As battered pastor leaves India, Hindus prepare to force out other missionaries
Joseph Cooper, who was beaten and stabbed by a Hindu mob near Thiruvanthapuram, India, has returned to the United States. But Hindu activists are still pursuing a criminal case against him for violating the terms of his tourist visa by preaching at a Protestant church meeting. A lower court has adjourned the case until tomorrow.

Cooper's situation is bad news for other foreign pastors and missionaries in India. The militant Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) says it has a list of about 50 other foreign missionaries who are "'similarly' engaged in forced religious conversions or are attending religious functions in 'blatant violation' of their visa provisions," according to India's PTI news service. (One wonders how Cooper's preaching to a room entirely consisting of Christians is an example of forced religious conversions, but then again, the radical Hindus regularly make up claims of "forced" conversions.) The list will be submitted to authorities in the southern state of Kerala. "If the government fails to act, then it will have to face 'direct action' in the form of agitations," VHP state head Kummanam Rajasekharan said. By agitations he apparently means the kind of action that sent Cooper to the hospital.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is India's ruling political party, and supports the VHP and other militant Hindu groups (including the Rashtiriya Swayamsevak Sangh, members of which have been arrested for the attack on Cooper). It also says it will act against foreign Christians. "If the state Government is unable to prevent the forced religious conversions, BJP will mobilize people against such moves," state party chief C. K. Padmanabhan told a press conference.

Cooper's case may affect Indian Christians as well. "If the policy is that religious preaching is illegal, then Indians should not go out and preach their religions," said K.C. John, head of the Indian Pentecostal Church in Kerala. "If we can go out and preach, then those who come to our country should have similar rights."

The U.S. government apparently agrees. "While we uphold the right of all countries to enforce their visa regulations, we note that the freedom of speech and of religion are two fundamental principles of both the Indian and American democracies," said U.S. consulate spokeswoman Helen LaFave.

Indians are standing against Cooper's detractors as well. Cooper's deportation order "may be an appropriate action by the civil authorities in Kerala on the grounds that he should not have spoken at a religious meeting after coming into the country on a tourist visa," says an editorial in The Hindu, a national newspaper. "But then, the issues involved in this case are certainly not those that could conveniently be reduced to a matter of immigration rules. The violence let loose against Mr. Cooper and his associates near Thiruvananthapuram was clearly a fallout of the majoritarian political agenda at work, and hence warranted an approach that had to be distinctly different from dealing with ordinary instances of breach of law and order."

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The newspaper is especially grieved that

the political establishment … had refrained from speaking out against the violent attack and identifying the political forces behind the heinous crime. … The people involved were not demonstrating in protest against his violation of the visa rules; they indulged in an unpardonable and grievous assault. Their intention was to drive a sense of fear into the Dalits and the tribals the missionary had visited and "prevail" upon them against converting to Christianity. In this sense, the incident on Friday was one that infringed on the right of the people to choose their religion.

Efforts to "crack down" on other Christians violating their visa terms similarly damage India's democracy, the paper said. "While the need to put the activities of the missionaries and their source of funds through the scanner and the enforcement of immigration rules is justified in the abstract, the fact is that such a focus in the immediate aftermath of the attack … will not only be abused by sections within the bureaucracy, but will also lend a sense of legitimacy to the violent ways of the storm troopers of the various [militant Hindu] outfits."

Religious discrimination in the workplace complaints rising quickly
"Worker complaints of religious discrimination made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission jumped more than 20 percent last year, driven primarily by claims of retaliation against Muslims," the Associated Press reports. "But in a much more gradual trend, complaints … involving a broad range of religions have slowly mounted—up 85 percent over the past decade. Such cases make up a very small percentage of overall workplace discrimination complaints, but they are rising at a much faster rate."

Likewise, the AP reports, 20 percent of personnel executives say their companies had seen worker requests for religious accommodations increase in the past five years.

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More articles on religious discrimination:

Judge Roy Moore says  9/11 caused by nation's turn from God
"How many of you remember Americans running to get gas masks because (of) some bearded man in Afghanistan?" Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore asked yesterday as he accepted an honorary doctorate in divinity from the National Clergy Council and Methodist Episcopal Church U.S.A. "Fear struck this country. … You see, there are consequences when we turn away from our source of our strength."

Moore complained that the last 40 years of legal theory have led the country to believe that rights are granted by the government, not God. "The role of government is not to give us rights," he said. "The role of government is not to deny the God that does. The role of government is to secure the rights God gave you."

More articles


  • Peace patina … under glass | Does President Bush really expect the world to believe him when he says that he is not engaged in a war on Islam but is only engaged in a war on terrorism? (Ebrahim Moosa, The Washington Times)

  • Give peace a chance, world religions say | Vatican-sponsored meeting was attended by representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Sikhism (Reuters)

  • The Catholic Church and Iraq | Recent history suggests that a note of caution is in order when it comes to listening to the Catholic Church's warnings regarding U.S. military action against Saddam (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • U.S. Christians debate notion of 'just war' in Iraq | Reflecting divisions in America generally, some said that if it were established that Iraq was building banned weapons then an attack would be "a righteous act," while others said an attack would be an act of aggression, not self-defense (Reuters)

  • Tuning out | Denominations are saying no to war with Iraq, but many members may not be listening (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Who would Jesus bomb? | The protests in San Francisco proved that the peacenik universe is expanding (LA Weekly)


  • Christians fear Iraq backlash | Pakistani Christians living in the United States fear that a U.S. military offensive against Iraq could endanger Christians in Pakistan (UPI)

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Persecution and religious freedom:

  • Pakistani police arrest anti-Christian Islamic gang | Pakistani police have arrested a gang of Islamic extremists suspected of planning attacks against Christians and churches (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

  • Earlier: Church attack victims demand justice, protection | Pakistan's government promised to take quick and stern action against the perpetrators, but no charges have yet be brought (Reuters)

  • Vietnam targets Christian protestants in crackdown, says group | Human Rights Watch says more than 100 minority Protestants were arrested last year (Voice of America)

  • Ethiopian police 'tortured Christians' | Ethiopian Human Rights Council says that following a confrontation between the police and demonstrators outside Addis Ababa's Lideta Mariam Orthodox church, 700 people were taken to a police training camp 30km outside the city and tortured during their five-day detention (BBC)

  • U.S. considers citing Saudi Arabia for intolerance | State Dept. may use diplomacy or privately confront kingdom to win gains for religious minorities (The Washington Post)

  • Police must act and crack down on religious fanatics | Over the past few weeks, there have been press reports indicating a steady build up of tension between religious groups in various parts of the country. The tension is mainly due to the row pitting a section of the Muslim community against some Christians, particularly the Balokole (born-again Christians). (John Kakande, New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)

  • A pastor's cry for compensation | Among the organizations affected by the devastating effects of the bomb blast of January 27, last year are churches located in areas near the Ikeja Military Cantonment. But unlike several other organizations, the churches claim that they have not been considered for compensation by the authorities (Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria)

U.S. politics:

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Foreign politics:

Court cases and legislation:

  • Neighbors blast ministry center plan | Chinatown activists asked the Philadelphia zoning board yesterday to derail an evangelical Christian group's plan to convert the former Metropolitan Hospital into a large church and ministry center (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Bush plans to let religious groups get building aid | The policy shift significantly expands the administration's contentious religion-based initiative (The New York Times)

  • Churches square off on anti-bias bill | Nashville's proposed change to its anti-discrimination employment and housing law has stirred emotions among many in Nashville's religious community, including strong opposition from leadership at the Southern Baptist Convention (The Tennessean)

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Prayer in Maryland Senate:


  • Abortion battle looms in Colorado Legislature | Democrats in the state Legislature are criticizing a bill they say unfairly singles out clinics that provide abortions with burdensome bureaucratic hurdles designed to make it tougher for them to obtain licenses (Colorado Daily, University of Colorado)

  • At a distance, Bush joins abortion protest | President Bush told tens of thousands of abortion protesters today that he shared their commitment to "protect the lives of innocent children waiting to be born," and asserted that the anti-abortion movement was gaining steam in Congress and the culture at large (The New York Times)

  • Celebrating Roe | The religious Left prays (Rod Dreher, National Review Online)

  • Abortion, cloning are on Bush agenda | White House senior adviser Karl Rove, outlining plans that would have sounded improbable just three months ago, said yesterday that bans on late-term abortions and human cloning are high on President Bush's agenda and should be achievable in the new Congress (The Washington Post)

  • Bush urges ban on partial-birth abortion | President Bush yesterday vowed to sign legislation banning partial-birth abortion, which he called "an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity," as Senate Republicans declared they would bring up the issue as early as next month (The Washington Times)

  • Political climate energizes abortion foes  | GOP's gains help attract thousands to 'march for life' (The Washington Post)

Other life ethics issues:

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  • Thousands gather for anti-gun event | The Rev. Joel Edwards, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, opened the Communities Unite event with a prayer for two teenage girls shot at party (Ananova)


  • Priest saying Mass is shot at | The bullet hit the Rev. Greig Gonzales in the shoe and bounced off. Congregants tackled the suspect (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Attacker stops assault when victim begins to pray | The man stood up and asked the woman if she was a Christian. When she said yes, he zipped up his pants, apologized and shook her hand, police said (The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. Link via Romenesko's Obscure Store)

  • Irate Edo youths set church, market ablaze | While the burning of Ogida market was said to have been occasioned by differences between Uwelu and Ogida youths in Benin City, the multi-million naira Spirit and Life Bible Church was razed as a result of alleged dispute over the ownership of the parcel of land, where it is located (Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria)

  • Scuffle disrupts church service | The youths blocked Reverend Williard Sikaonga from leaving the premises forcing some elders to report the matter to Chipulukusu police post where the officers issued a call-out (The Times of Zambia)



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  • Students protest charter decision on InterVarsity | A letter-writing campaign prompted by members of the Queer Network for Change raises charges of discrimination by InterVarsity and criticism of the university chancellor's support for the group (The Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, link via In the Shadowlands)

  • Also: Retyping the tablets | If InterVarsity refuses to allow anyone in the community to become a leader in the group, the University should allow it to exist as an organization—but not allow it to receive any student fees (Editorial, The Daily Targum, Rutgers University)

  • Also: InterVarsity's beliefs and actions in contradiction | Religious ideals can be achieved through unity, diversity (Jenny Teabo, The Daily Targum, Rutgers University)

National Baptist convention:

Martin Luther King Jr. and race relations:

  • Minister: Belief slows advancement | African Americans 'misinterpret' the Bible, contends James T. Meeks (The Daily Journal, Kankakee, Ill.)

  • Behind MLK's Answers | Perhaps instead of asking, "What would Dr. King say … ?" we should ask what the biblical and democratic values that inspired him tell us to do (Ralph E. Luker, History News Service)

  • MLK's elusive dream of a 'beloved community' | The most segregated hour of Christian America is still 11 o'clock on Sunday morning (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • The faithful's wayward path | A distracted clergy watches idly as the black community is engaged in new fights just as vital as the one against segregation of 40 years ago (Juan Williams, The New York Times)

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