Please read just a few of the headlines that World Net Daily has published.
FAITH UNDER FIRE
29 Chinese Christians arrested
Church leaders apprehended for holding 'illegal religious gathering'
Just two weeks before Christmas, the Chinese government yesterday arrested 29 Christians for holding an "illegal religious gathering."
According to the China Aid Association, citing eyewitness reports, 40 law enforcement officers with eight police vehicles raided a house church leadership meeting at Xiapigang Village in China's Henan Province. Some 100 major church leaders from Henan and Anhui were gathered at a believer's house, discussing how the house churches could help a large group of peasants who had contracted AIDS. That area is widely known as "the AIDS Disaster Area" because many peasants became infected when they sold their blood to local blood centers contaminated with the AIDS virus.
When the 29 leaders were arrested, say witnesses, their private property was confiscated without receipts, including three motor bicycles, one cell phone, all of their luggage and winter blankets. According to one pastor who was at the raided meeting, the police officers showed a search warrant and stated the meeting was an "illegal religious gathering."
Pastor Shen Yiping, the founder of internationally known House Church group called China Gospel Fellowship, as well as the host of the meeting, Yang Huamin, were among those arrested.
The China Aid Association condemns the arrest of the church leaders and is urging their immediate release. The group says letters of protest can be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. at this address: Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Ave N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. Phone 202-328-2500.World Net Daily
LAW OF THE LAND
Louisiana hails Judge Moore-inspired bill
Act would prevent courts from ruling on acknowledgement-of-God issues
The Louisiana Legislature has approved a resolution urging Congress to pass the Constitution Restoration Act, a bill that would prohibit federal courts from ruling in cases involving government officials who acknowledge God "as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government."
During a special session this month to address Katrina recovery issues, Sen. Mike Smith, a Democrat, introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 30, which passed the body by a 34-0 vote. The measure passed the state House by acclamation.
The first of its kind in the nation, the resolution finds that "… the federal judiciary has overstepped its constitutional boundaries and ruled against the acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty and government by local and state officers and other state institutions, including state schools. …"
The measure urges Congress to pass the Constitution Restoration Act of 2005, saying that by doing so lawmakers would be "protecting the ability of the people of Louisiana to display the Ten Commandments in public places, to express their faith in public, to retain God in the Pledge of Allegiance, to retain 'In God We Trust' as our national motto, and to use Article III, Section 2.2 of the United States Constitution to except these areas from the jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court."
As WorldNetDaily reported, the legislation, H.R. 1070 and S. 520, sponsored in the House by Rep Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and in the Senate by Sen Richard Shelby, R-Ala., was birthed in the aftermath of the ouster of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was sanctioned by the courts for acknowledging God by way of a Ten Commandments monument in the state's judicial building. Moore, now a Republican candidate for governor, is a constituent of both lawmakers and was instrumental in drafting the measure.
Touted by some supporters as one of the most important pieces of legislation in U.S. history, the bill states:
The Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official personal capacity), by reason of that element's or officer's acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.
The legislation also addresses what many high-court watchers consider a dangerous trend: Supreme Court justices looking to foreign law and rulings for guidance when deciding cases. States the bill:
In interpreting and applying the Constitution of the United States, a court of the United States may not rely upon any constitution, law, administrative rule, Executive order, directive, policy, judicial decision, or any other action of any foreign state or international organization or agency, other than the constitutional law and English common law.
Under the bill, any judge who violates the proposed rule by making "extrajurisdictional" decisions will have committed an offense that is grounds for impeachment.
The House version currently has 44 co-sponsors, while the Senate bill has eight.
Retired Judge Darrell White, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., and is founder of Retired Judges of America, praised the Legislature's action, highlighting on his blog a recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League showing that 64 percent of the American people believe religion is "under attack," and 53 percent say religion as a whole is "losing its influence in American life."
White in a op-ed piece published in the Baton Rouge Advocate: "[The
Constitution Restoration Act] – the ACLU's worst nightmare – would
eliminate Michael Newdow as a topic of conversation. We should have
done it a generation ago."
World Net Daily
In the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a crowd of Muslim demonstrators tries to storm a Coptic church to protest at a play about a Muslim campaign to convert Christians.
In Iraq, the Christian middle class is emigrating in droves, fearful of the daily violence and the hostility it now encounters from Islamists.
In Saudi Arabia, churches and other places of non-Muslim worship are banned, and foreign workers who try to hold secret Christian services are jailed, flogged and often deported.
In the land of its birth, Christianity is in sad decline as the pressures of life under Israeli occupation and the growth of militant Islam push Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Few issues are so sensitive as the position of Christians in the Middle East.
Some Christian Arabs seek to minimise the difficulties they face, either to avoid trouble or to present themselves in a patriotic light.
At the other extreme, some outsiders - for example, in the United States - exaggerate the plight of Middle East Christians, depicting them as wholly marginalised and on the verge of extinction.
A varied picture
There is no agreed figure for the number of Christians in the region.
Robert Betts, an American expert on the subject, reckons there are at most 10 million.
The largest number are in Egypt (perhaps six million). Lebanon and Syria each have over a million, with smaller communities in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Turkey and Iran.
There are also several million Christians in southern Sudan (though not strictly part of the Middle East).
Middle East Christians have deep roots. And, for the most part, Muslims and Christians have long lived in peaceful coexistence.
But a number of factors are stirring up tension.
In Iraq, the rise of both Sunni and Shia Islamism, especially since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, has helped generate a new climate of sectarianism.
Well-to-do Christians are among those who have been targeted for robberies and kidnappings.
In both Sunni and Shia areas, Christian women are forced to cover their heads.
Scores of doctors and other professionals have fled abroad.
One Iraqi Christian businessman told the BBC: "Christians started to leave in Saddam's time because of the oppression. Now they are leaving for a new reason - fear of religious persecution."
He estimates there are only half a million Christian Iraqis left in the country.
Holy Land blues
Throughout the region, secularism is in retreat and religious politics on the rise.
In the current climate, says the Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh, "being anti-Christian is a way of showing what a good Muslim you are".
"Christian-Muslim tensions are generally localised and intermittent," says Professor Betts.
"Egypt is the exception where there is constant tension - resentment by the Copts at being excluded from any position of power and resentment by Muslims of the Copts' clannishness and generally higher standard of living."
In Jerusalem and the West Bank, Christian and Muslim Arabs have lived side by side for centuries.
Christians were always active in the Palestinian national movement and today one of the best-known Palestinian voices is that of Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian academic and human-rights activist.
But the rigours of life under Israeli occupation - and the rise of the militant Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad - have made many Palestinian Christians fearful.
Those with the means to do so have packed their bags and left for Europe or North America or elsewhere.
Once 15% of the Palestinian population in Israel and the West Bank, today Christians make up only 4%.
For Middle East Christians, the role of outsiders is sometimes problematic.
"The 'old churches' which work in Jerusalem and the West Bank (Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican) have a Palestinian flock and so tend to be pro-Palestinian," says Victoria Clark, author of Holy Fire, a book about the role of Western Christendom in the Holy Land.
In contrast, she says, the American evangelical churches, relative newcomers on the scene, are ardent supporters of Israel and Israel's retention of the occupied territories.
Though they have made few converts in the Middle East, the evangelical churches are an influential part of President Bush's political constituency in the United States.
In the current climate in the region, no-one wants to be tarred with the American brush.
"I am a nationalistic Iraqi," declares one doctor proudly.
the US-led invasion, other Iraqis call me a stooge because I'm a
INDIANAPOLIS -- A federal judge's order that the Indiana Legislature stop using the name Jesus Christ in its 188-year practice of holding an opening prayer has sparked protests from residents, politicians and clergy.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said Wednesday that he will appeal the ruling, which an Indianapolis Star newspaper editorial criticized as "terribly intolerant."
Some pastors are refusing to lead invocation prayers to a generic God in the legislature, where lawmakers moved to amend the Indiana Constitution this year to prohibit same-sex marriage and may debate next year whether schools must teach so-called intelligent design as an alternative theory to evolution.
"The forces that want to take religious faith out of our government and our society are nibbling away at our liberty," Bosma, a Republican, said of the Nov. 30 ruling by U.S. District Judge David Hamilton in Indianapolis. "They got a big bite with this one. We have done nothing different here than what's happened for 188 years."
Hamilton ordered Bosma as speaker to instruct leaders of the invocation prayer to use nonsectarian words and refrain from using Jesus' name, title or other denominational appeal. Bosma is seeking to have the order suspended, saying it gives the legislature no clear standard for application.
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said of the ruling: "It's regrettable."
The criticism crosses party lines. House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, 61, a Democrat from South Bend who preceded Bosma as speaker, has said he supports an appeal.
June Adams, 80, a retiree from Williamsburg, 75 miles east of Indianapolis, the state capital, said, "Our government was founded on freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit May 31 on behalf of four state residents.
group's legal director, Kenneth Falk, says the lawsuit stemmed from
Clarence Brown, a Baptist church elder, singing "Just a Little Talk
with Jesus" after his invocation in the state legislature on April 5.