- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2014

The town at the center of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that endorsed prayers before government meetings has adopted new guidelines that have some worried that nonreligious groups will be limited in their participation.

The Town of Greece, New York, recently approved an opening invocation policy for town meetings, insisting that it is not “establishing a policy that defines the constitutional limits for permissible public invocations,” but rather a policy that “will not show a purposeful preference of one religious view over another.”

But Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said the new rules seem “to exclude the nonreligious from delivering an invocation.”

“If this policy does, in effect, bar the nonreligious from delivering invocations, it would represent a disappointing step backward for the Town of Greece,” Mr. Lindsay said.

Earlier this summer, however, a member of the Atheist Community of Rochester gave an invocation before the town’s board meeting.

Fashion faux pas

SEE ALSO: Higher Ground: James Foley said prayer gave him ‘inner freedom’

Clothing chain Zara apologized this week for selling a children’s shirt that looked like prison shirts worn in Jewish concentration camps.

The company offered its “sincere apologies for any hurt to our customers’ feelings,” in a statement, reported the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The shirt, which was for sale on Zara’s online stores in Israel, France, Albania and Sweden, was supposed to be reminiscent of a Wild West sheriff’s shirt, the Huffington Post reported, with blue and white stripes and a bright yellow sheriff’s badge on the left breast.

Critics took to social media just hours after the shirt went on sale, pointing out the grim parallel between the shirt and the uniforms — complete with yellow star — worn by Jewish people in the brutal Nazi camps.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that several years ago the clothing chain was forced to remove a handbag that had Hindu symbols on it, including swastikas.

Safety vs. Scarves

Sikh road warriors in Ontario might have to find somewhere else to ride after the province’s premier announced a rider’s faith did not exempt them from a law mandating wearing a motorcycle helmet.

The Religion News Service reported that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne sent a letter this month to the Canadian Sikh Association saying that “safety trumps religious freedom.”

“Ultimately, the safety of Ontarians is my utmost priority, and I cannot justify setting that concern aside,” Ms. Wynne said.

The Sikh association, the news service reported, had hoped to get an exemption from wearing the helmets because they did not fit over the turbans of male riders, who wear their heads covered as a sign of their faith.

The association said it was “deeply disappointed,” the news agency reported, and would either take the issue to court or to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Porn peek

In yet another installment of “well, duh,” a new study shows that a majority of American men first saw pornography in their early teens.

A new study by the Barna Group, which earlier this month studied the porn-watching habits of Americans, found that 88 percent of men had viewed pornography by their 16th birthday.

About 22 percent of men identified as Christian said they first saw pornography after 16 years old, compared to 23 percent of non-Christian men.

The survey also found that Christian and non-Christian men shared similar percentages when it came to the ages when they lost their virginity. The study found that 76 percent of Christian men had sex for the first time at no younger at 16, compared to 79 percent of non-Christian men.

The study was based on the answers of 1,000 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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