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In the Press

  • The results of a survey conducted by trade union reveals 85 per cent of shop workers oppose Belfast City Council's suggestion of extended Sunday trading.

    Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), questioned more than 600 of its members working in retail in Northern Ireland. Almost two thirds of them said that they already come under pressure to work on Sundays.

    John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, said in a press release: "Our members in large stores remain absolutely opposed to extended Sunday trading. The number one reason for their opposition is the detrimental effect this would have on their family life."

    Read more.

  • Assisted suicide does not violate the right to life, Milan prosecutors ruled on Tuesday, requesting the acquittal of a pro-euthanasia activist.

    The ruling related to activist and Radical Party member Marco Cappato, who accompanied an Italian man to Switzerland to undergo assisted suicide.

    The two prosecutors ruled that in such cases, the right to life was not violated, if the patient suffered from an "objectively assessable" terminal or serious illness causing "intolerable" suffering.

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  • Every week in America brings another spate of defeats for freedom of speech. This past week it was Ann Coulter's turn (yet again) to be banned from speaking at Berkeley for what the university authorities purport to be "health and safety" reasons -- meaning the health and safety of the speaker.

    Each time this happens, there are similar responses. Those who broadly agree with the views of the speaker complain about the loss of one of the fundamental rights which the Founding Fathers bestowed on the American people. Those who may be on the same political side but find the speaker somewhat distasteful find a way to be slightly muted or silent. Those who disagree with the speaker's views applaud the banning as an appropriate response to apparently imminent incitement.

    The problem throughout all of this is that the reasons why people should be supporting freedom of speech (to correct themselves where they are in error, and strengthen their arguments where they are not) are actually becoming lost in America. No greater demonstration of this muddle exists than a letter put together by a group of students at Claremont McKenna College earlier this month to protest the appearance on their campus of a speaker with whom they disagreed.

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  • It was meant to inspire students to achieve more, simply with the power of positive thinking. Instead, mindfulness in schools has no impact on behaviour or academic attainment and may even be harmful to pupils, a review of research suggests.

    The practice, which encourages pupils to live in the moment, first caught on in independent schools then swept across the state sector. Children as young as five are taught to find peace and happiness and supporters claim that it lowers stress and improves performance.

    An analysis of dozens of studies indicates that schools may be wasting their time, however. The report published by the Campbell Collaboration, an international group that assesses evidence for social policies, acknowledged that mindfulness-based interventions could have a small positive effect.

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  • The Secular Education Network (SEN) is launching a fresh challenge against Bible in Schools programmes, claiming "religious bias" has led to children and parents being bullied over their decision to opt out of classes.

    Twenty-six witnesses have filed evidence for a new case being launched in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, brought by David Hines and Tanya Jacob.

    They will be claiming that section 78 of the Education Act 1964 - which permitted the programmes - is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, according to a statement from SEN.

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  • Christians on the Left is proud to support the work of Open Doors UK. Zoe Smith, head of advocacy, writes for us about religious freedom:

    How do you protect persecuted religious minorities? Pledge to do so in the Labour Party Manifesto.

    It's a simple yet remarkably effective solution. We may wake up to a Labour Government on 9 June. If so, we want to wake up to one fully committed and mandated to protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief – speaking out for some of the most marginalised people around the world.

    Read more.

  • GAFCON, a worldwide group of conservative Anglicans, has told Premier it's not looking to break up the Church of England but is instead working to keep Anglican Communion united.

    Over the weekend, a statement from the group was released with details of the creation of a missionary bishop to be sent to the UK in response to the Church of England and Scottish Episcopal Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality.

    GAFCON, which follows the traditional understanding on these issues, says it is sending someone here to give episcopal leadership to those who claim the Churches are becoming too liberal.

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  • The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is investigating several fertility clinics after an undercover investigation by the Daily Mail accused them of exploiting couples desperate to have children.

    The major allegation against the clinics visited by undercover journalists was that women were being convinced to donate their eggs in return for free IVF. The journalists were encouraged to donate half their healthy eggs in return for free IVF cycles at clinics in London, Hertfordshire and County Durham.

    It is illegal to sell eggs outright, to protect women from exploitation. However, HFEA guidance says that IVF centres "may compensate egg donors a fixed sum of up to £750 per cycle of donation". It also lets clinics offer donors free or discounted treatment – a big incentive when IVF costs around £3,000 a cycle. Their eggs go to a patient who cannot produce her own. The recipient pays up to £7,500 – effectively covering the costs of both women's treatment. 

    Read more.

  • New research has found fewer than one in three Britons believe faith matters.

    Ipsos Mori found 30 per cent of people said religion is important to them, a figure significantly lower than the global average of 53 per cent.

    The statistics place Britain among the least religious countries in the world, with only Sweden, Belgium and Japan ranked lower.

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  • A federal appeals court on Tuesday revived a damages lawsuit against Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who in 2015 refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it conflicted with her Christian beliefs.

    The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said a lower court judge erred in finding that damages claims by David Ermold and David Moore became moot, after a new state law last July excused clerks like Davis, from Rowan County, from having to sign marriage license forms.

    While the couple eventually did get a license, a three-judge appeals court panel said they could sue over Davis' initial refusal to grant one, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015 said the Constitution guaranteed a right to same-sex marriage.

    Read more.

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