Religion News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Sep 07, 2011 11:35 AM
Religion News in Brief

Study finds increase in interfaith activity, but low level of participation overall

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ America's houses of worship have increased their interfaith outreach since 9/11, a new survey has found. Still, about three-quarters of U.S. congregations have no interreligious activities.

The study of more than 11,000 congregations was part of the Faith Communities Today surveys, which have tracked trends since 2000. The latest findings were released Wednesday by Hartford Seminary.

Researchers found that nearly 14 percent of congregations share worship with other faith traditions, up from just under 7 percent since 2000. About 20 percent of houses of worship participated in interfaith community service projects, compared to 7.7 percent a decade earlier.

However, 73 percent of the congregations were not involved in any of the four interfaith activities measured by the survey's authors: joint worship, celebrations, educational activities and community service.

While evangelical involvement in interfaith outreach remains low, researchers did find an increase in interfaith worship among Christian conservative congregations _ from 4 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2010 _ and a jump in evangelical congregations that conducted community service work with other faith traditions.

Still, old line Protestant congregations with more liberal theology were more likely by a nearly 2-to-1 margin than conservative Christian churches to engage in interfaith worship.


House Democrats, black clergy hold news conferences on opposing sides of NC gay marriage ban

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Several Democratic lawmakers and black clergy took opposing viewpoints Tuesday on a state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, a sign that the proposed ballot question still divides racial, partisan and religious groups days before the Legislature meets to consider it.

Key members of the House Democratic Caucus held a news conference to oppose the amendment, which if approved likely would be on the statewide ballot in 2012. Lawmakers brought along executives of North Carolina businesses who said such an amendment would discourage new, growing companies from calling the state home because of a perception its leaders don't like gays and lesbians.

Supporters of the amendment counter that states that already have prohibitions of same-sex marriage in their constitutions aren't seeing businesses leave for other states because of that issue.

Several African-American clergy who spoke at a later news conference said same-sex relationships violate Bible teaching and called on the Legislature to let the public vote on the issue.

The Rev. Johnny Hunter of Cliffdale Community Church in Fayetteville said gay rights activists have offended black people by equating the efforts to support gay marriage with the 1960s civil rights movement.

But the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the sponsors of the amendment bill, who are overwhelmingly Republican, are actually trying to take civil rights backward with the amendment.

"No matter our color or faith traditions, those who stand for love and justice are not about to fall for this amendment mess," Barber said in a statement released by the gay rights group Equality North Carolina.


Poll: Small percentage of NYC residents will attend worship on anniversary of 9/11 attacks

NEW YORK (AP) _ While most New York City residents still remember where they were when they heard about the Sept. 11 attacks, data from a poll released Tuesday shows that some plan to go about their regular days on the upcoming anniversary while others go to commemorative events.

Ten percent of those surveyed said they would attend religious ceremonies at their places of worship, while 6 percent said they would attend formal ceremonies marking the anniversary.

Hundreds of religious services are planned for the weekend of the anniversary, which falls this year on a Sunday. Many interfaith events have also been scheduled in New York, Washington and elsewhere.

The NY1-Marist Poll found that 97 percent of those polled remembered where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the attacks, while 3 percent did not.

When asked what they would be doing on the 10th anniversary, 37 percent of respondents said they would be going about their daily routines. Another 25 percent said they would reflect on the day at work or at home, while 23 percent said they would be following media covering the commemoration events.

Manhattan residents were the most likely to say they would be keeping their daily routine, with 47 percent saying they wouldn't alter their schedule. They also were the least likely to say they would be following media coverage, with 17 percent saying they would.

The telephone poll questioned 808 adults from July 20 to July 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


Another Spanish town bans burqas in public

MADRID (AP) _ A small town on the Spanish resort island of Mallorca has banned women from wearing burqas or face-covering Islamic veils in public places.

Mayor Biel Serra of the town of Sa Pobla said Monday night's vote was not about cultural or religious discrimination but rather an issue of public safety and having people show their faces so they can be identified.

He said Tuesday that the ban also applies to other face-covering headgear like ski masks.

Sa Pobla joins a handful of other Spanish towns who have enacted some form of ban on body-covering burqas or face-covering niqabs.