What is a religion? Everyone assumes they know – until, that is, we have to define it.
The Supreme Court has just discovered this slippery truth. Previously the courts had said Scientology was not a religion, because although it calls itself a Church its ceremonies were not “acts of worship”. They were backing a previous court ruling from 1970 which had pronounced that Scientology did not involve the “veneration of God or of a Supreme Being”.
Common sense definitions, based largely in the culture of Britain’s Judeo-Christian inheritance, once supposed that religion was something to do with God, or gods for those who had done classics at school.
The world’s main religions seems to fit that label. Some five billion people – Hindus, Jews, Christians and Muslims – see religion as something to do with deity. So do Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians and many smaller faiths.
But as we have learned of far-off philosophical faith-systems like Confucianism and Shintoism it has dawned that a deity is not essential to a religion. There is no God in Buddhism. That is why, presumably, the Supreme Court justices have now said religion should not be confined to faiths involving a “supreme deity”.
Full article? Click here.
U.K.’s Supreme Court has officially recognized Scientology as a religion, potentially opening up a way for the group to claim lucrative tax breaks, among other legal privileges.
The Wednesday ruling marked the end of a five-year legal struggle by a woman fighting for her right to get married in a Church of Scientology chapel, Reuters reports.
Officials had originally refused her request based on a 1970 court ruling stating that Scientology does not involve “reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being,” an assertion the Supreme Court now has found out-of-date.
“Religion should not be confined to religions which recognize a supreme deity,” wrote Lord Toulson while giving the judgment.
Read more here.
It is lunchtime at the Karamsar Gurdwara, where worshippers are tucking into the free food. But Sikhs are not the only ones enjoying the temple meals. Religious leaders report that an increasing number of non-believers are visiting their place of worship to eat, treating them as food banks while the effects of austerity and economic slump bite.
The Sikh Federation UK estimates that around 5,000 meals are now served to non-Sikhs by Britain’s 250 gurdwaras each week. They say the meals have been a lifeline for homeless people and overseas students swamped in debt.
Harmander Singh, who worships at the Karamsar Gurdwara in east London and is a spokesman for the Sikhs In England think-tank, said: “It’s noticeable: more people coming in and more people coming frequently. Some are working in low-paid jobs, cannot afford lunch and come here to subsidise living costs. They are also women with kids.”
Want to find out more? Click here.
Twelve years ago, almost to the day, I launched the report on behalf of the Community Cohesion Review Team, which I had chaired. This had considered the causes of the race riots in the summer of that year, and I coined the phrase “parallel lives” to describe the way in which different communities had become segregated and lived in fear and ignorance of each other. Communities were divided in housing, schooling, workplaces and culture, and had little contact with each other. The team was particularly anxious to bring communities together, and made 73 recommendations to that end. These included urging all schools to “consider ways in which they might ensure that their intake is representative of the range of cultures and ethnicity in their local communities”.
Despite great work in some schools over the years, pupil segregation has been getting worse. A national study in 2004 confirmed that sufficient progress had not been made, and this has been confirmed by my own local studies. But now, 12 years on, the Fair Admissions Campaign’s research shows an even more unfortunate picture – segregation by faith and social class has been added to that of ethnicity. And the worst culprits seem to be the very institutions that claim to bring us together – religious schools. Furthermore, the situation is one of continual decline as more and more faith schools, with free and independent admission policies, are established to balkanise children’s education. Rather than learning about each other, schools are creating more and more boundaries, which tell pupils that they have such inherent differences that it is not possible to share the same classroom.
Clicking here will take you to the original article.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has summoned the bosses of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies to a private meeting on Wednesday to discuss fuel poverty and rising energy prices.
The meeting comes after the Most Rev Justin Welby said he understood why people felt above-inflation price rises were “inexplicable” and called on the companies to act with “generosity”.
Four of the Big Six supliers are believed to be sending their most senior UK executives, in contrast to a recent Commons select committee hearing where just one, E.On chief executive Tony Cocker, attended to face MPs.
Those known to be attending the private meeting include Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centica, which owns British Gas, EDF Energy chief Vincent de Rivaz and npower chief Paul Massara.
Click here to read on.
The Mormon church has issued its most comprehensive explanation yet about its past exclusion of black people from the priesthood.
The statement disavowing previous teachings was posted on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ website.
It says an era of great racial divide influenced the early teachings of the church, founded in 1830. The article pins the ban on an announcement in 1852 from Brigham Young, the church’s then president.
The church barred men of African descent from the lay clergy until 1978, when church leaders had a revelation. In the 35 years since that landmark moment, however, the church had never explained the reasons behind the ban or addressed the once widely held notion that black people were spiritually inferior, said Matthew Bowman, an author and assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.
In the new article, posted on Friday, the church finally addresses what had become a sensitive topic for current leaders and members.
“The church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavour or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else,” the statement read. “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”
Full article available here.
A woman who wanted to marry in a Church of Scientology chapel has won a legal battle in the UK’s Supreme Court.
Scientologist Louisa Hodkin took her fight to the court after a High Court judge ruled that services run by Scientologists were not “acts of worship”.
Five Supreme Court justices analysed the case at a hearing in London in July and ruled in her favour today, announcing that the Scientology church was a “place of meeting for religious worship”.
Miss Hodkin wants to marry fiance Alessandro Calcioli in a Church of Scientology in central London.
She took legal action after the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages refused to register the London Church Chapel for the solemnisation of marriages under the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act – because it was not a place for “religious worship”.
Click here to read on.