Religious Diversity News

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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.

Somalian Immigrants Find Help at YWCA Interfaith Hospitality Network in Ohio

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

On February 19, 1999, The Columbus Dispatch reported on
the efforts of the YWCA Interfaith Hospitality Network in Columbus,
OH to help Somalian immigrants get settled in the area. Since the
1991 civil war in Somalia, Somalis have been fleeing their homeland.
The YWCA Network has helped 400 homeless Somalian families get
settled in the Columbus area. The Network, with volunteers from the
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Baha’i communities, provides beds,
meals, facilities for bathing and laundering, tutoring, and games for
children. These Somalian immigrants, who comprise approximately
one-fifth of the people the YWCA Network helps, are primarily Muslim
and speak no English.

Ancient Site Draws Attention in Miami

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On February 17, 1999, The Atlanta Journal and
Constitution
published an article on a Native American ceremonial
circle that was unearthed in the financial district of Miami. The
Miami Circle, as it has come to be known, was discovered when an
apartment building was knocked down to make room for a $100 million
twin tower complex on the Miami waterfront. Robert Carr, the
Miami-Dade County archaeologist, stated, “we’ve never found anything
as profoundly unique as this. This is the only site of this type in
all of North America.” The site reveals 200 holes that form a perfect
circle 38 feet in diameter, thought to be a ceremonial lodge. The
date and context of the site are being debated, but protesters have
lobbied strongly to preserve the site. The Miami Circle has
“triggered an international flurry” of attention from academics, New
Age spiritualists, and politicians. The Mayor’s office has been
barraged with requests to block the development and save the site,
but Miami-Dade County does not have the money to buy the land from
the developer.

Shi’ite Muslims in Connecticut Trying to Build Mosque

Source: The Hartford Courant

On February 16, 1999, The Hartford Courant published an
article on the efforts of the Jafaria Association of Connecticut to
gain city approval for a Shi’ite mosque in Meriden, CT. The
association, which only had a handful of families in 1996, has now
grown to 150 members. They began to worship in private homes in 1996
and then moved to a rented church. Now, members of the association
are trying to get a proposal approved by the Meriden town officials.
Although the association has made a deal for the property, the city
zoning board turned down the Jafaria Association’s first proposal in
December, stating that it would attract too much traffic. The Jafaria
Association is awaiting a decision from the board of appeals for
permission to build.

Interfaith Space

Source: USA TODAY

On February 16, 1999, USA Today published an article on
the growing phenomenon of interfaith sharing in the United States.
Reflecting on Brotherhood Week, which is a mid-February time to
respect each other’s religion, the journalist discusses several
notable instances of interfaith sharing. In Edison, New Jersey, a
YMCA and Jewish Community Center have connected their facilities so
as to benefit the health facilities of the other. In Niles, Illinois,
a YMCA teaches the symbols and holidays of both Christianity and
Judaism in its pre-school and after-school programs. In Waterloo,
Ontario, a shared facility of the United Church of Christ and Temple
Shalom exists to promote the idea of “two faiths, one God, one idea.”

New Buddhist Worship Center in Houston

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On February 13, 1999, The Houston Chronicle reported on
the newest Buddhist worship center in Houston, the Texas Guandi
Temple. The temple honors Guandi, a “Chinese Buddhist guardian deity
known for virtue, honesty, and power over evil spirits.” The temple
to Guandi was prompted by a hold up in 1989 of a grocery store owned
by Charles Loi Ngo. Ngo prayed to Guandi during the crime and
narrowly avoided death. Ngo founded the Hai Nam Association, a
community group of 200 Asian families that raised the funds for the
temple, in 1996. The 45,000 square foot, $1 million temple is one of
the largest in the United States. The temple pays homage to both
Guandi and Confucius.