Religion in brief
Indiana megachurch fires pastor amid probe
HAMMOND, Ind. — A northwestern Indiana megachurch has fired its pastor amid a police investigation into the independent Baptist congregation and a college it operates.
The First Baptist Church of Hammond said in a news release that pastor Jack Schaap committed “a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right to be our pastor.”
Church representatives said they were cooperating with police, but offered no specifics on the allegations against Schaap.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich told The Times of Munster that his department began a criminal investigation of the church and Hyles Anderson College after talking with high-ranking representatives of the congregation. He declined to identify the target of the investigation or other details.
First Baptist elected Schaap its pastor in February 2001, a month after the late Rev. Jack Hyles died of a heart attack.
Schaap, now 54, is a Holland, Mich., native who came to northwestern Indiana in 1977 to attend and graduate from Hyles-Anderson College, which Hyles founded four decades ago. He met and married Hyles’ youngest daughter, Cindy, and served the church early in his career as an assistant youth director, bus captain and mentor to young students.
He preached and taught in the college and was its vice president for four years before becoming pastor.
Schaap committed himself to carrying on Hyles’ fundamentalist view of the Christian faith.
Ohio city delays decision on logo
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Officials in an eastern Ohio town have halted a plan to remove religious symbols from the city logo.
The Steubenville City Council had decided to change the logo after a resident complained that it included the cross and silhouette of the Christ the King Chapel on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis., threatened to sue if it didn’t happen.
Now a groundswell of support and offers of free legal representation to fight the complaint have city officials reconsidering the decision. The issue is on hold for now.
The Steubenville Herald-Star reported that a petition with 300 signatures protesting the move was presented to city officials at a recent meeting.
Dalai Lama planning May visit to Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Dalai Lama plans to visit Louisville next year to visit and bless a Tibetan Buddhist temple and teaching center and make other public appearances.
The Courier-Journal reports the 77-year-old Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit May 19-21.
The Nobel laureate and exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists last visited Louisville in 1994 and last visited Kentucky in 1996.
He regularly visits Bloomington, Ind., where his late brother founded a Buddhist center.
Anne Walter, board president of the Drepung Gomang Institute, the temple and teaching center, said her group had invited the Dalai Lama for the blessing and also to give talks about compassion to the general public and youths in the city and give more advanced religious training to local Buddhists.
Inmate’s bid for use of Muslim name rejected
WICHITA, Kan. — An appeals court said the federal justice system’s refusal to recognize an inmate’s new Muslim name does not violate the convict’s religious rights.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that Michael White failed to show it was unreasonable to deny his request to amend all records in his criminal case.
A lower court held that replacing the name Michael White with Abdul Hakeem Kareem Mujahid in all federal court records would create confusion.
Mujahid is serving 10 years at a prison in Colorado for killing another inmate at the federal prison in Leavenworth.
A Kansas court granted his petition to change his name in December 2010.
Pa. pastor fights charges in mock kidnapping
LANCASTER, Pa. — The attorney for an Assemblies of God youth pastor who staged a church youth group kidnapping as a lesson on religious persecution said his client will fight the charges.
Andrew Jordan blindfolded the teens in March, bound their wrists and drove them in a cargo van to a dingy basement, where they overheard mock torture.
His attorney, William DeStefano, said there was no evidence anyone hurt the girl whose complaint led to charges of assault and false imprisonment against the Glad Tidings Assembly of God youth pastor.
Dauphin County prosecutors said the half-hour ordeal included interrogation and staged torture using power tools.
DeStefano told the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era he can challenge the false imprisonment charge because the girl never tried to flee her fake captors.
Colo. church eyes split from Presbyterians
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Leaders of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Collins are seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA), which last year struck down a barrier to ordaining gay leaders.
The Coloradoan reports leaders of the Fort Collins church are citing “irreconcilable spiritual differences” in recommending that it join the Fellowship of Presbyterians and seek dismissal from its denomination.
The Fort Collins congregation of about 1,000 would have to take an advisory vote on leaving, and Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Plains and Peaks Dan Saperstein must ultimately approve whether the dismissal occurs. A final decision could come within a year.
Church member Dale Preston says he plans to oppose the move.
He says he and others believe the Presbyterian church has a history of being respectful of diverse opinions.