Category : Law & Legal Issues

(CNBC) Charitable contributions take a hit following tax reform

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.

Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.

Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

“We certainly do have a pretty stark picture that tax reform took effect and charitable giving declined,” said Laura MacDonald, the president of Benefactor Group and vice chair of the Giving USA foundation board. However, a volatile stock market, which took a dive near the end of the year, may have also played a role, she said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Stewardship, Taxes

(Globe+Mail Editorial) Quebec passes a terrible law, and for the worst reasons

That lack of a clear definition will make it difficult to apply the law evenly; given that the law also fails to provide clear penalties for violating the ban, a court could rule it is too vague to stand.

But the worst thing Mr. Legault has done is to undermine religious freedom in Canada. Even if the notwithstanding clause provides him with the tool to do so, that won’t prevent Canada’s name from being tarnished around the world for an abuse of so fundamental a human right.

There is no question that the Quebec state, as with all governments in Canada, should be secular. But Ottawa and the other provinces are proof that governments can preserve the right of public employees – police officers, judges and teachers included – to display their religious affiliation without compromising the separation of church and state.

It is monstrously unjust that a Muslim woman or Jewish man is now forced by the Quebec state to choose between their employment and their personal beliefs, while a person with government-approved beliefs about the sanctity of laicity is exempt from such a dilemma. This is a terrible day for Quebec, and for Canada.

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Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Globe and Mail) Groups launch challenge of Quebec’s secularism bill one day after it becomes law

Twelve hours after the Quebec government passed a law banning some public servants from wearing religious symbols, a Muslim student has launched a court challenge, saying it is a blatant violation of fundamental civil rights.

Ichrak Nourel Hak, backed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Montreal lawyer Catherine McKenzie, filed the lawsuit on Monday morning asking Quebec Superior Court to suspend the law.

The lawsuit says the new law, passed late Sunday night, is vague, invites arbitrary application, excludes minorities from certain professions and encroaches on federal jurisdiction. Ms. McKenzie’s legal pleadings describe these legal failings as an attack on the fundamental architecture of the Constitution, including equal application of the law and separation of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

The lawsuit does not challenge the law as an attack on freedom of religion. Premier François Legault’s government used the notwithstanding clause to protect it from this most obvious route of challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Globe+Mail) Quebec passes bill banning public servants from wearing religious symbols

François Legault’s government passed a ban on some public servants wearing religious symbols in a final vote late Sunday night, enshrining into law a measure decried by opposition parties, minority groups and human-rights observers as an affront to personal liberty.

The National Assembly debated Bill 21 under closure in a marathon special weekend session that ended with Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government forcing passage of the law by a 73-35 vote, with backing of the Parti Québécois. Earlier Sunday, the CAQ used its majority to push through Bill 9, a law that enables new French-language and values tests that the government says will protect Quebec identity while refocusing immigration on economic interests.

The weekend in the legislature was marked by acrimony reflective of the debate that has roiled Quebec for more than 10 years over the place of religious minorities in the province. Some exhausted MNAs cursed at each other, others said they were on the verge of tears at times.

At the very last minute Mr. Legault’s government added a provision to allow inspectors to verify the law is being followed. “Securalism police!” shouted Quebec Liberal member Marc Tanguay in one of the final outbursts of the debate. Another last-minute amendment said the inspector could impose corrective measures and supervision. A final addition said “the targeted employee could be subject to disciplinary measures for failing to comply.”

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Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Man Accused of Burning Louisiana Churches Is Charged With Hate Crimes

A Louisiana man accused of setting fire to three churches this past spring has been charged in an indictment with federal hate crimes, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

In an indictment that was returned this month but first unsealed on Wednesday, the Justice Department accused the man, Holden Matthews, of intentional damage to religious property — which the government classifies as a hate crime — and using fire to commit a felony.

Mr. Matthews, who was arrested in April, had already been charged with hate crimes by a local prosecutor, and the federal indictment came as little surprise. But federal prosecutors used the six-count indictment to suggest their theory of a motive for the fires: “the religious character” of the properties where they were set. They did not elaborate.

“Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana,” David C. Joseph, the United States attorney for the area, said in a statement. “Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community. Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Economist) The gripping case of Scott Warren Is offering assistance to illegal immigrants a protected religious practice?

One trouble with liberty is that you never know what people will do with it. In recent years, American conservatives have been passionate defenders of individual religious freedoms, such as the right to have nothing to do with same-sex weddings. But Scott Warren (pictured), an idealistic geographer who is facing felony charges for succouring migrants in the Arizona desert, has now become a standard-bearer for a very different sort of conscientious objection.

On June 11th his trial, which has been closely watched at the liberal end of America’s religious spectrum, reached deadlock after jurors failed to agree despite three days of deliberation. That was a better result than Mr Warren and his many supporters feared. Prosecutors may seek a retrial.

Lawyers for Mr Warren, who has taught at Arizona State University, have insisted that a generically spiritual motive lay behind the actions he took, which involved feeding and sheltering two migrants. He has been charged with conspiring to harbour and transport illegal aliens, crimes punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

With the help of some eminent scholars, his defenders had made an unsuccessful but plausible enough effort to shelter him behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a measure intended to protect a broad variety of religiously motived acts from the heavy hand of the law.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(AP) Maine Becomes 8th State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Maine’s bill would allow doctors to prescribe terminally ill people a fatal dose of medication. The bill declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

The proposal had failed once in a statewide vote and at least seven previous times in the Legislature. The current bill

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology, State Government, Theology

(AS) Wesley Smith–Canada Conjoins Euthanasia and Organ Harvesting

How do you convince society to embrace euthanasia as a means of attaining utilitarian benefit — while also convincing yourselves that your culture remains both moral and compassionate? Once you get past the squeamishness of allowing doctors to kill patients, it isn’t that difficult: First, legalize euthanasia of the seriously ill and disabled. Once the community becomes comfortable with doctors committing homicide as a means of eliminating suffering, you next allow those who want to be killed to donate their organs. After all, they won’t need their livers anymore, so why not let others have them? Next, ensure that the potential of euthanasia to add to the organ supply becomes well known, both to normalize doctor-administered death and to induce people to believe they or a loved one might personally benefit from doctors killing the sick. Finally, over time, you expand euthanasia/organ donation eligibility to patients who are far from death, such as those with neuromuscular disabilities or psychiatric illnesses — better organs, don’t you know — justifying it as you go along with soothing words of respecting autonomy and preventing suffering.

Lest any reader believe that I am conjuring a paranoid dystopian fantasy, this very scenario consumed the medical and organ transplant ethics of the Netherlands and Belgium, nations in which patients with mental illnesses and other diseases are admitted to hospitals, killed by lethal injection, and then wheeled immediately into a surgical suite for organ harvesting. When I bring up these facts in domestic debates about assisted suicide, supporters of doctor-prescribed death sniff that the Netherlands and Belgium are not the United States, and that such crass utilitarian exploitation of the despairing would never happen here. But why? Once we deem certain categories of people to be killable — which is precisely what legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia does — it becomes all too easy to conclude, as Belgians and Netherlanders have, that since these patients want to die we might as well benefit societally from their deaths.

That is precisely what happened in Canada, the United States’ closest cultural cousin, and indeed, a country many Americans see as having more enlightened public policies than our own. In the three years since lethal injection euthanasia became legal in Canada, at least thirty people were organ harvested after being euthanized. That number may soon increase dramatically as the Canadian medical establishment has come out solidly in favor of letting people who die by euthanasia to also become organ donors.

A major ethics “Guidance” was just published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association that establishes euthanasia kill-and-harvest (my blunt term) protocols. It makes for a chilling read.

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Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(New Telegraph) Insecurity: Tackle arms smuggling, Anglican Bishop tells Nigerian President Buhari

The Bishop of Ijebu North Diocese, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Rt. Revd. Solomon Kuponu, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to find a lasting solution to arms smuggling which is posing serious threats to Nigeria’s internal security. The cleric made the call at the second session of the Fifth Synod of the diocese held at the St. James’ Anglican Church, Atikori, Ijebu- Igbo, with the theme: “Fight the Good Fight of Faith, Lay Hold on Eternal life.”

In his charge at the event, Kuponu expressed concern over the increasing rate of crime and arms proliferation in the country, noting that the arms being illegally imported into Nigeria were often used by bandits, militias and insurgents to terrorise innocent people. He condemned the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents, urging the Federal Government to confront them, and also asked the Buhari-led administration to dispense with commanders and intelligence chiefs that have failed the country in the fight against terrorism. He said: “Nigeria faces existential wars, terrorism and corruption. Both require sound strategies and continuous adaptation. Buhari should imbibe this in confronting the resurgent Boko Haram.”

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Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Clarence Thomas’s Dangerous Idea

In any other area, the left would look at a history like this and ask whether those formal convictions are the only thing that matters, or whether the eugenic past still exerts a structural influence on the present. And in any other area of policy Thomas’s point about how legal abortion appears, in the aggregate, to act in racist and eugenic ways would be taken as an indicator that something more than just emancipation is at work.

Yes, in their theoretical self-conception, pro-choice institutions are neutral custodians of the right to choose. In theory the genetic-screening industry exists only to provide information. In theory the high abortion rate in black America is just the result of countless individual decisions.

But in practice, liberal technocracy still has a “solve poverty by cutting birthrates” bias inherited from a population-panic age, and abortion-rights rhetoric still has a way of sliding into Malthusian fears about too many poor kids in foster care. In practice the medical system strongly encourages abortion in response to disability, with predictable results. In practice Planned Parenthood clinics are in the abortion, not the adoption business — and the disparate impact of abortion on black birthrates is shaped by that reality and others, not just by free choice.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Theology

([London] Times) Jessikka Aro, the journalist who took on Russian trolls

“This has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” says Aro. “This is not normal political discussion. Saying, ‘Jessikka is a crack whore who needs to be killed’ is a crime in many different countries.”

Confident, passionate and highly articulate, Aro speaks fluent English and Russian. She has tried reporting her abusers to Facebook and YouTube, but mostly receives an automated reply saying that they haven’t violated community standards. The reality of moderating, she argues, can be too complex for an algorithm, and requires human brains. “In fact, some of this content violates both their own community standards and Finnish legislation. By not removing it, they are enabling state-sponsored Russian troll operations.”

She accuses the companies of putting profit before anything else. Facebook has even profited from the trolls, she claims, because they pay for visibility and sponsored posts to attack her.

“Their moderation and security guarantee goes against their business model, basically. But if they’re going to do business in our countries, if they’re going to take our data and use it to make money, then they should also take some responsibility. It’s wrong, and illegal, to send death threats to anyone. They should have put an end to this years ago, but it’s still going on. They don’t seem interested in investigating it voluntarily, unless the US Senate or special counsel Robert Mueller demands that they do.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(CEN) Victims of John Smyth ‘exceed 100′

Court papers have revealed that the number of victims of the late John Smyth QC have exceeded 100.

Smyth, who groomed his victims when he was chair of the Iwerne camps from 1975-82, was previously known to have beaten at least 26 young men in the UK.

When his crimes came to light in 1982 the leadership of the Iwerne network arranged for him to move to Zimbabwe to work with a missionary organisation.

Once there, Smyth started his own network of camps, in which boys were routinely beaten for his sexual pleasure. A court case was launched but aborted in 1997, and court papers from that case reveal that as many as 90 boys made formal complaints against him.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, South Africa, Teens / Youth, Violence

(Globe and Mail) Quebec hurtling toward religious symbols ban, which critics say would not only be discriminatory, but a nightmare to enforce

Bouchera Chelbi, a schoolteacher who wears a Muslim headscarf, sat in the ornate salon rouge of the National Assembly and spilled her heart out to the legislators before her. Quebec’s plan to restrict teachers’ right to wear religious symbols, she said, was going to hurt.

“As a woman, I don’t accept that you dictate to me how I can dress,” she told the MNAs.

Ms. Chelbi’s comments were both pointed and remarkable: After six days of committee hearings into Quebec’s disputed legislation on religious symbols, she was the first and only teacher in a headscarf to address politicians about it.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government heard 36 speakers at its hearings on Bill 21, which would forbid police officers, prosecutors, schoolteachers and other public servants from wearing religious items on the job. But it largely left out the people who would be the law’s direct targets, such as Ms. Chelbi.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Riveting and Heartbreaking NPR Piece on Police Suicide Featuring the widows of four officers

SIMON: We met with a group of four women from different parts of America who share a solemn sorrow. Each was married to a police officer who took his life.

Kristen Clifford’s husband was Officer Steven Clifford of the Nassau County, N.Y., police. They had just gotten a puppy. They looked forward to having children. One day in May 2017, he wasn’t responding to her text messages, so she drove home.

KRISTEN CLIFFORD: And I went inside, and I saw a bunch of notes, his police identification, his driver’s license, everything laid out very neatly, methodically. And I ran down the hallway to our bedroom, and the door was closed. And there was a note on it that said, I did it. Do not enter. Call 911.

SIMON: Melissa Swailes was married to Officer David Swailes of the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four sons. David Swailes had symptoms of post-traumatic stress from his time in the U.S. Navy. On their youngest son’s second birthday, Melissa Swailes came home and found her husband behind their bathroom door.

MELISSA SWAILES: I remember just screaming over and over, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

SIMON: Erin Gibson was married to Sergeant Clinton Gibson of the Liberty Lake, Wash., police. They were high school sweethearts. They had four children.

ERIN GIBSON: It didn’t even register in my mind that Clint was dead. Nothing made sense after that, so…

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

(Church of England) Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops

From there:

A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies IICSA report:

“We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.

“At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

“We welcome the recommendations.

“The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July. The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Christine Hardman
Bishop Peter Hancock
Bishop Sarah Mullally

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

(AFP) Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage in first for Asia

Taiwan’s parliament legalised same-sex marriage on Friday in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass watered-down legislation.

Lawmakers comfortably passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

The vote — which took place on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — is a major victory for the island’s LGBT community and it places the island at the vanguard of Asia’s burgeoning gay rights movement.

Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered outside parliament despite heavy downpours, waving rainbow flags, flashing victory signs and breaking into cheers as the news filtered out.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Sexuality, Taiwan

(CLJ) Daniel Philpott–Both Sides of the Culture War Are Partially Wrong About Islam

One side, let us call them Islamoskeptics, will say that the attacks remind us of what only fools fail to perceive: Islam is a violent religion. Westerners who let down their guard or indulge hopes of a peaceful Islam are latter day Neville Chamberlains and invite further violence….

Who is right about Islam? This is the question I take up in Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today, just published by Oxford University Press. There, I propose religious freedom as the yardstick for assessing whether Islam is peaceful and tolerant or violent and intolerant. A universal human right, religious freedom requires people and states to respect the beliefs and practices of those who espouse different answers to the ultimate questions of life, to accord them the full rights of citizenship, and to refrain from invidious discrimination against them. Religious freedom means that nobody pays a penalty for his or her religious beliefs. I pose this criterion for the world’s 47 (or so) states where Muslims are a majority. This is a good test, for in these states, Muslims possess the demographic power to carry out repression if that is what they wish. If freedom obtains here, then the Muslim world’s capacity for freedom is evidenced.

What results emerge? A landscape view shows that on average, Muslim-majority states are less free than the rest of the world and even less free than Christian-majority states. In the 2011 book, The Price of Freedom Denied, sociologists Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke document that 62% of Muslim-majority countries host a moderate to high level of persecution, in comparison with 60% of all other countries and 28% of Christian countries. More sharply, they show that 78% of Muslim-majority countries contain high levels of government restrictions on religion as compared to 43% of all other countries and 10% of Christian countries. Overall, the Muslim-majority world has a religious freedom problem.

A closer look at this world, however, reveals a more complex and hopeful picture. It turns out that 11, or 23%, of Muslim-majority states are religiously free according to a scale devised by the Pew Forum. These are too numerous to be outliers. In the other 36, or three-quarters, of Muslim-majority states that are not religiously free, Islam is not necessarily the reason for the lack. 15 states are “secular repressive,” meaning that they are governed by a regime that aspires to become a modern nation-state and is convinced that religion can only be a hindrance to this quest—an ideology borrowed from the French Revolution. Examples are Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and the other “stans” of Central Asian. True, the other 21 of these unfree states are “religiously repressive” because they are governed by an ideology of Islamism that calls for the imposition of a strict and traditional form of Islam by the state. While these states bear out Islam’s capacity for repression, they are 45%, or less than half, of the total. The French Revolution vies with the Iranian Revolution as the dominant form of repression in the Muslim world.

Both sides of the culture war, then, are partially right and partially wrong, at least on the criterion of religious freedom in today’s Muslim-majority states. That these states are religiously unfree in the aggregate supports Islamoskeptics; that they are diverse supports Islamopluralists. Both positions point to prescriptions. The dearth of religious freedom shows the need for its increase. The diversity in the Muslim world—the presence of some religiously free states, the fact some are unfree because of secularism, not Islam—shows the possibility of its increase. The case for its increase lies in justice. Religious freedom is a human right not only in the legal sense that it is articulated in the world’s major human rights conventions but also in the moral sense that it protects the dignity of persons and communities in their search for and expression of religious truth. Scholars also have shown that religious freedom fosters goods that Muslim states disproportionately lack, including democracy and equality for women, and reduces ills that these states disproportionately suffer, including terrorism, civil war, and poverty.

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Posted in Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Wired) In a first, San Francisco just banned public agencies, including police, from using facial recognition technology

At the state level, efforts to regulate facial recognition in Washington crumbled after Microsoft and Amazon, among others, opposed a proposed moratorium in favor of a bill with a lighter regulatory touch. In Massachusetts, which is considering an ACLU-backed moratorium on facial recognition until the state can develop regulations including things like minimum accuracy and bias protections, local police departments frequently partner with the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles to identify suspects.

Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts, which is working with Somerville officials on a proposal that would forbid such data-sharing, is optimistic about the potential for cities to lead the way. “I’m not aware of any other example of people really successfully intervening in this very fast-moving train of tech determinism and throwing a democratic wrench in the gears,” Crockford says.

San Francisco’s ban comes amidst a series of proposals that highlight tensions between the city and tech companies that call it home. On Tuesday, the city also unanimously approved a ban on cashless stores, an effort aimed at Amazon’s cashierless Go stores. Waiting in the wings? A so-called “IPO tax,” in response to the endless march of tech companies going public, which would authorize a city-wide vote to raise the tax rate on corporate stock-based compensation.

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Church Times) ‘Secrecy and prevarication’: IICSA indicts C of E safeguarding record

For decades, the Church of England repeatedly and seriously failed to respond to allegations of child sex abuse made against clerics and churchpeople, the official abuse inquiry has concluded.

It also failed to implement safeguarding structures to protect children and vulnerable adults who “should have been safe” under its care.

These conclusions are included in the report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), Anglican Church Case Studies: the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball, published on Thursday.

The 252-page report summarises the thousands of documents, witness statements, and oral evidence given during two public hearings in London in March and July 2018. The hearings used the diocese, and the case of the disgraced former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball, as case studies to examine the extent to which the Church of England as a whole failed to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse over several decades.

In both the diocese and the wider Church, the report states: “The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and a failure to take professional advice.”

This includes the Church’s “unwavering support of Peter Ball” during the Gloucestershire Police investigation (allegations about Ball came to light when he was translated to from Lewes to Gloucester), and its failure afterwards to “recognise or acknowledge the seriousness” of Ball’s misconduct.

The report comments specifically on the evidence given by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, on the case, whose response is described as “weak”. His “compassion” towards Ball did not extend to the victims, it says.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(Guardian) Church of England put reputation above abuse victims’ needs, inquiry finds

The Church of England put its own reputation above the needs of victims of sexual abuse, with a serious failure of leadership by the former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, in its handling of the case of a bishop who eventually went to prison, an official inquiry has concluded.

It also found that Prince Charles and other members of the establishment were misguided in their expressions of support of Peter Ball as he battled the accusations.

Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, was jailed in 2015, more than 20 years after allegations were made against him that were largely ignored or downplayed by the church. Ball accepted a police caution in 1993 and resigned as bishop but was allowed to continue officiating in the C of E.

Ball “seemed to relish contact with prominent and influential people”, a 250-page report published on Thursday by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said. He “sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry”.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NR) David French–A New York Times Op-Ed Is Very Wrong About Religious Liberty

[I need to respond to]…Margaret Renkl’s fundamentally misguided op-ed about religious liberty in…[a recent] New York Times. Like me, Renkl writes from Tennessee (she’s in Nashville; I’m in Franklin), and she uses a recent Tennessee incident where a Dickson County baker refused to design and bake a cake for a gay wedding as a launching pad for an attack on America’s most fundamental First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, she makes two important legal errors.

First, she gets the primacy of American law exactly backwards. She formulates religious liberty like this: “In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do.” This is a common framing on the left. Essentially, it’s an argument that religious freedom is an intrusion into the law and that religious people are engaged in a form of special pleading — seeking rights and exemptions unavailable to other Americans.

In reality, the First Amendment is supreme, and when states seek to intrude on religious liberty, they’re trying to get out of something they’re required by law to do. Respecting the First Amendment is the default obligation of the federal government and every state and local government in the United States. When people of faith appeal to the First Amendment, they’re appealing to America’s highest law, and while Employment Division v. Smith weakened the Free Exercise Clause, multiple subsequent cases have restored at least some of its vitality, and most religious freedom claims are also grounded in the very robust free speech clause of the First Amendment.

And this brings us to Renkl’s second error — false equivalence.

Read it all and makes sure to read the origirnal article to which he is responding.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Douglas Farrow–The New Family Violence

Family violence can take many forms,” says Madam Justice Marzari of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, including “unreasonable restrictions or preventions of a family member’s personal autonomy.” To be more specific, “family violence” can now take the form of refusing to accept a family member’s chosen gender identity. Such is the violence inflicted on a fourteen-year-old girl (referred to as AB) who is determined to be a boy, by her father (dubbed CD), who insists she is no such thing.

The court will not stand idly by, insists Justice Marzari, knowing that AB is “harmed by the fact that it is his own father, whom he loves, who appears to be publicly rejecting his identity, perpetuating stories that reject his identity, and exposing him to degrading and violent commentary in social media” (A.B. v. C.D. and E.F., 2019 BCSC 604, par. 72). Under Justice Bowden, it has “already determined that it is a form of family violence to AB for any of his family members to address him by his birth name, refer to him as a girl or with female pronouns (whether to him directly or to third parties), or to attempt to persuade him to abandon treatment for gender dysphoria” (par. 21). And now it means to enforce its embargo on such behavior by permitting the arrest without warrant of CD, should he give the least appearance of persisting in this violence.

We will return later to the matter of “degrading and violent” commentary. For the moment, please note that “treatment for gender dysphoria” means—at a minimum—the application of opposite-sex hormones, with their permanent effects on AB’s body. It certainly does not mean trying to get at the root causes in her soul—alienation from a parent, perhaps?—through any kind of cognitive therapy. That sort of thing qualifies these days as degrading and violent “conversion therapy,” a label applied in Orwellian fashion to any procedure that might call into question a sexual orientation or gender identity claim; any procedure, that is, which risks reversing a SOGI conversion. In a number of jurisdictions, approaches with that sort of risk have become illegal.

But back to A.B. v. C.D. Not being a family member, I will say in response to the court what AB’s father has been saying, but is now forbidden to say on pain of arrest: His daughter is a daughter not a son, a she not a he, and the court has no power by legal writ to change what is written in her chromosomes or to declare her chromosomes irrelevant. And I will add this: The court’s attempt to declare her chromosomes irrelevant is itself a form of violence against the family—this family and every family.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

The Church of England releases its Working party report into the Ministry of Confession

It was important for the group to gather as much evidence as it could around the use of the confessional and the specificity of ‘the seal’. By the very nature of the subject this was not an easy task. Confessors could not break the confidentiality of matters shared with them. Those using the opportunity of making confession are not necessarily willing to share their story. However, the group did obtain significant input from those who exercise the ministry of hearing confessions, some from those who have experienced the abuse and misuse of the confessional and reflections from those who value the discipline of sacramental confession.

The evidence is clear that there have been priests, acting as confessors, who have misused and abused their position to exercise dominant power over those making confession, and in some cases seriously abusing those who had placed their trust in them. This is deeply disturbing and clearly wrong.

The evidence is also clear that there are many who have been abused and maltreated who have found the confessional and the confidentiality of it a significant place and space of safety in which to share their story, and have false guilt dealt with. This is therefore clearly of deep value.

In wrestling with the way forward the group had to recognise both realities and weigh up the contrasting evidence. The significant weight of evidence lay in the use of the confessional as a place of safety for those who have been abused rather than a place from which a priest abused their position to commit abuse.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Guardian Interview with activist the Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain

“In the past decade or so, I have seen and spoken to lots of young people who are trying to reconcile their sexuality and their faith, who end up self-harming, attempting suicide or who suffer with depression and mental illness,” says Foreshew-Cain. “Because if you believe God is condemning you for your essential being and that you have got to be something other than you are, where does that leave you?” He pauses. “Lizzie wasn’t the only one, and she won’t be the last.”

Statements from the most senior figures in the C of E have done little to ease his concerns. Welby, who recently announced that same-sex partners would not be invited to the Lambeth conference in 2020, while heterosexual spouses would, said he was pained by his decision and regretted the conflicts racking the church.

“Honestly, a lot of us in the queer community are very fed up with straight, white, cisgendered men talking about their suffering when they are inflicting it on other people,” says Foreshew-Cain. “It’s a bit like an abusive partner hitting you and saying: ‘This hurts me more than it hurts you.’”

The picture he paints is one of disorder, barely held together by a carefully cultivated ambiguity among the church’s top brass: bishops who quietly voice support for same-sex marriage behind closed doors vote against any liberalisation towards gay and lesbian clergy in the synod, he claims. Parishioners, tired of the endless debates, are abandoning a church at odds with itself. And young Anglicans, hoping to find acceptance and often succeeding in local parishes, are finding institutional debates about their place the source of intense pain.

Foreshew-Cain is sceptical that much will change – at least not until the conclusion of the next Lambeth conference in 2020. But a reckoning will come, and it seems the point of compromise is long past. “These campaigns are not going to go away. Gay people in the church are not going to go away. And the moral question mark over the integrity of the church is not going to go away. It’s only going to become more intense.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Globe and Mail) Canada has helped Muslims thrive – and we must extend the same welcome for Asia Bibi

The spectre of mob mentality came to fruition after the Supreme Court’s principled decision to acquit Ms. Bibi in November. The judgment was based on inconsistencies in the testimony by witnesses and outright perjury by the two Muslim women. The country was paralyzed for days as religious extremists protested against the acquittal, calling for the death of Ms. Bibi, her lawyer and the judges – in defense of Prophet Mohammed, who the Koran describes as “a mercy to mankind.” The situation would be ironic if it wasn’t so blatantly antithetical to Islamic teachings.

The Supreme Court’s written decision reminds Muslims of their duty to protect religious minorities. It also refers to the Prophet’s covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai around 630 AD – a universal and eternal charter that declared Christians to be allies of the Prophet, who equated their ill-treatment with violation of God’s covenant.

While many in Pakistan have called for internal reflection, Canadian Muslims can demonstrate the spirit of mercy and compassion that was the hallmark of the Prophet by offering support to Ms. Bibi and her family.

This mother of five, a simple labourer, languished in prison for nearly 10 years while angry mobs called for her death. It all began with a kind gesture, which was rejected by religious chauvinism.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(RNS) New law requires professors in Washington State to accommodate religious holidays

A new state law makes it easier for college students to take time off for religious holidays.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5166 into law on Monday (April 29), making Washington the first state requiring that institutions of higher education provide academic accommodations to students who need them for religious observances. This includes rescheduling exams and permitting absences, as long as the student notifies the professor of the needed accommodation within the first two weeks of class.

College professors will also be required to add information about religious accommodations to their syllabuses.

The law requires colleges “to reasonably accommodate students who, due to the observance of religious holidays, expect to be absent or endure a significant hardship during certain days of the course or program,” according to the state Legislature’s website.

“Passing this bill sends a powerful message to all students that students of faith, and especially those in minority faith traditions, matter and are welcome in our educational system,” said Rabbi Allison Flash, assistant director of education at Temple Beth Am of Seattle.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(CNN) Houses of worship worry: Who’s next?

A massacre in New Zealand on jumah, the Muslim weekly communal prayer.

Suicide bombings in Sri Lankan churches on Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar.
On Saturday, another attack inside a sanctuary, this one on the final day of Passover, a sacred time commemorating Jews’ escape from violence and oppression in ancient Egypt.
Saturday’s shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway, California, came six months to the day after the worst anti-Semitic violence in American history, when an accused white supremacist slaughtered 11 Jews inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.
After Saturday’s attack, Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish movement, addressed the recent spate of sacrilegious violence, of which it was the latest victim:
“The fact that these G-dless acts have multiplied of late underscores with even greater urgency the critical need for proper moral education for our youth, rooted in the belief in a Supreme Being — Whose Eye that Sees and Ear that Hears should preclude anyone from devaluing the life of another human being.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(The Lincolnite) Former Bishops of Lincoln ignored abuse claims, investigation finds

Two former Bishops of Lincoln “turned a blind eye” to alleged abuse cases and did not report them to police until decades later, a BBC Panorama investigation…[revealed yesterday].

A list of 53 Lincoln Diocese clergy and staff was also eventually referred to the police in 2015, eight years after a review into past safeguarding disclosures was announced.

The Church of England Past Cases Review which examined thousands of records in 2008 and 2009, including some child abuse cases, found that some names could have been referred years earlier.

The police investigation that followed resulted in the conviction of three people….

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

A C of E Response to the BBC Panorama programme aired today

From there:

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “It has been harrowing to hear survivors’ accounts of their abuse – shared on BBC Panorama – and we issue an unreserved apology for how we have failed them. We acknowledge that the Past Cases Review, PCR, from 2008-10, however well-intentioned was in hindsight clearly flawed, as shown in the independent scrutiny report by Sir Roger Singleton published last summer. The ‘stringent criticisms’ of the PCR, shared with IICSA, are being acted upon and all dioceses are now carrying out a second past cases review, PCR2. We fully acknowledge that it was a serious mistake not to work with and hear from survivors during the original PCR. The new review will ensure survivors voices are heard. We are aware of the courage it takes for survivors to come forward knowing that the effects of their abuse are with them for life.

I would urge anyone affected by the Panorama programme to call the NSPCC helpline number 0808 800 5000.”

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Religion & Culture