- Following an 18-month audit, the French Tax Authority has imposed a 60 percent tax on religious contributions made by Jehovah's Witnesses, covering a four-year period. The government agency ruled it is not a religion, and therefore owes $50 million in back taxes. The organization appealed the decision after the government put a lien on its property. In an open letter to French President Jacques Chirac, Jehovah's Witnesses representative L. A. Swingle called the ruling "a shocking display of religious discrimination" that "could affect donations to any religion, charity, or not-for-profit organization the tax administration chooses to target in the same manner." With 220,000 adherents, Jehovah's Witnesses are the third-largest religious body in France.
- Britain's House of Lords, the upper legislative body in Parliament, voted 290 to 122 to overturn a law reducing the age of consent for homosexual acts to 16 from 18. The House of Commons earlier had overwhelmingly supported the change in age (CT, Aug. 10, 1998, p. 27). The archbishop of Canterbury led the reversal move, with support from a variety of religious leaders, including the UK's Evangelical Alliance.
- Police in Kastoria, Greece, stopped an open-air program in July of the interdenominational antidrug society Philemon, which is associated with the evangelical Hellenic Ministries (CT, Nov. 17, 1997, p. 76). The ministry says police revoked their permit and ordered the group to disband upon orders from Orthodox Archbishop Seraphim.
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September 7 1998
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