Category : Law & Legal Issues

(WSJ) Michael Helfand–Discrimination Without Discriminating? The Supreme Court next week will hear another challenge to an anti-Catholic law

In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017), the justices took aim at Missouri’s Blaine amendment, which the state had invoked to withhold funding for a church-run school. By 7-2, the justices deemed Missouri’s denial a First Amendment violation because “Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is—a church.” But the court focused on the discriminatory impact of the specific case, rather than the discriminatory intent of the Blaine amendment.

Espinoza involves a scholarship program the Montana Legislature created in 2015 to promote school choice. The state offered a $150 tax credit for donations to nonprofits that award scholarships to students attending any private ‘“qualified education provider,” a definition that initially included religious schools. But the law conflicted with Montana’s Blaine amendment, which bars “any direct or indirect” funding to religious schools. The state Department of Revenue redefined “qualified education provider” to exclude religious schools. That exclusion triggered a set of lawsuits arguing that the modified rule violated the First Amendment—a strong argument given Trinity Lutheran.

Then the legal fight took a strange turn. The Montana Supreme Court held that the program could not support institutions providing scholarships to religious schools. But it also found that the Department of Revenue lacked the authority to modify the program to exclude religious schools. Because the law authorized what the state constitution prohibited—funding religious schools—the entire law had to be struck down. That meant no private school received funding.

As a result, the law that discriminated against religious schools is off the books. Thus the most natural application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent—that a state may not exclude a religious institution simply because of “what it is”—does not easily apply. Given this peculiar posture, how might the justices decide the case?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(HLT) Bryan Stevenson –Bringing Slavery’s Legacy to Light, One Story at a Time

Last January, Johnson and his family stood with Stevenson where it happened. Beside them was Oprah Winfrey with a camera crew, filming for a “60 Minutes” segment. Stevenson said a few words in Wes’ honor, then handed a small shovel to Johnson to dig the soil that would make its way to the Legacy Museum.

After all these years, Wes’ story would finally be heard; Johnson could share it with the world. But it meant just as much to him to share the story with the people of Abbeville. In the days after the segment aired, a county employee, a young white woman, approached Johnson to say she was sorry for what had happened. That she had no idea.

“It just gives you some closure,” Johnson says.

When his former students got in touch to apologize, Johnson reassured them it wasn’t their fault. Don’t hate your grandparents, he added; they got caught up in the frenzy of things.

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” It’s something Stevenson often says, and Johnson believes it.

But for the sake of the future, Johnson had something else to say to his former students. Now you know better, he told them. And it’s up to you to pass that on—to your children, and to everyone else you know.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Race/Race Relations, Violence

(This Day) Gunmen Free Woman After Collecting N60,000 Ransom, As Anglican Cleric and his Son are Attacked

[A] few hours after the release of a 60-year-old woman, Mrs. Banjo Ademiyiwa, sequel to the payment of N60,000 ransom, gunmen last Monday attacked an Anglican Church cleric, Reverend Canon Foluso Ogunsuyi, and his son, who is a Nigerian Army sergeant with machetes.

Ademiyiwa was kidnapped on Ikun-Oba Akiko Road in Akiko North West Local Government Area of Ondo State last Monday just around where Ogunsuyi and his son were attacked.

The cleric is the shepherd in charge of Danian Marian Memorial Anglican Church, Ikun Akoko in Akoko South-west LGA of the state.

A source told journalists that the gunmen during the attack collected valuables, including N92,000 cash from the vehicle in which the cleric and his son were travelling.

While the gunmen spared the cleric, his son who sustained several machete cuts, was admitted at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owo.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Nigeria, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

(GR) Terry Mattingly–After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future?

Wait a minute. The crucial language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was just approved this past February? That hasn’t been the language in church discipline documents for many years before 2019 and affirmed in multiple votes?

But here is the most crucial point. What, precisely, are the “fundamental differences” that the United Methodists involved in these negotiations — leaders from left and right — cited as the cause of the upcoming ecclesiastical divorce? Was it really LGBTQ issues, period?

Consider this commentary from David French (an evangelical Presbyterian) of The Dispatch:

The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands — as focused on “LGBT issues” — but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause. …

Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues — even hot-button cultural and political issues — but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.”

Ah, there’s the rub. Who wants to put “Scripture, theology and practice” in a news report — especially at NBC Out and similar structures in other newsrooms — when you can blame the whole denominational war over conservatives refusing to evolve on LGBTQ issues?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Central Florida, TEC Conflicts: Central New York, TEC Conflicts: Colorado, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut, TEC Conflicts: Florida, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Georgia, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Conflicts: Milwaukee, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, TEC Conflicts: Ohio, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: Quincy, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande, TEC Conflicts: San Diego, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Conflicts: Tennessee, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Australian bishops respond to bushfire crisis

Bishops of the two regions most affected by the current Australian bushfire crisis have issued pastoral letters to their congregations.

The Bishop of Gippsland, Dr Richard Treloar, in a letter read in churches across his diocese on Sunday, wrote that “our hearts and hand go out” to the people in the fire-ravaged areas of east Gippsland. Two people have died and hundreds of homes and other buildings have been destroyed.

He continued: “We commit ourselves to a sustained relief effort, working within and beyond our churches with people of good will to support those most affected by the fires and their aftermath, and to rebuild hope where hope has been lost.”

The Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Dr Mark Short, has also written to all parishes in his diocese, which extends to the south coast of New South Wales. Some small towns in the south coast region have been virtually obliterated, and at least one church was burnt down.

“We grieve with and for those who have lost property and loved ones”, Dr Short wrote. “We groan with and for creation as it waits for rescue. We long for quenching rain and relief. . . Please join with me in thanking God for every act of courage and kindness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Police/Fire

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention.

As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) On Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, Protests Are Still Going Strong

The night before Christmas was marked with tear gas and rubber bullets as police tried to disperse protesters gathered near the city’s harbor front, signaling a renewed escalation in the conflict after a few weeks of relative calm.

Hundreds gathered in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Tsim Tsa Tsui to chant “fight for Hong Kong” and “five demands.” Around 9 p.m., riot police fired several rounds of tear gas near the Peninsula hotel, a luxury British colonial-era establishment that has been hit hard by falling numbers of tourists as months of protests drive the city into recession. As people fled, one protester threw an object at police, prompting one officer to fire rubber bullets.

An 18-year-old university student who identified herself as Rainbow Leung said she ran over after dinner to show solidarity with other locals fighting for their freedom.

“We want to support Hong Kong and stand against the violence,” Ms. Leung said. She canceled plans to attend an orchestra performance on Christmas Day to continue protesting. “The city is more important,” she added.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(NYT) One Nation, Tracked: An Investigation Into The Smartphone Tracking Industry

For many Americans, the only real risk they face from having their information exposed would be embarrassment or inconvenience. But for others, like survivors of abuse, the risks could be substantial. And who can say what practices or relationships any given individual might want to keep private, to withhold from friends, family, employers or the government? We found hundreds of pings in mosques and churches, abortion clinics, queer spaces and other sensitive areas.

In one case, we observed a change in the regular movements of a Microsoft engineer. He made a visit one Tuesday afternoon to the main Seattle campus of a Microsoft competitor, Amazon. The following month, he started a new job at Amazon. It took minutes to identify him as Ben Broili, a manager now for Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Mr. Broili told us in early December. “But knowing that you all can get ahold of it and comb through and place me to see where I work and live — that’s weird.” That we could so easily discern that Mr. Broili was out on a job interview raises some obvious questions, like: Could the internal location surveillance of executives and employees become standard corporate practice?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(AP) Among public, a great divide at moment of President Trump’s impeachment

“Any time you impeach a president, it’s a historic moment,” said Aimee Brewer, 49, a nurse from Monticello, Florida, who voted for Trump in 2016. “Being impeached is bad, but I don’t know if it’s going to be just a blemish or something bigger. Either way, I’m going to support him.”

She said of the Democrats: “They never really made a decent case against him. We needed a little more proof; it was all circumstantial.”

Concerning her support for Trump, she said: “I don’t necessarily like listening to him and reading his tweets, but I like everything else he’s doing.”

Mark McQueen, 46, is an informational technology engineer with the state government and a Democrat. “We are divided as a society,” he said. “Tensions are high across the land. I think people risk losing faith in the political process.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(ABC Aus.) Controversial religious discrimination bill overhauled as Australia Government releases new draft

The Federal Government has overhauled its proposed religious discrimination laws in an effort to win over faith leaders who rebuked the Coalition’s earlier attempts.

Attorney-General Christian Porter outlined 11 changes to the draft bill, which the Government opted against introducing to Parliament last month after facing criticism from religious and groups advocating for racial and sexual equality, and for those with disabilities.

As flagged, the new bill will allow religious bodies — such as hospitals and aged care providers — to continue to hire people on the basis of their religion.

The other changes include defining the word “vilify” as inciting “hatred or violence” and exemptions to allow religious camps and conference centres to take faith into account when deciding to provide accommodation.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) How local governments punish poor people with fines

Several years ago, Anne Stuhldreher rolled through a stop sign in San Francisco and got a ticket. That kind of infraction costs $238 or more in California. The price shocked Stuhldreher, who knew that many families living in San Francisco—rated one of the most economically unequal cities in the US—don’t have a few hundred dollars to spare.

After Stuhldreher got her ticket, she thought about the way that the fee would impact different people in the community differently. “If someone who is a daycare worker in my neighborhood got that ticket, it would be very different than someone who works at a tech company.” Stuhldreher, who has long worked on addressing the financial issues facing low-income residents, started digging into these questions.

Around this time, new research was demonstrating the impact of fines and fees on low-income people across the country. The problem isn’t isolated in San Francisco: a 2016 survey by the finance website Bankrate showed that 63 percent of Americans don’t have enough money saved to cover a $500 emergency. That is nearly the cost of a ticket for running a red light in California.

In its 2015 report on Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown, the US Department of Justice showed that aggressive law enforcement in low-income communities of color was being used to generate revenue. People’s inability to pay for minor offense tickets could have major ramifications on their live, forcing them to go into debt, lose a driver’s license or a job, or even end up in jail.

Stuhldreher calls it the “spiral of despair.” A person gets a traffic ticket for a few hundred dollars. Unable to pay the fine, she misses the deadline for payment, and the ticket starts accruing late fees and creates a debt that hangs over her head. The city sends the ticket to the collections department, and now her credit is damaged, so that the next time she tries to rent an apartment, her application is rejected.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty

(ABC) Kindergartner invites entire class to his adoption hearing in Michigan

If some say friends are the family you choose, then one young boy’s family just got much bigger.

Michael Clark Jr., from East Grand Rapids, Michigan, was so excited about his adoption day that he invited his entire kindergarten class to his adoption hearing.

In a packed courtroom on Thursday, Michael’s classmates filled up the first rows of seats in the Kent County courtroom and even gave sweet testimonies about how much they love their fellow friend.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family

The Episcopal Diocese Of Fort Worth V. The Episcopal Church Case as Heard before the Texas Supreme Court Today

Read it all and you may watch the whole video also (a little over 43 1/2 minutes). You may also find the case documents here.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust

Over the last 10 years, however — and again, I acknowledge that this is impressionistic — I think we have reached a third phase in liberal attitudes toward marriage, a new outworking of cultural individualism that may eventually render the nuanced liberalism my colleague describes obsolete.

This new phase is incomplete and contested, and it includes elements — in #MeToo feminism, especially — whose ultimate valence could theoretically be congenial to cultural conservatives. But in general the emerging progressivism seems hostile not only to anything tainted by conservative religion or gender essentialism but to any idea of sexual or reproductive normativity, period, outside a bureaucratically supervised definition of “consent.” And it’s therefore disinclined to regard lifelong monogamy as anything more than one choice among many, one script to play with or abandon, one way of being whose decline should not necessarily be mourned, and whose still-outsize cultural power probably requires further deconstruction to be anything more than a patriarchal holdover, a prison and a trap.

The combination of forces that have produced this ideological shift is somewhat murky — it follows a general turn leftward on social issues after the early 2000s, a further weakening of traditional religion, the cultural ripples from Obergefell v. Hodges, the increasing political polarization of the sexes and, of course, the so-called Great Awokening.

But it does not feel like a coincidence that the new phase tracks with the recent decline in childbearing. If the new liberal hostility to marriage-as-normative-institution is not one of the ideological causes of our latest post-familial ratchet, it is at least a post facto ideological excuse, in which the frequent prestige-media pitches for polyamory or open marriages or escaping gender norms entirely are there to reassure people who might otherwise desire a little more normativity (and a few more children) in their lives, that it’s all cool because they’re in the vanguard of a revolution.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

Two Church of England Bishops Respond to an open letter on abortion

Further to the letter ‘Abortion Pledges,’ (Times – 28/11/19) we are grateful to the signatories for raising concerns in connection with this important and emotive subject.

The Church of England’s stated position combines principled opposition with a recognition that there can be strictly limited conditions under which abortion may be morally preferable to any available alternative. This is based on our view that the foetus is a human life with the potential to develop relationships, think, pray, choose and love. Those facing unwanted pregnancies realise the gravity of the decision they face: all abortions are tragedies, since they entail judging one individual’s welfare against that of another (even if one is, as yet, unborn). Every possible support, especially by church members, needs to be given to those who are pregnant in difficult circumstances and care, support and compassion must be shown to all, whether or not they continue with their pregnancy.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Theology

The Brand New TEC Diocese of South Carolina releases their statement on the hearing before Judge Dickson

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

The Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina Statement on the Hearing before Judge Dickson held Yesterday

From here:

Orangeburg, S.C. (November 26, 2019) –Earlier today, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson held a hearing regarding motions related to the ongoing litigation between The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church (TEC). Although the hearing covered all outstanding motions in the case, Judge Dickson focused on our motion to clarify what the set of 2017 Supreme Court opinions said.

Diocesan attorneys focused on our motion to clarify, and argued in detail that no parish expressly agreed to the Dennis Canon, which TEC has asserted creates a trust interest in parish property. Our lawyers also argued persuasively that the Diocese successfully withdrew from TEC with its property interest intact in compliance with South Carolina state law. TEC attorneys addressed the motion to clarify and also their pending motion for enforcement.

After a two-and half-hour hearing, Judge Dickson ordered attorneys from both sides to submit proposed orders resolving the motion to clarify.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

(NI) Gordon Chang–Pro-China Forces ‘Annihilated’ in Hong Kong Election

Initial results from Sunday’s election in Hong Kong indicate that pro-democracy forces have handed Chinese ruler Xi Jinping a stunning setback. Pro-Beijing candidates are going down to defeat in District Council elections, the first real test of sentiment in the territory since protests began in April over the introduction of a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.

So far, pro-Dems have won 88.6 percent of the vote for 452 seats on 18 District Council boards. They have so far taken 351 seats versus 45 for the “establishment” forces. “Absolute political annihilation for the pro-Beijing camp” is how Stephen McDonell, a BBC China correspondent, described the result on Twitter. Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times called it a “Himalayan-sized avalanche.”

Turnout was a record 71.2 percent, well ahead of the previous high mark of 47.1 percent set in 2015, the year after the 79-day “Occupy” protests. A record 4.13 million people, in a region of 7.40 million, were registered to vote this year.

The District Councils, responsible for routine municipal services, have little power, but the Sunday elections took on significance, widely seen as a referendum on various matters because they are the only government bodies in Hong Kong whose members are elected by universal suffrage. “Sunday’s vote,” CNN noted on the eve of the election, “offers the first objective test of how people in the city feel about the protests and the government.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(CEN) Civil partnership changes to become law next month

MPs were told that there are over three million opposite-sex couples that cohabit but choose not to marry for personal reasons. While these couples support a million children, they do not have the security or legal protection that married couples or civil partners enjoy.

The instrument extends civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples in England and Wales, by amending the definition of civil partnerships and the eligibility criteria for registering as civil partners in the 2004 Act, to remove the same-sex requirement.

It also amends Part 5 of the 2004 Act so that certain opposite-sex relationships formed in other countries, which are not marriages, can be recognised as civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The instrument also provides specific protections for religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf. The religious protections recognise the potential for diversity of religious views in this area, particularly whilst some religious organisations may choose not to be involved in any civil partnerships, others may be content to host only civil partnerships between same-sex couples, and others may prefer only to be involved in civil partnerships between opposite-sex couples, the paper explains.

The instrument also introduces a new ‘non-compulsion’ clause so that religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf cannot be compelled to do specified acts (such as allowing religious premises to be used for civil partnerships, or participating in civil partnerships on religious premises), where either the organisation, or the person, does not wish to do so.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology, Women

(BBC) Burford school agrees to provide alternative to Christian assembly

A couple who threatened to take a school to the High Court over its religious assemblies have won their fight for alternative activities for their children.

Lee and Lizianne Harris withdrew their two children from assemblies at Burford Primary School in Oxfordshire over fears they were being “indoctrinated”.

The legal bid said the school breached their right to freedom of belief.

Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust said the case had diverted valuable funds.

The couple, who are non-religious, enrolled their children at the town’s only state school in 2015, before the trust took over.

But the children were unhappy watching Bible stories, including the crucifixion, during the Wednesday assemblies.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths

(Mirror) Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa under the points-based system being proposed by the government.

The clergyman, who has been outspoken about social justice, said there would have to be a “shortage of carpenters” in Britain for Jesus to be granted entry during an event at the CBI conference in London.

He said: “Our founder Jesus Christ was of course not white, middle class and British – he certainly wouldn’t have got a visa – unless we’re particularly short of carpenters.”

The Archbishop was talking as part in a discussion on social inequality chaired by the BBC Business Editor Faisal Islam who shared a clip on his Twitter feed.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(1st Things) Matthew Schmitz–God’s Garbage People

Fr. Botros Roshdy, a priest who serves there, tucks an iPhone into his black cassock. He has a social media presence and is known across the country. He is more willing than most to discuss the persecution faced by the zabbaleen and Egypt’s other Christians. “Neither the church leaders you have met, nor those you are going to meet, are speaking freely,” he says after we sit down. “If they could speak freely, they would discuss the discriminatory laws, the infiltration of the judicial system by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Roshdy notes that little has changed for the Copts over the last decade, despite the hollow promises of freedom that came with the Arab Spring and current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s self-presentation as a defender of Christians. “We are still being used as a playing card in political games. When the government wants to win the support of Copts during the elections, they offer to let us build a church.” But these overtures have not changed the landscape. “Take the blasphemy law,” ­Roshdy says. “It has been applied only against Christians.”

Roshdy mentions some typical incidents of persecution. One involved an elderly Coptic woman in Minya who was attacked, stripped naked, and dragged through the streets. “Everyone knows who did this crime, but there has been no punishment.” A group of Coptic students in Bani ­Mazar filmed a video in which they mocked ISIS. “People in their town accused them of blasphemy for mocking Islam. So these young children were arrested and jailed. . . . They were finally freed and received asylum in ­Europe.”

Despite the persecution, Egypt’s Christians are winning converts. The number and names of converts must be carefully guarded, however, because conversion from Islam carries a high price. “Some of them are kicked out of their houses, some of them are fired, some of them have their kids taken away,” Roshdy says. “But they consider all of these troubles nothing for the sake of Christ. Their faith is so strong, they see him.” Cast out by their families, these men and women are adopted into the household of God.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Coptic Church, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) Kristina Arriaga–Congress May Set Back Religious Freedom

Cuban Communist Party official Caridad Diego comes to the U.S. regularly to shop and visit relatives. When she returns to Cuba, she resumes her 9-to-5 job as director of Havana’s Office of Religious Affairs. The title sounds bland, but Ms. Diego oversees the repression of independent Cuban religious leaders. Like many bureaucrats in corrupt regimes, Ms. Diego arbitrarily enforces the law against her political enemies while flouting the same rules as she pleases.

Officials like this operate around the world, often in relative anonymity. But a small U.S. government organization, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, helps change that. When a Cuban Methodist pastor was detained in Havana last month, USCIRF called on the U.S. Embassy in Havana to ban Ms. Diego from visiting the U.S. until Cuban religious leaders can travel abroad to attend conferences. Pastors on the island tell me she was so rattled by USCIRF’s call for a visa ban that change may soon come.

This kind of direct action has been at the core of USCIRF’s mission since its creation in 1998. Its architects knew that the enemies of religious freedom aren’t only tyrants. They include simple bureaucrats who share their rulers’ desire for control. Believing that a bureaucracy can’t be defeated by creating another bureaucracy, Congress ensured the nine USCIRF commissioners were unpaid, independent volunteer voices selected from both political parties. They were to answer to no one, apart from the American people whose principles of liberty they represent abroad. This is part of why I accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s appointment to the commission in 2016.

But now USCIRF may be changing. In September the Senate introduced a bill that would shift its stated purpose and burden commissioners with new bureaucratic hurdles. The bill was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Cory Gardner, Dick Durbin and Chris Coons, who say the reforms are necessary for transparency and accountability. Whatever their intentions, the damage would be real.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Senate

The New TEC Diocese in South Carolina files yet another Petition against the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina

On November 11, 2019 the Episcopal Church in South Carolina filed yet another petition (41 page pdf) in Federal Court this time objecting to the Diocese’s use of the name The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina, as well as references found on the diocesan website pertaining to its history.

Our legal team, in conjunction with the Standing Committee are formulating a response.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Wash Post) Europe has resisted taking back citizens who joined ISIS. Now, it may not have a choice.

Bint Dahlia was 33 when she left Germany with her husband and children to start life in the Islamic State’s newly declared caliphate.

She is one of thousands of Europeans who did — and, five years later, one of hundreds trying to come back.

European governments have resisted repatriating their nationals since the caliphate crumbled. Leaders fear domestic attacks and public backlash and have argued that trials should take place regionally.

But now Europe’s hand is being forced. Although Turkey has said it is starting to deport people in its custody with suspected Islamic State links, even more significant are landmark court cases giving governments little choice.

Last week, an appeals court in Berlin ruled that the German government should repatriate Bint Dahlia alongside her three children from al-Hol, a squalid Kurdish-run camp inside Syria. (The woman’s real name was redacted in court documents shared with The Washington Post, and her relatives have asked that The Post use a family nickname for her safety.)

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(ES) Police arrest 17 after Romanian ‘sex trafficking gang’ busted in east London

Seventeen people were arrested today as police smashed a suspected global sex trafficking gang in east London.

Officers discovered 29 alleged victims as they busted a Romanian gang accused of bringing women into Britain to work as prostitutes.

The Met’s central specialist crime team carried out dawn raids at 16 addresses in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brentwood and Tower Hamlets — with the support of Romanian police officers.

The 14 men and three women, aged 17 to 50, were arrested just after 6am on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, class A drug offences and possessing a stun gun. They remain in custody at a central London police station.

The alleged victims of human trafficking, all women aged between 20 and 40, were recovered and have been taken to a place of safety. A man was also arrested in Constanta, Romania.

The operation was supported by a team that included the Crown Prosecution Service, Romanian police and prosecutors, the Romanian embassy, Europol, Eurojust, the Church of England and Refuge.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Church Times) Police survey reveals crime wave in and around churches

A catalogue of thousands of crimes, ranging from rape and murder to petty theft, at places of worship over the past two years has been revealed in a report published this week by the Countryside Alliance.

The figures were described as “extremely distressing reading” by the Alliance, which obtained them from UK police forces through Freedom of Information requests. It launched the investigation after members expressed concern over lead thefts at rural churches. In total, the number of crimes reported to have taken place in or around places of worship since January 2017 was 20,168.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said this week: “These figures paint a bleak picture. What’s worse is that there are likely many, many more incidents like these recorded, but that haven’t been disclosed to us. As a society, irrespective of faith or none, we need to be much more vigilant when it comes to watching over churches and places of worship by reporting suspicious activity.

“These figures serve as a reminder of the importance of funding and pushing for visible policing, particularly in rural areas where churches are more remote.”

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

(BI) The Big Issue is getting tough on modern slavery

Big Issue vendors remain vulnerable to being targeted by slavers, so we have beefed up how we are tackling modern slavery.

In a move designed to tie in with International Anti-Slavery Day, which took place earlier this month, The Big Issue has introduced a new e-training module for staff as well as a new Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking policy.

The Big Issue’s head of programmes and partnerships Beth Thomas explains more.

“At The Big Issue we recognise that we work with some of the most vulnerable members of society who are at risk of falling victim to crime,” she said. “It is no secret that human traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable and exploit their circumstances to win over their trust. With this in mind we have introduced a modern slavery policy and procedure aimed at helping all staff to be able to spot the signs of modern slavery.

“We believe that it is not only up to those who work on the front line but it is all of us to be aware of how to spot the signs as we go about our day to day lives. From taking our cars to be cleaned to having a manicure, everyone needs to be vigilant and know what do to do if they suspect modern slavery. To help staff with this we have incorporated a new training module into all staff and volunteer inductions.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Russell Moore on an important new law that prevents discrimination against Catholics and evangelical Protestants in adoption services

It’s no secret what happens when faith-based providers get pushed out. A year after Boston stopped working with them, the percentage of youth in foster care who left the Massachusetts system because they aged out rose more than 50%. With fewer available homes to place children in, aging out is one of the worst outcomes as it increases a child’s likelihood of homelessness and unemployment. The rate still has not returned to pre-2006 levels. In 2011 Illinois passed a law discontinuing its partnerships with faith-based agencies—then lost more than 1,500 foster homes between 2012 and 2017. All this when the world desperately needs more providers.

And it made this week’s news even more encouraging. On Thursday, the White House announced a new rule that will help faith-based organizations remain a vital part of the child-welfare system. The Obama-era provisions redefined federal nondiscrimination policies in a way that excluded faith-based groups. The new rule brings regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services back in line with all other federal nondiscrimination law and Supreme Court precedent.

This is not a narrowing rule that excludes gay people and others from serving children. Instead, the regulation merely ensures that no one is kept from serving, while ending an attempt to stop religious organizations from doing so consistent with their convictions. It’s a welcome statement that the child-welfare system is about the welfare of children—not proxy culture wars.

Communities of faith have a lot to offer to children in foster care. Barna research shows that practicing Christians may be more than twice as likely to adopt compared with the general population—with Catholics three times as likely and evangelicals five times as likely.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic