Religious Diversity News

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Religion and the World Wide Web

Source: Star Tribune

On December 26, 1998, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis,
MN published an article on the growing use of the World Wide Web by
religious communities to help spread their message. The article
states that religions are turning to this medium in order to “remain
relevant among an increasingly fickle audience.” The Barna Research
Group, based in Ventura, CA, conducted a recent survey on religion
and the internet. The results show that one out of six teens rely on
the Internet to attempt to meet their spiritual needs. Quentin Schultze,
professor of communication at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and
author of “Internet for Christians,” stated that, “we are seeing the
beginnings of a wave of religious reformation, one as big as the one
seen after the invention of the Gutenberg Press.”

Pagan Education Network Creates Pagan Community Fund

Source: Pagan Education Network

On December 25, 1998 Pagan Education Network released a press release stating that “The Pagan Educational Network, Inc. is proud to announce the founding of the Pagan Community Fund. This fund, formerly known as the Wiccan Community Fund, provides cash assistance to Pagans in need. Recipients may use the assistance to put food in the cupboard, pay bills, recover from some natural disaster, or fund legal efforts in the case of religious discrimination.”

Winter Solstice Celebrants Arrested

Source: The New York Times

On December 23, 1998 the New York Times reported that 33 participants in a
Winter Solstice celebration were charged with trespassing. The Staten
Island beach is technically closed after dusk, and the ritual fire
was seen as problematic. “Ms. Henes, 53, said she had held at least
15 solstice ceremonies on South Beach and never run into a problem
before. ‘In the past,’ she said, ‘sometimes the Fire Department has
come because someone has seen the fire, and we say, look, this is our
religion, and they have been very respectful and let us finish the
ceremony.'” (NYT, December 22, 1998, Section B, Page 5, Column
1, Metropolitan Desk) The next day, the paper reported that the ACLU
was asking the City to drop all charges before the court date,
scheduled for January 25. The executive director of the ACLU, Norman
Siegel commented, “‘What the city should be doing is accommodating
these diverse religious, cultural and political events that help make
up the zaniness of New York City. But instead of enhancing them, they
are making it a crime.'”

Muslims in the U.S. Military

Source: The Washington Post

On December 21, 1998, the Washington Post published an
article entitled, “Military, Muslim Life Meld on U.S. Bases.” The
article noted the increased recognition and visibility of Islam in
the Armed Forces, including “appointing three Muslim chaplains,
beginning with the Army in 1993; drafting about a dozen others into
chaplain training programs; offering pork-free field rations;
allowing Muslims to leave duty stations to attend prayers on Friday
… ; facilitating travel to Mecca for Muslim personnel making the
hajj, or pilgrimage, to that holy city; and according Islamic symbols
parity with those of other religions.”

Ramadan Reflections

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On December 19, 1998, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
published an article on Ramadan and the Muslim community in Atlanta.
The Islamic Circle of North America in Marietta, GA reports that
there are about 50,000 Muslims, representing 100 countries, living
and working in metro Atlanta. There are 12 mosques in metro Atlanta,
including centers in downtown Atlanta, Marietta, Norcross, and

Hanukkah – Menorah Lightings

Source: The Washington Post

On December 14, 1998, the Washington Post reported that
the National Menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. was lit at
nightfall on Sunday, December 13th. The National Menorah stands 30
feet in height, the maximum allowable under Jewish Law, and in front
of the National Christmas Tree.

First Hindu Temple in Baltimore Area

Source: The Baltimore Sun

On December 12, 1998, The Baltimore Sun reported on the
dedication of the $2.3 million Greater Baltimore Temple, the first
Hindu Temple in the Baltimore region, in Finksburg, MD. With more
than 1,000 people expected to participate in the 3-day dedication
events, the Greater Baltimore Temple will be the worship center for
approximately 1,600 Hindu families in metro Baltimore and southern
Pennsylvania. The 14,000 square-foot building includes a temple hall,
a library, and a community center with space for 350 people.

American Muslim Council Praises Military on Ramadan Accommodation

Source: American Muslim Council

On December 9, 1998, the American Muslim Council issued a press
release expressing their appreciation for the “efforts of the US
Military in providing greater understanding and accommodation for
Muslims in the Service during Ramadan and `Id al Fitr.” The statement
continued, “The Armed Forces Chaplains Board has issued notification
that during Ramadan, Muslims in the Service may be released from duty
at least half-an-hour before sunset to help them break their fast.
The memorandum has also suggested to exempt Muslims from rigorous
daily physical and field training during the month. Furthermore, the
memorandum has recommended liberal leave policy to allow Service
Members and Department of Defense civilians to celebrate `Id al
Fitr.” For more information about the AMC, visit

Creche Controversies

Source: No source given.

In Somerset, MA, a 60-year tradition of a creche on the front lawn of the Somerset Town Hall was ruled unconstitutional because it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. On December 1st, 1998, the Boston Globe reported on the federal ruling by US District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns in Boston (December 1, 1998, Boston Globe, Metro/Region, Pg. B1). Stearns ruled this particular creche presentation unconstitutional because it offered “no superabundance of secular symbols to dilute the religious message of the creche.” On December 12th, 1998, the Globe reported that Somerset unveiled a new holiday display, complete with a menorah, two reindeer nibbling on a Christmas tree, Frosty the Snowman, a lit-up sign that reads “Season’s Greetings,” an 18-foot Santa Claus, and a creche to try and conform with the ruling (December 12, 1998, Boston Globe, Metro/Region, p. A1). Gil Lawrence Amancio, the New England regional director for American Atheists Inc. who brought the case to court, stated that the new display is a “confusing hodgepodge of stuff.” Despite the new display, the town is appealing the ruling.

Creche Controversies

Source: Newsday

On December 7, 1998, Newsday reported that a fire destroyed the Nativity scene of the Village of Massapequa Park on December 4th. Steven Zimmerman, assistant chief of the Massapequa Fire Department, stated that “we don’t know exactly what caused the fire, but it does seem suspicious.”