Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Obama Revises Mandate: Free Contraception for Women
Responding to an outcry from religious organizations, the Obama administration has revised its controversial mandate forcing faith-based employers to pay for health insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs -- but some pro-life advocates are saying the revision is even worse, LifeNews.com reports. The revised mandate will require religious groups to contract with insurers to offer birth control coverage at no cost; a woman's insurance company "will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it," Obama administration officials said. However, pro-life leaders say the new policy still violates freedom of conscience. "This so-called accommodation sounds a hollow gesture," said Al Kresta, host of a syndicated Catholic talk show. "We call on ... all who value freedom of conscience to continue the battle for true conscience protection for religious organizations and individuals."
Contraceptive Mandate Compromise 'Utterly Fails,' Say Pro-Life Leaders
Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, says Obama's revised contraceptive mandate continues to be "a serious violation" of religious freedom, OneNewsNow.com reports. Obama said Friday that the solution "protected religious liberty" as well as ensured that "free preventative care will not discriminate against women," but Smith argued: "The newest iteration of Obama's coercion rule utterly fails because it still forces religious employers and employees who have moral objections to paying for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception to pay for these things -- because it is still the employers who buy the coverage for their employees. ... [The mandate states] that religious employers 'will not' have to pay for abortion pills ... but their 'insurance companies' will. Who pays for the insurance policy? The religious employer." Paul Rondeau of the American Life League added, "This was about Obama willing to defy the Constitution and invade individual, personal sovereignty."
Iranian Authorities Raid House Church in Shiraz
Iranian authorities arrested Christian converts from Islam while they were meeting for worship Feb. 8 at a home in the southern city of Shiraz, Compass Direct News reports. Officials are holding them at an unknown location, said sources, who put the number of arrested Christians at between six and 10. The sources said they knew the name of only one of those arrested, identified as Mojtaba Hosseini. In 2008, Hosseini was arrested along with eight other Christian converts on charges of being Christian. "I guess they have been watching Hosseini since then," said an Iranian Christian who requested anonymity. The Christian said that although Shiraz was not a particularly "religious" part of Muslim-majority Iran, persecution of Christians there stemmed from the government's hostility toward them more than from local sentiment.
Washington Governor to Sign Gay Marriage Bill Today
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire plans to sign newly passed legislation today to legalize gay marriage in the state, making it the seventh U.S. state to redefine marriage. The bill passed the Washington state House Feb. 8 with a vote of 55-43 one week after it passed the Senate, 28-21. The measure is set to take effect in June, but churches and traditional groups are attempting to put it on hold by collecting 121,000 signatures by June 6. If they succeed, the initiative will appear on the November ballot, and voters could reverse the law with a majority vote. Conservatives will likely try to highlight two themes that have proven successful in other states: that legalizing gay marriage will lead to negative consequences on religious freedoms and what is taught in schools, and that children need mothers and fathers. "Despite what supporters of gay marriage argue, mothers and fathers are not 'interchangeable and replaceable,'" said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
Publication date: February 13, 2012