United Methodist Clergy Woman Loses License for Officiating Same-Sex ‘Wedding’

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A United Methodist clergy woman in Tennessee has had her ministerial license revoked for officiating a same-sex “wedding” in violation of the UMC’s Book of Discipline.

The Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church withdrew the license of Anna Golladay, associate pastor at both St. Marks and St. Elmo United Methodist in Chattanooga, on Feb. 28.

Golladay said that she knew the Book of Discipline prohibited leaders from conducting same-sex ceremonies, but did it anyway.

“Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches,” section 341.6 reads.

“If I am going to step out in faith knowing that I am potentially crossing a line based on the rules of a man-made book, I wanted to be intentional about that,” Golladay told local television station WTVC. “I wanted to be sure that it was exactly what God intended me to do.”

“I very intentionally agreed to this wedding because I believed wholly in my call to be their pastor,” she said.

Both congregations are open and affirming of homosexuals.

District Superintendent Randy Martin learned of the matter after being provided with a photo of the event and advised that it was Golladay who officiated the ceremony. Golladay was subsequently contacted about the matter, and as she confirmed that she was indeed involved, he submitted the information to the Scenic South District Committee on Ministry.

The Committee then voted to revoke her license, the announcement of which was made on March 4.

According to the United Methodist News Service, Martin said that Golladay may still continue to be a member of the two locations and is free to be involved in any activities.

One member of St. Elmo, who identifies as a homosexual and is the chair of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, told reporters that he wants the prohibition removed from the Book of Discipline.

“We do understand that it is in the Book of Discipline, that is was wrong, but the Book of Discipline needs to be changed,” he told WTVC, claiming that Golladay was only doing God’s work.

However, as previously reported, Christians believe that sexual relations between those of the same sex are clearly prohibited by God’s immutable moral laws, and that all men are born with sinful inclinations that are a distortion from God’s original design at Creation. The sinful nature of man is why Jesus said in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“After Paul had reviewed his catalog of sin and warned that those who give themselves to such sins will not inherit the Kingdom of God, he turned to the Church and reminded Christians, ‘Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11),” writes Albert Mohler, as published on DesiringGod.com.

“This text declares that Christians, saved by the grace of God, are those who have come out of these patterns of sin, who have been justified, and whom the Holy Spirit progressively conforms to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he explains.

Mohler says that this gospel hope of regeneration and rebirth for all men—no matter what the sin—is, of course, not proclaimed by the secular world.

“This message of transformation by the grace of God—the presentation of atonement and redemption in full biblical glory—stands in stark contrast to the message homosexuals are given by the secular world. Therapists, sexologists, physiologists, and sociologists say to homosexuals, ‘This is who you are. Just claim your identity as a homosexual man or woman and press for full rights in the normalization of your lifestyle,’” he laments.

“Christians have no right to excise homosexuality from the Bible, but our ultimate purpose is to move from the diagnosis of sin to the power of the gospel. We are the people who know that Christ has won the victory,” Mohler exhorts.

“The God of the Bible is not only clear in judgment, but powerful to save. The Church must declare without reservation the Bible’s doctrine of regeneration. This is not a self-help program or a mere sexual recovery program—it is a comprehensive program of transformation as the dead are made alive. The old things have passed away even as all things become new.”


Chinese authorities demolished the $2.6 million building of a 50,000-member evangelical congregation in the country’s northern Shanxi province.

The order to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen apparently came from China’s top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities, according to the Christian organization China Aid.

 It’s the second large church building to be demolished in the province in the past month.

People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite to destroy the building in Linfen, which had been financed by the congregation.

The church is among the nation’s unregistered congregations, meaning it is not within the government-controlled system and therefore is deemed illegal by the communist regime.

China guarantees “freedom of religion” in its law but not in practice, as authorities use technicalities such land or building violations to destroy churches. The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an unidentified local official claiming the church did not hold the necessary permits.

Demolition of Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, China (Photo: China Aid)

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

China Aid noted that on Sept. 13, 2009, when the building was under construction, church members who slept at the site to guard it were awakened by 400 officials who beat them and razed the building. Thirty of the members were in critical condition.

State media at the time said the church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order.

The church’s two pastors were arrested in 2009. Yang Xuan spent three-and-a-half years in prison and Yang Rongli was imprisoned for seven years.

Yang Rongli, who has been under government surveillance since her release in 2016, described the demolition Tuesday to a China Aid reporter.

“The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church. Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church’s glass,” she said. “At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch. The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church. Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen.”

Senate confirms nominee whose faith triggered Bernie Sanders’ rage

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The Senate has confirmed Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget.

What makes Vought’s nomination novel is the fact that his Christian beliefs enraged Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential-primary race.

“This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders seethed when Vought was being interviewed by the Senate.

The senator referred to a piece Vought wrote that expressed the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

On Wednesday, it took a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to confirm Vought.

When Vought came before the Senate last June, Sanders shouted at him, noted David French in National Review.

Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?

Vought: Absolutely not, senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and …

Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?

Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College:

Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?

Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian …

Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?

Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals …

Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?

Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.

The video of the entire hearing is online.

The Family Research Council described Sanders’ attitude as “religious bigotry.”

The group also launched a petition signed by more than 55,000 Americans calling on Sanders to apologize for his unconstitutional religious test.

FRC President Tony Perkins said: “It was a shocking moment to watch a United States senator declare that holding to a central tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the only way of salvation is enough to render a well-qualified nominee unfit for public service. Vought’s biblical view of salvation is no different than what Billy Graham preached for more than six decades.”

He said, “Thankfully, 49 senators and Vice President Pence in his tie breaking vote sent a message that public servants can express their biblical views on salvation without fear of being held to an unconstitutional religious test. ”

Perkins said the thought that Sanders “is a senator who almost won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president – a man who thinks there’s no room in the public square for people who believe the Bible – is a chilling one.”

“I congratulate Russell Vought and thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for standing up for the freedom of every American to believe and live out those beliefs in the public square,” Perkins concluded.

Sanders’ diatribe triggered responses, including one from Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who said, “There was some dispute in a … hearing about Russell Vought and his faith … about is he too much of a Christian to be able to serve. I just want to make a public statement that that’s appalling to me … Article XI of the Constitution says there no religious test for any officer of the United States and that shouldn’t even have been a discussion in that committee hearing.”

French noted at the time that Sanders’ “tirade was certainly outrageous.”

“This is what happens when our national polarization breeds both ignorance and intolerance, and when intolerance trumps even the rule of law,” he said. “(One wonders: Would he grill an Islamic nominee in a similar fashion?)”

French said Sanders “personifies the arrogant contempt for Evangelicals that so often marks the secular American elite.”

“They don’t understand Protestant Christian theology. They read the worst stories of Christian behavior and presume that those stories fairly represent Evangelical beliefs. So they try to drive Evangelicals from the public square, and in so doing they become the intolerant scolds they imagine their foes to be. They hate Christianity, and use political power to try to suppress its influence. They presume that their Christian opponents would do the same. Thus, they spark the exact kind of religious conflict that the founders sought to avoid.”

He finished with a warning about Sanders and his ilk.

“Sanders’ actions also show the fragility of one of our core constitutional protections. There is no right or ability to sue Sanders into compliance. He can vote however he chooses, and there is no cause of action to compel him to cleanse his mind of unconstitutional motivations when he casts those ballots. Thus, one of our nation’s most important traditions depends on senators simply doing the right thing. But when our politics gets this polarized, it’s easy to justify ignoring the Constitution or rationalizing away its requirements for the sake of an alleged greater good. That’s what Sanders did here, and given the ignorance and intolerance that dominates our national debate, we can expect him — or others who think like him — to do it again.”



Amid an ongoing surge in Christianity that developed as communism created a spiritual vacuum in people’s lives, China has launched a new crackdown, including rules introduced last month that further restrict the activities of unregistered house churches, according to a new report.

Christians in China have been repressed ever since the People’s Republic was created in 1949, with the government’s control of churches and imposition of the Communist Party’s atheistic values.

The state’s oppressive control prompted the rise of an underground house-church movement that, combined with the growth of registered churches, will make China’s Christian population the world’s largest by 2030, according to the new report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Tens of millions of Chinese now identify as Christians and the number has grown rapidly, posing challenges for a government that is officially atheist and wary of threats to its power,” the report says.

The growth in Christianity became noticeable shortly after the long-repressive nation was reopened to the outside world amid the reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping after Mao Zedong’s death in 1976.

“A surge in Christian adherents can be traced from the period beginning in the early 1980s,” the report says.

The government tries to control religion by officially recognizing several faiths, including Christianity, appointing clerics and restricting activities through its State Administration for Religious Affairs.

“To register as a state-sanctioned Christian organization, religious leaders must receive training to ‘adapt’ doctrine and CCP thinking,” the report says.

A 2010 Pew Research Center report estimated that 35 million of China’s 58 million Protestants belonged to independent house churches.

Purdue University sociologist Fenggang Yang estimates there are between 93 million and 115 million Protestants in China. But other Christian organizations estimate an even higher number.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and others forecast China could have 160 million Christians by 2025 and 257 million by 2032.

“Social scientists have observed the rise of a spiritual vacuum, following decades of unprecedented economic growth,” the CFR report says.

“Modern China has emerged as a wealthier and more educated society with renewed interest in religion. Consequently, experts say that as the CCP’s ideology loses public traction, Christian churches, official and unofficial, appear to be filling some of this void. Believers are not only searching for meaning in their own lives but also for the future of their country as China adapts to a rapidly changing economy and society.”

Protestantism “appeals to Chinese traditions of ritual and community,” according to French Jesuit and China scholar Benoit Vermander.

“Moreover, experts say Chinese Christians are also attracted to the faith’s sense of fellowship, comprehensive moral system, organized structure, and solidarity as part of an international movement.”

With a flood of evidence that Protestantism has become a dynamic part of China’s religious landscape, the report explains, the government, fearful of the loss of control, has increased the repression.

“For example, party officials in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang’s city of Wenzhou, known for its large Christian population, have ordered the removal of hundreds of crosses and demolition of dozens of churches that allegedly violated construction regulations, though several had received prior approval from local officials. Moreover, Zhejiang province party officials announced that the party would enforce a ban on religious belief among party members to prevent the ‘penetration of Western hostile forces.’ Other provinces with large Christian populations, including Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu, have undergone similar crackdowns on Christian gatherings and activities.”

CFR says that while religious leaders and practitioners “may have no intention of undermining the party, the very perception of a threat by party leaders sets the stage for possible confrontation between churches and the state.”

Among the reactions from the government has been the imposition of new religious regulations, announced last month, that are “intended to boost national security and protect against the spread of extremism and foreign infiltration,” CRF reports.

The rules include explicit bans on unregistered groups teaching about religion and increased oversight on religious gatherings and financing.

The rules specify, for example, that the state, “in accordance with the law, protects normal religious activities, actively guides religion to fit in with socialist society, and safeguards the lawful rights and interests of religious groups, religious schools, religious activity sites and religious citizens.”

They require churches to “practice the core socialist values” and ban them from creating “contradictions and conflicts.” And they require churches to assist “the people’s governments in the implementation of laws.”

The report finds that at the top level, Beijing “has signaled attempts to inject party influence into Christian ideology.”

“In August 2014, Beijing announced its bid to nationalize Christianity at a conference entitled the ‘Sinicization of Christianity.’ According to state media, SARA director Wang Zuoan said that Christian faith should first and foremost be compatible with the country’s path of socialism and that ‘the construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.’”

Condo Bans Senior Citizen’s Bible Study, Christian Music

The sign was not very hard to miss: “ANY AND ALL CHRISTIAN MUSIC IS BANNED.”

That message was posted on an organ located in a commons area of Cambridge House, a condo building in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Residents could belt out the theme song to Frozen or Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” but they were not permitted to sing “Amazing Grace.”

Residents were also allegedly told they could no longer host a weekly Bible study in the commons area, according to a Fair Housing complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

On Feb. 6, Cambridge House passed a resolution “regarding religious observances on the common elements.”

“Prayers and other religious services, observations or meetings of any nature shall not occur at meetings of the Association (Owner meetings, member meetings, committee meetings or otherwise) and shall not occur in or upon any of the common elements,” the resolution read.

According to First Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, the resolution led to a religious cleansing of the entire condo association. Residents removed decorative crosses from their doors and a decorative angel fountain was removed from a courtyard—along with a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.

The statue had been donated by a resident in memory of a dead family member, First Liberty Institute noted.

But perhaps the most egregious allegation involves Donna Dunbar, a devout Christian and a lay minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

First Liberty Institute filed the Fair Housing Act complaint on her behalf. They tell me residents were not given a reason for the crackdown.

Dunbar hosted a weekly Bible study for ladies in the condo’s social room. They sang songs, prayed and most recently were studying a book called, Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby.

Other groups of similar size used the room for thrice-weekly card games and movie nights.

However, Dunbar was ordered by the condo association’s treasurer to obtain insurance in order to continue her meetings, the complaint alleges. Nevertheless, Dunbar obtained the insurance policy and continued the Bible study meetings.

But all that changed in early February when the condo association passed what First Liberty Institute called a “discriminatory resolution” without prior notice.

If true, that would constitute a violation of Florida law.

On Feb. 7, Dunbar and her husband received a letter from Gateway Management ordering them to cease and desist the Bible study.

“The result of this resolution prohibits Bible Study meetings in the Social Room effective Feb.16, 2018,” the letter read.

So why not just host the Bible study in her home?

According to First Liberty Institute, the participants would not be able to fit comfortably in Mrs. Dunbar’s 919 square-foot condo.

Regardless, First Liberty Institute and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. contend the Bible study group has every right to use the social room for its weekly gathering.

“The Cambridge House Resolution, both in text and in application, is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act because it prohibits Mrs. Dunbar and other Christian residents from accessing common condominium areas for any religious activity, while allowing other residents to use those same facilities for similar non-secular purposes,” attorney Adam Foslid wrote in the complaint.

Neither the condo association nor its management company responded to my telephone calls.

It seems like a slam-dunk case for the religious residents. If management allows residents to play poker in the social room, they should also allow folks to hold a Bible study.

I’m putting my money on the church ladies.

Ordered to kill patients, docs tell bureaucrats to drop dead

Hippocratic Oath

So-called progressives in Canada keep working to erode moral beliefs, this time literally in the name of killing fellow Canadians. But there is pushback, too.

The newest target is hospice care in British Columbia, where officials overseeing a public health region have declared that hospice facilities must participate in euthanizing dying patients.

Tamara Jansen of the Association for Reformed Political Action(ARPA) tells OneNewsNow the health region known as Fraser Health Authority has undergone a sweeping change after new board members took over and the New Democrat Party won recent elections.

“And we suddenly had an edict come out,” she reports, “saying that hospice, which is not meant for hastening death in any way, must allow for euthanasia services to be practiced there.”

Euthanasia is legal in Canada, where it’s known as medical assistance in dying, or MAID, while the government offers free – but increasingly expensive – healthcare for all.

The new edict blatantly ignores the conscience rights of medical personnel, who were assured by Fraser that the new euthanasia law would not affect them.

IV needle assisted suicideAnd now medical staff is fighting back. At a February meeting to discuss the order, an administrator at one hospice facility, Delta, called the order “bullying” and another Delta official plainly refused to follow the order, according to a news story about the meeting.

A doctor who oversees palliative care for Fraser Health resigned in protest over the new order, the story reported.

Legislative Assembly of British Columbia member Mary Polak told Fraser officials at the February meeting that MAID is another word for “killing people” while palliative care is not.

“Hospice is meant to give someone a natural death,” Jansen tells OneNewsNow. “Give families times to be together, perhaps even time to reconcile at the end of life and just give true comfort. It is never meant to hasten death.”

In Ontario, meanwhile, doctors have been told they must permit euthanasia on patients or refer them to a doctor who will – or get out of the profession.

Turkey Wants to Keep American Pastor Behind Bars for Life

Turkey Wants to Keep American Pastor Behind Bars for Life

Turkish prosecutors demanded life imprisonment for jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson in an official indictment presented to Izmir’s 2nd Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Arrested without bail since October 2016,

Brunson is accused of being “a member and executive” of the Islamic movement led by self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused of orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup attemptto overthrow the Turkish government.

According to the semi-official news agency Anadolu Ajansi, the formal indictment also charges the pastor with establishing links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and obtaining espionage information for political and military purposes.

If the indictment is accepted by the court, formal trial proceedings are expected to be set in motion against Brunson. To date, neither the pastor nor his lawyer have been allowed any access to the legal file of investigations conducted by Turkish authorities into his case.

Commenting on the indictment, the two vice chairs of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga, said:

USCIRF urges President Trump and others in the administration to redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American.

We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.

“USCIRF is appalled that Turkish officials are seeking a possible life sentence for Pastor Brunson and are accusing him of leadership in a terrorist organization,” they added.

“The government of Turkey has detained Pastor Brunson largely based on a purported ‘secret witness’ and secret evidence, which they refuse to make public. The Turkish government should reverse course immediately and we urge the international community to condemn this indictment.”

World Watch Monitor reported this week that, despite being detained for 17 months, the Turkish judiciary had failed to release any formal indictment against him.

His daughter, Jacqueline, appealed to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week to help secure her father’s release. Declaring that he had been “falsely imprisoned for far too long,” his married daughter noted that Brunson decried that he had “still not been formally charged with any crime”.

President Trump Appoints Strongly Pro-life Secretary of State to Replace Rex Tillerson

President Trump Appoints Strongly Pro-life Secretary of State to Replace Rex Tillerson

President Donald Trump announced that former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo would replace Rex Tillerson as U.S. Secretary of State.

Tillerson said he would step down immediately from the role.

“I’ll now return to private life, as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I had to serve my country,” Tillerson said.

Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at the United States Military Academy at West Point, had been working as director of Central Intelligence.

According to LifeSiteNews.com, Pompeo is a longtime supporter of pro-life and pro-family initiatives.

When he served in Congress, Pompeo said he believed life begins at conceptions. He also co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which says “each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood…”

He also co-sponsored another act that called for the prohibition of federal funding to groups that perform abortions and stood behind a bill that would have included an unborn child in 14thamendment protections.

In his voting record, he has voted against providing abortion information at school health centers and prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood.

Pompeo is also a supporter of the traditional view on marriage and has opposed LGBT initiatives.

“Creating, out of nowhere, a federal right to marry, flies in the face of centuries of shared understanding of our Constitution,” he said when same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S. “It is a shocking abuse of power. It is wrong. I will continue to fight to protect our most sacred institutions; Kansans and our nation deserve no less.”

“As a Kansan, I hold a deep reverence for the sanctity of life, the solidarity of family, and the solemnity of marriage. I will continue the fight to uphold these fundamental ideals each and every day,” he said.

“I am, and always will be pro-life and will defend life from conception to natural death. I will continue to oppose any taxpayer funding for abortion. I also fully support the traditional institution of marriage. Strong families are the most important building block of our Republic, and we must preserve them for the sake of our community and our culture.”

Pastor’s Family Assaulted in Southern India

Kolhapuri Immanuel, 20, after surgery for broken foot bone. (Morning Star News)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – On a recent Monday at noon in southern India, a pastor’s family in Telangana state noticed motorcycles parked outside their church gate and a gang of young men loudly reading the church banner.

The banner of the church in Ramachandrapuram village, Karimngar District, included 2 Cor. 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you” in Telugu, the language spoken in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, along with a name and phone number, the pastor told Morning Star News.

“We thought the youths had come to quench their thirst at the hand-pump,” Pastor Kolhapuri Lachaiah Moses said. “The youths started shouting, ‘Where is the pastor idiot? Who gave you Christians the permission to set up a church here? You Shudras! Idiots! How dare you do Christian activities here?’”

Shudras are a low-caste group in India.

“I came out running and asked, “What happened, babu? Why are you shouting?” said the 52-year-old father of three. “I could smell the stink of alcohol. They were drunk.”

He told them he was the pastor and politely asked them what had happened, he said, but they continued making derogatory caste remarks. His son, Kolhapuri Prabhakar, came out, urged them not to shout and asked what was the matter.

“But they became aggressive, and started hitting my elderly father,” Kolhapuri Prabhakar told Morning Star News. “When I tried to stop them, they punched me too. My mother and sister also rushed to help us, only to be pushed away by the drunk men. They yelled, ‘We have been looking for you for the past six months, we got you today. We will not stop now.’”

Pastor Moses said his youngest son, 20-year-old Kolhapuri Immanuel, insisted the assailants be handed over to police and dialed the police emergency service line, and then family members tried to confine the six young men until officers could arrive.

Before police arrived, one of the young men picked up a large boulder and threw it on Kolhapuri Immanuel’s right foot, and two of the young men escaped, Pastor Moses said.

“He howled in pain, but they did not stop there,” he said.

Kolhapuri Immanuel, who underwent foot surgery for a fractured fifth metacarpal, said they continued beating them.

“Two of them held me by my hands, while the other threw that huge stone on my foot. I could not bear that pain,” the 20-year-old said.

Counter Case Filed against Christians 

Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police Abdul Kareem told Morning Star News that officers identified the drunken young men as members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a Hindu nationalist student group affiliated with the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Kolhapuri Prabhakar filed a complaint at the Ramadugu Mandal police station and rushed his younger brother to a hospital. Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Kalikota Sai Krishna, 20; Kanaparthi Sai Sunil, 19; and Chaviti Sathya Shiva and Edavelli Karthik, both 20, under sections of the India Penal Code (IPC) prohibiting trespass, voluntarily causing hurt and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, among others.

A counter FIR, however, was filed against the Christian family under IPC sections against intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, public nuisance and voluntarily causing hurt, Sub-Inspector of Police Naresh Reddy told Morning Star News.

A police official who requested anonymity added, “In the pastor’s family’s attempt to catch the culprits and hand them to the police, two Hindu youths also got injured in the scuffle.”

The police source said officers came under strong pressure from higher authorities to register a counter case against the Christians.

“The accused ABVP youth have connections with the political leaders at state and central levels,” the source said. “We came under severe pressure and registered a counter case against the Christians, but only as non-cognizable offenses [wherein no arrest can be made without a warrant]. The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] politicians are trying their best to bail out the [Hindu] accused.”

Kolhapuri Prabhakar said he had no idea how the sections of the law filed against the Christian family members can be applied to them. The assailants did not register the FIR against them, he said.

“It was the police who registered the FIR, and they now are pressuring and threatening us that we made false claims,” he told Morning Star News. “Now the police are threatening us that we filed a false case to seek vengeance for the attack. It is not true. That is not our intention. It was the police who levied the sections; we forgave our attackers and are ready to withdraw the case also.”

Police officers insulted him as a lower-caste Dalit, he added.

“The police called me and asked if I am human or animal,” he said. “They asked why am I unable to submit the medical reports, but the staff at Karimnagar General Hospital are refusing to issue the reports.”

After many requests, the hospital staff finally wrote on a small slip of paper that Kolhapuri Immanuel had a fifth metacarpal fracture and gave it to him, Kolhapuri Prabhakar said. After surgery on March 7, doctors advised complete bed rest for three months.

Kolhapuri Prabhakar said he is devoted to Bible reading, prayer and ministry work and has no knowledge of legal cases.

“But look at what God is bringing us through,” he said. “My Lord gives me the courage and strength to talk to these police. They are threatening, abusing, calling names, but I have been patient and will continue to be so. It is pure joy that the Lord chose me for this battle.”

The family requested prayer for healing of Kolhapuri Immanuel’s foot and their ministry work.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

Pakistan court orders citizens to declare religion

Religious minorities in Pakistan having to declare their 'true religion' makes them "even more vulnerable", activists say. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Pakistan’s citizens must now declare their religion when applying for identity documents if they want to work in government or register to vote, Islamabad’s High Court ruled on Friday (9 March).

Applicants who disguise their true religion defy the constitution and betray the state, the judge said. Their true religion must now be visible on birth certificates, ID cards, voters’ lists and passports.

Those who apply for a job in the judiciary, armed forces, civil services and other government jobs also need to submit an affidavit declaring the Khatm-i-Naboowat (that Muhammad was the final prophet), Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said in his ruling, as reported by Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Human Rights Watch’s Saroop Ijaz said the judgement “would enable and incite violence”, in particularly directed at the Ahmadi community, Reuters reported.

“All [the judge’s] specific instructions are about ensuring and finding out who is an Ahmadi,” human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir told Reuters. He said the order would provide the government with lists of who belonged to which religious minority.

Punishable offence

Pakistani passports already show the holder’s religious belief. A local source told World Watch Monitor that minority groups, such as Christians and Ahmadis, did not object against this because it has benefited them in, for example, applying for asylum elsewhere.

A previous move by the government in 1992 to try to add citizens’ religious belief to their ID cards, however, was met with protests by Christians, who said they would face economic and social exclusion. The idea was then shelved.

Christians and Ahmadis are two of a number of minority groups in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, who together make up an estimated 20 per cent of the total – mainly Sunni Muslim – population. The Ahmadis face a lot of discrimination because they are considered non-Muslims; to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam is a punishable offence under the country’s blasphemy laws.

Christians are already instantly recognisable in Pakistan because of their names – men are given the surname Masih, deriving from ‘Messiah’. But this is not the case for Ahmadis, making the new ruling more of an issue for them, as they can no longer hide their identity, nor safely claim to be Muslim.

During the hearings the court learned how a group of 10,000 Ahmadis apparently changed the religious status on their Computerised National Identity Cards to ‘Muslim’ when applying for a government job. They would then change it again once retired.

‘Hiding their real identity’

The court case was opened following a petition by Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik, which opposed a parliamentary initiative to the change of wording in electoral law, suggesting replacing the religious oath with a simple declaration.

The proposed bill, however, also made room for Ahmadis to take part in elections on general seats, even though they are labelled ‘non-Muslims’ in the constitution. Following large-scale protests the government re-instated the original text.

In his verdict the judge ordered parliament to develop legislation and amendments to existing laws “to ensure that all the terms specifically used for ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ were not used by the persons belonging to any of the minorities for hiding their real identity or for any other purpose”. If no appeal is filed, parliament has to follow the court’s directives.

World Watch Monitor’s source said the court only has jurisdiction in Islamabad, so this could be first and foremost a “political stunt”, but “it still sends a strong message how the debate about religion has gone deeper and deeper in Pakistan, and religious minorities, especially Christians, are being affected by this”.

The court order will make minority groups even more vulnerable, according to Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS-UK), who told Independent Catholic News the government should rather promote harmony and religious tolerance and establish peace in the country. All Pakistanis, including minorities, need to know they are secure, protected and equal before the law, he said.

World Watch Monitor has reported regularly on how Christians face different forms of discrimination and oppression in Pakistan – in daily life as well through the misuse of the country’s blasphemy law. The Christian woman Aasiya Noreen, popularly known as Asia Bibi, is one of the best-known examples: she has been on death row for blasphemy since 2010.