The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has defended Church autonomy in the area of employing teachers of religion. In a case stemming from Croatia, where the Catholic Church required a teacher of religion to hold and practice the same beliefs he was supposed to be teaching, the ECHR ruled that Churches have the freedom to select, hire and replace their teaching personnel in keeping with Church teaching and without undue state interference. The teacher in question had divorced and remarried in violation of Church teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
A Bill aimed at protecting disabled children in the womb from abortion will have its second reading in Britain’s Houses of Parliament this month. The Abortion (Disability Equality) Act 2016 would make it an offence to procure a termination solely on the basis of a disability diagnosis in the womb. Britain currently allows for abortion up to 24 weeks for a foetus diagnosed with a disability. The Bill is sponsored by Conservative Peer Lord Shinkwin, a sufferer of brittle bone disease who has previously pointed out that disability discrimination has been outlawed for years “but for disability diagnosed before birth, discrimination remains enshrined in 2016 in the law of our land”.
An insurance company in Australia has become the first in the country to recognise customers who do not wish to be listed as male or female. HIF insurance of Perth has stated that it is to allow for customers to tick a box for ‘other’ on official forms and will offer the title ‘Mx’ in addition to traditional titles. “HIF members may select the ‘other’ gender option if they choose to identify as neither male nor female, including (but not limited to) those who are agender, androgyne, bi-gender, gender fluid, intersex, neutrois, non-binary, pangender or transgender,” said HIF director Grame Gibson. In altering its forms, HIF is following the example set by the Australian government which has already allowed for M, F, X on passports and this year changed the census form to offer a third gender category.
Proposed legislation to outlaw forced marriage has been presented to the Cabinet. In bringing the proposal, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald hopes to gain approval for inclusion of the legislation in the draft of the Domestic Violence Bill. If passed, the new law will criminalise any act which causes others into a forced marriage. This will include where the marriage subsequently takes place outside the State. Government sources have reportedly stated that forced marriage is a “very hidden” practice for Ireland but a real one. The new legislative proposal is the result of a strategy begun earlier in 2016 against sexual and gender-based violence, which will allow Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill has backed a massive petition aimed at outlawing abortion in the country. From a position of unrestricted abortion, a legacy of communist-era rule, a growing number of Russian citizens are voicing pro-life sentiments. One result of this is a 300,000-strong petition urging the government to enact legislation to combat the rate of terminations, together with a ban on ‘morning-after pills’. Supporters of the petition argue that abortion harms both women and the demographics of the nation. Signing the petition, Patriarch Kirill called abortion “a national catastrophe”.