Christian school discriminated against Sikh boy by not allowing him to wear turban, Australian tribunal finds

(Illustration image): An Australian tribunal has found that a Christian school had discriminated against a Sikh boy by not allowing him to wear a turban.

An Australian tribunal has found that a Christian school in Melbourne discriminated against a 5-year-old Sikh boy when it refused to admit him because he wore a turban.

The boy’s father, Sagardeep Singh Arora, tried to enroll his son, Sidhak, to Melton Christian School, but he was told that the boy would have to comply with the school’s uniform policy, which does not allow head coverings related to non-Christian faith.

Arora argued that not letting his son wear the patka, a child’s turban, was indirect discrimination. Sikh belief requires adherents to wear a patka and have uncut hair, or kesh.

In an interview with the BBC, Arora said that he was stunned by the school’s refusal to admit his child. “In such an advanced country like Australia, it was just shocking,” he said.

“You have Sikh people wearing turbans in the police force and army in Australia, but my son can’t go to school,” he added.

On Tuesday, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled in favor of Arora, and stated that the school had violated the Equal Opportunity Act.

The tribunal said that the boy had been disadvantaged because he was not able to attend the school, which is near his home.

Melton had relied on an exemption in the Equal Opportunity Act that allows schools to enforce reasonable dress codes in consultation with the community.

VCAT, however, contended that the uniform policy was not reasonable because it did not reflect the community’s views when it was updated in 2014.

“It is not reasonable to accept enrollment applications from students from non-Christian faiths only on condition that they do not look like they practise a non-Christian religion,” the tribunal stated.

VCAT member Julie Grainger argued that the school could have allowed Sidhak to wear a patka in the uniform colors.

Although Melton identifies as a Christian school, it has an open enrollment policy, and more than half of its students do not identify as Christian.

Melton principal David Gleeson said that the school respects the VCAT findings and that it would work with Sidhak and his family to find a “constructive way forward.”

The father said that he was “very pleased” with the ruling, and his son still wants to attend the school “because his cousins went there.”

“We are very pleased that religious freedom… is alive in Victoria,” he said in a statement that was also signed by United Sikhs, Victorian Sikh Gurduaras Council, Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria and the Supreme Sikh Council of Australia.

 

Only in the Lord: Dating Unbelievers Deadens Faith

http://www.datingforchristiansusa.com

When the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, they were given many commands from God. One in particular is repeated over and over: “Do not intermarry with [the pagan peoples around you]. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons.” God spells out His reason for this command in Deuteronomy 7:3: “They will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods.”

This played out tragically in the life of King Solomon, whose pagan wives led him into idolatry, and ultimately contributed to the fracture of the kingdom.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers,” Paul reiterates in 2 Corinthians. Christian widows, he continues, are free to remarry, but “only in the Lord.”

Now why am I talking about all this? Because sex has the power to shape our beliefs, and participating in the romantic and sexual practices of unbelievers can eventually wear down even the strongest faith.

And if University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus is right, the pattern that ruined Solomon is repeating itself in the American church today. Regnerus has spent years studying this topic and has just released a new book entitled, “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy.”

Writing in the Washington Post, he summarizes one of his key findings: “Cheap sex…has a way of deadening religious impulses.” In the recent hubbub over millennials leaving the church and identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” Regnerus thinks we haven’t paid enough attention to how secular sexual practices “erode religious belief.”

“It’s not science that’s secularizing Americans,” he concludes. “[I]t’s sex.”

One of the main problems is that many young Christians aren’t following the rules that Moses and Paul taught. They’re dating extensively outside of the faith, which means they’re susceptible to trends in the wider “mating market.” And arguably the trend that’s most impacted how Americans find love in the 21st century is cohabitation.

Regnerus describes the romantic life typical of many Christian young people: “They want love, like everybody else. They couple. Sex often follows, though sometimes after a longer period of time.”

The Christian belief in saving sex for marriage erodes away due to the pounding cultural message “As long as we love each other, it’s okay.” Regnerus previously found that ninety percent of American young people will have sex before getting married, including a majority of Christian young people. Compromise here correlates with relaxed standards on other issues.

Of Americans who regularly attend religious services, 23 percent say they’re unsure whether living together outside of marriage is immoral; 21 percent say they don’t know what they think of no-strings attached sex. One in four aren’t willing to condemn pornography. In fact, that last trend is especially severe. According to Yale sociologist Justin Farrell, evangelicals under thirty are consistently more permissive of pornography than their parents were.

In light of all these numbers, is it any wonder that fewer and fewer young people are tying the knot, and are doing so later and later?

Only 56 percent of never-married religious adults say they would prefer to be married. Demographer Steven Ruggles predicts that an unprecedented one in three 20-somethings will never say “I do.” And even more significant, many who don’t marry will cohabit or practice serial monogamy instead, both of which—unsurprisingly—predict a drop-off in church attendance.

What emerges from Regnerus’ new research is a strong case that beliefs about God don’t just shape our behavior. Quite often, it’s our behavior shaping our beliefs about God. And as it turns out, that’s especially true of with whom we choose to be yoked.This Sweatshirt is scripture Mark 8:36 " Which reads "What will it profit you to gain the world and lose your soul"


Charlotte voters oust left-wing mayor

North Carolina welcome sign

Voters in Charlotte, North Carolina, have taken one step to send the message that they don’t want men in women’s private facilities, but there’s one more major step to go.

In February 2016, Mayor Jennifer Roberts ramrodded a city ordinance giving transgendered individuals the right to use either restroom in city businesses, which prompted state lawmakers to respond by passing a bill to overturn it.

In last week’s primary election, Roberts was defeated in her bid for re-election.

Tammy Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition is pleased with the election outcome.

“We think it sends a clear message to the Human Rights Campaign and other groups,” she explains, “that would target big cities like Charlotte to bring in radical ordinances [to] protect sexual orientation and gender identity – and elevate those categories above everyone else.”

Council member Kenny Smith, who is pro-life and voted twice against the Charlotte transgender ordinance, won the Republican primary.

Mayor Roberts was defeated for the Democratic nod by Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, whose win over Roberts was called a stunning defeat by The Charlotte Observer.  Lyles defeated Roberts 46-36 percent.

However, Lyles’s voting record is nearly identical to that of Roberts.

Fitzgerald pressed the crucial need for Charlotte residents with traditional values to show up for the general election on November 7 to prevent citizens from facing another liberal mayor – one who sees the rights of gender-confused people as superior to the rights of others.


Unusual Bible correlations to ‘The Great American Eclipse

Bible statisticians can often produce a dizzying array of facts and figures which they attempt to link to prophetic events. The great American eclipse of 2017 is no exception, with number crunchers working overtime to produce some highly unusual connections with the Scripture.

Because the United States is in such a turbulent political season, with existential threats rising around the world, some will wonder if the solar eclipse portends some dramatic event in the offing.

Immediately prior to the return of the Lord, the Book of Luke notes, “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.” (Luke 21:25)

The August 21st eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse whose path of totality stays completely within the United States since the nation’s founding in 1776, according to Space.com.

“The first big city the eclipse hits in Oregon is Salem. Salem was named after Jerusalem. The eclipse also begins in Oregon exactly at sunset time in Jerusalem. So technically speaking, as the sun sets in American it will be setting in Jerusalem at the same time,” according to Countdown Report, which lists “33+ Fascinating Facts” about the eclipse.

They attach significance to the number 33 because Jesus was most likely 33-years-old when he was crucified and rose from the dead.

The first state in the U.S. to see the totality, Oregon, became the 33rd state in the Union in 1859, on the eve of the Civil War.

The last contact will be South Carolina, which happens to be located on the 33rd parallel. It was the first state to secede from the Union and a flashpoint for the beginning of the Civil War.

Some would argue the political climate of the U.S. is more polarized today than at any time in its history, next to the Civil War.

The number 33 also has an association to earthquakes because the Richter Scale uses the number 33. “Each whole number that goes higher on the scale is 33 times more intense than the whole number below it,” the Countdown Report noted.

The center path of the eclipse forms a line through 12 states that receive total darkness. The number 12 holds great importance in the Scripture, with 12 disciples chosen by Jesus.

“The eclipse path is exactly 70 miles wide. 70 has a sacred meaning in the Bible that has two perfect numbers, 7 that represents perfection and 10 that represents completeness and God’s law. 70 also symbolizes perfect spiritual order and a period of judgment,” according to Countdown Report.

The Hebrew people went into captivity in Babylon for 70 years.

Interestingly, when Jesus died on the cross, there was an eclipse and also an earthquake. “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon…Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54)

President Donald Trump was born during an eclipse.

The last time there was a full eclipse in 1918, it was accompanied by the Spanish flu pandemic at the close of World War I. The pandemic resulted in the death of 50 to 100 million people worldwide.

God apparently used an eclipse during the plagues of Egypt, when He caused the land to be covered in darkness.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Lift your hand toward heaven, and the land of Egypt will be covered with a darkness so thick you can feel it.” (Exodus 10:21-23) So Moses lifted his hand to the sky, and a deep darkness covered the entire land of Egypt for three days.

The totality of the eclipse will enshroud Oregon at 10:16 AM Pacific, and will end in South Carolina at 2:49 PM Eastern. That means it will take 1 hour and 33 minutes to cross the country.

“The U.S. mainland has averaged about seven total solar eclipses per century since 2000 B.C.,” the Countdown Report noted. “So the rarity of the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse is not only considered a once in a lifetime event, it will be a once in about seven lifetimes event.

“The eclipse is exactly 40 days from Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur means ‘Day of Atonement’ and is a time of repentance…Is the US being warned to repent? 40 days were given in the Sign of Jonah, when the eclipse overtook Nineveh. But then again, bad things were starting to happen just prior to the eclipse over Nineveh too. Be ready now and at all times, repent and draw close to the Father.”

Some Christians believe it will be on “the ultimate Yom Kippur,” at the end of the age, when the Great Shofar (Trumpet) will be blown and the world will come “face-to-face” with Jesus when He returns.


Endorsements Continue to Pour in for Bible-Believing Senate Candidate

Judge Roy Moore (YouTube )

“Men with a backbone of steel are hard to find these days, and even harder to find in the U.S. Senate,” former Senator and conservative icon Tom Coburn wrote in a statement endorsing Judge Roy Moore for Senate. “I proudly endorse Judge Moore because we need him to be a conservative voice in the Senate. He is a man who can’t be bought, who won’t fall in line with the Washington establishment and who will stand up for what he believes in.”

Senator Coburn is one of the most powerful conservative voices yet to come out for Judge Moore, but he’s hardly the only one.

“Roy Moore has more political spine than anyone I know,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie in his endorsement. “He has twice chosen to lose his job rather than compromise his principles. He is a man willing to stand up to the out of control courts and help us return to the limited government outlined in our Constitution. I give him my full support and look forward to having him as a stalwart colleague in the Senate.”

Politico reports that House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows endorsed former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for the Senate last Wednesday, delivering another conservative boost to Moore in the hotly contested primary.

“I am proud to endorse Judge Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate. The people of Alabama are seeing millions of dollars in false advertising flow into their state,” Meadows said in a statement released by the Moore campaign. “From what I know about the people of Alabama, their vote is not for sale. They want a strong man—a principled conservative—to send a clear message to Washington, D.C.”

Our good friend, Ken Cuccinelli, Chairman of the Senate Conservatives Fund, also endorsed Judge Moore, saying, “I’m proud to announce the Senate Conservatives Fund’s endorsement of Judge Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate.”

Cuccinelli noted in the group’s endorsement, “After collecting feedback from our supporters in Alabama and across the nation last week, an overwhelming 97 percent said they thought we should endorse Roy Moore in the primary election runoff.”

“Roy Moore is a proven conservative leader who will fight to cut spending, reform our nation’s tax system, secure our borders, defund Planned Parenthood and fully repeal Obamacare,” he added. “Like President Trump, Roy Moore is a political outsider who isn’t afraid to stand up to the liberals in his own party to get results for all Americans. Unlike so many Republicans who break their promises after they are elected, Roy Moore is someone we can count on.”

Notice a theme here?

Spine, backbone of steel, political outsider, isn’t afraid, a strong man, not for sale … the exact opposite of what passes for a public servant in today’s Washington, D.C.

These endorsements are helping build momentum for Judge Moore, but it will take more than conservative unity to defeat the millions of special- interest dollars already flowing into incumbent Senator Strange’s campaign war chest.

Judge Roy Moore is the real deal, a Bible-believing Christian and a constitutional originalist who lives the values he campaigns on and will not be intimidated or bought by the Washington establishment. We urge all our conservative-populist friends in Alabama to unite behind Roy Moore, and all our readers across the country to support his campaign. Please go to roymoore.org to contribute and learn how you can help.

Back to school? How about back to homeschool?

School

As state-run education gradually clamps down on freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the values that make the United States so great, the WND Superstore has you covered on the books your kids might not find on the classroom bookshelf.

The first is a mini United States Constitution, a pocket-sized, calfskin leather bound book containing the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and every constitutional amendment to the present day.

It also includes other important founding documents such as The Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Bill of Rights, the Massachusetts Bill of Rights, the Articles of Confederation and the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom.

Another great selection for more advanced readers is “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson,” a book that uncovers truths about the third president of the United States that your child won’t learn in school.

Author David Barton, a historian, attempts to set the record straight, upending centuries of smears from disingenuous scholars.

For those in high school, the “SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student” is a great way to ready young minds for the notoriously tricky standardized test.

The book helps students build disciplined study skills, increase vocabulary and develop writing skills, all while encouraging them to grow in the Lord.

Specifically designed for Christian students, author James Stobaugh reports “the best SAT scores come from students who have serious, disciplined prayer and devotional lives.”

Stobaugh, a Merrill fellow at Harvard University, is a recognized leader in homeschooling and college preparation education.

For adults, especially those interested in homeschooling, the Superstore also has a variety of books for parents directly invested in the education of their children.

“Crimes of the Educators” reveals how “progressive” educators have dumbed-down American children by taking over government schools and pushing dubious reforms such as Common Core.

“How many parents … send their children to school so central planners can mold them into functionally illiterate cogs in a centrally planned machine, having just enough knowledge to do their preassigned task? How will such cogs be able to think critically, much less sustain liberty and the American experiment?” ask authors Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman.

The answer is far too many.

If you’re interested in beginning to homeschool your children, WND has you covered, too.

Homeschool consultant Marsha Hubler lays out a practical guide for homeschool success in “You’ve Decided to Homeschool, Now What?”

The detailed book shows how to get started and maintain a workable plan.

The book includes sample yearly calendars, sample transcripts, curriculum guides, legal counsel and a list of helpful websites.

The WND Superstore also features a host of educational documentaries perfect for homeschooling, such as “A Nation Adrift,” the true story of how God guided the founders of America, and “Change to Chains,” a documentary explaining the uniqueness of the American democratic experiment.

Another valuable educational documentary is “Constitutional Literacy with Michael Farris,” a DVD set that outlines the constitutional and legal theory essential for American self-government.

Whether you homeschool your children or not, the WND Superstore features an array of conservative educational items all in one place.


ARE GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS INTENTIONALLY MAKING CHILDREN DUMBER?

common_core

WASHINGTON – It’s no surprise to hear that America’s education system is in disarray, with Common Core dumbing down young students, faith absent from education and underpaid teachers increasingly unfit to serve as effective educators.

But all of that is by design, contends Alex Newman, an international journalist and co-author of “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.”

He recently appeared on the “Revealing the Truth with Rabbi Walker” Web TV show to discuss the issue.

Newman believes the government education system is not built to educate but to create obedient, unlearned drones who are subservient to authority.

“It’s really the education system that is at the foundation of what eventually emerges as culture, politics, government and all the rest of it,” Newman began. “Education is where we went wrong, so if we’re going to fix this, education is the place to be involved.”

Newman was educated at an array of top private schools but realizes his academic upbringing was irregular.

“On the other end of the spectrum [from private schools], you have what’s going on in the government schools. It’s worse than a bad education: It’s a system deliberately designed to handicap the individual.”

See what American education has become, in “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.”

According to Newman, government schools work to produce illiteracy, dumb down students and spread an atheistic worldview. Government education, he said, leads to “a hatred toward truth, objective reality and moral principles.”

Newman believes this is no accident and that the entire system is set-up to fail students “by design.”

While elites send their children to private schools for superior education, the vast majority of Americans are stuck in government schools. Average Americans are thus often left behind due to their educational upbringing and are unable to be as successful as the moneyed elites.

Furthermore, Christians and children of other faiths in government schools often find their beliefs under attack, especially those who are devout adherents.

A major cause of the dysfunction of government schools? A 19th century politician named Horace Mann.

“Horace Mann was actually opposed to Christianity; he was a Unitarian. He wanted to get Christ out of everything,” Newman explained.

Mann was appointed secretary of the board of education of Massachusetts in 1837 and from then on introduced the “Prussian Model” of education to government schools.

The model focused on “constant obedience and loyalty to the state,” according to Newman, and was in opposition to the original purpose of education in the United States, which focused on literacy to promote reading the Bible.

Mann spread his ideas across the country.

In the later 1800s, John Dewey solidified secular education in the United States.

Dewey, a socialist and atheist, Newman noted, was funded by a number of wealthy donors and spread his ideology to the colleges that educated teachers. Over 50 years, Dewey’s philosophy gradually gained prominence across the United States.

Dewey believed that “schools should teach secularism” and that they should “not worry as much about teaching reading and math,” Newman said.

Dewey’s philosophy ultimately infected the Department of Education at its founding in 1979.

Americans have become “dumber and dumber” with each successive generation, according to Newman, a claim backed by statistical data.

“Fifty-five percent of Americans are either illiterate or functionally illiterate,” Newman said. “This is essentially building a prison around children.”

Newman stressed again that this is all “by design.”

He believes the public education system threatens conservative values everywhere by creating voters that are unable to think for themselves.

“We can fight the political battles, but if we lose on the education front, this is all a moot point,” he said.

“If we don’t put the brakes on this, our society is not going to last.”

Newman contends the nation must return to effective methods of teaching the skills of reading and writing, and to teaching proper morals and values in schools. He sees promise in many of the small, independent Christian schools around the country.

Newman thinks Trump appointee Betsy DeVos has been a mixed bag so far as secretary of education, and he was more impressed during Trump’s campaign when he promised to abolish the Department of Education.

“Rather than focusing so much on charter schools,” Newman said, “Betsy DeVos should be focused on abolishing her department.”

That would lead to education being organized at the state or local level, allowing far greater freedom of ideas as well as superior teaching methods in the classroom.

If politicians can successfully abolish the Department of Education, “We will no longer have this top-down, centralized, one-size-fits-all model called ‘Common Core.’”

While Newman is optimistic about the future of American education, he realizes it will not be easy.

“This is going to be a very long term process,” Newman concluded.

Watch the full in interview:


Churches banned from hurricane help? Now Trump joins fight

President Trump (Photo: Twitter)

Three Texas churches that sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency when they were banned from participating in federal hurricane recovery programs because of their faith now are getting support from President Trump as well as at least one member of Congress.

WND reported last week that the three churches in the middle of Hurricane Harvey’s path of death and destruction sued because FEMA bans them, on the basis of their faith, from participating in recovery programs.

The action was brought by Becket, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm, on behalf of Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle and Rockport First Assembly of God churches.

“After the costliest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, the government should come to the aid of all, not leave important parts of the community underwater,” commented Diana Verm, who works at Becket.

“Hurricane Harvey didn’t cherry-pick its victims; FEMA shouldn’t cherry-pick whom it helps.”

The churches now are enjoying the public support of the president.

On social media, he advocated for the churches to be allowed to participate in FEMA programs, stating, “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).”

“The Devil in DC: Winning Back the Country From the Beast in Washington”

And Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., wrote to FEMA administrator Brock Long requesting an explanation for the decision to discriminate.

“This policy discriminates against people of faith,” the senator wrote. “It sends the message that communities of worship aren’t welcome to participate fully in public life. … It reduces the facilities and volunteer time, talent, and effort available to support the broader community. And it is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s recent 7-2 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer…. In other words, it is unjust. It is unconstitutional. It is unreasonable. And it is impeding ongoing recovery efforts.”

The senator told the federal agency “there is no room for discriminatory policies that hinder the tasks of recovery and rebuilding. That is why I am disturbed to learn of FEMA’s refusal to allow religious Americans equal access to disaster aid.”

“When facilities for stamp and coin collecting are eligible for aid,” he said, “but houses of worship aren’t, something has gone seriously wrong.”

On Monday, the Family Research Council issued a statement saying the federal ban on aid to churches in hurricane zones is “ridiculous” and said President Trump is trying to right the wrongs from “Obama’s two terms of religious hostility.”

“Trump’s position ought to go a long way to righting this 1998 wrong, especially now that Congress is piling on,” the group said.

WND reported when the case developed that while FEMA has praised churches and religious ministries and the valuable shelter and aid they provide to disaster-stricken communities, it refuses them permission to participate in recovery and restoration programs.

“To its credit, the federal government has stepped [up] to help the people of Texas, who are already very busy helping one another with the recovery process. One of the leading resources for disaster relief has been houses of worship. Indeed, Plaintiff Hi-Way Tabernacle is currently in use as a shelter for dozens of evacuees, a warehouse for disaster relief supplies, a distribution center for thousands of emergency meals, and a base to provide medical services,” the complaint said.

“FEMA has accordingly rightly recognized that houses of worship have an essential role as places of refuge during the storm, and as nerve centers of recovery afterwards.”

The complaint continues, “Yet FEMA policy explicitly denies equal access to FEMA disaster relief grants for house of worship solely because of their religious status.

“The Devil in DC: Winning Back the Country From the Beast in Washington”

“The Constitution does not allow this exclusionary policy to continue. Under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment – particularly as interpreted by the Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church – government may not discriminate against a church, or a synagogue, or a mosque simply because of its status as a place of religious teaching and worship.”

The three plaintiffs are asking “this court to order FEMA to treat them on equal terms with other non-profit organizations in accepting, evaluating, and acting on their disaster relief applications.”


St Peter’s bones ‘found in ancient church in Rome during restoration work’

Bones attributed to St Peter have been found inside an ancient church in Rome during routine restoration work, according to reports.

The apparent relics of the Apostle, who is regarded by Catholics as the first Pope, were found in clay pots in the Church of Santa Maria which dates back 1,000 years and is situated at Cappella in the district of Trastevere, a medieval warren of cobbled streets on the banks of the Tiber River, The Telegraph reported.

The discovery was made when a workman lifted up a large marble slab near the medieval altar in the church, which has been closed to the public for 35 years because of structural problems.

He found two Roman-era pots with inscriptions on their lids indicating that bone fragments were inside belonging to St Peter, along with those of three early Popes – Cornelius, Callixtus and Felix – and four early Christian martyrs.

The workman immediately notified the church’s deacon, Massimiliano Floridi, who told the Italian television channel Rai Uno: ‘There were two clay pots which were inscribed with the names of early Popes – Peter, Felix, Callixtus and Cornelius. I’m not an archaeologist but I understood immediately that they were very old. Looking at them, I felt very emotional.’

According to The Telegraph, it had been known for centuries that the relics might exist, with a stone inscription in the church claiming they were kept alongside a fragment of a dress worn by the Virgin Mary.

The remains have been handed over for further study by the Vatican, which said that it was too early to comment on the discovery.

‘We’re waiting for a detailed study to be undertaken,’ said the deacon. ‘A DNA comparison between these bones and those kept by the Vatican would shed light on the issue.’

It is not known how or why the relics would have come to be interred in the Church of Santa Maria in Cappella, which was consecrated in 1090.

One theory is that, at a time of schism within the Catholic Church, they were transferred there from the Vatican by Pope Urban II.

Urban faced a challenge from an ‘anti-pope’, Clement III, who had set up a rival power base in Rome, backed by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV.

The church in Trastevere was closely linked to Pope Urban and may have been seen by him as a secure place in which to hide the bones, according to The Telegraph.

St Peter is believed to have been crucified, upside down, in Rome in the first century AD.

His remains were interred in a tomb on the Vatican Hill, where the Emperor Constantine later built a church, which was replaced by the current basilica in the 16th Century.

After the Second World War, archaeologists discovered a funerary monument there with a casket built in honour of St. Peter and an engraving in Greek that read ‘Petros eni’ – ‘Peter is here’.

The remains were forensically examined in the 1960s, with experts concluding that they belonged to a man in his early sixties who lived in the first century AD. Pope Paul VI declared them the bones of St Peter in 1968.

Pope Francis publicly unveiled the bone fragments during a Mass in 2013, the first time that the nine pieces of bone – encased in a box inside a bronze display case – had ever been displayed in public


China passes new religious regulations ‘to prevent extremism’

Some commentators say the new regulations are mainly focused on curbing the rise of Islamic extremism. (Photo: World Watch Monitor, 2017)

China has passed a new set of rules regulating religious affairs, a year after the proposed amendments were released to the public for the first time.

The new rules, announced yesterday, show no significant alterations to last year’s proposals, though there is noticeably less detail given regarding those who will be responsible for enforcing the regulations. (In the September 2016 draft, it was clearly stated that local authorities would be responsible.)

Over the past few months, Chinese church leaders have given a range of differing perspectives on the proposed regulations, which are due to come into force on 1 February 2018.

Some have suggested the regulations are mainly focused on curbing the rise of Islamic extremism and will not greatly affect Christians. Others have said local authorities are typically reluctant to enforce regulations on churches because of fears of creating conflict and instability.

But others have said they have seen some tightening of restrictions, particularly related to student and youth work, and that some local authorities hand out punishments to avoid being criticised by their superiors.

Over the summer, children were banned from attending Christian camps in several provinces, while notices were issued in others banning all school children, and their teachers, from going to church.

The new rules include guidelines on religious education, the types of religious organisations that can exist, where they can exist and the activities they can organise.

Last year, Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, emphasised the need for provincial officials to have a better overall understanding of religion, so that they are better able to resist “foreign” religions. (The idea of resisting “foreign” religions is generally taken as an attack on Christianity, which is considered a product of the West, promulgated by foreign powers with the intention of destabilising Chinese “harmony”).

Last year, an analyst from the World Watch Research unit of Open Doors, which monitors freedom to practise Christianity globally, told World Watch Monitor the new rules were part of the government’s attempts to “Sinicize every aspect of Chinese life – be it culture, news or religion”.

“[The] implications for Chinese Christians remain to be seen, but it might well be that these directives find their way into new regulations affecting the Church in China,” an Asia analyst for Open Doors, who wished to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor last year. “Freedom in all sectors of society [has been] shrinking since Xi Jinping came into power, and there is evidence that the government is also tightening its grip on the Three Self Patriotic Movement [the state-approved Church].”

As the Communist Party prepares for its 19th Congress in October, World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller says the regime has two priorities: controlling the media and emphasising ideology.

“The preferred line of thinking is emphasised by introducing President Xi’s own brand of ‘political thought’ into the Party constitution, tying ideology closer to the budding personality cult around him,” says Muller. “Fitting into this pattern is a book recently published by the Central Party School, demanding that all students learn from President Xi’s experiences as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution. As the emphasis on Communist ideology and the personality cult emerging around President Xi gets stronger, the authorities will correspondingly act more strongly against all other ‘ideologies’ not fitting into this system, including the Christian religion.”