Category: Religious Freedom

Buddhist Bhutan Proposes ‘Anti-Conversion’ Law

Bhutan The amendment bill would punish “proselytizing” that “uses coercion or other forms of inducement” — vaguely enough worded, Christians fear, that vigilantes could use it to jail them for following the commands of Christ to feed, clothe and otherwise care for the poor.

“There was always a virtual anti-conversion law in place, but now it is on paper too,” said a senior pastor from Thimphu on condition of anonymity. “Seemingly it is aimed at controlling the growth of Christianity.”

‘Freedom of Worship’ Worries

“Freedom of worship” has recently replaced the phrase “freedom of religion” in public pronouncements from the Obama administration. Experts are concerned that the new rhetoric may signal a policy change.

While Obama’s administration may simply be using different words to say the same thing, the timing of the change is worrisome, said Thomas Farr, religion professor at Georgetown University. Obama just recently announced an ambassador for international religious freedom (Suzan Johnson Cook), but the position has been demoted within the State Department.

“It puts what otherwise might have been passed off as a rhetorical shift under the spotlight a little more,” Farr said.

Russian Supreme Court bans regional Jehovah’s Witnesses branch

Jehovah's Witnesses The Supreme Court rejected an appeal against a previous court ruling of the Rostov regional court issued on September 11, 2009, which declares the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ branch in the southern Russian city of Taganrog an extremist organization and bans its activities.

A plot of land, an office building and other property belonging to the group were also seized.

Tajikistan: Court bans Baptist church

Tajikistan Defending her 26 October decision to ban a Baptist congregation in the capital Dushanbe for meeting for worship in a private home without state registration is Judge Soliya Ismailova of Somoni District Court.

She rejected the Baptists’ argument that this violated their freedom of worship. “I already made my decision, and if the Baptists do not agree they may complain to a higher court.”

Cuban pastor to be evicted; Report reveals sharp rise in religious liberty violations

Mario Alverez Pressure on religious leaders in Cuba has increased significantly over the past year according to a new report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Comprehensive evidence within the document details a sharp rise in religious liberty violations there.

Independent church leaders from the fast growing Apostolic Movement have been particularly targeted for harassment, detentions and court summons by the Government.

Religious Freedom Breakthrough: Massive Christian Celebration Allowed in Vietnam

Vietnam In what religious freedom advocates regarded as a breakthrough in Vietnam, authorities granted rare permission to unregistered house church groups to hold a large, public Easter-related service here last night.

More than 15,000 people gathered at Tao Dan Stadium.

Leaders of the celebration and religious freedom advocates in Vietnam said the event was significant in that unregistered house churches were allowed to hold a large public celebration. They added that authorities must have felt enough pressure to consider the event less harmful than possible negative publicity from denying permission.

Saudi Arabia authorities release Christian blogger

Hamoud Bin Saleh In a surprise move, a Saudi Christian arrested in January for describing his conversion from Islam and criticizing the kingdom’s judiciary on his blog site was released on March 28 with the stipulation that he not travel outside of Saudi Arabia or appear on media.

The country’s penalty for “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, is death, although in recent years there have been no known cases of kingdom citizens formally convicted and sentenced with capital punishment for the offense.

Judge: smuggled monkey meat needed for religious reasons? Still need a permit

monkey meat A Liberian woman accused of smuggling endangered monkey meat from Africa to New York has failed to persuade a judge that she shouldn’t be prosecuted because she needed the butchered carcasses for religious reasons.

The judge also noted that her claim didn’t address the main point of the criminal charge: That she hadn’t applied for the permits needed to import such exotic foodstuffs and had misled border officials about what she was shipping into the country.

Nothing in her religion, Dearie wrote, “required her to abstain from truthful completion of paperwork.”