Pope Meets With Buddhist Monk
Pho Minh Buddhist Temple Opens in Indiana in Former Methodist ChurchPope Francis met with the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong of Thailand late last month, on a four-day tour of Southeast Asia. The Pontiff called for inter-faith peace and dialog, saying, according to News18: “Catholics have enjoyed freedom in religious practice, despite their being in a minority, and for many years have lived in harmony with their Buddhist brothers and sisters.”

Becket Fund Religious Freedom Index
The Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment, is a “30,000 foot view of American perspectives on religious freedom.” Among its findings: “Even after decades of religious freedom being pulled into the culture wars, Americans accept and support a broad interpretation of religious freedom; Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of the government penalizing groups and individuals for living out their religious beliefs; and contrary to popular narratives of increased tribalism and polarization, Americans support a culture of accommodation for minority faith practices.”

Ohio’s Religious Freedom Bill for Students
Ohio lawmakers are discussing a bill, passed by the House that would “tell schools they cannot prevent students from engaging in religious expression through what they wear or how they complete schoolwork.” One critic said: “It takes out the educational integrity and allows for the curriculum to be hijacked by religious doctrine rather than scientific fact.”

Churches Repurposed
According to the Atlantic, some 6,000 to 10,000 churches are sold each year. Many, such as the Navesink United Methodist Church in Middletown, NJ., go on the real estate market Some are purchased for residences, bars, restaurants, etc. and repurposing empty churches has become a business of sort. Faith-to-faith conversions – in which a Catholic Church, for example, becomes a Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, or Evangelical church to accommodate African American or immigrant communities – is another way to “keep the faith.”

Religious Freedom Restoration Act Cuts Both Ways
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 was introduced by Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy, passed almost unanimously and was signed into law by President Clinton. Lately, however, liberals have turned against it, as it is central to Tanzin v. Tanvir a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. If a truck driver — put on the no-fly list by the FBI for not informing on his Muslim community – is allowed under RFRA to sue the FBI, it could enable the Christian right to prevail over federal anti-discrimination laws.

“Mormon” No Longer Appropriate Name for the Church

Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Russell M. Nelson,
President of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has asked that “Mormon” or “LDS” or even “Latter-day Saints,” not be used as the name of the Church, but instead that its full name be used. Mormon was a prophet said Nelson, and the name of the Church has not been changed, just restored to its correct usage.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Backing Utah Conversion Therapy Ban
Psychiatry, which once labeled homosexuality as a mental disorder, now says attempts to change homosexuality to heterosexuality is “unethical.” And past attempts have included cruel and painful attempts at behavior modification. Early attempts to regulate conversion therapy in Utah found agreement in that the ban would apply only to minors and that painful methods would be prohibited. According to some sources, the latest agreement was reached in that Gov. Herbert’s regulatory rule restricts only the activities of state-licensed therapists and not religious counselors or life coaches, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is no longer opposing the ban.

Chick-Fil-A Now In Trouble with Conservative Christians
Chick-Fil-A, can’t seem to get a break. The fast-food restraint, known for its adherence to Christian principles, came under attack for donations to organizations allegedly antipathetic to LGBTQ interests. The company recently announced a change in donation practices, which excluded some Christian charities, and because of that, it has come under fire from conservative Christians such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee accused the company of “surrendering to anti-Christian hate groups.” Lost in the chatter is the very fact that Chick-Fil-A donates millions to charities each year, $9.9 million in 2017 for example.

Dispensaries Try Religious Angle
Marijuana dispensaries have begun to try for religious exemption from the law as local governments have increasingly prohibited dispensaries in states where cannabis has been legalized. The precedent? Native American religious rituals have sometimes used peyote or marijuana. But it hasn’t worked very well in other places. Roger Christie’s Marijuana Ministry in Hilo, Hawaii, for example, earned him a four-year prison sentence. If this ploy becomes more commonplace, expect the definition of religion to undergo more legal scrutiny.