Posts from February 2016 (Page 9)

Where Does Your City Fall? See the Most (and Least) ‘Bible-Minded’ Places in America

American Bible Society

The most “Bible-minded” city in America in 2015 was Chattanooga, Tennessee, with Albany, Schenectady and Troy, New York, tying as the least Bible-minded locations in the country — but what, exactly, does that mean?

Each year, the American Bible Society teams up with the Barna Group to commission a study asking residents in the top 100 media markets across the country a few key questions about their Bible reading habits as well as their stance on biblical accuracy.

“What we’re doing is we’re looking at … two things: attitudes and actions,” American Bible Society communications director Andrew Hood told The Church Boys podcast. “What are their attitudes about the Bible … do they believe that the Bible’s principles are true? And do they have a positive attitude about it in general?”

Hood said that respondents are also asked if they read the Bible outside of church, with “Bible-minded” individuals being considered those who have read the Bible in the past seven days and believe its contents to be accurate. So, the cities that have the largest proportion of citizens who fit that category are considered the most Bible-minded.

Listen to Hood speak about the most and least Bible-minded cities at the 28:30 mark below:

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In the end, the survey found that only 25 percent of the American population overall is considered Bible-mined, with 70 percent of people saying, though, that they wish they read the Bible more.

The most Bible-minded cities in 2015 were (from most to least): Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia, Shreveport, Lousiana, and Tri-Cities, Tennessee.

American Bible Society

And the least Bible-minded cities came in as follows (from most to least): Buffalo, New York, Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa, Providece, Rhode Island, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire and Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York.

See the entire list of most and least Bible-minded cities here.

Front page image via Shutterstock.com.

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Swedish Minister’s Comments Suggest His Government Thinks Some Refugee ‘Minors’ Have Lied About Their Age

A forensic police officer carries a box of evidence following a search in front of a migrant center in Molndal outside Goteborg, Sweden, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. A female employee was killed in a knife attack inside the migrant center. (Adam Ihse/AP Photo)

The Swedish minister who oversees his country’s migration program has made comments suggesting some asylum seekers claiming to be unaccompanied minors may have lied about their age to gain asylum status.

The questions arose one week after a migrant, initially identified as a 15-year-old from Somalia, killed a female Swedish aid worker, 22-year-old Alexandra Mezher, in a knife attack at a center for unaccompanied migrant teens.

A forensic police officer carries a box of evidence following a search in front of a migrant center in Molndal outside Goteborg, Sweden, Jan. 25. A female employee was killed in a knife attack inside the center. (Adam Ihse/AP Photo)

The suspect in the killing — named in the media as Youssaf Khaliif Nuur — was brought to court last week, revealing his 6-foot stature.

The British newspaper The Sun observed, “When her alleged attacker, 6 ft-tall Youssaf Khaliif Nuur, appeared in court on Thursday, onlookers said the Somalian had a faint beard and moustache and could have passed for as old as 20.”

Others voiced suspicions about his age on social media:

https://twitter.com/erikalmqvist/status/692757464169725952

Morgan Johansson, Sweden’s minister of justice and migration told the TT news agency that the government wants the Swedish Migration Agency “to develop new methods to better judge age.”

“We are not pointing specifically at medical age assessment,” he said according to the English-language website The Local.

“There are other ways” to assess age, he said, suggesting via “discussions for example.”

The Local reported that in his annual letter to the Migration Agency, which sets out the goals for the coming year, Johansson requested the agency exhibit “a raised level of ambition” to better ascertain the true age of those claiming to be younger than 18 who are suspected of being adults.

The Local reported that hundreds in recent years have been ruled as adults in Sweden:

In 2014 the Migration Agency raised the age of just 363 asylum seekers, after judging that they were either ignorant of their age or not telling the truth. In 161 cases, this was done as a result of medical assessment.

In 2013, the agency raised the age of 342 people. Figures for 2015 are not yet available.

Right-wing politicians have called on the government to recruit doctors to offer their medical assessment on the age of migrants claiming to be teens.

Britain’s Telegraph reported that at least 35,000 migrants claiming to be “unaccompanied refugee children” arrived in Sweden in 2015 alone.

The Telegraph cited a Swedish newspaper that reported Friday that there have been 5,000 incidents since October involving migrants that required police involvement, including 559 assaults, 450 fights and four rapes.

“I fear that there may be even more trouble,” Swedish police commissioner Dan Eliasson told SvD following the report on those figures.

Gay Rights Icon’s Shocking Change-of-Heart Surrounding Embattled Christian Bakers Who Refused to Make ‘Support Gay Marriage’ Cake

Photo credit: Shutterstock

A prominent gay rights activist has had a major change of heart, coming out in support of an embattled bakery in Northern Ireland that was found guilty of discrimination last year for refusing to make a cake that included a message supporting same-sex marriage.

British human rights advocate Peter Tatchell penned a piece for the Guardian on Monday, proclaiming that he “initially condemned” Ashers Baking Company in Balfast for refusing to make a cake that included the words “Support Gay Marriage,” but now feels differently.

Tatchell is speaking out just two days before Colin and Karen McArthur — the Christian owners of Ashers Baking Company — are set to head back to court to appeal the ruling against them that led to a judgement of $765 in damages for “injury to feelings” to a gay activist who was denied the cake back in 2014.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“Two days before the case goes to appeal, I have changed my mind,” the activist wrote. “Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.”

Tatchell did say, though, that he has a serious disagreement with the bakers’ “opposition to same-sex love and marriage, and support protests against them,” and that Jesus never overtly condemned homosexuality, calling Ashers Baking Company’s refusal “theologically unsound.”

Still, Tatchell believes that the court was wrong to rule against the bakery and that he, too, was wrong to initially back that decision.

“The lawsuit against the bakery was well-intended. It sought to challenge homophobia. But it was a step too far,” he continued. “It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage and gay blood donors remain banned. The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination.”

While Tatchell believes that a business cannot and should not discriminate based on gender, faith, race or sexuality, he said that the court made an error in ruling that the refusal counted as discrimination against Gareth Lee — the activist who was refused the cake by Ashers — based on his political opinion and sexual orientation.

“His cake request was refused not because he was gay, but because of the message he asked for,” Tatchell wrote. “There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock

He went on to write that the court’s decision sets a “worrying precedent,” writing that “there was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas with which they disagreed.”

Tatchell concluded, “In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas.”

These arguments mirror what “Star Trek” and “X-Men” star Sir Patrick Stewart told BBC’s “Newsnight” last summer when he announced that he’s siding with the owners of the Ashers Baking Company.

“It was not because it was a gay couple that they objected — it was not because they were celebrating some kind of marriage or an agreement between them,” he said. “It was the actual words on the cake that they objected to, because they found the words offensive.”

The actor continued, “And I would support their rights to say, ‘No, this is personally offensive to my beliefs. I will not do it.’”

As TheBlaze previously reported, Ashers Baking Company, which is being supported by the Christian Institute, a U.K. legal group, is appealing last year’s court ruling that demanded that the company pay $765 in damages.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-54iiqwSYu8?rel=0&w=650&h=366]

To recap: the judge ruled that Ashers Baking Company had discriminated based on sexual orientation and political beliefs after Lee asked for a cake that included the line “support gay marriage,” and the bakery declined.

“After much careful and prayerful consideration given to legal advice, we have decided to appeal the judgment handed down last Tuesday,” the McArthurs said in a statement last summer. “We continue to insist that we have done nothing wrong as we have discriminated against no individual but rather acted according to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.”

The McArthurs said the judge’s ruling seemed to trample Christian ideals and that it would have a negative impact on society; their case will be heard in front of the Court of Appeal in Belfast on Wednesday.

“Our hope and prayer would be that an appeal will allow us and other Christians to live out their faith in Jesus Christ in every part of their lives, including their workplace,” they said.

Read Tatchell’s entire piece here.

Front page image via Shutterstock.com.

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UK to Allow Scientists to Genetically Modify Human Embryos

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The U.K. government granted British scientists the go-ahead to begin research into genetically modifying human embryos in a landmark decision for nation after years of debates and controversy.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority approved the scientists’ request to begin their experiments that will focus on fertilized eggs’ critical first seven days of development, according to CNN. Although the scientists’ experiments have been authorized, they are to be strictly used for research purposes only. The embryos used will be those that have been donated by couples who have undergone in vitro fertilization treatments, and it is illegal for the modified embryos to be implanted into women. The experiments are to be led by Dr. Kathy Niakan at the Francis Crick Institute in London as a continuation of her research into human development.

“We would really like to understand the genes needed for a human embryo to develop successfully into a healthy baby,” Niakan said, according to BBC. “The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they’re not very well understood.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Many supporters lauded the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority’s approval as a victory in the debates concerning the ethics of tampering with human embryos.

“This decision … is a victory for level-headed regulation over moral panic,” said Sarah Norcoss, the director of the Progress Educational Trust, according to CNN.

“Dr. Niakan’s proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates, by looking at the very earliest stage of human development,” Paul Nurse, the Crick Institute’s director, told the BBC.

Others, however, remain concerned that this landmark decision will only open the door for “designer babies” that surpass health research endeavors and experiment with designing every aspect of a baby’s physicality and intelligence.

“This research will allow the scientists to refine the techniques for creating GM babies, and many of the government’s scientific advisers have already decided that they are in favour of allowing that,” Dr. David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, told BBC. “So this is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.”

Follow Kathryn Blackhurst (@kablackhurst) on Twitter

White House: Obama Mosque Visit Shows His Commitment to Religious Liberty

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the relations between US and Iran, Jan. 17, 2016. (Getty Images/Aude Guerrucci-Pool)

President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to a mosque will mark his commitment to religious freedom and religious tolerance, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Obama’s first visit to an American mosque, coming in the last year of his presidency, will be Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

“He is really looking forward to his trip to the Islamic Center. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the contributions that Muslim Americans have made to our nation but also reaffirm the importance that religious freedom has to our way of life,” Earnest told reporters Monday.

Getty Images/Aude Guerrucci-Pool

Obama’s visit comes after Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has called for a halt to Muslim immigrants into the United States and as U.S. forces battle the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State, in parts of Iraq and Syria.

“There obviously has been some discussion of this in terms of the political debate,” Earnest said.

Both Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have been adamant that terrorism doesn’t represent the beliefs of the Islamic faith.

On another front, Obama has come under much criticism with regard to religious freedom — primarily over Obamacare mandates that some business and private charities say violate their Christian faith.

Earnest noted that starting last week through the end of this week, Obama has honored several faiths.

“Obviously, the president last week had the opportunity to visit the Israeli embassy, to speak at the Righteous Among the Nations Ceremony, and of course later this week, the president will speak at the National Prayer Breakfast,” Earnest said. “So this fits into the constellation of events that the president is doing to talk about religious liberty, to talk about roll that faith plays in our public debate, I think it will also be an opportunity for the president to talk about the role faith plays even in his own life.”