Canadian Freedom of Religion Case

JURIST - In Loyola High School and John Zucci v. Attorney General of Quebec the Supreme Court of Canada addressed the issue of religious freedom in the context of teaching religion and ethics in a private Catholic school.
In 2008 Quebec introduced an Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program, which it made mandatory in public schools. The program is taught from a secular perspective and is intended to "develop three competencies among students: the ability to understand 'religious culture'...[t]he ability to reflect on ethical questions; and the ability to engage in dialogue."
The Minister of Education has the discretionary power to authorize equivalent courses in lieu of mandatory ones in private schools. Loyola High School applied for permission to replace the ERC curriculum with a course taught primarily from a Catholic perspective.

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The Non Conference 2015

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Are you an atheist or care about ideas, policies and institutions that affect non-believers? Then The Non-Conference is for you! 
The Non-Conference is Ontario's largest annual conference that is specifically geared for non-believers, non-theists, the "nones", atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, materialists, rationalists, secularists, pantheists, skeptics, empiricists, naturalists, friendly theists...well, you get the idea.
AAI's own Christine M. Shellska will be speaking at this conference on blasphemy laws (in the context of AAI's involvement in the Anti-Blasphemy Coalition), and AAI will have a table at this conference. 

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A mockery of human rights in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan

Washington Post - RECENT EVENTS in Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia show why authoritarian regimes believe they can get away with the grossest abuses of human rights: because they can and they do.

In Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation held a meeting last week to discuss “full and effective implementation” of a resolution, approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council six years ago, backing religious freedom and tolerance. 

The resolution deplored “all acts of violence against persons on the basis of their religious beliefs,” among many other noble sentiments. In a statement at the opening session, the acting U.S. envoy to the OIC, Arsalan Suleman, declared it a “critical time” for fighting intolerance and called on participants to “focus our attention on implementation” of the lofty goals of the resolution. The head of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Joachim Rücker, said that tolerance must include “all religions and beliefs everywhere.”

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Global Catholicism study: 'Very serious' forecast

By Terry Mattingly – Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

The European numbers in the report are serious business. While Vatican statistics claim Europe's Catholic population rose 6 percent between 1980 and 2012, infant baptisms fell by 1.5 million and marriages between two Catholics collapsed from roughly 1.4 million to 585,000. The number of priests fell 32 percent and weekly Mass attendance kept declining, from 37 percent in the 1980s to 20 percent since 2010.

But the past lingers in brick and mortar. Even though European bishops closed 12 percent of their parishes during this study's time frame, Europe -- with only 23 percent of the global Catholic population -- still has more parishes than the rest of the world combined.

"These are the Vatican numbers and nothing in here will surprise the bishops," said Mark Gray, director of the center's Catholic Polls and co-author of the report. "They are aware of their sacramental numbers and their Mass attendance numbers. ... They know that they face issues right now, and in the future, that are very serious."

When it comes to church statistics, experts study life's symbolic events -- births, marriages and deaths. It also helps to note how often believers go to Mass and whether there are enough priests to perform these rites.

Is the United States the next Europe? It's hard to compare numbers in the study, since it placed North America and South America in one region -- with trends in other nations obscuring those here.

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A closer look at America’s rapidly growing religious ‘nones’



Religiously unaffiliated people have been growing as a share of all Americans for some time. Pew Research Center’s massive 2014 Religious Landscape Study makes clear just how quickly this is happening, and also shows that the trend is occurring within a variety of demographic groups – across genders, generations and racial and ethnic groups, to name a few.


Religious “nones” – a shorthand we use to refer to people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” – now make up roughly 23% of the U.S. adult population. This is a stark increase from 2007, the last time a similar Pew Research study was conducted, when 16% of Americans were “nones.” (During this same time period, Christians have fallen from 78% to 71%.)


Overall, religiously unaffiliated people are more concentrated among young adults than other age groups – 35% of Millennials (those born 1981-1996) are “nones.” In addition, the unaffiliated as a whole are getting even younger. The median age of unaffiliated adults is now 36, down from 38 in 2007 and significantly younger than the overall median age of U.S. adults in 2014 (46).

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Eddie Izzard will run for London mayor as fearless atheist


American politicians who aren’t religious may claim they are, out of fear or pandering. But comedian Eddie Izzard will run for mayor of London an an atheist, and he expects no fallout.

That’s because Brits aren’t so religiously punishing to candidates now, partly because World War II killed millions of people and many people’s faith, Izzard said.

“We had a Second World War happen on our land mass. Of the 50 million that died, probably about 35 million died” in the region, he said. “And I think we noticed God wasn’t there or didn’t care.”

What happens when atheists (including me) don’t believe in deities?

“We still believe in people. I believe in human beings. Whenever there’s a disaster, human beings stand up. (Charities) stand up,” Izzard said. “Zero gods have ever stood up for a disaster.”

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British tourist Eleanor Hawkins arrested for naked photo on top of Malaysian mountain

According to Telegraph, a British woman arrested in Malaysia for posing naked on top of a sacred mountain has been named as Eleanor Hawkins, a former independent school head girl.

The 24-year-old, who had recently graduated with a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from Southampton University, was detained on Tuesday at Tawau airport, as she was flying out from the island of Borneo to the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Three others were also arrested on Tuesday after handing themselves in: 23-year-old Canadian Lindsey Peterson and his sister Danielle, 22, and a 23-year-old Dutch man, Dylan Snel.

Other members of the group were being sought by Malaysian police.

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Saudi Arabia hosts UN-backed human rights summit 'on combating religious discrimination'

saudi-conference-v2According to Independent, Saudi Arabia has hosted an international conference on human rights, attended by the president of the UN Human Rights Council, and resolved to combat intolerance and violence based on religious belief.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) - which has its headquarters in Jeddah - convened the fifth annual meeting of the Istanbul Process as the kingdom's Supreme Court preparedto rule on the case of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam through religious channels”. It later upheld the sentence.

The UN HRC recently faced criticism over Saudi plans to head up the council from 2016, in what critics said would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the international body.

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