Religious Diversity News

Showing all news articles.

Interfaith Efforts

Source: Sacramento Bee

On June 9, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported that a
coalition of religious leaders in the Northern California
Interreligious Conference and the California Council of Churches have
produced a report entitled, “Welfare Reform: Public Policy and
Theological Reflections,” which aims to spell out needed changes in
CalWORKS, the California program that seeks to trim the welfare load
by 80 percent. The report contains findings based on conversations of
clergy and public policy specialists with social service providers,
religious leaders, welfare recipients, and others who are taking part
in the welfare-to-work program.

Controversy over Religious Rights of Pagans in the Military

Source: The Washington Post

On June 8, 1999, The Washington Post published an article
on the current situation of Wiccans in the military. The first Wiccan
group to be recognized by the military was the Fort Hood Open Circle,
which was formed two years ago at the largest military post in the
nation, Fort Hood, Texas. Since then, groups have formed on military
bases in Louisiana, Alaska, Okinawa, and Florida. The group in Fort
Hood drew public attention in March 1999, when they invited a
photographer to witness their spring ceremony and photos were printed
in the Austin American Statesman. The photos drew the ire of
politicians, especially Representative Robert Barr of Georgia, who
wrote, “Please stop this nonsense now,” to the commanding officer of
at Fort Hood. Many are disturbed by tolerance of minority religions
in the military, specifically “off-beat” religions like Wicca. Marcy
Palmer, the Fort Hood high priestess, stated that the military has
not been as bad as the outside world “Most people think of
(soldiers) as mindless robots who kill babies. But we see
more discrimination in the civilian world. The military is actually
more sensitive.” The Wiccans in Fort Hood have been granted a
campsite to use as their sacred space, which has helped a great deal
in allowing Wiccans to be more open about their religion. Sgt.
Campanaro, a Fort Hood Wiccan, stated: “I keep meeting people I never
knew were Wiccans. I’ve never seen so many out in one place.”

Steven Seagal Speaks in Minnesota

Source: Star Tribune

On June 6, 1999, the Star Tribune reported that Steven
Seagal spoke at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul to an audience of
600 on June 4th, 1999 to raise money for schools in Tibet and for the
Minneapolis Shambhala Center, which is part of an international
network that promotes Buddhist teachings. Seagal, a devout Buddhist
who was controversially dubbed an incarnate lama in 1997, is
currently on hiatus from Hollywood in order to devote more time to
his “compulsive teaching sprees.”

The Washington Interfaith Network

Source: The Washington Post Magazine

On June 6, 1999, The Washington Post published an
in-depth article in their Sunday Magazine on the efforts of the
Washington Interfaith Network entitled, “Prayers for the City: The
Washington Interfaith Network Believes Organization, Commitment,
Discipline and Multiracialism Can Help Turn the District Around, But
There Are No Heavenly Miracles in the Secular City.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: Sacramento Bee

On June 5, 1999, the Sacramento Bee published an article
on Rabbi Mendy Cohen, who is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch
Hasidic movement and founder of Chabad of Sacramento. Cohen, like his
Lubavitch movement, has been a charismatic figure in the Sacramento
area and has aggressively made outreach efforts to area Jews with his
brand of Orthodox Judaism. Cohen stated: “There is no such thing as
Orthodox or Conservative or Reform. There is a Judaism that was given
to Moses on Mount Sinai, and he gave it over to generation after
generation. You don’t change the rules when it gets tough.” Cohen,
shortly after founding Chabad of Sacramento in 1994, decided to light
an 11-foot high menorah for Hanukkah on the steps of the California
state capitol. Despite some negative reactions in the local Jewish
community, the menorah lighting has been a success in recent years.
Chabad of Sacramento has been competing with area Orthodox and
Conservative congregations. It regularly draws 60-100 people for
services and hundreds for holiday services.

Change Your Mind Day

Source: New York Daily News

On June 5, 1999, the Daily News published an article
describing this year’s Change Your Mind Day. It is a five-hour
festival of music, poetry, contemplative exercises, and introduction
to meditation that is to be held in Central Park. Scheduled to
perform or speak are composer Philip Glass, poet Anne Waldman, author
Sharon Salzberg, and Nicholas Vreeland, a Buddhist monk who runs the
Tibet Center in midtown Manhattan. Rande Brown, who organized the New
York event, stated: “Teachers will demonstrate techniques of
meditation and explain some of the philosophy behind them. At times,
we will meditate for as long as 10 minutes. But it is something,
seeing thousands of people sitting in silence. The same when
everybody chants. It’s special.” Last year, approximately 3000 people
showed up for the New York event.

Change Your Mind Day

Source: The New York Times

On June 5, 1999, The New York Times published an article
on the busy summer for public Buddhist events in the United States.
June 5th is the sixth annual Change Your Mind Day, which is a “free
program being offered…to introduce people to Buddhist meditation.”
The event is sponsored by Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is
being held in New York City, San Francisco, and Williamsport,
Pennsylvania. On July 10th, Buddhists in Alaska will hold a similar
event in Anchorage. On the morning of August 15th, the Dalai Lama
will give a public lecture in Central Park.

NYPD Appoint First Muslim Chaplain

Source: New York Daily News

On June 4, 1999, the Daily News reported that Imam
Izak-El Mu’eed Pasha of the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, New
York was appointed as the first Muslim chaplain in New York Police
history. Pasha, who heads the historic Temple No. 7 that was once led
by Malcolm X, lobbied for the chaplaincy after the controversial
killing of Abner Louima, a Muslim, by a police officer. Pasha stated:
“We hope that we will help all people, not just Muslims, but all
people of faith and people not of faith.”

Change Your Mind Day

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On June 4, 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle reported
that Change Your Mind Day will take place at Golden Gate Park on June
5th. The event is being held for the first time outside of New York
City’s Central Park. The Buddhists in San Francisco plan to hook up
with their counterparts in New York via cell phone during a
meditation session. The San Francisco event is sponsored by the San
Francisco Zen Center, Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County,
California, and the Bay Area Shambhala Centers.

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The New York Times

On June 1, 1999, The New York Times published an article
of reflections on the Pittsburgh Principles. Rabbis Sheldon
Zimmerman, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion, emphasized that since American society reminds Jews of
their identity less frequently, the question for American Jews is
“‘Why be Jewish?’ No other generation has had to answer that
question.” Rabbis Paul J. Menitoff, the executive vice-president of
the Central Conference of American Rabbis, stated: “I think there’s a
change in the sociology of what we’re all about. Our parents and
grandparents were coming to this country and trying to become
Americanized. They wanted their kids to be as American as apple pie,
and they did a very good job.” Rabbi Menitoff also mentioned that the
younger generations are searching for their roots.