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Reporting and analysis of the religious forces that drive and influence global news. 

Underage Moroccan girls married off with judges' consent

The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.
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Legal restrictions lead to 'DIY abortions' in Texas and Argentina alike

As Texas limits access to abortion, it is walking down a road well-tread by Argentina, where abortion is illegal but half a million women still terminate their pregnancies each year.

HOUSTON, Texas and BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The plane descended and just beyond the city limits, the clouds gave way to a view of the expansive territory Texas is known for. We had landed, the flight attendant announced, in Houston — the most populous city in the Lone Star State.

We were on our way from Boston to Buenos Aires, where we will be reporting for the next two weeks on the country’s high abortion rate and the legal and religious institutions that surround it.

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It's time for Iraqis to look at the failures of our own government

Commentary: No one will admit the mistakes they’ve made — they just keep on making them. Airing the dirty laundry would mean admitting to and exposing the wrong and asking for help to clean up the mess.

Editor’s Note: Jamil Ali is a pseudonym for the writer of this op-ed, who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. He is a former activist. 

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Church sex abuse survivors seek more than an apology from Pope Francis

Francis met with a small group of abuse survivors Monday, which was appreciated but no substitute for a true process of justice, advocates say.

Pope Francis said the clergy abuse crisis was “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained” Monday in Rome.

He also used some of his most emotional language yet in a Vatican-distributed video of his sermon at a private Mass for six adults victimized by priests as children.

The survivors, two each from Ireland, Germany and the UK, spent the weekend at Santa Marta, the Vatican residential hotel where the pope lives. It typically houses visiting churchmen.

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As Egypt targets Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia follows suit

The Saudi government now considers the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a sharp break with past policy.

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia’s religious landscape has sometimes appeared as a monochromatic terrain of pious Muslims following an intolerant, puritanical version of Islam. If that picture was ever accurate, it is certainly not today.

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Hobby Lobby ruling inspired 100 more cases in less than a week

The Supreme Court said it is "highly unlikely" that more corporations will go after religious freedom claims, but already groups taking up suits and looking to get out of a pending LGBT discrimination order.

It’s been just days since the Supreme Court granted religious exemption to Hobby Lobby and other closely held corporations, ruling that the insurance they provide their employees does not have to cover contraception, as stipulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and already Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s prophetic dissent is manifest.

Following a blistering and sometimes-sarcastic 35 pages of opposition, Ginsburg, perhaps now somewhat famously, concluded: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Indeed, it seems as though it has.

While President Obama vowed to restore the lost coverage to women, a host of other religious groups and institutions have decided not to wait around and see what kinds of new regulations might come into play.

According to the Becket Fund, the religious law firm that represented Hobby Lobby, there are already 49 pending federal cases in which for-profit companies have claimed “religious objections to the ACA and another 51 that involve nonprofit organizations.”

Additionally, the Supreme Court has ordered three appeals courts to reevaluate challenges made by companies that also objected to the contraception stipulation, but which objected to all contraceptive methods and not just the four addressed in the Hobby Lobby case.

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Pope Francis and the language of hope

Pope Francis excommunicated a mafia group that controls 8-10 percent of Italian GDP. But without a formal document, it's up to parish priests to deny communion to known mobsters – at their own risk.

In the mafia-infested, southern Italian region of Calabria, Pope Francis’s moral rhetoric took another long stride the weekend before last. Vatican TV footage showed the pope in white, reading his text, while 250,000 people standing in the heat at Piana di Sibari raised applause as his gently rhythmic voice went stern, singling out the ‘Ndrangheta, a regional crime syndicate:

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Young Saudis embrace internet satire, rejecting ultraconservative Islam

Part Four: Saudi's web-savvy youth, still highly devout, are reconsidering what Islam means in their social lives.

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia’s religious landscape has sometimes appeared as a monochromatic terrain of pious Muslims following an intolerant, puritanical version of Islam. If that picture was ever accurate, it is certainly not today.

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On World Refugee Day, Israel's asylum-seekers claim religious discrimination

Some 50,000 Sudanese and Eritreans hope for refugee status in Israel. Many of them believe that because they are not Jewish, they don’t stand a chance.

HOLOT, Israel — Deep into Israel’s Negev Desert, surrounded by miles of arid land, lays the Holot Detention Center for asylum-seekers. Maawiya Mohammed Adam, a 28-year-old from Sudan, who fled his war-torn homeland and entered Israel in 2008, has been detained in Holot for the past six months. For non-Jews, Adam said, seeking asylum in the Jewish state is a bad idea.

“If I was a Jew, by now I would have very good conditions and Israel would recognize me and give me the status that I deserve, but because I am Muslim and black — my fate is suffering,” said Adam, standing outside Holot, under the scorching summer sun. “Israel is concerned about not having Muslims and black people in its community, and that's the main reason I am not very optimistic about being in Israel.”

Ninety-two percent of the estimated 50,000 asylum-seekers in Israel are Muslims or Christians from Sudan and Eritrea. They entered the country illegally between 2006 and 2012 through the then porous, now barricaded border with Egypt.

These asylum-seekers — though numbered in the thousands — are just a fragment of the growing issue of displaced people worldwide.

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In Pope Francis' church of the streets, elitism doesn't work

US bishops reportedly "unsettled" as men like Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone become targets.

In the latest installment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s bad luck blues, the former Vatican secretary of state, 79, has responded to critical news coverage by defending the renovation of his 6,500-square-foot apartment and denying anything was amiss in a $20 million Vatican Bank loan he helped steer to Lux Vide, an Italian TV production company.

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