Chinese government: "Terminate illegal Christian activities"
Human rights organization Voice of the Martyrs has posted what it says is a top secret document from the Chinese government—"the first one of its kind ever seen by the public"—ordering "an ongoing, systematic campaign to expose and destroy unregistered Protestant churches in Hebei Province."

"This directive is a smoking gun," Voice of the Martyrs spokesman Gary Lane says in a press release. "It proves the Public Security Bureau is working on the provincial level to destroy unregistered churches and severely punish their leaders."

 "To embrace the victorious opening of the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and create a sound and secure social environment, in light of the demand of the meeting on Christian issues in our city, a concerted citywide action will be taken, under the unified leadership of Party Committee and Government of our city, against illegal Christian activities from August 20 to October 20," the August 20, 2002, memo (English translation) from the Public Security Bureau says.

Know clearly all illegal Christian activities, and bring their organizers and freelance missionaries to justice; ban all illegal Christian meeting places; make sure that the spread of illegal Christian activities in our city is effectively contained. Establish a secret force which has wide coverage, and can acquire deep-depth intelligence and information; make sure reliable information needed in discovering, fighting illegal Christian activities is available. Ban, according to the law, various cultic organizations operated in the name of Christianity. Make religious work a daily work of all grassroots police stations, set up detailed plan, and make sure religious activities develop normally and according to the law.

The memo also tells officers to differentiate between "normal Christian activities" and illegal ones. "Cracking down should be confined to a small group of people," the memo says. "For majority of people, education serves as the main ways to stop them from engaging in illegal activities."

"This is not just some rogue police department doing its own thing," Lane says in a reaction statement available only in audio and video formats at the Voice of the Martyrs site. "It's a well thought out, planned strategy on the part of the government, a campaign, a systematic effort to eradicate, infiltrate, and then eliminate evangelical churches that are unregistered in China, in this case, at the provincial level, Hebei Province."

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In related news, The Orange County Register today tells the story of local resident Timothy Ho, who is working to free his nephew, "Philip" Xu Guoxing. Xu was arrested in Shanghai December 8 for unlicensed preaching and sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp.

European Union constitution won't mention God
Despite the efforts of Poland, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, and other nations, the European Union's future constitution won't mention God, according to the first 15 draft articles released by the EU's "praesidium" (steering committee) yesterday. Many member states wanted the constitution to credit "God as the source of truth, justice, good and beauty."

"There were a lot of objections to a reference to God," an unnamed British diplomat told The Independent of London. "If you have to keep Christians, Muslims, agnostics and atheists happy, it is all a little difficult."

Several news agencies note, however, that the battle to include God is likely to be reignited when the constitution's preamble is written.

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National Prayer Breakfast:

  • Bush lauds Americans' steadfastness in crisis | The CIA director's appearance at an event normally reserved for members of Congress, foreign guests and various evangelical Christians from around the country was precedent-setting, according to one evangelical leader (The Washington Times)

  • Bush urges prayer during 'testing time' | Each opening with a prayer, American leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast spoke to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in America just five days after the Columbia tragedy and one day after Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out the U.S. case against Saddam Hussein. (Associated Press)
  • Gate-crasher hands Bush 'message from God' | The Rev. Richard "Rich" Weaver, nicknamed "Handshake Man" because of his knack for getting up close and personal with the high and mighty, struck again yesterday morning (The Washington Post)

War with Iraq:

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Persecution and violence:

Church and state:

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Politics and law:

Science and health:

Evolutionary blackmail?

  • Professing evolution | Is this the behavior of a scientist? (Maggie Gallagher, syndicated columnist)

  • Creationists' evolving argument | Is a scientist expected to entertain all points of view on whether, say, the Earth travels around the sun or risk being called a bigot? (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

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  • Arrogance and ignorance | Darwinian Texas Tech professor is going against basic professorial ethics (Marvin Olasky, World)


  • Bill aimed at home-schoolers | They could participate in extracurricular activities under measure (Cumberland Times-News)

  • Promoting tolerance, not paying heed | Smart principals and teachers can figure out ways to adapt state civil rights programs according to their community's particular needs. (Michael Winerip, The New York Times)

  • Cult recruiters target students | The group, which calls itself the Local Church of Witness Lee, has been distributing leaflets offering students free deals and offers of weekend breaks (Reading Chronicle, Berkshire, England)

  • Letter From America: Troubling Youth | Darkly, I imagine a weird tidal flow of children—an outrushing of superachievers, misfits and wounded souls, followed by an influx of other kids who get sculpted into obedient followers of warring creeds by government-funded religious institutions (Maggie Cutler, Newsweek International)

Life ethics:

St. Rasputin and St. Ivan the Terrible?

Church life:

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  • Banking on community | Steve Bartlett, 31, a Baptist minister, also works part-time in an investment bank. With his wife, Louise, and a couple of other families he began Bayside Community Church in 2000. It's now a congregation of about 100, with adults aged mostly between 25 and 40 (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Ex-minister sues church pastor | Pastor Eugene Roberson charged with slander and libel after he allegedly said Lester Hill had gotten a 32-year-old Zion woman pregnant and had paid for an abortion (The News Sun, Waukegan, Ill.)

  • Vicar wrongly identified over child porn | Anthony Howe had to leave his church after a newspaper printed his picture alongside a story concerning a different priest charged with distributing child pornography (BBC)

  • Church may opt for a chair | The Church of England, which has for decades debated feminist theories that God should be referred to as "She", is to turn its attention to the no less fraught issue of whether chairmen should be "chairs" (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Judge approves repayment plan | The newly created Church Builders Plus will have five years to repay people who invested in the church extension of the Church of God. (Associated Press)

  • Invitation to a beheading | Episcopalians observe the anniversary of King Charles I's death. (The Wall Street Journal)

Missions and ministry:

  • The preacher's life | Millions around the world have been touched by Billy Graham (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • The return of James Carney | Twenty years after his disappearance and death, Honduran officials said last week that Carney's remains may have been located in a common grave in a jungle region of their country near the Nicaraguan border (Associated Press)

  • Man tries to improve religious relations | Besides informing people about the ethnic makeup of the Middle East, Hisham Shihab said being a catalyst in bringing warring factions to peace fulfills him (The Herald-Zeitung, New Braunfels, Tex.)

  • Clergy accused of evading custom duty | Members of the general public trading across the borders of Malawi have observed that NGOs and some church leaders deny government millions of kwacha in revenue through false declaration of personal goods, saying they belong to their NGOs, churches, and religious organizations (Malawi Standard)

Clergy sex abuse:

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  • Senate bill would make clergy turn in peers | Angered by sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church, senators want to scrap some of the church's immunity from criminal prosecution and lawsuits -- creating potential headaches for Lexington taxpayers (Lexington [Ky.] Herald-Leader)

  • Church board dismissed accusations by females | Records made public yesterday detailing alleged sexual misconduct by six priests suggest that women who complained that they had been assaulted as girls often received dismissive treatment by a church review board (The Boston Globe)



Other stories of interest:

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  • No more number of the beast | The sign of the beast may become a sign of times past as lawmakers, government officials and Christian educators work to remove the configuration 666 from telephone prefixes and highway signs (The Washington Times)

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