Debate About Religious Freedom in the U.S.: News Roundup

In the news this week: interesting debate and conversation about threats to religious freedom, further investigation into the anti-Sharia movement, NJ nurses settle in abortion assistance case, and other stories.

Thomas Farr and Timothy Shah, of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, organized a discussion at the NY Times that explores threats to religious freedom in the U.S. Debaters address a number of topics including: religion in the Public Square, Sikh Americans, religious persecution, Muslim Americans, and human rights vs. religious freedom. NY Times
Long before he announced his presidential run this year, Newt Gingrich had become the most prominent American politician to embrace an alarming premise: that Shariah, or Islamic law, poses a threat to the United States as grave as or graver than terrorism. But he is not the only anti-Sharia activist. 
Opponents are numerous. Mohamed Elibiary, a Muslim and an adviser to law enforcement agencies in Texas and to the Department of Homeland Security, is a conservative Republican who said he once idolized Mr. Gingrich. He said he no longer did.
He said the anti-Shariah campaign in the United States was “propaganda for jihadists,” offering fuel for the idea of a titanic clash of faiths. Those who truly want to protect American values should talk to Muslims, he said, not demonize them.  “There are plenty of American Muslim patriots who will defend American freedoms,” Mr. Elibiary said. “But you can’t be anti-Islam and find those allies.” NY Times
The St. Petersburg Times explores when and where “Merry Christmas” is legal for use in the federal government. St. Petersburg Times
Twelve nurses who sued one of the state’s largest hospitals after claiming they were forced to assist in abortions over their religious and moral objections reached a deal Thursday with their employer in federal court.
Under the agreement, 12 nurses in the same-day surgery unit of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey can remain in their current positions and not be compelled to assist in any part of an abortion procedure. The nurses must only help in a life-threatening emergency if no other non-objecting staff members are available and only until which time one can be brought in to relieve them, according to the agreement. Washington Post
Two Islamic religious leaders from Tennessee filed a lawsuit against two airlines Monday, claiming they were discriminated against and not allowed to fly on a plane in May because of the way they looked. Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, both imams, request a jury trial in the suit, filed in federal court against Delta Air Lines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines.
In the suit, the two said they arrived at the Memphis, Tennesseee, International Airport on May 6, wearing traditional Muslim attire, including religious garb and headgear. The two were headed from Memphis to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend a conference on anti-Muslim bigotry. CNN