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By +Frank B.
Source: BBC News
Christian students at a Colorado public high school were told they could no longer meet to pray, sing religious songs or discuss religious topics during free time ? because such activity violated the U.S. Constitution, a lawsuit filed in federal court alleges.
Chase Windebank is a senior at Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs. Three years ago he started meeting together informally with his classmates for prayer and religious fellowship. The young people would meet in an unoccupied choir room to sing songs like ?Amazing Grace? and discuss the issues of the day from a religious perspective.
But all that changed on Sept. 29th when Chase was summoned to the office of Assistant Principal James Lucas.
?He was told that he could no longer pray with his fellow students during free time because of the separation of church and state,? said Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney representing the teenager.
Tedesco is with Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that specializes in handling religious liberty cases.
?He was told that he could pray before the school day begins or after the school day ends but he could not do it during the school day,? Tedesco told me.
?Defendants Back and Lucas stated that because of the separation of church and state and because they regarded the Seminar period as instructional time, they were banning students? discussion of issues of the day from a religious perspective during the open time of Seminar period.?
?Public schools should encourage the free exchange of ideas,? Tedesco said. ?Instead, this school implemented an ill-conceived ban that singles out religious speech for censorship during free time.?
By +Frank B.
Angela Merkel warns David Cameron over freedom of movement
German chancellor rejects UK prime minister?s demands for a cap on unskilled migrants, according to Der Spiegel newspaper
David Cameron has been warned by German chancellor Angela Merkel that she would rather see the UK leave the European Union than change freedom of movement rules, according to reports.
Downing Street on Sunday did not deny that the conversation had taken place, after German newspaper Der Spiegel said Merkel had rejected Cameron?s demands for a cap on unskilled migrants. Sources told the newspaper that the chancellor said demands for any changes to freedom of movement rules represented a ?point of no return? and that this would be it for the UK?s membership.
Over the weekend, the Sunday Times also reported that the prime minister has dropped plans for quotas in a bid to placate the Germans and that Cameron is now looking at whether the government can ask EU immigrants to leave the country unless they can support themselves within three months of arriving in the UK.
Asked whether the Der Spiegel report was an accurate account of the encounter between Cameron and Merkel, a Number 10 official would only say: ?The prime minister will do what is right for Britain as he has repeatedly made clear.?
However, a spokesman for the German chancellor indirectly confirmed Der Spiegel?s report by reiterating a statement Merkel had made at a press conference after the recent EU summit: ?Germany does not want to touch the basic principle of free movement of persons within the EU.?
Merkel?s reported arguments were backed up on Sunday by Ken Clarke, the senior Tory MP and former cabinet minister, who said free movement of labour was ?absolutely essential? to the whole concept of a single market.
He told the BBC?s Sunday Politics: ?Not only is that one of the principles of the EU, it?s the basis of any serious single market. The Norwegians, who eurosceptics admire, they accept the free movement of labour. They?ve got a bigger proportion of other EU nationals in their country compared with their own nationals than we have.
?If you want to be in the single market, if you want to be a modern economy then the free movement of labour is essential, but free movement of labour shouldn?t be abused.?
It comes amid speculation that Cameron is rowing back from his focus and tough language on immigration amid fears that the Conservatives will never be able to go as far as Ukip supporters want. Jim Messina, a US election strategist who worked on Barack Obama?s campaign, is said to have told a Tory awayday on Friday that every moment the party is not talking about the economy between now and the election is wasted.
However, Boris Johnson will keep to the subject of immigration on Monday, as he backs a report by the Commonwealth Exchange calling for more immigration from Commonwealth countries instead of so much from the EU.
In his foreword, he will say: ?We should welcome the brightest and the best from a wider range of countries.
?As we re-examine our relationship with the EU, we have a vital opportunity to recast our immigration system in just this way. And the first place to start is with the Commonwealth.?
The issue of immigration is also tricky for Labour. Over the weekend, Ian Austin, a former aide to Gordon Brown and MP for Dudley North, called on his party to ?be honest? and ?say sorry? for opening the borders to eastern Europeans in 2004.
The row is the latest piece of Europe-related bad news for Cameron in recent days: last week he suffered a double blow when a parliamentary bill to establish an EU membership referendum by the end of 2017 collapsed, and a key UK ally told Britain to accept a demand from Brussels to pay an extra ?1.7bn.
Source: The Guardian
By +Frank B.
Germany approves first-ever national minimum wage
The German parliament has approved the country's first minimum wage, in a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday.
The wage will be set at 8.50 euros (?6.80) per hour, which is higher than the equivalent in the US and UK.
Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats approved the new policy as part of a power-sharing deal with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Germany has previously relied on trade unions and business groups to fix minimum pay instead.
At the moment, the country is one of seven in the 28-nation EU without a minimum wage level.
The minimum wage has been the subject of much controversy in Germany, with business leaders warning that it would result in fewer jobs, or force companies to move production facilities to other countries, where labour is cheaper.
Lobbyists have also claimed that the policy would make Germany less competitive.
However others have been angered by concessionary measures, including a two-year grace period for some employers to phase in the policy.
Additionally, the wage does not cover minors, interns, trainees or long-term unemployed people for their first six months at work.
For the rest of Germany's employers, the regulations will come into effect on 1 January 2015. The wage will be reviewed annually from 1 January 2018.
Regardless of the outcome of Thursday's vote, the policy will still need to be passed by Germany's upper house, the Bundesrat.
Other European countries have been adjusting their minimum wage policies.
In March, the UK government announced a 19p increase to the national minimum wage, bringing it to ?6.50 per hour.
In May, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce what would have been the highest minimum wage in the world, in a referendum.
Under the plan, employers would have had to pay workers a minimum 22 Swiss francs (about $25; ?15; 18 euros) an hour.
Source: BBC News
By +Frank B.
Germany to allow 'indeterminate' gender at birth
Germany is to become Europe's first country to allow babies with characteristics of both sexes to be registered as neither male nor female.
Parents will be allowed to leave the gender blank on birth certificates, in effect creating a new category of "indeterminate sex".
The move is aimed at removing pressure on parents to make quick decisions on sex assignment surgery for newborns.
As many as one in 2,000 people have characteristics of both sexes.
'Bruised and scarred'
They are known as "intersex" people because they have a mixture of male and female chromosomes or even genitalia which have characteristics of both genders.
The intense difficulty for parents is often that a gender has to be chosen very quickly so that the new child can be registered with the authorities, the BBC's Steve Evans in Berlin reports.
Sometimes surgery is done on the baby to turn its physical characteristics as far as possible in one direction or the other, our correspondent says.
The law in Germany has been following a review of cases which revealed great unhappiness.
In one case, a person with no clear gender-defining genitalia was subjected to surgery. The person said many years later: "I am neither a man nor a woman. I will remain the patchwork created by doctors, bruised and scarred."
German passports, which currently list the holder's sex as M for male or F for female, will soon have a third designation, X, for intersex holders, according to the interior ministry.
It remains unclear what impact the change will have on marriage and partnership laws in Germany.
Current laws define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and civil partnerships are reserved for same-sex couples.
Source: BBC News