Religious News From Around the Web June 8, 2020

Polls: Policy Decisions Forcing Religion’s Decline in U.S., Religious freedom and Public Health, Racism a “spiritual virus,” Tulsi Gabbard Addresses Hindu Commencement, Abraham Lincoln and Shavu’ot, #Sikh Hashtag Blocked, Christianity Thrives in Iran Despite Government Suppression

Putin’s Religious Repression
On May 29th, decree number 344 was signed in the Russian Federation, which, according to Jarrod Lopes, will escalate suppression of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other minority religions under the guise of fighting extremism. Lopes, a Jehovah’s Witness executive, goes on to say that for years, Russia has used so-called anti-extremism legislation to target minority religions and this latest is also an attempt to export intolerance and repression, through international cooperation and agreements.

Lopes cites a long list of actions by Russian officials against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Gennady Shpakovskiy, for instance, is on trial for holding small Christian meetings in his home. The charge is “organizing an extremist group” and if convicted, he faces more than seven years in prison.

Lopes told World Religion News that the tally of persecution in Russia and the Crimea includes: 346 people under criminal investigation, 31 in prison (10 convicted; 21 pretrial detention; and a total of 170 have served time in pretrial detention) 22 under house arrest and 927 homes raided since 2017 with 126 raided in 2020 – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Report: America’s Religious Decline Not Accidental

Mike Pence Lies Says “Faith is Rising Across America,” But the Numbers Tell Another Story
ABC News
“Expansions in government service provision and especially increasingly secularized government control of education significantly drive secularization and can account for virtually the entire increase in secularization around the developed world,” says a report from the American Enterprise Institute. “The decline in religiosity in America is not the product of a natural change in preferences, but an engineered outcome of clearly identifiable policy choices in the past.”

Poll: Americans Value Religious Freedom, but Don’t See Public Health as a Threat to It
A recent UChicago Divinity School/AP-NORC poll of about 1,000 adults found that since the Coronavirus outbreak, fewer Americans are attending in-person religious services and more are watching live-streaming religious services online. Fifty-one percent of those polled think in-person religious services should be allowed in some form, though only 9 percent think services should be allowed without any restrictions, and a minority believe the restrictions on religious activities designed to slow the spread of the virus violate freedom of religion.

Tulsi Gabbard Delivers Hindu Commencement Address
Tulsi_Gabbard,_official_portrait,_113th_CongressHindu Students Council (HSC), the largest pan-Hindu youth organization in North America, announced a historic first Hindu virtual commencement featuring Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard was the first female combat veteran to run for president, but endorsed Joe Biden in March. The commencement was held this last Sunday and was broadcast on HSC’s Facebook page.

Vatican: Racism is a Spiritual Virus That Must be Wiped Out
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, compared racism to COVID-19 but said: “It is a virus of the spirit, a cultural virus that, if not isolated, spreads quickly,”

Abraham Lincoln and the Shavu’ot Controversy of 1865
Abraham Lincoln Bible Offers New Clues Into His FaithThe official day of mourning for Abraham Lincoln — June 1, 1865 –was the same day as the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates God’s revelation of the Law at Mount Sinai. Jews had to decide whether to mourn the President’s death or to celebrate the religious holiday.

Report: Christianity Thriving in Iran Despite Government Suppression
Iran's President Hassan_RouhaniDespite suppression of Christianity in Iran – where conversion to Christianity is viewed as a threat to national security – conversion is rapidly proceeding according to the government’s own reports.

#Sikh Hashtag Blocked, Was it Accidental?
Facebook and Instagram evidently blocked the hashtag #sikh for two months, and just unblocked it after complaints. The blocking was accidental, claimed Facebook, which owns both platforms, but some Sikh factions are suspicious of the circumstances and have called for an investigation.