Rainbow jihad * Sex church * iSwap: April’s Religious Freedom Recap

Let’s kick off with two troubling reports before diving into the nitty gritty.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom added the Central African Republic to its list of countries of particular concern. Freedom House confirms that global media freedom deteriorated to its lowest point in more than 10 years.

With that joyful news, onward.


SCOTUS tackled gay marriage --- again --- hearing oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges. Jay Michaelson brings you everything you need to know but didn’t know to ask, because it’s complicated, unless you’re Ted Cruz, in which case it’s just run-of-the-mill rainbow jihad.

Rainbow ISIS (AKA human rights defenders) were no match for Walkerton, Indiana’s  Memories Pizza, which raised more than $840,000 after announcing a “no pizza for gay weddings” policy on local TV. Please stop what you’re doing and read Memories’ five-star and one-star Google reviews to understand our divided country.

Get rich quick! Supporters in Washington raised nearly $100,000 for a florist who was fined after refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding. How do I get in on this racket?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a revised religious freedom law, explicitly barring businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. His approval ratings plummeted during March’s “religious freedom” media storm along with Indiana’s tourism revenue and reputation.

For ongoing RFRA battles post-Indiana and Arkansas, watch this space.

Tennessee’s Senate dropped a House-approved bill that would have made the Bible its official state book for as long as it takes to scrap something that unconstitutional.

Wising up to Tennessee’s Christian fervor, a Nashville swingers club rebranded itself as a church to circumvent restrictions blocking it from opening next to a Christian school. The “dungeon” is now a “choir.”

“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” filmmaker Alex Gibney says Scientology abuses its tax-exempt status, which you probably assumed from the film’s title. Northern Ireland’s outdated libel laws coupled with the church’s notorious litigious fervor are blocking Brits from seeing “Going Clear” on TV.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority doesn’t want to run Pamela Gellar’s Muslim hate campaign so it BANS ALL OF THE POLITICAL THINGS.



The Satanic Temple continues to turn “religious freedom” on its head, challenging the exclusivity of Nativity scenes on courthouse lawns and Missouri’s 72-hour abortion waiting period.

Real talk in California --Yoga doesn’t violate your religious freedom. Religion and “Jenny McCarthy said so” are not valid reasons to let your kids get the measles.

A man wants his son circumcised. The boy’s mother does not. The boy is nearly five and understandably terrified. Please resolve this dispute before he hits puberty.

Some Raelians want the White House to build an embassy for aliens. Some Christians want the White House to appoint a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East. That second one seems more reasonable.

Brazil’s largest and oldest mosque hosted a national celebration of religious freedom to show off its relatively stellar record on the subject and to prove that not everything in this recap is bad news.

Should wannabe Canadians be forced to show their faces during citizenship ceremonies? 88 percent of Canucks say yes.

Can Canadian city councils open meetings with prayer? The country's Supreme Court says no.

Whole Foods is in hot water after defying an Ontario law by staying open on Good Friday, a day we at Religion News Service don’t even get off work. Not fair.


On the subject of holiday envy, South Africans enjoyed two public holidays this week, Freedom Day and Worker’s Day, neither of which I had the freedom to take off work.

South African novelist Zainub Priya Dala says she was violently attacked and held in a mental hospital after expressing admiration for fellow novelist Salman Rushdie and angering local Muslim leaders. The incident occurred in KwaZulu-Natal, which has witnessed a spate of xenophobic attacks targeting migrants from nearby countries.

Boko Haram renamed itself ISWAP. New Apple service? Nope. The Islamic State's West Africa Province. 🙁

Militants from the terrorist group formerly known as Boko Haram disguised themselves as Muslim preachers, leading at least 24 people to a mosque in Northern Nigeria before opening fire. In positive news, Nigerian forces rescued nearly 300 girls and women from an ISWAP terror camp, just not those #BringBackOurGirls girls, as some media speculated.

Al-Shabab terrorists targeting Christians killed nearly 150 people at Garissa University College in Kenya. Local religious leaders urged unity as churches upped security for Easter Sunday. ISIS fighters killed some 30 Ethiopians, most of them Christian, in Libya.


Malaysia continues its Saudi spiral, strengthening a sedition law to stifle dissent and reintroducing the option of indefinite detention without trial under a new anti-terrorism bill. Members of Malaysia’s ruling party joined opposition leaders to pass a bill that punishes adulterers with death by stoning and thieves with amputation in Kelantan state.

Indonesia proved it’s not much better, executing eight men by firing squad for drug offenses.

Fed up with India’s new beef bans, some Muslim traders want to kill cows “of foreign origin,” which, xenophobic connotations aside, might appease some Hindu nationalists.

Thailand’s king is basically a god and insulting him is basically blasphemy under the country’s lese majeste laws, as this guy found out the hard way.

No-Shave November is risky business in China, where a Muslim man was handed a six-year prison sentence for growing a beard. His wife was sentenced to two years for wearing a veil.

Hypocrite [hip-uh-krit]: A state that issues “indefinite bans on public speaking” to monks who criticize the government while looking the other way when extremist monks spew religious and ethnic hatred. See Myanmar.

“Reclaim Australia” rallies are about reclaiming whiteness and hating on Islam, which protest demographics and signs make pretty clear.

In an effort to reclaim Australia from preventable disease, the country is cracking down on anti-vaxxers, withholding child care payments from jab refusenik families.

Middle East:

Stealthy Freedoms

Stealthy Freedoms

Iran opened sports stadiums to women and will appoint its first female ambassador since the Islamic Revolution but then banned a magazine for discussing pre-marital cohabitation so I don’t know what to think.

Public transportation is basically non-existent in Tel Aviv on Saturdays, but there’s a movement to change that, and Uber, so I’d probably be okay.

Some Muslim Palestinian women don’t want Jews to pray at Temple Mount/Al Aqsa because God, and probably politics. Why can’t we all just get along? Because God, and probably politics.

Pope Francis called last century’s Ottoman massacre of Armenians “genocide,” prompting condemnation from Turkey’s President Erdogan who likes to think of it more as a historic dispute. Wikipedia calls it genocide, so that’s settled.

A new cybercrime law could increase blasphemy convictions in Egypt. Yes, blasphemy still a crime there. So is showing “contempt of religion” on national television.

Our friend and fellow AMENDS fellow Abdullah Alfakharany has been sentenced to life imprisonment for “spreading false news,” an illiberal sentence for an illiberal crime. On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, let’s make some noise for his defense.


In Britain, more Muslims have joined Islamist militant groups than currently serve in the country’s armed services, which is nuts. Britain is one the world’s least religious countries, and a third of parliamentary candidates are atheists.

Northern Ireland, part of the U.K. that is pretty religious, criminalized sex work among paying consenting adults, which activists call a breach of European human rights law.

Rome is also restricting sex workers with plans to corral them into a “zone of tolerance,” something they and the Vatican oppose, albeit for different reasons.

“Who am I to judge?,” Pope Francis said of religious gays last year. Now he’s stalling the appointment of an openly gay ambassador from France. I’m not above judging hypocrisy.

Many German states still ban dancing over Easter weekend, giving Germans a little taste of how it might feel to live under ISIS rule. More shocking is that some churches and right-wing parties object to relaxing the outdated rules.

France pledged to invest 100 million Euros in efforts to fight racism, anti-Semitism and hatred against Muslims. If the recent case of a Muslim girl banned from school because her skirt was too long is any indication, much of that sum should go to state institutions.

Professional Dutch xenophobe/lawmaker Geert Wilders told migrants not to come to the Netherlands, which is barely newsworthy given his past, but slightly newsworthy given the recent death of migrants on the Mediterranean.

A Catholic nun in Slovakia reportedly stabbed a boy’s hand with a needle to show his classmates how Jesus suffered. This story is so outlandish I’d welcome a debunk.

Russia would:

Russia probably wouldn’t appreciate my often irreverent tone. If you do, sign up for the recap below. I’ll email it to you each month free of charge. Promise.