Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 29, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 29, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • Kentucky High School Graduates Ignore Objections, Pray at Ceremony
  • Hobby Lobby Crafts Contraceptive Mandate Appeal
  • Same-Sex Assault Apparently on the Rise in Military
  • New York Governor to Relax Abortion Restrictions


Kentucky High School Graduates Ignore Objections, Pray at Ceremony

A Kentucky high school continued its tradition of having a student lead a prayer during graduation ceremonies, despite objections by at least six students, Fox News reports. Jonathan Hardwick, class of 2013 president at Lincoln County High School in Stanford, was given a standing ovation after he delivered a prayer during Friday's commencement. A video of Hardwick's prayer quickly hit social media, with most online comments supporting his decision. "Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us," Hardwick said as part of the prayer. Lincoln High principal Tim Godbey acknowledged that six students -- including at least one atheist -- had asked him not to allow a student-led prayer at the ceremony. Godbey, who is Christian, said under separation of church and state laws, faculty members have never been able to pray publicly on school grounds or during school-sponsored events, but he noted that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit students from praying as long as they are not disrupted. Ricky Smith, an atheist who has been lobbying for a "moment of silence" to replace prayer during government meetings in the area, said he intended to notify the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation about Lincoln's public prayer, which he feels violated the civil rights of students who are not Christians.

Hobby Lobby Crafts Contraceptive Mandate Appeal

Lawyers for arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby argued again Friday the company should not be forced to provide employee health insurance that includes abortifacient drugs, something its Christian owners oppose. The Oklahoma-based company, owned by the Green family, is fighting the government mandate that businesses with more than 50 employees must provide coverage for contraceptive drugs, including the so-called "morning-after" pill. Although Hobby Lobby is a business, its founders' faith permeates everything the company does, argued Kyle Duncan, one of the lawyers from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Green family. The stores are a "profit-making company, yes, but also a ministry," Duncan said. Friday's appearance before the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marks the third time the company has made its case in the courts. If it loses this round of its religious liberty fight, it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyer Alisa Klein, arguing on behalf of the government, said allowing Hobby Lobby to avoid covering contraceptive devices it doesn’t like would in effect impose the Green’s religious beliefs on their employees: "If you make an exemption for the employer, it comes at the expense of the employee." It's the same argument government lawyers have made in other cases, with mixed results. Fourteen for-profit businesses have won temporary injunctions against the mandate on grounds it violates their religious freedom. Only six businesses have lost their cases. But the mixed rulings from across the country virtually guarantee the issue will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby is the first company to have its case heard by a full appeals court.

Same-Sex Assault Apparently on the Rise in Military

Since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which now allows homosexuals to serve openly in the military, same-sex sexual assault appears to have shot up dramatically, WORLD reports. According to a new Pentagon survey, sexual assault is on the rise, and most victims of sexual assault in the military were not female (about 12,000 incidents), but male (about 14,000). It's possible that the discrepancy is even greater, since men -- according to the Washington Times -- are less likely to speak up when they have been sexually assaulted. "How could this happen?" asks Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. "Well, for starters, the Obama administration ordered military leaders to embrace homosexuality -- completely dismissing the concerns that it could be a problem to have people attracted to the same sex, living in close quarters."

New York Governor to Relax Abortion Restrictions

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, vowed to push through the state legislature a Women's Equality Act before the current legislative session ends on June 20, WORLD reports. The act, he said, would include a provision to expand the legality of late-term abortions. In the wake of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell's grisly trial, opponents of Cuomo's proposal are hoping political support for the measure will evaporate. Gosnell was convicted of not just murdering three babies after they were born but aborting 21 babies after Pennsylvania's legal limit of 24 weeks of pregnancy, when babies are considered viable to survive outside the mother. Gosnell's trial highlighted Pennsylvania's lack of oversight of abortion centers, and Cuomo's proposal could relax regulations on abortionists further in New York, a state that already has few abortion limits such as waiting periods or bans on public funding of abortion. Cuomo hasn't introduced his promised legislation yet, but in his January State of the State address he named the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) as one point in the Women's Equality Act agenda. The standalone RHA is a few votes shy of passing in the state Senate, so Cuomo will likely make some tweaks to try to gain support from Republicans.

Publication date: May 29, 2013