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Law & Religion

In May, we noted that PBS might remove its name from several U.S. television stations that were airing religious broadcasting. (Public stations aren’t permitted to air religious programming.)

UPDATE: In June, the PBS national board voted to ban any new religious programming from PBS stations. Stations that are currently violating the rule by airing religious programming may continue to air that religious programming. (There were only 6 stations in question.)

In March, we noted that Elected Episcopal Bishop Kevin Thew Forrester (of the Northern Michigan diocese) practices Zen meditation and is lay-ordinated in Buddhism. He has not, however, taken Buddhist vows nor does he consider himself a Buddhist. He claims to simply borrow practices from Zen Buddhism to guide his Christian meditation on God. But many Episcopalians were trying to prevent Forrester from becoming fully ordained as bishop.

UPDATE: In June, leaders of the Episcopal Church did, indeed, deny consecration to Forrester. Thus, though he was elected bishop, leaders did not confirm his leadership. He will not be a bishop. According to Christianity Today, this is the first time since the 1930s that someone’s election as bishop has been vetoed by denominational leaders of any Christian denomination.

Ann Holmes Redding was also defrocked by the Episcopal Church (and did not recant) for changing her beliefs to Islam.

Bookmark Religion Transcends today to keep finding religion news and updates of past stories. And watch us on Twitter (@religionblogger) for more quick news bites.

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Will you lose your PBS station due to religious content?

Public TV stations in the United States are not permitted to air religious programming. So on June 16, PBS (Public Broadcast System) will decide whether to remove its name from stations that broadcast religious services. If a station loses its PBS designation, it would in turn lose PBS-created shows like Sesame Street.

Areas with PBS stations in question include New Orleans; Provo, Utah; and a station in Texas; and stations in two other states.

Learn more about the debate from PBS ombudsman Michael Getler.

Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends

Recently a woman in France accused the Church of Scientology of conning her out of $30,000. She claims the group convinced her to buy vitamins, thereby acting “illegally as a pharmacy” and conning people. Her trial against the church came to court on Monday.

If guilty, the entire sect would be shut down in France. The church is claiming it is not responsible for its members.

Watch this news video about the case on BBC News. 


Read more about Scientology on Religion Transcends.

Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends

Gay rights are constantly being debated in America. And this month, they have taken center stage in both the legislative and religious realms.


Permission via legislation

At the beginning of the month, the Iowa Supreme Court stated that gay marriage was a right, thereby allowing same-sex marriages (not just unions) in the state. A week later, the state of Vermont voted to allow gay marriage through the legislature. Now some believe U.S. President Obama will pass a similar federal law in 2009.


To top things off, Christian Evangelical pastor Rick Warren nearly took back his support of Proposition 8. Warren, after giving the prayer at Obama’s swear-in ceremony, was criticized for supporting the California amendment banning gay marriage. He didn’t take back his support. But on Larry King Live on April 7, he denied being an activist against gay marriage.


It would seem, then, that gay rights activists have won a few battles and are winning conservative converts.


Not so fast.


Denial via religion?

It’s too early to tell whether the Lutheran denomination will allow gay clergy. At the end of March, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) decided they didn’t need a two-thirds vote to allow gay clergy. Instead, they plan to allow a majority vote in August at the church’s convention. If a majority passes the motion, then individual congregations would get to decide whether to appoint gay clergy. A two-thirds vote would have made it harder to get the motion passed. But it is yet to be seen whether a majority will support openly gay clergy.


The Presbyterian Church is making similar decisions. In March, a California commission in a Presbyterian church denied lesbian deacon Lisa Larges the right to be formally ordained as a minister – the third time she’d been denied. But by the end of May, the Presbyerian Church as a whole will have reconsidered the rules.  Currently, as with the Lutheran Church, gay clergy must agree to be celibate. This clause is being rethought and will require a vote.


On top of all this, former British prime minister Tonya Blair recently stated that the Vatican (the Catholic seat) should rethink its ideas about homosexuality to be more in line with current tolerance of homosexuality by most Catholics. Will the pope reconsider? For now, the Catholic Church is maintaining its opposition to gay marriage and homosexual acts.


A history of debate

Portions of both the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and Qur’anic Scriptures like the Hadith make mention of homosexual acts as an abomination. Thus, homosexuality has been under constant scrutiny for ages.


As to other Christian denominations not previously mentioned:

- The United Church of Christ first allowed ordination of gay and lesbian in the 1970s; openly gay clergy were ordained beginning in 1980. The church also endorses the blessing of same-sex unions.

-The Episcopalian Church has endorsed equal rights for the GLBT community since the mid-1970s, and it ordained gay minister Gene Robinson as a bishop. But it seems the topic is still up for debate.

-Homosexual individuals are welcomed into the United Methodist Church but may not become clergy. Clergy cannot hold civil union/gay marriage ceremonies either.


The following churches have historically condemned homosexuality:

-Southern Baptist

-Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)


-Jehovah’s Witnesses


Reform Judaism has allowed ordination of homosexual rabbis since 1990. The Orthodox branch has been historically opposed to ordination of homosexual rabbis. And the debate continues for Conservative Jews. Watch a current discussion of GLBT rights in the Jewish community online.


In most Islamic countries, homosexuality is a crime that carries punishment (especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran). Groups like Al-Fatiha are hoping to change that.


For Buddhism, monks must remain celibate. For everyone else, sex is only permitted for procreation. So technically homosexuality would be considered wrong, but the Dalai Lama  has spoken out in favor of equal rights for the GLBT community.


For Hinduism, sacred texts do not prohibit homosexuality. However, the debate continues as homosexuality is often outside the cultural teachings surrounding Hinduism.


Where do you stand on the debate of homosexuality and religion?


Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends