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Anti-Semitic incidents and trends in Europe: top 5 news stories

Are the French Anti-Semitic? • Pigs’ Heads Sent To Rome Synagogue And Israeli Embassy Britain: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fall • Prayers And Religion Make An Appearance At Sochi OlympicsObama: Religious Freedom a US Diplomatic Priority

 

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

 

Are the French Anti-Semitic?

A 2012 poll by the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked attitudes to Jews in France, reported that the overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, up from 20 percent in a previous poll just four years before.

The league also found that 35 percent of French people believe that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” while 35 percent believe “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.”

Some commentators say France’s Jewish community – at around 500,000, the largest in Europe – has no future. One Paris rabbi is quoted as saying 80 percent of young couples about to marry tell him this.

Photo: jewishresearch.org

Pigs’ Heads Sent To Rome Synagogue And Israeli Embassy

Offences against Jewish targets in Rome including a pig’s head sent to the city’s main synagogue caused outrage in Italy on Saturday in the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day next week.

“This is a vile and cowardly act which offends the Jewish community and all Romans on the eve of the memorial day,” Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio, the region in which the city of Rome is located.

The pig’s head was sent in a parcel to Rome’s Grand Synagogue on Friday and similar packages were also addressed to the Israeli embassy in Rome and to a museum holding an exhibition on the Nazi Holocaust.

Officials said that anti-Semitic graffiti were also scrawled on the walls of a municipal building in the city.

 

Britain: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fall

Anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Britain have fallen to the lowest annual level since 2005, a Jewish advisory body reported Wednesday, and said the decline may have been due to a recent lack of “trigger events” in the Middle East. The 529 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2013 was down 18 percent from the previous year, according to a report by the Community Security Trust, which advises Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews on safety issues.

The number of violent assaults remained the same as in 2012 at 69, the lowest level since 2003. While attacks on Jews show a decline, Muslim groups say anti-Islamic incidents are on the rise, partly fueled by the killing of a British soldier by two Muslim converts in London last May.

 

Prayers And Religion Make An Appearance At Sochi Olympics

Carl Dambman has spent years preparing for Sochi, traveling from his Seattle home to athletic competitions in the United States and internationally, improving his skills ahead of the Winter Olympics.

But Dambman, 63, isn’t an athlete. Instead, he’s one of dozens of chaplains volunteering at the games, where organizers have set up three multi-faith centers at the Olympic and Paralympic villages for competitors and their coaches.

“In such a high-pressure, high-stakes place, you never know what someone will want to talk about, but we’re there for them,” said Dambman, an Olympic wrestler in the 1970s who now ministers internationally for Athletes in Action.

 

Obama: Religious Freedom a US Diplomatic Priority

President Barack Obama told a non-denominational gathering of political leaders Thursday that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy.

Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama cast his message as an international call for human rights, singling out countries that he said have fallen short, particularly when it comes to extending protections and freedoms to all faiths.

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.”

8 worst countries for religious freedom: Top 5 news stories

8 worst countries for religious freedomUK anti-Muslim hate crime soars, police figures showBill de Blasio, New York’s new ‘spiritual but not religious’ mayorMuslims Blacklisted For U.S. Citizenship Under Secret Government Program, Says ACLU • Reported Christian ‘martyr’ deaths double in 2013: report

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

8 worst countries for religious freedom

At its core, freedom of religion or belief requires freedom of expression. Both fundamental rights are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet nearly half of all countries penalize blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. In 13 countries, atheists can be put to death for their lack of belief.

The U.S. State Department names and shames eight “Countries of Particular Concern” that severely violate religious freedom rights within their borders. These countries not only suppress religious expression, they systematically torture and detain people who cross political and social red lines around faith. The worst of the worst are:

UK anti-Muslim hate crime soars, police figures show

Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in the UK this year, figures show. Hundreds of anti-Muslim offences were carried out across the country in 2013, with Britain’s biggest force, the Metropolitan police, recording 500 Islamophobic crimes.

Many forces reported a surge in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by two Islamic extremists in Woolwich, south-east London, in May.

But the figures could be much higher as nearly half of the 43 forces in England and Wales did not reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims.

Bill de Blasio, New York’s new ‘spiritual but not religious’ mayor

From its historic black churches to large Jewish enclaves to landmark Catholic and Protestant churches, New York City is the ultimate religious melting pot. And now, overseeing it all is a new mayor whose only religious identity seems to be “spiritual but not religious.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio is now perhaps the nation’s most visible “none,” an icon of one of the nation’s fastest-growing religious groups — those without any formal religious identification.

Muslims Blacklisted For U.S. Citizenship Under Secret Government Program, Says ACLU

A government program to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

Reported Christian ‘martyr’ deaths double in 2013: report

Reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the year before, with Syria accounting for more than the whole global total in 2012, according to an annual survey.

Open Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, said on Wednesday it had documented 2,123 “martyr” killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said.

“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other Christian groups put the annual figure as high as 8,000.

Problems with religious rights and opportunity at UN: Top 5 news stories

United Nations too Christian, claims reportReport: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedomConcern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in FranceNazi graffiti on Stockholm mosqueThicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:

 

United Nations too Christian, claims report

Christianity dominates the United Nations and more diversity is needed to increase non-Christian representation in world peacemaking, according to a study.

Research undertaken by Prof Jeremy Carrette, with colleagues from the University of Kent’s department of religious studies, has revealed that more than 70% of religious non-government organisations (NGOs) at the UN are Christian, and that there is historical privilege in allowing the Vatican a special observer status, as both a state and a religion.

The report, called Religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for greater awareness, transparency and equality in the way religious NGOs operate within the UN, and more emphasis on religious tolerance.

 

Report: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedom

Eight of the 47 countries that hold seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council imprisoned people in 2013 under laws that restrict religious freedom, according to a new report from Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Belgium.

The eight UNHRC member states on the group’s second annual World Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners List, released Monday (Dec. 30), are Morocco, China and Saudi Arabia (whose new three-year terms begin Wednesday) and current members India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya and South Korea.

Hundreds of believers and atheists were imprisoned in these and 16 other countries for exercising religious freedom or freedom of expression rights related to religious issues, according to the report. These rights include the freedom to change religions, share beliefs, object to military service on conscientious grounds, worship, assemble and associate freely. Violations related to religious defamation and blasphemy are also included in the report.

 

Concern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in France

No one seems to know just what is meant by the “quenelle,” the vaguely menacing hand gesture invented and popularized by a French comedian widely criticized as anti-Semitic, but it is clearly nothing very nice, and it appears to be spreading.

Fans of the performer, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, send him photos of themselves performing the gesture in front of historic monuments, next to unwitting public officials, at weddings, under water and in high school class photographs, but also, increasingly, beside synagogues, Holocaust memorials and street signs displaying the word “Jew.” At least one young man appears to have posed for a quenelle outside the grade school in Toulouse where, in 2012, four Jews were killed by a self-proclaimed operative of Al Qaeda.

 

Nazi graffiti on Stockholm mosque

Swedish police have opened a hate-crime investigation after swastikas were spray-painted on the entrance of a mosque in downtown Stockholm.

Omar Mustafa, the head of Sweden’s Islamic federation, says employees discovered the vandalism as they arrived to open the mosque Thursday morning. He posted pictures of the graffiti on Twitter.

Mustafa said the mosque is targeted by hate mail or vandalism about twice a month, but this is the first time the entrance was defaced with swastikas since the mosque was built in 2000.

 

Thicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints.

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was “important” to them versus those who cared less about religion.

“Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this,” Myrna Weissman told Reuters Health. “The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.”

Syrian regime systematically making people ‘disappear’: Top 5 News Stories

Syrian regime systematically making people ‘disappear,’ UN panel charges

GENEVA—A UN panel reported Thursday it believes the Syrian government is committing a crime against humanity by making people systematically vanish, and that rebels have also recently begun making their opponents disappear.

The expert panel said it found “a consistent country-wide pattern” of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people in mass arrests or house searches and at checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear — and denying that they even exist. Most of the victims have been young men.

New York Archdiocese Wins Ruling on Contraception

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York was granted a federal injunction on Monday that blocks an Obama administration requirement to provide contraceptive care to employees at its nonprofit affiliates.

The ruling found that the regulation violated the religious freedom of the four nonprofit groups — two high schools and two health care systems — that are affiliated with the archdiocese but employ people of any faith. Under the Affordable Care Act, the nonprofit groups were required to provide the contraceptive coverage, authorize a third party to voluntarily pay for and provide the coverage, or pay steep fines.

The ruling, by Brian M. Cogan of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, found that forcing the groups to authorize a third party to provide contraceptive care still violated their religious beliefs even if they were not financially support contraception. Churches are already exempt from the mandate to provide contraceptive care.

The Panic Over Whether Religion Is “Even Legal”

There’s a new ripple of panic this week about religious freedom. In the National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez, reacting to the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, asks: “Is religion even legal?” Lopez worries that the lawsuit, which seeks to hold the USCCB liable for providing substandard medical care at Catholic hospitals owing to directives prohibiting abortion services, is “essentially against the concept of Catholic health care.”

In season of giving, atheist groups’ charity rebuffed

As the holiday season peaks, atheist and humanist groups around the country have seen their charitable impulses rebuffed by both Christian and secular organizations. Recent incidents of “thanks, but no thanks,” include:

  • A group of Kansas City, Mo., nonbelievers was told their help was not needed after they volunteered to help a local Christian group distribute Thanksgiving meals.
  • A $3,000 donation to a Morton Grove, Ill., park, collected by a local atheist group, was returned. Park officials said they did not wish to “become embroiled in a First Amendment dispute.”
  • A group of Spartanburg, S.C., atheists  was denied the opportunity to help at a Christian-run soup kitchen. The soup kitchen’s executive director told local press she would resign before accepting the atheists’ help and asked, “Why are they targeting us?”

For devout Muslim cabbies in New York City, parking tickets are the price of prayers

Roughly half of the city’s 40,000-odd cabbies are Muslims who hail from countries all over the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere — and a great number of the drivers are observant, praying five times a day.

When you spend your days driving a taxicab, it’s impossible to say where, at any given moment, you might wind up. Followers of Islam can perform their five daily prayers in any relatively clean space, even bowed down on the side of the road. But the process isn’t so simple. You first need to ritually wash with water and then to prostrate yourself facing east, toward Mecca.

I found Kamal praying alone at the BP gas station on the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets. He’d taken a prayer mat from the cardboard box kept there for drivers, laid it down in front of the pumps and was kneeling in the cold.

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 YourJewishNews.com, 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.

Seventh Grader shouts “I’m Osama bin Laden!”

And his teacher, a Tanenbaum trainee, knows just how to respond.

Beth Havorford is a teacher in the New York City public school system, where 60% of students are immigrants or children of immigrants. Her classroom reflects one of the most diverse cities on earth.

Beth attended a Tanenbaum training for educators, so she knew what to do when David, a seventh grader, came tearing down the stairs with a jacket wrapped around his head yelling “I’m a terrorist! I’m a terrorist! I’m Osama bin Laden!” Some kids laughed, some looked at him in confusion and some turned away. Tension grew.

Beth stepped forward to defuse the situation. She asked David why he was acting this way. He responded, “My jacket is a turban; I look like a terrorist.”

Beth says that Tanenbaum gave her the tools and confidence to handle this delicate situation.

Beth explained to David that turbans are worn by people belonging to a variety of religions and cultures. His actions were based on a stereotype – and possibly hurtful to his fellow students. “Most important,” she told him, “is that wearing a turban doesn’t make you a terrorist.”

After sending David on his way, Beth mentioned the incident to Stacy, also a teacher of David’s. Stacy admitted that David got the idea from her. Stacy saw David putting his jacket on his head and said to him, “Take that off. You look like a terrorist.”

According to Beth, Tanenbaum’s training was, “the first time I sat in a room with other teachers to talk about issues around religion that come up in my classroom. People shove it under a rug. It gave me courage to talk to that kid. I wish that my colleague could have had the training so she wouldn’t say something like that.”

Too many of our teachers aren’t prepared to address the unprecedented diversity in their classroom, particularly religious diversity.

Even teachers who understand cultural diversity are often uncomfortable discussing religion, despite the many ways religious prejudice, misunderstanding and fear can contribute to bullying and violence. Tanenbaum reduces bullying and prejudice by preparing educators to act when difficult situations arise and by teaching them how to incorporate lessons of respect into their ongoing curriculum.

(Photo credit: Thomas Ricker, Flickr)

Fighting Religious Discrimination One App at a Time

<p>This season, in the face of religious discrimination, one group created a mobile app that enables air travelers to act as an external watchdog on potentially discriminatory practices at airport checkpoints. Created by the Sikh Coalition, the app enables people of all faiths and races to file complaints against the TSA for racial and religious profiling.</p>

<p>Although the TSA released a statement that it &ldquo;has zero tolerance for racial profiling and employs multiple checks and balances to ensure unlawful profiling does not occur,&rdquo; studies show that Sikhs, Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim are pulled aside for secondary screenings at a higher rate than people not perceived to be Muslim. The FlyRights app hopes to call attention to the institutionalized reinforcing of negative stereotypes.</p>

<p>We have the power to end religious discrimination by speaking up, raising awareness, and taking action. This app is just one example of how ingenuity combined with community action takes us one step closer to creating a world free of discrimination and prejudice.</p>

<p>This Thanksgiving, remember that the human family extends beyond your table.</p>

<p>Here&#39;s where you can get the app: <a href=”http://fly-rights.org/”>http://fly-rights.org</a></p>

<p>Read the full story here: <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/sikh-airport-discrimination_n_4340049.html”>http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/sikh-airport-discrimination_n_4340049.html</a></p>

What is the truth about the number of Christian martyrs? Top 5 news stories

Have 100,000 Christians died as martyrs? • Swastikas, Slurs and Torment in Town’s Schools • Woman Turned Away From Blood Center Because She Won’t Remove Hijab • Jewish man awarded $900G over Nazi gas chamber ‘jokes’ • Praying Bus Driver Fired For Religion On School Bus

Last week’s top news, from our perspective (on Tuesday because we were closed for Veteran’s Day yesterday):

Have 100,000 Christians died as martyrs?

Is there a global war on Christians? It is claimed that an average of 100,000 Christians have died because of their faith every year for the past decade – and that this is an ‘unreported catastrophe’.

The Vatican has called it a credible number. But is it?

Ruth Alexander and Wesley Stephenson fact-check the widely-quoted statistic.

Swastikas, Slurs and Torment in Town’s Schools

The swastikas, the students recalled, seemed to be everywhere: on walls, desks, lockers, textbooks, computer screens, a playground slide — even on a student’s face.

A picture of President Obama, with a swastika drawn on his forehead, remained on the wall of an eighth-grade social studies classroom for about a month after a student informed her teacher, the student said.

For some Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District in New York State, attending public school has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Woman Turned Away From Blood Center Because She Won’t Remove Hijab

Memphis mother Keajuana Allen said she gives blood regularly at Tennessee Blood Services at 807 Poplar, but she was turned away Wednesday.

“She told me I had to remove my scarf and I told her, ‘Well you know I can’t.’ I said, ‘Why today, do I have to remove my scarf?’ I said, ‘Due to religious purposes, I am not to be uncovered,’” said Allen after she was asked to remove her hijab before giving blood Wednesday.

Jewish man awarded $900G over Nazi gas chamber ‘jokes’

A delivery man for the midtown (Manhattan) restaurant Mangia 57 has won a $900,000 jury verdict, payback for the anti-Semitic harassment heaped upon him by three supervisors at the eatery.

Nightshift manager Artur Zbozien often “passed gas” in front of Wiercinski, and would then joke that the gas was Zyklon B, the poison used in Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust, according to the Brooklyn federal court lawsuit.

Praying Bus Driver Fired For Religion On School Bus

School bus driver George Nathaniel III was fired last week for inviting the children on his routes to pray with him each morning, despite being repeatedly asked by his company to stop, reports CBS Local.

The school district of Burnsville, Minnesota complained to his employers, Durham School Services, who proceeded to give Nathaniel a warning and assign him two new bus routes serving Edward D. Neill Elementary School and Metcalf Junior High School. However, Nathaniel refused to comply with their direction and said, “I let them know I am a pastor and I am going to pray,” reports the Star Tribune.

Car bombs and crisis in Iraq: Top 5 news stories

Car bombs kill scores in Baghdad, in sign of crisis in Iraq • Muslim Boy Called ‘Terrorist,’ Booted From Bus After Reciting Arabic Prayer: Lawsuit • Of Gods and Cubicles: Religion, the Office and the Law • Supreme Court to consider religious prayer at government meetings • Dozens of Saudi Arabian women drive cars on day of protest against ban

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Car bombs kill scores in Baghdad, in sign of crisis in Iraq

Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaeda affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008.

In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing dozens of people.

The bloody campaign has virtually erased the security gains made in the past five years. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year.

A Muslim boy was reportedly called a “terrorist” and was booted from a bus in New York City after the driver overheard him reciting an Arabic prayer.

The incident happened back in October 2012 when the 10-year-old boy was getting on the B-39 bus on his way home from school in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, the New York Post reported. While attempting to board, the boy is said to have become flustered when he couldn’t find his MetroCard and said a prayer in Arabic — “I start in the name of God, the most merciful, the most beneficent” — to help him find it.

Although he eventually located the card, the bus driver allegedly called him a “terrorist” and forced him off the bus before closing the doors.

Of Gods and Cubicles: Religion, the Office and the Law

An evangelical Christian opposes biometric hand-scanning at his mine where he works, citing a Bible passage about hand marks given by the antichrist; two Muslim truck drivers objects to delivering alcohol. What do these people have in common?

They filed recent religious-discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, part of a rising tide of such grievances over the last several years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday

The EEOC received 3,811 religion-based complaints, known as charges, in fiscal 2012, the second-highest level ever and just below the record of 4,151 in 2011.

Supreme Court to consider religious prayer at government meetings

In a case that could determine restrictions on expressions of faith in the public square, the Supreme Court on Wednesday (Nov. 6) will consider religious prayers that convene government meetings.

At issue in Greece v. Galloway is whether such invocations pass constitutional muster, even when government officials are not purposefully proselytizing or discriminating.

Dozens of Saudi Arabian women drive cars on day of protest against ban

More than 60 Saudi women got behind the wheels of their cars as part of a protest against a ban on women driving in the kingdom, activists have claimed.

A Saudi professor and campaigner, Aziza Youssef, said the activists have received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven, the Associated Press reported.

Despite warnings by police and ultraconservatives in Saudi Arabia, there have been no reports from those who claimed to have driven of being arrested or ticketed by police.