A federal appeals court in Indiana has ruled to allow humanists in the state to have their weddings officiated by a secular celebrant.
A three judge panel with the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that humanists should be allowed to have their weddings officiated by secularist celebrants, arguing that preventing them from doing so violated the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. Previously, Indiana's law stated that marriages could only be performed by religious clergy or government officials, such as mayors and city clerks.
"This is a big step forward in recognizing the rights of nonreligious persons," Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director for the Center for Inquiry, a humanist group, said in a press release. "Now couples may have a Secular Celebrant who shares their world view solemnize their marriage." more >>
A California trial court has backed a private Southern Baptist school over its right to expel a transgender student, who is accused of committing fraud by applying for admission as a female. The court has also, however, awarded $4,000 in damages to the plaintiff for being excluded from the school's ancillary programs that are open to the public, such as the library and restaurants.
MSNBC reported on Monday that the student in question is 27-year-old Domaine Javier, who was born as a biological male but has identified as female since childhood. California Baptist University expelled Javier for fraud violations in 2011, after Javier appeared in an episode of MTV's "A True Life" and admitted to being born a male.
Javier's attorneys argued that CBU had violated California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on various categories, including sex and sexual orientation. more >>
Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has ended his Twitter hiatus by posting multiple religious-themed messages on the social media platform this week, shortly before his highly-publicized murder trial reaches its conclusion in August.
Pistorius, who is being charged with the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, returned to Twitter Sunday after taking a five month hiatus from the social media platform. One of the tweets uploaded on Sunday was a reference to Psalm 34:18 that reads: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted."
The South African sprinter then posted a collage of photographs that showed the Olympic athlete posing with young amputees, accompanied by the message: "You have the ability to make a difference in someones (sic) life." more >>
The high-profile trial of Singapore megachurch pastor Kong Hee and five other City Harvest Church officials for misusing millions of church funds to pay for his wife's popstar career, resumed on Monday. Kong's wife, singer Sun Ho, is expected to take the witness stand this week.
Channel NewsAsia pointed out that the trial, which began in May 2012, is turning out to be one of the longest-running criminal trials in the country. Kong and the five other officials are accused of musing 24 million SGD ($19.2 million) in donated money. The defense has argued that City Harvest's church board never passed a resolution that indicated who exactly has the power to make decisions regarding the funds.
Sun Ho has not been charged herself in the case, though was temporarily removed from her position as executive director of the 30,000 member City Harvest, which was founded by Kong in 1989. The singer is expected to be one of the witnesses called to the stand this week, along with the first of the six church officials on trial. more >>
Cooper Harris, the 22-month old who died of hyperthermia after being left inside a hot vehicle for seven hours, tested negative for any drugs or poisons, the official toxicology report stated. The boy's father has been charged with murder and child cruelty but pleaded not guilty; his mother has obtained her own attorney pending possible charges.
Cooper's death was "consistent with hyperthermia" and the investigation "suggests the manner of death is homicide," officials stated. The boy was found inside the vehicle still inside his too-small car seat and with scratch marks on his face, suggesting that he struggled to get out of the seat.
Officials tried to recreate the scene of Cooper's death earlier this week in order to gain more insight into what happened that fateful day. They measured the temperature at key times in the day, such as when Harris pulled into the parking lot at Home Depot, where he worked, and left Cooper. They also checked the temperature three hours later, when Cooper's father Justin put light bulbs inside the vehicle and left; and again, four hours later, when Harris drove off with Cooper dead in the back seat. more >>
A Colorado district court judge has declared a state voter-approved amendment defining marriage as being between only one man and one woman.
District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree of Adams County made his ruling on Wednesday, but immediately stayed his decision pending appeal. more >>