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Official statements by religious leadership remain an irreconcilable rejection of the Istanbul Convention due to its use of the term “gender.” However, actors on the meso and micro levels of churches have started to engage with its concepts and methods in a more constructive way. Examples include projects like the interreligious initiative Stop Violence!, the anti-violence project implemented by Eleos Ukraine, whose leadership is affiliated with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, or the 2021 project “Combining the (in)compatible.” These projects provide evidence of a more open and inclusive approach in comparison to the official position articulated by major religious communities or the AUCCRO. This development demonstrates, on the one hand, the diversity, tensions, and competitions within religious communities themselves. On the other hand, these projects may be part of a larger strategy to give the religious position broader social visibility and to affect public discourse on the level of unofficial actors. Remarkably, all activities in the direction of a gender-affirmative option remain financed by foreign donors, who simultaneously support other projects of societal liberalization (for example, the advancement of LGBTQ rights), leaving open the question of the rootedness of gender-inclusiveness in Ukrainian ecclesiastic consciousness.

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FoRB protects the right of all individuals to interpret and practice their religion the way they believe is true, as long as this does not violate other people’s rights and freedoms. This obviously includes the right to interpret and practice religion in a gender-sensitive manner, supportive of SRH and SOGI rights. All over the world, religious feminists, LGBTIQ+ activists, and other faith-based gender equality advocates challenge religiously conservative actors’ monopoly on FoRB, insisting on their freedom to believe and live their beliefs in a way that is consistent with—and inextricably intertwined with—principles of gender equality and nondiscrimination.

In the wake of Florida’s recent abortion ban, for instance, a U.S. rabbi filed a lawsuit arguing that the law violates religious liberty. Unitarians, Buddhists, and other progressive religious communities have actively supported the lawsuit. In Argentina, the Pentecostal pastor Gabriela Guerreros has also advocated for the right to safe abortions from a FoRB perspective: “Our bodies are sacred territory and in that [lie] our self-determination and religious freedom.” In the Philippines, the LGBTIQ+ community appealed to FoRB in their struggles for the right to same-sex marriage, supported by progressive religious voices. In Kenya, queer activists of faith challenge the discrimination and exclusion they face from their own churches, arguing that this constitutes a violation of their right to worship.

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Yeshiva University, one of the oldest Jewish institutions of higher education in the United States, refused to recognize a student “Pride Alliance” club based on its inconsistency with Torah values. A group of students and alumni has sued the university, demanding official recognition of the club. On 14 September 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to protect the university from a New York trial court order requiring it to recognize the LGBTQ+ club. BYU Law Professor Frederick Mark Gedicks comments on the main issue of the case, elaborates on the strongest arguments in favor of Yeshiva’s and the club’s positions, and tries to predict how the U.S. Supreme Court would decide this case on merits.

Timeline:

0:18 – The main issue of the case

1:15 – Doctrinal controversies related to the case

3:54 – The strongest argument in favor of the university

9:13 – The strongest argument in favor of the student club

12:09 – How would the U.S. Supreme Court decide the case?

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Why did Russia start the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022? If you examine the numerous statements released by the Russian government and pro-Kremlin media, there are many reasons to choose from, from biological laboratories that are supposed to infect birds with diseases that can spread among the Russian population, to NATO, to the tried-and-tested narrative about “Ukrainian Nazis.” However, recently a new reason was put forward by the Russian government: “de-satanification” of Ukraine. It seems that the Kremlin can no longer persuade the population to fight against Banderovites (the name Russian propaganda uses for the Ukrainian military), and they decided to resort to a much more comprehensive enemy image—the Devil. As a scholar of enemy images, I argue this turn in Kremlin rhetoric shows that the Russian government has exhausted all possible ways to deride Ukrainians and is going for the metaphysical jugular. While it is a staple method in propaganda, this strategy is going to fail for a number of reasons, including very low religiosity levels in Russia. However, it is important to take a look at the enmification mechanism altogether.

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Human Dignity Initiative

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an invitation to a global conversation about preserving and protecting human dignity for everyone everywhere.

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