Breaking News Recent events carried in the media that involve religion Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News Congress Federalizes Hill in San Diego to Protect Cross and Frustrate Atheist
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Recent events carried in the media that involve religion
Congress Federalizes Hill in San Diego to Protect Cross and Frustrate Atheist
The US Congress quickly made a hill with a cross on top in San Diego, California into federal property to avert a possible decision by a judge, based on a suit brought by an atheist, that might have required the cross to be removed. The hill was San Diego city property before Congress acted.
New York Daily News, August 2, 2006
Hindu Representatives Win Textbook Changes, Want More
The California Board of Education has approved 75% of the changes to 6th grade textbooks requested by representatives of Hindu groups, but those Hindus present at a public hearing want a number of other sore points addressed. These include texts’ emphasis on the caste system, widow suicide, and other elements of Indian culture, past and present. Hindu organizations want to emulate the success of Muslim groups, whose editorial changes have now led to complaints from Christians and others that Islam is portrayed in too rosy a light. Hindu Press International, 3-1-06
Women Defy Ban on Priesthood for Catholics
Pittsburgh - A dozen Catholic women participated in a ceremony today to proclaim themselves priests or deacons in the Catholic Church. Similar ceremonies conducted by the group, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, have been held before in other countries, and most participants were excommunicated. “This unfortunate ceremony will take place outside the church and undermines the unity of the church,” said Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh diocese. “Those attempting to confer Holy Orders have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the church, as have those who present themselves for such an invalid ritual.”
New York Daily News, 7-31-06
Coach is Allowed to Pray with Team
New Jersey - Judge Dennis Cavanaugh of the US District Court in New Jersey ruled Tuesday that Marcus Borden, the coach at East Brunswick High School, can bow his head and bend down on one knee during student-led prayers. Cavanaugh ruled that Borden’s pregame actions were not the same as praying. Because Borden was not seeking permission from the court to lead the team in prayer—something he had done in the past—the ruling did not resolve the issue of whether a teacher or coach can conduct prayer sessions.
NY Times 7-21-06
Excommunication is Sought for Stem Cell Researchers
Rome – Scientists who engage in stem cell research should be subject to excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, according to a senior Vatican official. Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo said that “Destroying an embryo is equivalent to abortion. Excommunication is valid for the women, the doctors and researchers who destroy embryos.” Excommunication for abortion is “latae senentiae,” meaning that it is automatic. This type of excommunication is reserved for acts deemed so serious that no verdict or judgment is required, such as violence against the Pope or consecrating a bishop without authorization.
NY Times 7-1-06
Baptist Colleges Scale Back Ties to Their Denomination
Georgetown, Ky. – Georgetown College decided to end its 63-year-old affiliation with the Kentucky Baptist Convention after its president asked him to appoint someone to the faculty who would teach a literal interpretation of the Bible. This follows a pattern of separation between colleges—such as Furman and Wake Forest--and the church over the past two decades. David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at Candler School of Theology, said, “The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education. In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths.”
NY Times 7-22-06
The Rapture Index Goes Up with Mideast War
“The Rapture Index,” an evangelical Christian web site that predicts the likelihood of the coming of Christ, is at 158; anything over 145 indicates that “the end is near.” Hits on the website have gone up from 180,000 in June to 250,000 in July. In July, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said that the Mideast war will “serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future Battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.” Evangelicals have sent millions of dollars to Israel communities, and have hosted pro-Israel rallies in the US. They are acting out of the hope that a raging war—perhaps even a nuclear confrontation—may bring the apocalypse.
The Miami Herald, 8-8-06
Poll Shows Muslims Under Pressure
A USA Today poll of 1,077 Americans shows strong anti-Muslim feelings, and a separate study shows that this is damaging the mental health of Muslims in the US. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents felt that Muslims should carry a special ID to prevent terroristattacks. One-third of respondents assumed that Muslims were sympathetic to Al-Queda. Twenty-two percent said that they would not want Muslims as neighbors.
A Yale study of 611 Arab-Americans reported that the respondents had a much higher level of mental health problems than other Americans. For example, about half had symptoms of clinical depression, compared with 20% in the general population. The mental health of Arab-American Christians in the study were much more like the ordinary person than Muslim Arab-Americans.
The number of anti-Muslim assaults reported to the Council on American-Islamic Relations has grown from 1,019 in 2003 to 1,972 in 2005.
USA Today, 8-10-06
Lebanon Violence Stifles US Jewish-Muslim Dialogues
San Francisco. The Bay Area’s lively interfaith dialogues are experiencing strain as the Israeli-Lebanon conflict continues. One factor influencing this is that support for Israel among Jews is more united than before. This enthusiastic solidarity undercuts the common rationale that one can’t blame local believers for the actions of leaders abroad. One person who has conducted interfaith dialogues in his home for fourteen years says that “A lot of the reason that people don’t enter into dialogue is not fear of the other, but fear of what one’s own people will say….”
San Francisco Chronicle 8-9-06
Orthodox Jewish Woman Becomes Congregation’s Leader
Dina Najman, an expert in Jewish bioethics, will become the rosh kehillah, or congregational leader of a small Upper West Side congregation, Kehilat Orach Eliezer, in September. She will perform many of the functions of a rabbi, except for leading services and reading from the Torah. Nor will she be counted toward the minyan, the quorum of 10 men needed to start prayer, nor preside over weddings and baby-naming ceremonies. She will preach, teach classes, and counsel people. The congregation was not trying to make a statement with Ms. Najman’s hiring, according to one of the congregation’s co-presidents. She was simply the best candidate among the men and women who applied, he said.
The New York Times, 8-21-06
Woman Elected Head of Largest US Islamic Organization
Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian convert to Islam, has been elected the first female president of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group of 300 Islamic organizations. She had served two terms as vice-president. She advocates active engagement of women in Islamic institutions, including sitting on boards of mosques and centers. She holds a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Chicago in Islamic studies, and is professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Theological Seminary, a graduate school for religious leaders who are already ordained and working in the field.
Women have also been elected president of the Muslim Students Association and of Muslim Youth of North America, but Mattson’s election is more significant because the Society weighs in on discussions of religious law, a topic where she is an expert.
Chicago Tribune, 8-30-06
Filmmaker Recruiting Potential Messiahs
Andy Deemer is a documentary filmmaker who will pay $5,000 to a person to start a new religion, on condition that a film crew can follow the new messiah around while he or she is going about the start-up. Deemer, who is allied with the Institute for the Study of American Religion at UC Santa Barbara, has received 300 applications from potential gurus; he has interviewed 100 of the applicants by phone, and 40 in person. New religions, including Mormonism, Scientology and the Universal Life Church, have emerged on a regular basis in the US over the past two centuries. Deemer wants to know more about how such movements get started.
The New York Times, 8-28-06
Polygamy Sect Leader Arrested
Las Vegas. Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was arrested during a routine traffic stop in Nevada today. Jeffs was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List; he is said to have at least 40 wives and 60 children. Underage marriages within his church—some involving girls as young as 13—rose sharply during his leadership. He also broke apart marriages by re-assigning wives, husbands, and children. The FLDS group, numbering about 10,000 people, remained faithful to the original Mormon principle of polygamy after the Mormon church rejected it at the end of the 19th century.
The New York Daily News, 8-3-06
Queens Principal Sues Over Being Fired After Filing Complaint About Daughter’s Sexual Abuse
The former principal of an Islamic school, Reza Naqvi, has brought a federal lawsuit against the Al-Imam School in Jamaica, alleging that his having the school’s maintenance director arrested for fondling his daughter had led to his dismissal. The principal did not report the assault to the police when it occurred, depending on the sheik who heads the sponsoring organization to handle the matter. When nothing was done after two months, Naqvi brought charges against the maintenance director, who was arrested. Naqvi’s lawyer said that the principal had not brought charges immediately “because of cultural differences.” New York Daily News, 8-30-06
Archdiocese Gives Ultimatum to Priests Accused of Abuse
Archbishop Edward Egan of the New York Archdiocese has offered a choice to seven priests believed to be sexual abusers of children to either live under close supervision for the rest of their lives or resign the priesthood. Because the charges against them have not been proved or the criminal statute of limitations has run out, they cannot be defrocked under canon law. The supervision would involve ongoing therapy and monitoring of their movements. In the past, church programs aimed at rehabilitation of the accused, but the relapse rate was very high. This program is lifelong.
Five of the seven priests have chosen to resign, rather than submit to the program.
The New York Times, 8-31-06
Numbers of Zoroastrians Decline, May Face Extinction
The number of Zoroastrians worldwide may be as low as 150,000, according to a news report. The religion, based in India and Iran, does not accept converts or children of mixed marriages. Its emphasis on free will and education have enabled its followers to become high achievers wherever they go, but its determined tie to its ethnic roots may forecast a dim future. Founded more than 3,000 years ago, the religion is monotheistic, and may have had some influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The New York Times, 9-6-06