Notes on Church-State Affairs
Hendon, David W., Hines, Jason, Journal of Church and State
Mehreen Faruqi became the first Muslim to sit in a legislature in Australia. She was appointed to replace Green representative Cate Faehrmaann in the upper house in New South Wales. She rejected comments by the Islamic Friendship Association that she would have trouble reconciling her faith and her stance in favor of marriage equality. Faruqi says she sees no role for religion in government.
An Australian court convicted four Muslim men, Zakaryah Raad, Tolga Cifci, Wassim Fayad, and Cengiz Coskun, of assault. The four had whipped Christian Martinez, a convert to Islam, forty times with a cable as punishment under Sharia law for drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Martinez had called Fayad, his spiritual leader, asking for help to get off drugs and alcohol, but Fayaz said that he needed to feel pain in order not to want drugs and alcohol again. The judge, Brian Maloney, cited the imam of the Omar mosque in Auburn, saying that the community and imams do not approve of whippings.
The High Court of Australia upheld a bylaw of the city of Adelaide that requires street preachers to get a permit. The case goes back to an incident in the mall in Adelaide when customers and business owners complained about two preachers who were using amplifiers and megaphones and were making comments that many found offensive. The preachers had initially prevailed in a lower court.
The president of Azerbaijan signed a restrictive order on the distribution of religious books and videos. Such books and videos will now have to have a special government control stamp to be legal.
The European Court of Human Rights turned down an effort by Juma Mosque Congregation to get back a building it used for worship until 2004. The mosque refused to accept a governmentappointed imam, and then the government removed its registration, which meant the congregation could not rent or own land. The court did not rule on the basis of religious liberty issues but instead responded to technical legal issues raised by the government, such as whether the mosque had appealed to the appropriate government agency.
Hena Akhter, a fourteen-year-old girl from a village in Shariatpur district, died elfter having been whipped for allegations of adultery. Actually she was raped by her cousin Mahbub Kahn. Village elders looked into the case, and the local imam issued a fatwa that imposed 101 lashes on her and 201 on him. Kahn escaped after a few lashes. Akhter collapsed after seventy lashes and was taken to a hospital where she died. Fatwas and Sharia law are officially illegal in Bangladesh, but they continue in some villages.
Dr. P. W. Bennett, dean of Augustine College, a private liberal arts college in Ottawa, was named Canada's first ambassador of religious freedom. He heads the Office of Religious Freedom with a staff of four and a $ 5 million budget. The task of the office is to promote freedom of religion, conscience, and belief around the world by making sure these issues are addressed in Canadian foreign policy. The office was first proposed by the Conservative Party in 2 011 and was inspired by the assassination of Shahaz Bhatti, a Christian and Pakistani minister of minorities, shortly after he had paid a visit to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Ontario trial judge Norris Weisman ruled that a Muslim woman referred to only as "N.S." would have to remove her full face veil when giving testimony in a case in which she claims that her uncle and cousin abused her twenty-five years ago. Last year the Canadian Supreme Court mied that such a decision would need to balance religious freedom and trial fairness. Judge Weisman said that he believed the woman's religious beliefs were sincere, but unless she removed the veil, her credibility might be questioned.
Prominent lawyer Clayton Ruby and three other lawyers wrote the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ask that it turn down the request of a law school at British Columbia's Trinity Western University (TWU) for accreditation. TWU requires students to sign a Community in Covenant that describes "the Bible as the divinely inspired, authoritative guide for personal and community life." This includes abstaining from homosexual activity. Ruby says this means discrimination that violates British Columbia's human rights code.
Judge Bernard Mandeville threw out a $144 fine that had been imposed on Paula Celani, who had rented a municipal hall in Montreal for a Catholic Mass three years ago. She did this onbehalf of her group, the En Route Foundation. The judge ruled that authorities had misinterpreted zoning rules and noted that the event in question represented only an occasional use of the building for religious purposes. It did not change its fundamental nature as a public building that can be rented for many different reasons.
A Quebec Superior Court ruled that a Hasidic synagogue in Montreal could continue to function even though it is in violation of zoning bylaws. The synagogue is in a converted duplex in a residential neighborhood. There is a history of tension between the synagogue and its neighbors.
The Council of State overturned a decree that ruled that Catholic hospitals were not exempt from a Constitutional Court ruling that permits abortion in some cases. The court struck down the country's total ban on abortions in 2006, saying that abortions were permitted in cases of rape, incest, and fetal malformation and in cases where the mother's life was threatened. Late that year, the Ministry of Social Protection issued its decree about Catholic hospitals. The Council of State decided the ministry did not have this power, which properly lies with the National Congress.
Council of Europe
Twenty professors and religious leaders wrote the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to object to a report being prepared for the committee called "Protection of Minors against Sectarian Influence." According to the letter, the report represents the efforts of French representatives led by Rudy Salles to export the French model of monitoring "sects." The writers argue that the term "sect" is pejorative and that adopting the report would violate the rights of religious minorities.
The Constitutional Court refused an injunction to delay implementation of the Church Restitution Law until it has ruled on its constitutionality. According to the law, passed last year, the government will return land confiscated in the Communist era that is worth 75 billion crowns. It will pay an additional 59 billion crowns in compensation over the next thirty years.
The upper house of Egypt's parliament, the Shura Council, passed a new law that drops the bain on religious slogans in election campaigns and replaces it with a ban on slogans that involve gender and religious discrimination. Secularists and human rights activists say the law is an effort by the Muslim Brotherhood to push political debate in a religious direction. In another move that worries secularists, the High Administrative Court ruled that members of the police force may wear beards, something that was banned by former President Hosni Mubarak. The Senior Scholars Authority of Al-Azhar University, a Muslim school, also elected a new Grand Mufti (Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim). Grand Muftis used to be simply appointed by the president.
Muslims rioted in the town of Kom Ombo near the Aswan High Dam over reports of a Muslim woman converting to Christianity. The woman had disappeared for five days, but there was a rumor that woman had been seen in a Christian church with a Christian friend. The rioters tried to get into the church but were stopped by police. Authorities said eleven policemen were injured. Christians said twelve had been wounded in their community.
About 125 people were arrested in the southwestern town of Barentu for engaging in Christian worship outside the officially approved churches. Since 2002. all churches other than Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran churches have been effectively banned.
The French Parliament passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriage. There were large demonstrations in Paris both supporting and opposing the measure.
French Interior Minister Manuel Vails announced the expulsion of several "radical foreign preachers." He described them as Salafist radicals who were trying to dominate cultured associations and schools.
The Union of French Jewish Students won a judgment against Twitter over anti-Semitic posts on that social medium. The Grand Instance Court in Paris gave Twitter fifteen days to turn over the personal information of those who had made the posts. It also fined Twitter $1,300 a day for every day it was in noncompliance with the judgment.
Muslims in Hamburg are renovating the Kapernaumkirche, a former Lutheran Church that closed in 2002 because of declining membership. The Muslims plan to reopen it as a mosque on October 3, the Day of German Unity. The plans evoked widespread comment from journalists, pastors, and politicians. Marcus Weinberg, head of the Christian Democratic Union in Hamburg, said the transformation of the building would not contribute to cultural and social coexistence in the community.
The Constitutional Court threw out the 2011 Law on Recognition of Religious Bodies. Under that law, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu congregations were excluded from recognition. The court said this was arbitrary and political. Groups that lost their recognition will now get it back.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary must pay Péro Vojnity euro 12,5 00 in damages and euro3,000 in costs for denying him complete access to his son after he divorced. The court ruled that this was a case of religious discrimination. Vojnity is a member of a group called Congregation of Faith.
Iceland's parliament passed a law giving the Ethical Humanist Association and similar groups the right to register and obtain the same legal status as religious bodies. It also did away with the practice that babies be registered into the religion of the mother. Now they will be registered in the religion or humanist group of both parents.
A court in Karnataka state ruled that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Law overrides Muslim personal law. It rejected the petition of a seventeen-year-old young woman who said that the law should not apply to her as a Muslim. The national law requires that one be eighteen to marry.
Benjamin Netanyahu formed a new coalition government without two ultra-Orthodox parties (Shas and United Torah) that had been a part of past coalitions. They were replaced by the secular Yesh Atid Party and the religious prosettler Jewish Home Party. Yesh Atid pleins to present legislation to include Orthodox yeshiva students in the military draft and to include more instruction in math, science, and English in the ultra-Orthodox schools.
A Special Appeals Committee of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court rejected the request of Palestinians from the town of Beit Jala and a Salesian Catholic monastery to change the route of the West Bank separation wall. The current plan would put a small Salesian Nuns Convent and the convent school on the Palestinian side and the related Salesian monastery on the Israel side. Palestinians fear that the route would make it easy to annex the settlement of Har Gilo. The court rejected the request on security grounds. It also rejected the claim that the route violates treaties that Israel signed with the Vatican.
A judge in the Magistrate's Court ordered the release of five women who had been arrested at the Wailing Weill during a prayer service. They were wearing prayer shawls traditionally worn only by men. Orthodox rabbis control customs observed at the Wall, but the judge said there was no legal basis for an arrest.
Four women in the town of Beit Shemesh filed a complaint charging that the town failed to remove signs put up by ultra-Orthodox people telling women who dress "immodestly" that they cannot walk in the area. One plaintiff said she had tried to remove one of the signs but an ultra-Orthodox man threw stones at her. The complaint was filed with the aid of the Israel Religious Action Center, an advocacy group of the Reform movement.
Kazakhstan bans religious literature other than that produced by the Hanafi branch of Islam. Shia Muslims say that the government has been enforcing this censorship with raids. There are very few religious bookstores. Even bookstores with permission to sell the Qur'an or the Bible often avoid doing so for fear of what the authorities might do.
Three Christian pastors were arrested for disseminating Christianity. The three took a movie CD to a book shop for copying. After the copies were made, they viewed one copy all the way through. A policeman happened to see this and reported it to his superior. A police lieutenant and two deputies then came and arrested the pastors.
The Lebanese interior minister signed the first civil marriage contract on Lebanese soil. The couple, Nidal Darwish and Kholoud Sukkarieh, were part of a long campaign to allow such unions in this religiously divided country. They had previously had their religious affiliations of Shiite and Sunni Muslim removed from the family registers so they could have a secular marriage. Lebanon has long recognized civil marriages from abroad, and mixed-religion couples have often gone to Cyprus for civil marriage. The top Sunni Muslim Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani had issued a fatwa warning that any Muslim who cooperated in civil marriages would be considered an apostate and ineligible to be buried in a Muslim cemetery.
Police arrested four foreigners on charges of proselytizing. A SwedishAmerican, an Egyptian, a South African, and a South Korean were taken into custody at a publishing house where police found tens of thousands of Christian pamphlets.
This year, for the first time, Malaysians will be able deduct contributions to religious organizations when calculating income tax.
A Tibetan man burned himself to death in Katmandu to protest Chinese rule of Tibet. After setting himself afire, he ran through the streets shouting anti-Chinese slogans. He finally collapsed at the Boudhanath stupa, one of the holiest sites in Nepal. This took place during the Losar festival, which is celebrated by the Tibetan community. This incident was the 101st case of self-immolation protest by Tibetans since 2009.
An appeals court ruled that individuals who refuse for religious reasons to carry identification are not exempt from a 2005 law that requires that people carry identification cards and show them to police when demanded. The ruling stemmed from an incident in which an Orthodox Jew did not show identification because he thought he ought to carry nothing on the Sabbath.
Students protested at the office of Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola because of reports of some public schools banning the wearing of Muslim headscarves. The leader of the protests said such bans victimized Muslims and violated religious liberty guaranteed in the constitution.
Although Pakistan's constitution requires that candidates for office must have adequate knowledge of Islam and that they not commit major sins, this provision in years past had not been enforced. That changed with the May 11 elections to the lower house of parliament and four provincial legislatures. Candidates had to recite verses from the Qur'an or prayers, and recordings were shown on television. Judges also screened the candidates for good character. Shortly before the election, however, a court ordered that officials not ask "intrusive" questions.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States since 2011, is being investigated for blasphemy based on comments she made on television in 2010. Rehman has campaigned against Pakistan's blasphemy laws and has received death threats.
In February a mob of about 20,000 attacked members of the Ahmadi movement who were celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the movement in Bangladesh. The Ahmadi movement emerged out the Muslim community in India in 1889. Pakistan adopted a law in 1974 which declared Ahmadis non-Muslims. In Bangladesh, however, there is no such law. Still, there is prejudice against the movement. The Ahmadis had permission to hold the celebration, but the rioters were too numerous for the police to handle them.
The ombudsman of the Philippines dismissed criminal charges against artist Mideo Cruz and the members of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Some Catholics had criticized a Cruz collage that mixed religious images with phallic symbols, a condom, and Mickey Mouse ears. He was charged with offending decency.
The Qatar Financial Centre Authority issued a report entitled Cross Border Taxation of Islamic Finance in the MENA Region. It expressed concern that Islamic financial institutions may be taxed more than conventional finance. Islamic finance requires more steps than conventional finance, which means they are subject to additional transfer taxes or income and gains taxes.
The High Court of Cassation rejected a suit by lawyer Madalin Ciculescu charging Orthodox Bishop Constantin Argatu and four priests of "religious malpractice." Ciculescu said the churchmen had failed to exorcise demons that were causing bad smells at his business. The court said that the smells were imagined and ordered Ciculescu to pay the defendants' court costs.
A controversy broke out in the region of Stavropol at the edge of the Caucasus when some school authorities banned the wearing of headscarves. Although the region is largely Russian, some Muslims from Dagestan have moved into the eastern part of the province. Muslims have started legal action to get rid of the ban.
A court in the Far East agreed to close Kazyat Muslim Department in Primor sky, a branch of the Council of Muslims. The ruling was based on the provision in law that a centralized religious organization must have at least three local communities, and this body had only twoVladivostok and Ussuriysk. The leader of the body claims that some politicians hostile to the group were behind the move.
Meeting in Moscow, 134 delegates from different Christian confessions and from Muslim and Jewish communities founded the Ten Commandments Party. The party says it wants to promote the appointment of honest people in government, the development of civil society, and the creation of a state based on civil law. One Muslim delegate, Ahmad Makarov, pointed to the Pussy Riot performance in Cathedral of Christ the Savior as evidence of moral decline.
Saudi Arabia set new limitations on the powers of the controversial religious police (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice). They no longer may interrogate suspects or prosecute them. If they arrest someone, they must turn them over to the police and the courts. They will be able to continue preventing women from driving and forcing all businesses to close five times a day for prayer.
Saudi police arrested fifty-three Ethiopian Christians who had gathered for worship in a private home in Dammam, capital of the Eastern Province. Authorities accused them of trying to convert Muslims. Two of the Ethiopians who have residence permits maybe allowed to stay in the country, but the others will likely be deported.
The High Court of Singapore rejected a constitutional challenge to the city's law criminalizing male homosexual sex acts. Judge Quentin Loh said that the legislature rather than the courts should deed with the issue. The last time the law was reconsidered in 2007, the legislature upheld it.
Spain reached an agreement with Morocco that Moroccan children adopted by Spanish families will remain culturally and religiously Muslim. The Spanish government will create a body that will allow Moroccan religious authorities to monitor the children until they are eighteen. Previously the Moroccan government required that adopted children had to stay in Morocco. Morocco has a high rate of child abandonment, and Spain is a good source of adoptive parents.
The Supreme Court overruled a ban on clothing that covers the face such as the burqa. Lierda, a town in Catalonia, imposed the ban in 2010. The Catalan Muslim Association sued, and the court ruled that the ban was a violation of religious liberty.
A Buddhist party called Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Strength Force) is agitating against the country's Muslim minority (10 percent). It wants the government to ban certification of food as halal and the building of new mosques with money from the Middle East. It also wants an end to the sending of Sri Lankan women to the Middle East to work.
A criminal court in Istanbul convicted renowned pianist Fazil Say of blasphemy for things he said in Twitter messages. The court gave him a ten-month suspended sentence and said he would only have to go to jail if he repeated the offense in the next five years. The European Commission issued a statement condemning the conviction.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The place of Sharia law in Britain was discussed in a House of Commons debate on April 23, 2013. In reply to a question about whether the government would recognize Sharia councils and provide them with funding, Undersecretary of State for Justice Helen Grant said the councils have no legal standing. They are, she said, merely private bodies, and their decisions hold only if the parties voluntarily agree to accept them. If any decision conflicted with public policies, including equality policies, national law would prevail. A High Court ruling, however, opened the possibility that cases of divorce might be handled by Sharia courts. The case involved a divorce that was handled under Beth Din rabbinical law. It was the first time in the United Kingdom that a family court deferred to a religious court.
Justin Welby was enthroned as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury. In his sermon, Welby cited Christianity's contribution to progressive measures such as ending slavery and creating the National Health Service. He called for action in the future to deal with environmental problems and world poverty.
A Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, lost a case in England's Court of Appeal when they were sued by a same-sex couple for refusing to rent them a room in their hotel. The Bulls now have decided to turn their hotel into a nonprofit serving Christians who share the Bulls' values. This is designed get them an exemption to the Equality Act as a religious organization.
The Equality Commission published two guidebooks, Religion or Belief in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers Following European Court of Human Rights Judgments and Religion or Belief in the Workplace: An Explanation of Recent European Courts of Human Rights Judgments.
Massachusetts Court to Hear Suit Regarding Pledge of Allegiance
The Massachusetts Supreme Court has decided to hear a case filed by an atheist family regarding the usage of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. The American Humanist Association is a named plaintiff (the atheist family is unidentified) in the case, and the suit was filed against the Acton-Boxboro Regional School District. In addition to the school district, the Joyce family, who have children in the school district, have been added as defendant-intervenors and are being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The plaintiffs in this case are making a different argument from previous attempts to address "under God" in the pledge. Instead of arguing that the phrase violates the Establishment Clause, plaintiffs are attempting to make the case that the use of the phrase is an infringement of the right to equal protection under the law for nontheists. Last June, the Middlesex County Superior Court ruled in favor of the school district, stating that "the pledge is a voluntary exercise" and that the use of "under God" does not make the pledge a prayer.
Oklahoma Legislature Passes Bill Forbidding the Use of Foreign, Religious Law
In April the upper house of the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill, HB 1060, that would forbid the use of foreign or religious law in US courts. The bill specifically voids any legal decision that is found to be based in any way on foreign law that would not grant the parties in the case the same rights granted by the federal and state constitutions. The bill Was authored by Sally Kern (R) who has had to defend the bill against criticism that it is discriminatory against Muslims. Those who support the bill argue that the bill is not discriminatory against any group because it does not mention any group's law specifically. This bill, however, is not the first time Oklahoma has considered these types of bills. In 2010, residents voted to approve a measure that courts should not consider Islamic law when deciding cases. A federal judge blocked the referendum, ruling it unconstitutional. In 2011, Kern presented a bill similar to the one that passed that was also criticized in the same way. Over the last three years, thirty-two states have considered these types of bills, and six (Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee) have passed bills to this effect.
Kentucky School District Removes Ten Commandments Displays
Breathitt County Public Schools in Kentucky has decided to remove multiple displays of the Ten Commandments from school classrooms after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The district has decided to remove the displays to make sure they are in compliance with federal law. In response to a complaint they received from an unidentified student, FFRF drafted a letter to the school district in which the organization laid out the argument against these displays on school grounds. Ten Commandments displays have been allowed on public property but never in a school. Furthermore, even on public grounds, the Supreme Court has considered such issues as the purpose for the monument and also whether other historical displays are incorporated with the Decalogue monument. Those who disagree with the school district's decision have argued that all kids should learn the Ten Commandments and that taking the Ten Commandments out of schools could lead to more addiction among the students of the school district.
US Supreme Court to Rule on Case Regarding Prayer at Government Meetings
In 2008, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, residents of Greece, New York, filed a lawsuit against the town regarding prayer at government meetings. They argued that the town violated the Establishment Clause by allowing predominately Christian prayers to be held at government meetings. They claim that the city was endorsing religion by allowing the majority of prayers given to be delivered by Christian clergy. The city argued in response that prayers have been allowed at town councils since the founding of the nation and that they are constitutionally allowed to exercise their religious heritage. Last year the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the town violated the Establishment Clause, ruling that although the town technically allowed anyone to volunteer to pray, they did not solicit volunteers and inform members of the general public that they could volunteer. Furthermore, the town did not make it clear that the prayers were for the purpose of bringing solemnity to the proceedings as opposed to aligning the town with any particular faith. In May, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case to resolve the conflict. Although the Supreme Court has ruled that government meetings can begin with prayer, it has also ruled that it is unconstitutional to do so when the prayers seem to support only one religion. The Supreme Court will hear this case in October 2014.
Texas Governor Rick Perry to Sign "Merry Christmas Bill"
On June 13, Governor Rick Perry of Texas signed a bill that is intended to defend free speech regarding the issue of holiday greetings. The bill would allow public officials such as teachers to use the greeting "Merry Christmas" and put up religious holiday symbols in classrooms so long as the symbols do not state a preference for one particular religion. The proposed law has been criticized as an attempt to codify Christianity. The bill received the support of every state senator and passed by a large majority in the House of Representatives. Supporters of the bill believe that it will protect school districts from lawsuits and feel that the bill was necessary because of the political climate, which they consider to be hostile to Christianity.
Police raided the home of Protestant Christian Sharofat Allamova and seized religious literature. She is being prosecuted and will likely be fined for illegal storage of religious literature.…
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Publication information: Article title: Notes on Church-State Affairs. Contributors: Hendon, David W. - Author, Hines, Jason - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 55. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 2013. Page number: 598+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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