AR News Summary: EU’s Top Court Bans Wearing the Hijab at Work

EU’s Top Court Bans Wearing the Hijab at Work? It’s not so simple.
Location: Europe

The EU’s top court ruled that companies in the European Union (EU) can enforce that Muslim employees refrain from putting on the headscarf. The decision was made on the basis that companies may only ban employees from wearing Islamic headscarves if required to project an image of neutrality to clients. The court’s ruling mentioned previous cases where two separate Muslim women in Germany were let go from their jobs after they began wearing headscarves at work. This has been described as non-discriminatory because, according to the court, “a prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.” This ruling was met with heavy resentment from amongst the religious population.

Indian Hate Site “Auctioned Off” Muslim Women
Location: India

An app called Sulli Deals has been posting private information and pictures of Muslim women in India. These women were being called "deal of the day." Sulli, a derogatory term for Muslim women in India, is commonly used by far-right Hindu groups.  28-year-old Saniya Sayed from Mumbai felt humiliated and described the ordeal as being "auctioned like cattle." One of the many victims is Afreen Fatima, a 23-year-old student activist from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. She was targeted after she joined an online discussion about the oppression of Muslim women in India. Such incidents weren’t limited to Muslim women in India and included women living in the United States. The app was hosted by the 3rd-party hosting service GitHub, which has since taken it down. The Delhi Police public relations officer said that the police cyber cell has already filed criminal complaints regarding Sulli Deals. He added that they have not yet identified the individuals behind it but are actively working with GitHub.

Catholic Diocese Files for Bankruptcy While Facing Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Location: Connecticut

On July 15th, Rev. Michael Cote, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, declared that the Diocese filed for bankruptcy. The announcement was made while lawsuits related to alleged sexual abuse at Mount Saint John School's Academy were ongoing. In 2016, a sexual abuse victim filed and won the case against the Diocese of Norwich and Bishop Daniel Reilly. The Diocese was forced to pay $9.5 million after losing the case. In 2018, the Diocese faced more than 20 lawsuits for alleged sexual abuse of underage victims. Kelly Reardon, the attorney representing six of these victims, questions the Diocese's decision to file for bankruptcy. She predicts that the filing will shield the Diocese financially, preventing the victims from receiving full compensation.

Minnesota Bans Conversion Therapy for Minors, Angers Christian Group
Location: Minnesota

On July 15th, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order effectively banning conversion therapy to minors. Many on the religious right have expressed their outrage at this decision.  Minnesota Family Council (MFC) CEO, John Helmberger, stated that the Governor’s actions would hurt sufferers seeking to get the care.  According to a Trevor Project survey from 2020, 58% of LGBT youth in the US had someone try to convince them to change their gender identity or sexuality. In a 2009 report from the American Psychological Association, multiple cited studies have shown that conversion therapy is not an evidence-based practice. It can result in an increased risk of substance abuse and mood disorders. According to the official press release, the executive order will have various government agencies work with health care companies to ensure they do not cover nor fund conversion therapy and will open investigations on any health care providers engaged in conversion therapy in any way.

Christian Teacher Refuses to Use Transgender Names, Sues School, Loses
Location: Indiana

John Kluge, an orchestra teacher in Brownsburg Community School from 2014 to 2018, sued his former employer over the school's transgender name policy. Kluge was asked to address students by their first names, including the chosen names adopted by transgender students. Kluge and three other teachers sent a letter to the school's principal, stating that to "encourage students in transgenderism" is a sin. Kluge was forced to resign in 2018. In 2019, Kluge filed a lawsuit arguing that the school violated his First Amendment rights. The district judge rejected Kluge's argument, explaining that he was, at that time, a government employee who was instructed to carry out his job. Two years after, in July 2021, Judge Magnus-Stinson dismissed Kluge's religious discrimination lawsuit. The judge stated that Brownsburg Community School "has an obligation to meet the needs of all of its students, not just... the students that were unaware of or unbothered by Mr. Kluge's practice of using last names only."

Top Catholic Official Resigns After Being Caught Using Gay Dating Apps
Location: USA

On July 20th, Archbishop Jose Gomez announced the resignation of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the General Secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), referencing Burrill's presence on gay dating apps like Grindr. His position as the General Secretary of US Conference of Catholic Bishops allowed Burrill to hold and organize various administrative functions within the conference. A report from the Catholic news site The Pillar claimed to have found evidence that the monsignor engaged in and maintained "serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church's response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals." The report linked his phone data to him, which showed daily use of Grindr from 2018 until 2020. This use even happened in his office at the USCCB and USCCB-owned residences.

Danish Creator of Famed Muhammad cartoon, Kurt Westergaard, dies at 86
Location: Denmark

Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist for the Jyllands-Posten newspaper since the 1980s, passed away at age 86. In 2005, Jylland-Posten published Westergaard’s controversial images of the Prophet Muhammad. One of the caricatures depicted the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. Westergaard intended for his cartoons to highlight the fearful self-censorship regarding criticism of Islam. These cartoons caused great consternation among Muslims across the globe, causing waves of violence that resulted in more than 250 reported deaths. This included attacks on Danish and other European diplomatic missions, attacks on churches and Christians, and a boycott of Danish goods. The attacks ignited an uptick of death threats against Westergaard. According to Reuters, in 2008, Kurt Westergaard stated that he has no regrets about his artwork, and he "wants to be remembered as one who struck a blow for freedom of speech."

Anti-Abortion Group Protests Biden's CNN Event Hosted at Catholic School
Location: Ohio

President Joe Biden has made it clear that he supports the government protecting abortion rights, although he is personally opposed to the procedure. The Catholic church is not content with the current president's stance on abortion.  A pro-life group based in Ohio, Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati (RTLGC), met Biden's recent CNN town hall at Mt. Saint Joseph University with protests. RTLGC stated that Biden demolished Trump's legacy by forming a "radically pro-abortion cabinet." On their website, RTLGC called out to the public, asking them to join their protest. The Catholic university released a statement after news of the anti-abortion group's plan to protest Biden's presence. The school emphasized that they have "always been and will continue to be a diverse and inclusive place where people from different races, ethnicities, social backgrounds, beliefs, and religions can come together to discuss and share their unique perspectives."

Ex-Muslims Call Out Facebook: New Hate Speech Policy or Blasphemy Law?
Location: USA

In a press release posted on the Ex-Muslims of North America's website, the organization's director, Sarah Haider, responded to a letter from the Director of Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement for Facebook, Peter Stern. In her response, Haider explained how and why Facebook's new Content Policy is facilitating harm for marginalized groups such as atheists and other non-religious communities. Haider stated that instead of putting forward plans to reconsider and review the new Content Policies, Facebook has instead "double-downed" on their implementation. Facebook's new Content Policy on Hate Speech explicitly states not to post "content attacking concepts, institutions, ideas, practices, or beliefs… associated with that protected characteristic." This new policy is fundamentally against the well-known tenet of mindful criticism, i.e., "human beings have rights, ideas do not."

ANOTHER Legal Complaint Against Atheist Activist for Hindu Goddess Art

On July 22, 2021, Atheist Republic received a letter containing a legal notice filed by Akhilesh Vyas, a lawyer based in India. The letter directed the complaint to Facebook and Twitter, demanding they remove the "offensive" posts by Atheist Republic and its founder, Armin Navabi. The complaint claims that Armin and Atheist Republic's goal is to "willfully outrage and hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus." Vyas's complaint also claims that Facebook officials are in connivance with Atheist Republic, allowing the latter to post illegal and malicious content. The complaint also highlighted that by maintaining the content on their platforms, Facebook and Twitter are in violation of Indian law, including the recently enacted "Information Technology Rules," and threatened the companies with further legal action.

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