Chinese churches petition parliament for religious reform

BEIJING - Seventeen churches in China have appealed to China's lawmakers to provide legal protection of religious freedom after police detained dozens of Christians from a Beijing church that has been trying to hold outdoor services.
The petition, delivered on Wednesday by hand to the National People's Congress -- China's rubber-stamp parliament -- was the first of its kind and the boldest statement by the nation's "house churches" to the central government.
It comes as the United States has sharply criticised China for its crackdown on dissent.