Religion news 4 December

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It’s no sin to take take the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, Catholic bishops confirm

Roman Catholic Bishops in England and Wales say Catholics can take any of the vaccines against Covid-19 in good conscience. Their statement follows concerns that the AstraZeneca vaccine used foetal cell lines from decades ago in its development. The bishops confirm that church authorities say it is possible to receive such a vaccine without sin, if there is a sufficient moral distance between its administration and the origin of its development. The Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA-based vaccines, formed from pre cell proteins.

500 people congratulate London faith groups serving the community

Five hundred people attended the annual London Faith & Belief Community Awards ceremony, when cash prizes were awarded to 40 diverse groups that have helped their communities in the city this year. One of the presenters, broadcaster the Rev Richard Coles, said the awards highlight the many ways in which diversity can be a strength, and that different communities are a force for good. Winners included the National Cricket League, the Association of Black Humanists, the Naz and Matt Foundation, which campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights, Westminster Foodbank, the Afghanistan & Central Asian Association Covid-19 helpline, and the West London Buddhist Centre. The awards are organised by the Faith and Belief Forum and sponsored by the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith.

France cracks down on mosques

The French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has started investigating 76 mosques flagged as possibly posing a threat from religious extremism, Reuters reports. This is part of its drive against separatism following the beheading of a teacher in Paris, who had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class, and the killing of three people in a church in Nice. Where a mosque is clearly against the French Republic or the discourse is counter to values, it will be shut down. Investigators will also examine the mosques’ finances and youth work. Some Muslim leaders warn that the process falsely identifies the overwhelming majority of Muslims as “fomenters of hate”.

The RE relic needs non-religion to survive

Religious education may disappear altogether as a subject if it does not come to terms with the rise of non-religion, according to academics who discussed its future at a University of Kent seminar. Conventional RE is treated as the study of competing theologies, but Professor Trevor Cooling said RE as a subject would shrivel and die if it were not somehow to be reconnected with the lived experience of pupils, many of whom are non religious. Dr Lois Lee said the study of world religions has created a space for a study of existential and ethical cultural issues, but the religious language doesn’t work any more. Full report here

US Supreme Court takes another decision in favour of public worship

The Associated Press reports that a court ruling on banning worship in California is to be looked at again, by order of the Supreme Court. California has imposed restrictions on indoor religious services, banning singing and chanting. A federal court upheld the restrictions which had been challenged by a group of 160 churches, but the Supreme Court is asking it to review this judgment. Last week, Justices at the country’s highest court, split 5-4 in a decision on public worship in New York, denying moves to enforce limits on attendance at churches and synagogues.

Sikhs in London protest in support of Punjab farmers

Sikhs are planning to protest in London on Sunday against the treatment of farmers in the Punjab, who have marched on Delhi in a campaign against changes to farming laws. They fear that allowing commercial investment will threaten their livelihoods. As they approached Delhi, the police used tear gas and water cannon against them, an act that inflamed Sikh communities in Canada and the UK. The London protest organisers are asking people to turn up in orange dastars (head coverings), in tractors, cars, bikes and quads, so they can travel from the Singh Sabha gurdwara in Southall, to the Indian High Commission in central London. They say the protest is a fight for Punjab’s future.