The Satanic Temple has threatened to sue Mississippi over plans to include the phrase “In God We Trust” on its flag.
In a letter addressed to state attorney general Lynn Fitch the Temple argued that not all Mississippians were represented by the phrase, which is the US national motto.
Last week politicians approved proposals to retire the 1894 Mississippi state flag, which had been adorned with the Confederate battle emblem, amid nationwide demonstrations against institutionalised racism.
Under the measure passed last week, governor Tate Reeves compelled state authorities to include the “In God We Trust” message in any new design. A commission is being set up to create that new version.
The eventual, revised flag is not permitted to include Confederate symbols, which are seen to celebrate racism. Voters will be asked to approve a new flag later this year.
The Satanic Temple, which welcomed the decision to scrap the old flag, complained that the phrase “In God We Trust” was also divisive.
“While the Satanic Temple supports the removal of the Confederate flag, removing one divisive symbol of exclusion only to replace it with a divisive phrase of exclusion does not eliminate exclusion,” it said.
The words “In Satan We Trust”, the Satanists argued by way of comparison, would likely cause other groups to “be a bit put off”.
“If you can imagine that, then you might imagine how atheists, Satanists, and other people of non-theistic faiths could feel excluded by the addition of ‘In God We Trust’ to the state flag,” added the Temple.
The Supreme Court previously ruled in a similar case that the national motto on currency does not contravene secular principles contained in the first amendment to the constitution, but Randazza Legal Group, acting for the Temple, said it believed the facts were sufficiently different to allow a new challenge.
Mississippi lawmakers will produce design proposals for a new flag in September, which will then be put to a public vote in November.
Release of 69 Christians imprisoned in Eritrea for faith in Jesus
Eritrean government has, at the time of writing, released 69 Christian prisoners, many of whom have been in long-term detention for their faith for up to 16 years without trial.
Following on from a release of more than 20 male and female prisoners on 4 September, Barnabas can report that the authorities are continuing make conditional releases from the Mai Serwa prison, near the capital, Asmara.
A Barnabas contact has confirmed the Eritrean government has, at the time of writing, released 69 Christian prisoners, many of whom have been in long-term detention for their faith for up to 16 years without trial.
Following on from a release of more than 20 male and female prisoners on 4 September, the authorities are continuing make conditional releases from the Mai Serwa prison, near the capital, Asmara.
“This is an answer to prayer. Thousands of Christians have been praying for this,” he added.
Life will not be easy for those who are released Dr Berhane explained, “Many have been in prison for a long time. The circumstances they are being released into are very changed. Some will return to friends and extended family, but many will be homeless with nowhere to go. There is no state help in Eritrea.”
Dr Berhane called for prayer for the released prisoners, “People have souls and minds that will need healing. They need to rehabilitate. We need to pray that they will recover from their trauma.”
In 2019, more than 330 Christians were arrested between May and August. Among them were 141 Christians – including 104 women and 14 children – detained on 10 May as they gathered at a house church meeting in Asmara.
Eritrea remains one of the worst countries in the world for Christian persecution, where believers of certain denominations are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without trial. Since the introduction of religious registration policies in 2002, only three Christian denominations are legally permitted – Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran – as well as Sunni Islam.
Covid-19 New Zealand: masks are not mandatory
Face masks are no longer mandatory on public transport in most of New Zealand as Covid-19 cases continue to drop.
From midnight on Wednesday, they are required only in Auckland, the heart of a recent outbreak, and on planes.
The rest of New Zealand lifted all pandemic restrictions on Monday.
New Zealand was widely praised for its swift response to Covid-19 and everyday life largely went back to normal in June, but the virus reappeared in Auckland in August.
The country’s biggest city went back into lockdown, temporarily, as other curbs were re-imposed elsewhere.
New Zealand has now recorded 1,468 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 25 deaths.
Everywhere except Auckland returned to level one – the lowest of a four-tier alert system – on Monday after seven days of no Covid-19 community cases.
This means life almost as normal – no more social distancing or caps on gatherings such as weddings or sporting events. Everyone can return to work without restriction and wearing a mask is no longer compulsory on public transport.
The government says face coverings aren’t necessary for the general public when there is no evidence of community transmission.
But it is still encouraging people to wear masks on public transport. In Auckland, now at level two, they are still compulsory.
Also, passengers on planes flying to, from and via Auckland – as well as on all Air New Zealand flights – are still required to wear masks.
On Wednesday, authorities reported three new community cases that are not linked to the Auckland cluster. They are connected to a recent chartered flight from Christchurch to Auckland.
Face masks have become one of the big dividers of the pandemic.
Long embraced in many Asian countries, they’ve been resisted by some citizens in the US, Europe and at times New Zealand too.
It only became mandatory four weeks ago to wear facial coverings on public transport at alert level two and above.
Now as most people return to the old normal, top epidemiologists have raised concerns about the dropping of masks.
We’ve argued to “retain mask use in specific situations like public transport and residential care facilities” until there is no community transmission for around four weeks and it’s clear the virus has been eradicated again, said Michael Baker, professor of public health at the University of Otago.
But the epidemiologist, who advises the government on its Covid-19 response, acknowledges the challenge masks pose.
“It gets harder to sustain interest in mask use when people think there’s no virus any more. We don’t have masks ingrained in our culture. And I think people have not got used to them at any point,” he told the BBC.
On Monday New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has championed social distancing and masks, apologised over a maskless selfie with supporters last week, admitting she made a mistake.
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