BEIJING (New York Times) — Driven by fears that an aging population could jeopardize China’s economic ascent, the Communist Party leadership ended its decades-old “one child” policy on Thursday, announcing that all married couples would be allowed to have two children.
The decision was a dramatic step away from a core Communist Party position that Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who imposed the policy in the late 1970s, once said was needed to ensure that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.”
For China’s leaders, the controls were a triumphant demonstration of the party’s capacity to reshape even the most intimate dimensions of citizens’ lives. But they bred intense resentment over the brutal intrusions involved, including forced abortions and crippling fines, especially in the countryside.
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BREMERTON, Wash. — Members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle were met with chants of “Jesus” by students and others after they were spotted last night outside of a football game where they had sought to pray on field.
The move was in response to the controversy over Bremerton High School Coach Joe Kennedy, who prayed at the 50-yard line last Friday despite instructions from the school district that he could not allow students to join him in his personal prayers.
According to reports, several students had asked members of the Satanic Temple, who are actually believed to be atheists and agnostics, to attend Thursday’s game. The group had asked the district for permission to pray on field in order to make a point about Kennedy’s prayers, but backed off after it was announced that the coach had been placed on leave until he agrees to discontinue his practice of praying on field at the conclusion of games.
The Bremerton Patriot reports that over a dozen black-robed Satanic Temple members—and one donning horns on her head—appeared outside the fence during the game, generating mixed reaction from attendees. Some climbed the fence and began chanting the name of Jesus. One student called out, “May I take a moment of your time to speak about Jesus Christ?”
When a reporter asked if Temple members were going to take the field, chapter head Lilith Starr replied with a laugh, “No, sorry. We’re pacifists.”
Coach Kennedy attended the game, but remained in the stands. He prayed with couple Randy and Sharlene Davis, who were present as a show of support.
“I support what the coach is doing,” Randy Davis told the Bremerton Patriot. “This country was founded on religious freedom … I support his right to worship as he chooses.”
As previously reported, on Wednesday night, the Bremerton School District released a four-page letter outlining that Kennedy had been placed on paid leave over his ongoing prayer practice.
“Kennedy’s conduct poses a genuine risk that the district will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others,” it stated. “For this reason, Kennedy will not be allowed to further violate the district’s directives.”
The letter said that Kennedy will not be allowed to serve as coach until he agrees to stop praying on the field. The district had presented Kennedy with the option of praying inside of the stadium in a place where none would see him, but he declined.
“[L]ike I should be ashamed of my faith and like I should have to hide it,” Kennedy told Fox and Friends on Friday.
The Liberty Institute, which is providing free legal representation for the coach, believes that Kennedy’s religious rights are being violated.
“No reasonable observer could conclude that a football coach who waits until the game is over and the players have left the field and then walks to mid-field to say a short, private, personal prayer is speaking on behalf of the state,” the group wrote in a letter to the district.
“Quite the opposite, Coach Kennedy is engaged in private religious expression upon which the state may not infringe,” it said. “In fact, any attempt by Bremerton School District to ban or prohibit Coach Kennedy—or any private citizen—from praying violates the First Amendment.”
While the Bremerton School District placed Kennedy on leave out of concern that it could be leveled with a lawsuit if the prayers continued, the Liberty Institute says that it is considering filing a suit against the district for restricting Kennedy’s religious expression.
“The school district violated federal law by denying Coach Kennedy’s request for religious accommodation. Their violation of the law cannot go unanswered,” said Senior Counsel Mike Berry. “We are committed to protecting Coach Kennedy’s right to religious freedom.”
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PORTLAND, Ore. — A couple in Oregon has announced that they are planning on following their five-year-old daughter’s wishes not to return to the hospital when she becomes sick again, opting for “heaven over the hospital.”
Julianna Snow was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) at the age of two after numerous visits to the doctor in an effort to understand her developmental problems and weakness in her arms and legs.
Her mother, Michelle, a neurologist, soon found that her husband, Steve, had CMT in a mild form and realized that their daughter might have genetically inherited the ailment. Snow underwent treatments and physical therapy to fight the CMT, but struggled with weakened lung muscles that made it hard to breathe and also experienced difficulty swallowing.
Sometimes she contracted pneumonia, and doctors became concerned about what might be the outcome if she acquired another infection. Most die from CMT, regarded as a terminal illness, by the age of two, but Snow had already beat the statistics.
According to CNN, which interviewed Michelle Snow, Julianna expressed to her parents that she hated going to the hospital. Her parents would explain why she needed to go, and that even though her treatments were unpleasant, it allowed her to get better so she could come home.
One day, after the then four-year-old girl would not respond to her parents explanations as to why the hospital was helping her get better, her mother decided to talk to her about her wishes. Snow posted the conversation as best as she remembered it on her blog.
“Julianna, if you get sick again, do you want to go to the hospital again or stay home?” she asked.
“Not the hospital,” Julianna replied.
“Even if that means that you will go to Heaven if you stay home?” Snow inquired.
“Yes,” Julianna replied. “I hate NT (naso-tracheal suction, a procedure where a tube is placed into one’s nose and down their throat to clean their lungs). I hate the hospital.”
“[I]f you go to the hospital, it may help you get better and let you come home again and spend more time with us,” her mother reasoned. “I need to make sure that you understand that. Hospital may let you have more time with mommy and daddy.”
“I understand,” Juliana stated, acknowledging that her mother will miss her. “God will take care of me. He’s in my heart.”
“She made it clear that she doesn’t want to go through the hospital again,” Snow told CNN. “So we had to let go of that plan because it was selfish.”
“If she gets sick, we’ll ask her again, and we’ll honor her wishes,” she further explained in a recent blog post.
But medical ethics professor Art Caplan of the New York University Medical Center believes that the choice should not be left up to the girl.
“I was very concerned. I know it’s difficult to intrude into personal family matters but the family brought this out to the open,” he told local television station KATU. “[A]t five-years-old, a little girl can’t make make these decisions.”
“Obviously you want to listen to her, but I don’t think you can make such weighty decisions and the parents can’t rely on that for the basis for what they are going to do,” Caplan continued.
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JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – On top of recent government demolitions of church buildings, suspected Muslim extremists in Sudan’s eastern city of Al Qadarif this month set fire to one used by a 500-member congregation, sources said.
Leaders from the Lutheran Church of Sudan said they suspect a radical Muslim set the blaze that charred their building the night of Oct. 16 following a prayer meeting. The meeting was a part of a week door-to-door evangelization the church carries out annually, and church leaders said the outreach may have upset area Muslims.
The church building and a guest-house attached to it were gutted, rendering them unusable, they said.
“The government has the right to get this criminal,” church leaders wrote in a letter to supporters. “What of this person who is free to burn God’s temple?”
Church members discovered the burned church building the following morning, Oct. 17. Chairs, tables, Bibles and pulpit were destroyed.
“We have filed a case against an anonymous person,” said one church leader, whose name, like those of the others, is withheld for their protection.
Calling for prayer around the world, they wrote that there is no freedom of religion in Sudan.
“We will continue to serve our Lord strongly in Sudan,” their letter reads. “We will never give up on any condition. Nothing will force us to stop worshipping the Almighty Lord Jesus Christ.”
Church members were gathering funds to rebuild.
Al Qadarif, with a population of about 364,000, was the city where President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language after South Sudan seceded in 2011.
In Omdurman, opposite Khartoum on the Nile River some 410 kilometers (250 miles) from Al Qadarif, the Lutheran Church of Sudan also lost a building to demolition by local officials on Oct. 21. Local authorities said they tore down the building because it was located in an area designated for business. Area Christians said they did not accept this rationale as a mosque stands nearby.
Karari officials had told church leaders that they would not demolish the building but later gave them 72 hours’ notice to prepare for its destruction, church leaders said.
Sudan since 2012 has and expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings, usually on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. They have also raided Christian bookstores and arrested Christians.
Sudanese authorities on Feb. 17, 2014 demolished a church building in Omdurman without prior notice, area sources said. Bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman, they said.
On Aug. 24, 2014, NISS agents padlocked the building of the 500-member Sudan Pentecostal Church (SPC) in Khartoum, which housed the Khartoum Christian Center (KCC).
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11lth place the previous year.