Religious Diversity News

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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.

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.