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Freedom of Religion Tag

The Southeast Asian country of Malaysia is moving towards a total imposition of Islamic Sharia. Malaysia's government has pledged its support for an Islamic penal code that seeks to impose Sharia-prescribed punishments such as amputations, public stoning and flogging on its multi-religious population. The new legislation referred to as “Hudud Law” also seeks to segregate women from public life in Kelantan province, a predominantly Muslim northern state. The proposed constitutional amendment will allow other Malaysian provinces to align their legal system to stricter Islamic law as well. With a population of around 30 million, only 61 percent of the people identify as Muslim. Apart from Christianity that makes up to 10 percent of the population, Malaysia is home to many ethnic Chinese and Indians who mainly follow Buddhism and Hinduism respectively.

For many Christians fleeing the nightmare of religious persecution in Arab and Muslim lands their torment and suffering doesn’t end when they arrive on the shores of Europe since Islamist bullies single them out for harassment. A detailed study released by the Christian group Open Doors on Monday says that newly arrived Christian refugees in Germany are facing systematic violence, harassment and abuse at the hands of Muslim migrants. The most disturbing part of the study is the abuse faced by Christians at the hands of Muslim guards inside the German refugee housing. In many refugee housing centres most of the migrants and the security guards are Muslim. The Christian group talked about the prevailing atmosphere of “fear and panic” among the persecuted Christians arriving in Germany. According to a Christian minister from Berlin, Christian refugees must take part in Islamic prayer and threatened if they refused to comply.

In what some might be the next standoff over religious liberty, a high school near Madison, Wisconsin is at odds with an off-campus student lunch group over the right to hold free, Jesus-themed lunches. Fox News explains:
[Middleton] high school allows students to eat lunch off-campus. In 2014 a small group of parents began meeting with their children in a nearby park — providing home cooked meals along with a Christian-themed, inspirational message. The small weekly gatherings in the fall and spring eventually morphed into a popular gathering spot for hungry kids — with nearly 500 turning out for all sorts of goodies — ranging from Chick-fil-A sandwiches and fresh fruit to hundreds of homemade brownies. “We show up every week just to show the love of Jesus,” parent Beth Williams told me. “Our mission statement for Jesus Lunch is ‘food for the body, nutrition for the soul.’”
As students started inviting more friends to attend, the gatherings have brought as many as 400 hundred students to the lunches, which are held at a park directly next to the school campus.

Bad news for Pastafarians. A federal court in Nebraska ruled Flying Spaghetti Monster is not actually a god. Stephen Cavanaugh, prisoner of the Nebraska State Penitentiary sued prison officials because, "their refusal to accommodate his religious requests." His request to have Pastafarianism recognized as his official religion was smacked down by a U.S. District Court who wrote, "The FSM Gospel is plainly a work of satire, meant to entertain while making a pointed political statement. To read it as religious doctrine would be little different from grounding a ‘religious exercise’ on any other work of fiction.” According to Religion News:

Is it an epidemic? Yet another decades-old rockstar miraculously found a feigned moral superiority soapbox. Canadian rocker Brian Adams, most famous for his early 90s hits, has decided Mississippi's religious freedom laws are too draconian for his liking. ABC News reported:
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams is canceling a performance this week in Mississippi, citing the state's new law that allows religious groups and some private businesses to refuse service to gay couples. Adams said in a statement Sunday night that he was canceling a show Thursday at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. The singer says he can't "in good conscience" perform in a state where "certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation."

Walt Disney and Marvel, a Disney subsidiary, are threatening to boycott Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signs into law a religious freedom bill that recently passed the Georgia state legislature. The bill, HB 575, had already undergone significant revisions in response to pressure from SJWs.  The bill was initially designed to protect businesses and non-profits whose owners had religious objections to providing services for and participating in gay "marriages"; however, the new version is less accommodating to religious freedom. The Washington Times reports:
The bill initially would have allowed Georgians to decline service for same-sex weddings if doing so violated their religious beliefs. But, sensing the coming storm, Mr. Deal urged lawmakers to make substantial changes to the legislation before passing it.

In case you missed it, the National Prayer Breakfast was earlier this week and our esteemed president used the occasion to lecture people on religious liberty. FOX 6 reported:
Pres. Obama at National Prayer Breakfast: ‘Faith is the great cure for fear’ President Barack Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, speaking about the need to overcome fear through faith, just one day after making a historic visit to a Baltimore mosque where he delivered a message of religious inclusivity. “Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different or lead us to try to get some sinister ‘other’ under control,” said Obama, making a veiled reference to divisive rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail.

Friday, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring today Religious Freedom Day. In 1992, a Joint Resolution from Congress requested then President George H.W. Bush to designate January 16 as Religious Freedom Day:
"Be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That January 16, 1993, is designated as “Religious Freedom Day,” and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to join together to celebrate their religious freedom and to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

The city of Houston is no longer threatening to seize two decades-old fifth ward churches via eminent domain. From our August report:
Two churches nestled in what used to be one of Houston’s roughest neighborhoods are fighting back against the city. The Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center was established in the fifth ward in 1965 by Bishop Roy Lee Kossie. A few years later, Pastor Quinton Smith began pastoring at the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, also in the fifth ward. Both churches have grown and have had a positive impact on their community in each year since their establishment. Building a youth ministry center, a church-run food bank, and creating outreach programs for gang members, drug addicts, and alcoholics, the churches continue their work to transform the fifth ward. “When we moved in to this area, it was considered the highest crime rate area in the city of Houston. People shot first and asked questions later. But we loved these people. We loved this community. We knew this was exactly where we needed to be,” said Kossie. The fifth ward is located just outside of downtown. Property values in the area have skyrocketed and continue to climb. The City of Houston offered to purchase the churches. When the churches refused, the city came back with threats of using eminent domain to acquire the property as part of an urban development plan.
That "urban development plan" called for using the land to build a library and 63 units of public housing.

Gallup released an interesting poll this week showing that nearly half of all Americans view government as "an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens."  Interestingly, this is "similar to what was found in previous surveys conducted over the last five years"; however, "when this question was first asked in 2003, less than a third of Americans held this attitude." Gallup reports:
The latest results are from Gallup's Sept. 9-13 Governance poll. The lower percentage of Americans agreeing in 2003 that the federal government posed an immediate threat likely reflected the more positive attitudes about government evident after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The percentage gradually increased to 44% by 2006, and then reached the 46% to 49% range in four surveys conducted since 2010. The remarkable finding about these attitudes is how much they reflect apparent antipathy toward the party controlling the White House, rather than being a purely fundamental or fixed philosophical attitude about government.
It's no accident, for example, that when Democrats start and/or renew pushes for gun control, gun and ammo sales skyrocket. Of course, this isn't just about gun control; it encompasses everything from government surveillance to over-regulation to fundamental First Amendment rights.

Today's edition of Why local governments can be the absolute worst takes place in my home breaks. If you haven't had your coffee yet, this story is enough to get your blood pumping. Two churches nestled in what used to be one of Houston's roughest neighborhoods are fighting back against the city. The Latter Day Deliverance Revival Center was established in the fifth ward in 1965 by Bishop Roy Lee Kossie. A few years later, Pastor Quinton Smith began pastoring at the Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, also in the fifth ward. Both churches have grown and have had a positive impact on their community in each year since their establishment. Building a youth ministry center, a church-run food bank, and creating outreach programs for gang members, drug addicts, and alcoholics, the churches continue their work to transform the fifth ward. “When we moved in to this area, it was considered the highest crime rate area in the city of Houston. People shot first and asked questions later. But we loved these people. We loved this community. We knew this was exactly where we needed to be,” said Kossie.

Since the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Hobby Lobby decision last year, lawyers and activists on both sides of the Obamacare contraception mandate have been trying to outmaneuver each other on the technicalities of exemptions. Four appeals courts have ruled in favor of the government mandate, but until this week, one case served as both a holdout for religious freedom, and a thorn in the Obama Administration's side. The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns, were granted a temporary exemption from the mandate by the Supreme Court last year. They then went before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to extend that protection, but were denied. Today, the 10th Circuit upheld that ruling, saying that compliance requirements “do not substantially burden plaintiffs’ religious exercise or violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.” Now, the Little Sisters are faced with either complying with the mandate, or paying massive IRS penalties. Via The Hill:
Under the contraceptive mandate, nonprofit religious groups like Little Sisters of the Poor are permitted to opt out of the requirement if they report their concerns to their insurance companies or the federal government. But that group and others have objected to any extra steps to obtain the exemption. Instead, they are seeking the same treatment as houses of worship, which are not required to fill out additional paperwork in order to avoid fines under the law.

If you had asked me twenty years ago to predict what the 21st century would hold in store, “religious wars” probably wouldn’t have been tops on my list. But it should have been. Right now we're seeing many forms of religious war. The most obvious has raged between radical Islam and everybody else. Yes, radical Muslims are somewhat of a minority within Islam; but they’re a huge, activist, vocal, sometimes violent, determined, and ruthless minority, they’ve been fighting the fight for the better part of a century (centuries, that is,) and have really stepped it up since their victory in Iran in 1979. During Obama's time in office their threat has grown in numbers, in strength, and in barbarity. I wrote that it’s a war “between radical Islam and everybody else.” The war against the Jews has been going on for a long time, with Israel/Palestine as the epicenter (that war isn’t just a religious one, but it certainly is a religious one as well as a political one). The war against the Hindus also is of great antiquity. The ancient war against Christians took somewhat of a breather in Western Europe after the Siege of Vienna. In recent years, however, radical Islam’s revived war against Christians has reached a violent fever pitch.

They came. They saw. They protested without hurting themselves or others. I promised a round of applause for Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton if he and his city management and law enforcement teams managed to keep the peace between protesters and counterprotesters at last night's free speech/anti-Islam/whatever you want to call it rally. The verdict? They managed! Mr. Stanton, this one's for you. USA Today explains how things played out:
Police presence increased by 6:30 p.m. to physically separate the two sides outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix. About 20 cars and 15 motorcycles traveled from a protester meeting point at a nearby park to the mosque around 6 p.m., where people from the two sides used megaphones to yell at each other and were at times nose-to-nose. A large group of counter protesters held signs reading "Love not Hate," as others waved American flags and one man ripped the Quran in half. Counter protesters wearing blue lined the side closest to the mosque. They said they came from Redemption Church in Tempe and wore the color to be a peaceful presence. Few people showed up for the mosque's scheduled prayer service.
Supporters on both sides of the issue took to Twitter to speak their minds---and air their grievances:

Tonight, activists plan to protest outside of the Phoenix mosque frequented by the Islamic extremists responsible for shootings at a free speech rally in Garland, Texas. Obviously, a controversy. Local law enforcement officials aren't taking any chances with this one; organizers for this protest have been less...filtered?...than those responsible for Garland's "draw the Prophet" event, and city officials are preparing for the possibility of violence.
The protest is timed to coincide with jummah, a large communal Muslim prayer service held on Fridays. Protest organizer Jon Ritzheimer told CNN his goal is to expose Islam. "True Islam is terrorism," he told the network's Anderson Cooper. "The ones that are out committing these atrocities and stuff, they're following the [Quran] as it's written." ABC News reported Friday the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned local law enforcement there is a possibility of violence, though no specific nor credible threat. The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it has met with law enforcement in an effort to protect mosque-goers.

President George W. Bush gave the commencement speech at Southern Methodist University this weekend. His speech was humorous at times but drew a major amount of applause when Bush touched on the subject of religious liberty. David McCabe of The Hill:
George W. Bush defends religious liberty Former President George W. Bush offered a defense of religious liberty and faith more broadly while speaking at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) commencement ceremony Saturday. He spent some of his speech talking about why graduates should be hopeful as they move on from their college years. Towards the end, he offered one more. “And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving god,” he said. “Whether you agree with that statement is your choice, it is not your government’s choice.” “It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want — or not to worship at all — is a core belief of our founding.”
This video has that segment of the speech:

Pew just released a survey of religion in America, and the headline is Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population:
The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.
The complete Report is here (pdf.). The percentage of Christians has declined by 8 percent sice 2007:
To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014....
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