WRN News From Around the Web: Reincarnation Dead? Kanye West, LGBTQ, Beautiful Bahá’í, Cakeshop Sued for Third Time, Sanctuary Fines, Zoroastrians Meet

Chinese Catholics Occupy Church to Prevent Demolition

Priests and parishioners have locked themselves inside a Catholic Church in the Hebei province of China to prevent the government from destroying it, one of 40 churches targeted by the communist government as “non-compliant” with new government regulations. According to Asia News, those inside the church have appealed for prayers.

Bahá’í Temple Wins International Architecture Award

Bahai Temple by Andrés Silvas
Bahai Temple by Andrés Silvas
The Bahá’í Temple of South America in Santiago, Chile, designed by Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects, has won the 2019 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada International Prize for a work of architecture that transforms society. The temple took 14 years to complete and has had 1.4 million visitors since it opened in 2016.

The More People Know About a Religion, the Better They Feel About it

A Pew Research study has revealed that the more a person knows about a religious group that is not their own, the more positive feelings they are likely to have toward it. How much knowledge do you have of other religions? Test your knowledge here.

Beijing Conference Held to Study “Religious Fervor”

A conference on Christianity in China was held in Beijing late last month, as reported in the China Christian Daily. The article examines a report that “Western religions are unique in the current religious ecology in rural areas of China, with Christian believers accounting for more than 95 percent of the rural population and underground Christianity (family churches and cults) accounting for about 70 percent of Christianity. Catholicism is moving steadily in rural areas” said the article and in Northern China, Christian believers are growing rapidly. The Chinese government has cracked down on churches and many different religions in the past few years, and has forced the Catholic Church to accept Chinese Communist participation in the selection of Catholic Bishops.

Methodists Working on Way Forward for LGBTQ Issues

The United Methodist Church voted recently to strengthen prohibitions against LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings, and Methodists have been looking for a way forward to reconcile divisions among church members on the issue. The Greater New Jersey Conference, for example, “voted to allow United Methodist churches to decide how to include and affirm LGBTQ people in every aspect of ministry while still allowing congregations the right to agree to disagree,” according to an article in the UM News.

Dalai Lama Says Reincarnated Leadership May be Finished

The 14th Dalai Lama, and spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, said recently that he may be the last of the reincarnated Dalai Lamas. The Chinese Communist government has said it will decide the next Dalai Lama, so abandoning the reincarnated line of succession may be the best way to keep it out of government hands. When the Dalai Lama identified a boy as the Panchen Lama, for example, Chinese authorities seized the boy who has not been seen since.

Hollywood Watching for Kanye West to Fail at Christianity, Says Actress

Photo by Kanye West at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival
Photo by Kanye West at the
2009 Tribeca Film Festival
According to Faithwire, Kanye West’s new album “Jesus is King” has caused a spike in Google searches for Biblical references contained in the album. But such notoriety and West’s announcement he is a born-again Christian could cause him trouble says ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Actress Patricia Heaton. Heaton, an outspoken Catholic, was quoted in an article in the Christian Post, saying she’s praying for Kanye West, because people will be watching to see him fail at Christianity.

Access to Sikh Shrine

In a hopeful show of cooperation between India and Pakistan, an agreement was signed allowing Indian Sikhs to travel without visa into Pakistan to visit the shrine honoring Sikh founder Guru Nanak. About 25 million Sikhs live in northern India, and the shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border.

Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner Sued for Third Time

Jack Philips – the Colorado baker who declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding based on his Christian beliefs, and was sued – won his case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Philips and his cakeshop, however, are defendants again, for “discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” by declining to bake a gender-transition cake for an attorney. According to the plaintiff, Philips’ statements during the previous case that he would bake cakes for LGBTQ people, are now shown to be false. Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom are representing Philips and countersuing for the “continuing persecution of Phillips.” If this case reaches SCOTUS, it could help clarify the issue, since the earlier Supreme Court decision was narrowly defined. In a somewhat similar case, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in favor of a t-shirt printing company that refused to print shirts for a gay pride festival, based on religious belief.

Religious Freedom in Court

Religious freedom cases that may soon reach the country’s highest court include such issues as discrimination against LGBTQ employees by religion-based companies and government funding of religious schools. The ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled recently that employers may not deny contraceptive coverage for employees because on religious or moral grounds. According to Bloomberg Law, “The high court sent cases back to lower courts with directions to work out a compromise that would balance religious groups’ rights to practice their religions without substantial government interference against the government’s goal of ensuring all women have access to appropriate preventative care.”

ICE Rescinds Fines for Immigrants in Sanctuary Churches

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines levied against undocumented immigrants have been rescinded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fines were against undocumented immigrants who found sanctuary in churches. A law enabling such fines has been on the books more than a decade, but was enforced for the first time by the Trump Administration. One woman, who lived in a sanctuary church for two years was notified that her $500,000 fine had been withdrawn.

Zoroastrian Youth Congress in Los Angeles

Zoroastrians, followers of the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, have dwindled down to only about 200,000 adherents. In order to counter the decline, the religion holds youth conferences every four years in which young Zoroastrians can meet and marry someone within their faith. The latest conference was held in Los Angeles last month.