Religious Diversity News

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Controversy over Religious Rights of Pagans in the Military

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On June 19, 1999, an article in The Atlanta Journal and Consititution stated that ”
Readers responding to last week’s ethics question overwhelmingly voiced their belief that Wiccans have the constitutional right to practice their religion — even on military installations. ‘I support the right of people of all religious backgrounds and faiths to practice as their beliefs and hearts require,’ Teresa Downing commented. ‘Religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of our country.’ … ‘People of other religions who are in the military have the freedom to practice as they choose. It should not be any different for someone who is pagan or Wiccan.’ April E. Conner, e-mail “

Hindu Temple of Kentucky

Source: The Courier-Journal

On June 19, 1999, The Courier-Journal reported that the
final day, June 20th, of the dedication ceremonies at the new Hindu
Temple of Kentucky will be a ceremony to “energize” the deities.

New Abbot at the Zen Center of Los Angeles

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 19, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article about the official ascension of Wendy Egyoku Nakao, an
American of Japanese and Portuguese descent who has become the new
abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. She has already begun changes
that will move the Center from its Japanese roots to a more American
influence of “social action, interfaith work, and egalitarian
exchange.” In the last few years, Nakao has added women’s names to
the liturgical recitation of the male lineage of her Soto sect,
created more gender equality amongst discussion circles, and replaced
many Japanese terms with English. She also seeks to move the Center
away from a monastic mode and into a more family-oriented Zen, which
“accommodates all aspects of a person’s life, including family and
careers.” Japanese officials of the Soto sect want to create American
innovations to attract more adherents, but they also want to ensure
that the Soto sect’s 750-year traditions and teachings are correctly
transmitted. That has been difficult, since 83 of the 99 Soto Zen
teachers in the United States are American.

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: The Buffalo News

On June 19, 1999, The Buffalo News reported on the
synagogue arsons in Sacramento. These are being investigated as hate
crimes; a hate flier that was recovered from the Knesset Israel Torah
Center blamed Jews for the war in Kosovo and the destruction caused
by NATO bombing.

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 19, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
three Sacramento synagogues were set on fire about 35 minutes apart
on the morning of June 18th. Flyers were left at the synagogue
linking Jews and the “Jewsmedia” with profiting from the war in
Kosovo through Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who recently
discovered her Jewish ancestry. Abraham H. Foxman, national director
of the Anti-Defamation League, called the arsons, “clearly the worst
such attacks in years.” Sacramento has been the scene of previous
hate crimes, with a firebombing outside Congregation B’nai Israel six
years ago and a black church burned to the ground three years ago.
Within hours of the attacks, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, and Firearms were mobilized to join the investigation with
local police.

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Sacramento Bee

On June 19, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported on the
efforts by area temples to help the three congregations. Area
congregations have donated prayer books, Torahs, and sanctuary space.
Marc Carrel, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council,
stated: “Any incident against one house of worship is an act of
violence against the whole community. Every Sacramentan should be
outraged.” Mosaic Law Congregation, a Conservative synagogue, opened
its doors to Congregation Beth Shalom to have Shabbat services and a
Bat Mitzvah ceremony and offered a Torah to the Orthodox Knesset
Israel Torah Center.

Interfaith Efforts

Source: The Boston Herald

On June 18, 1999, The Boston Herald published an article
on the nonprofit Boston Justice Ministries, which is a coalition of
eleven area churches and synagogues who have worked over the past
year to help free women from violent domestic situations while
honoring their beliefs. Rev. Anne Marie Hunter, a United Methodist
minister who founded Boston Justice Ministries, stated: “There were
too many women of faith that I was hearing from that were staying in
abusive relationships because of their faith. Also, I was hearing
about people’s faith being used as a club against them.” Sermons,
workshops, and even meetings with local law-enforcement agencies have
taken place in the eleven congregations to help with the problem.
Donna Cabey, a lay participant from Berea Seventh Day Adventist
Church in Dorchester, stated: “God does not call any of us to live in
violent situations. And we all have the responsibility to make our
homes peaceful, healthy homes.”

Hindu Temple of Kentucky

Source: The Courier-Journal

On June 16, 1999, The Courier-Journal reported that there
will be five days of ceremonies and celebrations from June 16-20 to
dedicate the new Hindu Temple of Kentucky in eastern Jefferson
County. The new building, which took 12 years and $1.2 million to
construct, consists of 6 large and 7 small interior temples. The
first Hindu Temple of Kentucky, which opened in 1989, is adjacent to
the new complex and will be used for social gatherings. About 80
percent of the 400 Indian families who live in the Louisville area
are Hindu, and approximately 100 of those families belong to the
Hindu Temple of Kentucky.

Controversy over Conversion to Judaism

Source: The New York Times

On June 13, 1999, a The New York Times published an
article on issues of conversion in the Jewish religion. Gary A. Tobin,
president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San
Francisco, advocates “a positive, welcoming approach to non-Jews
becoming Jews.” Approximately 180,000, or 3 percent, of the American
Jewish population are converts, who are mostly married or engaged to
Jews. Tobin believes that reaching out to non-Jews asserts the
American Jewish position in a democratic, religiously pluralistic
society: “We’re strong enough and secure enough that we can think
about growth.” Jack Wertheimer, provost and professor of American
Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York,
objects to an open campaign for converting non-Jews: “There is a deep
concern about this kind of approach among people in all sectors of
American Judaism” because he feels that major efforts to convert are
“an expression of panic, a real lack of faith” in “traditional
methods of transmitting Jewish identity.”

Interfaith Efforts

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On June 13, 1999, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported
that the Racine Interfaith Coalition in Racine, Wisconsin collected
107 guns in a weekend “buy-back” on June 5-6, which was designed to
make streets safer. The Coalition raised close to $20,000 for the
buy-back to provide $50 and $100 gift certificates for the Regency
Mall in Wisconsin to those who returned the guns. The persons
returning the guns were asked no questions; seven illegal weapons
were among the 107.