The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
UK Bishops Nix Parliament Initiative
to Force Hiring of Gays in Churches
nglican bishops and other members of the House of Lords have nixed an attempt by the British government to force churches and other religious institutions to hire gays, lesbians, and transgender people.
The upper chamber of Parliament, which includes 26 Anglican bishops as members, rejected the proposed law change January 25 after church leaders argued it would violate tenets of their faith.
Under current British law, churches, mosques, and other religious establishments have the right to turn down candidates for jobs as ministers, priests, school principals or youth workers if they are actively gay or have had a sex change.
The defeated legislation would have required churches and other religious groups to hire key staff even if their lifestyles conflicted with accepted religious doctrine.
The House of Lords' rejection, with support from the Conservative opposition party, was hailed by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who holds the No. 2 spot in the Church of England hierarchy.
"If religion means anything," Sentamu said, "it must mean that those are matters for the churches and other religious organizations to determine themselves in accordance with their own convictions."
Poll: Nearly Half of Americans Admit to Anti-Muslim Bias
Close to half of Americans admit to harboring prejudice against Muslims and negative feelings about Islam, a new study from the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies shows.
The level of anti-Muslim prejudice—43 percent of Americans admitted feeling at least "a little"—is more than twice as high as Americans' reported feelings toward Buddhists, Christians and Jews.
Fifty-three percent of respondents said their view of Islam was "not too favorable" or "not favorable at all," according to a 32-page Religious Perceptions in America report released January 21.
"It was interesting to note that Americans admit no more prejudice against Buddhists and Jews than they do against Christians," said Dalia Mogahed, director of the Washington-based center. "So this isn't just simply a problem against minority religions. There is a somewhat unique issue with Muslims in particular."
The report also seemed to debunk the conventional wisdom that greater exposure to individual Muslims can be an antidote to anti-Muslim prejudice. Researchers found that personally knowing a Muslim may "soften extreme prejudice," but can't eliminate bias altogether.
"It suggests that you can know a Muslim but if you have a negative opinion of the faith as a whole because of media exposure, you can perhaps explain that this one friend of yours is an exception," said Mogahed.
The study drew on media studies that have found that prominent television news coverage of Islam tends to be negative and focuses on extremism. That, in turn, fuels anti-Muslim prejudice, Mogahed said.
"The default state for Americans is not having prejudice," Mogahed said. "Americans really have to learn prejudice by being inundated by negative information."
Military Contractor to Pull Bible Verses on Weapons
A Michigan-based military contractor said on January 21 it will remove encoded Scripture references on weapons it builds for U.S. military after a firestorm of complaints arose from both believers and atheists.
"Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate," said Stephen Bindon, president and CEO of Trijicon Inc., which is based in Wixom, Michigan.
"We want to thank the Department of Defense for the opportunity to work with them and will move as quickly as possible to provide the modification kits for deployment overseas."
On January 18, ABC News' "Nightline" reported on the biblical references on weapons used by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq after learning about them from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group. One rifle sight included the code "JN8:12," a reference to the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, "He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Mikey Weinstein, founder of the watchdog group, hailed the decision by the Michigan company. “Trijicon's outrageous practice of placing Bible verse citations on military-issued gunsights for weapons was an unconstitutional disgrace of the highest magnitude to our military and an action that clearly gave additional incentive and emboldenment to recruiters for our nation's enemies," he said.
The military contractor said it took action "in response to concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Defense."
The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, urged President Obama on January 21 to launch a thorough investigation "aimed at creating guidelines that ensure that religion no longer plays an inappropriate role in our armed forces."
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said the weapons are another example of a "crusade mentality" espoused by some Americans, who had earlier preached about a war against Christianity or included Bible verses on intelligence reports for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "Such twisted misuses of Christianity reflect badly on
Christianity," he said.
French Panel Wants Ban on Some Islamic Veils
Six years after banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in public schools, French lawmakers appear close to a measure to ban women from wearing face-covering veils in some public spaces.
On January 26, a parliamentary commission delivered a long-awaited report recommending that women be barred from wearing the full veil in public institutions and on public transportation. The bipartisan panel also recommended that foreigners who wear the full veil be denied French citizenship and residency. But in an indication of the issue's sensitivity, the panel did not call for banning the garment from private buildings or public spaces such as streets.
"Scandalous practices are being hidden behind the full veil that go against our history," said French Communist deputy André Gerin, the commission's head, in broadcasted remarks. "... To say no to the full veil, we have decided to wage a political battle."
Of France's 6 million Muslims, only a small percentage of women-- the government estimates less than 2,000--wear the full veil, known as the niqab in most Arab countries.
Even so, the garment has sparked one of France's hottest debates in years after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced last June that the full veil was not welcome in France. Recent polls also indicate the majority of French back a ban.
Supporters argue the garment symbolizes female oppression and presents a security risk, since it hides the wearer's face. But they argue the ban is not aimed against Islam, and note that even Muslim leaders say face veils are not a religious obligation.