Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Hobby Lobby Claims It Can Delay Contraceptive Coverage Rule, Fine
- Pastor Pulls Out of Inauguration Over Anti-Gay Sermon
- British Christians Await Top Court Ruling on Wearing a Cross at Work
- Philadelphia High Schools Get Condom Dispensers
Hobby Lobby Claims It Can Delay Contraceptive Coverage Rule, Fine
The Christian-owned arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby may have bought itself a few extra months as it battles against the Obamacare mandate to provide emergency contraceptive coverage, according to Fox News. An attorney for Hobby Lobby says the company has found a way to delay the effective date of the mandate and, in turn, avoid the fines that would be imposed for not complying -- at least for now. Peter Dobelbower said Thursday the company would shift the plan year for employee health insurance, which will delay by several months the Jan. 1 effective date of the requirement. "Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plan," he said. "Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties." Hobby Lobby sued to overturn the mandate on groups that it violates the religious beliefs of founder and CEO David Green and his family. The Greens say requiring insurance for the "morning-after" and "week-after" pills forces them to either violate their religious beliefs or face fines of up to $1.3 million per day. U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor recently denied the company's request for an injunction while the lawsuit is pending.
Pastor Pulls Out of Inauguration Over Anti-Gay Sermon
The evangelical pastor chosen by President Obama to deliver the benediction at his inauguration ceremonies withdrew on Thursday, Jan. 10, following a furor over a sermon from the mid-1990s in which he denounced the gay rights movement and advocated efforts to turn gays straight, the Religion News Service reports. In a statement, the Rev. Louie Giglio of Atlanta did not directly renounce his remarks on gays but indicated that fighting gay rights is not one of his "priorities." Still, because of the controversy -- which erupted on Wednesday after the liberal group Think Progress posted audio of the sermon -- Giglio said that "it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration." Giglio, who was chosen to deliver the blessing at the Jan. 21 ceremony because of his longtime work against human trafficking, added: "Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past 15 years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ. Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the president's invitation." Addie Whisenant, a spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said organizers were not aware of Giglio's past comments when he was chosen -- reportedly with Obama's personal input. Giglio's remarks "don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural," Whisenant said.
British Christians Await Top Court Ruling on Wearing a Cross at Work
Europe's highest court next week will hand down rulings in the cases of four British Christians who claim to have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their religious beliefs, CNSNews.com reports. Two of the applicants, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, said their rights were violated when employers forbade them from wearing crosses visibly at work. A third, Lillian Ladele, a local government marriage registrar, objected to conducting civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after the law changed in 2005 to allow them and said she was disciplined and ultimately forced to resign after refusing to do so. And Gary McFarlane, a counselor, was fired over a dispute about providing counseling to same-sex couples. All four had their cases rejected by employment tribunals, and in submitting their cases to the European Court of Human Rights, they claimed that domestic law in Britain had failed to adequately protect their religious rights. The ECHR will hand down its rulings in the four cases on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Philadelphia High Schools Get Condom Dispensers
Condoms have been distributed at some Philadelphia high schools for years, but now they're available in more schools as a result of a partnership between the city and the school district, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Over Christmas break, condom dispensers were installed at 11 high schools that either have a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases or an existing "health resource center" that provides sexual education to students. Parents can sign forms opting their students out of the free condom program, though it appears that staff won't be checking to make sure parents are OK with their students obtaining condoms. City officials say the condom program is part of a strategy to combat both high STD rates among teens and an alarming rise of HIV infection among teens. However, the National Abstinence Education Association has grave concerns. According to NAEA president Valerie Huber, the sex-ed priorities of Philadelphia public schools undermine parental rights and compromise the optimal sexual health of its students. "Teens deserve better," Huber said, "and we hope that parents in Philadelphia schools demand a change in current policies."
Publication date: January 14, 2013