Religious News From Around the Web December 27, 2021
Houses of Worship Struggle to Rebuild Attendance; Michigan City Gets Ready for All-Muslim Government; New York Can Force Photographer to Take Pictures for Same-Sex Wedding; Archdiocese sues LAUSD, alleging it kept federal funds from Catholic schools; Maine Tuition Case Before SCOTUS; China Will Ban Foreigners From Offering Online Religious Services; Why China Declared War on Religion
Houses of Worship Struggle to Rebuild Attendance
When Westminster United Methodist Church in Houston resumed in-person services late last year, after a seven-month halt due to COVID-19, there were Sundays when only three worshippers showed up. Since then, attendance has inched back up, but it’s still only about half the pre-pandemic turnout of 160 or 170. Polls by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows how dramatically church attendance fell during the worst of the pandemic last year, even as many say they are now returning to regular service attendance.
Michigan City Gets Ready for All-Muslim Government
In the 99 years since its incorporation, every mayor of Hamtramck has been Polish American. That ends January 2, in Hamtramck’s centenary year, when Amer Ghalib will be inaugurated, along with an entirely Muslim city council. Hamtramck will become the first known city in the US with a government made up entirely of Muslims, according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council which says it has no record of any other such administration.
New York Can Force Photographer to Take Pictures for Same-Sex Wedding
A federal district court ruled that the state of New York can force a photographer to take pictures depicting same-sex weddings. In the recent decision, U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. dismissed the First Amendment claims of Emilee Carpenter, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “The court’s decision continues down a dangerous path of the government compelling artists to speak messages that violate their religious beliefs – or imposing steep fines, closing their businesses, or throwing them in jail,” ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said in the release. The decision will be appealed.
Archdiocese sues LAUSD, alleging it kept federal funds from Catholic schools
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the United States, arguing that legal action is necessary to force the district to take the appropriate steps to restore federal funding for low-income and disadvantaged students who attend Catholic schools. The complaint, filed Thursday (Dec. 16) in California Superior Court, claims that the district “has openly and consistently acted to prevent federally funded services from reaching eligible, lower income (archdiocesan) students.”
China Will Ban Foreigners From Offering Online Religious Services
Foreign organizations and individuals will be banned from offering online religious information services in China from March, state press reported Tuesday. Chinese entities and individuals will have the possibility to operate these services, but will have to request permission from provincial departments of religious affairs, the Global Times newspaper reported. Once authorized, they will be able to preach religious doctrines “leading to social harmony” and leading believers “to patriotism and respect for the law.”
Maine Tuition Case Before SCOTUS
In Maine, families who live in school districts that neither operate their own secondary school nor contract with another institution can receive public funds to send their children to their choice of public or private school. But private schools that are deemed “sectarian,” or that promote religion or present material through a religious lens, are ineligible. “With, say, two neighbors in Maine, in a neighborhood, and there is not a public school available, and the first neighbor says we’re going to send our child, children, to secular private school, they get the benefit. The next-door neighbor says, ‘Well, we want to send our children to a religious private school, and they’re not going to get the benefit,’” Justice Brett Kavanaugh said. “That’s just discrimination on the basis of religion right there at the neighborhood level.”
Why China Declared War on Religion
For the past year, China has imprisoned Muslims for displaying their faith, compelled Buddhists to vow devotion to the ruling coalition, and pressured Christian churches to remove their crosses. According to China’s State Administration for religious affairs, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims and others have freedom of worship, but only so long as they are officially sanctioned by the government. In reality, anyone who believes in a higher power is considered an enemy of the Chinese Communist Party.