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Court says religious knowledge test improper in asylum case

(RNS) A Chinese Christian should be given another chance at asylum after an immigration judge thought the man couldn't answer "basic questions" about Christianity, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Wednesday (Jan. 19) that Lei Li was improperly denied asylum after the judge was unsatisfied by his answers on whether Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday and the difference between the Old and New Testaments.

Lei became a Christian in 1999 and was subsequently beaten, interrogated by Chinese authorities, and lost his job after hosting church services in his house. He arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa in 2001.

In 2005, two years after he applied for asylum, an immigration judge ruled that Lei "failed to demonstrate credible evidence that he is a Christian" and made conflicting statements about his residency.

The appeals court ruled that Lei "is in good company" in thinking that Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday, noting that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln cited God in their Thanksgiving proclamations.

Lei said he only knew that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, and his inability to say more was viewed as an "important factor" in calling his Christianity into