Pro-life Advocates Cheer State Court Rulings, Parliament Reaffirms Church De-Regulations, and More News
Pro-life advocates cheer state court rulings
Utah's Supreme Court ruled that an unborn child qualifies as a minor under the state's wrongful death statute. The December decision came after a Utah couple sued a government-sponsored clinic in 2007, alleging their concerns and requests for an induced labor nearly a week before the baby was stillborn were ignored. The federal suit was halted while the state court decided if such a case could be heard.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court said a 17-year-old's decision not to tell her mother she was pregnant wasn't sufficient reason for a county judge to refuse to authorize an abortion. But pro-life advocates said the ruling indicated that judges' decisions on whether minors are "mature and capable of giving informed consent" should be taken seriously and should not be mere "rubber stamps" on minors' abortion requests.
Parliament reaffirms church de-registrations
HUNGARY Soon after the Hungarian Constitutional Court struck down a controversial religion law in December, lawmakers passed a new version that addressed the court's procedural concerns. The law recognizes only 14 faith groups and requires nearly 350 others to re-register for state approval. It also requires registered groups to have been present in Hungary for at least 20 years. Government officials say the law is intended to root out fraudulent organizations that operate under the protection of religion. Religious freedom advocates argue that the law will cause hardship for many smaller faith groups.
USCIRF reauthorized at the last minute
Congress reauthorized the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) mere hours before it was set to shut down for good in December. The reauthorization until September 2014 scaled back USCIRF's budget from $4.3 million to $3 million, cut the number of unpaid commissioners from nine to five, and limits them to two two-year terms. The change forces out seven of the nine current commissioners.
United Nations drops defamation clause
The United Nations General Assembly recently passed a resolution condemning religious intolerance without, for the first time in more than a decade, including a clause about defamation. Support for the clause has declined significantly over concerns that it allowed for blasphemy laws. Many countries now back a new approach that focuses on protecting believers rather than beliefs. In December, a series of meetings called the Istanbul Process addressed a U.N. resolution highlighting an individual's right to religious beliefs, but critics protested the lack of outright discussion on blasphemy.
Government begins crackdown on religion
KAZAKHSTAN Lawmakers have passed strict regulations on religious expression in the Central Asian country. At a closed October meeting, officials drafted plans to enforce state censorship of nearly all religious literature and objects as well as the statutes of religious organizations. The censorship is part of a strict religion law passed last fall that also created a complex registration system and bans unregistered religious activity. Officials say the law is progressive; religious leaders are fearful of challenging the new rules.
Mayor defies Supreme Court order
INDONESIA Civil rights groups plan to sue to force the mayor of Bogor to obey an Indonesian Supreme Court order allowing a Christian congregation to use its building. The Bogor branch of the Indonesian Christian Church has been worshiping in a member's home or on a roadside since the local government sealed their church building in 2010. The Supreme Court passed down its order in December 2010. The Bogor mayor's intransigence has raised questions about the government's ability to enforce its laws.