Religion Today Summaries - August 22, 2011

Religion Today Summaries - August 22, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Illinois Can Force Gay Adoptions, Court Rules
  • Priests Forgive Abortion in Pope Youth Festival
  • Pakistan’s Government Renews Commitment to Protecting Religious Minorities
  • Vanderbilt Allows Students to Observe Wiccan Holidays


Illinois Can Force Gay Adoptions, Court Rules

In what could be another example of a same-sex law trumping religious freedom, Baptist Press reports that an Illinois judge has ruled the state can end its adoption and foster care relationship with Catholic Charities, which refuses to place children with gay couples. At issue is a 40-year relationship between Illinois and Catholic Charities that is in jeopardy because the state -- in light of Illinois' new same-sex civil unions law -- says agencies with state contracts must be willing to place children in gay households. Catholic Charities said it would not follow any such state orders and it subsequently sued the state, saying the civil unions law provided a religious exemption that would protect its work. Judge John Schmidt, though, said it did not matter what the civil unions law said because a more basic issue was at play: Is the state required to contract with Catholic Charities? The answer, he said, is no.

Priests Forgive Abortion in Pope Youth Festival

The Vatican granted priests the right to forgive the sin of abortion when hearing the confessions of hundreds of thousands of young people at a Roman Catholic youth festival in Spain last week, according to Reuters. Termination of pregnancy is punishable by excommunication under Church law. World Youth Day featured a mass confession in the presence of Pope Benedict on Saturday. “This (concession) is to make it easier for the faithful who attend the World Youth Day celebrations to obtain the fruits of divine grace,” the Madrid archdiocese said in a statement on its website. The Vatican had already announced that it had authorized a full indulgence to all the young people attending the celebrations.

Pakistan’s Government Renews Commitment to Protecting Religious Minorities

According to ASSIST News Service, just three days before this year’s independence day of Pakistan, the government showed commitment to equal rights for the religious minorities of Pakistan, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and Sikh. These groups often suffer discrimination and victimization because of their religions in Pakistan’s Islamic society. On August 11, Pakistan officially celebrated “Minorities Day” to show her commitment to the minorities’ rights. President Asif Ali Zardari said that the Government of Pakistan stands committed to ensuring equal rights for all the minorities as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the UN declaration of Human Rights.

Vanderbilt Allows Students to Observe Wiccan Holidays

Reuters reports that Nashville's Vanderbilt University is now offering excused absences to students wishing to observe Wiccan and pagan holidays. Four Wiccan holidays were on the calendar Vanderbilt's Office of Religious Life sent to faculty as days on which they should work with students who asked for excused absences. "Vanderbilt's Office of Religious Life makes available to the campus community a calendar of holy days from a respected international source to raise awareness of the diverse religious practices that may exist on campus," reads the university statement. New Jersey public schools also recognize Wiccan holidays along with Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, Scientology and others. The practice is already followed by the U.S. military, where chaplains recognize these beliefs and any others practiced by members of the Armed Forces. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Todd Breasseale, in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said "We make all reasonable accommodations."