Religious News From Around the Web April 20, 2020

Easter Bathtub Broadcast, Virus Unites Church, Bible in Politics? Religions “Nonessential,” SCOTUS Religious Cases by Telephone, Zoom-Bombing, Atheists Win School Prayer Suit, Dalai Lama Says Prayer Not Enough, and More…

Virus Unites Church Split 200 Years Ago
First Presbyterian Church and First United Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., split on racial lines nearly 200 years ago, but because of virus-driven orders to stay at home, the two churches reunited for online Easter services.

Half of Americans Say Bible Should Influence Laws
In spite of the First Amendment’s statement that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” a recent Pew survey revealed a broad spectrum of Americans who think religion should influence government to some extent. While the survey did not ask respondents why they thought as they did, the study suggested that it could be a response to same-sex marriage. A Pew survey in 2013 revealed a broad range of Muslims who thought Sharia law should be the law of the land, from 8 percent in Azerbaijan to 99 percent in Afghanistan. Overall, while Americans believe religion has a positive role in society, they also feel that houses of worship should stay out of political activities altogether, especially during elections.

Minister Finishes Livestreaming Easter Service from Bathtub
Bathtub Photo by Brad Pearson on UnsplashAs a tornado roared and sirens sounded, the Rev. Chad Brooks, Foundry United Methodist Church of Sterlington, Louisiana, went to his safe place and finished his Easter Sunday livestreaming service from his bathtub.

Which States Have Religious Exemptions to Stay at Home?
On Easter Sunday, the United States was a patchwork of states with different approaches to stay at home orders for religious congregations. Citing the First Amendment, some congregations met in violation of Coronavirus protective measures, some met wearing masks and keeping a safe distance, and many ramped up computers to meet online instead of in person. Michigan, Texas and California, among others, were hit with lawsuits challenging stay at home orders. Especially contentious are states and localities designating religious services as “nonessential.”

Justice Department Weighs in for Church
Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi, decided to hold drive-in services during the Coronavirus pandemic. Congregants would stay in their cars in the parking lot, and hear services broadcast from the church on car radios. The 82 year old pastor said his mostly elderly members weren’t tech-savvy and so the drive in service was the best alternative. But when the City of Greenville hit attendees with $500 fines for violating the stay at home orders, the U.S Department of Justice stepped in to support the church.

Supreme Court to Consider Religious Liberty Cases By Phone
PhoneThe U.S. Supreme Court has a number of religious liberty cases on its docket, including Espinoza v Montana Dept. of Revenue, Fulton v City of Philadelphia, Tanzin v Tanvir, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru and Little Sisters of the Poor v Pennsylvania. But the Court has postponed arguments during the virus pandemic. However, for the first time in its history, the court will hear oral arguments by teleconference on some cases, including Little Sisters of the Poor and Guadalupe.

China Arrests Christians During Zoom Service
The Early Rain Covenant Church, a Sichuan house church in China, was raided in 2018 and its pastor Wang Yi and other leaders arrested. On April 12, members were participating in an Easter celebration using Zoom, an online videoconferencing program, when police arrested six members at their homes for listening to a sermon by imprisoned pastor Wang Yi.

Court Awards Atheist Group $450K After School Prayer Suit
The American Humanist Association, which sued a Greenville, S.C., school district for conducting graduations with prayers and hymns, won $446,466 in attorney fees and $9,776 in other expenses. The school district plans to appeal.

Dalai Lama: Prayer Not Enough
The Dalai Lama said, in a Sentinel article that prayer was not enough to conquer the Coronavirus. “We Buddhists believe that the entire world is interdependent,” he said in the article. “That is why I often speak about universal responsibility. The outbreak of this terrible Coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other being. But it also reminds us that a compassionate or constructive act — whether working in hospitals or just observing social distancing — has the potential to help many.”

How to Thwart Zoom-Bombing
As more religious activities go online, “Zoom Bombing” – hate speech, disruptions or disturbing images conveyed to the group – have become a problem. An article in Virginia Mercury outlines security measures to deal with it, including keeping Zoom links private and sending them only to invited guests. Zoom itself has recently instituted heightened security measures, but presenters must be vigilant and know how to block callers, prevent image sharing and other safety measures.