New York City police arrested 43 pastors and church members who used the occasion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s January 12 State of the City speech to protest the city’s ban on the longtime practice of churches using public schools for worship services. The arrests occurred at the Bronx public school where Bloomberg was speaking.
What should America’s children and adolescents know about sex, homosexuality, “gender identity,” and contraception? As much as possible, according to a coalition of liberal educators, health professionals, and sex-ed “experts,” who have released a set of explicit recommendations they hope the nation’s schools will adopt as the new standards for sex education.
Crime victims, judges, and Mississippi residents in general are up in arms over the more than 200 pardons and clemencies issued by the state’s former Republican Governor, Haley Barbour, during the final days of his second term, which ended January 10. Altogether, reported the New York Times, Barbour “granted 203 full pardons over his two terms, including 17 to convicted murderers. He also granted 19 other criminals lesser degrees of clemency, like conditional suspensions of their sentences.” The bulk of the pardons were issued as Barbour prepared to leave office.
Calling it the “most significant religious liberty decision in two decades,” the New York Times announced the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “ministerial exception” whereby churches and other religious organizations are exempt from governmental interference in their hiring and firing practices. In a unanimous 9-0 decision on January 11, the Court said that churches have an overriding “interest ... in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.”
The case started when a teacher at a Lutheran school in Redford, Michigan, was fired for threatening to sue the school over an alleged discrimination violation. Cheryl Perich was diagnosed with narcolepsy and took a leave of absence. When she tried to return, she learned that the school had hired someone else to take her place. When she threatened a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she was fired for violating the church’s doctrine by pursuing litigation rather than trying to resolve the situation internally.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) got involved and filed suit against the school. When the court ruled in favor of the school, the EEOC appealed. The appeals court reversed the decision, and the school took the case to the Supreme Court. At issue were core First Amendment rights: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, to wit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The government of Greece is catching flack over its decision to add some questionable categories to its list of recognized disabilities. As reported by the Associated Press, disability groups in the country were especially outraged over the government’s decision to add pedophiles to its list of those the state recognizes as disabled individuals. Among the other “disabled” categories added to the list were exhibitionists, kleptomaniacs, pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, and sadomasochists.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on Tuesday unanimously upheld a lower court ruling enjoining the enforcement of an amendment to the Oklahoma state constitution that barred state courts from taking Sharia law into consideration when deciding cases. Although the measure received overwhelming support from the citizens of the Sooner State, it was immediately challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
As Minnesota voters gear up to vote on a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, the Catholic Church’s archbishop for Minneapolis and St. Paul has ordered priests in his diocese to show their support for the amendment effort — and the church’s stand on the institution of marriage, which they promised to defend when they were ordained — or remain silent.
According to the Progressive Catholic Voice, a blog that supports same-sex marriage, the letter from Archbishop John Niensedt was addressed to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese and was originally published in the Archdiocesan Updates newsletter.
In the epistle to his fellow priests, Niensedt, who has been a vocal supporter of the marriage amendment, wrote, “I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say that in this movement to protect and defend the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman we are faced with one of the greatest challenges of our times.” He warned that the goal of those who oppose passage of the marriage amendment “is not just to secure certain benefits for a particular minority, but, I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether.”
In what some legal analysts consider the most significant decision covering religious freedom in the last 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled January 11 that a religious organization has the right to fire an employee under the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s “ministerial exception” clause.
The Obama administration’s Justice Department has announced that it is expanding what it said is an outdated definition of rape found in the Uniform Crime Report, adding men as victims and stipulating that victims need not have physically resisted their attackers.
A Department of Justice press release, too graphic to quote verbatim, noted that the “longstanding, narrow definition of forcible rape, first established in 1927, is ‘the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.’” That definition, the DOJ pointed out, excludes a whole host of crimes, including sexual violence of a victim by someone of the same sex, as well as “non-forcible rape.” The new definition, specified in the press release, spells out all of the options.
“These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with rape victims,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”
The more than 400 contestants in the Miss California USA and Miss Teen California USA state pageant "will emphasize individuality and push the envelope even further," says Keith Lewis, co-executive of the annual flesh flash. "This year's event will be bigger and reflect the progressive attitudes of the contestants."