Amish Eviction, Religious Freedom Violators, Daf Yomi? China Bans Christmas, Church vs. State, Video: Incarceration of Chinese Uighurs, Taoism and Star Wars

Michigan County Tries to Evict Amish Families
Amish horse and buggyLenawee County, Mich., has attempted to demolish the houses of 14 Amish families because they draw water from a well and use outhouses. The ACLU has countersued, citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Liberty clause of the Michigan Constitution, and the federal Fair Housing Act.

Commission Announces Worst Religious Freedom Violators
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad – announced nine countries as the worst violators of religious freedom. They are: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. On the Commission’s Special Watch List – a sort of second-tier of religious hostility – are Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. The Commission was funded this month by Congress for an additional three years.

Having Trouble with Daf Yomi? There’s an App for That!
Jewish Scholars By Rippeym3 CCOn Jan. 5, Orthodox Jews will begin a new seven-year cycle of Daf Yomi – in which they study one page of the Talmud per day. To help them with their studies, the Orthodox Union, a major American Orthodox umbrella organization, has launched “All daf,” a smartphone app with audio and video assistance and information to help make Jewish practice more accessible.

Christmas Gatherings Banned in China
China banned Christmas gatherings this year, warning that they were illegal. In one letter to the South China Morning Post, a Christian said: “It was indeed hurtful and heartbreaking for me, as a Christian, to receive videos circulated in WeChat groups depicting schoolchildren in China denouncing the celebration of Christmas, claiming it was a ‘Westerners’ festival’ and that it was ‘a shame’ for Chinese to celebrate the holiday. For Christians,” said the writer, “Christmas is when God became man to reconcile and save His people from sin. In the case of non-Christians, Christmas is also a peaceful and joyous occasion when people gather together with their families and friends.”

US Supreme Court to Take up Two Religious Liberty Cases
A Catholic school teacher was fired after announcing she had cancer and would be going through chemotherapy and the case will soon be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. At stake – do employees of religious schools give up their civil rights against discrimination? Can the government interfere with the management of religious organizations? Are teachers covered under the “ministerial exception?”

Top Church-State Stories of 2019
The BJC, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty published its top Church-State stories of 2019. They include Christian Nationalism, Discrimination in Child Placement, Inmates’ Right to Clergy During Execution, Tuition Tax Credits, Religious Exemption from Mandatory Vaccinations, and the Johnson Amendment Requiring Tax-Exempt Organizations from Engaging in Electoral Campaigning.

Zoroastrians Celebrated Holy Day Dec. 26
Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Iran Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. CCAmong the religious celebrations near the end of the calendar year, on Dec. 26, Zoroastrians commemorate Zarathosht Diso the death of the Persian Prophet Zarathustra or Zoroaster. An article by Catholic priest Gregory Elder explains some of the history an influence of this ancient religion.

Video: Inside China’s Mass Indoctrination of Uighurs
NBC News went into China to film the camps where a reported 1 million Uighur Muslims are confined for “re-education.” The Chinese say the Uighurs are separatist terrorists, the Uighurs say their religion and culture are under attack by the Government of China.

Video: Atheist Harvard Professor Has Spiritual Vision
A series of mystical encounters, including an intimate experience with the Blessed Virgin Mary, led former Harvard Professor Roy Schoeman to Catholicism. Watch the video of his story.

The Force in Star Wars Related to Taoism?
Are the Tao of Taoism and The Force of the Star Wars Movies related? Hans Qu says the concept of the “Tao “is nearly identical to the Force. Roughly translated, it means something like “way,” “path,” or “road,” but in Taoism it is used to refer to a spiritual “flow of the universe” that all things are a part of.