News Roundup

Methodist Church to consider same-sex marriage ceremonies

The Methodist Church says it will “revisit” the issue of same-sex marriage after members voiced backing for the church to endorse gay unions. The commitment came after the Methodist annual general meeting in London heard from its Marriage and Relationship Task Group that there is a measure of support for the church conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies. Rev. Graham Carter told the meeting that there is a “clear mandate” to “revisit” the church’s definition of marriage via a ‘re-examination’ of theology. However, the task group also noted that there was concern within the church that voting for same-sex marriage would “damage its prophetic and counter-cultural role by giving into changes in society”.

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Admissions Bill may curb right of Catholic schools to prioritise Catholic pupils

The Minister for Education Richard Bruton has vowed to “explicitly ban” discrimination on schools’ admissions, signalling a possible end to Catholic schools prioritising students of the faith. Minister Bruton made his comments as he unveiled his new Admissions Bill, the provisions of which are expected to be enacted this September. One new requirement under the Act is that schools must consult with parents in relation to their admissions policies, which must be made public. Along with the issue of possibly ending the right of religious schools to prioritise pupils, the issue of reserving places for relatives of past pupils has been referred to an Oireachtas committee for a final decision.

 

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Mississippi Judge strikes down conscience protection law

A judge in the US state of Mississippi has struck down a law which offers protection for those who, through religious belief, object to participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act was signed into law in April to allow judges and clerks of deeply held beliefs to opt out of such ceremonies, but after a legal challenge mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union, District Judge Carlton Reeves set the legislation aside one day before it was due to come into effect. Reacting to the judgement, the state’s Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said: “I hope the state’s attorneys will quickly appeal this decision…to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of all Mississippians.”

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Ministers gain free vote on abortion

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has agreed to afford ministers a free vote on abortion. Just days after insisting on “collective Cabinet responsibility” on the forthcoming Bill on legislating for terminations due to so-called ‘fatal foetal abnormalites’, Mr Kenny said he is prepared to allow Independent ministers their demanded free vote. The move now allows Cabinet members Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, as well as junior minister John Halligan, to vote in favour of the Bill. The rest of the Cabinet will vote against. The row over voting comes despite advice from the Attorney General, Máire Whelan, that the abortion Bill is unconstitutional.

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MPs call for brothels to be legalised in Britain

Brothels should be legalised in England and Wales, a parliamentary group has said. The Home Affairs Committee has called for legislative change in the area of prostitution, urging both an end to the criminalising of prostitutes and the relaxing of laws around brothels, in line with similar moves undertaken in New Zealand. However, the move has been criticised by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) which said decriminalising prostitution “empowers” the people who exploit them. The group pointed out that the New Zealand changes had done nothing to stem the flow of trafficked women, a trade which is still “thriving”.

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Christian dating site must include same-sex relationships – judge

A Christian dating website in the United States must allow for same-sex relationship searches, a judge has ruled. To now, ChristianMingle.com required users to specify if they were a man seeking a woman, or a woman seeking a man. This position was challenged by two gay men who filed a legal challenge in California, where Spark Networks Inc., the owners of ChristianMingle, has its headquarters. The pair argued that the limited search criteria breached discrimination legislation in the state. A judge agreed with that argument and ordered that all sites owned and operated by Sparks broaden their accessibility to include same-sex relationship searches.

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Twenty-six terminations in Ireland in 2015

Twenty-six terminations were carried out in Ireland in 2015, newly released figures have shown. Compiled by the Department of Health, the figures report that three women were granted abortions on risk of suicide grounds, 14 terminations were based on risk to life posed by a physical illness and nine terminations for cases of immediate medical emergency. The Department’s report, the second annual gathering of termination figures since legislation on the issue – the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act – reveals similar termination figures to the first report.
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Catholic nursing home fined for refusing euthanasia

A Catholic nursing home in Belgium has been fined by a court for refusing to offer residents euthanasia. The ruling stemmed from a case taken by the family of a resident who requested euthanasia under Belgian law in 2011, but was refused on the grounds of the home’s ethos. However, the court in Louvain ruled that that “the nursing home did not have the right to refuse euthanasia on the grounds of conscientious objection” and fined the home €6 in “moral damages”. While the fine was a tiny amount, the ruling is, however, of major significance for religious-backed institutions, which are now effectively debarred from conscientious objection to euthanasia.
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Britain shows growing trend of abortion as birth control

It has been reported that more women in Britain are using abortion as a form of birth control after figures showed that 4,905 women in 2015 had procured at least their fourth abortion. The figures were gained by a daily newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act and add to an earlier finding this year made by The Daily Telegraph that older women are turning in increasing numbers to abortion as an accepted method of birth control. Over the last decade in Britain, abortion rates have fallen in all age categories except for women in their 30s and 40s.
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Independent Ministers continue to press for free vote on abortion

Independent members of the Cabinet are continuing to press for a free vote on abortion. TDs are expected to vote this week on TD Mick Wallace’s Bill to allow for abortion on grounds of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ even though the Attorney General has said the Bill is unconstitutional. But Independent TDs still insist that a free vote is necessary on the issue, with junior jobs minister John Halligan stating that anything less is “unacceptable”.  A number of Independents have already signaled their backing for the Bill, arguing that there is nothing in the Programme for Government to prevent them in this.
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