Humanist Perspectives: issue 188: NOTEWORTHY



oteworthy is a selection of news briefs from around the world. A Web address, or URL, is provided at the end of each brief. The URL points to the full original article.

Freedom of religion trumps patients’ rights?

OTTAWA, CAN. — At least three Ottawa family physicians are refusing to prescribe birth control pills or any form of contraception for their patients, saying doing so conflicts with their “medical judgment, professional ethical concerns and religious values.”

The doctors, who work at Care-Medics Medical Centres in Ottawa, distribute letters to patients informing them of their positions, according to office staff there. A copy of one of the letters, signed by Dr. Edmond Kyrillos, has been posted on Facebook through a group called Radical Handmaids. The letter informs patients that the doctor only provides one form of birth control, “Natural Family Planning.” [Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 30, 2014.]


Attend Islam workshop or be branded a racist

HUNTINGDON, U.K. — Furious parents have condemned a school after receiving a letter that said their children would be branded ‘racists’ if they did not attend a workshop on Islam.

Lynn Small, headteacher of Littleton Green Community School in Huntingdon, Staffs, wrote to parents to say that a £5 trip to Staffordshire University was mandatory for years four and six.

Ms Small said that if the children did not attend the ‘cultural education’, during which they’d learn about Islamic artefacts, then they would have a ‘racial discrimination note’ attached to their record for the remainder of their school years. [The Telegraph, Nov. 22, 2013.]


Catholic Church withholding millions from residential school victims

(CBC News) — Court documents obtained by CBC News allege that the Catholic Church is withholding millions from former students of Indian residential schools.

The Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches have met their obligations, but according to the federal government, the Catholic Church is shirking its responsibility.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is one organization that was slated to receive funds from the Catholic Church. “We’re trying to get blood from a stone,” says Mike DeGagne, former head of the organization.

He says the foundation was supposed to receive $29 million from the church.

“But then, the Catholics were allowed to subtract a number of expenses they’d already incurred, so it got down to about $18 million and about $1.6 million is still outstanding.” [CBC News, Feb. 18, 2014.]


Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination

(REUTERS) — In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study.

And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.

The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations’ Human Rights Day. [Reuters, Dec. 9, 2013.]


Vatican challenged by UN over its handling of child abuse

(IHEU) — Representatives from the Vatican have faced tough questions over the Holy See’s record on sexual abuse and other forms of violence against children by a UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Geneva.

The Holy See was questioned over its failure to comply with the Convention on Rights of the Child, and faced allegations that many more children had been abused because the Church had protected paedophile priests at the expense of victims. A common theme of questioning was the disparity between what the Catholic Church says in public and what it actually does to combat child abuse within its ranks.

One Committee member said it was “difficult to continue listening” to the Holy See representatives when no concrete actions were being taken by the Holy See to adequately respond to the needs of victims. [IHEU, Jan. 20, 2014.]


Denmark bans religious slaughter

(NSS) — Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen has signed into law a regulation that bans religious slaughter of animals. European Union regulations require stunning before slaughter, but permit member states to allow exemptions for religious slaughter. Under the new law, Danish slaughterhouses will no longer be able to apply for an exemption to pre-stunning.

The move has been opposed by Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in Denmark, who have argued that the ban constitutes an infringement of religious freedom.

However, defending the government’s decision, Mr Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 television that “animal rights come before religion”. [National Secular Society, U.K., Feb.


Secret Memo Casts Doubt on Feds’ Claims for Science Library Closures

OTTAWA, CAN. — A federal document marked “secret” obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this story, mentions only the “culling of materials” as the “main activities” involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details “culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries.”

In contrast, a government website says the closures are all about digitizing the books and providing greater access to Canadians – a claim federal and retired scientists interviewed by The Tyee say is not true. [The Tyee, Dec. 30, 2013]