Dutch Cabinet says it will tighten rules on Muslim, Jewish animal slaughter, won't impose ban
AMSTERDAM (AP) _ The Dutch government said Wednesday it will study new standards for ritual slaughter to satisfy animal rights activists without infringing on ancient Jewish and Muslim traditions, and will not ban the practice outright.
The announcement followed a political deadlock in the Dutch parliament. By a wide margin, the lower house approved a ban earlier this year on the traditional method of cutting the animal's throat without stunning it first. After an outcry that it would violate religious freedoms, support evaporated when the bill was sent to the upper house this month for approval.
Undersecretary for Agriculture Henk Bleker's office said a commission will draw up standards on how long animals can remain conscious and on educating slaughterers. It will include registration and quality requirements for slaughterhouses.
A small animal rights party proposed the ban and it won backing from a large anti-Islam political party and a solid majority of Dutch voters, leading to easy passage in Parliament's Second Chamber.
But Christian political parties opposed it from the start out of concern for religious minorities. After protests from Jewish and Muslim groups, both local and international, centrist parties on the left and right reversed their position in the Senate. They said reforms to slaughtering practices are a higher priority than the relatively small number of religious slaughters.
Muslims, mostly immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, represent about 1 million of the 16 million Dutch population. The once-strong Jewish community numbers around 50,000 after most were deported and killed by the Nazis during World War II.
In both religions, dietary law prescribes that animals' throats be cut swiftly with a razor-sharp knife while they are still conscious, so that they bleed to death quickly.
NC parent unhappy that students were able to take Bibles home from school
WEAVERVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ A Buncombe County mother was unhappy when her son came home from his fifth-grade class at North Windy Ridge intermediate school with a Bible. The state's largest civil liberties group says the school overstepped its bounds.
Ginger Strivelli says her son came home from North Windy Ridge school in Weaverville on Monday with a Bible he got from a box left by the Gideons International group. Strivelli, a pagan, doesn't think the school should offer any religious material to students.
"It's totally inappropriate they think they can get away with this," she said. "It's absolutely unbelievable and their attitude is ridiculous."
School officials contend they did nothing wrong. Principal Jackie Byerly said she got approval from the superintendent after the Gideons asked to leave Bibles at the school.
Students weren't required to take Bibles, county schools spokeswoman Jan Blunt said. They were told by teachers that the books were available in a box in the main office.
"They don't talk with students," Blunt said, referring to the Gideons. "They're not allowed to make a presentation. They quite literally drop off a box and leave them there. They are not handed out at all."
That would be fine at a high school, according to Katy Parker, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation.
Parker said Tuesday that a 1998 federal court decision in a West Virginia case called Peck vs. Upshur County Board of Education determined that religious literature can be left for high school students, but not at elementary schools.
Board says Boston Archdiocese must pay property taxes on closed church in Scituate
SCITUATE, Mass. (AP) _ The state appellate tax board says the town of Scituate doesn't have to refund $140,000 in property taxes the Boston Archdiocese has paid on a closed Roman Catholic church.
The archdiocese closed St. Frances X. Cabrini church in 2004, but it's been occupied since by parishioners protesting the closing, who also hold regular church services.
The archdiocese argued the property should retain the tax-exempt status it had as part of the diocese, as long as it's not being used for nonreligious purposes.
But the board last week said the protesters' main purpose "to occupy and guard" the church wasn't a charitable purpose, and the property didn't qualify for tax-exempt status.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said it's reviewing the ruling and it was premature to comment on its next steps.
Travis Air Force Base says Nativity scene, menorah don't violate troops' religious freedom
FAIRFIELD, Calif. (AP) _ Lawyers for Travis Air Force Base in Northern California have determined that including a Nativity scene and a menorah in the base's holiday display does not violate the troops' religious freedom.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation wrote to base authorities last week, on behalf of 121 troops at the base, saying the two displays amounted to a military endorsement of religions. It asked that the menorah and Nativity scene be moved to a nearby chapel.
The Air Force judge advocate general decided Saturday that the displays at the Solano County base were part of a broader, secular holiday display.
A base spokesman said there are 24 holiday displays at Travis sponsored by squadrons, including images of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and airplanes.