Japanese Emperor Performs Shinto Ceremony Amid Controversy

Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor at the Seiden(State Hall)

Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty
the Emperor at the Seiden (State Hall)

Japanese Emperor Naruhito performed the Daijosai, an ancient Shinto ceremony said to transform the emperor by joining with the Sun Goddess. He entered a specially constructed temple clad in white robes and offered newly harvested rice to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, as well as the deities of heaven and earth. The ritual has been criticized by those opposed to the imperial system, and to the expense of the ceremony, estimated to cost $25 million USD.


Mormons Leave Mexico Following Murders
Following the murders of nine members of a Mormon sect in Northern Mexico, more than 100 members left Mexico for the United States in a caravan. The murders of three women and six children was possibly the result of mistaken identity by a drug cartel. Eight children escaped the massacre, led by a 13-year old boy who walked many miles to find help. The group, a breakaway from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, split from the official church over the issue of polygamy many years ago and moved to Mexico maintaining dual citizenship.

Pakistan and India Cooperate on Religious Sites

Jagannath (Vishnu) Hindu Temple in Sialkot, Pakistan, one of first temples to be restored and returned to Hindus. Photo by Neweditorpk, CC

Jagannath (Vishnu) Hindu Temple in Sialkot,
Pakistan, one of first temples to be restored and
returned to Hindus.
Photo by Neweditorpk, CC

During the Partition of India in 1947, British rule ended and the country was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. Some Hindus decided to stay in Pakistan, but their temples were often expropriated by locals for non-religious purposes, or turned into Muslim schools. But now the Pakistani government will restore some 400 Hindu temples over the next few years and return them to Hindu possession, beginning with the Jagannath Temple in Sialkot, Punjab. And in what many take as a sign of thawing relations between India and Pakistan, Pakistan has allowed Sikh pilgrims from India to enter Pakistan recently through what is called the Kartapur Corridor to visit a Sikh shrine. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan, inaugurated the corridor on either side of the border on Saturday 9 November, according to the BBC.

“I Am God” License Plate Litigated
The Kentucky DMV denied a motorist’s request for a personalized “IM God” license plate saying initially it was vulgar and in poor taste according to a report in Friendly Atheist. “There is nothing ‘obscene or vulgar’ about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation,” said motorist Ben Hart. Hart went on to say that it was a case of government taking a position on a religious matter. With assistance from the Kentucky ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation, and on Nov. 13 a US District Court judge said the plates were private speech and protected under the First Amendment.

Chinese Behead Religious Statue, Replace with Emperor’s Head
According to Bitter Winter, a magazine of religious liberty and human rights in China, a large statue of the Amitabha Buddha in Weichang Manchu and Mongol autonomous county has been beheaded by order of Chinese authorities and the top replaced with the head of Chinese Emperor Kangxi. “The CCP doesn’t allow outdoor Buddhist statues, for it is afraid that all people may worship the Buddha and abandon the Communist Party,” said a source quoted by the magazine. The alteration of religious statues includes Taoist statues as well, with one statute of founder Lao-Tzu being altered to look like classical author Cao Xueqin with the addition of a bamboo hat and writing implements. Earlier this year Chinese authorities dynamited the 190 foot tall “Dripping Water Guanyin” Buddhist statue carved into a mountain.

Bishops’ Anti-Abuse Hotline Ready Early Next Year
A new abuse hotline, to be operated by a private company, will be implemented by the US Council of Catholic Bishops by the end of February, three months ahead of a deadline set by Pope Francis. The Bishops also elected the first Latin American president, José Gomez, who is the Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Religious Liberty Challenges
U.S. development, humanitarian and even military assistance may soon be conditional on how the recipient nation treats religious minorities according to Politico. But the move may create difficulties with U. S. allies that have poor human rights records.
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“It is incredible how far the push for LGBTQ rights has shifted over the last several years,” says an opinion piece by Lief LeMahieu in Covenant College’s Bagpipe. “First, it was said that same-sex marriage would not affect Christians because what people did in private shouldn’t matter. Today, progressive politicians and LGBTQ rights organizations are pushing for total acceptance and support for this unbiblical institution and practice.” ### In 1963 Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act nearly unanimously. The Act was in part to protect the right of Native Americans to use peyote in their religious practices, and was backed by Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, among others. Now, the winds have shifted and the Act is seen as an assault on LGBTQ rights.
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Health and Human Services is moving to reverse a 2016 Obama rule that prohibited grants to organizations such as adoption agencies that would not place children with same-sex couples. The new rule would prohibit discriminating against organizations that operate according to the dictates of their faith. An opinion piece in The Daily Beast said the move by the Trump Administration is “… bigotry enshrined in law; cruelty written into statute. Church and state are currently the very opposite of separated; they are dancing a delirious tango, with LGBTQ rights trampled underfoot.”

Prince Charles Hails Sikhs
Prince Charles lauded the inspiring principles of Sikhism as he prepared to visit India to commemorate the 550th anniversary of Sikh founder Guru Nanak’s birth, and sent best wishes to Sikhs in the UK and across the Commonwealth as they celebrate the anniversary.

Military Accommodation of Religious Diversity

Roman Catholic Chaplain American Civil War

Roman Catholic Chaplain American Civil War

The U.S. military has long struggled to accommodate chaplains of mainstream as well as lesser-known religious faiths in a “unity without uniformity” system. Jewish, Christian Science and Latter-day Saints chaplains were incorporated into the military chaplaincy although not without some challenges along the way.