March 21, 2020: Iran releases prisoners, church tax exemption, children escape

Saturday, March 21, 2020:

Here are the latest headlines, brought to you by The Christian Post.

Iran releases brother of Christian woman who met with Trump 

The brother of an Iranian Christian woman who met with President Trump at the White House in July has been released from prison along with several other Christians and high-profile international political prisoners in Iran.

Assyrian Christian Dabrina Bet Tamraz confirmed to the Iranian human rights watchdog organization Article 18 that her brother, 35-year-old Ramiel Bet Tamraz, was released three months early from his four-month prison sentence for participating in house churches. He was released along with 85,000 other prisoners serving short-term sentences in an attempt by the Iranian regime to combat the spread of the coronavirus in its overcrowded prisons.

— Church can keep tax exemption despite receiving money from parking lot

A church in Wisconsin can legally maintain its tax exempt status even though it also receives donations from the use of its parking lot, a state appeals court panel ruled Tuesday. Central United Methodist Church of Milwaukee allows patrons of a nearby nightclub to park at its lot in return for donations to the church.

This prompted the city of Milwaukee to change the designation of the parking lot in 2017 from exempted to “local mercantile,” thus removing the church's tax exemption. In a decision released Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals overturned a circuit court ruling to remove the tax exemption.

— 6 children escape government-run orphanage in Nigeria to attend church

Six children escaped a government-run children’s home in northern Nigeria to attend a church service for the first time since they were removed from a Christian orphanage last December, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a group that advocates for persecuted Christians worldwide.

Twenty-seven children were transferred to a government-run home and barred from leaving the premises to attend school or church. There were also reports that the children faced physical and verbal abuse and were being pressured to convert to Islam.

— VidAngel gives free access to families stuck at home 

With millions of American families being cooped up in their homes in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the streaming video service VidAngel made its platform free for two weeks to ensure access to family-friendly entertainment. 

The California-based company announced this week that all of its content can be accessed for free without a credit card until March 30, including the platform’s popular original series “The Chosen.”

— Wash. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib quitting politics to become Jesuit priest

Washington state Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib announced that he's retiring from public office to become a Jesuit priest. 

Habib, a rising Democratic Party politician and cancer survivor who has been blind since he was 8 years old, made the announcement on Thursday.

In a column for the Jesuit publication America Magazine published the day of his announcement, Habib said his decision came after “two years of careful and prayerful discernment.”

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