Religion News in Brief

Published 11:22 am Friday, March 6, 2009

WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) — An independent voluntary group that promotes financial transparency and accountability in evangelical churches and charities has appointed a new president.

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability said Tuesday that Dan Busby has been named to the post. Busby has served as acting president since former president Ken Behr resigned last April.

The council, founded in 1979 and based in Winchester, provides accreditation to Christian groups that adhere to good governance and fundraising standards that are meant to earn the trust of donors and the public. The nonprofit groups that are affiliated with the agency collectively have more than $18 billion in revenue annually, the council says.

Since 1998, Busby has been a vice president and senior vice president of the evangelical agency. He is the author of two tax and finances books, “The Minister’s Tax & Financial Guide” and “The Church and Nonprofit Tax & Financial Guide,” and the book “Donor-Restricted Gifts Simplified.”



Creator of Mormon calendar loses appeal for BYU diploma

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brigham Young University has denied an appeal to award a diploma that the creator of a Mormon beefcake calendar says he earned.

Chad Hardy’s diploma was withheld by BYU last fall after he was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and runs the school. Hardy was excommunicated during the month between completing his courses and graduation ceremonies.

Hardy appealed and met with Dean of Students Vernon L. Heperi on Feb. 13. In the meeting, Heperi sought to determine whether Hardy’s life is guided by the school’s honor code, which reflects the values of the Mormon church. BYU requires students to be in academic and ecclesiastical good standing in order to obtain a diploma.

Hardy received a letter Monday from Heperi, saying his appeal was denied.

Hardy, who said he was not surprised by the decision, had hoped BYU would end the dispute and give him his diploma. BYU has repeatedly declined to comment on the specifics of Hardy’s situation in the past, citing confidentiality.

The ruling ends Hardy’s avenues of appeal with the school, however, he could reapply for graduation if he regained his membership in the church. That’s unlikely to happen. Hardy said he voluntarily became an inactive member of the church in 2002.


Malaysia’s Islamic party leader supports non-Muslims in their fight to use ‘Allah’

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The leader of Malaysia’s Islamic opposition party says non-Muslims should be allowed to use the word “Allah” to refer to God, questioning a government ban that has been criticized by Christians as a blow to freedom of religion.

Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the influential spiritual leader of the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, cited a verse in the Quran in which non-Muslims of Mecca call their God “Allah.”

Nik Aziz’s views are an unexpected boost for Malaysia’s Christian minority, who have gone to court to challenge a 2007 order banning non-Muslims from translating God as “Allah” in their literature. The government says its use would confuse Muslims in this multiethnic, Muslim-majority country.

Christian groups say the ban is unconstitutional, arguing that the word “Allah” predates Islam and Muslims do not have an exclusive right to it.

The ban was aimed against the Malay-language edition of the main Roman Catholic newspaper in Malaysia, the Herald, which is read mostly by indigenous tribes who converted to Christianity decades ago. The Herald’s Mandarin, English and Tamil editions do not use the word “Allah.”

Nik Aziz said last Sunday that he is only giving his opinion as a Muslim scholar, and will let the government decide whether to ban the word.

The government is unlikely to heed Nik Aziz’s opinion because he’s an arch political rival of the ruling coalition. Also, it is not clear how much influence he has among Muslims outside the four states where his party has done well in recent elections.

For many Christians, the ban symbolizes their eroding religious freedom under the Muslim-Malay dominated government, while for many Muslims, a lifting of the ban would be seen as a blow to Malay supremacy in the country.


Medieval remains of decapitated girl to get burial

LONDON (AP) — The funeral of a teenage girl will finally be held this month 700 years after her decapitated body was buried in unconsecrated ground outside an English church in a gruesome medieval ritual.

A horse-drawn carriage will carry her remains through the village where archaeologists two years ago discovered the body with the head removed and placed by her side.

Experts believe that she may have been executed or committed suicide and then decapitated after she died, said the Rev. Andy Harding, the vicar of Hoo St. Werburgh parish church who will conduct the service. The body was buried close to the church, parts of which are more than 1,000 years old.

Harding said the ritual was sometimes done during medieval times to deny Christians eternal life. “There was a belief the spirit was housed in the head,” he said. “That’s condemning them really … which I think is brutal and awful.”

Harding said local businesses will provide a coffin, headstone and the carriage to take the remains through the village to the church, about 30 miles southeast of London.

“She will be back with me in the next couple of days,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to make up for.”

The funeral is scheduled for March 14.