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Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #180 on: April 30, 2017, 06:59:49 AM »
Ohio governor, John Kasich, has a new book out, Two Paths: America Divided or United, and Kasich is blaming Donald Trump’s presidential electoral win on, among other things, the spiritual decline in America :

“I happen to believe that you can’t guide an entire society without a shared religious foundation ... I saw Trump’s reckless entreaties as a weakening of our shared American values — even more so, a coarsening of our shared American values … Donald Trump gave the impression of a man who would do or say anything to get attention, even incite a crowd to violence ... Trump gave millions of disenfranchised voters a voice. What the voters were telling us in this election was that they were angry, that they were feeling that their lives were out of control, that there was a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in the heartland” - John Kasich - Two Paths: America Divided or United

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #181 on: May 01, 2017, 08:11:19 AM »
Ten reasons millennials are backing away from God and Christianity

"1. Mindset of “digital natives” is very much separate from other generations. Millennials are eclectic on all fronts—economically, spiritually, artistically. There is little or no “brand loyalty” in most areas of life.

"2. Breakdown of the family. It has long been recognized that experience with an earthly father deeply informs the perspective about the heavenly father. In “How the West Really Lost God,” sociologist Mary Eberstadt correctly asserts, “The fortunes of religion rise or fall with the state of the family.”

"3. Militant secularism: Embraced by media and enforced in schools, secular education approaches learning through the lens of “methodological naturalism.” It is presupposed that all faith claims are merely expressions of subjective preference. The only “true” truths are claims that are divorced from any supernatural context and impose no moral obligations on human behavior. People today are subjected to an enforced secularism.

"4. Lack of spiritual authenticity among adults. Many youth have had no -- or very limited -- exposure to adult role models who know what they believe, why they believe it, and are committed to consistently living it out.

"5. The church’s cultural influence has diminished. The little neighborhood church is often assumed to be irrelevant, and there is no cultural guilt anymore for those who abandon involvement.

"6. Pervasive cultural abandonment of morality. The idea of objective moral truth—ethical norms that really are binding on all people—is unknown to most and is rejected by the rest.

"7. Intellectual skepticism. College students are encouraged to accept platitudes like “life is about asking questions, not about dogmatic answers.” Is that the answer? That there are no answers? Claiming to have answers is viewed as “impolite.” On life’s ultimate questions, it is much more socially acceptable to “suspend judgment.”

"8. The rise of a fad called “atheism.” Full of self-congratulatory swagger and blasphemous bravado, pop-level atheists such as the late Christopher Hitchens (whom I interviewed twice) made it cool to be a non-believer. Many millennials, though mostly 20-something Caucasian males, are enamored by books and blogs run by God-hating “thinkers.”

"9.  Our new God: Tolerance be Thy name. “Tolerance” today essentially means, “Because my truth is, well, my truth, no one may ever question any behavior or belief I hold.” This “standard” has become so ingrained that it is now impossible to rationally critique any belief or behavior without a backlash of criticism.

"10. The commonly defiant posture of young adulthood. As we leave adolescence and morph into adulthood, we all can be susceptible to an inflated sense of our own intelligence and giftedness. During the late teens and early 20s, many young people feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I did. The cultural trend toward rejection of God—and other loci of authority—resonates strongly with the desire for autonomy felt in young adulthood.

Doctor Alex McFarland - Fox News - April 30, 2017 (Alex McFarland is an Atheist-turned-Christian apologist)

Complete article:

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #182 on: May 02, 2017, 02:57:57 AM »
Church twofer: Gun safety instruction plus Bible lesson

"Concealed weapons instructor Roy Jones with students on his shooting range in Oklahoma. Roy Jones’ Facebook page says matter-of-factly that his concealed weapons training is “not your typical gun class.” That is an understatement.

"Jones, 67, has taught most of his more than 5,000 students over the last decade in churches across Oklahoma. What’s more, he weaves biblical passages into his talks about how to handle a gun, and the legal fallout that can follow discharging a weapon in self-defense.

"Church values and self-defense, Jones says, are not contradictory. Jones says that being a church-goer and a person of strong spiritual values does not mean refusing to strike back when one’s life is threatened. He notes that Psalm 144 says: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

“We will turn the other cheek,” Jones told Fox News. “I’m the least likely guy to pull out a gun in a fight. But we will not turn the other cheek if you’re going to assault my family or cut off my head in the process.” Jones’ certification course takes eight hours and includes lectures that cover handling a weapon, Oklahoma laws regarding gun ownership and shooting in self-defense, practice at the instructor’s private range and a 15-question exam.

"Jones says that while people should not go looking for trouble, they should be ready when it looks for them. He cites the case of a woman in his state who was killed by two pit bulls last month, and another woman who was fatally stabbed at a food distribution center in 2014 by a coworker who had been fired.

"If they had been armed, Jones says, they would likely be alive today.

“If they’d had a legal gun and been trained to use it,” Jones said, referring to the woman who was stabbed, “can you imagine what went through her mind the last few minutes of her life?”

"His former students, who have included lawmakers, lawyers and spouses of police officers, have praised his course.

"One student, Wendy Johnson, took Jones’ course after a friend was mugged.

“One day, my co-worker did not show up for work,” Johnson told WQAD. “Someone had attacked her in a parking lot and had literally beaten her face. I don’t want to see anyone else in the ER with a swollen face because someone hit them in the head for their purse.”

"Jones stresses that he is not a pastor, a misperception some have when they learn of his style of sprinkling biblical teachings in his lectures.

"But some students have actually grown interested in religion after listening to the verses, he said.

"One of the most important things he tries to teach his students is how to avoid being jailed after firing in self-defense.

"He tells his students not to consent to a police officer’s request to search their property.

“You show the officer respect,” he said, “but you never consent. You have to articulate that you were the victim, but you say, ‘With all due respect, you will have my full cooperation after I seek my legal counsel.”

Fox News - May 1, 2017

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #183 on: May 03, 2017, 04:37:12 AM »
Denmark gives two-year ban to six foreign religious 'hate preachers'

"On the list are six foreign religious authorities: five Islamic preachers who are nationals of Canada, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United States and US Evangelical Pastor Terry Jones, who burned copies of the Koran in 2011.

"I am also very pleased that it is now clear to everyone that these people are not welcome in Denmark," Inger Stoejberg, the country's immigration and integration minister said on Tuesday while announcing the newly-published sanctions list.

"The six religious leaders have been banned from entering Denmark for the next two years in order to prevent hate speech and protect public order.

"Stoejberg described the listed individuals as "hate preachers" and "traveling fanatical religious preachers who try to undermine our democracy and fundamental values of freedom and human rights." Violation of the ban could result in a fine or up to three years' imprisonment.

"It was unclear whether any of the preachers had traveled to Denmark in the recent years, although German agency dpa reported that US imam Kamal El-Mekki had visited the Scandinavian country in the past and Canadian Muslim cleric Bilal Philips had traveled to Denmark in 2011.

"The list of banned preachers was spurred by a February 2016 hidden-camera documentary that captured a radical imam in a Danish mosque preaching that adulterers should be stoned. The documentary's broadcast led to a debate in Danish society about how to stop the construction of parallel societies and prevent religious fanaticism.

"The law underpinning the creation of "the public national list" announced on Tuesday was passed in December 2016 with support from both the right-leaning government and the opposition Social Democrats.

"Denmark is not the first European nation to have such legislation. The United Kingdom can block individuals with criminal convictions or those whose presence is "not conducive to the public good"  from entering the country.

"The Danish ban is to be implemented by the country's Immigration Service."

Deutsche Welle - - May 1, 2017

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #184 on: May 04, 2017, 05:51:01 AM »
Latest Gallup Poll on worship and the public

"We were prompted to be surprised, even shocked, by headlines like this one from last week: “Survey shocker: music dead last, sermons first, as worship draws.” It headed an article at Baptist News Global by Jeff Brumley, who was shocked—shocked!—as he presumed most of his readers, Baptist or non-Baptist, must have been. Instantly the subject of this “survey shocker” appeared in many articles on the internet.

"Were we surprised? We don’t expect religion to make shocking news unless there are sex or financial scandals in the world of the church, synagogue, etc. Add to that theological controversies over the beginning of things (think of headlines about evolution) or the end of things (think apocalypse, be it nuclear or otherwise). Yet whoever consistently sights the religious scene knows that worship is a hotly contested phenomenon among those who “practice” religion, or who are “observant.”

“Public worship” is an at-least-weekly attraction for millions. So the Gallup Poll people wanted to learn what worshippers valued. Surveyors chopped up worship community activities into valuation of (1) sermon “content,” (2) sermons as “helpers” in ways of life, (3) spiritual programs for “children and teenagers,” (4) “community outreach and volunteer opportunities,” (5) dynamic leaders, (6) social activities, and finally (7) spiritual music, as in “choir, praise band, cantors,” etc.

"No surprise about reactions to the surprise finding. Preachers Institute and its kin and kind shared Gallup’s story “Sermon Content Is What Appeals Most to Churchgoers.” Reddit Reformed was one of many other organs that cheered.

"Some of our best friends are sermonizers and/or musicians, so we can picture a combination of responses. For instance, some will ask: Should we believe opinion polls? Is this one flawed? What bearing will findings like this have on church advertising, scheduling, education, and planning? How will they affect sermonizers and musicians who, more often than not, get along very well, and complement each other in divine service? (An aside: as the son and brother of sometime church musicians, and as a [weak] choral singer emeritus, plus a dweller in the courts of J. S. Bach and company as well as church jazz three times a year in our parish, I’ll never downgrade the role of music.)

"This week, though, shouldn’t this news alert seminaries, institutes, workshoppers, theologians, and the like to take a fresh look at the potential of the preached word in the midst of the chaos of signals which bombard the public in our ever-noisier post-verbal culture? In the Christian sphere, at least, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). I could say more, but that would be sermonizing, which, we learn, does not need as much help as do the production and enjoyment of music in “public worship.”

Martin E. Marty - Religious News Service - April 3, 2017.

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #185 on: May 05, 2017, 09:41:25 AM »
Sorry, atheists — churches are getting back political free speech

"President Donald Trump has a new executive order in the works, one to open the doors for churches to endorse political candidates without losing tax exempt status.

"Freedom From Religion Foundation — exit, stage left. Don’t let the door hit you. And here, take a Bible for the long walk home

"The FFRF has been trying to use the Johnson Amendment to its advantage for far too long, siccing the IRS on churches that dared go political in the pulpit. The Johnson Amendment, named after its sponsor, former president Lyndon B. Johnson, amended IRS code to make clear that nonprofits couldn’t “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for political office,” the text states.

"In layman’s, that basically means churches are prohibited from endorsing political candidates. But they’re not prohibited from speaking about political issues, and even speaking in favor of certain sides of political issues — about biblical truths of gay marriage, for example.

"The FFRF has been actively using the Johnson Amendment to chill church speech, however. Since 2006, the organization’s filed more than 50 complaints about churches to the IRS — 28 in 2012 alone. And some of the targets of these complaints haven’t even come close to violating the amendment.

"It’s just that the FFRF has been such a pit bull. For instance, in 2012, FFRF accused Robert Morlino, a bishop in Madison, Wisconsin, of violating the tax code by speaking of the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage in a letter he wrote to the Catholic Herald. Among the FFRF’s complaints to the IRS? That Morlino wrote that “no Catholic may, in good conscience, vote for ‘pro-choice’ candidates.”
Umm — duh, right?

"But Morlino’s letter came just days before an election. And the FFRF said that it “inappropriately” intervened in a campaign — and in so doing, violated IRS electioneering laws. As such, the FFRF demanded the IRS “commence an immediate investigation” of Morlino and his diocese, and inflict punitive action.

"Yes, this happened in America, the country founded on a basic premise of freedom of religion. Did you know the church leaders of this nation used to be passionate about politics — used to mix sermons with political goings-on frequently, and aggressively?

"Preachers during the American Revolution used to deliver fiery pleas from the pulpit about the need to fight for freedom, to battle the British for independence and the cause of righteousness. Those preachers weren’t afraid to get in the political fray; they regularly reminded their congregations about the greatest asset of being an American — that rights come from God, not government.

"And they weren’t afraid to thunder at those in the pews to take that principle to the battlefield — even casting off clerical gowns and picking up firearms themselves.

"Now? Churches are cowed. Atheists get to dictate what’s said from the pulpit. And the Johnson Amendment needs to go — or at least receive massive watering and weakening.

"Trump’s order directs the IRS to exercise “maximum enforcement discretion” with the Johnson Amendment. It’s about time. It’s a step in the right direction. But it’s a baby step. Let’s hope further weakening to this egregious clamp on religious freedom — on religious speech and free speech — is forthcoming from this administration. Our country’s ability to recapture its founding greatness — the unwavering idea of individual rights coming from God, the ability of churches to apply moral truths to modern issues — depends on it.

Cheryl K. Chumley - The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2017

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #186 on: May 06, 2017, 07:15:28 AM »
Atheists Sue President Trump Over His ‘Religious Liberty’ Executive Order

"An atheist group is suing President Donald Trump over his religious liberty executive order, which loosens restrictions on political activity by religious groups.

"The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit Thursday in federal court against Trump and the Internal Revenue Service, claiming the order is unconstitutional because it makes government favor religion over nonreligion. Although the executive order applies to all nonprofits, FFRF believes it will be selectively enforced so as to only benefit churches and religious organizations.

“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore,” Trump said while announcing the order on Thursday. “And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination, never ever.” FFRF calls that and the order a “message to Christians, and particularly evangelicals” that the government will no longer bar them from endorsing candidates, donating to campaigns, or otherwise engaging in politics.

“President Trump’s EO creates the appearance of government endorsement of churches and religious organizations and a preference for these religious organizations above similarly situated nonreligious organizations,” the suit reads.

"Andrew Seidel, staff attorney at the FFRF, told The Daily Beast the order’s language is vague enough to benefit religious organizations at the expense of non-religious groups. “It’s very poorly worded. Trump and the White House have made it very clear that they intend for this order to ease restrictions on churches, especially on Evangelical churches,” Seidel said.

"Meanwhile, the lawsuit claims secular nonprofits will still be prohibited from endorsing candidates or otherwise participating in the upcoming 2018 elections if they want to keep their tax-exempt status. Those groups are classified as 501(c)(3).

“FFRF, for its part, would be seriously harmed by enforcement of the electioneering restrictions if it violated § 501(c)(3), including by loss of tax-exempt status, which harm to FFRF would be devastating and irreparable,” the suit reads.

"FFRF cites Trump’s campaign pledge to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which his executive order “prohibits religious leaders from speaking about politics and candidates from the pulpit,” as evidence the government will favor religion over nonreligion.

"When Trump announced Mike Pence as his vice presidential candidate in July, he once again spoke directly to Evangelicals.

“I said for the Evangelicals, that we’re going to do something that nobody’s even tried to do,” Trump said in July when he announced Mike Pence as his running mate. “We put into the platform, we’re going to get rid of the horrible Johnson Amendment. And we’re going to let Evangelicals—we’re going to let Christians and Jews and people of religion—talk without being afraid to talk.”

"At the Values Voter Summit later, Trump said repealing the Johnson Amendment would boost Christianity
and other religions “like a rocket ship.”

"Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, told The Daily Beast he thinks Trump is going out of his way to repeal the Johnson Amendment so Evangelical conservatives help him on issues where they otherwise wouldn’t want to get involved.

“He pays attention to issues that are important to them, to Evangelicals, because he wants them to be helpful on issues that are important to him,” Perkins said.

"But the IRS rarely enforces the Johnson Amendment. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit, has been endorsing “Pulpit Freedom Sundays” for years. In 2014, the FFRF sued the IRS over its lax Johnson Amendment enforcement.

“They didn’t even have an individual to do the investigations necessary,” Seidel said. The FFRF dismissed its suit against the IRS after they hired an investigator, but only one pastor has been audited for violating the Johnson Amendment since 2008.

“If Trump’s lawyers want to march into that courtroom and tell the world and President Trump that this order doesn’t do anything, we would consider that a win,” Seidel said. “But given his statements and the very clear message he communicated to churches, we don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Gaby Del Valle - The Daily Beast - May 5, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #187 on: May 07, 2017, 05:07:42 AM »
Religion at Stanford University

"Michael Lu ’19, Mahayana Buddhism
Michael Lu ’19 found himself at a Buddhist monastery in Berkeley last winter, surrounded by curious Stanford peers.
Lu’s friends were not Buddhist, but they had often expressed interest in learning more about his beliefs and practices. In general, Lu has observed that many Stanford students are curious about religion. He believes that Buddhism, which promotes self-awareness and the study of the mind, may particularly appeal to students.
“I think that kind of instruction is really helpful for Stanford students,” Lu said.  “That’s why I think that Buddhism might be practical.”
Lu emphasized that there is more to Buddhism than the classic image of meditation in isolation, citing 84,000 different practices that help followers “unfold [their] own wisdom,” as he put it.
Beyond meditation, Lu maintains his faith individually through practices such as reciting mantras and applying mindfulness to breathing. One of the most fundamental ways he rejuvenates his spirituality, though, is by visiting his hometown.
In fourth grade, Lu moved to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a Buddhist community in Northern California that is one of a series of communities throughout California, Canada, Taiwan and other locales. Most of the 500-acre stretch of land in the Northern California hub is devoid of buildings, populated by vineyards and ranchland.
The central community includes a main Buddha hall, living quarters and gender-separated boarding schools, where Lu studied until college. The school curriculum integrates meditation studies and other elements that fortified Lu’s spirituality.
“The longer I am in my community, the more in touch with Buddhism I’ve been,” he said. “After coming outside, I lose a little of that connection, so I have to go back. It’s kind of like recharging, trying to get back into the spirituality.”
During his transition to Stanford, maintaining some elements of his religion proved particularly challenging.
For instance, Lu has chosen to adopt precepts, ethical codes that prohibit actions such as becoming intoxicated and eating meat.
“In some ways, I can’t interact with other people in certain ways that most people can,” Lu said.  “I try to avoid certain things that would cause me or help me break my morals — for example, going to parties.”
At times, these restrictions lead to loneliness or feelings of estrangement. At home, too, Lu’s exposure to Stanford — and the diversity of beliefs, especially the liberal ones, held here — separate him from his peers.
Ultimately, though, he says he has gained a greater ability to navigate both worlds through his experiences. The serenity and stability he gains from his practice allow him to handle uncertainty, in any context, more effectively.
According to Lu, in the midst of hectic Stanford quarters, Buddhism allows him to “attain more equanimity — to not be moved so much by what is happening outside.”
In using his faith to navigate college, Lu exemplifies how many religious students combine Stanford and spirituality. To some of the Stanford student body, religious education might seem extraneous to intellectual life, pertaining to an unrelated understanding of the world. Yet for the three students who shared their stories in this piece, religion is inextricably linked to the college experience.
Lu achieves peace during finals week; Good reads scripture to try to become a more productive citizen; Churchill fasts to reflect on his position in the world. Simultaneously, each student encounters unfamiliar liberal perspectives and surprising conversations that spur constant reflection upon their motivations and beliefs."

Claudia Heymach - The Stanford Daily - May 6, 2017.

Complete article includes a Mormon student and the Bahá’í faith:

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #188 on: May 08, 2017, 05:35:02 AM »
Texas bill would let adoption agencies refuse parents on religious grounds

"Texas lawmakers are poised to vote on a bill that would allow adoption agencies to turn away potential parents they find objectionable on religious grounds.

"Opponents say the proposed law would allow faith-based agencies to discriminate against potential parents who are gay, single or of a religion that members of the adoption agency find objectionable.

"The bill's author insists it heads off any potential discrimination by mandating that alternatives be made available for potential parents who are rejected by faith-based providers.

"Called the "Freedom to Serve Children Act," Texas' House Bill 3859 extends religious liberty protections to providers within Texas' child welfare system, allowing them to decline services to individuals based on "the provider's sincerely held religious beliefs." The vote on the bill was originally planned for Saturday but has been rescheduled for Monday.

"The Texas bill also includes provisions that let adoption and foster care agencies refuse to provide or facilitate abortion services and contraception to teens under their care. Child welfare providers can also require children under their care to receive a religious education, including putting them in religious schools.

"HB 3859 would allow child welfare service providers that contract with the state to use taxpayer money to discriminate against LGBT individuals and families in foster care, adoption and other services," ACLU of Texas said in a statement on its website.

"It's about as limiting a bill as we have seen," Terri Burke, executive director for ACLU Texas, told CNN.

"You say you have a sincerely held religious belief and you are a private adoption agency or private entity that helps place foster children -- you can say you will not place that child with gay parents .... If I'm Catholic I can say I don't want any Baptists to raise the child," Burke said.

"But the bill's author, Rep. James Frank, says new protections are needed for the 25% of state child welfare providers that are faith based.

"A statement about the bill provided to CNN by Frank's office says that "HB 3859 protects the rights of the faith-based organizations to exercise their religious mission to serve others without fear of retaliation."

"Frank argues that, without legal protection, those organizations may shut down child welfare services entirely and thereby worsen the "critical shortage of foster homes" in Texas.

"The bill also includes a "secondary services" provision that "specifically requires the state to ensure that alternate providers are available to offer any services that a faith-based provider declines to provide due to religious conflicts," according to his office's statement.

"The ACLU said HB 3859 is one of 17 bills filed in Texas legislature this session that "would allow government officials, private individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people in virtually all aspects of their lives."

"Burke said proposed laws like HB 3859 show that Texas Republicans -- who control both the state legislature and the governor's mansion -- have "become more emboldened" since the election of President Trump.

"Last week, Trump signed an executive order meant to allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically, though the actual implications of his order appear to be limited.

"The executive order Trump signed had no teeth to it. But these bills working their way to the Texas legislature are real and they are going to do real damage to real people," Burke said.

"Several other states have passed religious liberty bills. South Dakota approved a sweeping bill last March that protects faith-based adotpion agencies that refuse to place children with couples on religious grounds.

Matt Rehbein - CNN - May 8, 2017

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #189 on: May 09, 2017, 05:37:27 AM »
Egypt: Isis Leader Vows to Shed More Christian Blood

"As if Christians in Egypt do not live day to day under the threat of death already, The Associated Press reports that the leader of the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt has vowed to escalate attacks against

"Christians, urging Muslims to steer clear of Christian gatherings and western embassies as they are targets of their group’s militants.

"Early May Pope Francis visited Egypt and spoke on the violence the area is experiencing. World Watch Monitor reports that Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, went to Cairo with a message of unity and peace. On his first day, speaking at an International Peace Conference held at the al-Azhar conference centre, he said that “violence is the denial of every true religion” and called on religious leaders to not hesitate to expose the violence and its perpetrators. The recent announcement made by Isis leadership is far from peaceful talks.

“Targeting the churches is part of our war on infidels,” the unidentified leader said in a lengthy interview published by the group’s al-Nabaa newsletter on Thursday. He also called on Muslims who don’t join jihadists to carry out lone wolf attacks across Egypt, and complained that a large number of Egyptians were antagonistic to his group’s call and mission."

"The group claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings that struck two of the country’s Coptic Christian churches last month, killing over 45 worshippers and prompting the president to declare a three-month state of emergency."

TRUNEWS - May 8, 2017

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #190 on: May 10, 2017, 07:01:05 AM »
Israel could become an official Jewish State

"The prospect of Israel becoming an officially Jewish state has returned to the nation's agenda, in what Palestinians have described as an obstacle to peace. A 2011 bill that declared that 'State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people', was approved by the government cabinet in a revised form on Sunday.

"The bill's author, Avi Dichter, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, shared the news on Facebook. The bill still faces drafting by Israel's Justice Ministry and several parliamentary votes before it could become law.

"Dichter called the legislation 'an important step in entrenching our identity, not only in consciousness of the world but primarily in our own minds'.

"The move may help Netanyahu bolster support with more right-wing members of his administration, and complements his ambition to have Palestinians recognise Israel as the 'nation-state' of the Jewish people.

"Arab legislator Ayman Odeh responded to the cabinet decision on Twitter: 'The nation-state law is tyranny by the majority and "legally" turns us into second-class citizens.'

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that such 'nation-state' legislation puts 'obstacles in the way of peace'. Other critics have said that the move could impede Palestinian refugees who have fled wars in the region from returning. Israel's arab minority currently makes up about 20 per cent of its population.

"US president Donald Trump is scheduled to meet both Netanyahu and Abbas in his upcoming state visit to Israel, in an attempt to broker peace.

Joseph Hartropp - Christian Today / World - May 8, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #191 on: May 11, 2017, 07:05:35 AM »
Amusement park settles bias complaint over religious headwear

"Nearly four years after Noorah Abdo was denied from riding go-karts at a Livermore [CA] amusement park because she wore a hijab, the company has agreed to change their “no headwear” policy and pay $32,000 to settle a discrimination complaint.

"A complaint against Palace Entertainment, an amusement park company and owner of the Boomers park in Livermore, was filed in August 2014 with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"The grievance was submitted on behalf of seven Muslim girls and women, and a Sikh man after they were denied access to the go-karts because they refused to remove their religious hijab or turbans.

“It was really upsetting for these individuals when they were denied access purely because of their religious beliefs,” said Brittney Rezaei, a civil rights attorney with CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area.

"In addition to awarding each of the plaintiffs $4,000, Palace Entertainment agreed to address safety concerns at its parks in Livermore and Irvine, and allow customers wearing securely wrapped religious head coverings to ride the go-karts.

“The law guarantees Californians of all faiths access to places of business and entertainment, and safety concerns must be founded on more than speculation or stereotype,” said Kevin Kish, director of the Fair Employment and Housing agency. “We are pleased that Palace Entertainment worked with DFEH to achieve resolution of these cases without the need for litigation.”

"When Abdo and her family went to the Boomers park in August 2013, her father, Nasir Abdo, was told that his daughter, who was then 13 years old, could not ride the go-karts because her head scarf was against company policy.

“When I read the policy, I was shocked — in disbelief — about the material I was reading,” Nasir Abdo said in the complaint.

Sarah Ravani - San Francisco Gate - May 10, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #192 on: May 12, 2017, 09:29:50 AM »
Mormon church to cut ties to the Boy Scouts of America

"SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States, announced Thursday it is pulling as many as 185,000 older youths from the organization as part of an effort to start its own scouting-like program.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the move wasn't triggered by the Boy Scouts' decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders, since Mormon-sponsored troops have remained free to exclude such adults on religious grounds.

"But at least one leading Mormon scholar said that the Boy Scouts and the church have been diverging on values in recent years and that the policy on gays was probably a contributing factor in the split.

"CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah, reports the LDS Church said it doesn't believe young men between 14 and 18 years old are not being "served well" by the Varsity or Venturing programs."

CBS News - May 11, 2017.

Lengthy article -

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #193 on: May 13, 2017, 10:39:41 AM »
Detroit parents say teacher pushed her religion on students

"Some Dearborn parents are demanding action after they say a teacher tried to force her religion on students in a world religion class.
"Parents attended the Board of Education meeting on Monday. They say a seventh grade teacher from Woodworth Middle School gave bible lessons, told about her personal experience with baptism and showed the Passion of the Christ, an R-rated movie without the permission of parents.

"Parents say their children expressed that they weren’t comfortable, but she persisted. The movie shows the violence Jesus suffered while dying on the cross. One parent said her child came home throwing up after seeing it.

“As I watched it in anger and feel sorry that he had to be subjected to that,” one parent says. According to the district the teacher is new to Dearborn Public Schools. In the meeting a staff member for the district said she had worked a charter school for a year and a half prior. It’s unsure why she left.

“I am here to terminate her and I’m being honest because she went to the extremes. We are in an age where we’re trying to protect our children from social media, trying to make sure that they’re not seeing violence and things that they’re not supposed to be seeing and here I have to now worry about what’s being shown in the classroom,” another parent stated.

"The district says they’re investigating and that the teacher is not teaching and is not in the classroom.
A hearing is expected to happen soon."

Nia Harden - WXYZ Detroit - May 12, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #194 on: May 14, 2017, 08:16:08 AM »
Currently running on Ask Reddit: “Theists of reddit, what are some of the questions you have for atheists?”

Below v v v are some of the questions :

Do atheists get mad at other atheists who give them a bad reputation?

Do you ever have doubts, like we do?

Does your atheism affect how you view horror movies/stories/fiction?

Do you get your jollies by going around on social media and ousting religious people for no reason at all?

Why do you think anybody else cares?


The 13,000 and counting answers are a hoot; consider a few :

a lot of religious people get frustrated or angry because of bigoted or ignorant people in their own faith who give a bad reputation to everyone else. do atheists have similar reactions to the stereotypical kind of "reddit atheist"?

I very much do, it makes me upset because they set the precedent for the stereotypes people have for us. I'm generally pretty accepting of differing views, but people will automatically assume I hate all religious people

I'm so glad I'm not the edgy, loud atheist I was back in high school. No, I will not 'debate' people at random, and I don't find it that interesting to listen to some scholarly old guy talk about logic and science and godlessness, and I don't think theists are stupid or wrong.
I find it distasteful to make a trait's absence central to your identity. As someone said, "I don't collect stamps, but I don't make a big deal out of it and I don't join a non-stamp-collectors club."
atheism to me, is just what the word says - -"without theism". An absence of belief in god. That's all, lol. It's no big deal

My grandparents were Quakers. My Grandmother made my aunt break up with her boyfriend (who was not Quaker to begin with) after he converted to Judaism. I'd say that is pretty pushy. But that just might be my experience and my family. Perhaps it is different for others in the faith. Actually, you know what, Grandpa is pretty chill, so maybe you are right.

Church of England. It's hardly a religion at all, just an excuse to visit the vicar for sherry.

Day before I got married, chatting with the vicar. He said "I'm terribly sorry, I really should know but do you, um, you know, believe in God and all that sort of thing?"
Me "well, not really, not into the magic man in the sky idea, Jesus was an interesting historical figure, the bible has some pretty inspiring radical stuff and also a lot of guff..."
Vicar "oh gosh yes, it's all a bit much isn't it"
Me "I quite like some bits...just not the silly parts or the supernatural stuff like the miracles or the resurrection actually happening."
Vicar "yes of course, well that's lovely"!
(The books in his study were all about church art & architecture, vestments, and music.)

There's an old unitarian joke about a guy who dies and goes to heaven.
St Peter is showing him around- golf course, buffet, roller coaster, etc- when they come to a large brick wall.
Pete cautions the new guy to be quiet and they go quickly past the wall and on to the beach. As they stroll along the sand, the new guy asks about the wall.
St Peter replies "Oh, those are the Catholics. They think they are the only ones here."


Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #195 on: May 15, 2017, 11:14:45 AM »
Do You Realize How Far Trump's Religion Speech Went?

"It’s no surprise that Donald Trump chose Liberty University—the evangelical Christian college founded by the fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell—as the venue for his first graduation commencement speech as president. White evangelicals were Trump’s strongest religious demographic last November, with more than four out of five voting for him, so it was perhaps predictable that he would repay the faithful with a visit on graduation day.

"But what was surprising—and more than a bit concerning for those who see conservative Christian political ideology as troublesome in the modern world—is the degree to which Trump’s speech threw red meat to his evangelical constituency. Some God-talk was to be expected, but Trump went much further—arguably further than any modern president has gone in defining American values in terms of Christian nationalism.

“America is a nation of true believers,” he declared, going on to remind the crowd of the religious language that has become common in American public life, such as “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and the national motto of “In God We Trust.” Conveniently omitting that most public God-references are relatively recent inventions (“under God” wasn’t added to the pledge until 1954, and “In God We Trust” became the national motto two years later), Trump also neglected to mention that about one in five Americans claim no god belief at all. Instead, the speech was all about God and country, using language of unanimity: “We all salute the same great American flag,” he proclaimed, “and we are all made by the same almighty God.”

"With college grads as Trump’s audience, one might have expected that he would at least pay lip service to critical thinking, empiricism, or intellectual inquiry, but there was none of that. Instead, faith and nationalism stayed in the forefront. Trump even portrayed his presidency as an instrument of God’s plan, stating that many thought his election “would require major help from God. . . And we got it”

"In speaking to his Christian audience, Trump was brazen in his you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours rhetoric, reminding evangelicals that their policy goals are his. “I am so proud as your president to have helped you along over the past short period of time,” he said, referring to last week’s controversial executive order instructing the IRS to do everything possible to allow churches and religious groups to participate in politics. Turning to his host Jerry Falwell, Jr. (son of the college’s founder), he bragged, “I said I was going to do it, and Jerry, I did it. And a lot of people are very happy with what's taken place. . . We did some very important signings.”

David Niose - Psychology Today - May 14, 2017,

Complete article:

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #196 on: May 16, 2017, 07:51:01 AM »
Suspicious Migrant Conversions to Christianity

"The Swedish migration agency is handing out pop quizzes on the Bible to make sure migrants aren’t converting to Christianity to receive asylum.

"Risk of persecution because of one’s religious faith can boost a person’s chances of gaining asylum. The Swedish migration agency is making unannounced visits to asylum seekers to quiz them on the Bible and make sure their conversions are genuine.

“How many books are in the New Testament?” and “What is the difference between Orthodox and Protestant churches?” are examples of questions converts have to answer.

"Immigration lawyers have criticized the measure, but the agency defends the questions as knowledge true Christians should know.

“There are reasonable demands that the [asylum] applicant should have certain knowledge based on what they’ve told us and how they’ve gained knowledge of the Bible,” Carl Bexelius of the Swedish migration agency told state broadcaster SVT in an article published Saturday. “This knowledge should be there naturally, and it shouldn’t be something they need to read up on.”

"Migration attorneys are now urging converts to study up on the Bible so they can pass the tests. “I think it’s horrible,” immigration lawyer Serpil Güngör told SVT. “I have interrupted the person asking the questions several times because the questions aren’t relevant and far too complex.”

"Hundreds of migrants converted to Christianity in Germany last year. Pastor Albert Babajan, who converted 196 Muslims in mass baptisms in the city of Hamburg, frequently denies people when he suspects ulterior motives. “If I have the impression that someone doesn’t believe it from the heart, then I won’t baptize him”

Jacob Bojesson - The Libertarian Republic - May 15, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #197 on: May 17, 2017, 05:12:25 AM »
Violent extremism: is religion the problem or the solution?

"Religion is widely blamed for much of the violence in our world, both today and in the past. Its defenders say that most so-called conflicts in the name of religion are in fact ethnic, nationalist and territorial, and they exploit religion for their own purposes. But, even if this is so, it still leaves the question of why religion is so easily exploited for violent ends.

"All religions declare that peace and reconciliation are their goals, yet all too often they appear to exacerbate conflicts. Why is this? There are many reasons, but the work of sociologist Douglas Marshall is particularly helpful. He described religion in terms of belief, behaviour and belonging. My view is that different religions combine different degrees or emphases of these.

"The abuse of religion has often been related to the first two: belief and behaviour. It cannot be denied that, to religion’s shame, arguments over doctrine and even ritual have led to violent clashes. Even today they are used as a pretext for violence towards those who do not share the same beliefs and practices.

"However, when it comes to violence in the name of religion – especially in our modern world – it usually has far more to do with belonging. Identity affirms who we are, and at the same time who we are not. Whether distinctions and differences are viewed positively or negatively depends overwhelmingly on the context in which we find ourselves.

"In a context of real or perceived threat, or out of a sense of historical or current injury, we turn to our identities for fortitude and reassurance. But, all too often, this leads to a sense of self-righteousness and a tendency to disparage “the other”.

"In seeking to give meaning to who we are, religion is bound up with all the components of human identity. It thus plays a key role in providing a sense of value and purpose, especially where identities are threatened or disparaged. But, in doing so, religion can intensify that self-righteousness. The result is that opponents – or those who are different – are delegitimized and conflict is exacerbated, so betraying religions’ most sublime universal values.

"This tendency generates a mindset in which people see themselves as part of a community of the elect in violent conflict with those who do not share their worldview. Such an ideology can be powerfully attractive to those alienated from wider society, especially younger people seeking a sense of self-worth, or even prestige.

"While there are clearly times when physical violence must be tackled head on, such a step alone cannot contain the mentality that leads to it. The utmost must be done to drain the "swamp of alienation" – whether political, social or economic – in which violence breeds. No less critical is to highlight the voices of the overwhelming majority of religious institutions and authorities that repudiate such abuses of religion. Regrettably, the international media has been far more diligent in publicizing the abuses rather than the condemnations.

"In particular, we need to highlight where religions show respect for other communities and traditions, and have repudiated the extremist mindset. A notable example was last year’s Marrakech Declaration, rallying support throughout the Muslim world for the historical Charter of Medina, as a commitment to the values of citizenship and the civil rights of other religious communities.

"Another example of inter-religious collaboration is the King Abdullah International Centre for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) established by Saudi Arabia, Spain and Austria, supported by the Holy See, on whose board of directors I am privileged to serve.

"KAICIID has brought together major Muslim leaders from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world, with heads of minority communities in those countries – Christian, Kurd, Yazidi, Druze – under the rubric “combating violence in the name of religion”. It has developed networks of collaboration throughout the region, training religious leaders in dialogue and social media skills.

"The need to highlight inter-religious cooperation is of the greatest relevance in territorial conflicts that involve identities rooted in religious traditions. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a particular case in point. Those who have tried to resolve this conflict in the past have avoided religion and its representatives as much as possible. Perhaps this is understandable. But the idea that by avoiding religion one is more able to achieve a resolution is a fallacy.

"Failure to engage the peace-seeking religious mainstream only plays into the hands of extremists who wish precisely to transform this territorial conflict into a religious one. If we don’t want religion to be part of the problem, it must become part of the solution – not least by highlighting religious support for peace and inter-religious cooperation that can promote this goal.
"When the Trump administration’s emissary to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, visited Jerusalem in March, hoping to initiate peace talks between Israel and Palestine, he made a point of seeking out Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders for advice.
"Amazingly, Greenblatt is the first personal emissary of any US president to meet the Council of the Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. The photo of this gathering was worth more than a thousand words, affirming a recognition that religion must be part of the solution to the conflict.

"In the words of Lutheran bishop Munib Younan to Greenblatt: “Religious leaders alone are not able to make peace, but it will not be possible to make peace without them.”

David Rosen - World Economic Forum - May 16, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #198 on: May 18, 2017, 07:36:48 AM »
Creationist Sues the Grand Canyon for Religious Discrimination

“How did the Grand Canyon form?” is a question so commonly pondered that YouTube is rife with explanations. Go down into the long tail of Grand Canyon videos, and you’ll eventually find at a two-part, 35-minute lecture by Andrew Snelling. The first sign this isn’t a typical geology lecture comes comes about a minute in, when Snelling proclaims, “The Grand Canyon does provide a testament to the biblical account of Earth’s history.”

"Snelling is a prominent young-Earth creationist. For years, he has given lectures, guided biblical-themed Grand Canyon rafting tours, and worked for the nonprofit Answers in Genesis. (The CEO of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, is also behind the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park.) Young-Earth creationism, in contrast to other forms of creationism, specifically holds that the Earth is only thousands of years old. Snelling believes that the Grand Canyon formed after Noah’s flood—and he now claims the U.S. government is blocking his research in the canyon because of his religious views.

"Last week, Snelling sued park administrators and the Department of Interior, which administers the national parks program, because they would not grant him a permit to collect 50 to 60 fist-sized rocks. All research in the national park is restricted, especially if it requires removing material. But the Grand Canyon does host 80 research projects a year, ranging from archaeology digs to trout tracking.

"Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Snelling, alleged discrimination by the park. “National Park Service: Research in Grand Canyon okay for geologists … but not Christian ones,” read the headline on their press release. (Interior department and NPS spokespeople declined to comment because of the pending litigation.)

"If the permit application hit a nerve, it’s because young-Earth creationists have a bit of an obsession with the Grand Canyon. Where geologists see billions of years of rock layers carved out by a persistent flow of water, young-Earth creationists see sediments laid down in Noah’s flood. As the flood receded, they believe, water became trapped behind natural dams, until it finally broke through in a “catastrophic erosion” that carved the Grand Canyon.

"This is the story told on religious rafting trips organized by companies like Canyon Ministries, for which Snelling also works as a guide. In 2004, a book by the Canyon Ministry founder Tom Vail caused a stir when it was sold at the national park’s bookstores.

"It’s all part of an uneasy relationship between the park and young-Earth creationists. The park does permit the rafting trips, and it has allowed creationists, including Snelling according to the lawsuit, to work in the park before. Another prominent young-Earth creationist, Steve Austin, took photos of nautiloid fossils in the park and used them to argue that the creatures died during the flood. “I think the NPS has felt a bit stung by past creationist research in the Grand Canyon,” says Steven Newton, who teaches geology at College of Marin and serves as the programs and policy director for the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that opposes teaching creationism in public schools.

"Exactly why the park did not grant Snelling’s application is, of course, now the subject of a lawsuit. His project did involve collecting a sizable number of rocks, which can invite more scrutiny. In an email to Snelling filed as part of the lawsuit, a park officer said the project was not granted because the type of rock he wanted to study can also be found outside of the Grand Canyon. The park solicited peer reviews from three mainstream geologists. One mentioned the rocks could be found elsewhere; all three overwhelmingly denounced the work as not scientifically valid, a criterion the park also uses to evaluate proposals. Snelling, who holds a Ph.D. in geology, did not disclose his Answers in Genesis affiliation, nor did he explicitly say he wanted to prove the Grand Canyon is young in his initial permit application, but the reviewers became aware of his reputation

"Geology as a profession has struggled with what to do with young-Earth creationists, whose beliefs are contradicted by literal mountains of scientific evidence. Shut them down, and you get cries of censorship—like this lawsuit. “This just so plays into their hands,” Newton says about the national park’s treatment of Snelling’s application. Newton favors letting creationists do their research and then arguing on the merits of their science. But allowing them to present at scientific conferences, others say, is lending creationists legitimacy.

“That’s really a tough question because in science we want to be the type of community where people can bring about ideas that are controversial,” says Stephen Moshier, a geologist at Wheaton, a Christian liberal arts college in Illinois, and a former president of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists. The problem, according to Moshier, who is not a young-Earth creationist, is that they want mainstream geologists to be open to new ideas, but it’s the young-Earth creationists themselves who have proved inflexible in the face of new evidence contradicting their ideas. “Often I read things by young-Earth creationists where I think they really ought to know better. Many of them have excellent training in the geosciences,” he says. (Snelling declined to comment because of the lawsuit. Four other young-Earth creationists who study the Grand Canyon did not respond to requests for comment.)

"That the Grand Canyon is the stage where this conflict now plays out is no coincidence. The canyon is such a potent example of the power of small changes over time—of what’s possible on geological time scales. “Look through any introductory geology textbook, any sedimentology textbook, and the Grand Canyon is going to be there in either full color or on the whole page,” says Moshier. 

"Last year, he and other Christian geologists published a book titled The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth, directly refuting young-Earth creationists who cite the canyon as evidence of Noah’s flood. “It wouldn’t be of any use writing about the Appalachian Mountains—even though I think we can make a stronger case for an ancient Earth there because the geology is so complex,” says Moshier. “Because they make a big deal out of the Grand Canyon and use it as a lab for young-Earth creationism and flood geology, that’s naturally where we had to focus the book.”

"When young-Earth creationists invoke God, they are tapping into a real sense of wonder about the Grand Canyon. It’s easy—in fact all too human—to wonder how so small a river could have carved so vast a chasm. One partial answer is that the the Glen Canyon dam has quelled the spring floods that originally bore through rock; the lazily winding Colorado River that you see today is not the river that formed the Grand Canyon. But also, humans are bad at intuiting the consequences of deep time. Once you add enough zeros to number of years they all start to sound the same.

"It’s hard to imagine how much can happen in geological time. About 1.7 billion years ago, a series of volcanoes crashed into what would become the continent of North America and created mountains taller than the Himalayas today. Those mountains eroded back down to hills to form the rock that now rests at the base of the canyon. Over countless millions of years, a shallow sea expanded and contracted over the area, laying down the sediment that would become the sandstone, shale, and limestone layers. Plate tectonics then pushed those rock layers up and up to became the Colorado Plateau. And finally, flowing water carved its way down 1.7 billion years of rock.

"It’s hard to imagine, but there is wonder and grandeur in this imagination, too."

Sarah Zhang - The Atlantic - May 17, 2017.

Gorgeous Grand Canyon time-lapse v v v

« Last Edit: May 18, 2017, 10:20:09 AM by eyeshaveit »

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #199 on: May 19, 2017, 09:33:10 AM »
Consecration of gay bishop against church law, says United Methodist top court

"The United Methodist Church’s top court has ruled that the consecration of an openly gay pastor as bishop is against church law. But in a somewhat muddled ruling that could reflect the ongoing struggle to determine how great a role LGBTQ members can play in the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the court also ruled that the Rev. Karen Oliveto, its first openly gay bishop, “remains in good standing.” The Judicial Council decision was announced Friday evening (April 28) at the end of a four-day meeting in Newark, N.J.

"The Rev. Bruce Ough, president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops, released a written statement imploring United Methodists to honor the council’s decision. “We acknowledge that the decision does not help to ease the disagreements, impatience and anxiety that permeates The United Methodist Church over the matter of human sexuality, and particularly this case,” Ough said.  “Our compassion and prayers of intercession extend to all those who are hurt, relieved, confused or fearful.”

"The decision follows Oliveto’s consecration last July as bishop of the United Methodist Church’s Mountain Sky Area, which includes churches in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana, as well as one church in Idaho. Oliveto was not named in the motion filed by Dixie Brewster, a lay delegate to last year’s regional South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Instead, Brewster  asked for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on whether the nomination, election, assignment or consecration of an openly gay or lesbian bishop is lawful under the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book. But the bishop was the focus of the council’s open hearing on Tuesday in Newark, the United Methodist News Service reported.

"A representative for Brewster had argued the regional Western Jurisdiction’s actions in making Oliveto a bishop “negate, ignore and violate” the Book of Discipline. Meanwhile, the Western Jurisdiction representative maintained that Oliveto met all the requirements to become bishop and that the South Central Jurisdiction had no standing to challenge her election. The Judicial Council agreed to rule only on the question of consecration, saying it didn’t have jurisdiction over the appointment, election or nomination of a bishop. It decided 6-3 that it was not lawful for any regional church body to consecrate a “self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”

"That language comes from the Book of Discipline, which says “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” meaning “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as ministers or appointed to serve.Additionally, the decision said that while “self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office,” it is enough to subject the bishop’s office to review. It also raised the possibility an “openly homosexual and partnered bishop,” as well as any clergy who participated in his or her consecration, could be charged with disobedience.

"Meanwhile, Oliveto will remain a bishop until an administrative or judicial process is finished. John Lomperis, a 2016 General Conference delegate and United Methodist director of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a group that describes itself as a voice for “Christian orthodoxy,” said in a written statement he was disappointed the council hadn’t removed the bishop from office. But, Lomperis said, “I celebrate that these landmark rulings should now make it significantly easier to bring accountability for pastors who choose to violate biblical standards for sexual self-control. We are slowly but increasingly strengthening biblical accountability in our church.”

"To the Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, senior pastor of New Milford United Methodist Church in New Milford, Conn., and a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, it seemed like the Judicial Council was legislating from the bench, furthering divisions in the denomination and undermining the work of a commission already tasked with discussing questions of human sexuality. Still, as rumors of a looming schism continue to swirl, he told RNS the caucus was committed to the United Methodist Church. “We’re out of the closet but not out of the church,” he said.

"Earlier this week, the United Methodist Church announced it would hold a special session in 2019 to make decisions about the ordination of LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage. Its top legislative body had put off such decisions at its quadrennial meeting last year. Instead, the 2016 General Conference directed the denomination’s Council of Bishops to appoint a commission to discuss those questions. The special session in St. Louis will receive the bishops’ report on the commission’s work and act on it. The commission’s moderators issued a statement before the Judicial Council reached its decision, saying that it would continue its work and that the outcome of Friday’s decision was not its focus. “We urge the entire church to stay focused on the Commission’s work as our best opportunity to determine God’s leading for the church,” according to the statement.

"The Judicial Council had considered three cases this week that impact LGBTQ clergy. It also ruled the denomination’s regional New York and Northern Illinois annual conferences must consider all qualifications of a candidate for ministry, UMNS reported. Both previously had decided they would not consider sexuality when evaluating candidates.

"Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops, reinforced Friday that only the General Conference can change the Book of Discipline and that the Judicial Council’s decisions are case-specific. “Where do we go from here?” he said. “We put our trust in God to strengthen us even as we hold differing views about human sexuality. We must continue to love one another just as Christ instructed us to do.”

Emily McFarian Miller - Religious News Service - April 28, 2017

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #200 on: May 20, 2017, 04:56:34 AM »
Quakers gather on Pendle Hill in silent protest against fracking

"More than a hundred Quakers climbed windswept Pendle Hill on Saturday 6 May 2017. For half an hour, they held a Meeting for Worship to protest against fracking. Only the skylarks and one or two friendly dogs interrupted their stillness.

"It was in 1652, on top of Pendle Hill in Lancashire, that George Fox was inspired to build a movement of people. He had a vision of a "great many people to be gathered" and, with others, founded the Quaker church.

"Now Pendle Hill is in the midst of an area licensed for fracking. Quakers are calling for fracking to be banned – globally, not just in Lancashire – because the process damages the land, water and potentially food supplies.

"Quakers in Britain are motivated by faith to cherish the earth for future generations and to speak out against climate injustice that causes huge inequalities across the world.

"Stephen Lee, one of the organisers from Pendle Hill Area Meeting, said he felt heartened and empowered by people's efforts to be there. They had come from far afield: from Scotland, Wales, Devon, Yorkshire, Cornwall, Cambridge, Lancashire and London. They included 89 year old Brian, an environmental scientist from Chichester. Some were from Friends of the Earth. Some spoke of their concerns about the environmental impact of fracking and possible seismic activity.

"Stephen Lee said, "My faith led me to do this. We have been inspired to make a difference." One participant, moved by the experience said, "Silent protest is the ultimate in nonviolent direct action. Who can object to that?"

"In 2011 Quakers made a commitment to take action to become a low-carbon, sustainable community. Investing in companies who are engaged in fossil fuel extraction is incompatible with Quakers' commitment to become a low-carbon community.

"In 2013, Quakers in Britain became the first UK church to divest their centrally held funds from fossil fuel extraction. In doing so, they announced that '"Investing in companies who are engaged in fossil fuel extraction is incompatible with Quakers' commitment to become a low-carbon community."

Ekklesia Press Release - May 10th, 2017.

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #201 on: May 21, 2017, 05:24:19 AM »
Indonesian Christian leader jailed under blasphemy law

"Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an Indo­ne­sian Protestant whose popularity as a politician in the world’s largest Muslim nation appeared to be a sign of inter­religious tolerance, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in jail.

"The head judge of the Jakarta court sentenced Purnama on May 9, according to news reports. Last year Purnama, who is appealing the conviction, had accused his political opponents of using a verse of the Qur’an deceptively “to say Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim,” Reuters reported. “An incorrectly subtitled video of his comments later went viral, helping spark huge demonstrations that ultimately resulted in him being brought to trial.”

"Purnama, who is known by his nickname, Ahok, has been governor of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and its surrounding region since 2014, leading about 40 million people in the nation of 250 million. He lost the election for another term as governor in April. His current term ends in October.

"Philip Jenkins, a professor of history at Baylor University, who writes the Notes from the Global Church column for the Christian Century, wrote last year about Ahok’s rise from mining engineer to politician working alongside Muslim leaders, including a stint as a deputy governor to Joko Widodo, who is now Indonesia’s president.

"In building alliances with the large moderate Muslim groups Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, Purnama “has been walking a delicate path the whole way,” Jenkins said the day after the court’s ruling. “They have always been listed as being the great moderate forces. But they had been hearing a lot of discontent within their membership,” he said. “And they felt that they couldn’t support Ahok.”

"Disagreements between moderate and hard-line Muslims tapped into fears about secularization, globalization, Western media, the role of women, and other concerns, Jenkins said, noting that it is crucial to clarify that Western categories of moderate and extremist, which focus on violence, do not apply to many Muslims.

“You can be a very, very conservative religious Muslim who is against violence, but you can still be very strict in these legal religious issues,” Jenkins said. “NU and Muhammadiyah have worked very hard against some of the hard-line groups in Indonesia. But once you get into areas of blasphemy and apostasy—they’re very conservative.”

"Muslim moderates can’t ignore a charge of blasphemy or appear to be soft on it, he said. Merely being charged with blasphemy can destroy a person’s career.

“This is such a tragedy in so many ways,” Jenkins said. “What the whole affair comes across to me as is a major warning to moderates in Islam that Indonesia is still a Muslim country and there are limits to how moderate they can feasibly be.”

Celeste Kennel-Shank - The Christian Century - May 18, 2017.

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #202 on: Yesterday at 06:40:16 AM »
Religious Defense in Landmark Female Genital Mutilation Case

"On paper, the law seems clear: Cutting any part of a young girl's genitalia is illegal — and no custom or ritual can be used to justify it.

"The law has been on the books for 21 years, unchallenged. But in a federal courtroom in Detroit, a landmark case involving the centuries-old taboo ritual is about to put that law to the test for the first time.

"And perhaps more historic, a question will be raised in the American legal system that has never been raised before: Does the U.S. Constitution allow for genital cutting, even if it's just a minor nick or scraping, in the name of religion?

"Defense lawyers plan to argue that religious freedom is at the core of the case in which two physicians and one of their wives are charged with subjecting young girls to genital cutting. All three are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small Indian-Muslim sect that has a mosque in Farmington Hills.

"The defense maintains that the doctors weren't engaged in any actual cutting — just a scraping of the genitalia — and that the three defendants are being persecuted for practicing their religion by a culture and society that doesn't understand their beliefs and is misinterpreting what they did.

"First Amendment scholars across the country — liberal and conservative alike — are closely following the case, noting that the fate of the accused will largely rest with scientific evidence.

"The key question for jurors to answer will be: Were children harmed physically? If they were, experts say, the religious freedom defense doesn't stand a chance.

"But if the defense can show that it was just a nick and caused no harm, some experts believe, the defendants could be acquitted on religious grounds.

"The Detroit case involves the genital cuttings of two 7-year-old Minnesota girls whose mothers brought them to a Livonia clinic for the procedure in February.

"Defense lawyers have argued that the defendants are good, hardworking people with deeply held religious convictions who were involved in only mild procedures that are part of their faith.

"But the government says the harm was much more severe than the defense is claiming and that there are multiple other victims. According to court documents, the two Minnesota girls had scarring and abnormalities on their clitorises and labia minora

"It is hard for me to imagine any court accepting the religious freedom defense given the harm that's being dealt in this case," said First Amendment expert Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the nation's leading constitutional law scholars who called the religious claim in the Detroit case a "losing argument."

"You don't have the right to impose harm on others in practicing your religion," said Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine who in January was named the country's most influential person in legal education by National Jurist magazine.

"Chemerinsky, who has written a leading textbook on constitutional law, said there is "no absolute right" to religion in the U.S., noting many parents over the years have fought for the right to refuse their children medical care because of religious beliefs. But those parents, many of them Jehovah's Witnesses or Christian Scientists, have consistently lost those cases, he said.

"Chemerinsky believes the Detroit defendants will lose, too.

"I can't imagine any court that would say that the parents' right to practice their religion gives them the right to inflict this harm on their daughters," Chemerinsky said, adding what will ultimately decide this case is the science.

"It's going to come down to medicine, and if (the procedure) really inflicts great, lifelong harms on those who are subjected to it — that's what is going to decide this case," he said.

"/First Amendment attorney Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense group in California that defends religious freedom, parental rights and other civil liberties, agreed.

"He said while genital mutilation is a novel issue for the federal courts, the government's interest in protecting the safety and well-being of children will likely outweigh religious freedom.

"As far as case law goes, this is new territory," Dacus said. "But the courts have held in the past that religious freedom is not an absolute right. And it is subject to a state interest that is narrowly tailored."
In this case, the government's interest is in protecting children from what it has claimed is an illegal and harmful procedure.

"This issue involves the direct health, safety and welfare of minors, not just for the short term, but literally for the rest of their lives," Dacus said. "And it impacts not only their body, but also potentially their future spousal relations."

"As for the defense claims that the procedure was more mild than what the government claims, Dacus noted: "There are experts who contend that even the most mild procedure is still harmful."

"He continued: "The science is definitely going to come into play there. I think the procedure itself is highly suspect for surviving scrutiny."

"Michigan State University law professor Frank Ravitch, who specializes in law and religion, said the only way the doctors could win based on freedom of religion is to show that there is a "more narrowly tailored way" to meet the government’s "extremely strong interest" in protecting the young women.

"It is theoretically possible that if the procedure really was just a nick that does not cause lasting damage and does not harm sexual health or sensitivity for the young women, allowing the nick, but nothing more, could be more narrowly tailored than an outright ban," Ravitch said. "It would also keep the practice from going underground, which could lead to more serious mutilation."

"That philosophy — preventing more serious mutilation — was at the heart of a controversial stance taken years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2010, the AAP came under fire for changing its policy on female genital cutting by recommending that doctors be allowed to ceremonially nick the clitoris of girls at the requests of parents. The goal was to prevent girls from being subjected to more harmful forms of genital mutilation either overseas or in secretive procedures in the U.S.

"In the statement, the AAP's Committee on Bioethics wrote: "It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual (clitoral) nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm."

"Within weeks of issuing the statement, after facing mounting pressure from advocacy groups, the AAP went back to its original position in banning all forms of genital cutting."

Tresa Baldas - Detroit Free Press - May 20, 2017

Complete article:

Offline eyeshaveit

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Re: Religion in the News.
« Reply #203 on: Today at 04:37:19 AM »
France rejects a Third Gender - Neutral will not be an Official Category.

"France's highest court has rejected the notion of a "neutral" gender. The ruling upheld a lower court's decision denying a French citizen with a sex development disorder the right to use "neutral" as an official gender.

"The Cour de Cassation, France's supreme court, ruled that the distinction between male and female was "necessary to the social and legal organization, of which it is a cornerstone," and that the recognition of a neutral gender would have "profound repercussions on rules of French law" and necessitate legislative changes, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The plaintiff, a 65-year-old psychotherapist from eastern France known by the pseudonym Gaetan Schmitt, was assigned male at birth despite having intersex genitalia. Schmitt is married to a woman and has an adopted child but claims to be neither male nor female.

"In 2015, a family affairs judge in Tours ruled in Schmitt's favor, but an appeals court overturned the ruling last year. Schmitt's attorney, Bertrand Périer, called the high court ruling a "missed opportunity," in an interview with The New York Times. "I don't see why France's social or legal organization would necessitate gender binarism." Périer said Schmitt was raised as a boy because his mother wanted a son.

"Gaetan is neither a man nor a woman. They do not feel like a man or woman. They cannot become a man or woman. And they do not want to become a man or woman," Périer said, referring to Schmitt with a plural pronoun.

"Only a few countries, including Australia, Nepal, India and New Zealand, have a legal third gender. Other countries allow parents to delay declaring a gender for babies born with a sex development disorder, but only for a limited time. Schmitt plans to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"But even if that court reversed last week's ruling and affirmed the family affairs judge's declaration that Schmitt should have a right to use a "neutral" gender because of a sex development disorder, the ruling would still link gender to biology.

"Some activists say that is unacceptable and are pushing for laws like New Zealand's, which allow transgender and cross-dressing people, in addition to those with intersex genitalia, to also use a third category -- "gender diverse" -- as their legal gender.

"But gender is inherently biological, according to a scientific study released earlier this year that found more than 1,500 sex-specific genes throughout the body. The study by Moran Gershoni and Shmuel Pietrokovski at the Weizmann Institute of Science was looking for an explanation for the prevalence of certain diseases in men and women. They found many genes are expressed -- or copied out to make proteins -- differently in men and women in many more ways than previously imagined.

"Overall, sex-specific genes are mainly expressed in the reproductive system, emphasizing the notable physiological distinction between men and women," the report, published in BMC Biology, said. "However, scores of genes that are not known to directly associate with reproduction were also found to have sex-specific expression (e.g., the men-specific skin genes)."

"In addition to 1,559 sex-specific genes, Gershoni and Pietrokovski found more than 6,500 genes with significant sex-differential expression. These sex-linked genes were found not only in reproductive organs and the mammary (milk-producing) tissue, but also the skin, skeleton, heart, brain, lungs, and stomach, among other areas.

"For example, they found genes that were highly expressed in the skin of men related to the growth of body hair and genes highly expressed in women related to fat storage. They also found a gene mainly expressed in the brain of women that scientists think might protect the female neurons from Parkinson's, a disease with a higher prevalence and earlier onset in men, and a gene expressed in the liver of women regulating drug metabolism, providing molecular evidence for the known fact that men and women process drugs differently.

"The study said more research is needed to understand how the differences between men and women cause disease and change the way each sex responds to treatment.

Kiley Crossland - Baptist Press - May 16, 2017.


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