Tom Heneghan, Religion News Service

Tom Heneghan writes for Religion News Service.

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In France, a Religious Minority Is Increasingly Influencing Secular Politics

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In France’s highly secularized society, anyone who talks about religion and politics risks being written off as a closet demagogue, a Catholic traditionalist, or a potential radical Islamist. Officially, the twain should never meet.

Scientists, Theologians Ponder If Latest Biological Findings Are More Compatible With Religion

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“We’ve added definition to the picture of evolution that has deepened and enriched our understanding of biological processes,” Donovan Schaefer, an Oxford lecturer in science and religion who co-organized the conference, told the opening session of the July 19-22 meeting.

But he added: “It would be naive to imagine that the grander questions about biology, religion, the humanities, and evolutionary theory generally have been put to death.”

Reformed Churches Endorse Catholic-Lutheran Accord on Key Reformation Dispute

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Amid ceremonies this year marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, one of Protestantism’s leading branches has officially said it now agrees with the Vatican on the main issue at the root of its split from the Roman Catholic Church half a millennium ago.

ISIS’ Intriguing Silence About Donald Trump’s Approach to Muslims

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With his anti-Muslim rhetoric and planned travel bans, you’d think President Trump would be a favorite target for Islamic State’s propaganda. The jihadist caliphate in Syria and Iraq must be pulling out all the stops to slam him as the epitome of Islamophobia.

Well, think again. The extremist group that Trump vows to “totally obliterate” has hardly printed or broadcast a word about him since before the November election. The caliphate’s Ministry of Media acts almost as if he didn’t exist.

Trump’s Wish to Ban Muslim Immigration Is Widely Shared in Europe

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According to two extensive recent opinion polls, majorities across Europe are deeply concerned about Muslim immigration and support an immediate end to it, even as Europeans vastly overestimate the actual Muslim populations of their countries.

Voters in several countries back a complete immigration ban at levels notably higher than those in the United States. Anti-immigration politicians in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere are gaining ground in Western Europe.

Toy Figure of Martin Luther Sparks Accusations of Anti-Semitism

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All was apparently going fine until Micha Brumlik, a retired Frankfurt University education professor and respected Jewish commentator, wrote last June that the popular toy was “anti-Jewish, if not even anti-Semitic.”

The problem, he said, was the inscription on the open pages of the Bible that the Playmobil Luther holds. On the left is written in German: “Books of the Old Testament. END,” while the right page says “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

France: Anti-Abortion Websites Could Be a Crime

Image via Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Since coming to power in 2012, the government has made abortion completely free as part of the National Health Service, scrapped a requirement that a woman must be “in distress” to obtain permission to abort, and dropped a weeklong “reflection period” between applying for and carrying out an abortion. It decided to act again in part because several anti-abortion sites were found to be ranked higher on search engines than the government’s own abortion information site. Although their home pages appear to be neutral, the sites and their advice hotlines — run mostly by Catholic anti-abortion activists — are on closer inspection clearly against abortion and stress the physical and psychological damage they say the procedure can cause. 

German Protestants Officially Renounce Converting Jews to Christianity

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Tackling a delicate issue, as it begins its yearlong celebration of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany’s main Protestant church has officially renounced its mission to convert Jews to Christianity.

In practice, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), made up of 20 regional Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches, mostly gave up efforts to convert Jews in the decades after the Holocaust, and closing that chapter should have been a formality.

Germans Consider a Muslim Writer for Their Next President

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While Americans watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fighting to the finish, in a noisy and polarized campaign, Germans are quietly debating their own presidential election in far different terms.

Among the names put forward as candidates are two leading Protestant bishops — one of them a woman — and even a respected Muslim writer.

Russian Orthodox Church Calls Boycotted Crete Council 'An Important Event'

Image via Tom Heneghan / RNS

The Russian Orthodox Church, whose boycott of a major summit of Orthodox Christian leaders in Crete last month threatened to slow down efforts to promote greater unity, has declared the meeting “an important event in the history of the conciliar process.”

The church’s synod, in its official reaction to the June 20-26 Holy and Great Council, also said the meeting could not be called “pan-Orthodox” because four of the 14 independent Orthodox member churches did not attend.

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