National Shorts - NewsBriefs

Military’s highest court denies Marine’s religious liberty claim

(WNS)–In a decision likely to influence how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) applies to military service members, the military’s highest court upheld the conviction of a U.S. Marine court-martialed for disobeying an order to remove three Bible passages she posted around her workplace. In an opinion released on Aug. 10, the five civilian judges on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) decided 4-to-1 to uphold a lower court ruling against Lance Cpl. Monifa J. Sterling. The lower court found Sterling failed to inform her superiors that the posting of the signs was “religiously motivated” and failed “to establish that the orders to remove the signs constituted a substantial burden on her exercise of religion” under RFRA. The signs, a personalization of Isaiah 54:17, read, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

Parents of Benghazi victims sue Clinton for sons’ deaths

(WNS)–Parents of two Americans slain in the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Aug. 8, claiming she bears responsibility for the wrongful deaths of their sons. “The person that’s responsible is Hillary Clinton—she’s the one that did this,” said Pat Smith, the mother of fallen U.S. Foreign Service member Sean Smith. The two plaintiffs in the case are Smith and Charles Woods, father of former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods. Sean and Tyrone were two of the four Americans killed during the widely publicized terror attacks. The lawsuit focuses heavily on Clinton’s improper use of a private email server while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. The court action is sure to fuel ongoing political fodder a month after FBI Director James Comey called Clinton “extremely careless” with her emails and less than two weeks after she formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president.

Ethicists: NIH can’t be trusted to police ‘chimera’ research

(WNS)–H.G. Wells penned his horror novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, in 1896, telling the seemingly impossible story of a mad scientist who surgically changes humans into animals. Well over a century later, science fiction has not only morphed into real science but the U.S. wants to fund what would once have been unthinkable experiments. In early August, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a proposal to lift a ban on funding for controversial experiments in which researchers add human stem cells to animal embryos, creating organisms commonly called chimeras—part animal, part human. Under the new guidelines, NIH will continue to prohibit funding for research that introduces human stem cells into the embryos of non-human primates like monkeys, which the agency deems too closely related to humans. But the new policy will grant funding for such experiments using other species, even experiments which create animals with human brain tissue, sperm, or eggs.

Advocates aim to give porn the tobacco treatment

(WNS)–As more research links pornography to psychological and physiological damage, advocates hope it will soon generate the same national antipathy as smoking cigarettes. “Pornography is the new tobacco and that’s good news,” Haley Halverson of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation said Aug. 3 during a Family Research Council policy lecture. “Pornography is pervasive and popular today—there’s no denying it and it’s a really serious problem we have to address. But so was smoking in the 1950s. It was popular, everybody did it—it was considered glamorous. But as the harms became more apparent, as the research was sent out to the public and was able to be digested by them, both the general public and elected officials demanded a public health approach to the problem.”

Is gender reassignment surgery a medical necessity?

 (WNS)–The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in July it is moving toward declassifying transgender identity as a mental disorder. As more medical professional groups move toward the same conclusion, LGBT advocacy groups are calling gender reassignment surgery a “medical necessity” that should be covered by all insurance companies. The U.S. government has so far not declared gender reassignment surgery a necessity. But in May 2014, Obama administration officials issued a ruling that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping. It was widely viewed as a step toward requiring coverage.

Push for pot legalization sparks surge in smokers

(WNS)–The number of marijuana users has nearly doubled in the last three years, according to a new report released Aug. 8. Thirteen percent of adults told Gallup they smoke marijuana, up from just 7 percent in 2013. As legalization spreads, experts expect the number of users to continue to climb. Four states—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington—and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana use. Half of all U.S. states allow for some use of medicinal marijuana. In November, five states will vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana and four will vote on allowing marijuana for medical use. Gallup cited legalization as a likely explanation for the recent uptick in users.


Christian colleges relieved by California committee vote


(WNS)–A dark cloud that has been hanging over California’s faith-based higher education institutions has lifted—for now. The California Assembly Appropriations Committee voted Aug. 11 to pass a Senate bill regulating faith-based colleges with last-minute modifications designed to address concerns over religious liberty. The bill will move on for a vote to the Assembly floor.


Right up to two days before the vote, the previous version of Senate Bill 1146 held serious implications for the freedom of religion of the state’s faith-based colleges. The way it was written before, SB 1146 had threatened to take away religious colleges’ exemption from California’s non-discrimination law, which would have left schools vulnerable to non-discrimination lawsuits. The bill also would have affected religious colleges’ freedom to determine admissions, housing and restroom facilities, student codes of conduct, and employment based on their religious tenets.

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