Posts tagged with: Religion/Belief

Notre_Dame_signEarlier today the Supreme Court threw out an appeals court decision that went against the University of Notre Dame over its religious objections to the Obamacare health law’s contraception requirement.

Last summer the high court ruled that Hobby Lobby Stores Ltd could, on religious grounds, seek exemptions from the contraception provision. Because this case, Notre Dame v. Burwell, was the only appeals court decision on the issue that pre-dated that ruling, the Supreme Court sent it back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision ruling in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Until now, Notre Dame was the only nonprofit religious ministry in the nation without protection from the HHS mandate. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the federal government has relied heavily on the decision against Notre Dame in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty. The government fought hard to prevent this GVR, but the Supreme Court rejected their arguments.”




Fr. Matthew Baker

Alexis de Tocqueville, observing the young United States in the 1830s, wrote, “Wherever, at the head of a new undertaking, you see in France the government, and in England, a great lord, count on seeing in the United States, an association.” In the midst of recent tragedy — the untimely death of Fr. Matthew Baker, a Greek Orthodox priest killed in a car accident this past Sunday evening, leaving behind his wife and six children — it is a source of hope to see that this American associational persistence is still alive in the present.

Without hesitation, friends of Fr. Matthew set up a page at the crowd funding site gofundme, and they have already raised a tremendous sum to support Presvytera Katherine and the children.

The loss of Fr. Matthew has been felt far beyond Orthodox Christian circles and close friends. Americans across the country, utilizing modern technology for this good work, have come together across confessional lines to help a family they have never personally known.

As for myself, I had only just begun to know Fr. Matthew. I regret that is all I can say. We both were contributors to Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and belong to a Facebook group related to our writing there. I had just spoken with him (via Facebook) the previous night, not even 24 hours before his death. (more…)

ISIS Al-Qaeda Militants Fighting Syrian Civil WarThe rapid rise and threat of the jihadist group Islamic State has confounded the secularist West. The idea that their motivations could truly be driven by religious ideology simply fails to register with those who view religion as an individualistic, private affair.

If we are going to defeat ISIS, though, this will have to change. As Kishore Jayabalan says, it’s time to start taking the relationship between religion and politics seriously:


Archbishop Oscar Romero

Rev. Robert Sirico ponders the economic and theological links between Pope Francis and Oscar Romero today at RealClear Religion. Sirico says that these “two prominent churchmen of our era … expose the difference between a ‘preferential option for the poor’ and a preferential option for the state.”

Both men have been linked heavily to Liberation Theology, but Sirico points out that this is a misguided understanding of the thoughts and works of both Pope Francis and Archbishop Romero.

For whatever form of Liberation Theology (and there are several) either Romero or Francis represent, it is certainly not the variety most popularly espoused in the Latin America of the 1980s and condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ascendant form of Liberation Theology of that era emerged from a Christian encounter with Marxism as seen largely in the work of Gustavo Gutierrez (Peruvian), Leonardo Boff (Brazilian), Juan Luis Segundo (Uruguayan), Jon Sobrino (Spanish) and Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaraguan). (more…)

Assyrians in Iran

Assyrians in Iran

In both Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is literally hunting and killing Assyrian Christians. Just this week, dozens of these Christians in Syria were captured by the Islamic State; their fate remains unknown. Who are these people facing persecution?

Michael Holtz, at The Christian Science Monitor, examines the long history of these Christians.

Alternatively known as Syriac, Nestorian, or Chaldean Christians, they trace their roots back more than 6,500 years to ancient Mesopotamia, predating the Abrahamic religions. For 1,800 years the Assyrian empire dominated the region, establishing one of most advanced civilizations in the ancient world. (more…)

naziPew Research does an admirable job tracking global changes in religious practices and restrictions. In their latest report, they note that religious hostility has declined slightly, but Jews are suffering more than they have in years.

[T]here has been a marked increase in the number of countries where Jews were harassed. In 2013, harassment of Jews, either by government or social groups, was found in 77 countries (39%) – a seven-year high. Jews are much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments. In Europe, for example, Jews were harassed by individuals or social groups in 34 of the region’s 45 countries (76%).


7figuresEach year the International Bulletin of Missionary Research lays out in summary form an annual update of significant religious statistics. Here are seven sets of figures based on their latest report:

1. Global population by religion: Christians – 2.38 billion; Muslims – 1.7 billion; Hindu – 1 billion; atheists – 136 million; Jews – 14 million.

2. Membership by 6 ecclesiastical megablocs: Catholics – 1.2 billion; Protestants – 441 million; Independents – 407 million; Orthodox – 280 million; Anglicans – 92 million; Unaffiliated Christians – 110 million.

3. Number of Christians by 6 continents, 21 UN regions: Africa (5 regions) – 520 million; Asia (4 regions) – 368 million; Europe (including Russia; 4 regions) – 561 million; Latin America (3 regions) – 562 million; Northern America (1 region) – 229 million; Oceania (4 regions) – 25 million.

4. Christian organizations: Denominations – 45,000; Congregations – 4.7 million; Service agencies – 30,000; Foreign-mission sending agencies – 5,000.

5. Christian finance (in US$, per year): Personal income of church members – $35 trillion; Giving to Christian causes – $626 billion; Churches’ income – $249 billion; Parachurch and institutional income – $377 billion.

6. Scripture distribution (all sources, per year): Bibles – 80 million; Scriptures including gospels, selections – 5 billion; Bible density (copies in place) – 1.8 billion.

7. World evangelization: Unevangelized population – 2.1 billion; Unevangelized as % of world: 29.2 percent.