Hobby Lobby loses, Tyndale wins in court
In November, federal courts ruled both for and against evangelical groups challenging the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. A federal judge denied Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction, ruling that the arts-and-crafts giant must cover emergency contraceptives because "secular, for-profit corporations do not have free exercise rights." In contrast, a D.C. circuit court ruled in favor of Tyndale House Publishers, stating "[because] the beliefs of a closely-held corporation and its owners are inseparable, the corporation should be deemed the alter-ego of its owners for religious purposes." Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court revived Liberty University's lawsuit, which an appeals court will hear this spring.
Teenager cleared of blasphemy—a first
PAKISTAN When an Islamabad court officially dropped the case against Rimsha Masih, the teenage girl accused of defiling the Qur'an became the first Christian exonerated from a blasphemy charge in the Muslim nation. Her arrest had prompted international condemnation. In response, President Asif Ali Zardari ordered an investigation and said the law must not be used to settle personal scores.
Family Christian Stores buys itself
In November, the nation's largest chain of Christian retail stores, Family Christian Stores, bought itself from its private equity owners, Publishers Weekly reported. The new owners (the management team plus three Atlanta-based investors) pledged to donate 100 percent of profits to Christian ministries serving widows and orphans in the United States and abroad.
Churches told to quiet down or pay up
RWANDA, UGANDA Government officials in East Africa are cracking down on noise pollution, telling church leaders to reduce worship-related noise levels or face penalties—including being shut down. Rwanda's capital, Kigali, is enforcing penalties after receiving "overwhelming complaints" of "deafening noise from churches," where charismatic worship services often involve loud music. Meanwhile, Uganda's capital, Kampala, recently drafted legislation to reduce noise levels, prompting protest from many churches. Others are pursuing measures, such as soundproofing their worship centers, in order to comply.
Appeals court drops 'minister' test
In November, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to determine whom a church can "consider a lay liturgical minister." It was the court's first case to address the ministerial exception doctrine in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC ruling. The court dropped its former threefold test and held that Philip Cannata, a fired music director who sued his Catholic church in Texas for age and disability discrimination, was a "minister" if the church says he was a minister.
Methodist publisher closes all bookstores
Nashville-based United Methodist Publishing House announced in November that it would shut down all of its Cokesbury bookstores nationwide in order to focus on online and phone sales. All 57 stores, including 19 located in seminaries, will close by April 2013.
Excommunicated bishop must return churches
ZIMBABWE A high court ordered excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga to return worship sites seized from Zimbabwe's Anglican Church. This ended a six-year standoff. The Supreme Court found that Kunonga—who founded his own diocese in Harare, the capital, in 2007—had no legal right to the properties. This decision overturned a previous court ruling in his favor. The bishop, a long-time ally of President Robert Mugabe, is appealing the eviction order.