What are the limits of free speech?: News Roundup

Stories from around the world of religion and religious diversity this week include the Pastor Jones controversy, a new anti-terrorism hearing that has Muslim and other religious/interfaith groups up in arms, a ruling in a Wal-Mart religious discrimination case and more.

  • New York State Senator Gregory Ball has scheduled hearings on terrorism preparedness for today in New York City. As reported in The New York Times, witnesses to be called include controversial figures Rep. Peter King, and Frank Gaffney, a former Department of Defense staffer who has been critical of Islam; religious and interfaith groups fear the potential for anti-Muslim rhetoric. Talking Points Memo also reports.
  • The Los Angeles Times profiled Sharif El-Gamal, the real estate developer behind the Park51 project in lower Manhattan. “"Are we supposed to move so we can create a Muslim-free zone, Muslim-free blocks?" El-Gamal asked heatedly. "That makes no sense. … What happened on 9/11 was a criminal act of mass murder that had nothing to do with my people or my community. And it's about time we put a clear line in the sand."”
  • Violence erupted in Afghanistan after Florida Pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Qur’an. (Voice of America) In addition to riots, protestors stormed a UN building, killing eight UN aid workers and four others. Pastor Jones denied being the inspiration for the violence. (USA Today) However, Jones’s actions are raising questions about “what constitutes responsible free speech. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CBS Sunday Morning that that's an issue he plans to take up in Congress. "I wish we could find some way to hold people accountable," he said. "Free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war. During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy."” (NPR)
  • Police have arrest a second student in last week’s disturbing hate crime against a 13-year-old Muslim girl on Staten Island. (New York Post) Thirteen-year-old Krystal Callendar was slapped with the same charges as Osman Daramy, including felony assault as a hate crime and aggravated harassment as a hate crime.
  • A federal appellate court found that Wal-Mart was not guilty of religious discrimination for firing an employee who told a lesbian co-worker that God does not like gays and she would go to hell. (Chicago Sun-Times) “In her suit, Matthews claimed Wal-Mart engaged in religious discrimination by firing her for expressing religious beliefs. “But if Matthews is arguing that Wal-Mart must permit her to admonish gays at work to accommodate her religion, the claim fails,” the Appeals Court stated in its decision. Wal-Mart “fired her because she violated company policy when she harassed a coworker, not because of her beliefs,” the ruling states.”
  •  Med City News asks, Should nurses provide spiritual care and support to patients? “The goal of the professional nurse should involve healing the whole person, not just the immediate and tangible physical ailments of the patient.”
  • An Illinois judge struck down a state rule that required all pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception; the rule was challenged by two pharmacists who oppose emergency contraception on religious grounds. ( ) “Judge Belz wrote that that state provided “no evidence of a single person who ever was unable to obtain emergency contraception because of a religious objection. … Nor did the government provide any evidence that anyone was having difficulties finding willing sellers of over-the-counter Plan B, either at pharmacies or over the Internet.” Belz added that the state conceded that any health impact from the pro-life pharmacy owners’ religious objections “would be minimal.”” USA Today also reports.