Friday, April 27, 2007

Judges say Muslims’ veils allowed in courts

LONDON — Muslim women should be allowed to wear a veil in British courts, as long it does not interfere with court proceedings, senior judges said in guidelines published Tuesday.

Decisions on whether to allow the full facial covering, known as the niqab, should be made on a case-by-case basis, the Judicial Studies Board’s Equal Treatment Advisory Committee said.

The guidance was issued after an immigration judge adjourned a case in Stoke-on-Trent, in central England, last November because he could not hear a Muslim lawyer who refused to remove her veil. The case resumed after her firm sent another lawyer to represent her client in court.

Forcing a woman to choose between participating in a court case or removing her veil could have a “significant impact on that woman’s sense of dignity” and could exclude and marginalize her, the panel said.

The issue of face-covering veils has stoked debate over religious tolerance and cultural assimilation in Britain, which is home to 1.6 million Muslims.

Baptist baptisms drop for 2nd year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The number of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches has fallen for the second consecutive year despite a push by top leaders to evangelize.

At the same time, national membership increased by less than 1 percent, but more churches were built, according to the 2006 profile of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, a Southern Baptist agency that conducts the annual survey, said the findings show that denomination has not been effective in “stepping up to the task of sharing the Gospel with a lost and dying world.”

Baptisms dropped from 371,850 to 364,826, or 1.89 percent, last year, the lowest annual total since 1993, according to Baptist Press. In 2005, baptisms decreased by 4.15 percent.

National membership reached 16,306,246 — up by nearly 36,000 in 2005. The number of churches across the country increased by 524, or 1.2 percent, to 44,223.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Victims’ monument stands against abuse

GRAND MOUND, Iowa — A monument honoring the victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests has been placed near a small eastern Iowa parish where a predator once served.

Parishioners of the SS. Philip & James Catholic Church in Grand Mound unveiled the granite monument last Sunday. They and members of a group called Catholics for Spiritual Healing raised the $4,000 needed for the creation and placement of the 3-foot-high monument.

The torch and flame design depicts an angel and a small boy carrying a Bible.

The verse is from Luke 12: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

The monument is inscribed, “dedicated to our children who survived abuse by those we trusted.”

It will be placed in the yard outside the parish, the last stop in the 40-year career of James Janssen, a former priest who worked in the church from 1980 to 1990. Mr. Janssen was accused of sexually assaulting about a dozen boys in six parishes over three decades. The church placed him on indefinite leave in August 1990 and defrocked him in 2004.

From combined wire and dispatch reports

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