- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2014

Last month, the town of Greece, N.Y., won its fight to offer a prayer before its government board meetings, but with that victory came the stipulation that anyone was free to say one.

Next month, the town is making good on its word, and welcoming Dan Courtney, a member of the Atheist Community of Rochester, as he gives the invocation.

Mr. Courtney told the Religion News Service that his speech will “focus on inclusion.”

“For too long the invocations at these meetings were invitation only affairs, as if the public space was a private club. The result was over a decade of solely Christian prayer,” Mr. Courtney posted on his Facebook page. “The Court may have ruled in favor of the Town of Greece, but the real legal victory” is ensuring that “the party is no longer private. And the festivities have just begun.”

Mr. Courtney is scheduled to give the invocation at the town’s board meeting July 15.

Freedom Flip Flop

A Sudanese mother who was freed from a death sentence and arrested again in less than a day has been released from police custody.

A lawyer for Meriam Ibrahim told the Associated Press on Thursday that the 27-year-old Christian woman had been released from custody after she and her family were detained at Khartoum’s airport.

Reuters reported earlier in the week that Sudanese authorities had summoned the American and South Sudanese ambassadors. The AP reported her release came after pressure from foreign diplomats.

Ms. Ibrahim had been imprisoned in Sudan after a court sentenced her to death last month for apostasy, ruling that because her father was Muslim, she was a Muslim despite her having been raised solely by her Orthodox Christian mother. She was given a chance to embrace Islam, but refused.

Ms. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American citizen whom she married in 2011. They have an 18-month-old son, Martin, and Ms. Ibrahim also gave birth to a daughter while behind bars. The Sudanese court that ruled she was a Muslim said, accordingly, that the marriage was invalid and thus she was an adulterer. Sudan enforces Sharia law, which prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, requires women to follow their father’s religion, and makes both adultery and apostasy criminal offenses.

No-fly no-no

A federal judge in Oregon this week ordered the government to come up with a new way to allow passengers on the “no-fly list” to challenge their status.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown ruled the current method was infringing on the due process rights of the 13 American Muslims who brought the lawsuit against the government.

In her written opinion, Judge Brown labeled the process “ineffective,” and that the plaintiffs “have constitutionally-protected liberty interests in traveling internationally by air, which are significantly affected by being placed on the No-Fly List.”

Those on the list also are impacted by the negative reputation that comes with being considered a threat to national security.

The case, the Religion News Service reported, stems from a 2010 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the 13 American Muslims, who were not allowed to board a plane and never given a reason for being blocked.

The Council on American Islamic Relations applauded the judge’s order, which sends a “strong affirmation of the constitutional principle that rights, such as the right to travel freely, cannot be curtailed without due process of law,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said.

Survey of self

Catholics are having a hard time accepting church teaching, a new report found, especially hot-button social issues like birth control and gay marriage.

On Thursday, the Vatican released its analysis of a survey sent out last year to various churches and conferences in preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome.

“When the Church’s teaching about marriage and the family is known, many Christians have difficulty accepting it in its entirety,” the report found. “Generally speaking, where certain elements of Christian doctrine, although relevant, receive treatment, in varying degrees, other elements are overlooked, e.g., birth control, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, cohabitation, fidelity, premarital sex, in vitro fertilization, etc. However, many responses recount how Church teaching on the dignity of human life and respect for human life might be more widely and readily accepted, at least in principle.”

The report also found that some of the blame for Catholics being unfamiliar with Church teaching can be placed on clergy.

“Some observations inferred that the clergy sometimes feel so unsuited and ill-prepared to treat issues regarding sexuality, fertility and procreation that they often choose to remain silent,” the report found. “Some responses also voice a certain dissatisfaction with some members of the clergy who appear indifferent to some moral teachings. Their divergence from Church doctrine leads to confusion among the People of God. Consequently, some responses ask that the clergy be better prepared and exercise a sense of responsibility in explaining the Word of God and presenting the documents of the Church on marriage and the family.”

Meredith Somers covers issues of faith and religion. She can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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