Religion News Roundup, March 25, 2011

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  • Islamic bloc drops 12-year U.N. drive to ban defamation of religion: Islamic countries set aside their 12-year campaign to have religions protected from “defamation”, allowing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Genea to approve a plan to promote religious tolerance on Thursday. Western countries and their Latin American allies, strong opponents of the defamation concept, joined Muslim and African states in backing without vote the new approach that switches focus from protecting beliefs to protecting believers. Our view: It’s about time. Free speech should not be curtailed, especially not on the demand of a religion known for its intolerant elements (e.g. see Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoons). Islamic countries had cited the cartoons as examples of defamatory treatment of their faith that they wanted stopped.
  • S. Korean pastor arranged N. Korean defections: A Christian pastor said Friday that two years of planning helped him secure the defection of nine North Koreans to the South in a daring transfer at sea that could further inflame cross-border tensions. Kim Sung-Eun, who leads a church mostly made up of 30 defectors from the North, said he arranged to bring the defectors to the South for reunions with their relatives who had already entered the country
  • Vatican launches public dialogue with atheists: The Vatican launched a series of public dialogues with non-believers Thursday, choosing leading intellectual institutions in Paris to present its belief that modern societies must speak more openly about God. The decision to start the series in France, where strong secularism has pushed faith to the fringes of the public sphere, reflected Pope Benedict’s goal of bringing religious questions back into the mainstream of civic debates. The dialogues, called “Courtyard of the Gentiles” after the part of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem where Jews and non-Jews met, will continue in at least 16 cities in Europe and North America over the next two years.
  • Vatican: Those who oppose gay rights are ‘vilified’: A Vatican official has told a United Nations body that people who openly object to homosexual behavior are at risk of losing their human rights when they are prosecuted or stigmatized for their beliefs. “People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex,” said Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • India summons Italian ambassador over turban issue: India made an official protest to Italy after a respected golf coach was asked to remove his turban for a security check at a Milan airport, the foreign ministry in New Delhi said on Wednesday. Amritinder Singh is the coach of Jeev Milkha Singh, India’s top golfer. It was the second time in less than two weeks that coach Singh was asked to take off his turban in Italy.
  • Arizona legislature passes bill protecting religious expression and religious groups at college: State senators voted Wednesday to let student clubs at universities and community colleges refuse to admit members who do not share their beliefs and still get official recognition and funding. HB 2565 bars these government-run schools from discriminating against students on the basis of that person’s religious viewpoint, expression or belief. And it bars the schools from adopting any policy penalizing a student for those beliefs. But the key provision allows any religious or political club to determine its own internal affairs.
  • Lawyer says right to religious liberty protects Amish sect’s refusal to use safety triangles on buggies: But a justice on the Kentucky Court of Appeals quickly challenged that claim in a hearing on Thursday, saying the Amish men were putting not only themselves at risk, but children in cars whose drivers may not be able to avoid striking the dark, slow-moving buggies. “We want to restrict governmental intrusion into our lives, but (not) when you start endangering other people,” said Judge Kelly Thompson.
    Also Noted

  • Young religious adults may be more likely than nonreligious peers to become obese by middle age: A study finds that young adults who regularly attend religious activities may be more prone to obesity by middle age than their nonreligious peers. The study, presented this week at the American Heart Assn.’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions in Atlanta, offered no explanation for why religious activity might be linked with obesity in middle age. However, other studies have shown that being involved with religion may be linked with lower mortality rates.
  • For Muslim politicians, running for office is the American way: Across the country, dozens of Muslims have actively engaged in the American political process, running for — and winning — elected offices. From a mayor in New Jersey; to state representatives in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maryland and Missouri; to congressmen in Minnesota and Indiana, American politicians from the Muslim faith are increasingly in political positions.
  • Making sense of Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewish: In early April 1959, Time magazine reported that “the most famous and perhaps the most beautiful baby born last week was a Jewish girl named Elisheba Rachel Taylor.” Explaining that a convert to Judaism is considered “a newborn child,” the article recounted the conversion of 27-year-old actress Elizabeth Taylor to the faith. Her newly acquired Hebrew name, used in ceremonies accompanying life cycle events, combined the Hebrew version of Elizabeth with her biblical heroine, Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife.

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This post was last updated: Aug. 27, 2013