Russell Moore praised the U.S. Supreme Court for its Tuesday ruling protecting the religious freedom of a Muslim inmate in the case of Holt vs. Hobbs.
"The Supreme Court did the right thing in this case," Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement after the decision. "Religious liberty isn't a prize earned by those with the most political clout. Religious liberty is a right given by God to all people. The Court here respected liberty of conscience and free exercise. Christians and others should be glad, especially in a time when the most basic religious liberties are routinely dismissed in many corners of our national debate. Thomas Jefferson would be proud of this good decision."
"This is a huge win for religious freedom and for all Americans," Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund, and co-counsel in the case, added in a statement. "More than 45 systems across the country allow prisoners to grow a half-inch beard, and at least 41 prison systems would allow an even longer beard. What the Supreme Court said today was that government officials cannot impose arbitrary restrictions on religious liberty just because they think government knows best. This is a victory not just for one prisoner in Arkansas, but for every American who believes and wants the freedom to act on those beliefs." more >>
The Islamic State terrorist organization in Iraq has executed 13 teenage boys solely because they were found watching a soccer match, an act that has apparently been deemed punishable by death under ISIS' sharia law.
According to the Syrian activist organization Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a group closely monitoring executions carried out by ISIS militants, the 13 teens were caught last week in the Al-Yarmouk district of the Iraqi city of Mosul watching the Iraq vs Jordan Asian Cup soccer match, which was held in Australia.
After being caught watching the game, which Iraq won 1-0, The boys were rounded up by ISIS militants and were later publicly executed via a firing squad using machine guns. more >>
The United States Supreme Court has just delivered a landmark ruling stating that a Muslim inmate can keep his beard as an expression of his religious freedom.
The petitioner, Gregory Holt (also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad), brought the case stating that his religion required him to keep a beard. However, Arkansas courts upheld their rule that prisoners be clean-shaven unless a medical condition requires them to have a beard, which can only be a quarter-inch. Federal district and appeals courts ruled against Holt's case, which he then took to the Supreme Court.
He cited the 2000 law passed by Congress to protect prisoners' religious rights as a precedent for him keeping his beard. Prosecutors argued that Holt, and other prisoners, could hide contraband in their beards if allowed to grow them past the quarter-inch mark. Yet the Supreme Court justices seemingly belittled this argument, even asking why guards could not use a comb to go through the hair if they suspected anything was amiss. more >>
In response to the growing threat posed by the Islamic State terrorist group, the royal family of Saudi Arabia is having a 600-mile barrier constructed to completely block the Iraqi portion of the Saudi northern border, hoping to prevent ISIS militants from infiltrating the kingdom.
The planned fence structure will span the entire distance of the Iraq-Saudi border, from Jordan to Kuwait. The border barrier system will feature five layers of barbed wire fencing, a ditch, a patrol road, 240 rapid response vehicles, underground motion sensors, 40 watchtowers, radar, day/night cameras, seven command centers, 28 communication towers, 32 military response stations (equipped with helipads), and three rapid intervention teams. The entire system will also be connected through a fibre-optic communications network.
The idea for the "great wall" was first proposed during the height of the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2006. But, construction on the barrier did not begin until last September, after the Islamic State conquered large swaths of the neighboring Anbar province in Iraq. more >>
As opposed to the massive, worldwide show of solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo journalists who were murdered by Islamic terrorists in Paris this month, there was no such show of solidarity when four religious Jews were slaughtered by Islamic terrorists as they prayed in their synagogue in Jerusalem last November. Why?
It is true that there was the occasional "I am a Jew" sign during the Paris demonstrations against the attacks (this was in memory of the Jews killed in the kosher deli in Paris). But such signs were like a needle in a haystack, while worldwide, "I am Charlie" was everywhere and "I am a Jew" virtually nowhere.
This is not to downplay for a moment the absolutely horrific nature of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter or to minimize the trauma it brought to France. These were professional journalists and staff, and to gun down 12 of them in broad daylight in the heart of Paris was shocking beyond words. more >>
In a widely praised January 1 speech, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Al-Azhar University to address the country's religious leadership, saying the time had come to reform Islam. He's won Western plaudits for this, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I have reservations about the speech.
To begin with, no matter how fine Sisi's ideas, no politician – and especially no strongman – has moved modern Islam. Atatürk's reforms in Turkey are systematically being reversed. A decade ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan gave similarly fine speeches on "the true voice of Islam" and "enlightened moderation" that immediately disappeared from view. Yes, Sisi's comments are stronger, but he is not a religious authority and, in all likelihood, they too will disappear without a trace.
As for content: Sisi praised the faith of Islam and focused on what he calls fikr, literally meaning thought but in this context meaning wrong ideas. He complained that wrong ideas, which he did not specify, have become sacralized and that the religious leadership dares not criticize them. But Sisi did criticize, and in a colloquial Arabic highly unusual for discussing such topics: "It is inconceivable that the wrong ideas which we sacralize should make the entire umma [Muslim community] a source of concern, danger, killing, and destruction for the whole world. This is not possible." more >>