Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 2, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 2, 2013

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Pentagon: Religious Proselytizing is Not Permitted
  • 'Morning-After' Pill Goes Over-the-Counter to 15-Year-Olds
  • Jury Deliberations Could Be Long in Gosnell Case
  • 15 Countries Cited for Religious Freedom Violations


Pentagon: Religious Proselytizing is Not Permitted

Religious liberty groups have grave concerns after they learned the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to "rape" and advocated that military personnel who proselytize should be court-martialed, Todd Starnes reports. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation -- whose president, Mikey Weinstein, met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23 -- is calling on the Air Force to enforce a regulation that they believe calls for the court martial of any service member caught proselytizing. Weinstein, who called the act of evangelizing "a version of being spiritually raped," said U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished -- by the hundreds if necessary -- to stave off what he called a "tidal wave of fundamentalists." He said: "Someone needs to be punished for this. Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior." Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was stunned that the Pentagon would be taking counsel and advice from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. "Why would military leadership be meeting with one of the most rabid atheists in America to discuss religious freedom in the military?" Perkins said. "That’s like consulting with China on how to improve human rights." The FRC has launched a petition drive urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect the religious freedom of troops "and not to proceed with the purge of religion within the ranks called for by anti-Christian activists."

'Morning-After' Pill Goes Over-the-Counter to 15-Year-Olds

The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that the so-called "morning-after" pill will now be available over-the-counter without a prescription to girls as young as 15, WORLD reports. The drug, sold under brand names like Plan B and ella and marketed as a method of "emergency" contraception, prevents implantation of a fertilized egg or causes an early abortion. According to the FDA ruling, drug stores will be able to stock the drug on store shelves just like condoms, but buyers would have to prove their age at the cash register. Previously, the government had required a prescription for girls 16 and younger. And in 2011, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disregarded a recommendation by the FDA to make the drug available over-the-counter -- a decision that surprised many given the Obama administration's strong support for abortion. A federal judge ruled earlier in April that there should be no age restrictions for the drug, giving the FDA 30 days to act. The FDA said Tuesday's decision was not a result of the judge's ruling.

Jury Deliberations Could Be Long in Gosnell Case

After more than six hours of heated closing arguments Monday in the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, the jury began deliberating on the charges against him, Baptist Press reports. "Those deliberations could be long," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer April 30, adding that the jury of seven women and five men "will have to parse their way through a verdict sheet reportedly more than 30 pages long." Among the charges the jury must address are four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of viable children who were killed after delivery and a count of third-degree murder in the death of a Virginia woman during a 2009 abortion. Gosnell, who has pleaded not guilty, could receive the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder. Other charges include conspiracy, theft, corruption of minors, solicitation and operating a corrupt organization.

15 Countries Cited for Religious Freedom Violations

For its annual report of the world's worst violators of religious freedom, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom counts 15 nations where abuse of religious liberty is "systemic, egregious and ongoing." The commission, which was created by Congress in 1998 as an independent watchdog panel, also wants to highlight the crimes of non-nations, which for the first time this year get their own section in the report. "Violence perpetrated by non-state actors against religious minorities and others who conflict with their worldview is increasingly common, with incidents occurring in places as diverse as Pakistan and Nigeria," said Knox Thames, the commission's director of policy and research. Somalia, for example, which doesn't make the list, is home to al Shabaab, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that has brutally suppressed Christians and Sufi Muslims who do not subscribe to its radical interpretation of Islam. "Somalis accused of committing crimes or who al Shabaab deems to have deviated from accepted behaviors are punished through stoning, amputation, flogging, and/or detention," according to the report. On its 15-nation list of the worst offenders, USCIRF includes eight that the U.S. State Department also considers "Countries of Particular Concern": Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. But as in years past, the commission wants the State Department to add seven more: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

Publication date: May 2, 2013