World News, Week 30, 2014

Written by WMCN Editor on . Posted in World

WORLD News Service – August 8 2014

Ebola-Stricken Doctor Improving: As Kent Brantly gives thanks for people praying for his recovery, massive challenges remain in West Africa for combating the deadly disease

Appeals Court Saves Last Mississippi Abortion Center from Closure

4th Circuit: Virginia Gay Marriage Ban an “Impermissible Infringement”

Six Marriage Cases at the 6th Circuit

Houston Rejects Petition to Send LGBT Anti-Bias Policy to Voters

Demonstrators Demand Change at Mars Hill: Current and former church members call for the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll

For-Profit Colleges Raking in GI Bill Funds

How a Pro-Life Mother Helped Birth the Band Scythian

Is Hindu Nationalism Behind Crackdown on India’s Christians?

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Ebola-Stricken Doctor Improving

 

As Kent Brantly gives thanks for people praying for his recovery, massive challenges remain in West Africa for combating the deadly disease

By Jamie Dean

(WNS)--When Kent Brantly arrived in the United States on Saturday, the American doctor who contracted Ebola while treating virus-stricken patients in Liberia did something unexpected: He stepped out of an ambulance and walked into the hospital.

Three days earlier, Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian aid organization Brantly was serving in Liberia, described the doctor’s condition as “grave” and reported he had taken a turn for the worse. The Ebola virus has a high fatality rate, killing at least 887 people in the recent outbreak in West Africa.

Brantly’s survival looked precarious.

But by Saturday, as news helicopters captured his arrival at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, the doctor emerged from an ambulance in a bulky contamination suit, and walked slowly toward the building.

Though Brantly’s condition is still serious, and he remains in a high-tech isolation ward while he recovers, his remarkable comeback likely hinged on an experimental serum physicians administered while he was still in Liberia. (Samaritan’s Purse confirmed Brantly took the drug.)

CNN cited an unnamed source as saying the National Institute of Health offered the highly experimental serum, which reportedly hadn’t been tested on humans before.

Doctors also gave the drug to Nancy Writebol, an American working for the mission group Serving in Mission (SIM), who also contracted the virus. Writebol’s family said her condition was still serious, but improving. SIM said the same medical evacuation plane that transported Brantly to Atlanta was on its way back to Liberia to pick up Writebol. She’s expected to arrive at Emory on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Brantly’s wife Amber said she had visited her husband in the hospital’s isolation ward. Visitors to the sealed-off infectious disease unit see and communicate with patients through barriers. In a statement, Amber Brantly said her husband was in good spirits: “He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol’s safe return and full recovery.”

Ken Isaacs of Samaritan’s Purse said Brantly remained unwavering in his faith as he faced the deadly disease: “It’s an absolutely incredible story of commitment to Christ, and wanting to glorify God.”

The aid group is working to evacuate other Samaritan’s Purse workers away from Liberia while the outbreak remains a threat. It’s a complicated process, and the group’s president, Franklin Graham, wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asking for clearer protocols for bringing home workers leaving a country where the Ebola virus has taken hold.

“In the absence of guidelines from the CDC, Samaritan’s Purse has adopted what we believe to be a conservative policy,” he wrote on July 28. “Since the incubation period for Ebola is 21 days, we will require our personnel to remain on the African continent for 21 days after being in an area with possible exposure to Ebola.” Graham said the group would monitor the workers’ health, and “only allow their return to the United States if they are symptom-free at the end of that time.”

Meanwhile, some 400 national staff remain on-site in Liberia, working for Samaritan’s Purse. Isaacs said he didn’t know of any confirmed cases of Ebola among indigenous workers. He also said the morale among the local staff was “very high,” and they wanted to continue public education campaigns to help Liberians understand how to prevent contracting or spreading the disease.

Such efforts may be key to containing the deadly virus in a region where misinformation can lead to deadly errors. Liberian officials announced they would cremate the bodies of any patients who died from Ebola to prevent the spread of the disease through decaying corpses.

Since handling dead bodies is a common practice in Liberian funerals, it’s critical to educate people on the dangers of touching a corpse. Samaritan’s Purse plans to work with local pastors in its network of churches to help with education efforts about preventing the spread of the virus, and spotting its symptoms early.

Meanwhile, concerns persist about the virus spreading to other areas of West Africa. On Monday, Nigerian officials announced they had confirmed a second case of Ebola. The first case came from an Ebola-stricken doctor who traveled from Liberia to Nigeria before he knew he was infected. The doctor later died.

Appeals Court Saves Last Mississippi Abortion Center from Closure

 

By Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--A federal appeals court panel ruled in July that a Mississippi law that would close the state’s only abortion facility is unconstitutional.

The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its 2-1 ruling in a case involving the state’s 2012 law, which required all abortionists at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Two abortionists at the facility were unable to get privileges at Jackson-area hospitals.

The ruling appears to directly contradict a March decision by the same court that upheld a Texas law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges. But the difference has to do with geography and the availability of abortions in the two states.

The Texas law would have caused some clinics to close, but not all. Women would have had to drive farther to get an abortion, but, “an increase of travel of 150 miles for some women is not an undue burden” on their constitutional right to an abortion, the court wrote in its opinion. But the Mississippi law would have closed the state’s only abortion center.

“Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” the court wrote. 

Pro-life advocates say the law was more than just an attempt to shutter abortion facilities. The staff at the Jackson center was known for practices that endangered women’s health.

“This case is really about whether the courts will compel the State of Mississippi to allow abortion clinics to continue subjecting women to below standard care,” Operation Rescue President Troy Newman told LifeNews.com. “Pregnant women are currently being treated as second-class citizens and are being denied the same high standard of care that everyone else expects. However, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization can’t and won’t raise their standards for the safety of their patients.” 

Operation Rescue has documented numerous safety violations at JWHO and at a Birmingham, Ala., facility, which shares the same owner, Diane Derzis. A judge ordered the Alabama facility to close in August due to health code violations and the hospitalizations of several patients who received abortions there.

4th Circuit: Virginia Gay Marriage Ban an “Impermissible Infringement”

 

By Leigh Jones

(WNS)--A federal court in Virginia struck down that state’s traditional marriage law this morning, striding lock-step with other courts who have ruled same-sex marriage cannot be banned.

The state’s same-sex marriage bans “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 designating marriage as only between one man and one woman. State law also forbids recognition for same-sex marriages from other states.

Although practically identical to cases in other states that outlaw same-sex marriage, the legal challenge in Virginia got a lot of attention because Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, announced earlier this year he would not defend his state’s regulations. Herring was not the first attorney general to refuse to defend state marriage laws, but he took it one step further, joining the plaintiffs’ suit against the state.

The 4th Circuit judges did not immediately stay their ruling, so it’s not clear yet whether Virginia county clerks will have to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses. In every other case in which the legal challenge is ongoing, courts have followed the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Utah’s marriage case. The nation’s highest court, which will eventually decide the issue, ruled that until it does, states cannot be forced by lower courts to issue licenses.

Six Marriage Cases at the 6th Circuit

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--Attorneys from four states argued six challenges to traditional marriage laws on Aug. 6 before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Federal judges recently overturned statewide bans on same-sex marriage in Kentucky and Michigan, forced Ohio to recognize marriages outside the state by listing same-sex spouses on birth and death certificates, and ordered Tennessee in spite of its state constitution to recognize three same-sex couples married outside the state. This week’s appeals to those rulings mark the beginning of yet another fight to defend state laws from federal intrusion, and to protect marriage from mockery. 

“We’re not required to honor a license from another state, just like I have a concealed carry license that can’t be recognized in other states,” said Phil Burress, president of Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values. Burress has fought for biblical marriage since 1995, helping spread Defense of Marriage Acts to 38 states and working with James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Tony Perkins, and other conservative leaders in the Arlington Group to amend 31 state constitutions in favor of marriage between one man and one woman. 

Burress told me federal courts have no business taking state licensing into their own hands: “In some states, even first cousins can marry if I’m not mistaken. But in our state they can’t, so are they going to rule on that too?” If any of the appeals in Cincinnati reach the nation’s highest judges, he believes “the Supreme Court, if they have an ounce of dignity and understand the United States Constitution, that they have to say this is a states rights issue.” 

The three judges presiding over Wednesday’s hearings didn’t say when they would rule on the cases. Hundreds of same-sex activists surrounded the courthouse in the afternoon, among them a man in a strapless white wedding gown whose male partner wore a slightly more traditional black suit and sunglasses. “It’s a statement, really,” said Jon Bradford, 26, the mock bride from Covington, Ky. “We want to be married.” 

For all the cries of “equality” resounding from LGBTQ groups nationwide, 96.6 percent of the U.S. population still identifies as straight, according to a survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in July. Only 1.6 percent of 35,000 participating adults considered themselves gay or lesbian. 

Jeff Parker, 53, a Cincinnati resident, showed up at the courthouse to take a stand for traditional marriage. “I’m just praying for God’s will to be done,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the courts.” 

Inside the courtroom, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey seemed skeptical of attorneys representing the states, saying “it doesn’t look like the sky has fallen in” in states where same-sex marriage is legal. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, told me she referred to state constitutions as “dynamic” documents: “Justice Daughtrey, who’s from Tennessee, seemed to be someone who … had her mind made up, that it was all about equality, and that the state had no reasonable basis to exclude same-sex couples from the institution of marriage.” 

The other two judges are nominees of President George W. Bush. Fowler said Judge Jeffrey Sutton seemed ready to defend marriage and thought Judge Deborah Cook, who asked a lot of questions, would decide the vote in either direction. 

If judges in Cincinnati or Washington, D.C., force states to recognize their neighbors’ licenses and public policies, Fowler told me, “you really are talking about a nationalized government.”

Houston Rejects Petition to Send LGBT Anti-Bias Policy to Voters

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Conservative Christians in Houston filed suit against Mayor Annise Parker’s administration after city officials ruled invalid a petition to overturn a new LGBT anti-bias ordinance. City officials threw out thousands of signatures that would have forced the city to put the ordinance on the November ballot. But conservatives are not willing to declare defeat yet.

Parker in May rammed through her “Equal Rights Ordinance” in hearings some called a sham. Supporters say the ordinance is a generic rights rule that simply adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of other protected classes. But Parker, who is open about her homosexual relationship, has publicly declared the ordinance “about me.”

Religious liberty experts say the ordinance clearly forces Christian organizations and businesses to act against their biblical beliefs about sexuality. Among other things, the ordinance bans Christian colleges from enforcing sexual conduct policies in housing. It also opens public restrooms to anyone, regardless of gender. Expecting a legal challenge, Parker delayed the ordinance’s implementation.

Opponents included several Houston-area churches and the Houston Area Pastors Council, led by president Dave Welch. The group’s “No UNequal Rights” campaign dropped off a more than 31,000 signatures on 5,199 pages at City Hall on July 3. If even 17,300 signatures were verified, Houston would have had to place the ordinance on the November ballot. The confident group claimed its legal team verified more than 30,000 signatures before submitting the documents.

But Monday, Parker and City Attorney David Feldman declared the group only had 15,249 valid signatures. Officials threw out 2,750 pages of signatures—more than half. “In this instance, there are too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook,” Feldman claimed.

Welch and other conservatives sued the city on Tuesday. “We are disappointed we don’t have honest government. We’re not surprised—because we honestly knew who we were dealing with,” Welch told me.

Conservatives were already prepared to sue after a July 25 meeting in which Feldman, Parker’s close ally, revealed he was intimately involved in the review process. “At that moment, we knew what they were up to,” Welch said.

The documents themselves back up at least some of Welch’s concerns. The city charter places the responsibility for verifying signatures on City Secretary Anna Russell. By her own admission, in a report sent to Parker, Russell said she verified more than enough signatures by July 27 to put the petition on the ballot. But before releasing her final decision, she allowed Feldman extraordinary power to review the petition.

Feldman threw out more than 2,000 pages—containing more than 11,000 signatures—because the circulator’s signature was too much like print and not enough like cursive. The circulator is a signee who also verifies a given sheet. In other cases, cursive signatures were ruled out because reviewers said they were illegible. Russell rubber-stamped all Feldman’s decisions to throw out pages, meaning no matter how many valid pages remained, the petition was doomed.

Russell claimed she “reviewed” the attorney’s analysis in an Aug. 1 letter to Parker, but Feldman’s detailed report to the secretary wasn’t sent until Aug. 4—the day Parker declared the petition invalid. The discrepancy casts even further doubt about how Russell could allow Feldman to determine a signature’s readability after she had already reviewed the page. WORLD left a message with Russell’s secretary seeking an explanation for the discrepancy, but Russell did not respond.

“What I witnessed was a mockery of the rule of law—again—by a mayor who blatantly interfered in the right of the citizens to petition our government,” Welch told the U.S. Pastor’s Council. Parker is a “radical” who is “willing to do anything in order to achieve a legacy,” he said.

Any court battle must be resolved by Aug. 18 for Houston citizens to vote on the ordinance in November.  Meeting that deadline became more difficult after Mayor Parker’s administration after City Attorney David Feldman requested to move their lawsuit to federal court.

Opponents called the move from state court a “delay tactic” to keep a referendum petition to repeal Parker’s “Equal Rights Ordinance” off the November ballot.

Demonstrators Demand Change at Mars Hill

 

Current and former church members call for the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--Carrying signs that read, “We are not anonymous” and “Question Mark,” more than 60 current and former members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle protested and prayed yesterday outside the church’s main site in Bellevue, Wash. The demonstrators called for changes in the church’s leadership and structure, including the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll.

“We just wanted to be heard,” said former Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith, who organized the demonstration. “We want to help Mars Hill members and the evangelical world at-large see what is really happening at Mars Hill Church.”

Driscoll has been dogged by charges of misconduct since last fall. The first charges to emerge were plagiarism, and those accusations were credible enough to force Driscoll and his publisher Tyndale House to release a statement admitting, “Mistakes were made,” while promising to revise future editions of his book A Call to Resurgence. Then WORLD broke a story documenting Driscoll’s use of nearly $250,000 in Mars Hill funds in an effort to put his book Real Marriage on the New York Times best-seller list. WORLD also obtained a copy of a non-compete agreement Mars Hill required pastors to sign that prevented them from planting new churches in the Seattle area—despite Mars Hill’s claim of supporting church planting. In March the church announced it would destroy all emails more than three months old as part of a new “document retention policy.” The church rescinded implementation after 16 former church members sent a letter to the church in protest.

Despite these very public and well-documented charges, all of which Driscoll subsequently admitted were true, the church posted a video two weeks ago in which Driscoll claimed his critics were “mostly anonymous” and the criticisms leveled against him were vague.

The video produced an immediate reaction on social media. Smith started a Facebook group (Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous) that quickly grew to more than 500 members and was used to help organize yesterday’s demonstration. Smith said he plans to refute Driscoll’s assertion that the charges against him are vague by listing 50 specific charges against Driscoll and Mars Hill’s other executive elders. Smith said he would publish the list by Friday.

“Our primary goal is to change the by-laws of Mars Hill Church,” Smith said, adding he believes the troubles began at the church in 2007, when an earlier by-laws change concentrated power in the hands of Driscoll and two other executive elders, positions now held by Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner.

Mars Hill also has a Board of Advisors and Accountability that includes Driscoll, Bruskas, Turner, and four others outside the church. But two of the four outside board members recently resigned—James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area, and Paul Tripp, a noted pastor and author who joined the board less than a year ago—leaving Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas in the majority. The other two outside board members are Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, Calif., and businessman Michael Van Skaik.

MacDonald did not respond to WORLD’s request for an interview or offer a statement explaining his resignation. Tripp, through a spokesman, turned down WORLD’s request for an interview, though Mars Hill Church, in an email newsletter to its members, said Tripp resigned so he could “more extensively serve our church as a consultant.” Other members of the board have not responded to WORLD’s repeated requests for comment.

“Mark Driscoll is disqualified from ministry,” said former Mars Hill deacon Smith. “Might he, after a season of repentance, reflection, and restoration be qualified again for ministry? That would be my prayer. But the Board of Advisors and Accountability should do their job and ask Mark Driscoll to resign.”

Smith called Driscoll “an extraordinarily gifted man” but added that “his behavior has brought discredit on the church and on the Reformed theology that many of us still hold to and which he claims to love. … What he is doing comes clothed in Reformed theology, but it is not. The beautiful doctrines of Reformed theology—God’s sovereignty and God’s grace—are getting smeared in the process.”

For-Profit Colleges Raking in GI Bill Funds

 

By Laura Edghill

(WNS)--Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have flocked to for-profit colleges in recent years, including a troubled chain that is closing and selling its campuses amid a series of federal and state investigations.

A report released last week by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, found that for-profit colleges received $1.7 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits during the 2012-2013 school year. That represents more than 40 percent of the total $4.17 billion in benefits paid out during that time.

In the most generous update since the original GI Bill was passed in 1944, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides benefits for both veterans and members of their immediate families. To receive the full benefit, service members must have served at least three years of active duty since Sept. 10, 2001.

Among the top 10 schools receiving GI Bill funds, eight were from the for-profit sector. One was Corinthian Colleges, which recently reached an agreement with the Education Department to sell or close its more than 90 U.S. campuses. The Education Department said its concerns about the chain’s operations include allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing to prospective students, and allegations of altered grades and attendance records.

Including Corinthian, which is not a Christian college, the report finds that seven of the eight for-profit companies face investigations by state attorneys general or federal agencies for “deceptive and misleading recruiting” or other possible federal violations. Even as overall enrollment at the eight schools decreased since 2009, the government says the number of veterans enrolled at the schools increased.

For-profit colleges are popular among veterans partly because of offerings in skilled trades and flexibility such as online classes.

“It is no surprise that members of the military choose our institutions because we provide them with career-focused programs, important support services, and flexibility they need to complete their education,” Michael Dakduk, the vice president for military and veterans affairs with the Association of Private Sector Colleges, said in a statement.

But the for-profit sector has among the highest student loan default rates and lowest graduation rates in higher education. For-profit tuition is also generally higher than tuition at public institutions. The HELP report shows the average cost for a veteran to attend a for-profit college is about twice that of a public college—$7,972 per semester compared to $3,914.

Part of the reason veterans are so attractive to for-profit colleges is that they don’t count toward the “90/10” rule that requires all colleges to receive at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than the federal government. Due to a loophole in the law, students using the new GI Bill aren’t classified as using federal funds, so veterans are aggressively targeted by the for-profit industry.

In 2011, Hollister Petraeus, of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the loophole in the 90/10 rule, “creates an incentive to see service members as nothing more than dollar signs in uniforms, and to use some very unscrupulous marketing techniques to draw them in,” according to the HELP report.

How a Pro-Life Mother Helped Birth the Band Scythian

 

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--The summer music season has seen hundreds of thousands of people gather at festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee or Coachella near Los Angeles. The season kicks off with MerleFest, the annual bluegrass and Americana festival that attracted more than 76,000 people back in March to the Appalachian foothills in North Carolina.

I first met Danylo Fedoryka, one of the founders of the band Scythian, when I noticed the pro-life stickers on his guitar case at MerleFest. The band debuted its new album Jump at the Sun at MerleFest but just released it to the public this month. I sat down at MerleFest with Fedoryka to discuss the band’s music and philosophy of performing.

This is the 10th anniversary year of Scythian. Say a little about your evolution. We started out as street performers and then we became a pub band. We had a very strong conviction that we wanted … an apprenticeship. … We wanted to put in a lot of years playing the traditionals, the standards, so we could basically learn before we started writing our own originals.

You did this in the Washington, D.C., area, right? We started out in D.C., and then it wasn’t long before we made it up to Baltimore and Philadelphia and New York City. We just ran that circuit for about four years, and we did maybe about 500 shows before we got booked for our first festival. We just gave ourselves permission not to write music because we didn’t want to put something out that seemed forced. We were convinced that when it was time for it to come out, it would come out.

The first four years that you were playing, you were not writing any original stuff? We didn’t. We just felt no pressure because there was such a love of discovering this new tradition. I’m Ukrainian. I’m not even Irish. When we discovered [the Irish] tradition, we were like, “Who are these people that make this joyful music?” We just would listen. … We knew how to perform, and we had a sense of what was good musically. You have to be yourself with a tradition before you can start reflecting the tradition.

After four years you started writing some of your own music. Who is the primary songwriter for the band? I would say it’s my brother. I did the first ones because I’m a little bit more talky. I just wrote … some happy-go-lucky tunes. My brother—I think he’s introverted, but I think he does have a great knack for writing. He’s written probably about 75 percent of our tunes. They’re various topics, from just a hoedown dance, to a song dedicated to my grandparents. They escaped the communists and the Nazis during World War II. [He wrote about] what it may have been like for them to just pack up and leave and never to return. That was called A Song of Sacrifice.

We have somber tunes. We have happy tunes. We don’t put restrictions on ourselves about how the tune is going to sound. For that reason, a lot of people say, “It’s hard to put you into a genre because you have so many different sounding tunes.” We really do believe in this point, that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us.

You’ve alluded to faith in addition to family being an important part of who you are. You don’t bill yourselves as a Christian band or religious band at all. That’s true, and I think a lot of that comes from my mother’s influence. She went to The Juilliard School, and she was in the world, but not of it. She had the very strong conviction of the purpose of music, and she told us from the time we were very little every performance should start beforehand with a prayer. We offered it up for God’s greater glory, so it didn’t make a difference if you messed up or not. If your intention was to bring it to other people for God’s glory, then you had a successful show.

She said, “Music is for everybody.” If you’re called to do Christian music, then do it. But if you’re not, don’t feel guilty about not doing it. As long as you do it for His glory, and you try to represent the true, the good, and the beautiful, it’s going to touch people’s hearts. That’s how God moves in people’s lives, having their hearts touched through love and through beauty. If people are curious, then they can come and talk to you about your faith. She said, “That’s your only job: just reflect God’s love and beauty.” My mom taught us that early on, and I think it’s been awesome for us to always think about that throughout these years, because it’s the true purpose of music. When we get on stage, it’s an act of service.

At the same time you’re not bashful about your beliefs. I first met you because you had this big, fat pro-life sticker on your guitar case. There’s always a little bit of tension because you don’t want to be too political in people’s faces, but the pro-life movement is one of those things I’m just so deeply committed to. Being the eighth of 10 children, I know I’m here because my mother was pro-life. My grandfather was a freedom fighter. He was in Auschwitz, but he survived. I’m very aware how it’s affected my life, and someone needs to speak up for the people who can’t speak up. I just put the sticker on there. I know it ruffles some feathers, but I know if I’m just myself, and they get mad about that sticker, that they’ll talk to me eventually. And I know I can have a civil conversation.

Is Hindu Nationalism Behind Crackdown on India’s Christians?

 

By Julia A. Seymour

(WNS)--Christian minorities in central India face a new threat as Hindu extremists in more than a dozen village councils have passed restrictions on religions other than Hinduism.

The laws, passed under the guise of stopping false conversions, made Christian prayer, services, and “propaganda” illegal, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported. The Bastar district president of the World Hindu Council, Suresh Yadav, told The Times of India that more than 50 village councils have banned all non-Hindu missionaries.

The state government of Chhattisgarh, where the tribal Bastar villages are located, has not moved to intervene on the rules, but plans to wait and see what happens, according to the Times. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal told the newspaper that village councils were wrong to think they could pass resolutions that override constitutional protections. Pannalal noted that Article 25 of India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all.

Church leaders say the resolutions have already harmed Christians and called for higher government officials to overturn them.

“In some places, the passing of the resolution has been followed by attacks on pastors and pulling down of village churches,” Rev. Aneesh Andrews, the Methodist district superintendent for the region, told WWM. He called it a “ploy to harass Christians” and explained that in some villages Christians were denied food or access to water. In other towns, Christians have been ordered to leave.

Indian Christian groups urged government officials in Chhattisgarh state to revoke the resolutions, according to Morning Star News (MSN). “The government must reverse the decisions of these [villages] immediately to restore the confidence of the Christian community in the state, which is under considerable stress in recent days,” Rev. Vijayesh Lal, the national director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), urged officials.

Rev. Akhilesh Edgar, a community relations manager for Alliance Defending Freedom India, also condemned the actions.“These resolutions must be immediately withdrawn, and the state should take strict measures so that non-state actors are prevented from inciting violence,” he told MSN.

While India’s constitution declares the nation secular in the sense that all religions are supposed to be treated equally, persecution still exists and stems primarily from Hindutva, the ideology that to be Indian is to be Hindu and that other faiths are foreign. According to International Christian Concern, Hindu extremists have attacked Christians, discriminated against them, and used anti-forced conversion laws to get them arrested.

Christians and other minorities in India have been concerned that things would worsen after Narendra Modi, the head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won a landslide victory in the May elections. The BJP also swept the parliamentary election in Chhattisgarh state, winning 10 out of 11 seats, according to The Indian Express.

Recent remarks by two BJP elected officials about a “Hindu nation” raised further alarm and stirred up controversy in the state assembly. “I am confident that under the leadership of Modiji, India will develop into a Hindu nation,” Cooperation Minister Dipak Dhavalikar said. Some legislators protested Dhavalikar’s remarks with a walkout. 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

The Good News Gets the Cold Shoulder in Portland

(WNS)--Liberal groups in Portland, Ore., are taking an evangelical children’s camp to task for talking to the city’s youngest residents about Jesus. The camps, which operate like a traveling Vacation Bible School, have endured protests, negative advertisements in local newspapers, and accusations of being a fundamentalist sect. Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Camp Good News focuses for a week or two in different cities each year. During the school year, the group rents public school buildings to host weekly after-school activities. It recently won a Supreme Court case that allowed it equal access to public schools.  But CEF’s arrival in Portland sparked unexpected anger and protests. Protect Portland Children formed to protest the camps. It heavily promotes a book called The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. It claims CES is a fundamentalist sect, teaches shame to children, and harms them psychologically with a doctrine of sin.

Mississippi Pro-lifers Sue Police for Harassment

 

(WNS)--Life Legal Defense Association (LLDF) filed suit July 23 against the Jackson, Miss., Police Department, for allegedly violating the First Amendment rights pro-life activists outside the state’s only abortion facility. LLDF, a non-profit law firm representing Pro-Life Mississippi, says the police frequently threatened activists with arrest without legal basis. The police have interpreted a statute to mean that anyone sitting or standing on the sidewalk creates an obstruction, even though the activists leave about 4 feet of space on the sidewalks said Allison Aranda, senior staff counsel at LLDF. “The Jackson Police Department has routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have been peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square and offer information about life-affirming alternatives to women seeking abortion,” LLDF president Dana Cody said. The city can’t provide comment on the pending suit, a city spokesperson told The Clarion-Ledger.

 

Conservatives Cheer Obama Nominee for Religious Liberty Post

 

(WNS)--President Barack Obama got rare commendations from conservatives on July 21 when he announced his nominee for a long-vacant State Department post charged with advocating for religious minorities around the world. If confirmed, Rabbi David Saperstein will be the first non-Christian appointed as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. He has worked for 30 years with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which he currently leads. He teaches law at Georgetown University and serves as one of Obama’s faith-based advisors. The State Department position has been vacant since Obama’s previous nominee, Suzan Johnson Cook, resigned in October. Conservatives have clamored for a new ambassador as conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia took brutal, religiously based turns for the worse.

 

Latest Pro-life Efforts Target Abortion Tourism

 

(WNS)--Pro-life abortion restrictions taking hold across the country are having unintended consequences in a few states with less regulation: women traveling across state lines to kill their babies. Half of the abortions performed in Kansas, more than a third of those in North Dakota, and almost a quarter in Tennessee are considered “out of state,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Overall abortion rates in all three states decreased between 2008 and 2011—35 percent in Kansas, 14 percent in North Dakota, and 15 percent in Tennessee. But pro-life activists hope to see those numbers drop even further with new laws designed to cut down on abortion tourism.

CCCU’s New President Praised for her Humility and Deep Faith

 

(WNS)--The Council for Christian College and Universities (CCCU) announced Shirley V. Hoogstra of Calvin College as its seventh president on Wednesday, closing a painful chapter that included some public and controversial stumbles with its previous president. Hoogstra, CCCU’s first female president, will take over her new position on Sept. 29. Hoogstra has been the vice president for student life at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., since 1999 and before that served four years on Calvin’s Board of Trustees. She worked as a lawyer for 13 years in New Haven, Conn., until she found “a calling” to transition from legal duties to higher education, she told The Christian Post.

Atheist Group Court Victory Could Prove Good for Churches

 

(WNS)--An atheist group reached a settlement earlier this month with the Internal Revenue Service over stronger enforcement of policies against “church politicking,” and at least one religious freedom group is thrilled, claiming the IRS investigation could be “a good thing” in the long run. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has been campaigning to overturn the portion of the tax code that prohibits nonprofit organizations from “intervening in political campaigns as a condition of their tax-exempt status.” To achieve that, it has organized the annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday since 2008, for which it encourages pastors to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech—including political speech—from the pulpit and send copies of their sermons to the IRS. Once the IRS attempts to take away a church’s tax-exempt status, ADF will represent the church free of charge and seek to declare the law unconstitutional, said Eric Stanley, senior counsel with ADF.

Meriam Ibrahim Arrives in the U.S.

 

(WNS)--Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in the United States July 31, ending the Christian woman’s 10-month battle to escape execution for her faith and join family members in America. Ibrahim's arrival in the United States—along with her husband and two children—comes nearly 10 months after Sudanese officials arrested her and charged her with apostasy for not adopting her absent father’s Muslim faith, even though she was raised by her Christian mother. The Islamist court sentenced Ibrahim to death by hanging after she refused to recant her Christian faith. Her sentence came just weeks before she delivered a baby daughter in prison. 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

China’s Crackdown on the Cross Spreads

 

(WNS)--Three months after Chinese officials ripped down the gigantic Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, the number of churches facing persecution—whether that means demolition, cross removal, or threatening notices—in Zhejiang province has reached into the hundreds, according to Texas-based Christian human rights group ChinaAid. Every few days, news of cross removals and confrontations between church members and police streams out of the region. ChinaAid has compiled many of the reports into this list. The government claims the demolitions are part of a three-year campaign to deal with “illegal structures” in Zhejiang, but authorities have only focused their attention on churches. Many fear this is a beginning of a nationwide campaign to slow the rapid growth of Christianity in the country. The past few weeks saw a number of clashes. On July 21, 14 members of Salvation Church in Pingyang County were injured as more than 100 government officials broke through a human wall the congregants had formed around their church.

                 

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Author: WMCN EditorWebsite: http://MannaMedia.org
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The West Michigan Christian News desires to glorify God while providing global, national, and local news to the West Michigan community. The West Michigan Christian News is a non-denominational, Christ-centered, advertiser-supported monthly newspaper published in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Manna Media Inc. It is unabashedly biased in its Christian presentation of news and views. It is also dedicated to the promotion of Christian unity by focusing on the 95 percent of the Christian faith on which all Christians agree while refusing to get drawn into controversies about the 5 percent on which we might differ.

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