News Roundup

More Christians charged, harassed in India under anti-conversion laws

Several Protestants and a Catholic priest have been arrested in separate incidents under India’s controversial anti-conversion laws in the latest signs of a deteriorating climate for religious minorities under a Hindu nationalist government,

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Father Dominic Pinto of the Lucknow diocese was arrested Feb. 5 along with six Protestants on charges of trying to convert poor Dalits, or “untouchables,” from Hinduism to Christianity, while in Assam, in far northeastern India, two American Baptists were fined Feb. 2 for engaging in religious activities that violated the conditions of their tourist visas.

According to Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow, the Hindu protestors who disrupted the gathering in Uttar Pradesh and demanded police arrest the participants belonged to the right-wing nationalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad or its young wing, Bajrang Dal. He called charges that the meeting was engaging in conversion “totally false.”

“This is a gross misuse of the draconian anti-conversion law in the state,” Mathias said.

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Church challenges Quebec’s euthanasia law in court

The Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal has filed a legal challenge to Quebec’s euthanasia legislation, arguing that it violates religious freedom.

The lawsuit says the Catholic Church should be exempted from a section of the law requiring all palliative care homes in the province to offer euthanasia.

It says the law is forcing the Church to choose between allowing a procedure it finds morally unacceptable or abandoning its palliative care centre. Since 2019, St. Raphael’s has sent patients requesting MAID [Medical assistance in dying] to provincially run facilities, but the church says it should not be forced to provide medically assisted deaths on its property.

The office of Archbishop Christian Lépine says palliative care homes should have the same right as medical practitioners to refuse to offer services they are morally opposed to.

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‘Hindu Supremacy biggest threat to religious minorities since assassination of Gandhi’

‘Hindu supremacy’ is “the greatest threat” to religious freedom in India since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, according to a prominent Indian journalist.

Speaking at the International Religious Freedom Summit, Arfa Khanum Sherwani said the “ideology that is responsible for the assassination of Gandhi… is ruling India right now”.

He called rising anti-Muslim violence a “state persecution of Indian Muslims”.

Another session featured Nadine Maenza who said: “We see Hindu nationalists in coordination with the controlling BJP government, targeting ‘the Other,’ including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other religious and ethnic minorities”.

“The hate speech and religiously discriminatory policies and laws have led to violent attacks, including sexual violence against minorities within communities,” said Maenza.

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Disability campaigner calls for No vote

A prominent disability campaigner and independent Senator has called for a ‘No’ vote in the upcoming ‘carers’ referendum.

Dr Tom Clonan who cares for his son who suffers from scoliosis, wrote on X that the Govt’s wording of the ‘care’ amendment has been very carefully chosen “to Define ‘Care’ as Exclusive Responsibility of ‘The Family’ i.e. Unpaid Carers 98% of Whom are Women & Girls. The Word ‘Strive’ Gives Govt & @HSELive Opt Out & No RIGHTS to #Disabled”.

He added that he was “Voting NO!”

Senator Clonan was responding to a claim by Children’s Minister, Roderic O’Gorman, that a yes vote would help secure funding for disability services and carers. Dr Clonan retweeted a comment by children’s rights solicitor, Gareth Noble, who said, “I fear this is absolute nonsense and I really wish they wouldn’t use people who need support to gain [political] support for themselves”.

Senator Clonan has previously said that the ‘care’ amendment is a “Patriarchal Opt-Out” for the  State & the HSE as the vast majority of unpaid carers are women. He called instead for the Govt to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD).

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Netherlands extends infanticide to 12 yr olds

The expansion of an infanticide law to cover children aged 1 to 12 went into operation in the Netherlands on Thursday Feb 1st.

The Government announced in April last year that the “Late Termination of Pregnancy and Termination of Life Regulations for Newborns (LZA/LP)” would be “amended and expanded to include termination of life in children aged 1-12 years”.

A press release said the change would apply to terminally ill children with unbearable suffering, and would involve “about 5 to 10 children every year”.

The regulation previously allowed the euthanising of infants aged 0 to 12 months.

Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers opted for a regulatory change instead of a new law as, he said, there aren’t enough examples to arrive at a standard for legislation.

The Netherland’s already allows for the euthanasia of children over the age of 12, so this latest change makes euthanasia a possibility at every stage of life.

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Danish ethics council to Oireachtas: don’t legalise ‘assisted dying’

A Danish ethics agency has warned an Oireachtas Committee against legalising assisted suicide.

The Danish National Council on Ethics roundly rejected a legislative proposal in Denmark last year by a vote of voting 16 to 1.

Speaking to the Oireachtas committee on Tuesday, Prof. Merete Nordentoft said the council came to their decision having reviewed the models of assisted dying in Oregon and the Netherlands.

Their review had found that in Holland, which allows euthanasia and has no requirement for terminal illness, “the number of people who die through assisted dying is 10 times greater than in Oregon, which only allows assisted suicide and requires a terminal illness”.

She said the Council decided “an institutionalisation of assisted dying therefore risks threatening the principle that we have the same claim to respect and dignity, regardless of how much we suffer and how high the quality of life is assessed to be.

“If we offer assisted dying, it says, directly or indirectly, that some lives are not worth living.”

“We argue that assisted dying risks causing unacceptable changes to basic norms for society and healthcare,” she told the Oireachtas Committee.

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Aontú to oppose ‘poorly written, ambiguous’ constitutional amendments

Aontú has decided to oppose the upcoming government referendums on the work of mothers and on the family.

Leader Peadar Tóibín TD said the party broadly accepted that some of the current wording of the constitution is “archaic”, and they would have supported a change, but not the current proposals.

“The Government’s amendments are exceptionally poorly written. The language in these amendments is unclear, confused and offers no material help or rights to families or carers”, he said.

“The Constitution is our fundamental legal document. It contains the core rights of citizens and defines the roles and responsibilities of the State. It is not the location for empty virtue signalling from the government in an election year”.

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Tory MP calls for surrogacy ban

A Tory MP has called for surrogacy to be outlawed and compared the practice to taking a puppy prematurely from its mother.

In a series of outspoken comments, Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, branded surrogacy ‘just ethically not acceptable’, declaring: ‘You don’t have a right to become a parent.’

‘You can’t take a puppy off its mother in this country before it’s weaned. You’re not allowed to,’ she added.

The 41-year-old – a devout Christian described as a ‘darling’ of the Tory party – is the co-chairman of the New Conservatives, an influential group of backbenchers.

Speaking to The House magazine, Mrs Cates also described the Government’s introduction of no-fault divorce in 2022 as ‘the wrong decision’ and warned that IVF fertility treatment ‘cannot solve’ the UK’s falling birth rate.

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Scant evidence for alleged benefits of universal childcare

There is a lack of evidence for many of the claims made on behalf of universal childcare, according to an in-depth review of the academic literature in both the UK and elsewhere.

Commissioned by the Civitas think-tank, researcher Maria Lyons found that of 40 studies examined for the report, “not a single one was able to demonstrate a clear and lasting benefit for children under 3 of attending childcare rather than being cared for by their own parents”.

The claim that universal childcare from a young age gives every child “the best start in life” is, the author concludes, “simply not backed up by evidence”.

What benefit is shown is mostly in children from the most deprived backgrounds. But, as Lyons points out, though this is typically presented as a positive for social mobility, it also means that “the policy has failed to benefit the majority of participating children”. Universal childcare is also not the most effective way to help disadvantaged children, whose parents are less likely to use subsidised childcare, and who might instead benefit more from targeted intervention.

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Minister ponders new stay-at-home carer’s payment in wake of March 8 referendum

The Minister for Equality has said he would have an “open mind” about creating a welfare payment for stay-at-home parents, if a referendum to change the reference to mothers in the constitution were passed.

However, there is currently no impediment that would require a change to the constitution.

Amid concerns that the new amendment on care would be legally meaningless, Roderic O’Gorman was not able to promise that the government’s wording would give carers the right to take the state to court for concrete socioeconomic supports.

Asked if he would support a new social welfare payment for stay-at-home parents, the minister said: “I’d certainly examine with an open mind any supports we can give to parents who are in the home. I would definitely look at that with an open mind. I think we need to do more there.”

At the moment, only married stay-at-home parents are entitled to a home carers credit – which is paid on their earning partner’s salary.

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