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USA News

After Inaugural Rhetoric on Unity, Biden Signs Divisive Transgender Executive Order

Daily Signal by Ryan T. Anderson

Through litigation and legislation, we need to make it clear that it’s lawful to act on the convictions that we are created male and female, and that male and female are created for each other, that no institution has to let males compete against females in sports, that no institution has to allow males into women-only locker rooms and shelters, that no physician has to engage in so-called gender-affirming care.

Uniting Americans with … transgender mandates?

Freedom2Care blog - Jonathan Imbody

Following are excerpts from this Executive Order (EO) and potential applications that fall within the fairly wide bounds of authority covered by the EO:
EO: "People should be able to access healthcare … without being subjected to sex discrimination."
Potential application: The words sound innocuous, but as demonstrated by the Obama administration's transgender mandate, this policy can translate into forcing physicians and health practices to participate in transgender surgeries and transitioning measures, regardless of conscience or medical concerns. Medical concerns include depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and some types of cancer.

Cardinal Dolan: Right to religious freedom rooted in human dignity

Vatican News

According to Cardinal Dolan, religious freedom opens up space for this dialogue “by allowing communities to live in accordance with their convictions and thus contribute to the larger society”. “When that space for dialogue is constricted, the broader society suffers”, the prelate emphasized, expressing hope that American Catholics and all people of good will commit themselves to nurturing the country’s "great legacy of religious liberty for all".

Court blocks mandate forcing doctors to perform controversial gender transition procedures

Becket

A federal court in North Dakota just blocked a requirement known as the Transgender Mandate that would force medical professionals and religious hospitals to perform gender transition procedures on their patients—including children—even when the procedures are potentially harmful. In 2016, the federal government issued a mandate, applicable to nearly every doctor in the country, interpreting the Affordable Care Act to require them to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including children, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient.
“Now more than ever, Americans are grateful for the sacrifices of our medical professionals who serve on the front lines and use their training and expertise to serve the vulnerable,” said Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket. “The court’s decision recognizes our medical heroes’ right to practice medicine in line with their conscience and without politically motivated interference from government bureaucrats.”

Small Business Admin. calls for faith-based organizations to be eligible for assistance

Fox 17

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) has proposed a rule which would allow faith-based organizations to be eligible for some SBA business loans and disaster assistance.
Currently, some organizations cannot take part in relief programs due to their religious status. SBA wants to remove the provisions, stating they "exclude a class of potential participants based solely on their religious status" which violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Martin Luther King Jr.: religious freedom champion

Philadelphia Tribune

King equated the freedom to choose between competing options as essential to humanity in a 1963 address titled “A Challenge to Churches and Synagogues.”
After a litany of questions a truly free person is allowed to decide for himself or herself (vocation, political party, religious tradition), King declared that without the ability to make such decisions freely a person is “reduced to an animal.”
In the same address he asserted that faith communities “are called to be the thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society, not thermometers that merely record or register the temperature of the majority opinion.”

Bishops applaud HHS rule change that aids adoption, foster care providers

CSF

The chairmen noted how Catholic and other faith-based agencies annually serve thousands of families through adoption and foster care. "Many of these agencies have been doing this work long before the government became involved," their statement said.
"It is a sad reality that state and local government agencies in multiple jurisdictions have already succeeded in shutting down Catholic adoption and foster care providers who operated in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church," the chairmen said. "With over 400,000 children in foster care, we need to work together to take steps to increase -- not decrease -- opportunities for children to be placed with safe and loving families."
"We appreciate the finalization of these rule modifications," they added.

EEOC updates religious discrimination policy

U..S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The number of religious discrimination charges filed with EEOC has increased significantly from fiscal years 1997 to 2019, although the total number of such charges remains relatively small compared to charges filed on other bases. Many employers seek legal guidance in managing equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) issues that arise from religious diversity as well as the demands of the modern American workplace. This document is designed to be a practical resource for employers, employees, practitioners, and EEOC enforcement staff on Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination. It explains the variety of issues considered in workplace-related religious discrimination claims, discusses typical scenarios that may arise, and provides guidance to employers on how to balance the rights of individuals in an environment that includes people of varying religious faiths, or no faith.

Supreme Court hears campus religious freedom, free speech case

The Pathway

College officials first silenced Chike by limiting when and where he could speak, telling him to reserve one of the two tiny campus “speech zones.” Yet, when Chike followed their directions, campus police approached, telling him to stop because someone had complained. The officers demanded his ID card and ordered him to stop speaking, threatening him with discipline, even expulsion, if he continued to share his faith.
Joseph Bradford was also a student at the time, and also wanted to share his faith with other students, but was “chilled” from speaking by the knowledge of the college policy and the threat of discipline.
Alliance Defending Freedom challenged the college’s unconstitutional policies in federal trial court. Eventually, in response to the lawsuit, the college made some changes to its speech policies and argued that it should be able to avoid any penalties for violating Chike and Joseph’s First Amendment rights.

Panel Urged to Grant Iowa University Officials Immunity in Religious Freedom Case

Courthouse News Service

U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled that the university did not consistently enforce that policy against all student groups. For example, it allows one group, Love Works, to bar from its leadership students who do not subscribe to its religious beliefs that support gay rights while saying InterVarsity may not enforce its traditional biblical views on sexuality.
Rose also held that three University of Iowa administrators directly involved in the decision to revoke InterVarsity’s campus privileges are individually liable for damages. The university appealed Rose’s decision on that issue to the Eighth Circuit, arguing the administrators should be granted qualified immunity from personal liability.
Kobes questioned Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel for the religious liberty law firm Becket which represented InterVarsity in Wednesday’s argument, about qualified immunity granted to BLiNC but not to InterVarsity. In response, Blomberg said, “That’s not our argument.” Rather, he said, InterVarsity is arguing that the university cannot say that one student group may not discriminate on the basis of its religious beliefs while saying other groups may do so.

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International News

Bob Fu Argues that the Chinese are Hostile to Religious Freedom Because They're Terrified of It

Washington Watch - Tony Perkins

Bob Fu, FRC’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom, joins Tony Perkins to discuss his new book, “The Politics of Inclusive Pluralism: A Proposed Foundation for Religious Freedom in a Post-Communist, Democratic China.”

State Department accuses China of genocide against Uighur Muslims

Politico

The State Department on Tuesday declared China’s human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region a “genocide” against ethnic Uighur Muslims in one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s final acts before leaving office. Specifically, Pompeo alleged that China was guilty of “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.”

USCIRF Releases New Report about Key U.S. Government IRF Vacancies for Biden Administration to Fill

USCIRF

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following factsheet highlighting key positions in the United States government related to international religious freedom that require appointments by the incoming Biden administration:
Factsheet on Key U.S. Government IRF Positions - This factsheet provides an overview of the key political appointments within the U.S. government that have the most relevance to international religious freedom (IRF). The primary IRF positions that the president appoints derive from the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA): the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department; the Special Adviser for International Religious Freedom on the National Security Council (NSC) staff; and three of the nine USCIRF Commissioners. In addition, various current or recent State Department special envoy and representative positions—created either by acts of Congress or by presidents or secretaries of state—are relevant to IRF promotion.

USCIRF Condemns Crackdown on Baha’i Religious Observance, Land Ownership in Iran

USCIRF

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the alarming escalation of government measures targeting Baha’is in Iran on the basis of their faith.
On December 24, 2020, Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Hormozgan Province issued a verdict against eight Baha’is in Bandar Abbas banning them from participating in religious gatherings and requiring them to attend five “sectarian counseling” sessions with professors at the Andisheh Sajjadieh Institute. The ruling comes in the wake of court decisions declaring it illegal for Baha’is to own land in the town of Ivel and excusing 11 perpetrators who destroyed 50 Baha’i houses in the town in June 2010 and seized the land on which they were built.

Religious persecution around the world

CBN interview with USCIRF's Gayle Manchin

USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin spoke with CBN News about the state of religious freedom conditions around the world in the new year.

Turkey makes no progress in investigating abduction of elderly Christians

Ahval

Turkish authorities have failed to move forward with an investigation into the disappearance of an elderly Christian couple from Turkey’s southeastern province of Şırnak, Persecution.org website reported on Monday, citing the International Christian Concern (ICC).
Syriac Christian couple Hurmüz and Şimoni Diril, residents of the only Christian village of the town of Beytüşşebap, Kovankaya (Mehri), went missing on Jan. 7, 2020.
Turkish authorities launched an unsuccessful search and rescue operation. It was not until two months later, on March 20, 2020, that the dismembered body of Şimoni was found. But the whereabouts of Hurmüz remain unknown.

US group appeals for Pakistani woman jailed on blasphemy

AP

The U.S. religious watchdog appealed Friday for the rights of a Pakistani woman from the country’s minority Ahmadis who has been jailed on blasphemy charges, declaring her a prisoner of conscience and urging Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to immediately set her free.
The statement by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said 55-year-old Ramazan Bibi was jailed last April under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law that carries the death penalty.
Under the law, anyone accused of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death if found guilty. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, just the accusation of blasphemy can incite mobs in Pakistan.

USCIRF Condemns Harsh Sentence for Christian Bookseller Chen Yu

USCIRF

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the harsh and disproportionate sentence handed down to Chinese Christian bookseller Chen Yu. In September 2019, local authorities in Linhai City, Zhejiang Province, criminally detained Chen for selling Christian books imported from overseas. In September 2020, authorities sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment on the charge of “illegal business operations” and fined him 200,000 yuan (approximately US $30,000).
“The seven-year sentence for Christian bookseller Chen Yu is extremely disproportionate and outrageous. It further shows that the Chinese Communist government is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity,” said USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “I call on the local government in Linhai City to immediately grant him the right to post bail and appeal his sentence. Chen deserves to be home with his family this Christmas, not behind bars.”

Nigerian Christians killed in Christmas Eve attacks


Baptist Standard

At least a dozen Christians were killed and several churches burned in Christmas Eve attacks on villages in northern Nigeria following death threats by Boko Haram Islamist militants. Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria —EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria—reported three churches in Garkida, another village in northern Nigeria, were set on fire by Boko Haram, five individuals in the village were killed and five remained missing after a Christmas Eve attack.

Turkmenistan: Conscientious objector jailed, awaiting second trial

Forum 18

Police arrested 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector to military service Ruslan Artykmuradov on 15 December 2020. They transferred him on 18 December to the Pre-Trial Detention Prison in Turkmenabat in the eastern Lebap Region, where he remains awaiting trial for refusing compulsory military service. No trial date has yet been set. He has already served a one-year jail term on the same charges. If convicted, Artykmuradov would become the 25th conscientious objector to military service known to have been convicted and jailed since January 2018. All of them are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Ugandan Pastor Killed After Radio Broadcast Comparing Faiths

TAB Media

ADUKU, Uganda — Muslim extremists in Uganda killed a pastor Oct. 31 following a radio broadcast in which he compared Christianity and Islam. David Omara, 64, was a well-known pastor of Christian Church Center and a radio preacher. Immediately after the broadcast in Aduku, Omara received a call from someone “appreciating his presentation.” The caller requested to meet Omara, said son Simon Okut. When Omara and Okut arrived at the meeting place, six people dressed in Islamic attire emerged from bushes and attacked Omara. The assailants beat him with blunt objects and strangled him.

USCIRF Observes International Religious Freedom Day


USCIRF

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today commemorates International Religious Freedom (IRF) Day, October 27, 2020, marking the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). IRFA sought to make religious freedom a priority in U.S. foreign policy in a variety of ways, including by creating governmental institutions including USCIRF and the State Department’s IRF Office, requiring monitoring and reporting on religious freedom violations, and establishing consequences for the worst violators.

Image by Markus Winkler
 

Coronavirus News

HHS Launches Web-Based Locator for COVID-19 Outpatient Treatment Sites for Monoclonal Antibodies

For patients over 65 or those with comorbid conditions diagnosed with COVID, treatment with monoclonal antibodies can keep them from getting really ill, becoming hospitalized, or dying. Yet, 75% of the doses sent out across the country to prevent severe illness remain unused. Please share the COVID-19 Outpatient Treatment Locator [click button].

COVID Vaccines and Fetal Cells: What’s Ethical and What Isn’t? - by Randy Alcorn

The Christian Medical Association offers their similar assessment here. They say:
It is important to note that fetal cell lines can be used in three different stages of vaccine development: design, confirmation and ongoing production. Many ethicists, including those at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, believe that using a fetal cell line for ongoing vaccine production is more ethically problematic than using a fetal cell line for design or confirmation. The design and confirmation steps use a limited number of fetal cells while the production stage is continuous.

National Call for Plasma Donations

As COVID-19 infections spike nationwide, the demand for convalescent plasma is outpacing donations. Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last three months can donate now. Visit a local blood collection center, American Red Cross or America’s Blood Centers or visit TheFightisInUs.org to become a donor.

Faith Leader Interviews NIH Director on Vaccines

The Stetzer Leadership podcast is dedicated to helping church leaders navigate through the new reality of the coronavirus. In this episode, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health joins Ed Stetzer to discuss a faithful and responsible response to the current crisis and the vaccine program.

Trump administration makes sweeping changes to speed up pace of COVID-19 vaccinations

“We’ve got to get to more channels of administration. We’ve got to get it to pharmacies, get it to community health centers," Azar said. "It has been overly hospitalized so far in too many states. We have the vaccine. The demand is there. We have supplies that have not been ordered."

HHS Announces $22 Billion in Funding to Support Expanded Testing, Vaccination Distribution

CDC will provide more that $22 billion in funding to states, localities, and territories in support of the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for COVID-19 testing contract tracing, surveillance, containment, and mitigation to monitor and suppress the spread of COVID-19.

HHS Continues Community Based Testing Sites for COVID-19

HHS announced the extension of community-based testing through partnership with national pharmacy and retail chains. Learn how to get a COVID-19 test

CDC Toolkit Updates

CDC has updated its various COVID-19 Toolkits including those for Community-based Organizations and Communities of Faith.

HHS Sec. Azar Remarks at Operation Warp Speed Briefing

There is no reason that states need to complete, say, vaccinating all healthcare providers before opening up vaccinations to older Americans or other especially vulnerable populations. It would be much better to move quickly and end up vaccinating some lower-priority people than to let vaccines sit around while states try to micromanage this process. Faster administration could save lives right now, which means we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
I also want to reiterate that we’ve already provided considerable assistance to the states and other public health jurisdictions we’re working with: a federally created vaccination playbook, provided in September, that CDC has used to work with jurisdictions on their vaccination plans nearly every day since then; the kits with needles, syringes, swabs, and personal protective equipment needed to administer the vaccine; and $340 million for COVID-19 vaccine planning. Only a fraction of that $340 million in funding, I will note, has been drawn down by states.

Moderna increases minimum 2021 Covid vaccine production by 20% to 600 million doses

The company said it’s working to produce up to 1 billion doses of its Covid vaccine this year. The U.S. is on track to secure 100 million shots of Moderna’s vaccine by the end of March and additional 100 million by June, the Massachusetts-based company said in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine emergency authorization for people 18 and older in the United States in December and has started the drug’s initial rollout.
The federal government has agreed to buy 200 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine with the option to secure an additional 300 million, the company said.

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