Tex. Arsonists Arrested, Crystal Cathedral Downsizes, and Other News
Texas church arsonists arrested
A taskforce of hundreds of authorities investigating a rash of church fires in East Texas finally arrested two men February 21 on suspicion of arson. Childhood friends and former Southern Baptist youth group members Jason Bourque, 19, and Daniel McAllister, 21, face charges linked to ten suspicious church fires since January 1; five churches were destroyed in the six-week spree.
Church weighs in on homosexuality outcry
Uganda The Anglican Church of Uganda responded in February to a proposed bill that provoked an international outcry over its sentences of life in prison and the death penalty for some forms of homosexual behavior. The church supports the bill's efforts to define marriage as between one man and one woman and to penalize homosexual behavior. But it recommends amending an existing bill instead of creating a new one, and wants to protect confidentiality in medical, pastoral, and counseling relationships.
Crystal Cathedral downsizes ministry
Facing an $8 million deficit from 2009, the Crystal Cathedral is scaling back operations for 2010. In an attempt to cut $4.9 million from its $20 million annual operating budget, the California megachurch will sell Rancho Capistrano, a 170-acre retreat and wedding center, and lay off 50 employees. It will also cancel this year's "Glory of Easter" Passion play, and drop The Hour of Power radio broadcast from 7 of the 45 networks currently carrying the program.
Oversight may close Christian schools
Hong Kong A February appeals court upheld government oversight of publicly funded schools, and may lead to many of Hong Kong's Christian schools shutting down. Under the 2004 plan, publicly funded schools must have a management board comprising parents, teachers, alumni, and independent managers. The religious groups running the schools would name 60 percent of the board. Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist school officials in the country have said they would rather close schools than create the committees, which will give them less control over course content. Only half of the country's 850 publicly funded schools have agreed to the legislation.
Court: College can reject religious courses
The University of California can deny course credit in applications from students at Christian high schools, according to a January decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld an August 2008 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld an August 2008 ruling. The university had rejected credits for biology, history, and government courses at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, saying that they did not teach critical thinking and that the textbooks (published by Bob Jones University and A Beka Books) left out important historical and scientific topics. Students must meet a credit requirement to be admitted to the university, but can also use SAT Subject Test scores.
Moody and Michigan seminaries unite
Moody Bible Institute and Michigan Theological Seminary (MTS) combined forces in January when MTS became an extension of Moody's seminary. At 600 students, the newly combined school is among the largest 15 percent of seminaries in the U.S. The merger, initiated by MTS in 2008, is expected to save both schools money as they share technology and some operations costs.
Court: Remove religion from identity cards
Turkey The religious affiliation section on Turkey's identity cards is a violation of human rights, a European court ruled in February. Since 2006, Turkish citizens have had the option of leaving the section blank, but the European Court of Human Rights said the section violates the government's neutrality on religion and should thus be removed entirely. The ruling, prompted by a complaint from a Muslim man, may benefit Turkish Christians who have been denied jobs or services because of their religious identity.