May 27th, 2014
01:48 PM ET
By Faith Karimi and Mohammed Osman, CNN
(CNN) - A Sudanese woman sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her Christianity has given birth to a girl in prison, her lawyers said Tuesday.
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, delivered her baby Monday at a women's prison in Khartoum, but her husband was not allowed to be present for the birth, sources told CNN. They asked not to be named for safety reasons.
Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy, or the renunciation of faith, about two weeks ago while she was eight months pregnant.
A Sudanese lawyer filed an appeal last week to reverse the verdict by the lower court.
She is in prison with her 20-month-old son, but Sudanese officials have said the toddler is free to leave any time, according to her lawyer, Mohamed Jar Elnabi.
Her husband, Daniel Wani, is a U.S. citizen who uses a wheelchair and "totally depends on her for all details of his life," her lawyer said.FULL STORY
May 5th, 2014
04:23 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - If you don't like it, leave the room.
That's Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's advice for atheists and others who object to sectarian prayers before government meetings.
In a 5-4 decision written by Kennedy, the Supreme Court allowed Greece, New York, to continue hosting prayers before its monthly town board meetings - even though an atheist and a Jewish citizen complained that the benedictions are almost always explicitly Christian.
Many members of the country's majority faith - that is, Christians - hailed the ruling.
Many members of minority faiths, as well as atheists, responded with palpable anger, saying the Supreme Court has set them apart as second-class citizens.
Groups from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to the Hindu American Foundation decried Monday's decision.
"The court’s decision to bless ‘majority-rules’ prayer is out of step with the changing face of America, which is more secular and less dogmatic,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which litigated the case.
At least one justice, Elena Kagan, seemed to agree. And while Kennedy's decision reads like a lesson in American history, Kagan's dissent offers a picture of the country's increasingly pluralistic present.
May 1st, 2014
09:15 AM ET
Opinion by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN
(CNN) - The death penalty has been part of human society for millennia, understood to be the ultimate punishment for the most serious crimes.
But, should Christians support the death penalty now, especially in light of the controversial execution Tuesday in Oklahoma?
This is not an easy yes or no question.
On the one hand, the Bible clearly calls for capital punishment in the case of intentional murder.
In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah that the penalty for intentional murder should be death: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
The death penalty was explicitly grounded in the fact that God made every individual human being in his own image, and thus an act of intentional murder is an assault upon human dignity and the very image of God.
In the simplest form, the Bible condemns murder and calls for the death of the murderer. The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.
January 16th, 2014
11:29 AM ET
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
(CNN) - The Supreme Court waded cautiously back into the larger debate over abortion on Wednesday.
A number of justices raised concerns about a Massachusetts state law preventing activists from crossing a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health clinics.
During an intense hour of oral arguments, Massachusetts officials said the issue was more about public safety and pedestrian access on local sidewalks. Anti-abortion supporters countered their free speech rights were being violated.
What the high court decides in coming months could affect a broader range of free speech arenas - over issues such as war, taxes, corporate bailouts and elections - where the location of the message is often key.FULL STORY
January 15th, 2014
09:50 AM ET
By Bill Mears, CNN
Boston (CNN) - Outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Boston on a recent winter day are the regulars - a small, devoted team of anti-abortion activists, handing out fliers and urging patrons to hear their message: "Save that child." "Every life is precious, protect that life within you." "Please change your mind." Several people pray silently nearby.
Clearly marked on the sidewalk, nearly 12 yards from the front doors, is a painted boundary, a line the protesters cannot cross. By state law, their First Amendment rights stop there.
A metaphoric line - testing the competing limits of what has become a constitutional fight between free speech and public safety - will now be surveyed by the nation's highest court.
The justices on Wednesday will step back into the larger national debate on abortion, when it holds oral arguments on a challenge to a Massachusetts law that established tighter buffer zones around facilities that perform the procedure.FULL STORY
December 31st, 2013
06:33 PM ET
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a brief order late Tuesday, hours before the controversial Obama administration mandates were set to go into effect.
The Little Sisters of the Poor – a charity congregation of Roman Catholic women in Denver – and the Illinois-based Christian Brothers Services had filed a lawsuit objecting to the contraception mandate, saying it violated their religious and moral beliefs. Some religious-affiliated groups were required to comply with contraception coverage or face hefty fines.
Sotomayor said the two groups were exempted from the mandates until at least Friday, when the federal government faces a deadline to file a legal response in the case.FULL STORY
November 8th, 2013
10:01 AM ET
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.
The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.
McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.
“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”
November 6th, 2013
12:18 PM ET
By Bill Mears and Daniel Burke, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Should prayers to God open government meetings?
That's the controversial question a divided Supreme Court debated on Wednesday.
At oral arguments about whether public prayers at a New York town's board meetings are permissible, the high court took a broad look at the country's church-state history and even the Supreme Court's own traditions.
Two local women sued officials in Greece, New York, objecting that monthly Town Board public sessions have opened with invocations they say have been overwhelmingly Christian.
But the case's implications extend far beyond upstate New York and could have widespread consequences, according to constitutional scholars.
"This is going to affect communities across the country," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.
The frequent court battles over public prayers, Ten Commandment memorials and holiday displays might strike some Americans as silly, but they touch on deep questions about national identity to reach back to the Founding Fathers, Haynes said.
"It's a long struggle in our country about self-definition and what our country was founded to be. That's why we keep circling back to these emotional and highly divisive questions."
At Wednesday's oral arguments, the court's conservative majority appeared to have the votes to allow the public prayers to continue in some form, but both sides expressed concerns about the level of judicial and government oversight over prayers presented by members of a particular faith.
November 1st, 2013
04:39 PM ET
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
(CNN)– Linda Stephens has lived in her upstate New York community for more than three decades and has long been active in civic affairs.
But as an atheist, those views have put her at the center of a personal, political, and legal fight that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The issue is public prayer at her local town board meetings, another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena.
The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls "inclusive" prayers at its open sessions, on government property.
October 10th, 2013
09:17 PM ET
By Allie Malloy and Jessica Ravitz, CNN
NEW YORK (CNN) –Two rabbis face kidnapping charges after allegedly arranging assaults of Orthodox Jewish husbands to persuade them to grant divorces to their wives, authorities said Thursday.
FBI raids on Wednesday night led to the arrest of the men, who were arraigned in federal court in New Jersey on Thursday, according to court documents.
A criminal complaint alleges that the rabbis charged Jewish wives tens of thousands of dollars to orchestrate kidnappings and accepted $20,000 for such an operation from undercover FBI agents.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.