Religious Diversity News

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Shiite Muslim Community Denied Zoning Permit for Mosque in Connecticut

Source: The Hartford Courant

On March 9, 1999, The Hartford Courant reported that the
Jafaria Association, which has undergone a year long effort to
establish a mosque in Meriden, CT, was denied a zoning permit on the
grounds that it would create too much traffic. Although a dozen
churches have been granted permits in Meriden over the past three
decades, the Jafaria Association’s efforts were denied largely
because of a neighborhood protest that claimed the new mosque would
create too much traffic on the weekends. Syed Naqvi, president of the
Jafaria Association, stated that they probably will not appeal the
decision: “Even if we were to win and get the building, what would be
the point. If neighbors don’t want us there, we don’t want to be
upsetting to anyone.” If the permit for the mosque had been granted,
it would have been the first Shiite mosque in Connecticut.

Muslim Women File Religious Discrimination Suit

Source: The Washington Post

On March 3, 1999, The Washington Post published an
article on the religious discrimination complaint filed by five
Muslim women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The
Muslim women contend that they were fired from a Dulles International
Airport security firm for refusing to remove their Islamic head
scarves. The suit, which names Argenbright Security Inc. and United
Airlines as respondents, alleges a civil rights violation based on
federal law that requires employers to accommodate religious
practices on the job. Argenbright was also involved in a suit at the
Denver International Airport that claimed Argenbright refused to
accept job applications from two women who were wearing head scarves.
That case was settled out of court.

New Rabbinical Organization Brings Together Four Branches of Judaism

Source: The Arizona Republic

On February 27, 1999, The Arizona Republic reported on
the formation of the North American Boards of Rabbis, which is a new
federation of local rabbinical boards that includes the four major
branches of Judaism. A similar organization, the Synagogue Council of
America, fell apart five years ago because of differences among the
Orthodox. Marc Schneier, who is president of the metropolitan New
York Board of Rabbis, was chosen as the first president of the new
organization.

Restaurant Pays Sikh Man For Religious Discrimination

Source: The New York Times

On February 25, 1999, The New York Times reported that
El Quijote, a Spanish restaurant in Manhattan, paid a settlement of
$10,000 to Jaswinder Pal Singh for discriminating against his
religious expression. El Quijote, which has a policy of not allowing
men to wear headgear in the restaurant, refused to service Singh in
1996 because he was wearing a turban. Singh, who is a computer
science professor at Princeton University, filed a federal lawsuit in
1997 against El Quijote. In the settlement, the restaurant is going
to change their sign to read, “Men must not wear hats, except for
religious reasons.” Singh plans to donate the money to charity.

Lawsuit Brought Against Lincoln Park Public Schools in Michigan

Source: The Detroit News

On February 20, 1999, The Detroit News published an
editorial noting that a 17-year-old high school student in Lincoln
Park High School, Crystal Seifferly, is suing the school system for
not giving her the right to wear a pentagram, the symbol of her
Wiccan faith. In an attempt to curb violence and gang activity within
the school system, the principal of the high school announced a
policy that would target “inappropriate activities” such as
“graffiti,” “gang colors/styles,” “cult dress/styles,” “black nail
polish,” and “Pentagram symbols.” The policy also sought to exclude
those groups not appropriate to the school setting, including the Ku
Klux Klan and “Pagans.” The ACLU, which is arguing Seifferly’s case,
contends that the school has “failed in its constitutional duty to be
neutral in its treatment of religions.”

e18hteen – Jewish Alternative Rock Band

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On February 20, 1999, The Indianapolis Star reported on
e18hteen, a Jewish alternative rock band, that is set to play in
Indianapolis on February 27th. e18hteen’s music celebrates Jewish
values and songs are written in both Hebrew and English. Their newer
collection is mostly in Hebrew, including music from Jewish Sabbath
liturgy. e18hteen, which formed in 1996, has performed nationwide in
Jewish community centers, Jewish youth conferences, and Hillel
houses. Dan Nichols, a members of e18hteen, stated: “All music is
about enlivening an audience. We’re about that, but also trying to
spiritually awaken people and let them know that religion can be
enjoyed. It is not just for the solemn setting of a synagogue or
church, but in a concert hall where people stand up and get singing
and dancing with the music.”

Buddhist Church of Sacramento Celebrates 100 Year Anniversary

Source: Sacramento Bee

On February 20, 1999, the Sacramento Bee published an
article on the Buddhist Church of Sacramento, which is celebrating
its 100th Anniversary this year. Emigrants from Japan founded the
church in 1899 and it functioned as a haven for first and second
generation Japanese Americans from discrimination and segregation.
Rev. Bob Oshita, a minister at the church for 15 years, emphasized
that the church “was a religious and cultural center, the center of
their community” for the early Japanese immigrants. Today’s Japanese
Americans in Sacramento, though living in different circumstances
than their parents and grandparents, are still active at the Buddhist
Church. Though membership has declined by 20% over the past two
decades, there are still 900 families who belong to the church in
Sacramento, making it the second largest in the denomination. The
church is beginning a $1.5 million fund-raising campaign to build an
800-niche nokotsudo, or columbarium, to store the ashes of the dead
and to enlarge meeting rooms and seating capacity.