Religious Diversity News

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Fire at Connecticut Sikh Association

Source: The Hartford Courant

On October 22, 1998, The Hartford Courant reported on a
massive fire that destroyed a large commercial building in downtown
Hartford on October 20th. The Connecticut Sikh Association, which
rented the second floor of the building and used it for worship
services and other activities, had stored their copy of the Sikh holy
books inside the building. The fire gutted most of the second floor,
but the holy books and many religious artifacts survived the fire.
Hargurpreet Singh, a member of the Connecticut Sikh Association,
stated “we respect that book more than out lives…you can buy
another copy, but to Sikhs it is a living book.” No one was hurt in
the fire.

Haitian Vodou Exhibition

Source: Newsday

On October 21, 1998, Newsday reported on an exhibition at
the American Museum of Natural History entitled, “Sacred Arts of
Haitian Vodou.” The exhibition, which runs through January 3rd, has
come to New York as the last stop of a two-year tour. With more than
500 objects, it is the “most exhaustive exhibition ever devoted to
the artifacts of voodoo.” Vodou art “sanctifies the ordinary” such
that mundane objects, like Coke bottles and tin cups, can be
transformed into devotional objects. Vodou, which fuses the beliefs
and practices of African traditions, Roman Catholicism, Freemasonry,
and European occultism, began to form when African slaves were
imported to Hispaniola from 1680 to 1791. During that time, the
slaves began to merge their native beliefs with the colonist
religions which confronted them. Despite the “much maligned”
treatment of the vodou religion in Western culture, the reviewer
believes this exhibition “can erase some long-cherished
misapprehensions.”

Conservative Judaism Issues New Manual Responsive to Women’s Issues

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

On October 21, 1998, The Chicago Sun-Times issued an
article concerning the new “Rabbi’s Manual”, which is published for
750 Conservative synagogues in North America and 200 other synagogues
worldwide. The new Manual, an updating of the 1965 edition,
establishes a “grieving ritual” for couples after abortions and
includes gender-neutral language. Rabbi Reuven Frankel of B’nai
Tikvah Synagogue in Deerfield, Illinois, approves of the changes:
“It’s a very necessary updating….Necessity is sometimes determined
by new perceived needs. Certain things that are painful were not
being addressed.” Rabbi Michael Siegel of Congregation Anshe Ernet
Synagogue in the Lake View neighborhood of Chicago also approves:
“The voice of women, which was silent across the ages, is now being
heard in a much more meaningful way.” The Conservative branch of
Judaism, which began to allow women rabbis in the early 1980s, is in
the “center” of American Judaism, between Orthodoxy and the Reform
Movement.

Buddhist Temple in Cleveland Notes Increase in Teen Participation

Source: The Plain Dealer

On October 7, 1998, The Plain Dealer reported that the
Cleveland Buddhist Temple is experiencing an upsurge of student
participation in Buddhist meditation classes. Dennis Edwards, a
part-time volunteer instructor at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple,
leads a beginners class on Buddhist meditation and says that the
class attracts students studying religion at area colleges and an
increasing number of high school students from local private schools.

West Virginia Bible Class Controversy

Source: The Boston Globe

On October 6, 1998, The Boston Globe published an
article dealing with a proposed Bible-as-literature course at James
Monroe High School in Monroe County, West Virginia. The proposal,
which now rests with the school board to devise a Constitutionally-
allowable curriculum, has met strong local opposition from four clergy
members from three mainstream denominations. Their major concern
is that “teaching the Bible purely as a literary gem – severed, as
constitutional practice demands, from its spiritual and religious context –
could debase the meaning and power of its message.” One of the opponents
is Reverend Charles Miller, a United Methodist minister whose daughter attends
the high school. He stated that “Scripture, in the wrong hands and
read the wrong way, can be used to justify slavery, male bigotry, all
kinds of oppressive acts.” The opponents feel that a student Bible
club would make more sense.

Houston’s First Cao Dai Temple

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On October 5, 1998, The Houston Chronicle published an
article announcing the grand opening of Houston’s first Cao Dai
temple. Cao Dai, a combination of Buddhism, Catholicism, and
ancestor worship, is the third most popular religion in Vietnam and
has approximately 1,000 adherents in the Houston area.

Jewish Community in Maine Unites Amid Hostility

Source: The Boston Globe

On October 4, 1998,The Boston Globe published an
article which reported on the response of an act of anti-Semitism in
the small town of Presque Isle, Maine. At the Aroostook Hebrew
Community Center, swastikas were found painted on either side of the
entrance doorway with the words “Burn Jews” written under one of
them. This was discovered just days before Rosh Hashana services
were set to begin. The congregation, numbering about 20 people,
swelled to over four times its size for Rosh Hashana services to
support the local temple. Later that week, over 400 people from
around Presque Isle joined in a march and a public cleaning of the
temple. The community’s spiritual leader, Raphael Gribetz, called
the attack “an American affront,” and stated “Americans don’t
tolerate a minority being terrorized in their midst.”