FaithWorld

UK Supreme Court says Scientology is a religion and allows wedding

(Judges from the Supreme Court process to Westminster Abbey for a service to mark the beginning of the legal year, London October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

A woman who wants to get married in a chapel of the Church of Scientology in London won her case on Wednesday at Britain’s Supreme Court, which ruled that Scientology was a religion and the chapel was a place where marriages could be solemnized.

Louisa Hodkin, 25, had launched legal action after officials refused to record the chapel as a place that could be used to celebrate marriages, citing a court ruling from 1970 that said Scientology did not involve religious worship.

“My fiance and I have always believed in the fairness of the British legal process. It’s been a long and demanding journey, but the Supreme Court’s decision today has made it all worthwhile,” Hodkin said in a statement.

“We are really excited that we can now get married.”

The Church of Scientology itself was not a party to the legal action, but the Supreme Court’s ruling is a notable victory for an organization that has struggled to gain recognition as a genuine religion in many countries.

Mormon church explains its defunct ban on blacks in the priesthood

(The Mormon Tabernacle Choir of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sings during the fourth session of the 181st Annual General Conference of the church in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 3, 2011. REUTERS/George Frey )

Thirty-five years after lifting a ban on blacks entering the priesthood, the Mormon church has offered an explanation for a practice that was in place for more than 100 years, saying it was rooted in the racism of the times.

A church-produced essay, “Race and the Priesthood,” ties the ban to an 1852 speech by Brigham Young, the faith’s second president, who led the church to Utah, and distances the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the policy.

Atheists face death in 13 countries and global discrimination: study

(A humanist wedding ceremony in Slane, County Meath, Ireland on July 17, 2013. Traditionally Catholic Ireland has allowed atheist wedding ceremonies this year for the first time. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)

In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.

And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.

Pope Francis is named Time magazine’s Person of the Year

(Pope Francis waves as he arrives to conduct his weekly general audience at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)

Time magazine named Pope Francis its Person of the Year on Wednesday, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church while capturing the imagination of millions of people who had become disillusioned with the Vatican.

This is the third time the magazine has chosen a pope as its Person of the Year. Time gave that honor to Pope John Paul II in 1994 and to Pope John XXIII in 1963.

from The Great Debate:

Human Rights Day: Still pursuing religious freedom

December 10 marks Human Rights Day, the 65th anniversary of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed by 48 nations -- with just eight abstentions.

Sixty-five years ago, naysayers insisted it was nobody else’s business how governments behaved within their borders. The declaration confronted this cynical view -- and continues to do so today. Human rights abuses and their consequences spill beyond national borders, darkening prospects for harmony and stability across the globe. Freedom of religion or belief, as well as other human rights, are essential to peace and security. They are everyone’s business.

Each signatory nation pledged to honor and protect these rights. For example, the declaration provides the foundation for much of the agenda of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which we serve.

Hopi Indian sacred objects sold in Paris auction despite protests

(A man looks at an antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1860-1870, revered as a sacred ritual artifact by the Native American Hopi tribe in Arizona, displayed at the Drouot auction house ahead of its sale in Paris December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

French auctioneers sold a trove of Hopi Native American artifacts on Monday over the objections of the Arizona tribe, which considers them sacred, and a last-minute appeal from the United States.

The sale of about three dozen masks dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries followed a judge’s dismissal of a legal challenge last week brought on behalf of the tribe to cancel the sale by the Eve auction house in Paris.

South Africans remember Nelson Mandela with a day of praise and prayers

(People attend a special Sunday morning service dedicated to Nelson Mandela at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Wessels)

With hymns and eulogies, South Africans of all colors and creeds remembered Nelson Mandela in a day of prayers on Sunday, holding him up as a symbol of freedom, forgiveness and hope for the nation and the world.

At churches, mosques, synagogues and community halls from the Limpopo River to the Cape, millions offered praise and reflected on a man celebrated as “Father of the Nation” and as a global beacon of integrity, rectitude and reconciliation.

Guestview: The emerging role of religion in Egypt

(Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam in Cairo, December 7, 2013/Dar al-Ifta)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Shawky Allam is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

By Grand Mufti Shawky Allam

As Egypt moves ahead along its roadmap after the new draft constitution was brought to fruition, it is only natural to expect more changes in the near future.

But how Egypt will change? What will it develop into? One of the most important questions is what role religion and religious forces will play in the still emerging political scene. Because Egyptian society remains a profoundly religious, the burning question is who can adequately represent the religious interests of the masses and direct them towards peaceful and productive democratic ends?

Malaysia ruling party tightens embrace of Islam to gain support

(Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak (front R) announces the 2014 budget at the parliament in Kuala Lumpur October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Samsul Said)

Malaysia’s ruling party, stung by an election setback in May, is burnishing its Islamic credentials, aiming to gain ground among majority ethnic Malay voters in a move that could heighten concern over growing religious intolerance in the multi-racial Southeast Asian country.

The coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) suffered its worst election result, hurt by the desertion of ethnic Chinese voters and many urban dwellers, including Muslim Malays, its traditional bedrock of support.

Pope Francis to set up special committee on child sex abuse by priests

(Workers erect a Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican December 5, 2013. This year’s Christmas tree to decorate St Peter’s Square comes from Bavaria in Germany, and is 25 meters tall and weighs 7.2 tons. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

Pope Francis is to set up a special committee to help protect children against sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, said on Thursday.

The move is Francis’ first major step to address the crisis that has discredited the church, in the face of charges the Vatican has not done enough to protect children or make amends.