Religious Diversity News

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Profiling Religion in America

Source: The Hartford Courant

On September 26, 1998, The Hartford Courant reported
that social scientists at Hartford Seminary are embarking on a
project to profile America’s religious congregations. The project,
which is set to begin January 2000, will survey about 40 religious
denominations, groups, and clusters of independent churches from
different religions in the United States. Carl Dudley, co-director
of Hartford Seminary’s Center for Social and Religious Research,
states that “congregations make a tremendous contribution to American
life, the kind of character-building things that make up the fabric
of American life.” The results of the survey, according to Dudley,
“will help people interpret religion.”

Plans for California Gurdwara Approved

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

On September 25, 1998, The San Diego Union-Tribune
reported that the Sikh Society of San Diego has gained approval from
the Escondido City Council to add gold domes to an already approved
plan for a Sikh temple in Escondido. The Escondido Planning
Commission had previously denied the addition of the gold domes on
the basis that it would be “incompatible with the “Southwestern”
style of the neighborhood.” The Sikh Society of San Diego appealed
to city hall and they enthusiastically approved the addition.

Wiccan Wedding Ceremony in a Public Park

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On September 20, 1998, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
reported that Christina Francis and Rick Beckner had exchanged
wedding vows on September 19th in Scout Lake Park in Greendale, WI.
Describing the Pagan community of her youth in Milwaukee as “very
hush-hush,” Francis now sees the Pagan community as “more comfortable
with visibility,” such that she is now able to enjoy her wedding
ceremony in a public park. Francis and Beckner were joined in a
ceremony known to Wiccans as second-degree handfasting, which is a
legal marriage for this lifetime. It is preceded by a first-degree
handfasting, which lasts for one year and one day and is akin to a
formal engagement. Third-degree handfasting, an eternal union, may
only be undertaken after many years of marriage.

Pros and Cons of Online Religion

Source: Newsweek

On September 14, 1998 Newsweek ran a column by Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein entitled “My Online Synagogue.” Faith communities represented on the internet include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Paganism and others. Goldstein writes, “The Internet has no boundaries…I didn’t like all the ideas, but I loved the free, uncensored exchange of views, an exchange that would have been extremely difficult outside the Internet.” He claims that while his cybersynagogue draws people together, and “allows democracy to flourish,” it remains limited.

Imam, Rabbi, and Cardinal in Dialogue

Source: National Catholic Register

On September 6, 1998, the National Catholic Register
reported that the Catholic Focolare movement and the Baltimore
archdiocese sponsored an event entitled “Dialogue as a Lifestyle” at
St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore on August 23rd, 1998.
The dialogue featured representatives of three faiths: William
Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, U.S. Episcopal moderator of
Catholic-Jewish relations; Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the
Center for Interreligious Understanding at Ramapo College; and Imam
Abdulmalik Mohammed, leader of the Muslim America Society in
Baltimore. Rabbi Bemporad described the process of dialogue as
becoming “conscious of the other as another soul.”

Religious Freedom Act Awaiting Wilson’s OK

Source: Los Angeles Times

On August 29, 1998, the Los Angeles Times reported that AB
1617, the Religious Freedom Protection Act, is a bill waiting to be
approved by California Governor Pete Wilson. The Act would “prevent
state and local governments from interfering with religious
observances unless a compelling reason could be shown.” The bill is
in direct response to the United States Supreme Court decision in
Boerne v. Flores (1997), which overturned the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act passed by Congress in 1993.

Controversy Over New Movie, “The Seige”

Source: The New York Times

A New York Times article on August 24, 1998, reports on
Muslim concern over the trailers for the film “The Siege.” “American
Muslims and Arab-Americans who have seen the trailers are sounding
the alarm at what they fear is a dangerous film that will feed
suspicion and hatred of Arabs and Muslims in this country.” They are
writing in protest while the film is being edited prior to November
release. The director Mr. Zwick is quoted as saying the film “very
much touches on the themes of repression and racism that exist, I
believe, often on or just below the surface of this society.” And
while he cannot predict the impact of his work, he hopes it will be
provocative and encourage dialogue rather than reinforce stereotypes.

Tragic Killing at Florida Sikh Gurdwara

Source: Sun-Sentinel

On August 23, 1998, one Sikh shot and killed another Sikh (and
wounded two others) before shooting himself. Both men were devoted to
the gurdwara. Long standing differences led to this unexpected
tragedy despite the gurdwara’s efforts to negotiate a reconciliation.
One area of difference concerned seating in the gurdwara; this
relates to humility and equality which are profound concerns in this
faith tradition. Some of the media coverage was seen as problematic.
“What happened at the Gurdwara could have happened at a church, a
synagogue, or mosque here or in any other part of the world.
Unfortunately, there will be some stereotyping of Sikhs as a violent
people on account of this sad event, which is certainly not what
Sikhism represents.” (Editorial in the Sun-Sentinel, August
31, 1998, p.1A; articles appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, the
Miami Herald, and the St. Petersburg Times)