Court Says 'Under God' May Remain, Australia Bans ID, and Other News
Earthquake destroys hundreds of churches
Chile Headlines about the 8.8-magnitude February earthquake in Chile quickly faded, but the country's Baptists found that the temblor had severely damaged half of their churches. The Baptist General Convention of Texas gave $25,000 to the Baptist Union of Chile to repair 250 buildings. Other denominations throughout the country suffered as well; up to 80 percent of Catholic churches were destroyed in dioceses surrounding the epicenter near Concepción, Chile's second largest city. The quake displaced 1.5 million people.
Court: "Under God" may remain in pledge
Reversing its own 2002 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase "under God" can remain in the Pledge of Allegiance because the phrase is religious but does not represent a prayer. The court issued a similar ruling about the motto "In God We Trust" on currency, saying the use of "God" is ceremonial and patriotic, not religious. In 2002 the court ruled that "under God" was unconstitutional. All three lawsuits were filed by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who says the phrase alienates nonreligious people in the U.S.
World Vision workers killed in Pakistan
Pakistan Seven Pakistani employees of World Vision died in a March 10 robbery, the worst attack in the organization's 60-year history. About 15 unidentified gunmen shot the workers, injured six others, and set off a bomb after stealing equipment from the Oghi office in northern Pakistan. World Vision has halted operations in the country while government officials investigate the attack. An agency spokesman said that on average, one World Vision worker dies each year in violent attacks.
Court: Church defamed pastor
An Oregon appeals court determined the First Amendment does not protect churches from all defamation lawsuits and awarded a fired pastor $355,000 in damages. Pastor Tim Tubra sued the denomination of Vernonia Foursquare Church for defamation of character after officials read a letter to congregants after his resignation, accusing him of misappropriating church funds. At issue: whether a $3,000 withdrawal in April 2004 was part of his 2003 compensation agreement. The court ruled in Tubra's favor because the defamation was not religious in nature. Observers said the February ruling was a first for church-state issues and will likely head to Oregon's Supreme Court.
Government bans intelligent design
Australia Christian schools in South Australia are protesting new guidelines that ban the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in science classes. The December policy from the Non-Government Schools Registration Board requires science to be taught "as an empirical discipline" focused on objective inquiry and evidence. The policy does not allow scientific curricula based on literal interpretations of religious texts. A spokesperson for the board said creationism could still be taught in religion courses, but the Australian Christian Lobby said the policy limits the freedom of religious schools.
Christians murdered before election
Iraq The run-up to Iraq's March elections saw at least 10 Christians murdered and more than 800 Christians displaced from Mosul. Sunni Muslims had promised to wreck the elections; 38 people were killed on Election Day, March 7. Meanwhile, leaders from 14 denominations recently formed the Council of Christian Church Leaders in Iraq to unite believers still in the country. A U.N. refugee commission estimates that half of Iraq's 750,000 Christians have left the country since 2003.