1) Assisted dying has acquired some heavyweight support

British legislators have long put off reforming the law on doctor-assisted suicide, despite widespread calls for change. But the campaign to allow consenting adults to make the decision to die on their own terms in the face of terminal illness received a major boost this week, as the prestigious British Medical Journal published an editorial arguing for reform. The BMJ suggests that parliament should back Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill, which is due a second reading in the House of Lords in the coming months.

2) China has banned Muslims from observing Ramadan

While religious freedom has progressed in China in recent decades, it is still highly limited, and is particularly restricted in the north-western region of Xinjiang, where the Uighur Muslim minority enjoy an uneasy relationship with the Chinese state.

The problems faced by the Uighur in Xinjiang were underlined this week by news that authorities in the region have banned Muslim students and civil servants from observing Ramadan. Those employed in government buildings, including those teaching and studying at universities, have been “strictly forbidden” from taking part in "religious activities" while at work.

3) Caribbean coral reefs could be gone in 20 years

Over-fishing and disease mean that coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea could be completely destroyed within the next two decades, according to research published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The report, which uses data from over 35,000 surveys, suggests that reefs in the region have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s.

While this is of course bad news for the ecology of the Caribbean, Carl Gustaf Lundin of the IUCN pointed out that it is also a threat to the people of the region. "The reefs support a number of different countries and populations," he said. "Tourism is one of the biggest industries, and the health of the reef is essential to the well-being of many of the people living there."

4) In America, companies have religious rights – and that's bad news for women

In a highly controversial judgement, the US Supreme Court this week ruled that corporations can refuse, on grounds of religious freedom, to pay for healthcare plans that include contraception coverage. In the view of those campaigning for reproductive rights in the US, the implications are clear – if you're a female employee, the religious convictions of your employers trump your right to select a healthcare plan that covers your contraception requirements. It also raises a worrying question – if companies can legally refuse on religious grounds to fund contraception, what else could they justify using the same argument?

5) The Vatican is backing the exorcists

Exorcism is one of those awkward (you might even say embarrassing) aspects of the Catholic faith – everyone knows about it, but it's not something believers would want to draw too much attention to. However, things could be about to change, as the Vatican has this week officially recognised the International Association of Exorcists, which represents 250 priests from 30 countries who are committed to excising demons. Given the popularity of Pope Francis, if he's on board with exorcism, could large numbers of the faithful be set to follow suit?

6) The pressure is growing on MPs to tackle FGM

While Female Genital Mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985, there has yet to be a successful prosecution against anyone who has subjected young girls to the practice. However, there have been increased calls for tougher action in recent years, and the first prosecutions are currently ongoing.

A report published by the Home Affairs Committee this week calls the lack of action a "national scandal", but it also makes a number of proposals for increased preventative measures, including the use protection orders to prevent girls from being taken abroad to undergo mutilation.

7) The Declaration of Independence is coming to London

American history buffs have a reason to start getting very excited, as the British Library has announced that two of the key founding documents of US democracy will be coming to London next year as part of the 800th anniversary celebrations of Magna Carta.

Original copies of the 1776 Declaration of Independence (on loan from New York Public Library) and the 1789 Bill of Rights (loaned by the US National Archives) will be on display at the British Library between March and September 2015.

8) School governors have had enough of compulsory collective worship

Ever since the 1944 Education Act, it has been compulsory for all schools of a non-religious character to hold a daily act of "broadly Christian" worship. Despite the fact that many school subtly ignore it, the rule has survived, and is frequently defended by the Church of England and the Catholic Church.

Secular and humanist groups have long campaigned for the replacement of collective worship with inclusive, non-religious assemblies, and while there is no sign that abolition is imminent, the campaign did receive the backing of an influential body this week, with the National Governors' Association introducing a policy that describes the practice as "meaningless" in a multicultural society.

9) Scientists have found the most Earth-like planet yet – and it's "only" 16 light year's away

The search for extra-solar planets, or "exoplanets", has been continuing apace since the first confirmed discovery in 1995, and to date around 1,800 planets have been detected beyond the limits of our solar system (a tiny, tiny fraction of the total believed to be out there - it is estimated that there are at least 100 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone).

There was particularly exciting news on the exoplanet front this week, as researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia announced that they have found what could be the most Earth-like planet yet. Gilese 832c is located a mere 16 light years away from Earth, and follows an orbital path around its red dwarf star (Gilese 832) which makes it potentially capable of harbouring life.