Hostility to Religion Rising Globally, Christians Targeted in 144 Nations: Pew Study

 June 22,2018- New research reveals that religious hostility is on the rise globally, as government-sponsored restrictions and non-state actor assaults on religious practice have grown for the second year in a row.
 

 The Pew Research Center's ninth annual study, which was released Thursday, on restrictions on religion around the world charted the direction of religious freedom in 198 countries in 2016, and found a notable overall increase from 2015. Whether from government decrees hostile to religious faith or terror groups committing atrocities against religious minorities in their societies, antagonism toward people because of their religion is trending upward.

"More than a quarter (28%) of countries had 'high' or 'very high' levels of government restrictions on religion in 2016, an increase from 25% the year before. This is the largest share of countries in these categories since 2013," the report reads.

 Nations in these categories scored at least a 4.5 on the Government Restrictions Index, a 10-point scale based on 20 indicators of state policies against religious expression ranging from everything like bans on evangelism to outright physical assaults on religious communities. The landlocked Southeast Asian nation of Laos moved into the "very high" ranking in 2016, for example, because of a new policy that allows the government to halt any religious activity it deems as a threat to its customs or laws.

 The percentage of nations who had "high" or "very high" social hostilities involving religion stayed about the same at 27 percent, according to the study. Like the Government Restrictions Index, the Social Hostilities Index the researchers used is a 10-point scale measuring over a dozen social hostilities like inter-religious tension and religion-related terrorism. Countries who scored at least a 3.6 on this scale were classified as "high" or "very high" depending on how they ranked in the other categories measured.

 In approximately 10 percent of countries where growing religious hostility and restrictions could be found, the sponsors of it employed overtly nationalist rhetoric, where one's religion was regarded as somehow detrimental to the nation as a whole.

"[Sixteen percent] of countries in the report had organized social groups that used nationalist rhetoric against religious minorities in the country, an increase from 14% in 2015," Pew's Katayoung Kishi noted.

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ALERT ALERT

 Judge Orders Mueller To Prove  Russia Meddled In Election 

Judge Dabney L. Friedrich

A Washington federal judge on Thursday ordered special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to clarify election meddling claims lodged against a Russian company operated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Bloomberg.

Concord Management and Consulting, LLC. – one of three businesses indicted by Mueller in February along with 13 individuals for election meddling, surprised the special counsel in April when they actually showed up in court to fight the charges. Mueller’s team tried to delay Concord from entering the case, arguing that thee Russian company not been properly served, however Judge Dabney Friedrich denied the request – effectively telling prosecutors ‘well, they’re here.’

Concord was accused in the indictment of supporting the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian ‘troll farm’ accused of trying to influence the 2016 US election.

On Thursday, Judge Freidrich asked Mueller’s prosecutors if she should assume they aren’t accusing Concord of violating US laws applicable to election expenditures and failure to register as a foreign agent.

Concord has asked Dabney to throw out the charges – claiming that Mueller’s office fabricated a crime, and that there is no law against interfering in elections.

According to the judge’s request for clarification, the Justice Department has argued that it doesn’t have to show that Concord had a legal duty to report its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Rather, the allegation is that the company knowingly engaged in deceptive acts that precluded the FEC, or the Justice Department, from ascertaining whether they had broken the law. -Bloomberg

On Monday, Friedrich raised questions over whether the special counsel’s office could prove a key element of their case – saying that it was “hard to see” how allegations of Russian influence were intended to interfere with US government operations vs. simply “confusing voters,” reports law.com.

During a 90-minute hearing, Friedrich questioned prosecutor Jonathan Kravis about how the government would be able to show the Russian defendants were aware of the Justice Department and FEC’s functions and then deliberately sought to skirt them.

“You still have to show knowledge of the agencies and what they do. How do you do that?” Friedrich asked.

Kravis, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, argued that the government needed only to show that Concord Management and the other defendants were generally aware that the U.S. government “regulates and monitors” foreign participation in American politics. That awareness, Kravis said, could be inferred from the Russians’ alleged creation of fake social media accounts that appeared to be run by U.S. citizens and “computer infrastructure” intended to mask the Russian origin of the influence operation.

“That is deception that is directed at a higher level,” Kravis said. Kravis appeared in court with Michael Dreeben, a top Justice Department appellate lawyer on detail to the special counsel’s office. -law.com

Concord pleaded not guilty in May. Their attorney, Eric Dubelier – a partner at Reed Smith, has described the election meddling charges as “make believe,” arguing on Monday that Mueller’s indictment against Concord “doesn’t charge a crime.”

“There is no statute of interfering with an election. There just isn’t,” said Dubelier, who added that Mueller’s office alleged a “made-up crime to fit the facts they have.”

Dubelier added that the case against Concord Management is the first in US history “where anyone has ever been charged with defrauding the Justice Department” through their failure to register under FARA.

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