Religion news 27 May 2021

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Image credit: Oxana Maher CClicense

Investigation reinstates Batley Grammar school teacher after cartoon row

A teacher at Batley Grammar school, who was suspended after showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in a religious studies lesson, can return to the classroom. He was suspended after angry protests were held outside the school and was forced into hiding after death threats. An independent investigation, commissioned by the school, found the teacher did not intend to cause offence; the image had been shown before in other lessons earlier this year as teaching staff “genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit”; and the school will offer more guidance and training for staff. The trust recognised that using the image caused “deep offence” and deeply regretted the distress caused. The National Education Union said it was pleased the correct decision had been reached.

Foundation stone laid today for ‘House of One’ building for three religions

The foundation stone of “The House of One” will be laid in Berlin today (Thursday 27 May). The unique venture will provide space for a church, a mosque and a synagogue combined as well as a meeting space for those of all faiths and none. The €47m project has taken 10 years to get this far and will bring together the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to engage in religious dialogue and share ideas around science, art and culture. Read our report here and view our online briefing here

US Catholic bishops move to prevent Biden from taking communion

US Catholic bishops are expected to vote next month on whether pro-abortion rights politicians should receive communion, The Washington Post reports. If passed, the vote would have implications for President Joe Biden, a committed Catholic who embraces the Catholic teaching on abortion, that life is sacred from conception, but does not wish to impose this as a matter of public policy. As a result, he is at odds with the church’s position, which opposes abortion legislation. His supporters point to Biden’s emphasis on key church priorities such as poverty, heathcare and refugees. He is the second US Catholic president, after John F. Kennedy.

Assisted dying bill starts passage through parliament

A private member’s bill on assisted dying began its passage through parliament yesterday, launching the first Westminster debate for more than five years. Baroness Meacher, who chairs Dignity in Dying, introduced the bill which would legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months of life. Two independent doctors and a High Court judge would have to assess each request, which if granted would enable a terminally ill person to die in a manner, time and place of their choosing. The legislation is based on a bill tabled by Lord Falconer in 2014. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have reiterated their opposition.

The rallying cry from George Floyd, one year on

An ecumenical service remembering the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, was told that his last words “I can’t breathe” had become a rallying cry. Archdeacon Rosemarie Mallett told the congregation that the murder had affected her deeply, that part of her being had also died on that road. Now is the time for change, she said. The service, Doing Justice, was organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and was livestreamed , to be repeated on BBC Radio 4 this weekend.

Pope Francis honours Auschwitz survivor

Pope Francis kissed the tattoo of an Auschwitz survivor as she visited the Vatican during a general audience. Lidia Maksymowicz, now 81, was deported from Belarus to Auschwitz from her native Belarus aged two, spending the next three years there. She showed the Pope the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis, and Francis leant over and kissed it. When the camp was liberated, Lidia Maksymowicz was adopted by a Polish family. She was reunited with her mother at the age of 18, thanks to their tattoos having consecutive numbers.

Contactless card church giving trialled in Cumbria

Anglican churches in Cumbria will pilot a scheme to introduce contactless card giving instead of putting money in a collection plate. The Church of England’s ambition is to make this system available in half of all parishes over the next two years, at a cost of £1.25m. Grace Emmett, national digital giving manager for the church, said: “Experience so far is that contactless donations are, on average, three times the value of cash donations.”

Church of England General Synod July meeting plan

The Church of England’s parliament, the General Synod, is planning to meet face-to-face at Church House, Westminster, from 9-13 July. Members will discuss the role of the church in the housing crisis, the work of the racial justice commission and the process to discuss differences over LGBTQ+ issues, and the Living in Love and Faith report. The July synod is usually held in York, but the university has closed outside events during Covid-19 restrictions.

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