Public School Graduation, Prayers and Church: News Roundup

This week saw several different cases involving religion and the law: a Muslim woman was fined for wearing a burqa in public in Italy, two cases around high school graduation and religion made headlines and the Workplace Religious Freedom Act is getting attention on Capitol Hill. Also, updates on Nigeria and the National Day of Prayer.

Europe’s burqa ban debate made its way from Belgium over to Italy this week. A 26-year-old Tunisian Muslim woman was fined last Friday when she wore the face-covering veil in public on her way to her mosque in northern Italy. Police stopped her and her husband while they were walking and wrote her $650 ticket for violating a new law that “bans clothing in public that prevents identification by the police.”
The mayor of the town, who passed the law in January said:
"There are still some people that refuse to understand that our community in Novara does not accept and does not want people going around wearing the burka."
He said the by-law was:
"The only tool at our disposal to stop behaviour that makes the already difficult process of integration even harder". (BBC reports).
Graduation has brought up some questions over the separation of church and state in public schools this year. In Indiana, a federal judge ruled that students can not read a prayer at their high school graduation because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Interestingly, a Quinnipiac professor pointed to the Supreme Court’s recent Mojave cross decision when discussing the issue of holding graduation at a church, saying, “the California decision indicated ‘there are times when what otherwise would be a religious symbol doesn't serve a religious purpose’” (Hartford Courant reports).
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act is getting attention on Capitol Hill more than ten years after it was introduced. The bill would “revise and strengthen the existing requirements imposed on employers to accommodate the religious practices of their employees,” specifically accommodations with religious clothing, grooming and scheduling of holidays.
And now some updates –
Nigeria buried President Umaru Yar'Adua this week and swore in its interim president, Goodluck Jonathan. Politicians are calling the power transfer “smooth;” however, if Jonathan tries to run for president in elections next year it could mean more trouble for Nigeria, which has been in the midst of Christian-Muslim violence over the last few months.
An “unwritten power-sharing agreement” says that the presidency must alternate between a candidate from the mainly-Christian south and one from the mainly-Muslim north every 8 years. Since Yar-Adua was Muslim and was in the middle of his term, Jonathan’s candidacy (he’s a southerner) could upset this fragile balance.
National Day of Prayer
We’ll see you for more news and views next week!