Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 22, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 22, 2008

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • New Health Regulation Permits `Conscience' Exceptions
  • India: New Murder and Reports of Armed Men Fuel Christmas Fears
  • Baptist Seminary Cuts Budget by $1.7M in Tight Times
  • Ill. Pharmacists Win Right to Object over 'Morning-After' Pill Rule

New Health Regulation Permits `Conscience' Exceptions

Religion News Service reports that a new federal regulation will allow healthcare workers to abstain from performing abortions or any service they object to on religious or moral grounds. The regulation, introduced Thursday (Dec. 18) by the Department of Health and Human Services, is directed primarily at shielding those with religious or moral objections to abortion or sterilization. But its scope could be much wider, including those opposed to assisted suicide, sex change operations or even vaccinations and family planning. The rule says healthcare workers cannot be discriminated against for refusing to participate in objectionable procedures. The definition of workers is defined broadly, to include volunteers as well as janitors and others not directly engaged in the procedures. The regulation goes into effect in 30 days.

India: New Murder and Reports of Armed Men Fuel Christmas Fears

ASSIST News Service reports that further evidence has emerged concerning potential violence planned for Christmas Day. A spokesperson for a UK-based human rights group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that "further evidence has emerged in Kandhamal district, the epicenter of recent violence, where a Christian villager Wednesday, Dec. 17, reported witnessing several men armed with AK-47 rifles in discussion with others thought to be linked with Hindu extremist organizations... In addition a Catholic catechist Jubaraj Digal was today found dead, after his son reported on Tuesday that he had been apprehended and attacked by a mob.” Meanwhile, a debate was held Dec. 18 in the British House of Lords, in which peers drew attention to the ongoing threat of religious extremism in India.

Baptist Seminary Cuts Budget by $1.7M in Tight Times

Baptist Press reports that the recent economic downturn has prompted budget reductions an yet another religious institution. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will cut its current budget by $1.7 million, seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. reported in a Dec. 15 letter to the seminary community. The reductions include reducing the number of employees at the Louisville, Ky., campus; a hiring freeze on non-critical positions; and decreases in travel expenses, Mohler said. "Given the personnel-intensive nature of our budget, the only way we can act responsibly in this situation is to anticipate a reduction in force in terms of total employees and total personnel expenditures," Mohler said.

Ill. Pharmacists Win Right to Object over 'Morning-After' Pill Rule

Chicago Sun Times reports that the Illinois Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to hear the case of two pharmacists who argue they should not be required to carry emergency contraceptives that violate their religious beliefs. A 2005 rule issued by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich prevents pharmacies from "turning away women seeking emergency contraception, sometimes called the morning-after pill." The plaintiffs argue the rule forces them to choose between their jobs and their religious convictions. "I cannot follow my religion's teachings and continue to be involved" in emergency contraception, said pharmacist Luke Vander Bleek, 45, a Catholic who runs pharmacies in Morrison, Sycamore and Genoa.