President Carter promotes gender equality: News Roundup

Last week's top stories from our perspective:

President Carter Says Catholic Church Should Ordain Women; All Religions Should Promote Gender Equality

President Jimmy Carter waded in the tricky waters of gender and religion in an interview with in which he said that the Catholic church was wrong not to ordain women.

In anticipation of a conference called 'Mobilizing Faith for Women' to be held at The Carter Center this week, the former President and current Sunday school teacher was asked if "religion can be a force for women’s rights instead of a source of women’s oppression" by Time's Elizabeth Dias.

The former president said that there was movement towards equality in the major world religion but that religion had done much to support discrimination by 'ordaining' that women were not equal to men.  Huffington Post

Survey finds religious freedom did not increase during Arab Spring

The Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have not led to an increase in religious freedom where government restrictions and social hostilities against certain faiths were already high, a new report found.

Attacks on Coptic Christian communities in Egypt and rising violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria contributed to an overall increase in global religious persecution in 2011, according to an annual survey by the Pew Research Center.

The survey may be a sign that the hopes world leaders had expressed of democracy and religious freedom emerging from the uprisings in Egypt and several other countries in the region won't materialze anytime soon.    Deseret News

Some nonbelievers still find solace in prayer

New research on atheists by the Pew Research Center shows a range of beliefs. Eighteen percent of atheists say religion has some importance in their life, 26 percent say they are spiritual or religious and 14 percent believe in “God or a universal spirit.” Of all Americans who say they don’t believe in God — not all call themselves “atheists” — 12 percent say they pray.

Responding to this diversity, secular chaplains are popping up at universities such as Rutgers, American and Carnegie Mellon, and parents are creating atheist Sunday schools, igniting debate among atheists over how far they should go in emulating their theist kin.

Atheists deny religion’s claim of a supernatural god but are starting to look more closely at the “very real effect” that practices such as going to church, prayer and observance of a Sabbath have on the lives of the religious, said Paul Fidalgo, a spokesman for the secular advocacy group the Center for Inquiry. “That’s a big hole in atheist life,” he said. “Some atheists are saying, ‘Let’s fill it.’ Others are saying, ‘Let’s not.’ ”  Washington Post

Feds: Jewish groups key in foiling alleged death ray plot

ALBANY — Local Jewish organizations were instrumental in exposing the alleged plot by two men to kill Muslims and other people with lethal doses of radiation, federal prosecutors said.

Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, of Galway, and Eric K. Feight, 54, of Hudson, conceived "a mobile, remotely operated, radiation emitting device capable of killing targeted individuals silently with lethal doses of X-ray radiation," federal prosecutors said. They are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, prosecutors said.

The alleged scheme came to light in April 2012 when a man believed to be Crawford walked into Congregation Gates of Heaven on Ashmore Ave. in Schenectady, Rabbi Matt Cutler said. The man was articulate, well-dressed, and told the staff he had a "gift" to protect the Jewish people.

"He was talking about… a weapon that would really eliminate people that he perceived were against Jews and Israel," Cutler said.  WNYT