News Update—9/26/11


Messianic Jews Singled Out in Israeli Town
Messianic Jews in a suburb west of Jerusalem continue to be harassed for following their faith, this time by anonymously placed flyers in public areas singling out members of Messianic congregations, Compass Direct News reports.

The flyers began appearing two weeks ago in the town of Mevasseret Zion, with the addresses, phone numbers and even some photographs of the Messianic Jews, as well as allegations about “soul stealing” and “brainwashing.”

Asher Intrater, leader of the Ahavat Yeshua Congregation, said he thought the flyers were “an effort to drive us out of the neighborhood.” This is the second time in three months that Messianic Jews in Mevasseret Zion have been singled out for ridicule. On June 26, members of Yad L’Achim, an ultra-Orthodox, anti-Christian group, protested outside the home of a Messianic couple. It is unclear who posted the flyers, and Intrater declined to speculate.

Religion Today Summaries

Court Orders Teacher to Remove Christian Banners
A federal appeals court rejected the claim of a San Diego-area high school math teacher that his 1st Amendment rights were violated when the school’s principal ordered him to take down classroom banners that referred to God, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Bradley Johnson had displayed banners in his classrooms for two decades that celebrated the religious heritage of America, including “In God We Trust,” “God Bless America,” and “God Shed His Grace on Thee.” But after he transferred to a new school in 2007, a principal ordered the banners taken down. 

Johnson thought he was being singled out because the phrases involved Christianity, and he filed a lawsuit. A federal judge last year sided with Johnson, but the school board appealed. The federal appeals court reversed the judge’s ruling, saying the principal and school board had the same authority as any employer to set limits on the speech of employees, and also ordered Johnson to pay the school district’s legal expenses.

Religion Today Summaries

Moody Radio Affiliate Drops David Barton’s Show over Defense of Glenn Beck
According to Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s blog on, an affiliate of the Moody Broadcast system in East Texas, KBJS-FM, canceled David Barton’s Wallbuilders Live radio show during the show while Barton was discussing Glenn Beck’s religious beliefs.

Randy Featherstone, KBJS manager, said the show was dropped because of Barton’s failure to distinguish between Mormon theology and Christianity. On the September 13th program, Barton said he believed Beck was a Christian, dismissed Beck’s Mormonism and asserted that Beck used the same Bible.

“When David Barton said it doesn’t matter whether you are a Mormon or a Baptist or a Methodist, we felt we had to do something,” Featherstone said. “We don’t want to confuse listeners into thinking that Mormon doctrine and Christianity are the same.” He added that the station had received many calls during the broadcast from people objecting to Barton’s views. All but two callers supported the decision of the station to drop the show.

Religion Today Summaries

State Department Chides Eight Countries on Religious Freedom
According to the Religion News Service, the State Department designated eight nations as the most serious violators of religious freedom, naming the same countries as the Bush administration: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. All but Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan also received sanctions. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued previous reports on religious freedom, but it was the first time the Obama administration has published its list of the worst violators. “It is our core conviction that religious tolerance is one of the essential elements not only of a sustainable democracy but of a peaceful society that respects the rights and dignity of each individual,” Clinton said.

The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, the administration’s new ambassador at large for religious freedom, has plans to visit China and Saudi Arabia and work on a U.N. resolution to counter religious intolerance through education, interfaith dialogue and public debate.

Religion Today Summaries

Obama Warns of Growing Religious Intolerance in Post-Revolt Mideast
The Obama administration warned Tuesday of growing religious intolerance and violence in Arab nations undergoing popular revolts that could undermine fragile democratic transitions, the Associated Press reports.

While the overthrow of longtime authoritarian rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya has given millions hope for freedom, and additional rebellions are underway in Syria and Yemen, they have also opened up religious and ethnic minorities to new threats. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged countries not to “trade one form of repression for another” and to embrace the freedom to worship for all faiths as they embrace political pluralism for the first time in generations.

The U.S. has publicly expressed concern about post-revolt sectarian violence and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Egypt and Libya. It has also condemned attacks on religious minorities in Syria as the government continues a months-long brutal crackdown on opponents, and has taken aim at abuses of religious freedom in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Religion Today Summaries

More Americans Tailoring Religion to Fit Their Needs
Newly released research reveals America’s drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences, according to a report by USA Today.

Religion statistics expert George Barna’s new book on U.S. Christians, Futurecast, tracks changes from 1991 to 2011 in annual national surveys and shows that all the major trend lines of religious belief and behavior ran downward except two: More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven, and more say they haven’t been to church in the past six months except for special occasions.

In 1991, 24% were “unchurched.” Today, it’s 37%. Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings: “Everyone hears, ‘Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinner’s Prayer and keep coming back.’ It doesn’t work. People end up bored, burned out and empty. They look at church and wonder, ‘Jesus died for this?’”

The consequence, Barna says, is that for every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing. When he measures people by their belief in seven essential doctrines, defined by the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith, only 7% of those surveyed qualified. Barna lamented: “People say: ‘I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.’”

Religion Today Summaries

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