The story behind the U.S.’s restrictions on religious freedom: Top 5 news stories

The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious FreedomExtremist religion is at root of 21st-century wars, says Tony BlairU.S. to Expand Rules Limiting Use of Profiling by Federal Agents • Hatred of Outsiders Kicks in Between Ages 6 and 8 • German archbishop’s comment on families offends Muslims

 

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

 

The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ Restrictions on Religious Freedom

the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has said the United States places a “moderate” level of restrictions on religious practice compared to the other countries in the world. According to Pew, the U.S. saw a marked increase in hostility toward religion starting in 2009, and this level remained consistent in the following years.

What does this rating actually say about the state of religious freedom in the United States? At first glance, one might assume this is bad news for religious folks in the land of the free, but that may not actually be the case. Especially in comparison with the rest of the world, the United States still has fairly robust protections for spiritual practice.

 

Extremist religion is at root of 21st-century wars, says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has reignited debate about the west’s response to terrorism with a call on governments to recognise that religious extremism has become the biggest source of conflict around the world.

Referring to wars and violent confrontations from Syria to Nigeria and the Philippines, Blair, writing in the Observer, argues that “there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith.”

Identifying religious extremism as an ever more dangerous phenomenon, the spread of which is easier in an online age, he says: “The battles of this century are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology, like those of the 20th century – but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.”

 

U.S. to Expand Rules Limiting Use of Profiling by Federal Agents

The Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations, a government official said Wednesday.

The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations.

The Bush administration banned profiling in 2003, but with two caveats: It did not apply to national security cases, and it covered only race, not religion, ancestry or other factors.

 

Hatred of Outsiders Kicks in Between Ages 6 and 8

New research from Germany suggests love for people we think of as members of our group precedes hatred for those we perceive as outsiders. This may present a teaching opportunity.

 

German archbishop’s comment on families offends Muslims

A German Catholic leader was forced to apologise Wednesday over comments that sparked indignation among the country’s Muslim community and proponents of a multicultural society.

Cologne Archbishop Joachim Meisner, 80, had praised the high birth rate of many Catholics, telling followers: “I always say, one of your families to me makes up for three Muslim families”.

Bekir Alboga of the Turkish-Islamic Union Ditib said the comments promote “fear and misunderstanding”, telling broadcaster Deutsche Welle that “we need a bridge-builder, not a polariser.”