Religion news 11 August 2021

Rise in candidates for religious studies A-level renews demand for more resources

The Religious Education Council of England and Wales is leading renewed calls for greater protection for the subject of religious studies after the number of students who took the religious studies A-level increased by 6.1 per cent on last year — a higher increase in numbers than for either history or political studies. A total of 16,665 students took the subject this year, an overall increase of 49.5 per cent since 2003. Professor Trevor Cooling, who chairs the RE Council, told us: “The government should recognise the essential role that religious studies plays in ensuring young people receive a balanced education, helping create a more cohesive society, and supporting a vibrant economy by preparing employees and future business leaders for the globalised workplace. We urge it to fund a national plan for RE to ensure it is properly resourced and taught by professionally trained teachers, and to enact a statement of entitlement to a high-quality education in religion and worldviews for all pupils.” Katie Freeman, who chairs the National Association of Teachers of RE, said: “Future governments and school policy must reflect that vital nature of the subject. We must afford RE greater protection and ensure that it remains a staple element of the school curriculum.” Read our report and further comment here

Sheffield Link FM radio station faces sanction over ‘Jihadi’ chant

The BBC says a community radio station in Sheffield faces sanctions after broadcasting an Islamic chant said to contain “Jihadi lyrics” and “promoting terrorism”. Link FM was found to have committed two serious breaches of Ofcom’s broadcasting code by playing the “Nasheed” chant twice in 2020. The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, said the chant contained material likely to “encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder”. The Pakistan Muslim Centre, which holds the broadcast licence, said it “apologised wholeheartedly” for what it described as an ”error” and an “unfortunate incident. The presenter who broadcast the chant did not speak Arabic and the piece had not been vetted.

‘Vindicated’ Christian preacher to sue Met police after hate speech case thrown out

A Christian street preacher, who was charged with a public order offence and faced an 18-month legal battle, is set to sue the Metropolitan police after a judge ruled there was no case to answer. Hazel Lewis was arrested in February 2020 in Finsbury Park, London, after passers-by falsely claimed she had called for gays and non-believers to be stabbed. A mobile phone recording showed that one of her accusers had tried to goad her into commenting on his sexuality. Officers acknowledged she did not take the bait or use racist or homophobic language, but charged her with a public order offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The Telegraph says Miss Lewis was represented by the Christian Legal Centre.

‘Anna chaplains’ meeting the needs of older people in church and beyond

Two Methodist churches in St Albans have joined together to recruit an “Anna chaplain” to help to meet the needs of seniors in congregations and beyond in their wider communities. The new role is part of a growing network of Anna chaplains, named after the widow, Anna, who appears in the Gospel of Luke as a good role model of a faithful older person. Maggie Dodd, the first Anna chaplain in Hertfordshire, says their vision is for older people to be cherished and supported so they still feel part of a church community, whether they are of strong, little or no faith at all. See full report in Christian Today.

Beer company apologises over artwork featuring Hindu goddess

A Nottingham beer company has apologised for any offence caused by artwork depicting the Hindu goddess, Kali, featured on cans of India Porter Beer. Bang the Elephant Brewing Company said Kali Yuga had been part of their core range of beers for three years and it had not had any previous hint of offence to the Hindu community. However, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, based in the US state of Nevada, said the beer can was “highly inappropriate”. The news site Asian Images reports that the brewery is more than happy to work with Mr Zed and the society discuss possible alternatives or alterations to the artwork that would be deemed more appropriate.

Australian census form question about religion sparks debate

A campaign encouraging people to answer “no religion” in the 2021 Australian Census if they are not people of faith has drawn criticism from the government, church leaders and conservative media pundits. Organisers of the campaign have told Out in Perth that the statistical data on just how religious people are, plays a big part in shaping Australian society — including how much weight is given to religion in the media and politics, and how much public funding in provided to religious based organisations. While there has been growth in non-Christian religions such as Islam and Hinduism, more Australians are choosing to tick “no religion”. In 1966, 0.8 per cent of people declared themselves to follow no faith, which rose to 30 per cent in the last census. Australians in the 18-34 age bracket are more likely to be non-religious than their older counterparts. Previous surveys have shown that the number of people in Australia with religious beliefs has been dropping for decades. Fifty years ago, Christianity was the main religion, as it was in 2016. However, the proportion has dropped, from 88 per cent in 1966 to 52 per cent in 2016.

Psalm 23 garden at Chelsea Flower Show aims to restore souls

A garden that brings Bible versus to life is to be featured in this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Sponsored by the Bible Society, the Psalm 23 Garden will offer visitors solace, tranquillity and hope according to its award-winning designer, Sarah Eberle. Visitors will be taken through areas to reflect the green pastures, still water and winding paths of righteousness mentioned in the psalm. There will also be a hanging rock to reflect the Valley of the Shadow of Death and a final section will reflect the hope that God will restore people’s spirits. The Chelsea Flower Show takes place in September. Afterwards, the garden will be moved to a hospice being built in Winchester. Read Catherine Pepinster’s report on the RMC website.


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