Religion news 23 June 2021

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Image credit: Alex Proimos CCLicense

Vatican takes issue with law criminalising homophobia

The Vatican is urging the Italian government to change a proposed law that would criminalise homophobia, over concerns it would restrict the Catholic Church’s “freedom of thought”. It says a bill going through the Senate violates agreements which established Vatican City as a sovereign state and regulates relations between it and Italy. ABC news reports that the Vatican fears that the law could lead to the church facing criminal action for refusing to conduct gay marriages, opposing adoption by same sex couples or refusing to teach gender theory in Catholic schools. 

Bishop who tweeted ‘never trust a Tory’ is on sick leave

Joanna Penberthy, the Bishop of St Davids, is on sick leave, following public denunciation after she tweeted “never trust a Tory”. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Bangor and the secretary of state for Wales condemned the tweet. Clergy in her diocese have received a letter saying she is unwell and under a doctor’s care, so she is off work sick for July. She has closed her Twitter account and apologised for words that may have caused offence.

Court case starts for online haters who targeted a teenager criticising Islam

Thirteen young people in France have gone on trial for charges of online harassment, death and rape threats against a teenager who posted comments criticising Islam and the Quran. The court heard that the teenager, known only as Mila, received 100,000 threatening messages. This is the first case heard by a new court set up to prosecute online crimes. Mila, who was 16 when she posted on Instagram and TikTok, is an atheist who testified: “I don’t like any religion, not just Islam.” Her mother described the terrible impact on her, saying it was a confrontation with pure hatred.

NATRE rebuts attack on anti race teaching materials

A teachers’ association has hit back at the Telegraph for running a story headlined “Primary school pupils should learn white privilege says RE teachers’ organisation” and a follow-up headline “Religious education is becoming a Trojan Horse for teaching children woke theories as fact”. The National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE), says the anti-racist RE teaching resources referred to in the articles are a suite of free materials to help RE teachers provide learning around racism and prejudice with varied perspectives from religion and ethics. It rebuts the accusation that lessons introduce primary children to the key concept of white privilege, saying it is referred to in the glossary and information for teachers along with a comment that this is a contested concept. Neither, NATRE says, does it advocate the teaching of critical race theory. It says the materials have been developed, written and published within the parameters of the law.

Sky news reporter finds more evidence of Uyghur persecution

Sky News reports that it has uncovered evidence showing the extent to which Uyghur sites, including cemeteries and religious buildings, are being bulldozed and built over in the northwest region of China. Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire reports a conversation with a grieving relative at one of the sites, remembering it had trees and where flowers were laid on graves, but satellite images show a drastic change in the area. On the Sky News team’s travels to one site, they found what he believed to be the bone of a child. The news team tried to visit the holy Imam Asim Shrine, but their path was blocked by security men. Full report here

Welsh government allows singing in church

The Welsh government is allowing singing and the playing of instruments during worship, as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed. But it warns that there should be risk assessments, people should be socially distanced, singing should take place only in well-ventilated spaces or outdoors, and face coverings should be worn where practicable. It has withdrawn earlier advice that tenors emit more aerosol particles than basses, sopranos, or altos, and therefore should be positioned five metres from the rest of the choir. This was met with ridicule and the government has apologised unreservedly for the error. 


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