Religion news 18 June 2021

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Image credit: JFS

Ofsted downgrades Jewish Free School to ‘inadequate’

Europe’s largest Jewish secondary school has been put into special measures and judged to be “inadequate” by Ofsted. Inspectors, who visited the Jewish Free School in north London last month, found pupil behaviour was poor and there were significant gaps in its safeguarding provision. They also noted inappropriate behaviour, particularly sexual bullying via social media, and that pupils were not “adequately prepared for life in modern Britain”. The Jewish News quotes a United Synagogue spokesman who described the report as “very distressing” and that it was “very troubling reading for parents, students and staff”. They said they would “be working with the school to ensure the programme of improvements continues at pace”. The comprehensive was rated “good” overall in 2016.

US Supreme Court sides with Catholic agency in foster care dispute over same-sex couples

The US Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favour of a Catholic foster care agency that says its religious views prevent it from working with same-sex couples as foster parents. The justices said the city of Philadelphia wrongly limited its relationship with Catholic Social Services (CSS) as a result of the agency’s policy. The Religion News Service says the judges’ opinion gives yet another victory for religious rights. A study published earlier this year found a 35-percentage-point increase in the rate of Supreme Court rulings that favour religion over the past 70 years.

Pope: Urgent need for economic reform and protection of all workers

Pope Francis has described the need for global economic reform and the protection of all workers as “urgent”. In a video message to mark 109 years since the founding of the International Labour Organisation, he stressed the importance of workers’ rights in all forms of work — especially coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. He called for solutions that avoid any form of discrimination, including “consumerism” or “nationalism”. “We must look for solutions that will help us build a new future of work based on decent and dignified working conditions,” he said, always “promoting the common good”. See Vatican News.

Faith leaders to meet at Vatican in October to discuss climate change

Leaders of the world’s main religious groups will meet in Rome to draft a statement to government leaders due to gather in Scotland for the Cop26 UN climate change conference in November. The Tablet reports that it is highly likely that Pope Francis will be involved in the 4 October meeting given his emphasis on the need to care for the Earth and its people. Nearly 40 faith leaders have been meeting virtually since February to share their faiths’ understandings of creation and the human responsibility to care for it as well as be updated on the latest research from 10 top climate scientists.

Good Faith Partnership: new report on opportunities for faith communities

The appointment of a faith commissioner and an expert panel of faith leaders are key recommendations for the government to aid and accelerate the positive impact of faith communities on society in the Covid-19 recovery phase. A report, Stepping Up and Stepping Out, from the Good Faith Partnership explores the effect of what it calls the “exciting new social covenant between faith communities and the government to impact positively the lives of millions throughout society”. Read the full report here.

July Synod to take place online after delay in lifting Covid restrictions

The Church of England has announced that its July meeting of the General Synod will now be held online after the government’s decision to delay lifting Covid-19 restrictions for a month. The annual meeting was due to be held in London 9-12 July. The timetable has been slightly slimmed down with some items better suited to a face-to-face meeting postponed and some extra screen breaks introduced. Papers for Synod will be published on Thursday 24 June on the synod section of the Church of England website.

Girls’ choir to join 1,000-year boys’ choir at German Catholic cathedral

A German Catholic cathedral school, whose pupils sing in the 1,000-year-old Regensburger Domspatzen boys’ choir, is to admit girls for the first time. The Catholic News Agency reports that the school, in the southern German city of Regensburg, will form its own girls’ choir from 2022. The Domspatzen — which means “cathedral sparrows” — traces its roots back to 975 and is believed to be one of the oldest boys’ choirs in the world.

Congregation uses hands to ‘sing’ worship

The congregation of a Surrey church have got around Covid-19 restrictions on singing by learning Makaton to “sing” with their hands during worship. Members of Woking United Reformed Church have been learning a new sign a week since the first lockdown and their efforts paid off during a family service on Sunday. Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. It is designed to help hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. Read more

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