David W. Hendon and Gabrielle Gonzales
Prime Minister John Howard rebuffed as impractical a suggestion from two backbench members of his Liberal Party that Muslim headscarves be banned in public schools. This followed soon after an important meeting with Muslim leaders in which Howard sought joint action against Islamic extremists.
Twenty-five police and a film-crew from Space TV raided a Jehovah's Witness congress in Baku on 12 June 2005. Police refused to explain the action, saying only that Witnesses were fined and released. Space TV incorrectly reported that a criminal investigation had led to the raid.
Christian health workers Tapan Kumar Roy and Liplal Marandi were hacked to death in a village about 150 miles north of the capital of Dhaka. In addition to providing health education materials, they had been showing a film about Jesus. An official at an Islamic school had threatened them prior to the murders. Nanok Kumar Biswas, secretary-general of the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Welfare Front, said he thought Islamic extremists were responsible. The House of Lords of the United Kingdom held a special debate on 29 June 2005 to discuss the law and order situation in Bangladesh.
Belgian followers of Hare Krishna requested a right to reply to a three-page report on Belgian efforts to combat "harmful sectarian organizations" published by the newspaper Le Libre Belgique. The report did not mention the Hare Krishnas by name, but it did contain two pictures of Hare Krishna believers. The paper did not respond to the request.
There were reports of widespread arrests of pastors of house churches and supporters of the underground church. The crackdown appeared to be most severe in Beijing, Henan, Xinjiang, Hubei, Jiangxi, and Fujian. There were also some arrests of Muslims among the Uyghurs of western China. Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to the British prime minister asking that human rights issues be high on the agenda in the European Union-China summit in September.
Authorities used wedding ceremonies as an opportunity to arrest Christians not belonging to registered churches. On 30 May 2005, authorities arrested 250 people in the capital of Asmara. After the arrests, police tried to sort out which individuals were members of unregistered churches and which were not. On 4 September, police arrested eighteen more people at another wedding in the capital.
There continue to be clashes over alleged "forced conversions" to Christianity. Two people were arrested in a village in Madhya Pradesh for reportedly offering education and health benefits in return for converting. In Orissa, the High Court ordered local officials to start prosecuting missionaries accused of "forced conversion." The order was a response to a petition from 269 people opposed to Christian proselytizing. There were also more reports of attacks on individuals and on church buildings.
Hostility toward Christian proselytizing expressed itself in a number of incidents. In a court in West Java, three Christian women were jeered during a hearing about the activities in "Happy Sunday" classes they conduct for children. They admitted they used prayers, songs, and Bible readings, but they claimed that all the children participate with the consent of their parents. A crowd screamed at them and called them liars. The court referred the matter to the Indonesian High Court. In east Jakarta, a mob attacked a theological school, inflicting $10,000 worth of damage.
The Assyrian Democratic Movement and the Assyrian General Conference came out in opposition to Iraq's draft constitution. The Assyrians, who number about two million, are generally Christian. They fear that recognition of Islam in the constitution could lead to discrimination against them. The constitution was overwhelmingly approved in October 2005.
The government of Israel donated thirty-five acres of land near the Sea of Galilee to a small group of Christian leaders who had been invited to meet with the Ministry of Tourism. National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard described the land as "priceless," saying that it is within eyesight of the place where Jesus' ministry took place. The group may build a conference center on the land.
U.S. Christians and Jews joined settler militants in Israel to protest Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to evict the Jewish setters in Gaza.
In the name of national defense, Kazakhstan enacted strict new controls on religious activity. The new measures prohibit activity by unregistered religious groups and imposes fines for those who participate in such activity. It restricts missionary activity to missionaries who are licensed by the government. Even those missionaries must have their literature approved and possibly censored. International bodies, especially the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, criticized the measures as violating the country's international human rights commitments.
According to Amnesty International, the government of Laos has at times locked Christians in wooden stocks for refusing to renounce their faith.
In the Huichol Native American region of Jalisco, mobs drove out several hundred members of Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Apostolic churches, and the refugees settled temporarily in the neighboring state of Nayarit. Leaders of the Huichol village of Agua Fria said the refugees could return only if they accepted traditional practices which combine Roman Catholic customs with drinking and the use of peyote. In addition to religion, the dispute involves culture and land issues.
Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced on 15 June that Nigeria had joined the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). The IDB, which has its headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabai, operates under the principles of Islamic law (sharia). To be a member, a nation must first be a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Nigeria joined the OIC in 1986. Christian politicians opposed joining the IDB, fearing that it was another step in the Islamization of the country.
A mob attacked the house of a man arrested in Peshawar for allegedly burning a Qur'an. Yousaf Masih, an illiterate janitor, had been told to burn some papers that turned out to be pages of the Qur'an.
The Vatican's representative in Moscow, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, told the Moscow patriarchate of the Orthodox Church that the Vatican was giving up on a longstanding effort to create a Russian Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite. The announcement confirmed an earlier agreement made earlier by papal negotiator Cardinal Walter Kasper. The decision removed on the most important obstacles to reconciliation between the Vatican and Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church rejected claims of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that the church violates the freedom of worship of other religions. Father Vsevolod Chaplin accused PACE of double standards because it holds Russia to a higher standard of religious liberty than it does to other nations. Despite his comments, there was an example of Orthodox power in Yekaterinburg, where Father Vladimir Zatisev succeeded in forcing the Sverdlovsk Regional Railway to cancel permission it had to given to Jehovah's Witnesses to hold a congress in a stadium owned by the railroad.
An Indian Christian was sentenced to a year in jail and was beaten after religious police arrested him as he was on his way to speak to meetings of other Indian Christians living in Saudi Arabia. In June the government released five East Africans who had been arrested for leading a private Christian worship. In a departure from past practice, they were not deported upon release and were able to return to their jobs.
Police stopped an effort by ethnic Vlachs led by a Romanian Orthodox priest to hold a religious service at an abandoned monastery. The police were unable to produce an order justifying their action but denied access to the monastery anyhow. The commemoration was moved to a cultural center in a neighboring town.
A court sentenced eight men to jail for burning a mosque during disturbances in Kososvo in 2004. The sentences could have been as long as five years, but the court sentenced one man to five months and seven others to three months. Muslim leaders, some parties, and the Belgrade Youth Initiative for Human Rights criticized the light sentences.
In a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on 15 June, European Union (EU) ambassadors criticized comments made in Parliament by State Minister Mehmet Aydin about Christian missionaries. Aydin accused missionaries of having "ulterior political motives" that included breaking up the unity of the Turkish people. The ambassadors reportedly called the remarks "exaggerated and divisive." Since the EU decided in December 2004 to open talks about Turkey's admission to the group, there has been much discussion of restraints on religious liberty in Turkey. The Turkish press has often run stories about "dangerous" Christian activities, but Aydin's remarks were the first time that a government official had given them credence.
The government of President Saparmurat Niyazov took several steps to establish greater controls over religious communities in the country. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksi II, however, refused to accept an attempt to split the dozen Russian Orthodox parishes in Turkmenistan off from the Central Asian diocese. The president did succeed in reining in the Muslim theological faculty at Magtymguly Turkmen State University by removing Turkish teachers. He plans to merge the remaining faculty with the history faculty next year. In June, police raided a Baptist service in the town of Mary even though the church was part of the registered Baptist church. They questioned those in attendance and warned them from meeting again without getting "extra permission." In July, police raided the home of Asiya Zasedatelevaya in Turkmenabad, where local Baptists meet. Police beat her when she refused to tell them where she had gotten Christian books. One policeman hit the woman, who is an invalid, over the head with her Bible.
UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
The House of Commons voted 303-247 in favor of a bill to outlaw incitement to religious hatred (The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill). Conservatives and Liberal Democrats opposed the bill presented by the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. After subway bombings in London, opinion polls showed 51 percent in favor of the measure and 44 percent opposed to it.
ABORTION: White House Blocks Funds to China: For the fourth consecutive year, the White House refused monies for a United Nations family planning fund linked to China's coercive population program. The State Department withheld the $34 million designated by Congress, determining that contributions to the United Nation Population fund violates the 1985 Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prohibits family planning money from going to any entity that supports or participates in the management of a program of abortion or involuntary sterilization. Chinese officials have utilized a forced population control program for approximately twenty-five years, with a law codifying the policy in 2002. This policy limits urban couples to one child, and rural couples to two (if the first is a girl). While circumstances vary among provinces, coercive sterilization, abortion, and infanticide has been reported.
Parent Notification of a Minor Child Seeking an Abortion: The Rutherford Institute has filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Kelly A. Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, asking the court to uphold the constitutionality of New Hampshire law requiring that parents be notified of a minor child's intent to have an abortion. The Institute seeks to "safeguard the right of parents to be involved in the major life decisions of their minor children." In November 2004, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England challenged the constitutionality of the "New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act," which imposes criminal penalties on a physician's failure to provide 48 hours advance notice to a child's parent before an abortion can be performed, unless a parent waives notice in writing. The statute allows for parental notification to be waived in order to prevent the mother's death. A federal court declared the New Hampshire Act unconstitutional, stating that laws may not impose an undue burden on a woman's right to choose abortion. The decision blocked the law two days before it was scheduled to take effect, and the ruling was subsequently upheld by a unanimous First Circuit Court of Appeals citing the act's "lack of a health exception, and an overly narrow death exception." On 23 May 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case, making it the first case challenging an abortion law the court has accepted in five years.
BIOMEDICAL: Stem-Cell Research: During a recent Senate speech, Senate majority leader Bill Frist changed his position on stem cell research, stating: "The president's policy should be modified." In 2001, President Bush placed restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, limiting it to existing stem cell lines, and Frist supported the president's policy at that time. Frist's background as a heart-lung transplant surgeon makes his voice a pertinent one. Now, he would include excess embryos from in vitro fertilization donated by the parents instead of having the embryos discarded. Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family says this is a matter of "choosing politics over principle." Frist said, "It isn't just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science."
CIVIL RELIGION: Christian Cross on County Seal: Los Angeles county supervisors voted to remove the cross from the county's seal due to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union. Brad Dacus is president of the Pacific Justice Institute, the legal organization involved in the attempt to have the cross restored to the seal. Dacus calls the actions of the ACLU "open, confrontational hostility" toward faith in the public square.
Pledge of Allegiance: Michael Newdow, who claims the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, is suing four California school districts on behalf of four children, challenging their schools about recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. However, Judge Lawrence Karlton said he might throw out Newdow's case against the pledge itself and the words "Under God."
Viewpoint Discrimination: Matt Barber filed a federal lawsuit against Allstate after that company fired him alleging viewpoint discrimination. The state of Illinois conducted an investigation, and found that Barber was terminated because an "outside organization" complained about an article he wrote defending traditional marriage on his own time, and it appeared on several conservative internet sites. Barber's attorney, Matt Davis said, "Here you have a company in the name of tolerance, exercising an extreme degree of intolerance." Allstate has donated thousands of dollars in donations to homosexual activist groups.
Contradictory Decisions in Decalogue cases: Recently, U.S. Supreme Court justices struck down the Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky, but they upheld a Ten Commandments monument on public property in Austin, Texas. The Kentucky case involved framed copies of the Ten Commandments hanging in McCreary and Pulaski county courtrooms. The Texas case involved a six-foot-tall granite monument located on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin. The monument includes a depiction of the Ten Commandments and the words, "I am the Lord thy God." A split court ruled that the Ten Commandments exhibits in Kentucky cross the line between separation of church and state because they promote a religious message and were motivated by a religious purpose. However, the Court did not prohibit all displays in court buildings or on government property, explaining that some displays would be permissible when they are portrayed neutrally, honoring the nation's legal history. Julie Underwood, counsel for the National School Boards Association said: "These decisions tell us that the court will continue to approach these issues on a case-by-case basis, rather than giving school districts clear and consistent guidance." She added: "If the Supreme Court itself struggles this much with these issues, just imagine the challenge for America's school boards."
Another Decalogue Display: The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments display in a park in Frederick, Maryland, but later dropped its lawsuit. The Americans United for the Separation of Church and State then filed a suit challenging the validity of the sale of the monument and the land on which it stood from the city to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the organization that owns the display. In its ruling on the case, the federal district court in Maryland stated: "As there is no evidence of religious purpose for Frederick's display, and no indication that its secular purpose was insincere," there was indeed a secular purpose in displaying the monument. The monument was donated to the city in 1958 where it stood at first outside city hall. It was later moved to a park where it stood alongside war memorials, a George Washington plaque, and other historical markers.
COURTS: Eminent Domain: In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a local government may seize private property for purposes of profit-making private re-development, declaring that this constitutes a "public use" under the Constitution. In Kelo v. City of New London, seven property owners in New London, Connecticut challenged city officials who planned to demolish their working-class neighborhood of antiquated Victorian homes and small businesses in order to clear the way for private developers. In a March 2004 ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared that "valid public use" justified the city's exercise of eminent domain. It based the decision in part on the thousands of jobs and significant revenue expected. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that a local government could not take homeowners' property "simply to confer a private benefit on a particular private party," but this particular case involved a "carefully considered development plan." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers. She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
DENOMINATIONAL MATTERS: Anti-Israel Divestiture Votes: Two regional conventions of the United Methodist Church (UMC) have voted to divest from companies that do business with Israel. Last year, the Presbyterian Church USA voted overwhelmingly to endorse a divestment campaign against the Jewish state. Now the New England and Virginia Annual conferences of the UMC have called for their denomination to divest stock in firms whose products have been used to destroy Palestinian homes. In Virgina, the resolution was proposed by the state chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.
Episcopalian "Connecticut Six": In a recent letter delivered to Bishop Andrew Smith, a group of six Episcopal churches called "The Connecticut Six" informed their bishop that, although he would be welcomed at any time, their clergy and members felt it would be inappropriate for him to preach or preside at the Eucharist. Citing Smith's repeated public attacks against them and for his seeming abandonment of church teachings, the church leaders stated in the letter that the bishop has engendered "an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust" that made "a shared Eucharist impossible." The conflict in the Diocese of Connecticut is rooted in a wider crisis in Anglicanism, surrounding differing viewpoints on homosexual issues, church order, and biblical authority. The "Connecticut Six" charge that Bishop Smith has violated his ordination vows by departing from traditional Anglican teaching, scriptural authority and biblical norms. Instead of remonstrating the six churches, the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury have called their response "an expression of faithfulness" rather than an act of rebellion.
EDUCATION: First Amendment Lawsuit filed: Rutherford Institute attorneys filed a First Amendment lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of a public school Spanish teacher whose religious-themed posters were removed from his classroom while he was absent due to illness. Institute attorneys charge that his rights to freedom of speech and equal protection under the law have been denied. William Lee, a full-time Spanish teacher at Tabb High School in Yorktown, Virginia, is the faculty sponsor of First Priority, an approved Christian extracurricular club. He placed posters on his walls publicizing the National Day of Prayer and depicting George Washington praying at Valley Forge. He also posted an article from a newspaper pertaining to the religious faith of President Bush with a picture of the president praying and a news article about former Attorney General John Ashcroft and his prayer meetings with staff members. He also displayed pictures and articles relating to the Peruvian Inca sun god festival, a magazine article discussing the religious motives of pre-Inca civilizations, another article discussing the "priceless gift" of fourteen "religious cows" as a religious expression of grief to the United States by the Masai people of Africa, a National Geographic article discussing the religious understanding of souls of Inca mummies in the afterlife and posters with emblems representing the pantheon of Mayan creature gods. Lee used various posted materials to educate his students about the Spanish language, culture, and religious traditions of nearly all Hispanic countries, as well as to illustrate the activities of First Priority. He personally received no complaints. However, after being absent from school for several days, he came back to find a number of materials relating to Christian religious expression had been removed. In one particular montage of photographs of a former local high school student of Spanish ancestry, an image of a Christian cross had been physically cut out. Rutherford's civil rights suit against York County School Division in defense of Lee's First and Fourteenth Amendment right, asking that Lee be allowed to re-post the materials.
School-Sponsored Prayer: U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Farnan has agreed to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against individual members of the Indian River School District Board of Education. The lawsuit, which was filed against school board members in their personal and professional capacities, alleges that school-sponsored prayer "has pervaded the life of teachers and students" in the Indian River District schools. Judge Farnan declared that opening a session of the legislature or other deliberative public body with a prayer is not a violation of the Establishment Clause. In issuing his opinion, he also declared that absolute immunity extends to legislators at all levels of government, including school board members in Delaware. Although Farnan dismissed the lawsuit against the individual members of the school board, the lawsuit against the school district will continue. In August 2004, the ACLU demanded that the Indian River School District discontinue offering prayers at graduation ceremonies and school events, as well as their board meetings. Despite ACLU pressure to cease, board members continued to open their business meetings with a brief prayer. The board also adopted a policy on prayer which states that in order to "solemnify School Board proceedings, it is the policy of the Board to open its meetings with a prayer, sectarian or non-sectarian, or a moment of silence, all in accord with the freedom of conscience of the individual adult Board member. The policy requires that the prayers be voluntary and that no school employee, student in attendance, or member of the community in attendance be required to participate in any such prayer or moment of silence.
Bible Course Textbook: A group whose stated goal is "to counter the religious right" complains that a Bible course taught in hundreds of public schools promotes a fundamentalist Christian view and violates religious freedom. The Texas Freedom Network says it asked Southern Methodist University biblical scholar Mark Chancey to review the course offered by the National Council on Bible curriculum in Public Schools. Chancey found that the course characterizes the Bible as inspired by God, that discussions of science are based on the biblical account of creation, that Jesus is referred to as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, and that archaeological findings are used to support claims of the Bible's historical accuracy. The producers of the Bible class dismiss the Texas Freedom Network as 'far left" organization trying to suppress study of an important historical text.
Christian Clubs on College Campuses: The chapter of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the University of Toledo has been granted official recognition after being initially denied access to funding and meeting space on campus. The university originally refused to renew the registered status of the group, alleging its requirement that club members and officers adhere to a statement of Christian faith violated the school's non-discrimination policy. After CLS filed suit in federal court against the school, the university changed its mind and agreed to recognize the group. CLS litigation counsel Tim Tracey explains, "It is the University of Toledo recognizing that Christian student groups have a First Amendment right to define their membership requirements, and what they have said is that their nondiscrimination policy does not prohibit religious student groups form selecting their officers and members on the basis of religion." CLS has won similar legal battles this past year at Ohio State University, Penn State University, and Washburn University.
EVOLUTION: Catholics and Evolution: Washington D.C.'s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick recently said that Roman Catholics do not have an obligation to belive in the Bible's account of creation. McCarrick says that contemporary Catholics "need not say that creationism is the only answer-that in six or seven days, God made the world." That, he contends, is only "the beautiful story of Genesis."
Tulsa Zoo Backs Out of Proposed Biblical Creation Exhibit: The Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma is being accused of censoring an exhibit that explains the Genesis account of creation. Responding to public criticism, the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Board reversed course and voted 3-1 to disallow the biblical creation exhibit a month after approving the display. A Dallas Morning News report quoted one of the board members who changed his vote as saying that he and his colleagues had gained "much better perception" than they had at the time time of the original vote. Dan Hicks, the local Christian architect who proposed the exhibit, has condemned the oversight boards' change of heart as a violation of the constitutional liberties of the Tulsa taxpayers and also pointed out other religious symbols featured at the zoo, including a statue of an elephant-like Hindu deity.
ELECTRONIC MEDIA: Family-Friendly, Multi-Channel Television Programming: Responding to legislative calls for cable and satellite operators to provide "family-friendly" programming tiers, the nation's third largest direct broadcast satellite television provider, Sky Angel, has committed its entire multi-channel satellite system to the idea. Sky Angel, which has been delivering Christian-based inspirational and family programming on multiple tv and radio channels to homes nationwide for nine years, will enhance its 36-channel family-friendly lineup system of faith-based channels to include mainstream news and family-oriented entertainment networks as well.
FAMILY: Parental Permission For Mental Screening Tests: Rutherford Institute attorneys have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on behalf of a family whose 15-year-old daughter underwent mental health screening without the knowledge of her parents. While federal and state laws requires parental consent, many schools rely on "passive consent" forms, which require parents to return a form if they do not want their children to be screened. Rutherford attorneys state that in addition to violating both federal and state laws, school officials violated parental rights and the child's "constitutional right to be free from unnecessary intrusions by the state."
ISLAMIC AFFAIRS: Muslims Wanting to Replace Bible With Koran in North Carolina Courtrooms: Judges in North Carolina are refusing a request by several Muslim organizations that want to replace the Bible with the Koran when a member of the Islamic faith is sworn in to give testimony in court. North Carolina Republican Representative Walter Jones stated: "I will encourage my friends who are judges in North Carolina-and I'm sure they'll do this without my encouragement-to resist any effort to allow the Koran to replace the Bible. It is absolutely unacceptable." The Muslim groups are expected to persist in their effort to replace the Bible.
MARRIAGE, FAMILY, & SEXUALITY: Tribal same-sex Marriage case could in Oklahoma: An attorney with the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy says a case before the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma could have a far-reaching impact on recognition of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. The case involves two women who contend they have a right to marriage under tribal law. They requested and received a marriage application from the Cherokee Nation last year at the urging of a local Cherokee nationalist and homosexual rights activist. According to a Washington Post report, the couple said they "wanted recognition of our relationship" were told that Cherokee law did not exclude same-sex marriages. Although the women claim they have a right to be to be recognized as married under the laws of the Cherokee Nation, the Tribal Council disagrees.
HEALTH: Hospitals Cannot Intentionally Allow Newborns to Die: The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund in a case against a hospital that refused treatment of a baby born prematurely in their facility. The son of an indigent pregnant woman was born prematurely at approximately 23 weeks plus three days' gestation. Because hospital policy prevented the employees from providing treatment to any baby born prior to 24 weeks' gestation, hospital staff refused treatment for the baby boy. He died two and one-half hours after his birth. The court ruled that the hospital was in violation of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act which provides that federally funded hospitals with emergency departments must examine and stabilize any patient who requests treatment.
MILITARY: Air Force Academy does Not overtly Discriminate on Religious Grounds: Although a military investigative panel found that the Air Force Academy does not overtly discriminate on the basis of religion, its report also found that the academy did not make an effort to accommodate all the religious needs of cadets and staff from different backgrounds. The report followed allegations that the academy promoted Christianity and was intolerant of other religions. Cadets who followed other religions reported being harassed by evangelical protestants. Additionally, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld received complaints that students, faculty, staff, and members of the chaplains' office were frequently pressured into attending chapel and/or receiving religious instruction. The report noted the need for training on religious diversity and respect.
POVERTY: Campaign against poverty and health issues: A coalition of faith-based and humanitarian organizations gathered to fight global AIDS and poverty in "ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History." The campaign calls for the U.S. government to set aside one percent of the federal budget and allocate it toward providing "basic health needs like education, clean water, and food in an effort to fight poverty, hunger, and disease." An open letter issued in July 2005 stated that global poverty is an issue "that rises far above mere politics . . . a moral issue . . . a compassion issue."
National Cathedral Meeting: This year's gathering at the National Cathedral on September 11th was set aside as a time to discuss concrete ways in which the faith community can better aid the United Nations in its Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty across the globe. The convocation, officially called the Consultation of Religious Leaders on Global Poverty at Washington National Cathedral, is an initiative of the Cathedral's recently-established Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation. The center forges collaborations within the Anglican Communion, among Christian denominations, and with interfaith partners, governments, NGOs and the private sector. Their calls and recommendations for denominational and collaborative action to the United Nations for its 60th General Assembly. This statement by religious leaders will complement the continuing worldwide advocacy against global poverty, most recently focused on the G8 meetings in Scotland, and to be carried forward to the UN General Assembly this fall.
RACIAL MATTERS: Racial Reconciliation in Mississippi Churches: Racist attitudes have gripped Mississippi for decades, but Dolphus Weary has a different approach. He is the executive director of Mission Mississippi (MM), an organization that has eight chapters, five affiliates, 75 support churches of various denominations, and is dedicated to overcoming racial and denominational barriers. He says, "We're not talking about fly-by-night racial reconciliation. We're talking about an intentional reconciliation in your community." MM was organized formally in 1993 after plans for a citywide crusade in Jackson evolved into a racial-reconciliation rally. Weary recalled that as he and his fellow organizer and evangelist explained their own inter-racial friendship to the group, a black pastor raised his hand and said, "We don't need a crusade; we need to learn how to love each other like you do." Instead of a crusade, the group held the rally, which drew 25,000 people and led an ongoing movement to improve race relations across the state. The idea is simply for blacks and whites to make friends with one another. "Everything we did was an opportunity to bring blacks and whites together in relationship," said Leary.
In the wake of a regional rebellion by Muslims in the Fergana Valley in May, the government of Uzbekistan has been cracking down on religion nationally. It is asking Muslims to make written declarations that they will not participate in "illegal religious organizations" or "extremist organizations." Uzbekistan prohibits activity by an unregistered religious group. This has also created legal problems for a number of Christian groups.
Although new legal regulations were supposed to ease government interference in religion, there was evidence that harassment continues. Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang is in jail. Part of his church center was destroyed in July; a few days later, police broke up a meeting in what remained of the building. Two Hoa Hoa Buddhists were sent to jail. Officials beat some Protestants among the Hmong people.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
From the White House to the State House:
Federalism and the Faith-Based Initiative
8 December 2005
Presented by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, this conference focuses on government partnerships with faith-based social service providers. Conference sessions include: "Federalism and the Faith-Based Initiative," "The State of the Law 2005-Federal-State Legal Relations: The Potential for Cooperation and Conflict," "An Insider's Look at Faith-Based Initiatives in Georgia," and "A View from the States on Partnering with Faith-Based Organizations: What Has Changed Since 2002?" For information, contact: The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, Nelson A Rockefeller Institute of Government; 411 State Street, Albany, NY 12203. Telephone: (518) 443-5014; fax: (518) 443-5705; or visit the website at http://www.ReligionAndSocialPolicy.org.
Pain and Death: Politics, Aesthetics and Legalities
8-10 December 2005
Presented by the Centre for Cross-cultural Research, Australian National University, this conference focuses on pain and death associated with the war on terror across a wide range of disciplines, including criminology, political science, law, history, literature, sociology, philosophy, etc. At the same time, artists working in the visual arts, as well as music, poetry, dance, and theatre have renewed interest in the issue of state violence. Fertile dialogue between artists, activists, and scholars is the aim of this gathering.
For information, contact: Carolyn Strange, Convener, Centre for Cross-cultural Research, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia, 0200; or visit the website at http://www.anu.edu.au/culture/painanddeath/; or email: email@example.com
Beyond Camps and Forced Labor: 60 Years On
London, United Kingdom
The University of Wolverhampton's History and Governance Research Institute (HAGRI) and London Metropolitan University's Institute for the Study of European Transformations (ISET) is sponsoring an international, multidisciplinary conference to examine "life after" the Holocaust. Anticipated topics range from resettlement and reception to war crimes trials to the construction of memory and representation of experience in literature and historiography. Contact: Johannes-Dieter Steinert by Email: DSteinert@tonline.de.
Guilty Bystander: Thomas Merton and Moral Reflection in the Professions
10 March 2006
The Ethics and Social Justice Center and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University are co-sponsoring a conference to explore the influence of Merton's life and writing on vocations-including but not limited to education, medicine, law, media, and ministry.
Trajectories of Memory: Intergenerational Representations of the Holocaust in History and the Arts
23-26 March 2006
Bowling Green State University
This interdisciplinary conference explores the effects of the Holocaust on the present and on the way in which the present understands, defines, and/or represents that past. Keynote speakers will be Professors Marianne Hirsch and Professor Leo Spitzer, Columbia University and Professor Atina Grossmann, New York University. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faith, Spirituality and Social Change
8 April 2006
Winchester, United Kingdom
This conference invites discussion about the dynamic dimensions of inter-faith dialogue, and multi-faith action across a range of social change issues. Opening the debate to include academic perspectives and grassroots voices will allow for broader conversations about the current state and future direction of faith-based social change.
For information, please visit the website at: http://www.fsscconference.org.uk or contact Adrian Harris or Christina Welch via email at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Europe's Economic Relations with the Islamic World, 13th-18th Centuries
1-5 May 2006
The Instituto Internazazionale di Storia Economica F. Datini is sponsoring a conference to examine the complex economic relationships between Europe and the Islamic world over the course of five centuries. Proposed topics will address the dialectic of the relationship, its rivalries, its currencies, and its institutional and technological transmissions.
For information, see the website at: www.istitutodatini.it; or contact: Simonetta Cavaciocchi via Email: email@example.com.
World's Religions After September 11: A Global Congress
11-15 September 2006
The aim of this conference is to bring together the various religions of the world in an ecumenical spirit to address the many issues facing the world today, in the hope that this will help us to become better human beings.
Deadline for abstracts/proposals is 28 February 2006. Please view the website: www.worldsreligionsafter911.com for further information and registration.