European Union laws will destroy religious organizations, says group
The Christian Institute, which is like the British version of the Family Research Council, is warning that churches, religious schools, charities, and other faith-based organizations throughout Britain (indeed, perhaps all of the European Union) could be forced under a European Union directive to hire staff who oppose their beliefs.

"The government regulations have all the potential to seriously undermine freedom of association for religious people," said Ian Leigh, codirector of the Human Rights Center at Durham University. "They place the modern concept of 'equality' over and above religious liberty."

The laws, which must be implemented in Britain by December 2, 2003, ban employment discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, or sexual orientation. (And they don't apply to Northern Ireland.)

"While the Vegetarian Society can refuse to employ meat-eaters and the [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] can sack an executive who is found to have invested in the fur trade, churches which employ Christians could now face legal action for doing so," the institute explains on its website. "They could face the possibility of crippling legal actions just for following their beliefs."

The EU directives do give churches and faith-based organizations an exemption in cases where "being of a particular religion or belief is a genuine and determining occupational requirement for the job," but the Christian Institute says the exemption clauses are "convoluted" and incomplete. "First, this is not a general exemption from all discrimination provisions for religious employers. It only relates to discrimination claims brought on the ground of religion or belief, and, notably, not to claims brought in relation to sexual orientation," notes a lengthy report on the directives by Leigh and Christian Institute director Colin Heart. "Secondly, there is a gray area that is not covered expressly by these words. It is a concern that many religious employers may have about the conduct of their employees. Currently, of course, it is possible, and the law recognizes this, to dismiss someone fairly on the basis that their conduct is inconsistent with the ethos of the organization."

The Christian Institute looks ready to fight all year over this. It won't be the last time we hear about the regulations.

Bush's God vs. the media's god
It has been pointed out to Weblog that while the official White House transcript of last night's State of the Union address capitalizes "God," several versions elsewhere online, such as at The Washington Post and CNN, have it lowercased. But don't get too upset: they probably got it from somewhere else. Just like Bush got his line "there's power, wonder-working power" from somewhere else.

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Faith-based funding:

  • Assemblies of God opens D.C. office to secure faith-based funds | Baptist group worries that public money will dilute religious message (Springfield [Mo.] News-Leader)

  • Building on faith | If churches, synagogues or mosques are providing space to fight drug addictions, feed the homeless or help pregnant teens, they should be eligible for HUD construction grants to build or refurbish space (Editorial, The Tennessean)



Church life:

  • African Anglicans | American Anglican church members are breaking off from their congregation and looking to Africa for inspiration. (Morning Edition, NPR)

  • The Lord's profits | The music is catchy, the mood euphoric and the message perfect for a material age: believe in God and you'll be rewarded in this life as well as the next (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Clergy sex abuse:

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  • N.H. bishop offers apology to dozens of alleged victims | About 85 people, including 30 alleged victims, met for 21/2 hours with Bishop John B. McCormack (The Boston Globe)

  • Law's attorney blasts judge for remarks | In an unusual public rebuke, Cardinal Bernard F. Law's personal attorney yesterday accused Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney of making prejudicial remarks that could undermine Law's ability to get unbiased justice if any of the hundreds of pending civil claims of clergy sexual abuse go to trial (The Boston Globe)

  • Deficit tripled, Los Angeles Archdiocese says | Officials of the archdiocese, the largest in the country, now project that the deficit for this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, will reach $13.4 million (The New York Times)

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