New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he will not be participating in the city's historic St. Patrick's Day parade in March because of its policy prohibiting LGBT groups from carrying pro-gay banners. His decision has struck the ire of some public figures in the city who argue the politician is opting out of an important and historical tradition.
De Blasio, who was elected to his post in November 2013, is the first NYC mayor in 20 years to not participate in the famous march down Fifth Avenue that is considered to be the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration in the nation. When de Blasio served as public advocate for the city, he participated in an alternative St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens that allowed LGBT participants to carry signs.
"I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city," de Blasio said at a press conference earlier this week, adding, "But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade." more >>
An atheist group has filed an appeal against a ruling that allowed the "Big Mountain Jesus" statue at Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort in Montana to stay in place.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a brief on Jan. 28 with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to overturn a June ruling by a federal judge that allowed the U.S. Forest Service to renew its 10-year permit for the Big Mountain Jesus Statue, which has stood atop Whitefish Ski Resort in Montana for the past six decades as part of a World War II memorial. The Whitefish Ski Resort is located in the Flathead National Forest, which is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, a government entity.
In its brief filed last week, the FFRF described the six-foot statue as "a permanent Catholic shrine on public land," saying that such a religious shrine is "prohibited by the Establishment Clause, every bit as much as a Catholic church would be." more >>
A local community in North Carolina is rallying behind its high school football coach, who was recently banned from praying at school football games after an atheist group complained.
Hal Capps, the head football coach for the Blue Devils at Mooresville High School, was banned from leading players in the Lord's Prayer prior to school football games after a parent complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation that in turn issued a letter to the Mooresville Graded School District demanding they cease the practice.
"It is a violation of the Constitution for the Mooresville High School football coach to organize, lead, or participate in prayers or other religious proselytizing before, during, or after games and practices," Patrick Elliott, an attorney for the Madison-based FFRF nonprofit group, said in a letter to school district lawyer Kevin Donaldson last fall. "It is well settled that public schools, and by extension public school officials, may not advance or promote religion." more >>
A Christian college in Wisconsin has changed its "Crusaders" school mascot after nearly half-a-century in order to adapt to changing times.
Matt Davis, executive vice president of Maranatha Baptist University located in Watertown, says that the university chose to change its nickname because it has become a more "global society." The school also changed its name from Maranatha Baptist College in December, and Davis says the latest change is in compliance with the school's makeover process.
U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini, currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Iran, has been given a "glimmer of hope" for clemency after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mentioned a possible reduced jail sentence.
"Could Iran be willing to give Pastor Saeed clemency? Could it be willing to release him to return to his wife and two children here in the U.S.?" the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini's wife and two children in the U.S, wrote in a statement on Monday.
"One thing is for sure: Pastor Saeed's release would be a monumental humanitarian gesture for Iran. Clemency would give Iran the opportunity, within their own judicial system, to release Pastor Saeed and show the world that it is serious about changing its human rights' record." more >>
The Pentagon is expected to announce that it will be relaxing rules for religious wear in the military, allowing service members to wear some religious tattoos, turbans, beards, or yarmulkes, as long as the item does not interfere with carrying out a military mission.
The announcement states that the new policy adopted by the Department of Defense will require the military to accommodate the "individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs" of service members. The directive goes on to state that unless a religious item interferes with a service member's readiness, safety, or order, service members may be granted permission by their commanders to display their religious items while wearing their uniform.
"[…] the importance of uniformity and adhering to standards, of putting unit before self, is more significant and needs to be carefully evaluated when considering each request for accommodation," the Pentagon statement states. more >>