Religious Diversity News

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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.

New Book on Messianic Jews

Source: The Boston Globe

On July 17, 1999, The Boston Globe published an article
that looks at a new book by Rabbi Carol Harris-Shapiro, a
professor of religion at Temple University, entitled, Messianic Judaism: A
Rabbi’s Journey through Religious Change in America.

Harris-Shapiro addresses the Jews for Jesus movement, which is
controversial for many American Jews. “I think they were upset that
someone was taking a serious look at the Jews for Jesus and not
saying that they are a terrible, brainwashing cult. They are people
whose claims we may disagree with, but at least let’s try to
understand where they’re coming from,” Harris-Shapiro stated when
addressing the criticism she received in the Jewish press for giving
credibility to the Jews for Jesus movement. Messianic Jews say they
have 100,000 followers in the United States, but Harris-Shapiro says
the figure is closer to 10,000.

Rights of Muslim Prisoners to Attend Prayer Services Upheld

Source: Sacramento Bee

On July 17, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported that U.S.
District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton cited the California Department of
Corrections in contempt of court for not fully implementing a court
decision in February of 1999 that ensured the right of every Muslim
inmate to attend Jumu’ah prayer services at midday on Fridays. Ernest
Fenelon, a California Medical Facility inmate who is Muslim, brought
suit against the Department of Corrections in 1995 for not allowing
him to attend Jumu’ah services. Judge Karlton ruled in Fenelon’s
favor in February, but the Department of Corrections granted only
Fenelon the freedom to attend services – not all Muslim inmates.
Speaking to the lawyers defending the Department of Corrections,
Karlton railed: “It is only my good sense that keeps me from putting
you and your clients in jail and let you see what it feels like.”
Karlton also added that the Department of Corrections “will face
sanctions by the court” if it does not submit a plan to accommodate
all Muslim prisoners.

Columbus, Ohio Synagogues Reach Out to Educate Jews

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

On July 16, 1999, The Columbus Dispatch published an
article on the efforts of Columbus synagogues to educate Jews about
Jewish faith and practice. Congregation Tifereth Israel runs an adult
education program called Midreshet Israel, which has four components:
a Jewish Life Workshop series, academic classes taught by Ohio State
University professors, small study circles held in peoples’ homes,
and Havurot, which are get-togethers where people share Jewish
experiences. The Congregation also runs Minyan Chadash, which has
been successful in attracting non-affiliated Jews for a monthly
prayer service of discussion and singing. Temple Israel offers a
30-hour Introduction to Judaism course twice a year that is open to
all. The National Jewish Outreach Program now offers a Virtual
Shabbat CD-ROM, which allows users to experience the rituals and
customs of a traditional Shabbat.