Religion news 16 June 2022

Image credit: Number 10 CCLicense2.0

Ethics and No 10 

Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, has suddenly resigned, the day after giving evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, when he said there was a “legitimate question” over whether the prime minister had broken ministerial rules over parties at No 10. In 2020, his predecessor, Sir Alex Allan, also resigned after being over-ruled on a report into alleged bullying by home secretary Priti Patel. In January 2022, the Treasury minister Lord Agnew resigned over the government’s “lamentable” record on tackling Covid business loan fraud. A week ago, John Penrose MP resigned as the anti-corruption tsar, saying it was “pretty clear” the prime minister broke the ministerial code over the Downing Street parties. In April, Helen MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary in charge of ethics at Whitehall, was fined £50 after attending a karaoke party in No 10. Last night, in a statement, Lord Geidt said resigning was the right thing to do.

Cabinet member ‘wants bishops removed’ from the Lords over Rwanda protest

Tom Newton-Dunn, former political editor of The Sun and now a host on TalkTV, picked up a story that cabinet members were plotting retribution for the 26 bishops and archbishops who signed a letter condemning the government’s policy on deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. In a tweet, he said cabinet members were talking openly about removing bishops from the Lords with one saying: “Only Iran has clerics that sit in their legislature. They’ll go”. There were serious responses on Twitter, saying the government would never get this through the Commons.

Pope says war in Ukraine was ‘perhaps provoked’

The Pope has given an interview to the Jesuit magazine La Civilita Cattolica on the war in Ukraine, saying it was important to study the drama behind the hostility “which was perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented”. He appealed to journalists to tell the stories of human drama in the “ferocious” conflict and to understand the reasons for the violence. He said it was important to get away from the “Little Red Riding Hood mindset”, where people are labelled good and bad guys. Instead, there should be consideration of the roots of conflict and self-interests, which are very complex. He revealed that he hopes to meet Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox church and a supporter of Vladimir Putin, at a general assembly in Kazakhstan in September. “I hope to be able to greet him and speak a little with him as a pastor,” Pope Francis said.

Haredi community says education bill regulating yeshivas violates their rights

Around 300 members of the strictly Orthodox Haredi community have protested outside parliament against the Schools Bill, which will regulate yeshivas, educational establishments for boys over 13. At present they are allowed to teach a narrow religious curriculum because they do not count as schools and are exempt from registration and inspection. The community says they teach the basic spiritual values of Judaism. But under the bill, the government will be given powers to suspend schools where there are serious safeguarding failures and instruct schools to teach children on LGBTQ+ issues. Campaigners say the bill violates the rights of parents and their children to practise their religion.

Southern Baptist Convention’s new leader promises action on sex abuse

The new president of the Southern Baptist Convention has pledged to move forward with changes to tackle sex abuse and the way it is dealt with in the church. The Associated Press reports that Bart Barber, a pastor from Texas, was speaking at the convention’s annual meeting, which followed the publication of a damning report outlining the mishandling of sex abuse cases that has led to resignations and legal action. The story has divided he convention, but the new president says he aims for unity and reconciliation. The Southern Baptist Convention has 13.7 million members and is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, but membership is declining.

Zen Buddhist priest wins prize for book about dealing with death

The BBC reports that Ruth Ozeki, the US-Canadian author, film-maker and Zen Buddhist priest, has won this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, tells how a teenage boy, whose father dies in an accident, is tormented by hearing voices but finds solace in a library, where reading helps him process his grief .


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