- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mormon church claims 13 million members

SALT LAKE CITY — Worldwide membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has reached 13 million, the church says.

The church, based in Salt Lake City, continues to have more members outside of the United States than within it, officials said.

The church also announced another milestone — more than 1 million members have served as missionaries since 1830. About 53,000 currently serve as missionaries.

Much of the church’s growth comes from aggressive outreach by young missionaries, who typically serve two-year terms that they fund mostly by themselves.

“They face rejection and sometimes verbal abuse. But they soldier on,” said M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a church governing group. “They serve, they help others and they go the extra mile to lift and bless people in all walks of life and in all human conditions.”

Chastity ring issue taken to court

LONDON — A teenage girl banned from wearing a chastity ring in class has taken her case to Britain’s High Court, arguing that her school had violated her religious freedom.

Lydia Playfoot, 16, a pupil at the Millais School in Horsham, about 40 miles south of London, wears a ring as a sign of her commitment to abstinence from sex until marriage. The school said the ring fell outside its uniform policy, which makes exceptions for Muslims wearing head scarves and Sikhs wearing steel bracelets.

The chastity rings do not form an integral part of the Christian faith, Headmaster Leon Nettley said. That violated Lydia’s freedom of religion, lawyer Paul Diamond argued before the court.

“Secular authorities and institutions cannot be arbiters of religious faith,” he said.

In a written submission to the hearing, Lydia said her school did not afford equal rights to Christians, as it did to other faiths.

“At my school, Muslims are allowed to wear head scarves and other faiths can wear bangles and other types of jewelry and it feels like Christians are being discriminated against,” she said.

Mr. Nettley denied the charge. The ring “is not a Christian symbol, and is not required to be worn by any branch within Christianity,” he said in his own written statement.

Union members can opt out of dues

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Roman Catholic teacher whose religious beliefs conflict with the political positions of her labor union cannot be forced to pay dues, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost’s ruling broadens the category of employees who may opt out of unions because of religious beliefs beyond Seventh-day Adventists and Mennonites.

In his ruling last week, Judge Frost struck down the Ohio law that held only members of religions that “historically held conscientious objections” to union membership could opt out. The judge said anyone with demonstrated religious beliefs should be exempt from paying dues to unions whose positions they find objectionable.

The law discriminated among religions by recognizing the Seventh-day Adventist and Mennonite objections to joining unions while denying the same right to others, the judge said.

The teacher, Carol Katter, refused to pay dues to the National Education Association, claiming she opposes abortion rights and that view is conflict with the union’s position on the issue. She sued the State Employment Relations Board after the panel ruled against her request for a religious exemption.

The National Right to Work Foundation, which opposes mandatory union membership, funded Miss Katter’s legal fight.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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