Religion in the News: 22nd Apr- 28th Apr

Welcome back to Religion in the News.

After a break over Easter the blog is back to deliver a roundup of the weeks news in relation to religion.

This week,

Religious News Service reports: ‘The Satanic Temple is a real religion, says IRS’

The Satanic Temple can now claim the same benefits as other religious organisations after the IRS recognised them as a church, including tax exemption and protection from discrimination in the US.

Lucien Greaves, founder of the group states that they would accept the tax exemption so they could prove themselves equal, and that ‘Satanism is here to stay’.

The position of the Satanic Temple is hotly debated, as even Satanists disagree over whether Satanism is a religion.

Other, now more mainstream religions such as the Latter-day Saints were once considered to be cults, as Satanism often is today, thus it is argued that Satanism should be accepted as a religion.


Religious News Service further reports: ‘Sunday Mass cancelled across Sri Lanka a week after bombings’

Catholic leaders cancelled Sunday Mass indefinitely in Sri Lanka, while Muslims were urged to stay at home for Friday prayers due to fear of more attacks after a suicide bombing on Easter Sunday.

250 people were killed in the suicide blasts, leading to the closure of shops and empty streets with security patrols up and down the country.

Many are angered by the government’s lack of response to intelligence they received weeks before the Easter attacks.

Abdullah Mohammed who is a 48-year-old Muslim stated ‘everyone is nervous… Not just the Muslims. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus – everybody’s nervous.’

The US Embassy in Sri Lanka warned people against going to places of worship over the weekend due to concerns that attackers might still be at large.


Al Jazeera reports: ‘US man rammed car into pedestrians thinking they were Muslim’

A group of eight pedestrians was ploughed into by a man in California who drove his car into the group of people because he believed they were Muslim. He now faces eight counts of attempted murder due to deliberately veering his car into the pedestrians.

Three adults remain in hospital, and one girl has severe brain trauma as a result of his actions, these charges carry a life sentence in prison.

Phan Ngo, the chief of Sunnyvale’s Department of Public Safety wrote on Twitter:

 ‘He targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim Faith. We will be providing support to our diverse communities.’

According to the FBI, hate crime has increased by 17% in the U.S. in 2017.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre also describes and increase in hate incidents after Donald Trump’s election in 2016. The number of active hate groups peaked in 2018 at 1,020 groups.


The Guardian published the letter: ‘A lesson in religious tolerance from ancient India’

This letter by Rupert Gethin on ‘Ashoka’s inscriptions’ from the third century BCE brings into question the view that the idea of religious tolerance is ‘relatively new’ and ‘not accepted even as an ideal outside the western world’, as one of the earliest examples of the promotion of religious tolerance comes from ancient India with Ashoka, who ruled one of the largest empires at the time. He had an inscription carved into various sites across his kingdom which can be read by clicking on the link above.

‘The king… honours all religious sects… with gifts and with honour of various kinds.’


The Guardian reports: ‘Brunei defends death by stoning for gay sex in letter to EU’

Brunei wrote to the EU parliament to defend their imposition of ‘death by stoning’ law as punishment for gay sex, claiming that convictions would be few as it requires two men of ‘high moral standing and piety’ to witness it. Brunei called for ‘tolerance, respect and understanding’ in their wishes to preserve ‘traditional values’ and ‘family lineage’

Moreover, the letter claimed the ‘penal sentences of hadd – stoning to death and amputation – imposed for offences of theft, robbery, adultery and sodomy, have extremely high evidentiary threshold, requiring no less than two or four men of high moral standing and piety as witnesses, to the exclusion of every form of circumstantial evidence.’

The letter was sent before MEPs backed resolution strongly condemning ‘the entry into force of the retrograde sharia penal code’. The European parliament called for the EU to consider freezing assets, visa bans, and blacklisting nine hotels owned by Brunei Investment Agency.


BBC News reports: ‘Egypt Coptic monks sentenced to death for killing bishop’

Bishop Epiphanius was murdered in July 2018 at a monastery in north-west Cairo, with two former Coptic Christian Monks being sentenced to death for the killing.

Authorities claimed the killing was over unspecified differences between the monks and the bishop.

After the bishop’s death, Pope Tawadros II, the Church’s leader, introduced a rage of measures to restore monastic discipline.

The Church is the largest Christian community in the Middle East.


BBC News further reports: ‘Secret priest training site in Moray to be restored’

Historic buildings in Scotland where Catholic priests were trained in secret during the 18th century when the practice of Catholicism was illegal, are due to be restored and repaired.

The Roman Catholic seminary was built in 1767, disguised as a farmhouse.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority granted permission to Crown Estate Scotland to carry out the work on the site.


World Religion News reports: ‘Muslim woman smiles in the face of bigotry’

This article highlights Muslim woman, Shaymaa Ismaa’eel who posted pictures of herself posing in front of anti-Muslim protesters on social media who came to protest a convention held by the Islamic Circle of North America.

Ismaa’eel posted the pictures of herself on Twitter and Instagram, she told the media that Muslims will continue to be unapologetic and kind, continuing to disseminate love in the face of bigotry.


 HuffPost reports: ‘Pope Francis, Who’s Chided Trump’s Border Wall, Gives $500,000 To Migrants In Mexico’

The Pope, who has rebuked Donald Trump for his hard-line stance on immigration, has given aid to migrants in Mexico looking for “a better future in the United States”.

The money donated came from ‘Peter’s Pence’, the Pope’s charitable fund, and is being distributed to twenty-seven projects providing housing food, and necessities to migrants fleeing poverty and violence Central America.

Pope Francis stated; “I realize that with this problem [of migration], a government has a hot potato in its hands, but it must be resolved differently, humanely, not with razor wire”.


The New York Times reports: ‘Religious Objections to the Measles Vaccine? Get the Shots, Faith Leaders Say’

Measles in the U.S. is currently having its largest outbreak since the disease was declared eliminated 19 years ago. This article states that this return has been driven by misinformation from ‘vaccine critics’, scaring parents to not immunize their children.

Some of these rumours are aimed at deeply religious parents, as some activists claim the vaccines contain things such as ingredients from pigs, dogs, monkeys, and aborted foetuses, whereas vaccines might only contain such elements in ‘parts-per-million’ levels.

Vaccines are endorsed by top Jewish and Islamic scholars, along with by the Vatican, as religious authorities have studied how vaccines are made and have ruled, they do not violate religious laws.

Vaccines are highly purified in the process of making them, leaving only isolated cases of cells or traces of DNA from humans or animal cells they were grown in.

Dr Naor Bar-Zeev, professor of international health and vaccine science at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated that kosher dietary laws are ‘just a total nonissue’ with vaccines, as the laws apply only to food ingested by mouth, not to injected material.

Moreover, the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences ruled that ‘Gelatine formed as a result of the transformation of the bones, skin and tendons of a judicially impure animal is pure, and it is judicially permissible to eat it’.