Religious Diversity News

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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.”

Catholics and Buddhists Meet to Compare, Contrast Faiths

Source: Los Angeles Times

On October 3, 1998, The Los Angeles Times reported that
a national-level Buddhist-Catholic dialogue was taking place at the
Serra Retreat in Malibu on the weekend of October 3rd and 4th. James
Fredericks, a professor of comparative theology at Loyola Marymount
University, stated that the meeting was “historically important” for
the understanding of Buddhism and Catholicism in this country. The
event, sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the
Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California, will hopefully spark
regional dialogues on a national scale. The meeting was limited to
30 Catholic and 30 Buddhist registrants.

Boy Scouts, Unitarians Hope to Explore Common Ground in Rift Over Gays, Beliefs

Source: The Buffalo News

On October 3, 1998, The Buffalo News reported that
representatives from both the Boy Scouts and the Unitarian
Universalist Church will meet in Boston later in the month “in an
attempt to patch up a relationship severed by disagreements over gay
rights and religious freedom.” Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts
told the Unitarians that they could no longer give out the Religion
in Life awards, which are bestowed to boys for their religious
activities. The Boy Scouts, who encourage thousands of churches,
mosques, and synagogues to give out these awards, took that honor
away from the Unitarians because they accept homosexuality and they
don’t require a belief in God.

Western Hindus Taking Steps to Unify

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On October 3, 1998, The Houston Chronicle reported that
Western Hindus, “feeling a need for renewal in Hinduism,” are
founding a council of senior religious leaders to codify moral
standards and religious practices in the West. These leaders will
then meet in Austin, Texas in August 1999 with several hundred Hindu
clergy and community leaders to deal with many problems that Hindus
face in Western society. The goal of this endeavor is to hold annual
meetings beginning in 1999 and eventually formulate a code of
conduct, or “samskar.” Priya Dasi, a Hindu nun, stated that “this
will help members of the Hindu community outside of India to remain
strong and good Hindus.” Some of the problems to be addressed will
be long rituals and arranged marriages. According to this article,
there are an estimated 1.2 million Hindus in the U.S., with a
community of 35,000 in Houston.

Soka Gakkai Sponsors Conference on Earth Charter in Florida

Source: The Tampa Tribune

On October 3, 1998, The Tampa Tribune reported that Soka
Gakkai International-USA, an American-based Buddhist movement that is
grounded in the Nichiren school of Mahayana Buddhism, is sponsoring a
conference on October 10th, 1998 entitled, “Share the Planet, Share
the Responsibility” at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, 25
miles west of Fort Lauderdale. The conference was organized to
discuss the Earth Charter, which is a two-page document setting out
21 principles in order to “reinvent an industrial-technological
civilization” based on responsible care for the Earth. Meetings like
this are being sponsored throughout the world in an effort to submit
a final draft of the Earth Charter to the United Nations by the year
2000 for endorsement.

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.