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Same-sex marriage ban likely to be upheld by California Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court last week suggested that it was ready today to uphold Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. However, it also seemed likely to rule that the marriages of same-sex couples who wed before the vote would remain valid.

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New proposals to stop religious selection “perverse” say English religious leaders

New proposals to take away the rights of faith schools' to admit pupils on the basis of religion are "perverse and unjust", according to the Britain's religious leaders.

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Religious people stay calm in a crisis: study

Religious people are less likely to panic under pressure than those with no religion, according to the results of a new experiment.

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Punishment of people over their faith “ludricrous”, says Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has blasted as "ludicrous” the punishment of people for expressing their beliefs, such as the nurse recently suspended for offering to pray for a patient.

In an interview with the Church of England Newspaper, Mr Blair attacked the suspension of Caroline Petrie after she offered to pray for an elderly patient. He also referred to the fate of Jennie Cain, the primary school receptionist who still faces the sack after she asked for spiritual support from friends when her daughter was scolded for talking about Hell in the playground.

Mr Blair warned that Christianity was at risk of being sidelined in Britain's "aggressively secularist" society and he agreed with church leaders that religious faith is in danger of being seen as a "personal eccentricity" rather than an important influence on the country.

Mr Blair, in the famous words of his spokesman, Alastair Campbell, did not "do God" while he was in Downing Street. He later admitted that he feared he would be labelled a "nutter" if he spoke publicly about his religious convictions.

But he has since converted to Roman Catholicism and set up the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to "promote respect and understanding about the world's major religions".

Mr Blair said: "Sometimes I think we as Christians are more sensitive than we should be although I say that as someone who when I was in office, although I was perfectly open about my Christianity, nonetheless kept it within certain boundaries that were restricted in terms of what I said publicly. The position of prime minister puts you in a unique category.

"But in general terms in British society there is a risk that people see faith as a personal eccentricity."

Asked about the threat of disciplinary action now faced by public sector staff who are open about their religion, he said: "I hope and believe that stories of people not being allowed to express their Christianity are exceptional or the result of individual ludicrous decisions. My view is that people should be proud of their Christianity and able to express it as they wish."

He admitted that conflict is "inevitable" between traditional religions and the new liberal doctrine of human rights.

But he went on: "The real test of a religion is whether in an age of aggressive secularism it has the confidence to go out and make its case by persuasion."

Mr Blair said, however, that he believed ‘equality and diversity’ considerations were more important than religious freedom in the case of the Catholic adoption agencies that failed in their bid to be exempted from laws requiring them to consider homosexual couples as potential parents. He was Prime Minister when this occurred.

"I happen to take the gay rights position," he said. "But at the time of the Catholic adoption society dispute I was also concerned that these people who were doing a fantastic job were not put out of business. You have got to try to work your way through these issues."

He also said he believed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had been misunderstood when he said it "seems inevitable" that some parts of Islamic law would be enshrined in Britain's legal code.

"I thought at the time all this was a lot of fuss over nothing," Mr Blair said.

His comments come just days after his wife, Cherie, told of her disappointment at the apparent "terminal decline" of Christianity in a Channel 4 documentary, saying: "Everywhere you look today churches are being closed, Christians are often being marginalised and faith is something few people like to discuss openly."


Senators Norris and Bacik deny child’s right to mother and father

The idea that children have a right to a mother and father is “absurd” and “nonsensical”, Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik have said in a Seanad debate. During the debate, children’s minister, Barry Andrews, indicated he was open to the idea of adoption by same-sex couples and said the only real impediment to it was the Constitution.

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Archbishop backs moves to secure protocols for Lisbon II

Protocols securing Ireland's unique stance on social and moral issues ahead of a second Lisbon referendum are an important part of ensuring that the “competence creep” of EU law does not interfere with our laws on family and abortion, according to the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin.

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New IVF rules allow two ‘mothers’ to be named on birth certs

A former head of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), Baroness Deech, has said that new regulations governing IVF are “ putting the rights of the parents way above those of the child”.

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Australian rights charter weakens protection for religion, warns expert

A leading Australian human rights expert has warned that a human rights charter being championed by some campaigners is "a device for the delivery of a soft-Left sectarian agenda".

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Twenty children in care of State died over six years, say new figures

Twenty children in State care have died over a six-year period, according to figures reported in the Irish Times.

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US to fund pro-marriage ad campaign

The US government is funding a $5 million national media campaign that launches this month, extolling the virtues of marriage for those ages 18 to 30.

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Draft EPP manifesto favours ‘family diversity’ over marriage

The draft manifesto of the European People's Party (EPP) for the 2009 European Parliament elections has removed the reference to “unique ties between man and woman” in the context of the family and replaced them with a reference to family diversity.

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Marital children have priority over non-marital children: High Court

Fathers have a prior duty to provide financial care for their marital children over and above any duty to non-marital children, the High Court has ruled.

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Govt must secure social guarantees to win Lisbon, says Senator Mullen

The Government needs to ensure that the Irish Constitution, and not Europe “reigns supreme where sensitive social issues are concerned,” in considering its approach to any second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Senator Ronan Mullen has said.

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Radical Yogyakarta Principles being considered at Council of Europe

The radical Yogyakarta Principles, which are aimed, among other things, at legalising same-sex marriage and adoption world-wide, as well as banning ‘hate speech’ against homosexuals, is being considered by special committee of the Council of Europe (CoE) is meeting this week in Strasbourg.

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Religion important in vast majority of people's lives, world poll finds

Religion is important in the daily lives of over 80 per cent of the world’s population, according to a new poll conducted by Gallup. Approximately 1,000 adults were surveyed in almost every country in the world 2006, 2007, and 2008. It asked respondents how important religion was to them in their daily lives.

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UK Christians regarded as “mad”: Archbishop

Contemporary British society regards Christians as "mad" because they are motivated by compassion and not money, according to a leading Anglican clergyman

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Children need to learn the Bible, says leading atheist

Children should be taught the Bible or they will fail to understand culture and and literature, according to the UK's leading poet.

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UK teachers may face action for talking about faith

New guidelines for teachers drawn up by the UK's General Teaching Council (GTC), mean that teachers may face disciplinary action if they discuss their religious beliefs with children, according to reports. The guidelines say that teachers must "promote equality and value diversity".

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First ever Marriage Week in Ireland launched

This week Ireland's first-ever Marriage Week has been taking place. The event consisted of a programme of events to support and encourage married and engaged couples, has been welcomed by Mary Hanafin, Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

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Jesuit College strengthens Catholic identity

Boston College (BC), a renowned US Jesuit university, has decided to reintroduce crosses into its classrooms. The move, which was made last month, is part of an ongoing drive to make the college's Catholic identity more public. Two years ago, the college installed a new statue of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order.

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"The child...shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents."

Article 7. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.