The Christian Post's top 10 news stories of 2022 (part 2)

Coach Joe Kennedy at the Bremerton High School football field. | Courtesy of First Liberty Institute

3. Religious liberty victories at home and abroad

Throughout 2022, Christians at home and abroad celebrated what they saw as several victories for religious liberty.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Joe Kennedy, a Washington state high school football coach disciplined for praying on the field after games, in a 6-3 decision. The majority of justices determined that "the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy's." The litigation surrounding Kennedy's prayer after football games dates back to 2016, one year after the school district suspended him.

In another 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Maine's requirement limiting the use of funds for a government tuition aid program violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

In both of the aforementioned U.S. Supreme Court cases, Republican-appointed Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett formed the majority opinion, while Democrat-appointed Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

School choice and religious freedom advocates in West Virginia experienced a similar victory when the West Virginia Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and upheld the Hope Scholarship Program, which provides parents with funding to send their children to private schools or cover expenses related to homeschooling.

In Alabama, the state's High School Athletic Association implemented a policy allowing religious schools to request accommodations in sports schedules so that competitions do not occur on their Sabbath days. The development followed litigation related to the denial of a religious exemption requested by a Seventh-day Adventist-affiliated private school that had to forfeit participation in a playoff basketball tournament because it took place on a Saturday, their day of Sabbath.

Europeans also saw religious liberty victories in 2022.

Just after the start of the new year, an employment tribunal in England ruled that a hospital wrongfully discriminated against Christian nurse Mary Onuoha by forcing her to resign after she refused to comply with her employer's demand to stop wearing a cross to work.

Similarly, a British Methodist minister who serves as a chaplain at a hospice threatened with "consequences" for wearing a cross at work received an apology from his employer.

Also, in England, a Christian doctor who faced the loss of his medical license after a patient complained that his offer to pray led to "discomfort" reached a settlement with the National Health Service, allowing him to pray for and with patients if they consent to do so in exchange for attending a one-day course about professional boundaries. 

Hatun Tash, a London-based Christian evangelist who has devoted her career to critiquing and debating others about Islam, received a letter of apology and an $11,000 settlement from the Metropolitan Police for arresting her on two occasions.

Tash's first arrest followed her refusal to leave the scene of a tussle with Islamic men who attacked her for wearing a shirt depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad while her second detention stemmed from her defense of a fellow preacher's right to free speech during the coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing restrictions.

Last month, prosecutors in the U.K. dropped hate crimes charges against street preacher John Dunn, who was arrested for preaching to two lesbians holding hands about the biblical definition of marriage.

Elsewhere in Europe, A Finnish court dropped all hate speech charges against Finnish Parliament Member Paivi Rasanen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola. An indictment filed by a Finnish prosecutor characterized a 2004 pamphlet they created titled Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity as an incitement of hatred against a group.

Rasanen also faced prison time and a fine for a 2019 tweet criticizing the leadership of the Finnish Lutheran Church for embracing LGBT pride month and doubling down on her beliefs on homosexuality in a radio show appearance that same year.

In Pakistan, Christian Stephen Masih was released on blasphemy charges after three years in prison. Masih's Muslim neighbor filed blasphemy charges against him after an argument over a pigeon. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.

Ryan Foley contributed to this report

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