Religious Diversity News

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International Sikh Leader Suspended From Position

Source: Montreal Gazette

On February 11, 1999, the Montreal Gazette reported that
Ranjit Singh, the international leader of Sikhism, was suspended by
the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), which is the
body that appointed Singh in India. Last summer, Ranjit Singh
excommunicated 7 Sikhs from British Columbia who refused to carry out
Singh’s controversial edict to remove tables and chairs from temple
dining halls. The edict resulted in several violent clashes among the
Sikhs in British Columbia. Ranjit Singh doesn’t accept the SGPC’s
decision to replace him.

Proposed Hindu Temple Creates Controversy in New York

Source: Newsday

On February 10, 1999, Newsday published an article on the
problems that Swadhyaya, a Hindu philosophical movement, is
experiencing over a proposed Swadhyaya center in Floral Park, NY. A
civic group and a local Catholic priest are opposing the proposed
$1.5 million center because they say it will “violate zoning laws and
create traffic and congestion to an already growing neighborhood.”
Community board members recently voted to reject the proposed center
due to the fact that it is “wider and taller than other area
buildings and would require variances because of the proposed
structure’s height.” The community board acts only as an advisory
panel, so the final decision will be made by the city’s Board of
Standards and Appeals. Mary McGee, an associate professor of religion
at Columbia University who is studying the influx of Hindu temples in
the area, stated: “There may be legitimate community concerns about
zoning and traffic. Or they may be using these concerns to hide some
sort of prejudice. But from the information we have gathered, there
has been hostility and usually some level of discomfort with Hindu
temples and centers. It’s generated from misunderstanding and fear or

Mourning for the Death of Jordan’s King Hussein

Source: Newsday

On February 8, 1999, Newsday published an article on the
mourning of New York Jews and Muslims for the death of King Hussein.
Aziz Chaudry, chairman of the Islamic Association of Long Island,
stated that King Hussein “projected our faith and our religion and
its values to the world in a very positive way. The peace, the
harmony and the progress he represented – that is true Islam, that is
the values we want to convey.”

Buddhist Monk in California Leaves Monastery For Isolation

Source: Los Angeles Times

On February 6, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on a Vietnamese Buddhist monk named “C.E.”, who has recently
departed from the monastery he opened to the public in Long Beach,
CA. About a year ago, C.E. opened the monastery up to the public for
lessons on the dharma. A Vietnamese immigrant who has turned to the
ascetic tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, C.E. drew the interest of
many meditators and students in Southern California with his
teachings on Buddhist scripture and his fluidity in speaking
English, Chinese, and Vietnamese. As a result of his roles as
teacher, counselor, and administrator, he struggled “to maintain his
vows of sacrifice and seclusion.” In December of 1998, C.E. announced
to his students that he would have to leave the monastery for several
years of isolation and meditation in order to unleash his ego as the
“price to pay” for reaching out to the public. “Wandering the
mountains, looking for my permanent impermanent dwelling among the
trees and bushes. Probably this is the greatest time in my life: bye
bye to all binds and ties.”

Sweat Lodge Approved For Inmate’s Last Wishes

Source: The Arizona Republic

On February 2, 1999, The Arizona Republic reported on the
granting of a sweat lodge to Darrick Gerlaugh, a Native American on
death row for a murder committed in 1980. Gerlaugh, the first Native
American to be executed in Arizona since the reinstatement of the
death penalty in 1976 and the sixth Native American to be executed in
the United States, was the first death row inmate to be granted a
sweat lodge for his last rites. Each of the five previous Native
Americans on death row were denied sweat lodges for security reasons.
The sweat lodge took place on Saturday, January 30 and Gerlaugh is
set to be executed on Wednesday, February 3rd at 3pm by lethal

School District in Pennsylvania Conducts Survey of World Religious Instruction

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On January 31, 1999, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
reported on a survey that is to be conducted by Ringgold School
District in Washington County, PA. District officials will survey the
high school’s world culture teachers to determine how much
instruction is provided in world religions. The results of the
survey, which are set to be released on February 17th, may open up a
history of religions course offering in the high school.

Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement

Source: New Age

In the January/February 1999 issue of New Age, an article
was published about the
Buddhist Alliance for
Social Engagement (BASE)
, which is a social help organization
based on the model of the Catholic Worker movement. Founded in 1995
by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, BASE has attracted more than 90
participants aged 18 to 65 to programs in Boston, the San Francisco
Bay Area, and Arcata and Santa Cruz, California.