Pakistani Christians, often discriminated against because of their faith and standing as members of Pakistan’s lowest caste, find that discrimination follows them in prisons as well. The justice system is extremely slow in Pakistan and, as a result, thousands of Pakistanis languish in overcrowded jails, having yet to face trial. As many Christians are accused of blasphemy only because of personal vendettas or vested interests, it takes years before courts absolve them of false charges. World Watch Monitor met several Christian inmates, who revealed that they are mistreated because of their religion. They said that as soon as it was revealed to other prisoners that they are Christian, the attitudes of other prisoners and officers towards them changed and they were treated as ‘untouchables’ and forced to clean the toilets.

Pastor Maurice Shahbaz, founder and director of the Prisons Mission Society of Pakistan, has been struggling for more than a year now to get permission for missionaries, evangelists and pastors to be allowed to visit prisons to share teaching with Christian inmates. Thousands of Pakistanis languish in overcrowded jails, having yet to face trial. Shahbaz, who lives in the north-eastern city of Gujranwala but helps Christian prisoners across the country, has appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court to address the situation. “The former Inspector General, Mian Farooq Nazir, ordered in early 2016 to bar religious leaders and teachers from visiting prisons, which affects even their entitlement to a reduction of their sentence,” Shahbaz told World Watch Monitor.

He explained that Article 215 of the 1978 Pakistan Prison Rules allows for the reduction of sentences based on the passing of educational exams or the obtaining of religious instruction, but that this is now harder to access. Deputy Inspector General Tariq Mehmood Khan Babar told World Watch Monitor that clerics have been prevented from visiting prisons since the National Action Plan was introduced in early 2015, following the December 2014 attack by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, when 132 schoolchildren were killed at the Army Public School in Peshawar. In January 2015, the government announced its National Action Plan, aimed at eradicating extremism, but the move in turn affected general freedom to worship. Social worker Yousuf Sodagar, who works with inmates at Kasur District Jail, says the prison administration has also reduced the number of times Christians are allowed to meet to worship.

“I was wrongly imprisoned in this jail,” Sodagar recalls. “When the Jail Inspector General was visiting, I requested him to allow Christians to worship together. Since then the prison officials allowed the Christians to assemble twice a day for worship, but only about three months ago this practice has been stopped and they are allowed to meet only in the morning. “When I met the deputy superintendent of the Jail, he also said that Christian inmates should worship with decency and not with loud music. I told him that no-one can dictate to us how to worship and this is the most solemn aspect of our worship.” However, Deputy Superintendent Tipu Sultan said he “cannot believe an official would use these words”. “I know that after the National Action Plan, clerics of all religions are barred from visiting persons of their faith in prisons and this was not discrimination but a matter of security,” he added.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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The judge issued her ruling in a lawsuit filed in Riverside County Superior Court by The Scharpen Foundation challenging the California statute that requires prolife pregnancy centres to provide their patients the location and contact information for local abortion clinics. In its decision, the Court found that “the FACT Act violates Article I, Section 2 of the California Constitution.”  Judge Gloria Trask explained, “Here, the State commands clinics to post specific directions for whom to contact to obtain an abortion. It forces the clinic to point the way to the abortion clinic and can leave patients with the belief they were referred to an abortion provider by that clinic. In Scharpen’s case that would be inaccurate, profoundly inaccurate.”

Moreover, Judge Trask ruled that, “The State can deliver its message without infringing upon anyone’s liberty. It may purchase television advertisements as it does to encourage Californians to sign up for Covered California or to conserve water. It may purchase billboard space and post its message directly in front of Scharpen Foundation’s clinic.” “Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation,” continued Judge Trask. “The statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the state has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message. In this case, however virtuous the State’s ends, they do not justify its means.” “We are thrilled with Judge Trask’s ruling, which is a huge victory for free speech,” said Scott Scharpen, founder and president of The Scharpen Foundation, which operates the Go Mobile for Life pregnancy clinic. 

He added, “The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong. Lives will be saved because of this ruling.” With funding raised by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a non-profit legal defence organization, Tyler & Bursch’s lawyers strategically filed the lawsuit in state court because the California State Constitution provides greater free speech protection than the First Amendment. Attorney Robert Tyler of Tyler & Burch, LLP, counsel for the Scharpen Foundation, lauded, “It is a great day in California because we know that freedom of speech is still a protected constitutional right. Judge Trask is absolutely correct that the State can’t force a pro-life clinic to advertise abortions on behalf of the State and its abortion mills.” 

He continued, “If the State Attorney General appeals, we will continue to defend our client’s pro-life speech all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.” The ruling established that “Compelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government.” Essentially, “The legislature may not use the wall of the physician’s office as a billboard to advertise the availability of low cost abortions.” Nada Higuera, the attorney who argued the case, said: “As a young female and defender of speech, I am thrilled to know that our work is not in vain. I’ve regrettably had an abortion. And I’ve just recently experienced the incomparable joy of having a baby. I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit a pro-life clinic when I was just 16 years old and contemplating an abortion.” The ruling provides injunctive relief statewide and prevents the law from being enforced effective immediately.

Source: LifesSiteNews

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The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, a new national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults, finds that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness has silenced important discussions our society needs to have. The consequences are personal, 58% of Americans believe the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say colleges and universities aren’t doing enough to teach young Americans today about the value of free speech. When asked which is more important, 65% say colleges should expose students to “all types of viewpoints even if they are offensive or biased against certain groups.” About a third (34%) say colleges should “prohibit offensive speech that is biased against certain groups.”

Two-thirds (65%) say colleges need to discipline students who disrupt invited speakers and prevent them from speaking. However, the public is divided about how: 46% want to give students a warning, 31% want the incident noted on the student’s academic record, 22% want them to pay a fine, 20% want to suspend them, 19% favour arresting the students, 13% want to fully expel the students. Three-fourths (75%) of Republicans support some form of punishment for these students, compared to 42% of Democrats. The survey finds that many micro-aggressions colleges and universities advise faculty and students to avoid aren’t considered offensive by most people of colour. The one micro-aggression that African Americans (68%) agree is offensive is telling a racial minority “you are a credit to your race.”

Nearly two-thirds (65%) say colleges shouldn’t advise students about offensive Halloween costumes and should instead let students work it out on their own. A third (33%) think it is the responsibility of the university to remind students not to wear costumes that stereotype racial or ethnic groups at off-campus parties. Americans tend to oppose firing people for their beliefs. Nevertheless, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say a business executive should be fired if she or he believes transgender people have a mental disorder (44% vs 14%), that homosexuality is a sin (32% vs 10%), and that psychological differences help explain why there are more male than female engineers (34% vs. 14%). Conversely, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say a business executive should be fired if they burned the American flag at a weekend political protest (54% vs. 38%).

Source: Cato Institute

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Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that when the final 2017 numbers are completed they will show that illegal immigration is at a 45-year low. McAleenan credits President. Trump’s clear message that U.S. immigration law will be enforced for this historic decline. “We are fully tallying our 2017 results but in all likelihood it’s going to be the lowest level of illegal crossings between ports of entry in over 45 years,” the acting chief told the Senate Finance Committee. The result was surprising since the beginning of the year showed a new surge of illegal aliens coming across the border. Once President Trump took office the numbers dropped dramatically. McAleenan pushed support for Trump’s 70-point immigration principles saying those are the kind of changed need to make sure these numbers continue to drop.

“The clear intent to enforce immigration law has resulted in a significant reduction of crossings, but there are still some fundamental aspects of the system that need to be addressed,” he testified. At the same time the immigrant population (legal and illegal) in the U.S. hit a record high of 43.7 million in July 2016. This is an increase of half a million since 2015, an increase of 3.8 million since 2010, and 12.6 million since 2000. Other findings include: As a share of the U.S. population, immigrants (legal and illegal) comprised 13.5%, or one out of eight U.S. residents in 2016, the highest percentage in 106 years. As recently as 1980, just one out of 16 residents was foreign-born. Between 2010 and 2016, 8.1 million new immigrants settled in the United States. 

New arrivals are offset by the roughly 300,000 immigrants who return home each year and annual natural mortality of about 300,000 among the existing foreign-born population. As a result, growth in the immigrant population was 3.8 million 2010 to 2016. In addition to immigrants, there were slightly more than 16.6 million U.S.-born minor children with an immigrant parent in 2016, for a total of 60.4 million immigrants and their children in the country. Immigrants and their minor children now account for nearly one in five U.S. residents.

Source: Intercessors for America

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The Scottish Government could face a legal challenge over its controversial decision to allow women to take abortion pills at home. While pro-choice campaigners welcomed the move, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) Scotland fiercely opposed the policy change and is reportedly consulting lawyers. Chief executive John Deighan branded the decision “highly irresponsible” and claimed ministers may have “recklessly exceeded their powers”. Christian charity CARE also condemned the “significant policy shift” and said it raised huge concerns for women’s safety and mental wellbeing. Nola Leach, CARE’s Chief Executive said in a statement: “”For the Scottish Government to make a policy change of this magnitude without any parliamentary scrutiny or public consultation is deeply concerning.”

“Encouraging women to have abortions at home is extremely worrying. There will be no health care support on hand should something go wrong.” “The Scottish Government should do much more to provide real alternatives to abortion for those facing crisis pregnancies. It should properly fund those organisations which are seeking to provide such alternatives for women.” Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, recently confirmed she had written to all health boards north of the border to say that the drug misoprostol could be taken by women outside a clinical setting. Dr Calderwood said it was ”significant progress” that women in Scotland who are up to nine weeks pregnant could take the second dose of the drug at home if they wanted, saying this would allow them “more privacy, more dignity”.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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President Trump has unveiled his administration’s first White House holiday card, and it’s starkly different from the greetings sent by his predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Trump’s card specifically references “Christmas,” a word that has been noticeably absent from White House holiday cards in recent years. In fact, the card reads, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” and is signed by Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and the couple’s son, Barron. And, as a side note, there’s also a nativity inside the White House, as evidenced in a video featuring Melania Trump. In the past, White House holiday cards have sparked quite a bit of debate, with some critics lashing out over the absence of “Christmas” and over the inclusion of more benign messages from Obama and Bush that wished people happy holidays or “season’s greetings”.


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