News Roundup

UK proposal for Equality Oath faces fresh criticism

The UK Government appears to be pressing ahead with plans for an equality oath which teachers, doctors and other public office holders would be forced to swear. Cabinet minister Sajid Javid has expressed support for an oath and The Sun newspaper has reported that the minister’s officials have held meetings with concerned parties in recent weeks.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “The Government needs to come clean. From what we are hearing the Government’s idea seems to get everyone to swear an allegiance to the Equalities Act.” An Equality Oath was first suggested by Dame Louise Casey in a report on integration. Previously, The Christian Institute has said: “Equality sounds nice but it is in the name of equality that Ashers Baking Company has been taken to court, B&B owners sued and a faithful Christian registrar forced out of her job.”

An editorial in The Independent also strongly criticised the Equality Oath, saying it would deny the right to dissent. It said: “Why should anyone have to sign up to some officially approved list of moral rules if they don’t believe in them? This is effectively the case if their livelihood depends on it. If a soldier or a teacher doesn’t believe in equality, should they be forced to say they do just to hang onto their job? Would it make them better or worse citizens?”



US stops contributing to UN Population Fund due to support for China’s coercive 2 child policy

The US State Department has announced that it will stop contributing to the United Nations Population Fund on the grounds that it supports China’s unethical family planning polices, which include the practices of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization. The State Department noted that the fund “partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies.”

Those policies have accounted for a tide of human suffering that has lasted for decades. A 2014 human rights report from the State Department stated that 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilizations had occurred in China since the beginning of the stringent family policies introduced in 1971, which led to the one-child policy in 1979. According to the World Health Organization, the rural areas of China have the highest female suicide rate in the world, and it is the only country listed where the number of suicides among women surpasses that of men. The one-child policy also led to a surge in female infanticide that has now resulted in a disastrous sex ratio of 115 boys to every 100 girls.



Religious persecution spiked upwards in 2015

There was a sharp rise in countries complicit in religious persecution in 2015 according to the latest annual Pew Research Center report on “Global Restrictions on Religion”. In 2015, there were “very high” or “high” levels of animosity shown towards religious groups in 40 percent of countries, the report noted, either through restrictive government laws targeting religious groups or violence or harassment toward adherents of specific religions by other members of society. The 2015 percentage was up six points from 2014, when 34 percent of countries reported such levels of hostility to religious groups. Certain countries and regions of the world showed especially high hostility towards religious groups. Russia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria all showed both government harassment of and social animus toward certain religious groups.


As marriage declines in US, married people still earn more income and pay more tax

While married Americans now account for about half the adult population, they pay 74% of income tax. A recent report shows that, even as the share of married people in the US has declined, the share of tax they pay has declined at a far slower rate indicating that, proportionally, they are earning more income and paying more in tax than ever before.

The report was compiled by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan “Fact-Tank” whose aim is to inform public debate without taking any policy positions themselves.

The author of the report, Anthony Ciluffo, said this is an indication of the increasingly visible “marriage-gap” which has developed in the US and elsewhere whereby marriage is becoming both a sign of and a driver of education and wealth.

“The fact that married Americans continue to pay roughly three-quarters of the nation’s income taxes, in spite of their dwindling share of the adult population, is in part a result of the changing demographics and economics of marriage. Marriage is increasingly linked with higher levels of education, which are in turn linked to higher incomes” he said.


Academic calls for end to Dáil prayer

Cultural traditions that give the impression of State-endorsement of religion, such as the prayer before the start of each Dáil session, should be ditched according to Ronan McCrea, a law lecturer at University College London. Writing in The Irish Times he says that while such traditions might be mere cultural symbols, migrants from abroad might not understand that and mistake them for actual State endorsement of a particular religion.

“The problem with the European arrangements [favouring certain religious symbols] is that they rely to a large degree on insider knowledge that allows people to distinguish between the situation on paper and the actual situation. . . If one comes from a society where politics and religion are deeply intertwined, prayers in parliament may appear to be much more than a cultural symbol.”

He added: “This divide between symbolic religiosity and substantive secular politics leaves European societies open to allegations of hypocrisy when they ask migrants from areas of the world with more muscular religion to accept that religion and politics are separate and that religiously controversial ideas such as free speech on religion and gay rights must be accepted.”

Specifically, he believes the prayer at the start of each Dáil session to be particularly problematic: “It is hard to see a prayer that involves a wish that “Christ Our Lord” will guide parliamentarians’ work as a mere cultural symbol.” He concludes: “If we wish migrants to this country to feel at home and to accept a division between religion and politics that may be challenging for them, it is important that the majority appear to honour those commitments too.”


Teach toddlers about transsexuality say UK Teachers Uniondelegates

Delegates at a UK Teachers union conference called on its members to promote LGBT+ issues, including transsexuality, to children from nursery school on. They also urged the Government to include LGBT+ issues in mandatory sex education classes, and to extend the requirement for those classes from State schools to all private schools including faith-based schools.

The teachers passed a motion which called on members to “campaign to ensure a comprehensive age-appropriate content including promotion of LGBT+ matters for all schools from nursery throughout all phases of state education”.

Annette Pryce, a member of the NUT executive committee and teacher in Buckinghamshire, added that the “right wing, religious lobby” had prevented ministers from proposing a more “inclusive” agenda for sex education classes to include teaching about LGBT+ issues.

Kiri Tunks, a teacher in East London and the NUT’s vice president, said that the opt-out available to faith schools and parents is a “dangerous loophole” which will “leave many young people ignorant and vulnerable”.

The Church of England announced that they support the introduction of statutory sex education in schools, but  Andrea Williams, chief executive at Christian Concern, said that teaching SRE to young children would be “devastating” and risks “robbing them of their innocence”.


Woman wants her spinal cord severed to align her body with her “transabled” identity

Transsexualism has striking similarities to “transableism” where people believe they are actually disabled, a family researcher has said. Glenn T. Stanton writing in the Federalist magazine gave numerous examples of “transable” people who want to have body parts removed in order to ‘align’ their bodies with their minds. One such example is that of an American woman named Chloe Jennings-White, who is able-bodied but wants a severed spinal cord. The condition is also known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder but Stanton says, “Cutting the body does not seem to heal the mind”. He concluded that like transsexuals, people with such feelings “must be treated compassionately but truthfully”.



Protestant Bishops oppose Minister’s plans to dilute faith-based schools admissions policies

In a strongly worded statement, the Bishops of the Church of Ireland have voiced their opposition to any dilution of their schools’ faith-based admission policies. This is in response to Minister of Education, Richard Bruton’s proposals to reduce or eliminate faith-based schools’ ability to prioritise children of their own faith-community when schools are oversubscribed. In their statement, released during Holy Week, they say that “changing the admissions rules, as proposed, will do nothing to increase resources in specific areas. Instead, the change will merely create a new cohort of children who are excluded from education within their own faith. To prevent a Church of Ireland school from prioritising children from that community will lead to a splintering and a diminishing of that link causing hurt, confusion and disillusionment.


Growing resistance to ending Good Friday alcohol ban

Numerous groups and commentators have voiced criticism of the Government’s plan to end the Good Friday ban on sales of alcohol in 2018, including Senator David Norris.

“If we are serious, as a country, about tackling the many problems associated with alcohol misuse, then let us start by protecting the ban on Good Friday and putting our words into action,” said Raymond O’Connor, project co-ordinator of the The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association . In that context, he said, “two days out of 365 [Christmas Day and Good Friday] is not too much to ask”. Groups representing pubs and restaurants have argued that the ban should be lifted for commercial and tourism purposes, but a statement from the Iona Institute disputed this. It noted how “restrictions on trading are commonplace around Europe. Germany and Switzerland have very strict controls on Sunday trading”, while in New Zealand they “ban the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, shops close and TV advertising is not permitted”. Such “countries believe something more important is at stake, namely the principle that not every day should be dominated by the dictates of commerce,” it said.

Kathy Sheridan opined in the Irish Times that many who support the retention of the ban do so, not for religious reasons, but for a desire “to hold on to a tradition they suspected might be a force for good”. Furthermore, she added “Some had been disturbed by the preceding debate with its undertones of a country that seemed incapable of functioning without alcohol for a day. More than that, it seemed like just another heart-sinking example of commerce and vested interests being allowed to drive change, with little regard for the symbolism of such decisions.” In the Irish Independent, Shane Coleman also questioned the commercial interests pushing for the change: “The publicans, who form one of the most powerful lobby groups in the country, say it’s costing them €30m to €40m a year – they must be making some money the rest of the year. Even if that figure is true, must commerce and consumerism prevail on each one of the 365 days a year?”. Meanwhile, on Morning Ireland, Fine Gael Senator Joe O’Reilly has argued against ending the Good Friday alcohol ban, while Senator David Norris has done likewise on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, so this change in policy of the Government might not yet be a “fait accompli”.


Swedish midwife loses appeal on refusal to participate in abortions

A Swedish Appeals Court has ruled against a midwife who was fired for refusing to assist in abortions. It is now likely that she will appeal her case to the European Court of Human Rights. Ellinor Grimmack took the anti-discrimination case when she had an offer of employment rescinded by one hospital, and was refused employment by other hospitals. This is despite there being a shortage of midwives in Sweden. In a statement to the newspaper Aftonbladet, Grimmack said: “As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost. Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life.” But a Swedish court ruled yesterday that Grimmark has no choice but to participate in abortions if she wants to keep her job.

“Participation in abortions should not be a requirement for employment as a medical professional. In accordance with international law, the court should have protected Ellinor’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke in a statement after the ruling. “For that reason, Ellinor is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.”