River Jordan Pollution, Medi-Share Loses in Ky., Etc.
Mission not dissuaded by murdered workers
AFGHANISTAN International Assistance Mission (IAM) says it will continue working in Afghanistan despite the early-August murders of ten IAM workers returning from an eye-care expedition in northwestern Nuristan. Team leader Tom Little had served in the country since 1976; IAM has operated in Afghanistan for 44 years. "God willing, we will continue to serve the Afghan people," announced IAM director Dirk Frans.
World Vision wins firing case
A three-judge panel from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled August 23 that World Vision is a religious organization that can hire and fire people based on faith. Three former employees had sued World Vision for letting them go after they rejected key parts of the group's statement of faith. World Vision welcomed the decision, but the majority opinion was split on the rationale for the organization's exemption from Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Legal experts wonder if the complex opinion will add uncertainty to the debate over religious hiring. Days later, World Vision and more than 100 other religious organizations lobbied Congress against a clause in pending substance abuse and mental health legislation that would remove hiring freedoms for federal grant recipients.
Court: Regulate Medi-Share as insurance
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in August that Medi-Share, a Christian health-care cost-sharing program, offers a "shifting of risk" and thus shouldn't be exempt from state insurance regulations. The Florida-based organization, which serves 40,000 Christians in 49 states and pools $42 million in annual contributions, says its members engage in charitable activity and publishes disclaimers that it is not a substitute for insurance. The argument has persuaded two lower Kentucky courts in the past, but the state attorney general pursued the case to the high court, which determined that Medi-Share "fits comfortably within the statutory definition of an insurance contract."
Judge: Researchers cannot destroy embryos
A federal district judge temporarily blocked the Obama administration's plans to fund embryonic stem-cell research. Reviving a lawsuit filed by the Christian Medical Association, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and two doctors after granting the doctors standing, Judge Royce C. Lamberth reminded the government of a 1996 law that keeps federal dollars out of any projects that involve the destruction of human embryos. The Justice Department plans to appeal.
Church leaders set back after constitution vote
KENYA Voters overwhelmingly adopted a new draft constitution despite fierce opposition from church leaders on issues related to abortion and Islamic courts. Several retired clergy supported the new constitution; Kenya's top Anglican leader eventually told parishioners to "vote their conscience." Opposed church leaders alleged vote-rigging, but a postelection survey reveals that 58 percent of Kenyans trust church leaders less than they did before the election.
Christians, atheists may run state-funded schools
UNITED KINGDOM Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government may soon be funding religious schools using state money. A keystone of the coalition's new education plan, Cameron's "free schools" program allows parents, teachers, religious organizations, and other private groups to set up schools that would receive direct government funds. Some free schools may open by fall 2011. Responding to a comment from prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, education minister Michael Gove said atheist groups are also welcome to found schools.