonic stem cells are "harvested" from tiny developming embryos, which are destroyed in the process.
Thursday, May 20 2004 @ 02:22 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Jaroy Carpenter has given more than 200 non-religious motivational presentations at school assemblies around the country, encouraging students to find purpose in their lives and avoid suicide, reckless behavior, drug abuse, and drunkeness. The school district in Dillon, Montana at first thought he was the answer to their needs, after the trauma of several local suicides and car crashes began affecting their students.
But then somebody found out Jaroy Carpenter is a Christian affiliated with a national evangelical ministry. After consulting with attorneys, the school district withdrew their invitation, as did other nearby schools, even though Carpenter had never violated guidelines given him by host schools, never mentioned religion in his school presentations, and never tried to witness to anyone in attendance. Nevertheless, school board members weren't willing to "take the risk" that Carpenter would slip and make the district vulnerable to a lawsuit from a parent or student who felt assaulted if religion had slipped in -- even by accident.
That was in October of 2003, and the national conservative values legal advocacy organization called the Rutherford Institute went to work on Carpenter's behalf to protect his ability to earn a living without discrimination against him because of his privately held religious beliefs. A Montana court has now upheld the school district's motion to dismiss the case and the Rutherford Institute has filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) asking for Carpenter's case to be allowed to proceed to trial.
Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead explained, "Religious persons, like all others, have the right not to be discriminated against because of their beliefs or associations." The Institute is arguing that the school's fears about being sued were unrealistic and unsubstantiated, stemming not from evidence or reasonable expectation, but from "a distrust of religious persons and a misinterpretation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause."
The 9th Circuit Court is the same one that ruled the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegience unconstitutional.
Now that marriage for same sex couples is legal in Massachusetts, opponents of such marriages are mounting campaigns to put politicians in place to mitigate or even reverse the trend. The campaign focuses on two fronts: in Massachusetts and nationally. The national campaign will seek to put politicians in office who oppose same sex marriages and who support a Constitutional Amendment restricting marriage to a man and a woman. The Massachusetts campaign seeks to replace 10-20 state legislators who support same sex marriage with those who will oppose or overturn same sex marriage legislation or legal interpretations (such as the state Supreme Judicial Court ruling that resulted in same sex marriage becoming legal this week).
"We're not going to let this issue go away," vowed Kristian Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. "Our theme is 'Remember in November.'"
"It's very difficult, once a right has been claimed in law, to reverse that right, but we're going to try," observed the Rev. Christopher Coyne of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, "This issue is boiling. It's gone from an academic debate to a real public policy crisis."
A Constitutional Amendment restricting legal marriage to a heterosexual couple must be passed by 2/3 of the US House of Representatives, 2/3 of the US Senate, and then be ratified by 3/4 (38) of the states.
Since the Massachusetts interpretation went into effect at 12:01 AM on Monday, more than 1,000 same sex couples have been issued marriage licenses.
In March Matthew Bourgault, head of Consuming Fire Ministries, was arrested for preaching on the public streets of Montgomery, Alabama, charged with "disorderly conduct." Last week a municipal court judge acquitted the street preacher of all charges.
Bourgault was represented by Joe Murray, an attorney with the American Family Association's Center for Public Policy, a legal advocacy organization for religious freedom and family values. Murray characterized a police official's trial testimony as very hostial and anti-Christian. "We were down there and testimony was being given by the arresting officer, in which he basically told the court that the basic message of salvation and repentance is abusive and obscene." The judge apparently agreed with Murray and other First Amendment advocates that the content of the message does not remove it from its freedom of religion and freedom of speech context, supported by the Bill of Rights.
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26