Hundreds Jailed for Sectarian Violence, Turkish Leaders Smooth Way for Christians, & More News
Clergy housing lawsuit dismissed
A group represented by atheist Michael Newdow has agreed to dismiss its lawsuit challenging tax-free pastoral housing allowances. A Supreme Court decision earlier this year made it more difficult for taxpayers to protest tax-credit programs. The lawsuit, filed with a Sacramento U.S. district court in October 2009 by Newdow's Freedom From Religion Foundation, alleged that the allowance violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. However, the group never showed that it was directly affected by the allowance.
Pastors protest sentence for lesbian wedding
A United Methodist Church (UMC) pastor in Wisconsin who performed a lesbian wedding ceremony in 2009 was sentenced to a 20-day suspension of ministerial duties. However, Amy DeLong was acquitted of the charge of being an "avowed practicing homosexual," though she is in a registered domestic partnership with another woman. A few days after DeLong's trial, hundreds of UMC clergy in Illinois, New England, Minnesota, and New York pledged to perform same-sex marriages, even though church policy prohibits them.
Hundreds jailed for sectarian violence
ETHIOPIA More than 500 people were sentenced to prison for their roles in a week of violence in early March that left 69 churches burnt to the ground. The attacks, unusual in a country where Christians and Muslims typically coexist peacefully, started after rumors circulated that desecrated Qur'an pages were found at a church site. The 558 people sentenced will serve six-month to 25-year jail terms; 44 were acquitted. Ethiopia's population is 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim.
Law makes thousands of marriages illegal
UGANDA Thousands of couples found their marriages suddenly illegal when the government passed a law restricting legal marriage ceremonies to a list of about 2,000 registered churches. This excluded thousands of churches in the East African nation. Officials with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau said the law should improve record keeping and legal compliance. Currently marriages are sometimes not reported to government officials. Muslims and Christians are concerned that the law overly restricts marriage licenses. Marriages can only be performed indoors, and the registration process took one pastor four years to complete.
Court okays switching religion on IDs
EGYPT The nation's Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that Coptic Christians who reconvert to Christianity can now identify their faith on government IDs without having to go through the courts. Previously Copts had to obtain a court ruling to make an ID change when they reconverted to Christianity from Islam. Copts have been fighting for the verdict since 2004. They say that converts to Islam have a much easier time changing identification.
Conservative Presbyterians ordain women
At its June annual meeting, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) voted to allow its congregations to nominate women pastors, even in presbyteries that object to women in ministry on biblical grounds. Three of nine EPC presbyteries in the U.S. had objected to the ordination of women pastors, preventing churches in their presbytery from calling one. With the change, congregations desiring to call a woman pastor in the objecting presbytery can join an adjacent presbytery that permits the ordination of women.*
Court: Church can keep property
Jackson County Circuit Court ruled that one of Kansas City's largest Presbyterian churches can keep its land in a property dispute. The 1,700-member Colonial Presbyterian Church left the PC (USA) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church after a 92727 vote last August. Colonial's attempt to separate from Heartland Presbytery escalated to include restraining orders from both parties, formal complaints, a lawsuit, and a countersuit. Judge Justine Del Muro ruled that the PC (USA) Book of Order does not supersede the land title, which Colonial holds. Heartland may still file an appeal.