Religious News From Around the Web, Jan 20th 2020

Confessional Seal Breach, Sikhs Census, Vaccination Exemptions, Methodist Agree to Split, 50 Countries Suppressive to Christians, India’s CAA Turmoil, China Increases Social Control

Sikhs to be Counted as Separate Ethnic Group in 2020 US Census
Should Sikhs Be Forced To Wear Helmets?For the first time, the 2020 U.S Census will enumerate members of the Sikh Community as a separate ethnic group. Sikh spokespersons hailed the move as a step forward, enabling an accurate count as a “unique identity.

Methodist Agreement on Terms of Separation
Representatives of the 13 million member United Methodist Church have proposed an agreement on the terms of separating the church around LGBTQ issues. The “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” will be taken up by the church in May.

Legislation Wrap
Confessional PixabayA New Jersey bill to eliminate religious exemption from mandatory vaccinations died one vote short. But the bill’s Democratic sponsors vow to restart the process in the next legislative session. Tasmanian religious groups have legislation pending to allow hiring only of those in alignment with their faith, but it is opposed by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. Churches and church officials are under fire for child sex abuse cases which went unreported to authorities outside the Church. Numerous states have passed or are considering a requirement for child abuse reporting that would include information revealed during private confessional. Utah’s House Bill 90, for example, would remove religious exemption from mandatory child abuse reporting requirements. If passed, Catholic priests could be compelled to violate the confessional seal – which is a grave sin punishable by excommunication in Catholic doctrine. Catholic League President Bill Donahue said the bill treads dangerous territory by seeking to have the government police the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Several Australian jurisdictions did pass such laws, including Victoria. Melbourne’s Archbishop said three years in jail for non-reporting would be preferable to breaking the confessional seal. And finally, a Tennessee bill which would allow adoption and foster parent agencies receiving public funds to rule out LGBTQ adoptions is being characterized as “anti-gay” by various media.

Top 50 Countries Where it’s Hardest to be Christian
North Korean Flag PixabayNorth Korea once again topped the list of countries most suppressive to Christians, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India. The number of countries with “very high” persecution levels rose from 40 last year to 45 in the 2020 watch list from Open Doors, which does a grassroots calculation each year.

Medal of Courage Awarded Church Protector
Jack Wilson, a church deacon and former reserve deputy and firearms instructor, stopped a shotgun-wielding gunman who killed two church members at the West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth, Texas, last month. Wilson was awarded the first-ever Medal of Courage by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

India’s Muslim Exclusion Creating Waves of Dissent
Recently, India passed a “Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which allows illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to apply for citizenship in India, but it specifically excludes Muslims, triggering protests and clashes that have led to 23 deaths. But the protests have brought together millions of people from different faiths in defense of the pluralistic fabric of Indian society. The protests have also unsettled China, which worries that Muslim alienation over the CAA could trigger terrorism and separatist moves in Xinjiang, a Chinese province already in turmoil over Islamic demands for an independent East Turkestan in Xinjiang.

China’s “Social Score” System Used to Surveil, Control Behavior
Each citizen starts with 2,000 points and each time they do something of which the government disapproves, points are lost. Far from being some kind of school management system or video game, the social score system is coming to its own in China, and could be used for large-scale surveillance of religious groups. According to Open Doors, it is “a system of persecution for the future.” The Social Score System’s pieces are being put into pace and will be nationwide this year.