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In the Press

  • A 78-year-old evangelical Christian preacher is an unlikely posterboy for freedom of speech but, make no mistake about it, that's exactly what Pastor James McConnell is.

    Today is the first step in an outrageous odyssey through the legal system that could see the pastor sentenced to six months in jail.

     
    His "crime" is to have made "grossly offensive" remarks about Islam. He branded it "heathen" and "Satanic" in a sermon to his own followers last year.
  • Radical preacher Anjem Choudary was charged on Wednesday with encouraging support for the Islamic State militant group.
     
    Choudary, 48, appeared in Westminster magistrates court charged with inviting support for a proscribed organisation, namely Isis. It is alleged he committed the offence between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015. Another man, Mohammed Rahman, 31, faced the same charge.
     
    It is alleged Choudary and Rahman publicised support for Isis and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi through lectures published online, the court heard.
  • More than 30 children – some “almost babes-in-arms” – have been made the subject of family court orders over radicalisation fears, police have revealed.
     
    Scotland Yard said judges had considered cases involving 12 families, which were prompted by concerns of extremist indoctrination or preparations being made by older relatives to travel to areas controlled by Islamic State.
     
    Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the country’s most senior terrorism officer, said in some instances the children were “almost babes-in-arms”, with ages ranging from two or three up to 16 or 17. He said cases involved children being made wards of court or an interim care order being made in which the subject was temporarily taken into foster care.
  • The observance of Sunday as a weekly day of rest goes back to the Emperor Constantine, and in this country, legislation which forbade "worldly labour" has existed since, at least, the reign of Charles II.
     
    The need for such a day of rest is central to the Bible's understanding of personal and social flourishing. Although cultures influenced by other faith traditions nowadays have weekly days of rest, it is the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and cultures most influenced by it, which has strongly insisted on it.
     
    What the government is proposing to do, in its revision of Sunday trading laws, is to unpick yet another strand in the fabric of a Christian society which Britain once was. I am at a loss to understand how this fits in with the Prime Minister's repeated claim that Britain is a Christian country.
  • About a dozen Catholics wept and sang hymns outside their church as a man climbed to the top of the building and sliced off its steel cross with a cutting torch. It toppled with a thud.
     
    "Aren't you ashamed of what you have done?" a teary woman yelled at the more than 100 security guards, who along with police and government workers kept the parishioners of Lower Dafei Catholic Church from protecting the symbol of their faith. The guards, who stood with shields and batons in the sun for nearly two hours, looked indifferent.
  • You know, when gay marriage legislation was going through parliament and Christian campaigners were warning about the possibility that those with a conscientious objection to gay marriage would find themselves at a disadvantage in public life – especially teachers – I honestly thought that it would take some time to happen. You might have some nutty secularist calling out a teacher who stubbornly refused to teach the parity of gay and straight marriage to children, but outside the Liberal Democrats, I couldn’t really see persecution ahead, other than for marriage registrars who would, unfortunately, just have to lump their conscientious difficulties with marrying same-sex couples.
     
    Well, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. 
  • A court in Sudan has freed two South Sudanese Christian pastors after acquitting them of charges that include spying and crimes against the state.
     
    Outside the court in the capital, Khartoum, the men's families rejoiced and sang, AFP news agency reports.
     
    Yat Michael and Peter Yen Reith had faced a possible death sentence if convicted.
  • Proposals to "rename" Religious Education in Wales have raised concerns from faith groups.
     
    Education and Skills Minister Huw Lewis told the Senedd he would support plans to rebrand the subject to "religion, philosophy and ethics" last month.
  • The two largest churches in Northern Ireland have called for politicians to be allowed a free vote when same-sex marriage is next debated at Stormont.
     
    Representatives from Presbyterian and Catholic churches have said that party whips should be removed on the issue.
     
    The move follows the Alliance Party's decision to make support compulsory for candidates running in the 2016 assembly election.
  • There is a disturbing tendency to introduce laws for one purpose and apply them for another. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of counter-terrorism.

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