News Roundup

Cardinal urges ‘renewed vigour’ in fight against assisted suicide

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New has urged Catholics to oppose assisted suicide with “renewed vigour” in light of the advance of legalisation allowing the procedure in a growing number of US states. As Washington DC became the latest region to vote for the introduction of assisted suicide, joining the states of Oregon, Montana, Washington, Vermont, California, and Colorado, the prelate, who is chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said: “The act of prescribing a fatal, poisonous dose …undermines the very heart of medicine. Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of their patients.” He added: “What seriously ill – and often depressed – patients need is authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain management as they enter their final days. Patients need our assurance that they are not a burden – that it is a privilege to care for them as we ourselves hope to be cared for one day.”
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Ashers discrimination appeal may have route to the UK Supreme Court

The family at the heart of the Ashers Bakery case for discrimination over their refusal to bake a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan, may be set to have their appeal heard at the UK Supreme Court after a Belfast judge ruled that provisions in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 could provide a route to that court. During a fresh appeal hearing against the discrimination finding levelled against the McArthur family, prompted by the NI Attorney General’s announcement of his intention to bring the case to the Supreme Court in the UK, Lord Chef Justice Declan Morgan indicated the appropriate section of the Northern Ireland Act to lawyers representing the McArthur family and told them: “You need to make a decision whether you wish to pursue it.” The appeal was adjourned to allow allow the family’s legal team to examine a potential appeal option under schedule 12 of the Act.

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Nearly 70% of Britons back right of refusal on conscience grounds

Almost 70% of British people believe that businesses should be allowed to turn down orders that conflict with the business owner’s conscience. In a poll commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage and conducted by Com Res in the wake of the Ashers Bakery discrimination ruling, 69% of people responded that businesses should not face legal sanction for following their deeply held beliefs. The study involved 2,000 British adults who were presented with a range of differing scenarios. When asked if a Christian bakery should face court for refusing to offer a ‘support gay marriage’ cake, 65% of respondents said it should not, while 16% said it should. A similar result was gained when people were asked if a Muslim-owned printer should be punished for refusing to print cartoons of Mohammed, with 68% defending the right to decline such an order against 11% believing they should.

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Leo Varadkar describes Ireland’s abortion laws as “far too restrictive”

The Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has described Ireland’s abortion laws as “far too restrictive” and voiced his support for changes to allow for abortion where the health of a mother is in danger, which is the main ground on which almost 200,000 abortion per annum in the UK take place. He also questioned the use of the term ‘foetus’ instead of ‘baby’ by some people.

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US divorce rate at lowest level since 1980s

Divorce rates in the United States are at their lowest level in 35 years, a new study has shown. According to research undertaken by the National Centre for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the divorce rate has been falling in recent years. In 2014, the rate stood at 17.6 divorces per 1,000 people married, and fell again in the latest year of study, 2015, when it stood at 16.9 per 1,000. The rate in 1980 was 23 per 1,000. The study also revealed those states with the highest rates of divorce: Alaska, Arkansas, Nevada, Wyoming, and Washington D.C. Those with the lowest rates are Hawaii, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Delaware, and New Jersey. While the study found that marriage rates rose slightly in 2015, to 32.3 per 1,000, this is still significantly below the marriage rate for 1980. One possible reason for the fall in the divorce rate is the rise in cohabitation.

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Washington D.C. votes to introduce assisted suicide

The Washington D.C. city council has approved a Bill to legalise assisted suicide. Passed in an 11 to two vote, the measure, which is modelled on the 1997 assisted suicide legislation in the state of Oregon allows for those over 18 to access lethal drugs if two doctors agree the patient is in the final stages of a terminal illness. Responding to news of the vote, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that despite promises of safeguards with the Bill, “when you look at the reality, none of that is true. “If you have a medical condition you don’t have to speak to a specialist, you don’t have to, in any way, receive an opportunity to get the information that might change your mind” about assisted suicide.

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Christian Institute calls for accommodation of beliefs in equality cases

Courts should be obliged to consider “reasonable accommodation” in equality cases to benefit both sides where rights clash, the Christian Institute has argued. During a public debate, the institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, said such an insertion in equality law would have resulted in a fairer outcome for the Ashers Bakery case. The Christian Institute has supported the owners of Ashers throughout their legal battle in the case involving refusal to fulfil an order for a cake bearing a message supportive of same-sex marriage. In the “tiny minority of cases where there is a clash of rights”, Mr Calvert argued, courts should be “obliged to go through a careful process of assessing and balancing the competing rights, to see whether reasonable accommodation can be made for both sides…If equality law is causing injustice and misery. If it’s taking away freedom of speech and freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, then it should be changed.”
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Scotland may grant NHS abortion access for Northern Ireland women

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will examine the feasibility of offering women from Northern Ireland access to abortion via the National Health Service (NHS). Responding to an intervention by Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie during First Minister’s Question Time on the issue and that of costs for women from Northern Ireland accessing abortions in Britain, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am happy to explore that with the NHS. To explore both what the situation would be right now in terms of accessing safe and legal abortion for women from Northern Ireland within NHS Scotland and whether there’s any improvements that are able to be made. The First Minister’s words were criticised by Northern Ireland’s pro-life group, Precious Life, which said in a statement: “To make provisions for women to access free abortions in Scotland would be to run roughshod over the law and the democratic process in Northern Ireland. This will not go unchallenged. There will be a public outcry.”
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Attorney General to take Ashers Bakery case to UK Supreme Court

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General is to take the Ashers Bakery case to the UK Supreme Court. While Ashers’ owners the McArthur family continue to consider their next move against the discrimination finding against them in the so-called ‘gay cake row’, a spokeswoman for John  Larkin QC responded to a query from The Belfast Telegraph newspaper that the Attorney General is to take the matter further. “I can confirm that an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been listed for hearing on November 22,” she said. Reacting to the development, the Christian Institute, which has supported the McArthurs, said: “[Mr Larkin] has unique constitutional powers to raise the key issues with the Supreme Court and the very fact that those issues are now being raised shows how important this case is and how far-reaching the consequences of it may b

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Human rights body calls for Government to end faith schools admissions policies

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has criticised the Government for not including a provision to prevent faith schools prioritising children of their faith during the admissions process. In a submission to all members of the Oireachtas on the Education (Admissions to School) Bill, the IHREC argued that “The Equal Status Act 2000 be amended to give effect to the principle that no child should be given preferential access to a publicly funded school on the basis of their religion”. In a series of eight recommendations, the body argues for respect for ‘greater diversity’ in schools together with safeguards on the communicating of information on religions that “avoids indoctrination”. Responding to the Human Rights Commission’s submission Minister for Education Richard Bruton said its observations would be considered. Minister Bruton said the Dáil had agreed that any amendment to ban discrimination on religious grounds in school admissions would proceed separately to the current Bill.

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