Lawyers in China are currently partaking in a hunger strike to protest being blocked by the government's Communist officials from visiting a Christian pastor who is currently being detained by authorities. The lawyers argue that the police are violating state law by preventing them from accessing their clients.
Fifteen lawyers started their hunger fast Thursday to protest the pastor's detainment and have said that they will not stop the strike until they are able to see their client. The lawyers traveled to Nanle county in Henan to visit detained pastor Zhang Shaojie, the leader of a government-approved Christian church who was recently detained along with other church leaders under vague charges of obstructing government business. Two of Zhang's lawyers, Xia Jun and Liu Weiguo, told the Associated Press that they believe their client was arrested for resisting the attempts of the state to seize his church property.
"We strongly believe that this is a clear case of persecution of a religious group," Liu said in a phone interview with AP. more >>
Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have voiced their support for a group of high school cheerleaders in Texas who are currently involved in a lawsuit over painting Bible verses on banners prior to school football games. A judge had previously ruled the religious banners were constitutional after the school initially banned them, and the case is currently before the Ninth District Court of Appeals.
Cruz and Cornyn submitted a joint amicus brief in the court case Kountze Independent School District v. Cotti Matthews last week. The court case is between the Kountze Independent School District and parents of students at Kountze High School in East Texas.
Last year, the school district ordered cheerleaders at the high school to stop painting Bible passages on large paper banners, which football players would run through at the start of each football game. The school district had banned the banners after receiving a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and parents filed a lawsuit against the district arguing that because the banners were created by the cheerleaders, they were not endorsed by the public school and therefore were not in violation of the Establishment Clause. more >>
A new congressional hearing has been set next week for American pastor Saeed Abedini's case, with his wife, Naghmeh, and the American Center for Law and Justice hoping that President Barack Obama and Congress will make saving his life a top priority.
"The life of a U.S. citizen – whose only 'crime' is his Christian faith – is at stake," said ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow.
The law group, which represents Naghmeh and the couple's two children in the U.S., has been pushing hard for the pastor's release, calling on the Obama administration to do everything possible to get him back home to his family. Abedini, who is currently serving eight years in prison, was transferred last month from the political prisoner ward of Evin prison to the violent criminal ward of Rajai Shahr prison, which the ACLJ described as "the deadliest prison in Iran." more >>
A state worker in Colorado has filed an official complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division claiming she was forced to attend a lunch-hour Bible study while working at the Department of Education.
Theresa Chavez claimed in the recent complaint that during her time working at the Colorado Department of Education's Office of Professional Services and Educator Licensure, she was required to attend the bi-weekly Bible study sessions held by her supervisor, Norma Lawanson. The meetings reportedly took place every Wednesday and Thursday and Chavez claims that when she told Lawanson she wanted to stop attending the studies, she was punished.
"She told her supervisor that she no longer wanted to attend the studies, and things just went downhill from there," Chavez's attorney, Jennifer Robinson, told the local Denver 9WTK News for their investigative report on the alleged incident. "The Bible studies were on state property, at work, during work hours [and] using state resources." more >>
Ohio lawmakers are proposing a new bill that if passed would further protect religious freedoms, including prayer and references to Jesus, in the state's public schools. The bill comes after multiple cases in which public schools were forced to remove Jesus portraits from their campuses or face legal action from atheist groups.
The bill, the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was introduced to the state legislature earlier this week by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Oxford), who argued that the legislation would block further encroachment on religious expression in the state. The bill has over three dozen additional co-sponsors.
"God gave us our rights, not the government, not the neighbor, but God. Government is here to protect those rights," Rep. Patmon said of the bill, according to NBC 4 News. "How many of our students, how many of our schools need prayer? It's a disservice that we do when we don't allow it, when we don't encourage it." more >>
Three high school choirs in the Whitefish School District, located in Montana's Flathead Valley, have decided to go through with their holiday concert at a local church despite complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Dozens of student members of the Flathead, Glacier and Whitefish high school choirs performed their annual "Peace on Earth Community Christmas Celebration" at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kalispell Thursday. They will be performing a second time Friday evening. School officials decided to go through with the performance despite recent complaints from the ACLU and FFRF which argued the concert was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state due to public school involvement with church activity.
"We are concerned that public school students will be performing at a place of worship as part of an event that is expressly religious in nature," ACLU Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic wrote in a letter addressed to the principals of the three public schools on Tuesday, as reported by the Missoulian. "This situation poses serious constitutional concerns and demonstrates a lack of respect for the individual religious beliefs of the students involved." Both the ACLU and the FFRF requested that the schools end their participation in the concert. more >>