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Religious News From Around the Web December 14, 2020

SCOTUS Says RFRA OKs Damage Claims Against FBI Agents, Anti-Abortion Sign Ban Ruled Unconstitutional, Religious Exemptions Expanded for Federal Contractors, China Requires Teachers to “Not Believe in Any Faith,” Frequent Church Attendees Avoided Downward Mental State, Pew: Government Restrictions on Religion Highest in a Decade

Supreme Court Says RFRA Oks Damage Claims Against FBI Agents
In Tanzin v Tanvir SCOTUS held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits damages against individual federal officials. Muhammad Tanvir, and two other Muslims claim FBI agents placed them on the No Fly List in retaliation for their refusal to act as informants against their religious communities and sued individual agents seeking damages and removal from the No Fly List. The Court said in part: “A damages remedy is not just ‘appropriate’ relief as viewed through the lens of suits against Government employees. It is also the only form of relief that can remedy some RFRA violations.”

Anti-Abortion Sign Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

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A Texas federal district court held that Fort Worth’s sign ordinance is facially unconstitutional as a content-based prior restraint on speech. The suit was brought by two plaintiffs who were cited for placing 18-inch crosses on a public right-of-way in front of an abortion clinic. The city ordinances require city council approval in order to display signs on public property, except for political signs at election polling locations.

Religious Exemptions Expanded for Federal Contractors
US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a statement “Religious organizations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity.” The new rule will expand religious exemptions to non-discrimination requirements for federal contractors.

China Requires Teachers to “Not Believe in Any Faith”
Teachers in China are now required to: “Firmly establish a Marxist religious view; strengthen atheism education, and refrain from believing in any religion or participating in any religious activities.”

Frequent Church Attendees Have Highest Mental Health Ratings
Gallup’s November Health and Healthcare survey, revealed that the share of Americans who classify their mental health as “excellent” has reached an all-time low of 34 percent. The share of Americans who describe their mental health as “excellent/good” has also reached a record low of 76 percent. Nearly every demographic subgroup saw the state of their mental health decrease from 2019 to 2020. But those who attended church services weekly were the group of Americans with the highest share of people who rated their mental health as excellent in 2020.

Pew: Government Restrictions on Religion Highest in a Decade
The increase in government restrictions on religion includes a rise from 2017 to 2018 in the number of governments using force – such as detentions and physical abuse – to coerce religious groups. The total number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions has been mounting as well.

Looking for Religious Tradition in the Time of COVID
Religious leaders are struggling with how to create Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations that feel authentic while adhering to public health guidelines. Unlike Easter, Passover or this year’s Eid Al-Adha, the winter holidays are taking place as plummeting temperatures challenge outdoor celebrations.

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