Incited by rumors of blasphemy against Islam, rampaging Muslim youths killed at least nine Christians, burned churches, and destroyed businesses and homes of Christians in Tundun Wada in the Nigerian state of Kano during the final weekend of September. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) reported many people also were injured or driven from their homes. CAN leaders have been pleading for state and federal authorities to do more to stop the Christian-targeted waves of violence and massacres that have plagued Kano for years.
LAW: Supreme Court refuses to hear key religious liberty cases
Among hundreds of cases the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear at the beginning of its current term Oct. 1 (see "Hurry up and wait," Oct. 6) were two involving church and state issues. In Catholic Charities v. Dinallo, it let stand a New York high court unanimous decision that upheld a state law requiring employers to include contraception in any prescription-drug coverage. The 2002 law provided a narrowly defined exemption for churches, seminaries, and other groups with mainly religious purposes and constituencies. A group of Catholic and Baptist social service agencies excluded by the definition claimed the law forced them to violate their belief that certain forms of contraception are wrong. The New York courts disagreed. Some Catholic agencies may now drop prescription coverage from their health plans and offer stipends or self-insurance alternatives instead.
In Faith Center Church v. Glover, at issue was whether religious groups have the right to use public facilities for worship on the same basis as other community organizations. Although the Antioch, Calif., public library permitted other community groups to use its facilities, it barred an evangelical congregation. The library system said such access would force the county's taxpayers to subsidize religion. In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Curiously, the ruling ran contrary to Supreme Court precedents regarding equal access. The high court's inaction in this case left many legal observers puzzled.
POLITICS: Young white evangelicals 18 to 29 remain largely committed to conservative values and positions on issues such as abortion, a strong military, and capital punishment. But an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life also found sagging support among them for the Republican White House (from 87 percent approval in 2002 to 45 percent this year) and the Republican Party in general (from 55 percent affiliation in 2001 to 40 percent this year).
NORWAY: The governing council of the Church of Norway (Lutheran), to which 86 percent of the population belongs, wants the church's general synod to change its policy and permit homosexuals in registered partnerships to serve as bishops, priests, deacons, or catechists. Dissenting bishops would not be forced to ordain such candidates.
IRAN: Leaders of Open Doors and other ministries promoting Christian witness in Muslim-dominated countries have reported "remarkable" growth among house-based churches in Iran. The growth, they say, coincides with the increasing popularity of SAT-7 PAR, a satellite Christian television channel serving Farsi-speaking Iranian viewers. The channel is a semi-autonomous affiliate of Cyprus-based SAT-7, which has been beaming Christian programming in Arabic by satellite across North Africa and the Middle East since 1996 and now estimates a viewership in the millions.