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CRS — Free Exercise of Religion by Closely Held Corporations: Implications of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (April 6, 2015)

April 15, 2015 Comments off

Free Exercise of Religion by Closely Held Corporations: Implications of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A 5-4 decision, issued over a highly critical dissent, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. resolved one of the many challenges raised in response to the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Imputing the beliefs of owners of closely held corporations to such corporations, the U.S. Supreme Court found that closely held corporations that hold religious objections to certain contraceptive services cannot be required to provide coverage of those services in employee health plans. The Court’s decision was based on the protections offered under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute prohibiting the government from imposing a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise unless it can show a compelling interest achieved by the least restrictive means. The Court declined to address the constitutional challenge, holding that the companies were protected under RFRA.

In the absence of a definition under RFRA, the majority interpreted the term “person” to include closely held corporations, even if they operated for-profit, and determined that the penalties that such companies would face if they failed to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement would impose a substantial burden. Though the Court assumed that the government had a compelling interest to require contraceptive coverage under ACA, it found that less restrictive means (e.g., expanding the regulatory accommodation available to nonprofit employers with similar objections) could achieve that interest without requiring companies with religious objections to be subject to the requirement.

Faith-Based Funding Backed, But Church-State Doubts Abound

April 7, 2015 Comments off

Faith-Based Funding Backed, But Church-State Doubts Abound
Source: Pew Research Center

As religion plays a more prominent role in public life, sharp divisions of opinion about the mixing of church and state are apparent. Most notably, while the public expresses strong support for the idea of faith-based groups receiving government funding to provide social services, in practice, it has many reservations. Most Americans would not extend that right to non-Judeo-Christian religious groups including: Muslim Americans, Buddhist Americans, Nation of Islam and the Church of Scientology. Many also have reservations about allowing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Mormons — to apply for federal funding to offer social services.

Beyond which religions are acceptable, strong concerns are expressed about what government might do to religion and what religious groups might do to the people they are trying to help. On the one hand, fully 68% worry that faith- based initiatives might lead to too much government involvement with religious organizations. On the other, six-in-ten express concerns that religious groups would proselytize among recipients of social services, and about the same percentage would prohibit groups that encourage religious conversion from receiving government funds. Americans have an even bigger problem with government-funded religious organizations hiring only those people who share their beliefs — 78% oppose that concept.

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050

April 6, 2015 Comments off

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050
Source: Pew Research Center

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 …

  • The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
  • Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the
  • Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
  • Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

The future size of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated populations

April 3, 2015 Comments off

The future size of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated populations
Source: Demographic Research

Background:
People who are religiously unaffiliated (including self-identifying atheists and agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular”) made up 16.4% of the world’s population in 2010. Unaffiliated populations have been growing in North America and Europe, leading some to expect that this group will grow as a share of the world’s population. However, such forecasts overlook the impact of demographic factors, such as fertility and the large, aging unaffiliated population in Asia.

Objective:
We project the future size of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated populations around the world.

Methods:
We use multistate cohort-component methods to project the size of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated populations. Projection inputs such as religious composition, differential fertility, and age structure data, as well as religious switching patterns, are based on the best available census and survey data for each country. This research is based on an analysis of more than 2,500 data sources.

Results:
Taking demographic factors into account, we project that the unaffiliated will make up 13.2% of the world’s population in 2050. The median age of religiously affiliated women is six years younger than unaffiliated women. The 2010-15 Total Fertility Rate for those with a religious affiliation is 2.59 children per woman, nearly a full child higher than the rate for the unaffiliated (1.65 children per woman).

Conclusions:
The religiously unaffiliated are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population in the decades ahead because their net growth through religious switching will be more than offset by higher childbearing among the younger affiliated population.

Religious vs. Conventional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depression in Persons With Chronic Medical Illness: A Pilot Randomized Trial

April 3, 2015 Comments off

Religious vs. Conventional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depression in Persons With Chronic Medical Illness: A Pilot Randomized Trial (PDF)
Source: Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease

We examine the efficacy of conventional cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) versus religiously integrated CBT (RCBT) in persons with major depression and chronic medical illness. Participants were randomized to either CCBT (n = 67) or RCBT (n = 65). The intervention in both groups consisted of ten 50-minute sessions delivered remotely during 12 weeks (94% by telephone). Adherence to treatment was similar, except in more religious participants in whom adherence to RCBT was slightly greater (85.7% vs. 65.9%, p = 0.10). The intention-to-treat analysis at 12 weeks indicated no significant difference in outcome between the two groups (B = 0.33; SE, 1.80; p = 0.86). Response rates and remission rates were also similar. Overall religiosity interacted with treatment group (B = −0.10; SE, 0.05; p = 0.048), suggesting that RCBT was slightly more efficacious in the more religious participants. These preliminary findings suggest that CCBT and RCBT are equivalent treatments of major depression in persons with chronic medical illness. Efficacy, as well as adherence, may be affected by client religiosity.

Minorities in Iraq – Pushed to the brink of existence

April 1, 2015 Comments off

Minorities in Iraq – Pushed to the brink of existence
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

Iraqi minorities (Turkmens, Yazidis, Christians and other smaller communities) have long been discriminated against in Iraq. Violence against them has increased dramatically in areas of Iraqi territory that have fallen under the control of the Islamist terrorist group that has declared itself ‘the Islamic State’ (known variously as IS, ISIS or ISIL, and by the Arabic acronym ‘Daesh’ or ‘Da’esh’). After coming into power, this terrorist group called into question the very existence of several of these minorities, not least non-Muslim minorities, subjecting them to murder, rape, slavery and organ trafficking. Fearing for their life, people have been fleeing in unprecedented numbers: mass killings have led to the displacement of more than 2 million people, mainly to refugee camps in the Kurdistan region, these displacements are tangible evidence that the country is going through a process of reconfiguration and fragmentation. Past experience has shown that few displaced people ever return to their homes.

An explanation and analysis of how world religions formulate their ethical decisions on withdrawing treatment and determining death

March 31, 2015 Comments off

An explanation and analysis of how world religions formulate their ethical decisions on withdrawing treatment and determining death
Source: Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine

Introduction
This paper explores definitions of death from the perspectives of several world and indigenous religions, with practical application for health care providers in relation to end of life decisions and organ and tissue donation after death. It provides background material on several traditions and explains how different religions derive their conclusions for end of life decisions from the ethical guidelines they proffer.

Methods
Research took several forms beginning with a review of books and articles written by ethicists and observers of Bön, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous Traditions, Islam, Judaism, Shinto and Taoism. It then examined sources to which these authors referred in footnotes and bibliographies. In addition, material was gathered through searches of data bases in religious studies, general humanities, social sciences and medicine along with web-based key word searches for current policies in various traditions.

Results
Religious traditions provide their adherents with explanations for the meaning and purpose of life and include ethical analysis for the situations in which their followers find themselves. This paper aims to increase cultural competency in practitioners by demonstrating the reasoning process religions use to determine what they believe to be the correct decision in the face of death.

Conclusion
Patterns emerge in the comparative study of religious perspectives on death. Western traditions show their rootedness in Judaism in their understanding of the human individual as a finite, singular creation. Although the many branches of Western religions do not agree on precisely how to determine death, they are all able to locate a moment of death in the body. In Eastern traditions personhood is not defined in physical terms. From prescribing the location of death, to resisting medical intervention and definitions of death, Eastern religions, in their many forms, incorporate the beliefs and practices that preceded them. Adding to the complexity for these traditions is the idea that death is a process that continues after the body has met most empirical criteria for determining death. For Hinduism and Buddhism, the cessation of heart, brain and lung function is the beginning of the process of dying—not the end.

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