Religion news 23 November

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Rabbi warns against relaxing lockdown rules: ‘It is not religious to give someone Covid for Christmas

The prime minister is due to announce details of the Covid-19 restrictions from the end of lockdown on 2 December, through the Christmas holiday. There is widespread speculation that the government will relax the rules over Christmas for several days, while allowing some public worship, and this will apply to all four UK nations. This is not universally welcomed. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said Christmas and the festival of Hannukah from 10-18 December should be curtailed, with safety the priority. He is advising his community not to travel to services or family get-togethers: “Normally, it would be the time for faith and family, but it is neither religious nor responsible to give someone Covid for Christmas.”

Judicial review into banning public worship today

More than 120 church leaders have launched a judicial review into the government’s ban on public worship during the lockdown. The initial hearing on the application is expected to take place today (Monday) in action supported by the conservative group “Christian Concern”. Leaders of all faiths have signed an open letter objecting to the ban, and there are signs that some clergy are taking their churches underground in order to carry on worshipping. The Guardian has spoken to a pastor in the west country where people assembled in a barn to worship. Its report says there are many who are flouting the law in secret.

Is a government faith engagement department on the cards?

A faith engagement department might be the outcome of a review being undertaken by Colin Bloom, the government’s faith engagement adviser. Interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, he said America had understood and accepted how the plurality of faith was important in understanding how people live their lives: the White House has a faith engagement office. Any recommendation would be in his final report. The first phase of his review is an open public questionnaire on the contribution of faith to society and whether government engages well with faith groups. He said religious literacy was important when policies were created to take into account the impact of decisions on people’s lives.

Tibetan Buddhist charity guilty of misconduct over abuse claims

The Charity Commission has concluded that trustees at the Rigpa Fellowship, a Tibetan Buddhist centre in north London, failed to properly investigate allegations of sexual, emotional and physical abuse against its spiritual founder and leader, Sogyal Lakar. In an official report, it said there was mismanagement and misconduct in the administration of the charity, particularly in regard to how former trustees responded to complaints of abuse by him against students. Despite knowing the claims, they had failed to create a safe culture within the charity which exposed some beneficiaries to harm. Two former trustees have been disqualified. Sogyal Lakar died a year ago. There is now a new board of trustees in place with new safeguarding policies and procedures.

Nichols remains at the centre of the Catholic church storm over sex abuse

Carol Lawrence, a member of the Roman Catholic church’s safeguarding review panel, was put in the position of explaining and defending the church’s report on how to change safeguarding policy and structures in the wake of a damning report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. IICSA was particularly critical of Cardinal Vincent Nichols for putting the church’s reputation before the victims. Carol Lawrence contributed to the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, because the church had declined to put forward the cardinal or any bishop. She said the organisational structure would change, the level of accountability would be greater, and though bishops would facilitate the oversight, their work would be independently audited. Asked if she supported the cardinal, she said: “I support these changes and what we’re doing, the work that we’ve put in in the last six months, to make this independent review happen.”

Archbishop of Canterbury plans three-month sabbatical to re-charge

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is taking a three-month sabbatical next summer, seven years after taking on the role. He is following custom and practice: the previous two archbishops also took time off. Lambeth Palace said he would spend the time in “reflection, prayer, and spiritual renewal”. Leadership will move to the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, and the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally.


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