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Recent events carried in the media
      that involve religion
                 Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News


         Congress Federalizes Hill in San Diego to
           Protect Cross and Frustrate Atheist
   The US Congress quickly made a hill with a cross on top in
San Diego, California into federal property to avert a possible
decision by a judge, based on a suit brought by an atheist, that
might have required the cross to be removed. The hill was
San Diego city property before Congress acted.
                                    New York Daily News, August 2, 2006
                  Difficult Dialogues – Breaking News


      Hindu Representatives Win Textbook Changes,
                      Want More
  The California Board of Education has approved 75% of the
changes to 6th grade textbooks requested by representatives of
Hindu groups, but those Hindus present at a public hearing
want a number of other sore points addressed. These include
texts’ emphasis on the caste system, widow suicide, and other
elements of Indian culture, past and present. Hindu
organizations want to emulate the success of Muslim groups,
whose editorial changes have now led to complaints from
Christians and others that Islam is portrayed in too rosy a
light.                           Hindu Press International, 3-1-06
                Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

       Women Defy Ban on Priesthood for Catholics
Pittsburgh - A dozen Catholic women participated in a
ceremony today to proclaim themselves priests or deacons in
the Catholic Church. Similar ceremonies conducted by the
group, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, have been held before in
other countries, and most participants were excommunicated.
―This unfortunate ceremony will take place outside the church
and undermines the unity of the church,‖ said Ronald Lengwin,
a spokesman for the Pittsburgh diocese. ―Those attempting to
confer Holy Orders have, by their own actions, removed
themselves from the church, as have those who present
themselves for such an invalid ritual.‖
                                    New York Daily News, 7-31-06
              Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

           Coach is Allowed to Pray with Team
New Jersey - Judge Dennis Cavanaugh of the US District
Court in New Jersey ruled Tuesday that Marcus Borden, the
coach at East Brunswick High School, can bow his head and
bend down on one knee during student-led prayers.
Cavanaugh ruled that Borden’s pregame actions were not the
same as praying. Because Borden was not seeking permission
from the court to lead the team in prayer—something he had
done in the past—the ruling did not resolve the issue of
whether a teacher or coach can conduct prayer sessions.
                                                   NY Times 7-21-06
              Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

 Excommunication is Sought for Stem Cell Researchers
Rome – Scientists who engage in stem cell research should
be subject to excommunication from the Roman Catholic
Church, according to a senior Vatican official. Cardinal
Alfonso López Trujillo said that ―Destroying an embryo is
equivalent to abortion. Excommunication is valid for the
women, the doctors and researchers who destroy embryos.‖
Excommunication for abortion is ―latae senentiae,‖ meaning
that it is automatic. This type of excommunication is
reserved for acts deemed so serious that no verdict or
judgment is required, such as violence against the Pope or
consecrating a bishop without authorization.
                                               NY Times 7-1-06
                  Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

   Baptist Colleges Scale Back Ties to Their Denomination
Georgetown, Ky. – Georgetown College decided to end its 63-
year-old affiliation with the Kentucky Baptist Convention after its
president asked him to appoint someone to the faculty who would
teach a literal interpretation of the Bible. This follows a pattern
of separation between colleges—such as Furman and Wake
Forest--and the church over the past two decades.         David W.
Key, director of Baptist Studies at Candler School of Theology,
said, ―The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the
Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education. In
fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re
searching for truths.‖
                                                       NY Times 7-22-06
                  Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

        The Rapture Index Goes Up with Mideast War
 ―The Rapture Index,‖ an evangelical Christian web site that
predicts the likelihood of the coming of Christ, is at 158;
anything over 145 indicates that ―the end is near.‖ Hits on the
website have gone up from 180,000 in June to 250,000 in July.
In July, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said that the Mideast war will
―serve as a prelude or forerunner to the future Battle of
Armageddon and the glorious return of Jesus Christ.‖
Evangelicals have sent millions of dollars to Israel communities,
and have hosted pro-Israel rallies in the US. They are acting out
of the hope that a raging war—perhaps even a nuclear
confrontation—may bring the apocalypse.
                                      The Miami Herald, 8-8-06
                        Difficult Dialogues – Breaking News

                      Poll Shows Muslims Under Pressure

A USA Today poll of 1,077 Americans shows strong anti-Muslim feelings, and a
   separate study shows that this is damaging the mental health of Muslims in the
   US. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents felt that Muslims should carry a
   special ID to prevent terrorist attacks. One-third of respondents assumed that
   Muslims were sympathetic to Al-Queda. Twenty-two percent said that they would
   not want Muslims as neighbors.
A Yale study of 611 Arab-Americans reported that the respondents had a much
   higher level of mental health problems than other Americans. For example, about
   half had symptoms of clinical depression, compared with 20% in the general
   population. The mental health of Arab-American Christians in the study were
   much more like the ordinary person than Muslim Arab-Americans.
The number of anti-Muslim assaults reported to the Council on American-Islamic
   Relations has grown from 1,019 in 2003 to 1,972 in 2005.

                                    USA Today, 8-10-06
                   Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

   Lebanon Violence Stifles US Jewish-Muslim Dialogues

San Francisco. The Bay Area’s lively interfaith dialogues are
experiencing strain as the Israeli-Lebanon conflict continues.
One factor influencing this is that support for Israel among
Jews is more united than before. This enthusiastic solidarity
undercuts the common rationale that one can’t blame local
believers for the actions of leaders abroad. One person who
has conducted interfaith dialogues in his home for fourteen
years says that ―A lot of the reason that people don’t enter into
dialogue is not fear of the other, but fear of what one’s own
people will say….‖
                               San Francisco Chronicle 8-9-06
                    Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

   Orthodox Jewish Woman Becomes Congregation’s Leader
  Dina Najman, an expert in Jewish bioethics, will become the rosh
kehillah, or congregational leader of a small Upper West Side
congregation, Kehilat Orach Eliezer, in September. She will
perform many of the functions of a rabbi, except for leading
services and reading from the Torah. Nor will she be counted
toward the minyan, the quorum of 10 men needed to start prayer,
nor preside over weddings and baby-naming ceremonies. She will
preach, teach classes, and counsel people. The congregation was
not trying to make a statement with Ms. Najman’s hiring, according
to one of the congregation’s co-presidents. She was simply the best
candidate among the men and women who applied, he said.
                                         The New York Times, 8-21-06
                         Difficult Dialogues – Breaking News

            Woman Elected Head of Largest US Islamic Organization
Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian convert to Islam, has been elected the first female
   president of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group of 300
   Islamic organizations. She had served two terms as vice-president. She
   advocates active engagement of women in Islamic institutions, including sitting
   on boards of mosques and centers. She holds a doctorate in Islamic studies from
   the University of Chicago in Islamic studies, and is professor of Islamic studies
   and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Theological Seminary, a graduate
   school for religious leaders who are already ordained and working in the field.
Women have also been elected president of the Muslim Students Association and of
   Muslim Youth of North America, but Mattson’s election is more significant
   because the Society weighs in on discussions of religious law, a topic where she is
   an expert.
                                             Chicago Tribune, 8-30-06
                  Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

          Filmmaker Recruiting Potential Messiahs
  Andy Deemer is a documentary filmmaker who will pay
$5,000 to a person to start a new religion, on condition that a
film crew can follow the new messiah around while he or she is
going about the start-up. Deemer, who is allied with the Institute
for the Study of American Religion at UC Santa Barbara, has
received 300 applications from potential gurus; he has
interviewed 100 of the applicants by phone, and 40 in person.
New religions, including Mormonism, Scientology and the
Universal Life Church, have emerged on a regular basis in the
US over the past two centuries. Deemer wants to know more
about how such movements get started.
                                     The New York Times, 8-28-06
                  Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

               Polygamy Sect Leader Arrested
Las Vegas. Warren Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was arrested during
a routine traffic stop in Nevada today. Jeffs was on the FBI’s
Most Wanted List; he is said to have at least 40 wives and 60
children. Underage marriages within his church—some
involving girls as young as 13—rose sharply during his
leadership. He also broke apart marriages by re-assigning
wives, husbands, and children. The FLDS group, numbering
about 10,000 people, remained faithful to the original Mormon
principle of polygamy after the Mormon church rejected it at
the end of the 19th century.
                                  The New York Daily News, 8-3-06
                  Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News

         Queens Principal Sues Over Being Fired
  After Filing Complaint About Daughter’s Sexual Abuse
  The former principal of an Islamic school, Reza Naqvi, has
brought a federal lawsuit against the Al-Imam School in
Jamaica, alleging that his having the school’s maintenance
director arrested for fondling his daughter had led to his
dismissal. The principal did not report the assault to the police
when it occurred, depending on the sheik who heads the
sponsoring organization to handle the matter. When nothing
was done after two months, Naqvi brought charges against the
maintenance director, who was arrested. Naqvi’s lawyer said
that the principal had not brought charges immediately
―because of cultural differences.‖ New York Daily News, 8-30-06
                       Difficult Dialogues: Breaking News


     Archdiocese Gives Ultimatum to Priests Accused of Abuse
 Archbishop Edward Egan of the New York Archdiocese has offered a
   choice to seven priests believed to be sexual abusers of children to
   either live under close supervision for the rest of their lives or resign
   the priesthood. Because the charges against them have not been
   proved or the criminal statute of limitations has run out, they cannot
   be defrocked under canon law. The supervision would involve
   ongoing therapy and monitoring of their movements. In the past,
   church programs aimed at rehabilitation of the accused, but the
   relapse rate was very high. This program is lifelong.
Five of the seven priests have chosen to resign, rather than submit to
   the program.
                                     The New York Times, 8-31-06
                     Difficult Dialogues - Breaking News


      Numbers of Zoroastrians Decline, May Face Extinction
The number of Zoroastrians worldwide may be as low as 150,000,
  according to a news report. The religion, based in India and Iran,
  does not accept converts or children of mixed marriages. Its
  emphasis on free will and education have enabled its followers to
  become high achievers wherever they go, but its determined tie to
  its ethnic roots may forecast a dim future. Founded more than 3,000
  years ago, the religion is monotheistic, and may have had some
  influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
                                          The New York Times, 9-6-06

				
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