Pro-Hindu Party Pushes Laws to Restrict Christian Conversions in India

c. 2006 Religion News Service CHENNAI, India _ Religious conversion has emerged as a volatile social and political issue in India, where a pro-Hindu ruling party in several states is pushing legislation to restrict what it characterizes as forced Christian conversions that disrupt national harmony. The moves have prompted an outcry from Christian leaders, who deny forcing any conversions. They say such legislation would be an egregious violation of religious freedom protected by the Indian constitution and recognized internationally as a fundamental human right. Christians comprise less than 3 percent of the Indian population, which is predominantly Hindu.

COMMENTARY: For Victims of Priestly Abuse, No Limitations on Pain

c. 2006 Religion News Service The statute of limitations is the legally established time period in which criminal charges can be brought against an accused person. This is a basic provision of the U.S. Constitution to protect the basic rights of all citizens. This rule says that time runs out for victims as it does for a basketball team in a championship contest. If the ball swishes through the basket after the buzzer sounds, the contest is over and, despite the true arc of that last shot, it does not count.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Reform Judaism Leader Speaks to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University (RNS) Relations between American Jews and evangelical Christians have warmed in recent years, with the two backing Israel amid the latest intifada. But an address Wednesday (April 26) by the head of American Jewry’s largest movement at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s university has broken new ground. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism _ which represents the most liberal stream of American Jewry and some 1.5 million American Reform Jews _ pressed for the separation of church and state in a convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. In response to an invitation from Falwell, Yoffie spoke about where each community intersects _ support for Israel and disdain for America’s deteriorating values _ and where they diverge _ issues of abortion and homosexuality.

James Dobson: guru

Quote of the Day: Evangelical Author Tony Campolo “You dare not go against Jim Dobson these days. This is the guru, the new pope. He is infallible. Anybody that contradicts him is obviously out of the will of God.” -Evangelical author and social commentator Tony Campolo, offering sarcastic criticism of conservative Christian radio talk show host James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.

Christian conversions in India; and religious blogs

In Wednesday’s RNS report Achal Narayanan reports from India where a pro-Hindu ruling party may restrict Christian conversions: Religious conversion has emerged as a volatile social and political issue in India, where a pro-Hindu ruling party in several states is pushing legislation to restrict what it characterizes as forced Christian conversions that disrupt national harmony. The moves have prompted an outcry from Christian leaders, who deny forcing any conversions and say such legislation would be an egregious violation of religious freedom protected by the Indian constitution and recognized internationally as a fundamental human right. Christians comprise less than 3 percent of the Indian population, which is predominantly Hindu. “We have not converted anyone by force, fraud or by allurement,” said Roman Catholic Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi in a recent interaction with the media. Religious blogs are providing a new outlet for dissenters and critics, reports G. Jeffrey MacDonald: For as long as preachers have been engaging listeners, critics have been muttering nearby about the need for more enlightened leadership.

More than 20,000 Celebrate Pentecostalism’s 100th Birthday

c. 2006 Religion News Service LOS ANGELES _ At least 20,000 people from more than 100 countries have converged here to mark the 100th anniversary of the modern Pentecostal movement. For five days, beginning Tuesday (April 25), Pentecostal and charismatic Christians are commemorating a revival at a converted stable on Azusa Street that launched the movement that is now the fastest growing segment of Christianity. “We are hoping that as people reflect on the Azusa Street revival, they will be inspired to experience revival in this day,” said the Rev. William M. Wilson, the centennial’s executive officer. Wilson said he was also praying the celebration would create a new sense of unity for a movement that began as racially diverse and all-inclusive but has since splintered off into ethnically divided groups, scattered across the globe.

Preventing Shiite-Sunni Civil War Tall Task of New Iraqi Leader

c. 2006 Religion News Service BAGHDAD, Iraq _ Jawad al-Maliki’s appointment Saturday (April 22) to head Iraq’s national assembly ended a four-month stalemate among politicians here, and opened a passage to forming a new government to tackle the country’s overwhelming troubles. Al-Maliki, 55, a member of Daawa, Iraq’s oldest Shiite political party, served on the committee that drafted the country’s constitution last year, and as deputy speaker of Iraq’s interim government in 2003. But Iraqis know little more about al-Maliki, in part because he fled to Syria in 1979 and didn’t return until after U.S.-led coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime three years ago. Still, many Iraqis in Baghdad view their parliamentarians’ agreement on a new leader as a step toward creating a strong government that will restore order to their country by stemming sectarian violence, terrorist attacks and rampant crime.

COMMENTARY: Juries Don’t Give Verdicts on Larger, Systemic Issues

c. 2006 Religion News Service DURHAM, N.C. _ In criminal court, my jury duty in a murder trial lasted eight days. Outside, television crews awaited arrests in an alleged gang-rape at Duke University. Each case illuminated the other. Selecting a “fair and impartial” jury in our case took longer than anticipated, because its issues _ drunken driving leading to death _ touched so many prospective jurors.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service S. African Bishop Calls Condom Use to Prevent AIDS `Ethical Imperative’ VATICAN CITY (RNS) Welcoming news that the Vatican is studying the issue of condom use by those with AIDS, a South African bishop fighting the pandemic said Tuesday (April 25) that the church must look beyond its teaching on sexual conduct to regard condom use as an “ethical imperative.” Speaking during a conference call from an AIDS prevention meeting in Washington, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, expressed hope that the study will ultimately relax the Vatican’s 1968 ban on condoms rather than reinforce it. “It would in fact be an ethical imperative to use condoms in order to preserve and protect life. That’s what I hope will come out,” Dowling said. Dowling’s comments came days after a Vatican cardinal announced that his office was preparing a document on condom use and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a prominent liberal prelate, asserted that condom use could be acceptable as a “lesser evil” in preventing the spread of AIDS.

Religious Leaders Rally Behind Gay Marriage Amendment

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ America’s top Roman Catholic leaders have joined a broad national push against gay marriage one month before the Senate is set to consider a constitutional amendment to ban such unions. Fifty religious leaders have signed a petition, released Monday (April 24), that urges the Senate to approve the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would amend the Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. As in past efforts, the campaign is led by prominent evangelicals, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson; Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Other signatories include Jewish, Episcopal, Orthodox and Lutheran leaders, as well as Apostle Russell M. Nelson, representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Pornography at the forefront

Quote of the Day: Institute for the Future Director Paul Saffo “The simple fact is porn is an early adopter of new media. If you’re trying to get something established … you’re going to privately and secretly hope and pray that the porn industry likes your medium.” -Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., commenting in a Los Angeles Times story about how pornography tends to be at the forefront of technology.

COMMENTARY: In This Biblical Story, I Am the `Rich Man’

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Biblical scholar David Lull was discussing the Gospel passage in which Jesus tells a wealthy man asking the path to eternal life to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. When the man walks away sad, according to the passage in Matthew, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Lull suddenly looked up and asked the class at Yale Divinity School: “Who is the rich man?” I didn’t give the question much thought on that morning 22 years ago. My wife was not excited about the cockroaches that scurried around when you turned on the bathroom light in our two-room, linoleum-floor apartment in married-student housing. I was taking out loans, and working 20 hours a week, to go to school.

COMMENTARY: In This Biblical Story, I Am the `Rich Man’

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Biblical scholar David Lull was discussing the Gospel passage in which Jesus tells a wealthy man asking the path to eternal life to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. When the man walks away sad, according to the passage in Matthew, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Lull suddenly looked up and asked the class at Yale Divinity School: “Who is the rich man?” I didn’t give the question much thought on that morning 22 years ago. My wife was not excited about the cockroaches that scurried around when you turned on the bathroom light in our two-room, linoleum-floor apartment in married-student housing. I was taking out loans, and working 20 hours a week, to go to school.