Presbyterians Form a New Denomination, Court Upholds Ultrasound Law, and More
Communist party keeps religion ban
CHINA Religion is more popular than ever in China. But the Chinese Communist Party refuses to budge when it comes to party members. Zhu Weiqun, executive vice director of the United Front Work Department, said that allowing members to participate in religious services would divide party members. Chinese president Hu Jintao has stated that the country must take action to prevent westernization and that Christianity is "the essence of Western culture." Party members must be atheists, but a 2006 report indicated at least a third of the 60 million members believed in some form of "religious superstition." Researchers peg China's Christian population today at between 60 million and 115 million and growing.
Breakaway Anglicans lose their churches
A Virginia county judge has reversed his decision on who wins an Anglican spat over historic churches. Randy Bellows, who has ordered seven congregations that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2006 to give their historic properties to the Diocese of Virginia, had originally ruled in favor of the congregations back in 2008. However, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed that decision in 2010 and ordered a new trial, stating the state's Division Statute did not apply to the case because the congregations' new home, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, is not a branch of the Episcopal Church. Among the affected churches are Truro Church and The Falls Church, both of which trace their roots back to the colonial era and claim George Washington as a past vestry member.
Province will split costs with religious schools
CANADA Saskatchewan will extend its funding of public education to independent schools, including religious schools, as long as schools meet certain guidelines. The plan will grant 50 percent of the average cost-per-student to such schools, provided they use certified teachers and the provincial curriculum. Schools that qualify include an Islamic school, a Jesuit middle school, and a Seventh-Day Adventist school. The plan resembles those in Alberta and British Columbia but contrasts sharply with Ontario's.
Religious colleges no longer 'hands-off'
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board can regulate and investigate secular matters at religiously affiliated colleges, the state's attorney general ruled in January. The decision clarified a potential conflict between a 2010 U.S. Department of Education rule and a 2007 Texas Supreme Court ruling that mandated a "hands-off approach" to religious institutions. The federal rule requires states to establish procedures to review and act on complaints at schools, including ones with religious ties.
Public worship may no longer need permission
MEXICO The Mexican government may soon loosen its religious freedom laws. The nation's Chamber of Deputies has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow religious worship in public without needing prior government permission. The Senate and at least 16 of Mexico's 31 state legislatures also must approve the amendment for it to become law. Some officials worry the amendment could give religious organizations access to public radio and television programs or entrance into the public education system. Supporters say the amendment would allow Mexico's constitution to abide more closely with international treaties it has signed. Members of both the governing National Action Party and the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party support the amendment.