Chinese Authorities Blow Up Popular Megachurch

China Aid footage of the destruction

Crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand. Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.

But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official reason for the demolition was the building did not hold the necessary permits.

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association, and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying.

Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes.

Pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.

He added: “ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

A pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday surrounding the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery. He later heard a loud explosion.

The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers.

The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses.

Though authorities did not block the church’s construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

ChinaAid said authorities also demolished a Catholic church in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, on Dec. 27. Officials smashed crosses and confiscated statues, the Eucharistic altar and other religious artifacts as they demolished the building with heavy machinery, the organization said.

The demolition prompted more 100 church members to protest in front of government offices this week. 

Hamas TV Station Calls for ‘Death to Israel,’ Israel Declares it a ‘Terrorist Organization’

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister and defense minister, signed a declaration this week that calls a Hamas TV channel a “terrorist organization.”

The Israel Security Apparatus and the Defense Ministry said the Hamas TV channel, “Al Aqsa,” was using the station “to recruit militants to its ranks.”

The ISA said Palestinian broadcasters and journalists were using cues on the air to try to recruit Palestinians with Israeli ID cards to carry out attacks from inside Israel.

“Declaring Al-Asqa TV a terror organization is a precise labeling,” said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a media watchdog group.

“Al-Asqa TV promotes all the components of Palestinian terror, including murder of Jews, suicide bombings, kidnapping of soldiers, bombing our cities and destruction of Israel.”

In one recording of the station, a Hamas music video aired on the channel and said, “Strap on an explosive belt … O Martyrdom-seeker, respond to Al-Aqsa’s call… send them to Hell… Let fire burn them, turn them into body parts, roast them.”

In another broadcast, the station featured an Arabic song that said, “Expel the thieving occupier from the enraged land of Jerusalem. Rid your house of that one, that Zionist in his humiliation. Write ‘death, death, death to Israel’ with flowing blood. And with the bleeding body cause death, death, death to Israel.”

The TV station was bombed by IDF military in November, but the station reportedly began broadcasting from a new location soon after, according to The Jerusalem Post.

California May Evict 84-Year-Old for Bible Study in Veterans Home

The California Department of Veterans Affairs is threatening to evict an 84-year-old widow from her California Veterans Home if she continues to hold Bible studies, according to her attorney.

The woman, Artis Breau, has volunteered as a chaplain and led Bible studies over the past decade.

The controversy began last September when one of the residents said he had trouble sleeping after having a conversation with her about heaven and hell. Officials with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) labeled it elder abuse and emotional abuse, according to the Pacific Justice Institute.

Her volunteer status within the chaplaincy program was suspended in December. Then, on March 1, CalVet told the Pacific Justice Institute that Breau would be subjected to an “involuntary discharge” from the home if she continued leading Bible studies.

Breau believes officials are skeptical of her because she is an evangelical Jewish believer in Christ.

“CalVet’s treatment of this widow is shameful,” said Pacific Justice Institute attorney Matthew McReynolds. “Throughout this process, we have been deeply disturbed not only by the lack of constitutional guidelines, ineptitude, and lack of due process in the investigation, but even more by the notion that discussing religious views on the eternal state of the soul is somehow elder abuse or emotional abuse.

“Our client’s husband fought for his country to preserve the freedoms now being threatened by CalVet. Our veterans deserve better.”

Breau was a civilian employee in the office of the chief of staff of the Army at the Pentagon during the Korean War. Her husband served in World War II and the Korean War.

The Pacific Justice Institute is considering a lawsuit.

“This shocking attack from the State against our client’s exercise of religious convictions is deeply disturbing,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “The State seeks to punish Artis based on non-existent directives, and deprive her of a personal ministry to the veterans who have benefited from her religious services for years. Artis isn’t fighting just for herself, but for the Gospel and for the residents who are unable to fight for themselves against the State’s attempted intimidation.”

Teacher Apologizes after Demanding Fourth-Grader Remove Ash Wednesday Cross from Forehead

Teacher Apologizes after Demanding Fourth-Grader Remove Ash Wednesday Cross from Forehead

When an elementary school student in Utah walked into class on Wednesday, he was shocked when his teacher told him to wipe his Ash Wednesday cross off of his forehead.

According to Fox News, fourth-grader William McLeod – seemingly the only Catholic in his class – walked into class on Wednesday with a cross of ash upon his forehead. McLeod told the outlet that many of his classmates asked him what was on his forehead and he happily explained to them that it was to bring him “closer to God” on the first day of Lent.

When his teacher noticed the symbol, however, she decided to pull McLeod aside a demanded he remove the cross from his forehead.

McLeod told Fox News, “She took me aside, and she said, ‘You have to take it off.’ She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”

Later that day, the fourth grader’s grandmother, Karen Fisher, received a phone call from the school’s principal informing her of the incident. Fisher told Fox 13 that she was “pretty upset” about what had happened to her grandson. The teacher who demanded McLeod remove the cross also called the grandmother later that day to apologize.

Fisher told Fox 13 that during her conversation with the unnamed teach she “asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, ‘No.’”

According to McLeod, the teacher sent him a note later that day with some candy apologizing for making him wipe the ashes off of his forehead, noting that she hoped they could move forward from the incident.

A spokesperson for the school district commented on the incident noting that he was unsure of how or why the incident even happened. He added, “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say, ‘Please take off.'”