religious liberty

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Several American-based religious denominations remain defiant in the face of new laws that would ban them from proselytizing in Russia.

The so-called “Yarovaya laws” make it illegal to preach, proselytize, or hand out religious materials outside of specially designated places. The laws also give the Russian government wide scope to monitor and record electronic messages and phone calls.

Image via REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/RNS

A bill wending its way through the California Legislature would limit religious colleges’ ability to claim an exemption from federal Title IX regulations that bar discrimination against LGBT students and faculty.

Only schools that prepare students for pastoral ministry would be allowed the religious exemption under California Senate Bill 1146 — which passed the state Senate in May and is scheduled for a hearing in the state Assembly on June 30.

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A Muslim civil rights organization says that a record number of groups are spreading hatred of Muslims and have raised more than $200 million in funding since 2008.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, issued its findings in a report conducted with the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, released June 20.

the Web Editors 05-16-2016

The Supreme Court decided on May 16 to defer to lower courts any decision regarding the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.

“A Muslim mosque cannot be subjected to a different land-use approval process than a Christian church simply because local protesters oppose the mosque,” reads the brief from almost 20 religious and civil rights groups.

the Web Editors 04-05-2016

Gov. Phil Bryant. Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 — the so-called “religious freedom” bill — on April 5, reports WREG Memphis.

The new law prevents legal action being taken against individuals and organizations that deny service based on their religious beliefs.

Image via U.S. Army Capt. Simratpal Singh / The Sikh Coalition / RNS

A decorated veteran Sikh officer is the first to win an approval from the U.S. Army to continue on active duty while maintaining his religiously mandated beard and turban. The Army issued a decision March 31, concluding that to allow beards for medical reasons but ban them for religious reasons is a discriminatory bar to service for Sikh Americans, according to a statement from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the law offices that argued his case.

Image via LifeWay Research

Most U.S. adults say religious liberty is declining in America and Christians face more intolerance than ever. But nearly 4 in 10 also say Christians “complain too much about how they are treated,” according to a new LifeWay Research survey.

Richard Wolf 03-30-2016

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The Supreme Court is seeking a compromise that would let religious nonprofit groups avoid any involvement in offering insurance coverage for contraceptives while also ensuring that employees get the coverage.

Maria Puente 03-28-2016

Gov. Nathan Deal. Image via REUTERS/Tami Chappell/RNS

Was it the Hollywood threat to boycott Georgia or the NFL threat to withhold a Super Bowl?

Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t say as he vetoed a bill on March 28 that a chorus of major studios, sports leagues, and business leaders denounced as legalizing discrimination against gay people.

Image via REUTERS/Darren Ornitz/RNS

Scalia told a gathering at a Catholic high school near New Orleans on Jan. 2, “one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor.”

“Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name, we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,” he said in a brief talk at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metarie, according to various news reports.

Stephanie Wang 10-05-2015

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Just before the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy exploded in Indiana earlier this year, a compromise was playing out 1,500 miles away.

In Utah, as the Salt Lake Tribune noted, same-sex marriage had been banned both through state law and constitutional amendment. Attempts to pass lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender anti-discrimination measures had failed six times.

But in March, lawmakers brought together representatives from the Mormon and LGBT communities and passed landmark legislation.

Utah law now lists sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in housing and employment — but, without buy-in from the religious community, it does not include “public accommodations,” a broad legal term used to describe everything from bus services to restaurants and other private businesses.

Alex Staroseltsev /

Photo via Alex Staroseltsev /

A federal judge ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis into the custody of federal marshals Sept. 3 until she is ready to resume issuing marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning said fines were not enough to force her to comply with a previous order to provide the paperwork to all couples. Bunning said allowing her to defy the order would create a “ripple effect.”

“Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” he said.

“Oaths mean things.”

Image via RNS.

Concerned that faith-based groups can discriminate in hiring while receiving federal funds, a coalition of 130 organizations told President Obama the policy will tarnish his legacy of fair and equal treatment for all Americans.

The critics, including religious organizations such as the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Union for Reform Judaism, asked the president to direct Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review a “flawed” 2007 Justice Department memo that said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides for an override of nondiscrimination laws for government-funded religious organizations.

“RFRA was not intended to create blanket exemptions to laws that protect against discrimination,” says the letter sent to Obama Aug. 20 and announced by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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Jeb Bush speaks at a public gathering in Sioux City, Iowa on July 13, 2015.

Fighting to allow people to live by their religious convictions, even if those convictions are unpopular or criticized, is a battle Jeb Bush believes the next president must lead.

The former Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate pledged to defend religious liberty in front of an estimated 13,000 evangelical pastors attending a massive Southern Baptist Convention event Aug. 4 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Ken Bennett / Wake Forest University School of Divinity / RNS

Wake Forest Divinity School professor Rev. James Dunn. Photo via Ken Bennett / Wake Forest University School of Divinity / RNS

The Rev. James M. Dunn, a religious liberty advocate who worked the corridors of Washington power for two decades to defend the separation of church and state, died on July 4.

He was 83, and died of a heart attack at his Winston-Salem, N.C., home, said Cherilyn Crowe, spokeswoman for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

After retiring from leading the committee in 1999, Dunn taught at Wake Forest University’s divinity school in Winston-Salem, serving as a professor of Christianity and public policy until 2014.

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).

Ron Csillag 04-16-2015
Photo via Peregrine981 /  Wikimedia Commons / RNS

The Supreme Court of Canada building. Photo via Peregrine981 / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that a small town in Quebec may not open its council meetings with prayer.

In a unanimous ruling April 15, Canada’s highest court ruled that the town of Saguenay can no longer publicly recite a Catholic prayer because it infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The case dates back to 2007, when a resident of Saguenay complained about public prayer at City Hall.

Just last year, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that legislative bodies such as city councils could begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

But the Canadian high court ruled that the country’s social mores have “given rise to a concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs. The state must instead remain neutral in this regard. This neutrality requires that the state neither favor nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non belief.”

The court said a nondenominational prayer is still religious in nature and would exclude nonbelievers.

Greg Horton 04-15-2015
Photo courtesy of Adam Daniels / RNS

“Ahrimani Enlightenment,” by Adam Daniels, the church’s leader. Photo courtesy of Adam Daniels / RNS

Less than two weeks after a third-grade teacher in Duncan, Okla., distributed Gideon Bibles to her students, the Church of Ahriman, a Satanist church in Oklahoma City, has asked permission to distribute Satanist literature at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.

Adam Daniels, the church’s leader, said he wanted to give students a copy of Ahrimani Enlightenment, a primer and workbook normally given to new members of the church.

In a letter to the Duncan school district, some 80 miles south of Oklahoma City, Daniels assured administrators that his book is “no where (sic) near as graphic as the Christian Bible.”

Daniels said he has yet to hear back, but he believes equal access laws mean that his church has the right to distribute literature if other religious organizations are permitted to do so.

Photo via Elizabeth Bryant / RNS

Students attend class at the Catholic University of Lyon. Photo via Elizabeth Bryant / RNS

Sunlight slants across a classroom at the Catholic University of Lyon, where the Bible dominates an evening lecture.

The subject may not seem surprising in this ancient city that was once a bastion of French Catholicism and a hub for Christian missionaries. But the dozen or so people jotting notes are not theology students.

One young woman wears a headscarf. A man sports the beard of a devout Muslim. Still others are non-Muslim civil servants working for the local government.

All are enrolled in a program on the French concept of secularism and religious tolerance that is jointly run by two Lyon universities and the city’s Grand Mosque. They’re the unlikely foot soldiers of a national campaign for “Islam a la Francaise.”

The drive has taken on new urgency since January’s terrorist attacks in Paris and the departure of hundreds of French youths to join jihadist movements in the Middle East.

The country’s leftist government has responded with a raft of new measures to fight homegrown extremism.