State Department Report Shows Increasing Religious Discrimination: News Roundup

In the news this week:  State Department report shows rise in worldwide religious discrimination, U.S. Federal Court blocks portion of new Health Care mandate,  opposition to mosque may determine Tennessee election, and other stories.

Religious minorities continue to suffer loss of their rights across the globe, the State Department reported Monday (July 30), with a rise in blasphemy laws and restrictions on faith practices.
 
Almost half of the world’s governments “either abuse religious minorities or did not intervene in cases of societal abuse,” said Ambassador-at-Large Suzan Johnson Cook at a State Department briefing on the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report.
 
“It takes all of us — governments, faith communities, civil society working together to ensure that all people have the right to believe or not to believe,” she said. Washington Post
 
The U.S. District Court for Colorado on Friday blocked the Obama administration from requiring an air-conditioning company in Colorado to provide no co-pay contraceptives to its employees, as the Affordable Care Act directs.
 
It was, as Sam Baker points out, the first time a federal court has ruled against that provision of the health-care law.
 
It’s not yet, however, exactly a victory for the contraceptive mandate’s opponents: The injunction is specific to that one company, and it holds only until the judge can reach a verdict on the case’s merits. Still, it could mark the start of a long period of litigation involving one of the health-care law’s most polarizing provisions.
 
Hercules v. Sebelius is a case brought by Hercules Industries, a Colorado-based air-conditioning company. The four siblings who own the business say they oppose contraceptives — such medications are not included in their current health coverage plan — and “seek to run Hercules in a manner that reflects their sincerely-held religious beliefs.” Washington Post
 
A female judo fighter from Saudi Arabia will be allowed to compete in the Olympics wearing a form of headscarf after a compromise was reached that respects the "cultural sensitivity" of the Muslim kingdom.
 
Judo officials had previously said they would not let Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani compete in a headscarf because it was against the principles of the sport and raised safety concerns.
 
But an agreement was reached after several days of IOC-brokered talks between the International Judo Federation and the Saudi Olympic Committee that clears the way for her to compete Friday in the heavyweight division. Huffington Post
 
An argument over who is more opposed to the Islamic faith and the construction of a mosque near Nashville has become an unlikely issue in a nasty Tennessee Republican congressional primary to be decided on Thursday.
 
Freshman Republican Representative Diane Black is challenged by Lou Ann Zelenik, who lost to Black in a primary to represent the rural district two years ago by less than 300 votes.
 
The heart of the struggle is over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, about 30 miles south of Nashville, which has been controversial since construction began two years ago. New York Times
 
Richard Land, the highly visible top ethics official for the Southern Baptist Convention, announced Tuesday that he would retire next year.
 
Land said he will step down as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in October 2013 on his 25th anniversary at that post. Washington Post