A New York imam has declared that he will start a campaign on April 22 to make the April 26 birthday of the Muslim prophet Muhammad a national holiday celebrated by Muslims and people of other faiths, reports foxnews.com. Mohammad Abdul Qayyoom, head of the Muhammadi Community Center in Jackson Heights in the NYC borough of Queens, published a copy of the petition via the center’s Facebook page to be signed by other religious leaders. The interfaith initiative asks for an establishment of April 26 as a federal holiday, “so that we can enjoy this day like the joy of Christmas.” “One good thing [about] this country are celebrations,” Qayyoom told The Christian Post Wednesday. “We have many celebrations—we have Christmas, we have the Valentine’s Day, we have Halloween, we have many many traditions.” Muslims would like to have one day as a holiday in the United States, Qayyoom told CP. And that would be April 26. The date was proposed because it is the day historically recognized as the day the prophet Muhammad was born in 570 A.D., the imam said. The Muslim calendar, following the lunar calendar, makes celebrating most holidays (like Ramadan) tricky in relation to the regular calendar, as they are movable, therefore celebrating that historical date seems reasonable, he claimed in the statement.

Other news:

  • In a pointed message to President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Obama a copy of the Old Testament book of Esther, which recounts how Esther heroically prevented the massacre of Jews. “The prime minister of Israel is many things, but subtle is not one of them,” columnist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote Wednesday for Bloomberg and reported by The Christian Post. “The message of Purim is: When the Jews see a murderous conspiracy forming against them, they will act to disrupt the plot. A further refinement of the message is: When the Jews see a plot forming against them in Persia, they will act to disrupt the plot, even if Barack Obama wishes that they would wait for permission.” Jews will be celebrating Purim on Wednesday and Thursday this week to remember Esther’s deeds. Esther, a Jew, was selected to be the Queen of Persia, but kept her religion secret. In her position, she wittingly prevented a plot to kill all the Jews in Persia. Goldberg called Purim “the apotheosis of the ‘They Tried to Kill Us, They Failed, Let’s Eat’ category of Jewish holidays.”
  • The movie Courageous had an incredible impact on men across the United States and is now having a profound impact around the world, reports Mission Network News. Many men in the U.S. were moved to take their families back for Christ as they watched the story of a police officer who commits to Christ and to being a better father following the sudden death of his daughter. Rob Carter of Jaron Ministries outreach, Code 3 International, just returned from the Philippines and says, “We showed the film to about 4,000 officers and saw nearly 1,000 come forward to receive Christ as Lord and Savior in response to the film.” Local churches are now providing follow-up care to these new believers. Carter says it’s not stopping there. “They are now working with local churches in Manila to continue the work: to take the movie to every law enforcement headquarters and show it to their department.” Carter isn’t sure if Provident Films envisioned that the film would go worldwide, but that’s been Code 3’s vision. “We are moving forward with our efforts to go into other countries. We have a number of invitations around the world. We would welcome those who want to make an eternal investment into reaching law enforcement for Christ around the world.” Code 3 International is also looking for Christian police officers. “The American badge can go places around the world that pastors and missionaries cannot. The brotherhood of law enforcement is global. So, for Christian law enforcement officers out there, we would love to have you contact us and be a part of one of our teams.”
  • Members of the Muslim jihadist group Boko Haram are vowing to “eradicate Christianity” in Nigeria, reports WorldNetDaily. Reports coming out of Nigeria over the past several days show that the group, whose name means “Western education is evil,” is launching a new terror campaign aimed at killing Christians and Jews in northern Nigeria. The Nigerian news site Bikya Masr reports that the jihadi group has declared war on all Christians living in northern Nigeria. Human-rights group International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho confirms the reports and says the news is “alarming.” “The reports indicate that members of Boko Haram recently declared a war on Christians in northern Nigeria. The group vowed to eradicate Christians from certain areas in Nigeria,” Racho said. “The spokesman for the group (Boko Haram) say the group will launch a number of attacks targeting Christians,” Racho said. “So there are alarming developments even as we speak.” Estimates put the casualties in Boko Haram’s campaign at more than 100 dead since Christmas.
  • Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is safe for Christians, Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote in an op-ed column for The Wall Street Journal on Friday and reported by haaretz.com, comparing what he said was the suppression of Christian communities in Arab states to the 20th-century expulsion of Jews from these nations. In his article, Oren cited the continuing violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the burning of Iraqi churches, a Saudi ban on Christian worship and the desecration of the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank as instances indicating a threat to Christianity in the Muslim world, adding that conversion “to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death.” The Israeli official went on to compare what he called a sweeping action against Christian communities in the Arab world to the expulsion of 800,000 “from Arab countries, mostly following the Six-Day War.” Ultimately, Oren concludes, the only place in the Middle East where Christians aren’t endangered, but are actually flourishing, is in Israel. “Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%,” he added. Oren concluded the article, in which he cites the exodus of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank and Gaza over increased pressure by Islamist groups such as Hamas, by saying that the “extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude.” “Yet Israel provides an example of how this trend can not only be prevented but reversed. With the respect and appreciation that they receive in the Jewish state, the Christians of Muslim countries could not only survive but thrive,” Oren wrote.
  • With President Obama’s health care law putting the traditional insurance marketplace across the country into upheaval, one alternative that has grown in popularity is Christian health sharing, an approach among faith communities to share costs without being subject to the regulatory burdens and mandates of Obama’s law, reports heartland.org. Medi-Share is a nationwide community of more than 47,000 Christians who follow the Biblical model of sharing and paying each other’s medical bills. Members commit to following healthy lifestyles based on Christian principles—such as not smoking, using drugs, drinking in excess, or having sexual relationships outside of marriage. Medi-Share members are legally exempt from the provisions of President Obama’s health care law. Instead of monthly premiums, Medi-Share participants share in each other medical bills and pay, on average, 20 to 30 percent less for health care than those with traditional insurance, saving participants more than $600 million in health care expenses since 1993. With health insurance premiums expected to rise by as much as 40 percent over the next three years, more people are turning to health sharing as an alternative, says Larry Guyette, chief operating officer of Christian Care Ministry, which operates Medi-Share.
  • A surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance, reports reuters.com. Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group. In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before. The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America, but with small- to medium-size houses of worship the worst. Most of these institutions have ended up being purchased by other churches. The highest percentage has occurred in some of the states hardest hit by the home foreclosure crisis: California, Georgia, Florida, and Michigan. “Churches are among the final institutions to get foreclosed upon because banks have not wanted to look like they are being heavy handed with the churches,” said Scott Rolfs, managing director of Religious and Education finance at the investment bank Ziegler.
  • Crystal Cathedral founder Dr. Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, announced they stepped down from the board of the California megachurch after they lost hope to settle disputes with directors over copyright infringement and payment for services constructively, reports The Christian Post. “We cannot continue to serve on the Board in what has become an adversarial and negative atmosphere, especially since it now seems that it will not be ending anytime soon,” Arvella Schuller said in a statement Saturday. The couple was involved in a legal battle with the board of directors over intellectual property and copyright infringement claims as well as back payment for services rendered, according to their daughter Carol Schuller Milner. The Schullers, who had been awaiting a decision by the independent board members regarding the latest of many offers made by the couple over the past months to settle their claims in the bankruptcy court, were told last Tuesday night that “the Board had no interest in continuing their dialogue aimed at positive resolution,” the news release explained. Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times reports that the Crystal Cathedral’s senior pastor announced Sunday that she was leaving to start a new church, a move that appears likely to split the congregation. “This is the last Sunday we will be worshiping in this building,” Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman told congregants during an emotional 11 a.m. service in the 10,000-pane glass cathedral, designed by architect Phillip Johnson. The break-off group will be known as Hope Center of Christ.
  • Reports this weekend that as many as 98 major advertisers are asking not to air their ads on conservative radio shows are “totally bogus,” a source close to Premiere Networks told Newsmax Sunday night. Premiere Networks syndicates top-rated shows like those hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck. “The fact is that these advertisers, with a few exceptions, have never been advertising on Premiere’s conservative shows,” the source said. “Most of these 98 firms don’t air on liberal MSNBC or radio shows like Ed Schultz’s. There is nothing new here,” the source said. “These companies for the most part never advertise on Rush, Hannity and other conservative talk shows,” the source said, adding, “And they usually don’t advertise on liberal shows either.” The Premiere memo being cited actually is just a reminder to stations of long-standing policy telling their ad traffic managers not to fill unsold ads in conservative talk radio programs with such brand advertisers. “The media is trying to create the impression—one being propagated by the liberal Media Matters—that there is mass movement against conservative shows,” the source said. “But it simply isn’t true.” The source also told Newsmax that several major advertisers who have dropped Rush have already indicated to Premiere they plan to come back on his show, and other Premiere shows like Hannity and Levin have seen strong ad revenue growth. Meanwhile, a super PAC with links to President Barack Obama has no plans to return a $1 million donation made to it by liberal comedian Bill Maher, reports Newsmax. The donation has come under fire after the White House and pro-Obama groups targeted conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh for offensive remarks he made about a female Georgetown University law school student. Limbaugh officially apologized for his comments and admitted they were “insulting.” Conservative groups are furious that Maher has yet to apologize for incendiary and demeaning remarks he has made about Sarah Palin, while leading Democrats stand by him. In February, Maher announced he was personally donating $1 million to a super PAC supporting President Obama’s re-election. A PAC that supports Sarah Palin took note, and complained that Maher had called her offensive names.
  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum blasted former Gov. Mitt Romney Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press for what he described as repeated untruths about his role in pushing the state healthcare plan that became the model for Obamacare, reports Newsmax. Santorum said Romney “repeatedly didn’t tell the truth” and “misled voters” about imposing individual federal mandates with regard to the Massachusetts health care law. As for President Obama, Santorum said the president’s high-cost regulations are damaging businesses and hurting the economy. Santorum told Gregory, “Governor Romney and Barack Obama are exactly the same place on health care. Romneycare, Obamacare, the same, with a top-down government control of the resources, mandates and of course, now we know, thanks to—you know, an interview that you did and others—that Governor Romney actually advocated for the Massachusetts model that President Obama adopt, with mandates,” Santorum said. “And then went out on the campaign trail and repeatedly . . . didn’t tell the truth. He went out and misled voters that somehow or another he was not for mandates at the federal level when, in fact, he was,” Santorum continued. “He went out and said, ‘Oh, no, I didn’t require Catholic hospitals to provide things that were against their conscience,’ when, in fact, he did. “He said, ‘Oh, I didn’t provide free abortions under Romneycare,’ when in fact he did for some. “So he’s repeatedly had big government solutions and then gone out and told the public, bold face, that he didn’t do the things that he did,” Santorum said. During the primary campaign Romney has insisted he never wanted the mandated health care system he implemented in Massachusetts to be used at the federal level. However, a 2009 op-ed Romney wrote for USA Today has recently surfaced in which he urged President Obama to adopt his program, including an individual mandate, for his federal healthcare makeover. The Obama administration has claimed it used Romneycare as its model for Obamacare. As for President Obama, Santorum told NBC that the president’s high-cost regulations are damaging businesses and hurting the economy.
  • Before getting a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs, men would have to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test, and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency, if state Sen. Nina Turner has her way. The Cleveland Democrat introduced Senate Bill 307 this week, reports conservativebyte.com. A critic of efforts to restrict abortion and contraception for women, Turner says she is concerned about men’s reproductive health. Turner’s bill joins a trend of female lawmakers submitting bills regulating men’s health. Turner said if state policymakers want to legislate women’s health choices through measures such as House Bill 125, known as the Heartbeat bill, they should also be able to legislate men’s reproductive health. Ohio anti-abortion advocates say the two can’t be compared.
  • Pope Benedict XVI waded deep into U.S. campaign politics Friday, urging visiting U.S. bishops to beef up their teaching about the evils of premarital sex and cohabitation, and denouncing what he called the “powerful” gay marriage lobby in America, reports patriotupdate.com. As debate over health care coverage for birth control rages in the United States, Benedict said there was an urgent need for Catholics in America to discover the value of chastity—an essential element of Christian teaching that he said had been subject to unjust “ridicule.” Benedict has long championed traditional marriage between man and woman, as well as opposition to premarital sex and fidelity within marriage. But his strong comments to visiting U.S. bishops took on particular significance given the culture wars that have erupted in the U.S. this campaign season. U.S. bishops are currently locked in an election year battle with the Obama administration over federal funding for birth control.
  • A major civil liberties organization has filed a brief in a case heading to the U.S. Supreme Court that asks the justices to create a deterrent to government agents who would arrest individuals in retaliation for their speech, reports WorldNetDaily. The friend-of-the-court filing comes from the Rutherford Institute in the case Virgil D. Reichle Jr. and Dan Doyle vs. Steven Howards. Howards was at a Colorado shopping mall with his son when he learned that then–Vice President Dick Cheney was there. Howards decided to approach Cheney and express his opposition to the war in Iraq. The Institute said Howards “made a telephone call in which he was heard to say that he was going to ask Cheney ‘how many kids he’s killed today.’ The Secret Service agent who overheard Howards’ conversation alerted other agents on the detail to monitor Howards.” The man told Cheney his policies in Iraq “are disgusting,” and when Cheney turned to walk away, Howards “lightly touched” Cheney’s shoulder. Federal agents conferred, questioned Howards, and arrested him for “assaulting” Cheney. Howards sued under the First Amendment, alleging retaliation against him for engaging in unpopular or critical speech. “This case will affect the right of Americans to petition the government for a redress of grievances—whether that petitioning takes the form of a shouted statement to the president or a sign that is critical of Congress,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. Charges against Howards were dropped, and his lawsuit alleged the agents violated his rights under the First Amendment. At the appellate level, in Denver’s 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, justices reinstated Howards’ First Amendment claim, and the question now is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief explains that those who criticize the government “have historically faced the wrath of government officials who desire to squelch criticism.”