Religious Diversity News

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Wicca Becoming More Popular on College Campuses

Source: The Plain Dealer

On July 24, 1999, The Plain Dealer published an article
on the presence of Wicca on college campuses. Practitioners and
scholars agree that college is a gateway for many into Paganism
because of the “usual willingness of the young to experiment with the
new and unfamiliar.” College students are attracted by Paganism’s
reverence for the Earth and nature and its flexibility and individuality.
“I like it because it’s a very self-styled religion…There’s not
very much dogma,” said Andee Brown, a computer science major at Smith
College who became a Wiccan two years ago. At least 75 college pagan
groups have internet web sites and the list keeps growing. “We’ve
seen an explosion of interest…It’s really been snowballing in the
last couple of years,” said Cairril Adaire of the Pagan Educational
Network. Although the exact number of Pagans can’t be determined, the
Pagan Educational Network estimates there are at least 150,000 to
600,000 Pagans in the United States.

First Buddhist Temple in Western New York

Source: The Buffalo News

On July 24, 1999, The Buffalo News reported that the Chau
Tu Hien Buddhist Cultural Center in Buffalo, NY will be dedicated on
July 25th. The Center will serve the growing Vietnamese Buddhist
community in the Buffalo area, which numbers about 400 to 500
families, and 70 to 100 American families. The Center consists of a
main worship hall, a reception area, a kitchen area, a small room for
praying to ancestors, living quarters for monks, a hall used by the
Buddhist Youth Association, and a room that will eventually become a
library. The temple features a 600-pound handmade statue of Buddha
and a 1,000-pound metal bell used to call temple members to worship.

The Day of Mindfulness in Oakland, California

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On July 24, 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle published
an article on the upcoming Day of Mindfulness to be held in Oakland,
California in mid-September. As many as 5,000 people are expected to
flock to Lakeside Park on the shores of Lake Merritt to experience
the first-ever day of meditation in an urban setting. The event will
be lead by Vietnamese meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh and will
include walking and sitting practice and a discussion on how to
employ Buddhist practices in everyday life. Mayor of Oakland Jerry
Brown will introduce Hanh and kickoff the ceremonies. We The People,
Jerry Brown’s organization, will be an event sponsor. Tickets for the
Day of Mindfulness are $75, with those under 18 and low-income asked
to pay $25. Organizers have urged that no one will be turned away for
lack of funds. Money raised by the event will be used by Hanh to
continue his work to fund medical clinics and schools in Vietnam.

Los Angeles Muslims and Jews Try to Move Beyond Conflict

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 23, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on the efforts of Los Angeles Muslims and Jews to renew
efforts to create a code of ethics for civilizing Muslim-Jewish
relations. In the wake of the national controversy over the
appointment of Salam Al-Marayati to a national counter-terrorism
commission, the two sides are trying to salvage public relations.
Mather Hathout, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern
California, stated: “We have got to learn how to disagree-with
respect and civility and a touch of piety…and without lying about
each other.” On July 22nd, the Islamic Center of Southern California
held an hour-long meeting that drew 45 participants from major Jewish
and Muslim organizations. Jewish representatives from organizations
that campaigned against the Al-Marayati nomination, such as the
Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, were not
invited to the meeting.

Lubavitch Rabbis Offering Classes in Seattle, Washington

Source: The Seattle Times

On July 21, 1999, The Seattle Times reported that two
Brooklyn, NY-based rabbis from Project Talmud, the Lubavitch World
program, will spend three weeks in Bellevue, Washington offering free
classes for individuals and groups in the beliefs and practices of
Judaism from August 1 through August 20 at the Eastside Torah Center.
Project Talmud is being held in more than 100 cities in the United
States and Canada.

The Dalai Lama Visits Indiana

Source: The Courier-Journal

On July 19, 1999, The Courier-Journal of Louisville
reported that the Dalai Lama will visit Indiana in August for several
events. On August 16th, he will be greeted in a welcoming ceremony in
Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. On August 17th and 18th, he will
speak at two separate events at the Indiana University in
Bloomington. On August 19th, he will lead daily teachings for the
Kalachakra Initiation, an eight-day Buddhist ritual to create peace
and harmony, at the Tibetan Cultural Center. The Tibetan Cultural
Center was begun by the Dalai Lama’s brother, retired Indiana
University professor Thubten Norbu. The Dalai Lama has visited
Bloomington on two other occasions and will be leading his fourth
Kalachakra Initiation in the United States.

Dalai Lama to Visit Indiana

Source: The Courier-Journal

On July 19, 1999, The Courier-Journal of Louisville
reported that the Dalai Lama will visit Indiana in August for several
events. On August 16th, he will be greeted in a welcoming ceremony in
Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. On August 17th and 18th, he will
speak at two separate events at the Indiana University in
Bloomington. On August 19th, he will lead daily teachings for the
Kalachakra Initiation, an eight-day Buddhist ritual to create peace
and harmony, at the Tibetan Cultural Center. The Tibetan Cultural
Center was begun by the Dalai Lama’s brother, retired Indiana
University professor Thubten Norbu. The Dalai Lama has visited
Bloomington on two other occasions and will be leading his fourth
Kalachakra Initiation in the United States.

Suspects in Synagogue Arsons and Murders Connected to “Christian Identity”

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 19, 1999, the Los Angeles Times published an
article on the anti-Semitic faith of the two suspects under
investigation for the three synagogue fires in Sacramento and the
murder of a gay couple in Redding, California. The two suspects,
brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams, are said
to belong to a sect called Christian Identity, which considers Jews
and people of color subhuman, and views abortion and homosexuality as
unpardonable sins. Christian Identity, which experts believe has as
many as 50,000 followers in North America, has more than 90 active
ministries in 34 states and is the religion of choice for white
supremacist groups such as Aryan Nations, Posse Comitatus, and
factions in the Ku Klux Klan. Joe Roy, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project,
stated: “People don’t connect the dots…but a lot of the terrorism
in this country is perpetrated by people linked to Christian
Identity.” Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, a gunman who went on a shooting
spree in Illinois on July 4th, had ties to the Illinois-based World
Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group, but they deny any
relationship to Christian Identity.

Vandalism at the Greater Atlantic Vedic Center

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On July 18, 1999, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
published an article on the persistent vandalism taking place at the
Greater Atlanta Vedic Center in Lilburn, Georgia. “In one nine-month
period, the Vedic Center was vandalized five times, including one
incident in which a window was broken and an obscenity written in mud
on the front wall.” The Gwinnett Interfaith Alliance, which is
currently undergoing expansion to include more of metro Atlanta, will
lead a forum on hate crimes on July 19th at the Mercer University
Atlanta campus.

Bollard vs. California Province of the Society of Jesus

Source: St. Petersburg Times

On July 18, 1999, the St. Petersburg Times published an
article on a court case, Bollard vs. California Province of the
Society of Jesus, that presents a difficult church-state problem.
John Bollard, who was training for the Jesuit priesthood and teaching
at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco and then
at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley from 1989 to 1996,
claims that two priests “who could control his fate within the church
would send him pornographic cards of sexually aroused men.” Bollard,
who also claims to have been propositioned by a third priest,
approached a Jesuit leader about the problem, but was rebuffed when
the leader replied, “no whining.” Bollard elected to quit the
priesthood and bring suit against the Society of Jesus for monetary
damages. Initially, the case was dismissed in California U.S.
District Court by Judge Susan Illston, who wrote: “The court would
certainly become entangled in the religious realm if it were to
address the extent to which (Bollard) could be ‘made whole’ from loss
of a life of spiritual service or the proper compensation for the
’emotional pain’ one suffers from this deprivation.” Currently, the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the case, trying to
decide if a church can be liable for sexual harassment of its clergy
or if the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment
prevents the law from getting involved. The law that covers sexual
harassment, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, usually is not
applied to clergy due to a “ministerial exception,” which prevents
the courts from reviewing the hiring, firing, or promotion decisions
regarding clergy.