The Vatican news agency Fides reports today that two new mass graves containing a total of 30 bodies were found in Sadad, an ancient Christian town of some 15,000 people between Damascus and Homs, bringing to 45 the number of residents killed there by Islamist militias since October 21.
Surviving relatives and friends uncovered the graves after government forces recently recaptured the town from rebels. Those killed were reported by the local Syriac Orthodox metropolitan, who presided over 30 of their funerals this week, to be Christian civilians, including women and children. A list of their names was provided to the Catholic press. The Islamist rebel militias of Al Nusra Front and Daash were identified by eyewitnesses as responsible for this war crime.
The battle also resulted in the destruction and looting of the town, including its homes, hospitals, schools, government buildings and electrical, telephone, and water capabilities. St. Theodore's Syriac Orthodox Church and a number of the 4,000-year-old Assyrian town's 14 other churches and a monastery have been desecrated. more >>
Texas' highest criminal court ruled on Wednesday that sexually explicit communication between adults and children online is protected under the First Amendment and struck down a section of a 2005 law that prohibited it. State lawyers are now worried perverts will run amok.
According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the ruling now means that propositioning someone younger than 17 remains illegal but "talking dirty" is legal.
Judge Cathy Cochran, author of the ruling, said the law "may protect children from suspected sexual predators before they ever express any intent to commit illegal sexual acts, but it prohibits the dissemination of a vast array of constitutionally protected speech and materials." more >>
In my new book, You Were Born for More, I give spiritual principles that will help any believer to have courage in an overwhelmingly negative environment and it will help them take a confident personal stand when persecution, mean-spiritedness and ridicule come their way. Why do we need these spiritual and emotional skills? Let me give you an example.
Recently, many Christians were alarmed to learn that military leaders had begun classifying mainstream Christian organizations such as the American Family Association (AFA) as "domestic hate groups," comparable to the Ku Klux Klan. The briefing in question took place at Camp Shelby (Mississippi) in early October. What has happened in the last few years to bring about such confusion in an arm of our government that has traditionally honored God unapologetically?
There is much confusion over what we mean when we talk about America's Christian heritage. For some, the words conjure up images of strict social norms and puritanical moral codes, while others may point to slavery and segregation as trump cards, negating their meaning. In reality, America's Christian roots can be best understood as an experiment in human liberty, based on the idea that God created people to be free. Before the American Revolution, hereditary kings or military strongmen had almost always ruled humans. Outside of nomadic tribes and small-scale tribal confederations, to live in a settled "nation" meant to be ruled. more >>
A school district in New Jersey that already excludes the word "Christmas" from its calendar of events for December is banning religious Christmas music during winter concert performances at its elementary schools, according to a religious freedom advocacy group.
Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to the Bordentown Regional School District after administrators pointed to a New Jersey court ruling that states religious music should not be a part of elementary school programs.
"Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow students to perform Christmas carols," said ADF Legal Counsel Matthew Sharp. "Courts have unanimously upheld their inclusion in school productions – even when songs deal with Christian themes that are naturally a part of the holiday." more >>
Two weeks ago, at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, counter-intelligence officers presented a briefing that identified the American Family Association – a non-profit Christian organization – as a "domestic hate group." This was not the first time something bizarre like this had happened. On another army base, evangelical Christians and Catholics were listed as prime examples of religious extremism. On yet another, the Founding Fathers were portrayed as extreme.
Then, last week, a similar report came out about a briefing at Fort Hood in Texas where Tea Party supporters, in addition to evangelical Christians, were labeled as extremists.
Each time, senior military officials downplayed the shocking classifications as isolated incidents. But a string of incidents reflect a pattern. more >>
American pop singer Ke$ha has been banned from performing her upcoming concert in Malaysia after the government said her lyrics and image go against the country's conservative values. The pop singer claimed via Twitter that she was even threatened with imprisonment if she chose to go through with the performance.
The country's Ministry of Communications and Multimedia said in a brief statement late last week that its decision to cancel Ke$ha's upcoming performance "touches on religious sensitivities and cultural values of Malaysians." Sixty percent of Malaysia's 28 million-person population is Muslim, while only nine percent is Christian. Ke$ha's lyrics often make reference to partying, binge drinking, and a sexually promiscuous lifestyle, all topics that are taboo under strict Islamic culture.
The 26-year-old pop artist, whose real name is Kesha Rose Sebert, took to Twitter to defend herself in light of the news. "To be clear. I did NOT cancel. I was not allowed to play. [sic] and then I was going to play anyways and was threatened with imprisonment," she wrote. more >>