Religion news 23 September

Image credit: TLM

Coronavirus restrictions won’t affect places of worship – yet

Places of worship such as churches, synagogues and mosques can continue to hold services under new government laws introduced to stem the increase in coronavirus cases. Alongside gyms, restaurants and other hospitality venues, more than six can gather in one place, but people must not mingle. The rules do not apply to education and work, but there will be strict enforcement of social distancing and health and safety measures. The number of people at weddings is reduced from 30 to 15, but the limit for funerals remains at 30. The government expects these measures will last six months, meaning the end of large family Christmas celebrations. Further advice is expected in the next few days. While the details of restrictions vary for each nation in the UK, all allow worship to continue in some form. 

Man claiming to be the re-incarnated Christ arrested by Russian police

A former traffic officer, who claims to be the re-incarnated Christ, has been arrested by Russian authorities charged with running an illegal religious organisation. Sergei Torop says he had a religious experience in 1989 as the Soviet Union began to collapse, and in 1991 he founded a movement known as the Church of the Last Testament. His followers from all parts of the world, live in a community in Siberia. The authorities accuse the group of extorting money from followers and subjecting them to emotional abuse.

School denies sacking Christian teaching assistant because of her  LGBTQ+ views

A school has denied that it dismissed a pastoral assistant because she was a Christian who raised concerns about LGBTQ+ relationships education. Kristie Higgs, from  Gloucestershire, has taken the case to an employment tribunal after being sacked for gross misconduct.  On the second day of the hearing, the head said he was concerned that her beliefs posted on social media would lead to a loss of confidence in the school. She is being represented by the conservative Christian Legal Centre.

Bishop of Manchester challenges longer sentences for terrorists

The Bishop of Manchester David Walker has expressed concern at the government’s plans to increase sentences for terrorists. In his maiden speech in the House of Lords, he said long prison sentences “extend the isolation of prisoners from their families and the moderating influence of the wider community”, while keeping them near people who might reinforce radicalisation. He said terrorist ideology is “every bit as deadly as coronavirus” and the challenge is to pass legislation that carries confidence across the broad range of communities. As the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 continues, the Bishop said the attack may have sought to divide, but it had brought the city and region closer together.

Prime Minister’s son baptised as a Catholic

Westminster Cathedral has confirmed that Boris Johnson’s 4 month old son Wilfred was baptised there on 12 September. The Prime Minister’s partner Carrie Symonds is a practising Catholic and Downing Street is within the parish of the Cathedral. The ceremony took place in the Lady Chapel.

Catholics object to award for US Attorney General because of his support for executions

Opposition is growing in the United States, to a Catholic award for the Attorney General William Barr, because he allowed federal executions after a 17-year moratorium. Novanews says the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico was “appalled” because the church teaches that the death penalty is inadmissible as an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”. The award is due to be presented today.

£20 million security grant for Jews in Germany

Germany has pledged an additional £20 million to the country’s Jewish umbrella organisation this year to cover security costs as Jewish leaders face a rise in antisemitism. One year ago on Yom Kippur, a gunman attacked a synagogue in Halle leaving two passers by dead.