FaithWorld

U.S. company religion case on Obamacare may shake shareholder faith

(News microphones wait to capture reactions from U.S. Supreme Court rulings outside the court building in Washington, June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst )

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

By Reynolds Holding

The U.S. Supreme Court may be getting ready to shake the faith of shareholders. Company boards have a legal duty to put business interests first. Yet a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that corporate healthcare insurance cover contraception could give biblical doctrine priority. Some laws designed to protect investors could suffer collateral damage.

The case raises the novel issue of whether for-profit corporations have religious rights under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws. Arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, a cabinet maker, say their owners’ beliefs excuse the companies from including birth control coverage in employee health plans.

Amidst the broader debate, one question is whether the firms’ boards can legally make this argument. State laws generally require company directors to enhance profit and shareholder value. They have leeway to make charitable donations, tout ideological positions and promote social objectives that have at least some business purpose. That’s why Apple AAPL.O Chief Executive Tim Cook could dismiss critics of the company’s renewable energy policies without fearing lawsuits.

French parents alone against Syrian jihadists recruiting their sons

(Dominique Bons, mother of 30-year-old Nicolas, a young convert to Islam who has died fighting in Syria, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Toulouse, southwestern France, March 10, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

When Dominique Bons’ timid son stopped smoking overnight and started praying frequently at his home in the southern French city of Toulouse, she alerted the authorities.

They did nothing because Nicolas was not suspected of any crime. One day last year he disappeared. Then Bons was sent a text message saying the 30-year-old had been “martyred” on December 22 driving a truck bomb in the Syrian city of Homs.

from The Human Impact:

Burmese journalist beseeches brethren: Stop with the Muslim hate speech

The slight, soft-spoken woman onstage called on the media and the rest of the country to let go of narrow-minded nationalism.

“This is a time to fight for democratisation. We have to respect each and every ethnic (group) as a human being,” beseeched Mon Mon Myat, whose meek bearing veils her ferocity as a powerful freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

It was refreshing to hear these words in a public forum in Myanmar because - let’s face it - such sentiments have been sorely lacking.

Salvation Army in New York settles long-running religious discrimination suit

Salvation Army members sing and dance at Rockefeller Center during Black Friday Sales in New York November 29, 2013. Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving Day holiday, has traditionally been the busiest shopping day in the United States. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Salvation Army has settled a lawsuit brought a decade ago by now-former employees who accused the U.S. charity of pressuring them to follow its religious mission while they worked on government-funded social service projects.

The organization’s greater New York division agreed to provide employees of its government-funded services including daycare centers and homeless shelters a document saying it will not ask about their religious beliefs or require them to profess adherence to its religious policies, said the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs.

Pakistani Islam students set Hindu temple ablaze over blasphemy rumour

A Hindu temple burns after it was attacked in Larkana, southern Pakistan’s Sindh province, March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Faheem Soormro

Hundreds of angry Pakistanis attacked a Hindu temple and set it on fire in southern Pakistan overnight following a rumour that a member of the Hindu community had desecrated the Koran, police and community leaders said on Sunday.

The incident took place just before midnight on Saturday after locals in Larkana district alleged that Sangeet Kumar, 42, had torn out pages of Islam’s holy book and tossed them down on the street from the roof of his home.

Reconstruction of Timbuktu’s destroyed tombs begins in Mali

A UN peacekeeper from Burkina Faso stands guard at the Djinguereber mosque, built in the 14th century, in Timbuktu, Mali, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Malian masons have begun rebuilding mausoleums in the historic city of Timbuktu destroyed by Islamists during their occupation of the country’s north, the United Nations said.

The earthen tombs of saints, located in the UNESCO listed desert city, were destroyed in July 2012 by militants who considered the local Sufi version of Islam to be idolatrous.

Vatican, Church of England and al-Azhar join forces to combat modern slavery

Australia mining tycoon Andrew Forrest (L) shakes hands with Mahmoud Azab, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar’s advisor for dialogue, during a news conference at the Vatican, March 17, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The Roman Catholic Church, Church of England and al-Azhar, the Cairo-based seat of Sunni Muslim learning, came together on Monday for a rare display of interfaith action among them in calling for an end to modern slavery within 20 years.

Their joint statement setting up the “Global Freedom Network” they declared that “physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children” trapped 30 million people worldwide in slavery.

Israel cuts army exemption granted to ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who study Torah for life

(Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men study at Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva, the largest Jewish seminary in Israel July 4, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Israel’s parliament on Wednesday approved a contentious law that abolishes blanket military exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students, ending a tradition upheld since the state’s foundation.

Finalised after months of political wrangling and likely to spark ultra-Orthodox rage, the legislation will be implemented fully in 2017 and limit the annual number of ultra-Orthodox men excused from compulsory military service to 1,800 granted “gifted scholar” status.

Ultra-Orthodox mayor wins vote in Beit Shemesh, an Israeli town torn by religion

(Campaign billboards for the  municipal election in the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem March 6, 2014. When residents of this Israeli town go to the ballots on Tuesday, they may decide more than a bitterly contested mayoral race. Many see the vote as a bellwether for the strained secular-religious ties in the Jewish state. Picture taken March 6, 2014. To match story ISRAEL-ULTRAORTHODOX/ REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

A bitter mayoral race in a town that has become a symbol of religious and political divisions in Israel ended on Wednesday with the victory of its ultra-Orthodox Jewish incumbent over his secular challenger.

Moshe Abutbul won the re-vote in Beit Shemesh, a town near Jerusalem that has become a focus of national attention in the Jewish state where secular-religious tensions often flare.

Timeline: The first year of the papacy of Francis

(Pope Francis on the flight to Rome from Brazil where he made his “who am I to judge?” comment, July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Luca Zennaro/Pool)

Below is a timeline of the major events since then and the key decisions he has made.

March 14: On the morning after his election, the pope makes a surprise visit to the Rome hotel for clerics where he was staying before his election and pays the bill.