FaithWorld

Pew measures global religious restrictions

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has come out with a new report that tries to measure, country by country on a global level, government and social restrictions on religion. You can see our coverage of the report here and here and can download the whole report here.

The report, which Pew says is the first major quantitative study of the subject on a global level, ranks countries under two indices — one measures government restrictions on religion, the other social hostilities or curbs on religion that stem from violence or intimidation by private individuals or groups. NIGERIA RELIGION

A damaged mosque in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria

The Government Restrictions Index is based on 20 questions used by the Pew Forum to assess state curbs on religion at the national, provincial and local levels.

Is public preaching by religious groups limited by any level of government?,” and “Taken together, how do the constitution/basic law and other national laws and policies affect religious freedom?” are among the questions asked.

The Social Hostilities Index is based on 13 questions including “Was there mob violence related to religion?” and “Was there a religion-related war or armed conflict in the country?”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Do five Americans detained in Pakistan really prove a trend?

lahore mosqueThe arrest of five young Americans in Pakistan who according to Pakistani officials wanted to go to fight U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan has, perhaps predictably, increased fears of radicalisation within parts of the United States own Muslim community.

It follows the arrest in Chicago of David Headley, who police say scouted out targets for last year's attack on Mumbai, and discussed with Pakistan-based militant groups plans for attacks in Denmark and India; and also comes after  last month's Fort Hood shooting in which 13 people died.

U.S. newspapers have been quick to see a pattern.  "New Cases Test Optimism on Extremism by U.S. Muslims," declared the New York Times. Or according to the L.A. Times headline: "U.S. sees homegrown Muslim extremism as rising threat."

Ghosts, astrology, New Age: you name it, Americans believe it

Although most Americans are Christian and many are devout, that hasn’t stopped some members of the flock from believing in astrology, reincarnation or the ability of trees to trap spiritual energy.

A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a surprising number of U.S. adults claim to have had supernatural experiences such as ghost sightings or hold beliefs associated with the New Age movement or Eastern religions.

LIFE PARANORMAL

Among its findings: nearly 25 percent of U.S. adults polled said they believed in reincarnation and 23 percent said yoga was a spiritual practice. Twenty six percent said they believed “spiritual energy” could be found in objects such as trees. Eighteen percent said they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost.

U.S. approves first “ethical” embryonic stem cell lines

stem-cellsThe U.S. government has approved the first 13 batches of human embryonic stem cells, enabling researchers using them to get millions of dollars in federal funding as promised by President Barack Obama in March.

According to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the stem cell lines met strict ethical restrictions. The cells, for instance, have to have been made using an embryo donated from leftovers at fertility clinics and parents must have signed detailed consent forms. (Photo:Ampoules with stem cell storage medium/Peter Macdiarmid)

As our Health and Science Editor Maggie Fox reports, Collins described these criteria as an acceptable compromise between those who want this research to go ahead and critics who oppose it because human embryos are destroyed in the process of making these stem cells.

Hezbollah cuts Islamist rhetoric in new manifesto

nasrallahLebanon’s Hezbollah group has announced a new political strategy that tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States.

The new manifesto drops reference to an Islamic republic in Lebanon, which has a substantial Christian population, confirming changes to Hezbollah thinking about the need to respect Lebanon’s diversity.

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who read the new “political document” at a news conference on Monday, said it was time the group introduced pragmatic changes without dropping its commitment to an Islamist ideology tied to the clerical establishment in Iran.

Spanish RC Church to deny communion to pro-abortion pols

abortion-spainThe Spanish Catholic Church will deny communion to members of parliament who have voted in favour of a bill to make abortion more readily available, the spokesman of Spain’s Bishops’ Conference said on Friday.

“This is a warning to Catholics, that they can’t vote in favour of this and that they won’t be able to receive communion unless they ask forgiveness,” Rev. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino told a news conference in Madrid. “They are in an objective state of sin.”

The government-sponsored bill, which passed the first of a series of votes in parliament on Thursday, will allow abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy and, in cases of extreme foetal deformity, at any time in the pregnancy. The bill will also allow girls to obtain abortions from the age of 16 without parental consent, a clause that has generated dissent even within the governing Socialist Party.

GUESTVIEW:When it comes to clergy misconduct, take off those stained-glass specs

eee2 (Photo: Protest against clergy sex abuse at the Catholic cathedral in Sydney, 18 July 2008/Tim Wimborne)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is an American freelance journalist living in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania who writes about religion.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

Two large scale American studies of clergy gone off the rails raise a host of troubling and baffling questions, not solely about clergy sexual misconduct, but about how and why parishioners either tolerate or ignore signals that something is wrong. One sad but perhaps inescapable conclusion from them is that it may be time to start taking a more skeptical look at those who exercise power in our congregations.

garlandThis fall, Baylor University’s School of Social Work released the results of a national study of clergy sexual misconduct with adults. Roughly three percent of adult women who attend religious services at least once a month have been the target of inappropriate sexual behavior by pastors, researchers found . That’s a startling number. But even more eye-popping were the number of congregants — eight percent — who knew about clergy sexual misconduct in their faith community.

Abortion, a Kennedy and a Catholic communion conundrum

pkennedyA new row has flared in the Catholic ranks of the U.S. abortion wars, this one involving a member of America’s most famous Catholic political family and a bishop.  Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has claimed that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin has slapped a communion ban on him for his support for abortion rights. (PHOTO: Patrick Kennedy speaks at funeral of his father, Senator Edward Kennedy, 29 Aug 2009/Brian Snyder)

The bishop instructed me not to take communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me communion,” the Rhode Island Democrat was quoted as saying this week in the Providence Journal.

On the pages of the same paper the bishop fired back, asserting that it was a “request,” not an instruction.  “If he took it as an instruction, so be it, but it was really a request,”  the bishop was quoted as saying.

POLL: Is Goldman Sachs “doing God’s work”? Its CEO thinks so

sunday-times

Check out the headline at the bottom left of the Sunday Times front page. The man the London paper calls the most powerful banker on Earth says he is “just a banker ‘doing God’s work’” .

The report says Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein“proudly pays himself more in a year than most of us could ever dream of — $68m in 2007 alone, a record for any Wall Street CEO, to add to the more than $500m of Goldman stock he owns” .

Goldman Sachs looks set to pay about $20 billion in bonuses for its top traders this year, at a time when the fallout from last year’s financial crisis is still being felt and the United States unemployment rate has hit 10.2 percent, a 26-1/2-year high.

U.S. sees “mixed picture” on world religious freedom

seoul-prayer-protest (Photo: CHristians pray during an anti-North Korea and pro-U.S. protest in Seoul, 3 Oct 2007/Han Jae-Ho)

The United States sees a mixed picture on world religious freedom, with progress in interfaith dialogue weighed against government repression and sectarian strife in many countries.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday unveiled the latest State Department report on global religious freedom, which particularly criticized Iran and North Korea among other countries for harsh limits on religious expression.

“It is our hope that the … report will encourage existing religious freedom movements around the world,” Clinton said, adding that all people should have the right to believe or not as they see fit.

The report tagged North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan among the worst offenders, placing them on a watch list put out earlier this year.