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Christians Charged with "Hate Crimes" for Quoting Bible in Public

Four Pennsylvania Christians face a possible 47 years in prison, plus fines of $90,000, for reading the Bible in public, according to a report attributed to Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Channel. The four are charged with hate crimes, inciting a riot, and using a deadly weapon.

Donald Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association (AFA), reacted in shock: "In the 27 years of this ministry, I have never witnessed a more outrageous miscarriage of justice than what is happening in Philadelphia Philadelphia is only the beginning. If we fail to take a stand here, this crime' will soon be applied across America."

Wildmon relayed this account of the circumstances: "On October 10, 2004, the four Christians were arrested in Philadelphia. They are part of Repent America. Along with founder Michael Marcavage, members of Repent America—with police approval—were preaching near Outfest, a homosexual event, handing out gospel literature and carrying banners with biblical messages.

"When they tried to speak, they were surrounded by a group of radical homosexual activists dubbed the Pink Angels. A videotape of the incident shows the Pink Angels interfering with the Christians' movement on the street, holding up large pink symbols of angels to cover up the Christians' messages, and blowing high pitched whistles to drown out their preaching.

"Rather than arrest the homosexual activists and allow the Christians to exercise their First Amendment rights, the Philadelphia police arrested and jailed the Christians!

"They were charged with eight crimes, including three felonies: possession of instruments of crime (a bullhorn), ethnic intimidation (saying that homosexuality is a sin), and inciting a riot (reading from the Bible some passages relating to homosexuality), despite the fact that no riot occurred.

 "What we have been saying has now happened. You cannot quote what the Bible has to say about homosexuality in public or you will be charged with a hate crime.'" He said preaching the gospel on a public sidewalk is a right fully protected by the First Amendment.

Wildmon added: "Our AFA Center for Law and Policy is representing these four individuals at no cost. We will take this case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary to get justice."

AFA has prepared a 25-minute VHS/DVD in which two AFA-CLP attorneys discuss the case in detail. Go to <https://store.afa.net/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=27> for details.

From an AFA newsletter

Caution Urged in Tsunami Relief Giving

While the December 26 tsunami that pounded the coasts of 12 South Asian countries left devastation in its wake, it also prompted a groundswell of giving from around the world. Nearly $350 million was pledged to U.S. charities working on the relief effort in the first three weeks after the disaster—a number almost rivaling the amount committed by the U.S. government.

Yet this generosity may not spell good news for many Christian ministries. "This tragedy reminds many of us in the fundraising field of the events of September 11, 2001," said Pastor Mike Stickler, president of Faith-Based Solutions, a group that connects churches and other ministries with the resources they need to fulfill their calling. "That tragedy just about destroyed many Christian ministries, as money was diverted from those organizations to groups like the American Red Cross."

A post-9/11 study by Resource Services, Inc., Dallas, TX, found that 19% of churches experienced lower overall levels of giving as a result of the terrorist attacks, while 15% saw giving levels initially decline but then return to normal. Stickler expects a similar trend in the wake of the South Asian tsunami.

Instead of diverting their money to secular groups, Stickler encourages Christians to be led by the Holy Spirit and to give through their local church and Christian ministries where they already have a relationship, if possible.

Many denominational groups are making significant contributions to the South Asian region. Examples include the United Methodist Committee on Relief (www.gbgm-umc.org/umcor), which has raised more than $1.1 million; Lutheran World Relief (www.lwr.org), which has sent more than $500,000 to the area; Baptist World Aid (www.bwanet.org/BWaid), which has already released $120,000 in grants to groups working in South Asia; and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (www.pcusa.org/pda), which has sent $320,000 overseas to help. International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin noted, "With a significant number of Southern Baptist missionaries in most of the affected countries, we are positioned for providing immediate aid and long-term ministry in partnership with local government officials and other Christian organizations."

Other Christian ministries also have pledged their help. Stickler noted a recent appeal from the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association (www.palau.org), which is collecting funds to support the efforts of Coleen Redit and her team at the Christian Mission Orphanage in Chennai, India. Dr. Redit, who has worked in India for 40 years, has been providing relief in the villages around Chennai since the disaster.

Many churches are taking special offering collections on behalf of their denominational relief groups, with up to 100% of funds received going to help the tsunami victims. By funding groups that promote their beliefs, Christians will not only feed, clothe, and shelter their brothers and sisters devastated by this natural disaster, but also will provide them with spiritual support as only faith-based organizations can.

From Faith-Based Solutions

Evidences of God's Grace Emerge
From Horrors

Evidences of God's grace have been reported in the midst of the horrors stemming from the earthquake and tidal waves that devastated 3,000 miles of shoreline around the Indian Ocean. According to reports filtering out of the region through various news services, God's grace has been evident from the very beginning of the crisis:

A church in Sri Lanka turned their new building into a refugee camp and helped set up temporary sanitation for their community.

Members of another church in Sri Lanka were spared—even though the tsunami washed away their entire village—because they were all at their church building in the mountains when the waves hit.

Heading tsunami relief efforts for an indigenous Christian ministry in India is a retired Indian army officer who brings a genuine empathy to the ministry's relief work, along with his logistical expertise. While the former officer, a born-again Christian, knows how to conduct large-scale operations, it is his dedication to personal interaction and individual needs that set this ministry's work apart from others. "He has insisted on customized help for each family," writes the ministry's leader, "not an assembly-line approach." With each packet of aid, a family receives a suggested prayer to pray asking for God's peace and comfort. A mailing address is also given for those wanting more spiritual guidance. The death toll in India is now over 10,000. An estimated 40% of these victims were children.

Believers in an area of Thailand assembled rough, badly needed coffins outside their church building, which was still decorated with a Christmas banner proclaiming a message of hope: "Joy to the world."

"We are doing what we can," a pastor in Thailand said. "As Christians, we need to let every opportunity be one to show the love of God for those affected. There are only a few churches here. Practically, we have very limited resources. But when we all come together, we can become much more powerful and effective."

"This is a phenomenal opportunity and an open door for the local church to make a difference in these people's lives," a Christian missionary in southern Asia told one reporter. "Your prayers can make a difference—and bring a miracle to pass. Please pray for the Lord's hand to intervene, open doors, protect, and heal in the days to  come," said Dave Kenney, pastor of an English-language congregation in Jakarta.

Baptist Press

Secular German Magazine: "Atheism
Is on Retreat"

A secular journalist in Germany is convinced that atheism is on the retreat while faith is experiencing a worldwide renaissance—with the exception of Western Europe.

Stefan Baron, editor in chief of the magazine Wirtschaftswoche (Economic Weekly) in Duesseldorf, pointed to the re-election of President George W. Bush as an example. In Europe, on the other hand, a similarly outspoken Christian never could have become an EU commissioner, he said. The European parliament rejected the Italian Catholic Rocco Buttiglione because he "dared call homosexuality a sin," Baron wrote.

He added that faith is a sensible option. "Faith remains an adventure, because as mortals we shall never be able to see God face to face. But it is a worthwhile adventure. The adventure is much more dangerous, if humans try to act like God—Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are proof of that."

Meanwhile, a poll taken among 200 managers revealed that 19.3% base their decisions primarily on religious convictions.

IDEA via MissionNet

Who Gave Christmas Trees Away? Jerusalem!

The City of Jerusalem distributed free Christmas trees to Christians Dec. 6 as part of a longstanding tradition, a city spokesman said. For decades, Israel has distributed the trees free of charge, particularly to the ex-patriot community of Christian leaders, journalists, diplomats, and others. One observer quipped that the Jewish State is probably the only country in the world that gives away free Christmas trees to Christians.

The trees are donated by the Jewish National Fund, which is the country's forestry agency. "Every year we distribute about 1,200 Christmas trees to religious leaders from different churches, diplomats, UN representatives, UN peacekeepers, and the foreign press," said Paul Ginsberg, head of the forestry department of northern Israel. "We also make trees available for sale for the Christian Arab population," Ginsberg told the Cybercast News Service. Between one thousand and fifteen hundred trees are sold each year. "Because we're the only official forestry agency in Israel, we feel responsible to sections of the population to provide them with a service they require," he said.

According to Ginsberg, the most popular variety is the Arizona Cyprus, which looks the closest to a "normal Christmas tree," has a fairly dense number of branches, and a greenish-gray color.

CNSNews.com via
Religion Today Summaries

Astrologers' Predictions For 2004 Fell Flat Again

The year 2004 was yet another bad year for astrologers. The Society for Scientific Research of Para-Sciences in Rossdorf, Germany, examined 90 predictions about the year 2004. None of them came true. Here are some examples: U.S. President George W. Bush would be assassinated last year; Los Angeles would be destroyed by asteroids; German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would hand in his resignation and be replaced by opposition leader Angela Merkel.

"Clairvoyants usually turn out to be failures," says mathematician Michael Kunkel of the society. He recalls that astrologer Patricia Bahrani predicted a terror attack on Berlin and Anton Tewes even foretold a nuclear attack on New York. Forecasts about the fate of celebrities also turned out to be false. Astrologers predicted the death of 84-year-old Pope John Paul II. He is still alive, though in poor health. Others said that Michael Jackson would commit suicide—he is still awaiting his trial for child abuse. Some predictions are so general that they may be interpreted either way. Others are incomprehensible to normal human beings. Astrologer Rosalinde Haller, for instance, foresaw "serial vibrations" in southern Australia. "She didn't even bother to explain what she meant," said Kunkel.

IDEA via MissionNet

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