Religion news 22 May 2024

St James's Piccadilly garden. Image credit: Richard Bloom

Majority of people in Scotland have no religion

The 2022 National Census in Scotland has found that 51.1 per cent have no religion, up from 36.7 per cent in 2011. Among over 65s, non-religion more than doubled between 2011 and 2022, an increase of 186,700 people.  The Church of Scotland’s numbers have halved since 2001, going down from 42.4 per cent then, to 32.4 per cent in 2011 to 20.4 per cent now, representing 1,107,796 people. The BBC quotes the Rev David Cameron saying the decline is of considerable concern and “sobering”. The next largest religious group is Roman Catholic, at 13.3 per cent, 723,322 respondents, a lower rate of decrease, with 117,700 fewer since 2011. In the Western Isles, Church of Scotland (35.3 per cent) was the most common response while in Inverclyde it was Roman Catholic (33.4 per cent). Other Christian groups declined at a lower rate, comprising 5.5 per cent of the population. Muslims increased by 43,100 to 119,872 since 2011, representing 2.2 per cent of the population. The total number of people who answered the census was 5,439,842.

Teachers to be protected from blasphemy complaints in crackdown on intimidating behaviour

A government report is recommending new legislation to protect teachers from claims of blasphemy by religious groups. “Protecting our democracy from coercion”, by Lord Walney, says legal guarantees upholding teachers’ rights to freedom of expression should be introduced. Schools will be barred from automatically suspending staff or pupils in response to blasphemy complaints and will have no obligation to consult parents on content that may insult certain religious groups. The advice follows the case of a schoolteacher in Batley, suspended after showing an image of the Prophet Mohammed in an RE lesson, which was met with loud protests outside the school gates. But the guidance also includes race and gender complaints.  The recommendations are part of a review into violence in public life through intimidating, violent and disruptive protests, which was published yesterday.

Jersey will vote this week on establishing an assisted dying service

The Jersey States Assembly will vote this week on whether to establish an assisted dying service.  In 2021, the Assembly became the first parliament in Britain to decide “in principle” to allow assisted dying, with 78 per cent in favour.  There are two proposals to be voted on today and tomorrow. Route One will limit eligibility to people with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months, or 12 months if they have a neurodegenerative disease. Route two will expand eligibility to those with an incurable physical condition causing unbearable suffering even if it is not terminal. In preparation for the debate, a review of assisted dying was published, calling for more details, a palliative care plan and training to prevent coercion. It also called on the Health Minister to “ensure that the Jersey Assisted Dying Service is not headquartered within the Jersey General Hospital. The Catholic Bishop of the island, Philip Egan, urged Catholics to mobilise against the grim proposals. Comprehensive explainer in the Bailiwick Express here

Chief Rabbi joins protests to safeguard Britain’s oldest synagogue

The Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, has joined one thousand others in protesting at plans to build a 45 storey tower block next to Bevis Marks, the oldest synagogue in Britain in continuous use, situated in the heart of the city of London. It’s the second such proposal within three years and each has attracted wide opposition. Jewish News says the Chief Rabbi’s letter was strongly worded, and he was sad he had to write a second objection for a similar development. A large building next door would block light, disrupt prayers and impact the atmosphere of worship which people recognise around the world in a building dating from the 17th century, Grade 1 listed and regarded as the most important Jewish site in England. Objections have been raised from people in the city and across the world who appreciate its history. The planning committee of the Corporation of the City of London is considering the comments.

No evidence to substantiate claims against Archbishop of Quebec

A retired Canadian judge says he could not find any reliable evidence of sexual misconduct by the Archbishop of Quebec, Gérald Lacroix, after allegations were made about him in January.  André Denis, a retired judge of the Superior Court of Québec, was asked by the Pope to make preliminary inquiries into the claims, which were among a class action law suit against 100 current and former personnel. But the purported victim refused to cooperate with his investigation, and the cardinal strongly denied the allegations made by a woman who was 17 at the time, in 1987-1988. The Vatican says it plans no canonical trial against Archbishop Gerald Lacroix.  He was appointed a cardinal in 2014 and was one of nine prelates in the  Council of Cardinals, who advise the Pope on church matters. Associated Press story here

Hindu story in “The Ramayana” as an ambitious visual effects film

Celebrated film producer Namit Malhotra, famous for visual effects and animation, is reportedly creating a feature film bringing Hindu scriptural stories and mythology to the big screen. His work is well known in Hollywood and Bollywood and he told Forbes magazine that the time had come to tell the story in the poem The Ramayana, about the royal birth of the god Rama in the kingdom of Ayodhya, and his exploits in a tournament to win his bride, Sita.  Malhotra is CEO of the visual effects and animations company DNEG, which has won several Academy awards. He has worked on Avatar, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Oppenheimer.  He told reporter Yola Robert said the Ramayana story had not been seen visually to its greatest potential, like a Marvel or Dune movie, and the film would help others appreciate their culture. He said it would take the same approach as a blockbuster film like Avatar, but with reverence for the beliefs and people of India.

St James’s Piccadilly garden wins gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show

The St James’s Piccadilly’s “Imagine the World to be Different” show garden (pictured) has won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. The design by Robert Myers, reflects the shape of a new garden to be created at St James’s as part of The Wren Project, a £20 million project to restore the church, courtyard and garden. After the show, the plants will be moved to another church in Euston and the landscaping will be store at St James’s for incorporation into the new garden. The rector, Rev Lucy Winkett, said the design reflected Robert Myers’ understanding of the ethos of St James’s and its unique green oasis in the heart of central London.


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