Religion news 22 April

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Church of England ‘must act now’ to end racism or people will leave

The Church of England’s anti-racism taskforce is proposing 47 actions to change “a culture which tolerates racism”. Its report published today builds on 25 previous reports during the past 36 years, which seem to have had little effect. It says: “A failure to act now will be seen as another indication, potentially a last straw for many, that the church is not serious about racial sin”. The proposals include action in five areas of church life including shortlists for senior clergy roles to include at least one BAME candidate; mandatory anti-racism training; and the creation of full-time racial justice officers in every diocese. A Racial Justice Commission, chaired by the Rev Dr Joel Edwards, will be set up immediately to hold the archbishops to account and to handle issues around history, monuments and legacies from the slave trade. Full report here

British Jewish community ‘can do better’ on race and prejudice

A report on race and inclusion among British Jews has highlighted problems of racial profiling in security checks at synagogues and other Jewish venues. The report from the Board of Deputies of British Jews says this must end and venues should institute bag searches for all visitors, including regular attendees, so as not to stigmatise people who look different. These are among 119 recommendations from the Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, chaired by Stephen Bush, which is published today after a 10-month investigation. It also recommends encouraging people from under-represented ethnic groups to undertake rabbinic training and ensuring Jewish schools’ secular curriculum engages with black history, enslavement and the legacy of colonialism. Full story here

Ban on gay conversion therapy in Northern Ireland includes prayer

The Northern Ireland Assembly has proposed a ban on gay conversion therapy in all its forms, including preaching, prayer and pastoral support. The motion said it was fundamentally wrong to view LGBTQ+ people as needing a fix or a cure. An amendment by the Democratic Unionist Party to exclude religious activities from the ban was rejected. But afterwards, first minister Arlene Foster met faith groups concerned that they would be criminalised and tweeted: “Any law coming forward must define therapy in a way which does not harm freedom of religion — a right protected by ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights]. If no safeguards for churches, it will not be supported by us.”

American faith leaders hope George Floyd verdict will boost racial justice campaigns

Faith leaders in Minnesota and across the United States hope that their advocacy work for racial justice will gain momentum from the guilty verdict on the police officer who killed George Floyd. The Associated Press reports that members of the Minnesota Council of Churches said it could energise the “truth and reparations” initiative, which seeks social justice for African-Americans and Native Americans from past violence and oppression. The report quotes several church leaders who welcomed the verdict, saying it represented a shift towards holding police to a higher standard of accountability. The Council on American-Islamic Relations also welcomed the verdict as an important milestone to tackle racism and combat the epidemic of police violence in communities.

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