Religion in the News: 1st Apr – 7th Apr

Welcome to Religion in the News, a round up of the weeks news in relation to religion in society.


This week for religion in the news,


CNN reports: ‘Mormons don’t what you calling them Mormons anymore’

According to this article, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’, also known as the Mormons, no-longer wishes to be known as ‘Mormon’, and instead wishes to be referred to as “Church of Jesus Christ” as the shortened version instead.

The Church further states that the term “Mormonism” is inaccurate in describing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The use of the word Mormon in proper names is still fine, as with ‘the Book of Mormon’, etc.)

Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church stated, 

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so.”

The church has previously attempted to move away from the term ‘Mormon’ in the years 1982, 2001 and 2011.


Al Jazeera reports: ‘NZ mosque attacks suspect Tarrant to face 50 murder charges’

Brenton Tarrant, self-confessed white supremacist, the main culprit of the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch in March was charged with fifty counts of murder and thirty-nine counts of attempted murder before he  was due to appear in court on Friday the 5th April.

 Tarrant was previously charged with a single murder the day after the shootings on the 15th of March, however this single victim was later admitted to be alive by police.

Some in the Muslim community in New Zealand have said they were a focus of New Zealand’s security services, whereas white nationalists avoided scrutiny.

The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand had been, for years prior to the shooting, raising  fears about harassment, discrimination and online abuse of Muslims to government agencies and politicians.


Al Jazeera further reports: ‘UN slams ‘inhuman’ Brunei stoning laws’

 The UN has called new laws in Brunei “cruel and inhuman” as the new penal code being implemented in the country imposes death by stoning for gay sex and adultery, and amputation for theft.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet stated the new penal code would “mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented”.

The country, ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the new penal code in 2013; full implementation has been delayed due to opposition by rights groups.

The laws mostly apply to Muslims, with some aspects applying to non-Muslims, with the death penalty being put forward for adultery, rape, sodomy, robbery, and insulting/ defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

Furthermore, the UN rights chief has expressed that the new laws could mean a rise in discrimination and violence on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or religion.


The Guardian reports: ‘Polish priest apologies for Harry Potter book burning’

Father Rafal Jarosiewicz apologized after a public burning of books, including Harry Potter books, and other ‘evil’ items, such as Buddhist figurines in Northern Poland.

The apology from Jarosiewicz stated that he did not mean to condemn specific authors, religions or social groups. 

 The priest was fined by the city guards, with an anti-smog group also contacting prosecutors about illegally burning waste on an open fire.


The Guardian further reports: ‘Sikhs aim to plant million trees as ‘gift to the planet’

 The project to plant a million trees marks five-hundred-and-fifty years since the birth of Guru Nanak, the religion’s founder, with Sikhs from around the world partaking in the scheme.

The aim of the project is to reverse environmental decline and help people reconnect with nature, with the Sikh diaspora, having begun started participation in the project, planting tens of thousands of trees already – most of which were planted in India, as the majority of the world’s Sikhs live in the state of Punjab.

The project is being coordinated by the organisation ‘EcoSikh’, with its president Rajwant Singh saying that he wants to mark the anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth in a significant way.

EcoSikh further works with the organisation Afforestt, which trains people to design and build native forests which become part of the ecosystem, with Singh saying over 1,800 of these forests being planted so far around the world.


World Religion News reports: ‘Pope Francis assigned the first African-American Bishop to head the D.C. church’

Archbishop Wilton Gregory is set to become the first African-American in the most senior position in the Catholic Church in the U.S. as the Archbishop of Washington D.C.

This appointment comes after the previous appointed officials were involved in sexual abuse scandals.

Gregory has thus far served as Bishop for thirty-five years, including having previously been the president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Gregory is also likely to become a cardinal, and so will have the potential to be elected Pope after Pope Francis.


The Washington Post reports: ‘West African religions are on the rise in Maryland as practitioners connect with roots’

 In this article, traditional West African ceremonies are described as African Americans reconnect with religious traditions with African roots, such as Ifa.

Ifa is part of a network of religions, including Vodou, Santeria, and Sango Baptism, with African roots which seem to be gaining ground in the U.S. as African Americans seek out spirituality grounded in their cultural heritage.

Albert Wuaku, professor at Florida International University, specializing in African and Caribbean religions said that,

 “These traditions are indeed growing in the U.S. They have a strong appeal to groups of African Americans who have been struggling with questions of identity, who don’t feel they fit so well within the American system. They’re especially appealing to women, who tend to hold more powerful positions within the African traditions than in Western cultures.”


And finally,

BBC News reports: ‘Texas bans chaplains from execution chambers’

 After a supreme court ruling, the Texas prison system has banned religious chaplains from execution chambers.

This ruling came after America’s highest court said the state had to grant a condemned prisoner’s wish for a Buddhist monk, while the state only employs Christian and Muslim clerics, and so denied the request from Patrick Murphy (who became a Buddhist in prison) for a Buddhist monk.

US Supreme Court Judge Justice Kavanaugh wrote that the state had to either “(1) allow all inmates to have a religious advisers of their religion in the execution room; or (2) allow inmates to have a religious adviser including any state-employed chaplain, only in the viewing room, not in the execution room”.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice responded with changing policy to only allow prison security personnel in the execution chamber.