Are for-profit businesses religious entities? Top 5 news stories

Supreme Court takes up contraceptive mandate • Church of England approves female bishops plan • Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands? • Soy Sex Story: Atrocious ‘Reporting’ on Insular Religious Groups • Hate Crime Incidents Were Down Slightly Last Year

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Supreme Court takes up contraceptive mandate

The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday (Nov. 26) that it will decide whether for-profit businesses can be treated like religious entities in a politically and constitutionally freighted test of the Obama administration’s mandate that employers include free contraception coverage as part of their health plans.

The cases, which will probably be argued in March and decided in June, will not deal with a string of other lawsuits over the mandate that have been filed by nonprofit faith-based groups. Those complaints are still working their way through the lower courts.

(Photo: Johnny Armstead/Demotix/Corbis)

Church of England approves female bishops plan

The Church of England is on course to give its final approval to female bishops next year after its General Synod voted in favour of new proposals to bring women into the episcopate, raising hopes of an end to the damaging and frequently bitter 20-year standoff between modernisers and traditionalists.

On the third and final day of its meeting in London, the synod voted in favour of the new plans by an overwhelming majority of 378 to eight, with 25 abstentions.

Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands?

Conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, known as the FRA, “Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in E.U. Member States: experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism” surveyed 5,847 individuals 16 years old and over who considered themselves Jewish, residing in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The headline figures were frightening enough. Across Europe, 66% of Jewish people see anti-Semitism as a problem in their respective countries today — as high as 90% in Hungary and 85% in France. The perception, moreover, is that over the past five years, the level of anti-Semitism has increased, with 76% of respondents saying it had gone up a lot or a little.

Soy Sex Story: Atrocious ‘Reporting’ on Insular Religious Groups

Multiple news outlets, including the Independent and Slate, recently linked to a story, originally posted in English on, claiming that a Hasidic group banned soy products because they ‘lead to homosexual sex.’

The problem with this outlandish story was that it was completely unverified; none of the outlets actually interviewed or did any on-the-ground investigation. Ultimately the story was retracted, but the damage was already done.

Misreporting on insular religious societies like the Amish or Hasidic Jews may be due to a number of issues, from the difficulty of contacting individuals for interviews to the fact that insular communities are less likely to challenge a story.

Hate Crime Incidents Were Down Slightly Last Year

The FBI is reporting that hate crime incidents were slightly down last year.

Numbers released by the FBI Monday showed there were 5,796 such incidents in 2012, compared to 6,222 in 2011.

All but six of the incidents were motivated by a single bias. Of those, just under half were motivated by racial bias; about one in five were motivated by sexual orientation bias; just below one in five were motivated by religious bias; and just over one in 10 were motivated by ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against people with disabilities accounted for 1.6 percent of the incidents.