US Supreme Court Hears Headscarf Case

Samantha Elauf claims Abercrombie and Fitch refused to hire her because of her religious belief requiring the wearing of a black headscarf. Abercrombie and Fitch has a work rule prohibiting employees wearing either hats or anything black. However, this work requirement was not raised during the interview when Elauf wore a black headscarf. While Justice Samuel Alito stated the reason Elauf was denied a job was because Abercrombie and Fitch assumed she would wear the black headscarf every day to work, Abercrombie and Fitch denied that Elauf was the victim of religious discrimination.

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Canadian Citizenship Requires Swearing Allegiance to the Queen

The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeal of a lower court decision retaining swearing 'allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors' in the oath new citizens are required to pledge. Three permanent and long-time residents of Canada sought Canadian citizenship but refused to swear allegiance to the Queen. Only one of the three refused on religious grounds but all three must now either repeat the phrase pledging  allegiance to the Queen or remain permanent residents and not citizens of Canada.

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Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Christians in India

Upset over increasing theft, vandalism and arson of their churches, Christians in India's capital city marched to the home of the official responsible for law and order. However, some were arrested because his home is located in an area of Delhi banning protests. India is officially a secular country but the vast majority of the population are Hindu. Christians have faced religious intolerance since British rule because Christianity is viewed as a Western religion and associated with colonialism. However, Christians claim that intolerance is increasing with the election of a Hindu nationalist party. Because they do not trust the police, the Christians are asking for an independent judicial inquiry. They also state that they are not asking for safety because they are Christians but as citizens of India.

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Palestinian Christians Feeling Isolated and Depressed Call for Peace Talks to Resume

While Palestinian Christians comprise about eight percent of the population of the West Bank and only one percent in Gaza, more Christian Palestinians migrate each year than Muslim Palestinians. This is because Christian Palestinians generally are wealthier and better educated. As a result, the population of Christian Palestinians is decreasing each year. However, those Christian Palestinians that remain call for peace talks to resume between Palestinians and Israel. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Pope's representative in the Holy Land and first Palestinian to serve in that capacity, states that if the present situation continues it will only lead to the end of Israel as "Israel cannot survive surrounded by enemies."

Baptist pastor Rami Khouri in Bethlehem agrees. "The situation is getting worse. We are losing a golden opportunity for negotiations, and this may be the last chance before the big war that is going to take place in the Middle East," he stated while noting that Palestinian Christians have increasing "feelings of isolation, anger and depression." Palestinian Christian Nora Carmi observing a double standard by the world regarding the slaying of Jews and cartoonists in Paris stated, "The whole world protested what happened in Paris but when the same thing happens to a whole population nobody says anything."

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Refusing to Print Anti-Gay Messages Results in Charge of Religious Discrimination

For refusing to print anti-gay slogans on two cakes, a Colorado baker is facing a charge of religious discrimination. Marjorie Silva agreed to bake two cakes in the shape of Bibles but refused to write the anti-gay messages and pictures on the cakes the customer requested. Silva, a Christian, found the messages hateful. However, she offered the customer a pastry bag and icing so he could finish the Bible-shaped cakes she provided. The customer refused and filed a complaint with the Civil Rights division of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

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Imprisoned for Watching Volleyball

A woman holding British and Iranian citizenship has been imprisoned in Iran's infamous Evin prison for trying to enter a stadium and watch a men's volleyball game between Iran and Italy. Males and females watching sports together where men are not fully clothed is considered un-Islamic. Islamic religious scholars deem the law necessary to protect women from 'lewd behavior'.

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Religious Objection to Vaccines Not Constitutionally Protected

In New York, a judge ruled against three families whose children were not vaccinated due to their parents' religious objections. The parents petitioned the court claiming their religious liberty was violated when their children's schools refused entrance to them when another student had an illness that was preventable with vaccination. The judge relied upon a 1905 Supreme Court decision establishing "the government’s right to require immunizations as a matter of public health."

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Iraqi Civil War Grows

By Derek H. Davis, J.D., Ph.D.

Iraq is now engaged in a full-blown civil war pitting Sunnis and Shiites battling for control of the nation.  The capital city of Baghdad is now dominated by the Shiite majority, much to the chagrin of disaffected Sunnis (who shaped Saddam Hussein’s regime), but the militant Sunni organization ISIS ( the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Iraq and Syria-based Sunni Muslim extremist group) took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, on Tuesday, June 10.  ISIS has taken over the airport, schools and government buildings, and has robbed the banks of Mosul to fund its operations. Roughly 10% of the 1.5 million population of Mosul, including approximately 1000 Christians, are now in flight from Mosul, fleeing mostly to nearby Kurdish communities.  ISIS now seemingly has its sight set on the capture of other Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq.  ISIS and most Sunnis generally seek to establish a strict Islamic state over all of Iraq, with Sharia law rigidly enforced, effectively ending  the democratic  order the United States sought to install  with its ten-year presence in the country. The United States is now considering its options as to how to stabilize Iraq; at stake is the investment America made in establishing a lasting democracy in Iraq.

A third force in the struggle, Iraq’s Kurdish minority, which enjoys strong autonomy in northern Iraq, is caught in the middle. It is now dealing with thousands of refugees from nearby Mosul and fears a Sunni takeover of Iraq, but is simultaneously unhappy with the current Shiite-led central government. Many Kurds favor complete secession from Iraq, a result most Iraqi Arabs do not favor. If the Kurdish communities are to remain a part of Iraq, most Kurds prefer some kind of democratic state with shared power, but they are essentially helpless as the more powerful Sunni and Shiite factions battle for government control.

According to World Watch Monitor, The Iraqi Parliament has declared a State of Emergency. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, “called for the Iraqi people to volunteer, and take up arms to defend the country. He also called on international organizations to support Iraq in maintaining peace, and on neighbouring countries to protect their boundaries, and not let ‘terrorists’ enter Iraq.”

Patrick Cockburn, writing for The Independent on Wednesday, June 11, remarked: “It is not just in Iraq that the balance of power is changing. The Iraq-Syrian border no longer exists for most practical purposes. In Syria ISIS forces will become vastly more powerful because the movement can draw on fighters, weapons and money from its newly conquered territories in Iraq. The rest of the Syrian military opposition to President Bashar al-Assad will find it difficult to compete on the battlefield with ISIS if it manages to consolidate its recent victories.

All of this highlights not only the instability of Iraq, but the instability that the civil war there creates for the entire Middle East.  Notions of a secular state with shared power among competing political and religious groups was part of the intended solution installed by America in its reconstruction of Iraq, but the current conflict proves that the ancient ideal of a political order aligned with divine interests, indeed a religious state, does not die easily. The separation of religion and state has helped to bring peace and order to many nations, but whether it will ever take hold in Islamic states is a difficult question to answer.


Future of Christianity in Jeopardy in Middle East

Iraq is home to some of Christianity's oldest populations. In 2003 the invasion of Iraq began. Since that time the Christian population of Iraq has steady declined leaving Christian leaders fearing that Christianity in the Middle East will no longer exist. With the militant group ISIS controlling more Iraqi territory, Christians are fleeing ancient villages. Although ISIS says all faiths will be protected in areas it controls, many Christians are fleeing to Kurdish controlled areas.

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NYC Adding More Religious Holidays to School Calendar

Sending their children to school or observing religious holidays is a dilemma faced by some religious parents. This is not a problem for Christians or Jews as schools are closed for their major religious holidays. In a least six school districts in the U.S., observant Muslims do not face this problem. New York City schools will join these school districts when they too close schools for two major Muslim religious holidays.

Not everyone supports closing schools for observance of religious holidays. Doing so is a violation of church-state separation says the co-founder of the Muslim Bar Association of New York, Farhan Memon. As well, such closures are unfair to those lacking any religious holidays. Memon's concern that more groups will want their religious holidays provided for appears to be well founded. Currently New York City's Chinese residents are requesting schools close to observe Chinese New Year and the Sikh, Jain and Hindu populations are requesting closure so their children do not have to miss school in order to observe their religious holidays. 

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Government Accused of Killing Muslims

Human rights activists accuse the Kenyan government of killing Muslim leaders because they lack the evidence needed for a conviction in court. In the last two years four Muslim leaders were murdered with no arrests made in the killings. However, the latest killing was of a moderate Muslim who spoke out against the radicalization of Muslims. The previous three murdered Muslim leaders all promoted a radical version of Islam. Last year Sheik Mohamed Idris was attacked by radicalized Muslim youth, leading some to state that his murder was due to radicalized Muslims rather than the government.

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