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Items of interest from various sources of religious news and opinion, in print and on the web.

A Win For First Amendment Protection of Religious Speech. In April the city of Chicago was forced to concede that religious speech, like other speech, is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Four students from Wheaton College had been gathering in Chicago’s Millennium Park to evangelize and pass out Christian literature. In 2018, the park foundation prohibited their activities, and passed rules banning religious speech in the park. A Christian law firm filed a federal suit in 2019 alleging infringements on the students’ free speech and free exercise of religion. Scott Stewart, executive director of the Millennium Park Foundation, testified that the park was different from other public parks because it was designed as a series of artistic “rooms,” and claimed that the park was not a “public forum” where the First Amendment would apply. When asked, Stewart conceded that it would be allowable for someone to pass out the novel Moby Dick but not religious literature. Judge Robert Blakey remarked, “If a ‘curated design’ were enough to transform the nature of the forum, any park with a statue could lose its First Amendment protections. The law precludes this absurd result.” The students were awarded $5000 each, plus four years’-worth of legal fees. Belz, Emily. “Chicago Settles $205K Case to Allow Evangelism in Millennium Park.” News & Reporting., 19 Apr. 2023. Web. 21 Apr. 2023.

Best Selling Bible Translations in the U.S. The publishing group ECPA BestSellers maintains statistics about the highest-selling translations of the Holy Bible in the United States. As of April 2023, the list was as follows, in order of popularity:

  1. New International Version
  2. New Living Translation
  3. Christian Standard Bible
  4. English Standard Version
  5. King James Version
  6. New King James Version
  7. Reina Valera (Spanish)
  8. New American Standard Bible
  9. New Revised Standard Version
  10. New International Reader’s Version

Administration Refusing to Grant Asylum to Chinese Christians. Congressmen and human rights advocates in Washington are urging the Biden administration to take immediate action to ensure the safety of a group of Chinese Christian dissidents detained by Thai authorities in March. The group of refugees, including 35 children and 28 adults, fled China in 2019 to escape persecution. They initially sought refuge in South Korea and then Thailand while seeking emergency asylum in the United States. But the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security have declined to grant the church members emergency asylum, as it has done for many others, including tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing their war-ravaged country, and a group of Afghans airlifted into the United States amid the chaotic U.S. evacuation in August 2021. For months, human rights and religious freedom advocates warned the State Department that Thai authorities have a history of working with the Chinese government to draw Chinese nationals out of hiding, arrest them, and send them back to their homeland, where they face imprisonment, torture, or worse. Then the very scenario they warned about happened: on April 20 Thai police raided the residence where the 63 refugees were staying and two Americans were visiting, arrested the group, fingerprinted them, and detained them in a holding facility. The Chinese nationals face a deportation hearing and could be sent back to China soon thereafter. Crabtree, Susan. “63 Christians Face Deportation Back to China.” Religious Liberty Around the World., 31 Mar. 2023. Web. 21 Apr. 2023.

Lutheran Spokesman