Religious Diversity News

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Controversy over Religious Rights of Pagans in the Military

Source: ABCNEWS.com

http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/CloserLook/wnt990623_wehmeyer_story.html

On June 23, 1999, ABCNEWS.com reported on the Fort Hood Witches in Texas, “a group that includes active and retired Army personnel who are devotees of Wicca…Some local pastors, who consider witchcraft part of satanic worship, are outraged the Army is making room for witches. And conservative Christian groups are telling young men and women not to join the Army until the witches are banned.”

Interfaith Efforts

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On June 23, 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on
a conference taking place at Stanford University of 100 religious
leaders from 30 nations who are part of the on-going United Religions
Initiative, which attempts to resolve religious conflict and promote
dialogue among people of different faiths. Episcopal Bishop William
Swing of San Francisco, who conceived of the United Religions
Initiative, stated that “We’re starting a network so we won’t have
other Kosovos.” He believes that the religious roots of the war need
attention. “Nobody talks about ‘religious cleansing’ and how we need
to cross the borders between religions. We’re not addressing the
fundamental issues by dropping bombs, imposing an end on this, and
chasing people back and forth across the borders of Kosovo.” This
conference is the last major gathering of the religious leaders
before the United Religions charter is scheduled to be signed in June
2000.

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On June 23, 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle reported
that up to $6 million in federal loan guarantees will be available to
the three burned synagogues as a result of the 1996 Church Arson
Prevention Act, which helped churches in the Midwest and South that
were destroyed in a string of arsons. Andrew Cuomo, secretary of the
U.S. Housing and Urban Development, stated: “I would urge you to
consider not just rebuilding the temples, but to expand the temples
while you’re at it. Let’s make a clear sign that this act has not
dissuaded us, this act has not torn us apart, but if anything, has
brought us together and energized us.” In addition, Cuomo also stated
that we “must repair the bonds between us as Americans, just as we
must repair the building. And frankly, it is sometimes more difficult
to repair the bond because that deals with our hearts and minds,
rather than just repairing bricks and mortar.” California Governor
Gray Davis offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the
conviction of the arsonists who struck the synagogues.

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 23, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
over 100 federal, state, and local investigators have recovered a
great deal of “high-quality evidence” from the three synagogue fires
that took place in Sacramento, California on the early morning of
June 18th. James Maddock, the FBI special agent in charge of the
investigation in Sacramento, stated: “Some of the leads appear very
promising. We are all optimistic on the task force that this
investigation will be done quickly and will identify those
responsible and bring them to justice.” The total damage is estimated
at $1 million, in which the majority was at Congregation B’nai
Israel, where the sanctuary was damaged and a library with more than
5,000 books was destroyed. Knesset Torah Israel, about 10 miles away,
suffered smoke damage and Congregation Beth Shalom sustained water
damage from its sprinkler system.

Freedom of Religion Issues in Government

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On June 22, 1999, The Christian Science Monitor
published an article on the current decisions made by the House of
Representatives and the Supreme Court on issues dealing with the
separation of church and state. The House of Representatives voted by
a margin of 248 to 180 to approve a bill that would allow states to
display the Ten Commandments in public schools. The Supreme Court
decided a case that allows parents in Milwaukee to use publicly
funded education vouchers to send their children to parochial
schools.

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Sacramento Bee

On June 21, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported that
several community leaders in Sacramento called for the creation of a
Sacramento “museum of tolerance” at a rally held across the street
from Congregation B’nai Israel. Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. and
Assemblyperson Darrell Steinberg vowed to raise the resources, both
publicly and privately, to construct a museum that would be similar
to Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Religion in Kansas City, Missouri

Source: The Kansas City Star

On June 20, 1999, The Kansas City Star reported the
results of a poll that they conducted on the religious practice of
Kansas City residents. According to their survey, 52% attend
religious services weekly and 68% pray daily. The Kansas City area is
home to more than 2000 religious congregations of more than a dozen
faiths. Maggie Finefrock, chairwoman of the religion/spirituality
cluster of the Mayor’s Task Force on Race Relations, stated: “The
Kansas City area provides a rich diversity of religious and spiritual
experiences and many opportunities to learn from and about one
another.”

Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 20, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
makeshift Shabbat services for Congregation B’nai Israel, held in
Sacramento’s Community Theater, attracted more than a thousand
people. Some of those attending were from the Northern California
United Methodist conference across the street. Rev. Faith Whitmore
presented the Jewish community with $6000, which was the proceeds
from a collection taken at the conference. Throughout the city, there
has been an outpouring of support for the burned synagogues from
public officials, churches, other synagogues and community leaders.

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 “