freedom of religion

Singapore Teen Blogger Guilty of Insulting Christians

Photo via REUTERS / Edgar Su / RNS

Amos Yee waves as he leaves the State Courts after his trial in Singapore May 12, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Edgar Su / RNS

A teenage blogger from Singapore has been found guilty of insulting Christians and of distributing an obscene image of the country’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Amos Yee, 16, had faced three years in prison, but will be put on probation instead, the Associated Press reported.

He was released on a bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,400).

Kenya's Catholic Bishops Sued After Canceling Lease for Muslim-run Restaurant

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops was sued by a tenant of their Waumini Building in Nairobi. Via RNS.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops is facing a lawsuit over the cancellation of a rental contract for a restaurant operated by a Somali Muslim.

Al-Yusra Restaurant Ltd. had signed a six-year lease starting in 2013 to operate a restaurant in a section of Waumini House where the bishops’ conference is based. Baakai Maalim, a Somali Muslim, is a director for the company.

A lawyer for the bishops said the lease was signed without written consent and knowledge of the bishops.

Supreme Court Prayer Ruling May Spur New Alliances

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, at the Reason Rally on March 24, 2012. RNS photo by Tyrone Turner.

This week’s Supreme Court ruling allowing sectarian prayers at public meetings dealt a body blow to atheist organizations.

That was the assessment of David Silverman, president of American Atheists, speaking Tuesday to a group of nonbelievers at Stanford University. He then described a scenario that may raise eyebrows among some atheists: working with religious groups to fight against the ruling.

“That’s what we have to do, not only organize the atheists, but the Satanists, the Scientologists,” he said. In a conversation before his talk, he added Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. “We as atheists have the responsibility to urge them and push them and get them in there to get their prayers” said at public meetings.

That’s a change for a man who has famously described religion as a “poison.” And it is emblematic, observers say, of the change that may result from the majority opinion in Greece v. Galloway, which found that prayers citing “the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ” are permissible before government business.

Other secularists are likewise convinced that now is the time for atheists to join forces with members of minority faiths.

COMMENTARY: Blasphemy Charges Pervert Islam's Teachings

Qasim Rashid is the author of "The Wrong Kind of Muslim." Photo courtesy of Qasim Rashid. Via RNS

Sentenced for professing his atheism, Alexander Aan was recently released after 18 months in an Indonesian prison.

Masood Ahmad has already served over two months in a Pakistani prison for reading the Quran as an Ahmadi Muslim.

Pastor Saeed Abedini languishes in an Iranian prison for preaching Christianity.

They are but a sliver of the ongoing persecution, including murders, of Ahmadi Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and atheists at the hands of extremists claiming Islam requires death for apostasy and blasphemy.

Missouri to Vote on Prayer Amendment as Critics Warn of Legal Nightmares

Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo. J. Norman Reid / Shutters

Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo. J. Norman Reid / Shutterstock.com

Missourians will vote on Tuesday on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that supporters say would protect residents' right to pray in public. If a recent poll is any indication, it could pass by a mammoth margin.

Supporters say the so-called "right to pray" ballot measure — known as Amendment 2 — better defines Missourians' First Amendment rights and will help to protect the state's Christians, about 80 percent of the population, who they say are under siege in the public square.

Opponents, meanwhile, say that the religious protections Amendment 2 would offer are already guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, and that it will open the door to all manner of unintended and costly consequences including endless taxpayer-funded lawsuits.

Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law

Editor's Note: In celebration of July 4th, and with the hope that this item will be useful to religious communities and candidates during the election season, the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School has re-released this joint statement of current law on religious expression in American public life today (see below). It’s the perfect resource for kicking off informed and civil discussions of religion’s role in public life during this election season. 

As candidates and campaigns reach out to people of faith, and religious organizations join the fray over hot topics like the recognition of same-sex marriage in civil law and federal requirements regarding contraception coverage, Americans are once again asking questions about the rules governing religious expression in public life.

To provide Americans with some answers to these questions, a group of national Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Christian leaders from the evangelical, mainline and Catholic traditions joined with civil liberties leaders to draft “Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.” The Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity coordinated the project.

“As the campaign cycle moves toward November elections, the statement provides helpful guidance for tax-exempt organizations about the IRS rules that apply to their political activities,” said Melissa Rogers, director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs.  “It also helps voters understand how the First Amendment applies to the political activities of religious individuals and institutions,” Rogers explained. “The role of religion in public life has long been a source of controversy and litigation. We brought together a diverse group of experts on law and religion to clarify what current law has to say about these matters.”

New York City Churches Will No Longer Be Evicted from Public Buildings (For Now)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today reports:

More than 60 churches that faced possible eviction Sunday from New York City public schools should have more room to breathe. The churches will be allowed to continue to meet in public schools, thanks to a permanent injunction issued today from a district court judge.

An ongoing conflict between religious organizations and the Department of Education kept churches in limbo over the right to keep using public school buildings for worship services. New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn blocked a vote to allow houses of worship access to school property. The resolution saw support from 31 of 51 council members, but the state legislative session ended this week, the Queens Chronicle reported.

Read the full report HERE.

British High Court Rules Against Prayer at Town Meetings

LONDON — A British High Court justice has triggered dismay and anger across England and Wales with a recent decision that declares prayers at town hall meetings are against the law.

Justice Duncan Ouseley ruled late last week that local government councils were violating a 40-year-old law if they conducted prayers "as part of a formal local government meeting."

But the judge added that prayers could be allowed if they were held before the town hall meeting officially began, and if councilors were "not formally summoned to attend."

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