Nepal's Religious Identity Debated, Alcohol and Church Coexist under New Law, and Other News
Nepal wavers on religious identity
Nepal Nepal's national religion is under renewed debate as the country of 29 million faces a deadline to pass a new constitution cementing its transition from monarchy to republic. Nepal's Maoist party and the country's 700,000 Christians are calling for the government to honor promises of a secular state, while Hindu factions increasingly demonstrate in support of reestablishing a Hindu nation. The country has technically had a secular government since 2006, but Christians claim they are still persecuted and conversions remain illegal.
NAE works to curb abortion rate
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has announced its willingness to cooperate across ideological lines as part of a new campaign to reduce the number of abortions. NAE president Leith Anderson said he is still opposed to abortion on demand, and the NAE Generation Forum website says it wants to "converse and cooperate without compromising our bedrock principles." A majority of surveyed evangelical leaders support making adoption services, pre- and post-natal care, and contraceptives more available.
Churches may boycott new constitution
Kenya Church leaders are threatening to boycott the latest draft of Kenya's revised constitution over language they say permits abortion. Leaders of the National Council of Churches in Kenya, the Roman Catholic Church, and Pentecostal churches are unhappy with the current draft, which permits abortion if the life or health of the mother is endangered or if "emergency treatment" is needed. Church leaders are similarly unhappy with the proposed continuation of Muslim Kadhis courts; on May 24 the country's High Court agreed, declaring such courts (beyond colonial-era ones on the Indian Ocean coast) illegal for unconstitutionally promoting Islam over other religions.
Religious minorities gain Senate seats
Pakistan Four seats for religious minorities have been added to Pakistan's 100-member Senate under the country's new 18th amendment. Each of Pakistan's four provinces received one seat reserved for a non-Muslim religious minority. Current estimates place Pakistan's population at 95 percent Muslim and 2-4 percent Christian. Observers hope Christians will fill at least two of the four positions.
Court gives murky employment ruling
Canada A Toronto court ruled that religious groups can enforce standards of conduct when employees are "actively involved in converting the residents to, or instilling in them," religious belief or morals. But the Ontario Divisional Court said Christian Horizons, a group that runs homes for disabled people, did not have the right to fire Connie Heintz after she began a homosexual relationship in 2002. "Support workers," the court said, "are not hired or expected to bring the residents into the evangelical Christian religion by having them adopt a certain lifestyle." The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and other Christian groups mostly praised the decision because it overturned much of a 2008 Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling that religious groups could enforce lifestyle policies only when offering services to people of the same faith.
Alcohol and church coexist under new law
A new Arizona law prohibits zoning rules that restrict the location of churches. Yuma city officials had said Centro Familiar Cristiano Buenas Nuevas could not open a church on Main Street because it would undermine downtown development; a Prohibition-era restriction requires businesses with liquor licenses to be built at least 300 feet away from places of worship. Under the new law, a city can designate up to three entertainment districts where churches and alcohol coexist.