Human Rights

Helen Alvare 05-22-2012

Image by brandonht / shutterstock.

Pundits and politicians who opine about the so-called war on women ought to take note of the lawsuits filed Monday against the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate by 43 religious groups, including several Catholic dioceses and colleges.

The suits object to the requirement that religious institutions provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

In the propaganda surrounding the mandate, HHS seems to suggest that women’s only stake in the matter is “free” contraception. This is a shallow – and frankly demeaning – view of women, who, equally with men, have an important stake in the preservation of religious freedom in the United States.

David Finnigan 05-22-2012
Los Angeles-area Muslims mark the beginning of Eid Ul-Fitr, August 2011. Photo b

Los Angeles-area Muslims mark the beginning of Eid Ul-Fitr, August 2011. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

After lobbying from Muslim and Sikh leaders, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to modify its information-gathering program on suspicious activities after the New York Police Department came under fire for spying on local Muslims.

Since 2008, the LAPD has used the federal Suspicious Activities Reporting (SAR) program to file reports on potential terrorist-related actions, such as someone photographing certain buildings. Sikh and Muslim leaders said the LAPD’s Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau should ensure that future suspicious activity reports are prompted by actual behavior with apparently genuine criminal or terrorist elements.

rainbow wall image by Antony McAulay  / Shutterstock

rainbow wall image by Antony McAulay / Shutterstock

The small stack of envelopes that arrives at Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minn., each day are filled with good will and small bills – ones, fives and tens mostly.

The donations lift the spirit, said Rev. Oliver White, but they likely won't be enough to save the church.

“Technically, we should be packing,” White said.

On June 1, the church will likely default on a high-interest loan and lose its building, unless it can come up with $175,000 to buy the loan out.

As of Wednesday (May 16), Grace Community was about $170,000 short, but its plight has gained considerable attention within and without the UCC, thanks to one of several reasons the predominantly African-American church may lose its home.

Tim Townsend 05-17-2012
softball photo via Mark Herreid / Shutterstock

softball photo via Mark Herreid / Shutterstock

"Three congregations said they were uncomfortable playing our team because I am their pastor and I am an out bisexual person," said the Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell, 27, "which is surprising because I don't even play."

Darnell called the pastors' reaction ridiculous.

"It seems like my sexuality doesn't have anything to do with how my congregation plays softball," Darnell said. "It's frustrating because this is who is representing Christianity in our community, and this is the message youths in our community are getting."

QR Blog Editor 05-10-2012

For The Atlantic, scholar Michael Fullilove on China's poor human rights record and why it matters:

"China's mixed human rights record is not just bad for its citizens. It is a strategic weakness that complicates its foreign relations and diminishes its soft power. The state's harsh treatment of individuals and minorities regularly disrupts its bilateral relationships. Evidence of internal repression disillusions China's friends and increases the wariness of its neighbors. The human rights issue is a pebble in China's shoe, and the country may never hit its full stride unless it is removed."

Read the full article here

Joshua Witchger 05-09-2012

This week I came across a dynamic outlet for new forms of storytelling. MAKERS is a documentary project where dozens of short reflections and dreams are gathered to promote the ways a diverse collection of women are transforming the planet into a more holistic and habitable place. While most of these stories are non-fictional, rooted in a place that may not extend too far beyond their origins, the opportunity to zoom in on an impassioned way of living, thinking, and acting, is an encouragement for all people to continue acting out the worlds we desire. These many narratives of change and engagement craft a large and resounding story of the power of women.

Erika Pearl 05-07-2012
Via IMA World Health

South Sudanese students are learning emergency obstetric care through a grant from the US Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance

Soon it will be Mother’s Day in the United States. For most women in developed nations, motherhood comes after months of joyful preparation to make sure the birth goes as smoothly as possible. But in places far away from the world of prenatal vitamins and baby showers, women routinely deliver their children at home, hundreds of miles away from the nearest doctor or midwife. This is the story of a health worker in South Sudan who is fighting for change and finding strength in his faith.  

Duane Shank 05-01-2012
Guantamo Bay prison image by John Moore/Getty Images.

Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the prison for 'enemy combatants', in Guantanamo Bay. Getty Images.

The anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hand of U.S. troops has reawakened the political controversy over the use of torture. 

In an opinion piece today, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, says it wouldn’t have happened without torture. He writes of an al-Qaeda operative captured in 2004, who was “taken to a secret CIA prison – or ‘black site’ – where he was subjected to some ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”


“I’m gonna sit at the welcome table,” goes the old spiritual—but any time we sit down to eat, there are far more guests at the table than the ones we see.

Yvonne Yen Liu 05-01-2012

Low-wage work and racial inequity are rife in jobs that move food to your table.

Robert Brenneman 05-01-2012

Many in Central America say it's time to consider decriminalizing drugs.

Ellen F. Davis 05-01-2012

Psalm 65 — translation by Ellen F. Davis

Danny Duncan Collum 05-01-2012

From Mississippi to Kentucky coal-mining country, churches are taking on the public health crisis of obesity.

Julie Polter 05-01-2012

Books on food and farming.

Ivone Guillen 05-01-2012

When you pick an apple in the store, think of those who held it first. A day in the life of a farm worker.

Jim Rice 05-01-2012

A new definition of malnutrition is emerging, as formerly developing countries are globalized into “fast-food nation” lifestyles.

Brooke Adams 04-27-2012
Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

SALT LAKE CITY — At the new Utah Bishops' Central Storehouse, pallets loaded with food wait to be ferried to locales near and far, their destinations handwritten in black marker on plastic wrap covers: Lindon, Ely, Mesa, San Diego, St. George.

Storehouse manager Richard Humpherys stops a golf cart next to one steel storage rack, slits open a cardboard box with a pocket knife and pulls out a can of peaches made with fruit grown at a Mormon church-owned orchard and processed at its cannery in Lindon, Utah. The can's label is stamped "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and "Welfare Services, Salt Lake City, Utah."

Lisa Sharon Harper 04-25-2012

I was asked recently, is there really any hope for Israel? The answer is yes, there is.

First, the state of Israel has lived its entire existence in the foxhole of the war paradigm. It is time to come out of the foxhole. It is time for Israel to exercise profound concern, not only for its own security and its own peace, but also for the security and peace of its neighbors—the Palestinians.

Second, It is time for Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to be secure. Israeli mothers should never have to worry if their daughters and sons will return from a walk to the market. Every Israeli should not have to live in extreme fear and the ever present threat of war.

the Web Editors 04-23-2012

President Barack Obama and Elie Wiesel reflected in a wall in the Hall of Remembrance. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama on Monday vowed to crack down on Iran and Syria and promised to "never again" allow atrocities like those seen during the Holocaust. Speaking from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Obama first toured the facility with Holocaust survivor and Elie Weisel. 

Following is the transcript from Obama's remarks. 

Stacey Schwenker 04-19-2012
Woman praying, Smirnof/

Woman praying, Smirnof/

This morning I prayed naked. This exercise is part of a 50 Day Challenge I am doing.  Some friends of mine created 50 Suggestions to Embrace Healthy Sexuality and one of them is strip off one’s clothes and prostrate oneself. For me it looked more like huddling under my covers to stay warm (my bedroom is in a basement and my sensitive body doesn’t much care for its constant 65 degrees).

As I sat there praying, naturally I thought about my body. At first I began to consider all of its shapes and sizes—the feel of my skin and hair and curves underneath my palms. I thought about its beauty and how uniquely it was created. There are few other things that have skin similar to us humans. And we each have our own and only attributes: fingerprints that will never have a match; the unique combination of height, hair color, facial composition, and idiosyncrasies.

I am the only me. You are the only you. Ever. Period.