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A judge in Britain has ruled that not including “non-religious world views” on the new schools’ Religious Studies (RS) course is an “error of law” in need of correcting. The course applies to State-run schools but not to Church-run schools. Mr Justice Warby agreed with the case taken by three families who argued against the omission of non-religious beliefs from the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) religious studies curriculum announced in February. The three families were backed by the British Humanist Association.
Twenty-six children died in 2014 who were in the care of the State or were known to care services, the highest number in five years, new figures show. The annual report of the National Review Panel (NRP) details cases of deaths in care, after-care and those known to child protection services. The figures reveal that two young people died as a result of murder, while eight of the 26 died as a result of suicide and one from a drug overdose. Six deaths were infants under one year, and 10 were of children aged between 10 years and 16. Five children died as a result of road traffic accidents.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has described as “meaningless” the offer by Taoiseach Enda Kenny for a free vote for Fine Gael party members on whether or not to repeal the Constitutional protection for the unborn. Senator Healy Eames told the Seanad: “The offer of a free vote by the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, is as meaningless as the letter from Fine Gael to the people of Ireland before the last election which stated that the party would not legislate for abortion. Fine Gael did legislate for abortion.”
Plans by Enda Kenny to establish a constitutional convention to consider whether or not we should have another referendum on abortion has been attacked by the Pro-Life Campaign. Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign said the move would amount to a “charade”. She stated: “The suggestion that the abortion issue could be referred to a ‘Citizens’ Convention’ will remind many of the charade in 2013, when expert evidence presented at two sets of Oireachtas Hearings was ignored by the Government who went ahead and introduced abortion.”
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has upheld the right of a pro-life activist to distribute anti-abortion leaflets near an abortion clinic in Germany. The European Centre for Law and Justice in Strasbourg has welcomed the decision as a victory for free speech. The activist in question, Klaus Guenter Annen, took a case to the ECHR following a court order in 2007 that he desist from handing out pro-life leaflets near a clinic run by two doctors named on the document – one of whom sought the original court order. Mr Annen also named the two doctors on his website.
A cinema advertising company has been criticised on all fronts for banning a Church of England advert promoting prayer. One of those attacking the decision is David Cameron. Another critic of the decision is atheist, Richard Dawkins. According to The Guardian newspaper, the 60-second advertisement, which shows Christians from various walks of life saying The Lord’s Prayer, fell foul of Digital Cinema Media (DCM) which argued that it breached the company’s own practice of not showing ads with overtly religious or political content, and because the advert might cause offence to non-Christians.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on the Government to fully clarify its position on the Constitutional protection for the unborn following a number of interventions by ministers in favour of its repeal in recent days. In a statement, Deputy McGrath voiced his concern that on the issue of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, “there is a palpable sense that the whole debate is already being manipulated and dragged toward a pre-ordained end; that of unlimited abortion without any kind of legislative restraint”.
Hate crimes against Christians in Europe are more widespread than official reports show, the Vatican’s representative to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has said. In a statement before a sitting of the OSCE in Vienna, Austria, Monsignor Janusz Urba?czyk asserted that “poor attention is given to hate crimes committed against majority communities” and such crimes, being “under-reported and under-recorded”, leads to the conclusion “that hate crimes against members of religions and, especially against Christians, are certainly more numerous than those indicated in the annual reporting of the [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights]” - the OSCE’s principal institution. Pointing out that 60-70% of hate crimes were committed against properties and not persons, crimes considered “less serious”, Msgr Urba?czyk warned that this led to a risk that such crimes would not be fully investigated towards prosecution of offenders.
A number of Irish doctors have added their names to an Amnesty International letter calling on governments worldwide to legislate for abortion. In all, 838 medical professionals from around the world signed the letter, arguing that access to abortion is good for women’s “health and bodily autonomy”. Among the signatories are Dr Veronica O'Keane, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, including the National Children’s Hospital (AMiNCH) and Dr Peter Boylan, former Master and Clinical Director of Ireland's National Maternity Hospital.
A leading Catholic Archbishop in Australia has expressed his alarm at legal moves to sanction a fellow prelate for distributing a booklet defending traditional marriage. Following confirmation by Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission that it is examining a case brought by a transgender activist against Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Lifesite News reports that Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher felt compelled to speak out against the case and the apparent breach of religious freedom it represents. "Australia is party to treaties guaranteeing freedoms of religion and of speech, and regularly exhorts other nations to observe these,” Archbishop Fisher said. “It is therefore astonishing and truly alarming that people might be proceeded against for stating traditional Christian beliefs on marriage.”
Laws around school admissions should be changed to prevent religious-backed schools from offering priority to children of faith, a Government advisory panel has said. According to The Irish Times, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has recommended that the law be altered so as to allow unbaptised children and those of minority faiths to apply for school places on the same basis as those drawn from the faith community served by a particular school. The recommendation has come as part of the commission’s input to the new Admissions to Schools Bill (2015), due to be debated by the Oireachtas shortly.
Christians in the United States vary greatly in their levels of active involvement with their congregations, a new study has revealed. According to the ‘Religious Landscape Study, undertaken by the Pew Research Centre, Christian communities in the country vary greatly in levels of active participation with their congregations, with just 30% of all Christian adults having a high level of congregational involvement. However, only 12% fall into the lowest category of involvement. The figure falling into the category of medium engagement was 58%.
The Papal Nuncio to Ireland has urged Catholics to protect religious ethos in schools from the risk of disappearing entirely. Addressing a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of Gravissimum Educationis, the Declaration on Christian Education by the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Charles Brown warned: “Schools have to be concerned about their Catholic character, and recognise that without a conscious effort to maintain their distinctly Catholic ethos, that ethos can dissolve to non-descript and vague spiritualism, or even disappear entirely.”
A Swedish court has ruled against a midwife who was denied posts because she is unwilling to perform abortions. Ellinor Grimmark first took a case for discrimination in 2014, contending that she had been denied jobs on three separate occasions for her stated objection, on religious grounds, to participating in abortion procedures. Grimmark was supported in her action by the human rights groups Provita and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
The first same-sex marriage ceremonies are taking place in Ireland today. In anticipation today, numerous gay couples in Dublin, Cork and Galway had registered their intention to marry. Civil partners do not have to give notice of intent to marry. Under the terms of the Act, formulated after Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage last May 22, all same-sex couples previously married in foreign jurisdictions will have their marital status automatically recognised in Ireland from today, and, while no new civil partnerships will be recorded, existing civil partnerships will continue to be recognised unless a couple decides to transfer the arrangement into a same-sex marriage, at which time the civil element will be dissolved.
Australia’s Anti-Discrimination Commission office is to hear a case against the country’s Catholic Bishops for distributing a booklet supporting traditional marriage. According to The Australian newspaper, the case against the Bishops was launched on foot of a complaint against Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Tasmania by transgender Martine Delaney.
A blood test in use in Britain to check for genetic abnormalities in foetuses could be resulting in sex-selective abortions, a government report has warned. According to The Daily Telegraph, government concerns were raised following a review by the Department of Health into the use of Non Invasive Pre-natal Testing (NIPT), which, among other things, can determine the gender of a foetus from as early as seven weeks of pregnancy.
Two Irish filmmakers who focused on the case of US abortionist Dr Kermit Gosnell (pictured) have warned against a rush to liberalise abortion in Ireland following their research of the case. Having made Gosnell’s infamous ‘house of horrors’ case the subject of a documentary film and book, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney admitted, in an article for The Irish Times, that their previous support for liberal abortion provision had radically changed and warned abortion campaigners in Ireland to “be careful what you wish for” as the drive continues for a repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which protects the unborn child.
A woman in Northern Ireland is taking a legal case over alleged failings to issue concrete guidelines on abortion there. According to The Irish Times, the unnamed woman travelled to England in 2013 to procure a termination of twins suffering foetal abnormalities after doctors treating her at a hospital in Belfast cited uncertainty in the law in Northern as a reason for refusing her an abortion. Unlike the UK, Northern Ireland restricts abortion to specific cases where the mother’s life or mental well-being are threatened.
Parents who back denominational education for their children must insist that religious ethos is defended, Archbishop Michael Neary has said Speaking at the launch of two new texts on Religious Education for Catholic schools, the Archbishop of Tuam insisted that “we have Catholic schools because parents want them” and, therefore, “it is parents who must insist that the religious ethos of our schools is respected and not abandoned”.
Irish people believe the Catholic Church will decline further over the next decade, and so will marriage These are just two of the findings of a newly released survey of Irish attitudes. The ‘Future of Ireland’ study was undertaken by the OMD media agency with the backing of Ulster Bank and was based on conversations with over 1,000 Irish people on a range of issues. Fully 60% said they believed marriage may be less important over the coming years, but that Irish people will continue to strongly value family and relationships.
The pace of divestment of patronage of Catholic schools has been described as “disappointing” by the former chair of the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary sector. Speaking to The Irish Times newspaper, Professor John Coolahan, whose report to Government in 2012 set in train efforts to shift some religious schools to alternative patronage, contended that while his forum had attempted to “encourage a generous spirit where existing patrons were concerned” on the issue, “overall, the situation is disappointing when it comes to divestment”.
The dismissal of a Church of England cleric from a preaching position following his marriage to his same-sex partner has been upheld by an employment tribunal in Britain. According to The Daily Telegraph, the Rev Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a hospital chaplain in Lincolnshire took a case for discrimination when his licence to preach in the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham was removed by Church authorities whom, it was alleged, viewed him as being no longer “in good standing” following his same-sex union. This action, Rev Pemberton alleged, had denied him the chance of promotion to a senior chaplaincy post.
Bishop Brendan Leahy has defended the right of denominational schools to choose their ethos. Responding to plans by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to introduce a new Beliefs and Religions subject at primary level which has the potential to negatively affect the daily 30 minutes of teaching time afforded to faith formation in denominational schools, Bishop Leahy told The Irish Independent that the rights of schools on religious education were guaranteed both in the Constitution and law.
Voters in the US city of Houston, Texas have repealed a local ordinance which offered transgendered people the right to use toilet and changing facilities of their self-identified sex. According to Lifesite News, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was struck down by 63% of voters who agreed that the law adversely affected the privacy of ‘vulnerable young women’. Many people, including High School students, have objective to transgendered individuals who are anatomically male being allowed to use women’s showers, toilets and changing rooms in schools and elsewhere.
Women in Britain are deferring motherhood as they pursue the desire to own a home first, a new survey has revealed. According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which has unveiled its findings in ‘Becoming a Mother – Understanding women’s choices today’, rather than the commonly held belief that women are today putting careers ahead of parenthood, it is a desire to have a secure home, coupled with a stable relationship and financial security which dictate women’s deferral.
Time allotted to faith formation in Catholic primary schools could be slashed under new Religious Education plans unveiled by the Government, The Irish Independent reports. The Education about Religion, Beliefs and Ethics (ERBE) subject is being proposed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) as an additional component of the school day to introduce children to all world religions. However, in an already packed curriculum, it is likely that to accommodate its inclusion, the daily 30-minute slot currently afforded to religious backed schools for faith formation will be curtailed.
Amnesty International in Ireland has been criticised for urging the repeal of the country’s Constitutional protection for the unborn. Quoted by The Catholic Herald as he responded to a new campaign ad from Amnesty to ‘Repeal the 8th’, Lord Alton told the House of Lords that the campaign was “simply disingenuous”. “Their publicity makes it seem as if they want abortions solely where the baby is going to die,” he said. “If you dig deeper you discover that they want to ‘Repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution to remove the protection of the right to life of the foetus’. These are their words, not mine.”
A fifth attempt to introduce same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland has failed after a majority vote in favour was blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). For the first time since Members of the Liberal Assembly (MLA) began repeated drives to legislate on marriage redefinition so as to bring the North into line with both the Republic of Ireland and Britain, a majority of 53 MLAs backed the Sinn Féin/SDLP motion, with 52 against. Crucially, however, with just four of the majority coming from the unionist side of the house, the DUP issued a petition of concern, a legal device open to parties concerned at any vote offering too much to one community in the North over the other. The vote was thus blocked and the legislation stalled.
There is a “growing scientific consensus” that the family structure based on marriage is best for both children and parents. In a piece penned for the US-based National Review, W. Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia pointed to a host of studies, including three recent research projects, which clearly demonstrated that, “despite persistent efforts to claim otherwise”, individuals young and old benefit from “strong and stable married families”.
The Government has announced plans for free access to medical testing to meet a surge in sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. According to RTÉ, between 1995 and 2013, rates for STIs increased from 3,361 to 12,753, with the greatest rates of infection being among those aged under 25 and among men having sex with men. Infections such as HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea all showed increases. In 2013 alone, 344 people were diagnosed with HIV in Ireland.
Faith leaders in Canada have issued a joint declaration against the introduction of euthanasia and assisted suicide. As medical personnel come under increasing pressure to participate in end-of-life procedures in the wake of a Supreme Court decision in February that people in ‘grievous pain’ should be allowed to request assisted suicide, more than 30 Christian denominations together with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim faiths have issued their Declaration on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, arguing for respect for human dignity and a recourse to palliative care in end-of-life cases.
Some teachers in Catholic schools in Ireland report feeling “intimidated” when they raise concerns about ethos within their schools. According to The Irish Catholic newspaper, which gained comments from a number of teachers working in schools today at a conference on denominational education organised by The Iona Institute, the pressure is widespread as many schools are now “Catholic in name only”. Among the teachers – all unnamed for fear of being targeted - who spoke of feeling “isolated” and “oppressed” is one who claims that her colleagues are openly “anti-Catholic”.
India is proposing an outright ban on foreigners seeking surrogacy services there. According to The Guardian newspaper, in the wake of a court challenge earlier in October to the commercial surrogacy issue nationwide, the Indian government was called upon to finally move towards some form of regulation of an industry which is said to be worth €126 million, a figure growing at a rate of 20% annually. Critics have denounced the exploitation of impoverished Indian women in what is referred to as a ‘rent-a-womb’ scheme for infertile couples and individuals.
The British government is reluctant to describe the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East as genocide, a minister has admitted. According to a report in The Tablet, when pressed in the House of Lords for a clear explanation of what Britain is doing to uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – relating to religious freedom - Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Minister of State at the Foreign Office conceded that the government remained reluctant to use the term ‘genocide’, even as it reflected on the horrendous litany of abuse perpetrated by the Islamic State group on Christian communities.
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