South African court bars schools from promoting any one religion

Last month I wrote about a legal challenge brought by a of South African secularist group OGOD (Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie that translates as Organisation for Religious Education and Democracy) challenging the practice of many public schools that promoted Christianity, thus subverting the neutral official religious instruction policy as outlined in the government’s National Policy on Religion and Education. They took aim at six schools that were accused of promoting Christianity and suppressing the teaching of evolution.
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You cannot be stripped of your citizenship as easily as the government wants

I wrote last month about a case that had been argued before the US Supreme Court about whether one can be stripped of one’s citizenship because one had lied about anything on your citizenship application or whether the lie had to be one that might have materially affected the decision. The government had argued that any lie would be cause for such stripping, even not revealing offenses for which one had not been arrested, such as speeding.
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Fighting religious indoctrination in South African schools

I have been hearing from Christopher, a reader of this blog and is a secular activist in South Africa, about a court case that being waged in that country to remove religious bias in their public schools. The group that has brought the case is called OGOD which is an acronym for the Afrikaans Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie. The group challenged the practices of six schools that are explicitly teaching Christian doctrine.
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Sweden drops rape investigation of Julian Assange

Sweden has dropped their preliminary investigation into the 2010 rape charges made against Julian Assange. Glenn Greenwald reports that this does not mean that he is free to leave the Ecuadoran embassy in London because there is still the fact that the US seeks to bring him to the US for the ‘crime’ of WikiLeaks publishing US government documents. He reminds us that this is why Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy in 2012 in the first place, not to prevent him facing trial on rape charges.
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Stephen Fry investigated under Ireland’s blasphemy law

When we think of people being targeted for blasphemy, Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia immediately come to mind. But it turns out that atheist Stephen Fry is being investigated for this offense in Ireland for comments he made on a television show when he was asked what he would say to god if it so happened that after he died he was confronted by god.
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Can you be stripped of your citizenship for not disclosing that you exceeded the speed limit?

The US Supreme Court heard an interesting case on Wednesday, April 26 involving the conditions under which the US government can strip away the citizenship of a naturalized citizen. The details of the case Maslenjak v. United States (it involved a Bosnian Serb who was granted refugee status) are not as interesting as the question that the court wanted the parties to address, which was: “May a naturalized American citizen be stripped of her citizenship in a criminal proceeding based on an immaterial false statement?”
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The incredible cruelty of petty officials

There are a lot of tragedies in life. But sometimes there are incidents that, in the grand scheme of things may seem relatively minor because they do not involve wars or things like that, but still provoke revulsion because they are examples of people treating other cruelly for no obvious reason when simpler, more humane options are available. And in this class are the actions of petty officials who abuse people because they think they can do so with impunity because the weight of authority is behind them. There are many examples of this, as we have seen in the behavior of the TSA personnel at airports, the Customs and Border Protection agents at borders, and of course the security personnel working for United Airlines who dragged a passenger off the plane.
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Trying to sneak the Bible back into schools

Given their recent successes in the courts in getting ceremonial prayer allowed at town council and school board meetings, we see that religious people have been emboldened to try things that have already been deemed unconstitutional, such as Bible classes in schools. In 1948, Vashti McCollum fought her local school district in Illinois when it required her young son Jim to attend Bible classes in school during regular school hours. The teachers would try to pressure the young child to attend the classes despite the wishes of his freethinking parents.
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A novel lawsuit involving climate change

The difficulty with the climate change problem is that it is a long-term one and thus policy makers, who tend to be older people, may not view it with the same sense of urgency since the most adverse consequences will occur after they are dead. It is young people who will pay the price for my generation’s inaction. Hence I was intrigued by this court ruling that I missed when it was handed down on November 10th of last year. It should have got much wider publicity than it did.
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Prayer allowed at school board meetings

When the US Supreme Court, in the case of Greece v. Galloway in 2013, issued a somewhat incoherent and confusing opinion that opening prayers could be allowed at the opening of town council meetings under certain conditions, many of us felt that this would be the thin edge of the wedge that would be used by religious public officials to increasingly introduce religion into the public square. And so it is proving. On March 20th, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a US District Court judge’s ruling that, following that Greece precedent, a Texas school board could also start its meetings with prayer, saying that the Galloway case set a new precedent.
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