Religion news 27 June 2022

Image credit: Adam Fagen CCLIcense 2.0

‘Crowning achievement of drive to reshape US society’

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade and end the constitutional right to abortion followed decades of campaigning that united right-wing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons in a political pro-life religion campaign. The story of the political alliance, which overcame theological differences to back one cause, is told in a Religion News Service explainer here. It says the judgment was the “crowning achievement of a conservative Christian drive to reshape American society to hew more closely to the traditional sexual and gender values they espouse”. Another analysis by journalist Katherine Stewart, in The Guardian, says the current “Christian nationalist judiciary” will not stop with Roe v Wade, changing the law to suit a vision  of a society ruled by a reactionary elite, with a preferred religion “backed by the coercive power of the state”.

But in its wake, the decision has caused waves of protest to hold on to a woman’s right to choose. Catholics for Choice, the Episcopalian church and the National Council of Jewish Women are urging congress to protect the right to abortion, through the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe v Wade into federal law.  Episcopalian Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said he was deeply grieved at the decision which institutionalises inequality, as only women able to pay to travel to another state will be able to have a termination.

The Vatican issued a comment saying it hoped the decision prompted a reflection on welcoming and defending life, which included concern for women’s mortality rates and helping the mainly poor women seeking abortions, to welcome new life. Pointedly, it added that being “for life” always also means defending it against the threat of firearms, a leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the US.

70 religious sites destroyed in Ukraine war

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) reports that 152 cultural sites in Ukraine have been partially or totally destroyed since the beginning of the war: 70 religious sites, 30 historic buildings, 18 cultural centres, 12 museums and 7 libraries. The sites include churches, cathedrals, memorial sites and seminaries, mainly in three provinces Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kiev. Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of Unesco, said: “Cultural heritage, in all its forms, should not be targeted.”

Prince Charles: teach slavery as widely as the Holocaust

Prince Charles told Commonwealth leaders meeting in Kigali that the potential of the family of nations for good cannot be realised until we all “acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past”. Afterwards, a royal source is quoted in several publications as saying that the prince called for the history of trafficking by slave traders of African people to be taught as widely as the Holocaust in Britain. The Sunday Telegraph quotes the source saying that “at a national level, we know and learn at school all about the Holocaust. That is not true of the transatlantic slave trade. There’s an acknowledgement that it needs to happen.” He told the gathering that he could not describe “the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many” during slavery.

Letter of protest at Qari Asim’s sacking

British Muslim leaders have written to the government protesting at the sacking of Imam Qari Asim as government adviser on Islamophobia and deputy chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. It followed his Facebook comments on the protests outside cinemas against the showing of the film Our Lady of Heaven. The film was a version of the story of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, but inflamed intra-Muslim tensions and eventually was withdrawn by Cineworld. In their letter, they complain that Qari Asim was sacked by a public letter on a government website without any consultation. One hundred and twenty Muslim leaders accuse the government of undermining its relationship with the Muslim community and taking a step backwards in community cohesion

Synod asked to scrap CofE wedding fees

The Church of England’s parliament, the General Synod, is being asked to scrap wedding fees, where couples are asked to pay about £500 for a vicar, the service, lighting and administration. It follows a continuing decline in the number of weddings held in church. The Office of National Statistics found that in 2019, religious ceremonies accounted for 18.7 per cent of opposite-sex marriages, a decrease from 21.1 per cent in 2018 and the lowest percentage on record. The attempt to end the fee comes from Blackburn diocese, but it will be discussed only if there is a gap in the agenda of the July synod.

Bishop gives away £10,000 during welcome service on Sunday.

The new Bishop of Salisbury gave away £10,000 in £10 notes to the congregation at his welcome service in the cathedral. Bishop Stephen Lake said the idea came from the parable of the talents, where money was given to three servants, with two making more money and receiving praise, and the third burying it, making nothing. In his sermon, the bishop said “Salisbury’s got talent” and the cash should be invested to see church growth, spreading togetherness which transforms lives. The money, from anonymous benefactors, has already been invested in food banks, children’s services, a women’s refuge and an appeal for Sudan.

Statue of Celtic deity on forest footpath shocks walkers

The decision to include a statue of Cernunnos, a mythological Celtic deity associated with the wiccan horned god, in Royal Hillsborough forest park, south of Belfast in Northern Ireland, has drawn complaints objecting to its pagan origin. The city council says it is one of 10 to be installed throughout the park’s trails with digital app explanations for each one. A recently bereaved man expressed his shock at being confronted with the image near a site of peaceful remembrance. The council said the statue’s inclusion followed extensive public consultation with church groups, schools and community groups.


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