Religion news 16 July 2021

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EU ruling says companies can ban employees wearing religious symbols

Private companies in the EU can ban employees from wearing visible religious or political symbols in order to present an image of neutrality to customers. A ruling by the European Court of Justice said employers can enforce a ban provided it was part of a policy against all religious and political symbols. The case was brought before the bloc’s highest court by two women in Germany who chose to wear Islamic headscarves at their workplaces. One works as a special needs carer while the other is a sales assistant and cashier. Both filed legal complaints before German courts, which in turn referred questions to the EU tribunal. The Telegraph quotes an EU Muslim Network warning that the ruling could stoke Islamophobia in the EU. The European Anti-Racism Network has also criticised the judgement.

May was record ‘month of hate’ against the Jewish Community

The Community Security Trust has labelled May as the “month of hate” after recording 628 antisemitic incidents. A new report describes the period during and after the recent conflict in Israel and Gaza as the most intense month of anti-Jewish hatred seen in the UK in recent years. It saw record levels of anti-Semitic hate incidents, anti-Jewish chants and placards on public demonstrations, incitement from radical Islamist extremists in the UK and calls from jihadist terrorist groups for Jews to be killed. It notes that there were a disproportional number of incidents in the educational sector with 154 recorded incidents during the month compared to more than 160 recorded for the whole year in 2019. Read the full report

COVID-19 takes toll on Catholic clergy in hard-hit countries

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll amongst faith leaders around the world due to their higher exposure rates as “spiritual frontline workers”  ministering to the sick and dying in hospitals and nursing homes.  The Associated Press reports hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and nuns have been killed in a handful of the hardest-hit countries alone. In other countries, most of those lost were older and living in nursing or retirement homes. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University says the impact is particularly acute for a church that is experiencing  a shortage of priests in most countries. With Catholicism placing a greater emphasis on the role of the priest compared to some other denominations, the losses are keenly felt, he said.

Lambeth Palace structure ‘at risk of catastrophic failure’ say Commissioners
The official London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury is facing a “catastrophic failure” of its ageing services and is in urgent need of millions of pounds worth of substantial repairs. The Church Commissioners have launched a refurbishment project for Lambeth Palace, parts of which date back to the 15th Century. The Church Times reports that the multi-million pound project will bring  its heating, electrics and plumbing up to modern standards and provide the opportunity to introduce green technologies. Without it, the very fabric of the building as well as the art and furniture it contains are at risk of irreparable damage if any of the current systems fail. 

MPs and Rabbis move to solve divorce crisis
A new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Jewish divorce is being set up to try to help resolve the crisis over Jewish divorce, after accusations that rabbinical courts have been siding with domestic abusers, sparking widespread outrage within the Jewish community.. The Jewish Chronicle  says Lord Mendelsohn and Baroness Altmann are among the peers and MPs who will try to find solutions to the withholding of a “get”, religious divorce, if the wife takes legal action claiming abuse, or if financial matters are outstanding.

Massive fire at  Southall Gurdwara
A massive fire has badly damaged a Sikh Temple in west London. At its peak, 100 fire fighters battled the blaze on Thursday at the Sri Guru Amardas Sahib Ji Gurdwara in Southall. It took about four hours to bring it under control. The London Fire Brigade says most of the roof, half of the first floor and some of the ground floor were alight and have been badly damaged. The  Sikh Press Association said no one was hurt and the holy scriptures were removed. 

Hermit king’s cave hideout is revealed to be Britain’s oldest home
A structure long-regarded as an 18th Century Georgian folly was actually dug out in the 9th Century and is now believed to be Britain’s oldest surviving house. A new study by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Wessex Archaeology has found that the three-chambered cave in Derbyshire was in fact Anglo Saxon in design and believed to have been crafted 1200 years ago for King Eardwulf, a deposed ruler of Northumberland. He spent his exile in Mercia as a hermit and his holy work led to him later being canonised as Saint Hardulph. The Telegraph reports that it was mistakenly believed that the cave was made in the 1700s because Sir Robert Burdett, a Tory politician, renovated the space and turned it into a party house.

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