Religious Diversity News

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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.

Religious Diversity in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Source: The Morning Call

On July 15, 1999 the Morning Call published an article entitled, “Cultural Diversity to be Tracked: Researchers Will Study Religious Diversity in Schuylkill.” The article reported that researchers, E. Allen Richardson and Catherine Cameron, from Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania are working in conjunction with Harvard University to track what changes a Hindu temple has brought to the mostly Christian community of Summit Station, Pennsylvania. “The researchers will first look at how the Pottsville-area Christian community has adapted to the new religious group. ‘We will be looking at the way traditional cultures interface, especially ones that are very different from each other,’ said Richardson, an associate professor of religious studies… The major differences in beliefs between the highly Christian coal region and the temple’s members provide a unique opportunity to analyze extreme religious diversity,’ Richardson said… The goal of the research is not just to examine group interactions… After information gathered from the locations, ‘we may be in a position to make recommendations’ for community reconciliation, she (Cameron) said.’ “

Man in Redmond, Washington Builds Buddhist Statue Garden in His Yard

Source: The Seattle Times

On July 14, 1999, The Seattle Times published an article
on the efforts of Le Duy Hong, a retired custodian who has built a
garden of Buddhist statues in the yard of his Redmond, Washington
home, where he also runs a house temple. The garden, which overlooks
a busy street near the headquarters of Microsoft, was constructed by
Le in order to fulfill a promise he made to himself while working
as an interpreter in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Le prayed that
he would neither be killed nor have to kill in the conflict. His
prayers were answered when he and his family immigrated safely to the
United States in 1975. Now 65, Le has just imported a series of
bodhisattva statues from Saigon that he bought with his retirement
money to further adorn the garden and temple. The Northwest Dharma
Association estimates that there are 25 to 45 small temples in houses
in the Seattle metro area.

The 25th Anniversary of the Naropa Institute

Source: The Denver Post

On July 13, 1999, The Denver Post published an article
reflecting on the growth of the Zen Buddhist-based Naropa Institute
in Boulder, Colorado on its 25th Anniversary. Soon to become Naropa
University this Fall, the Naropa Institute has more than 800
students, with about two-thirds in graduate programs, pursuing
degrees in Buddhist studies, psychology, gerontology, and writing and
poetics. Naropa now boasts satellite campuses in Mexico,
Germany, and Oakland, California, with another to come in the Czech
Republic. The Institute was propelled in its early years by Allen Ginsburg and the
writings of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Anne Waldman,
co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with
Allen Ginsburg, stated: “I think Allen (Ginsburg) would be very happy
with the continuity of the vision we had back in 1974.”

Ground Broken on Hindu Temple Expansion in Omaha

Source: Omaha World-Herald

On July 12, 1999, the Omaha World-Herald reported that
ground had been broken for a new addition to the Hindu temple in
Omaha, Nebraska. The temple, which is housed in a converted
restaurant, will be transformed to look like an authentic Indian
temple with two towers and intricately-carved brick. Since the Omaha
congregation was first organized in December of 1994, more than 700
names have been added to the mailing list and attendance at Sunday
pujas has risen from 25 to 100. The congregation has also just hired
a full-time priest, who will arrive sometime this summer and will be
able to keep the temple open on a daily basis.

Appointment of Salam Al-Marayati to Counter-Terrorism Commission Withdrawn

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 10, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
many Jewish and Christian leaders have joined Muslims in defending
Al-Marayati’s record on terrorism. Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman, founding
rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, stated: “This assault on
Salam Al-Marayati by a consortium of Jewish organizations is for me,
as a rabbi and as a Jew, an appalling display of ignorance,
mindlessness and arrogance.” Gene Lichtenstein, editor in chief of
the Jewish Journal, has come to Al-Marayati’s defense, along with
Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich), who called Al-Marayati “a person of great
integrity.” Many point to Al-Marayati as a leader in interfaith
dialogue and note that he signed a 1996 statement condemning the
terrorist bombing that killed 62 people in Israel and he also
condemned the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

Orange County Buddhist Church to Celebrate Obon

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 10, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that the
Orange County Buddhist Church in California will begin to celebrate
the traditional Japanese holiday of Obon on Sunday, July 11th. The
festival will include English and Japanese services, Odori dancing, a
bazaar, and a carnival. The traditional Obon dance, “which expresses
joy for Buddhist teachings,” depicts the livelihood of Japanese
villagers, such as fisherman, coal miners, and farmers.

Appointment of Salam Al-Marayati to Counter-Terrorism Commission Withdrawn

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 9, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-MO.) withdrew the
nomination of Salam Al-Marayati to a congressional commission on
counter-terrorism. Gephardt claimed that Al-Marayati would not be
able to gain security clearance in time for him to join the
commission. Gephardt has been under fire from Jewish organizations
ever since he made the appointment. Morton A. Klein, president of the
Zionist Organization of America, accused Al-Marayati of excusing
terrorist attacks against Israel. Al-Marayati has said that his
statements draw a distinction between terrorist acts against Israeli
civilians and military acts launched against Israeli troops in
Lebanon. Although he denounces their terrorist activities,
Al-Marayati has also said that he won’t flatly condemn Hamas or
Hezbollah because they carry out beneficial services, like building
hospitals in Palestinian areas. Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor to
the Muslim Public Affairs Council and head of the Islamic Center of
Southern California, stated: “We feel that it is a very unfortunate
decision, that Congressman Gephardt just responded to pressure from a
very demagogic group that created noise without any proof of their
allegations. It puts us in a very difficult situation.”