|Summit on Religious Liberty Slated for January 30Central Florida’s Third Annual Summit on Religious Freedom is scheduled for Tuesday, January 30, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, at Faith Hall, First Baptist Orlando (3000 South John Young Parkway, Orlando, FL 32805). Featured speakers for the event are Brett Scharffs of Brigham Young University, who will explain why religious freedom is important to everyone, whether they’re religious or not; Jennifer Hawks of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, who will share details of current and upcoming legislative and judicial issues that impact religious freedom; and the Rev. Katrina Jenkins, Dean of Religious Life at Rollins College, who will describe the efforts of Rollins College to be respectful toward and inclusive of the wide range of faith and non-faith on the college’s campus. Get more information and register at Eventbrite. The event is free and open to the public.
Attorney Lists Top 5 Religious-Liberty Stories of 2017
Attorney Ryan Snow has an article posted at ReligiousLiberty.TV outlining his suggestions of what are the top five religious-liberty stories of 2017. His selections are: (1) Oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop. On December 4, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Division, the case in which a baker declined to create and design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. A decision on this case will likely come at the end of June 2018. (2) Supreme Court approves government funding of church projects. On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, 137 S.Ct. 2012 (2017), that Churches (and religious organizations) may not be excluded from competing for government grants. (3) President Trump’s immigration order challenged under the Establishment Clause. Litigation ensued immediately after President Trump issued his Executive Orders relating to immigration—popularly referred to as Trump’s “Muslim Ban.” Various advocates filed suit against President Trump arguing that his Executive Order violated the First Amendment as it “exhibits hostility to a specific religious faith, Islam, and gives preference to other religious faiths, principally Christianity.” Various Federal District Courts agreed that the Executive Order was unconstitutional. Trump’s “Travel Bans” have been revised and reissued. To date, the Supreme Court has not issued any opinion on the merits of any these Executive Orders. (4) The Johnson Amendment remains intact. The Johnson Amendment became a point of contention in Congress when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was debated. Because the Senate could not get to 60 votes to repeal the Johnson Amendment, it was dropped from the bill. (5) Supreme Court agrees to hear compelled-speech case. In 2015 California enacted the “FACT act” which required certain medical facilities to post notices with statutorily prescribed language. The Court granted certiorari in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, which is brought by pro-life pregnancy service organizations opposed to providing pregnant women with information about abortion facilities.
Interfaith Council of Osceola Organization Meeting Jan 31
Baha’is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists—in other words, leaders in all faith traditions—are invited to a luncheon on Wednesday, January 31, from 12:00 noon to 1:30 pm, at Training Rooms A, B and C of the Osceola County Sheriffs Office (2601 East Irlo Bronson Hwy., Kissimmee, FL 34744) to organize an Interfaith Council of Osceola County. The goal is to create loose-knit organization in which faith leaders from diverse backgrounds can become acquainted, learn more about each other’s faith tradition and work together for community betterment in areas where there’s consensus. It makes a powerful statement to onlookers when faith leaders of diverse background can work together in practical ways for the good of the larger community. If you’re a faith leader in Osceola County, please mark your calendars and spread the word to others who you think might be interested in being part of such an organization. Please RSVP by email or by phone (321-228-4599) by 5:00 pm Tuesday, January 30.
Atheist Gives Invocation in Florida’s House of Reps
On January 12, Tee Rogers, Humanist Chaplain at the University of Central Florida, became the first atheist to present a secular invocation/reflection in the Florida Legislature. She said: “It is an honor to represent your Humanist, Atheist, and other non-religious constituents and colleagues with a secular invocation. Those you serve, and those around us today, include people of different cultures and races, gender identities, levels of financial stability and backgrounds. They vary in physical and cognitive abilities. They speak many languages. They include people of many faiths and non-faith perspectives. The deliberations in this chamber are of the highest consequence to the people of Florida. As you work together toward solutions that address challenges facing our state, may you have the fortitude to make difficult choices while holding the needs of the diverse public at the forefront of your decisions. While we are diverse, we are united by our common humanity. As we seek to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this month, I am reminded of his words: “The time is always right to do what its right.” May your leadership be guided by integrity and compassion to uplift all people today and every day of this legislative session. Thank you for your service and your work today to make a positive, meaningful difference for all.”
Interfaith Yoga to Provide Bilingual Yoga Experience
For the past year-plus, a loosely knit group calling itself the Interfaith Yoga Project has been making the rounds of various houses of worship helping women and girls of all backgrounds enjoy the positive experience of yoga. At 1:00 pm on Sunday, February 4, Interfaith Yoga invites women and girls to a bilingual yoga experience at the “heartful, empowering, spiritual, activated and aligned” Hope CommUNITY Center (1016 North Park Avenue, Apopka, FL 32712). The program is titled “Aliento de Corazón.” For more information and to register, go to Eventbrite. Other upcoming sessions will rotate through various venues in Central Florida’s faith community. For more information about the Interfaith Yoga program in general, go to Interfaith Yoga’s website, Facebook, Instagram, the Huffington Post, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Three Wise Guys website.
Suicide-Affected Support Groups Being Organized
On Wednesday evening, February 7, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm (at 320 North Ferncreek Avenue, Orlando, FL 2803), the Mental Health Association of Central Florida will conduct the first meeting of a new support group for those in the Central Florida community who are suicide-affected—be they family member, friend or coworker of the deceased. This support group will be facilitated by the MHACF program director Maria Iddings and assistant director Kyle Welling. On February 21, Dr. David Cavalleri will facilitate a second support group for those currently working through their own suicidal thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors. Attendance at either group is free. However, participants must complete a brief screening process. Please contact Kyle Welling by email to begin the screening and/or address further questions regarding the groups.
Doomsday Clock Now Just Two Minutes to ‘Midnight’
From The Washington Post: “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the symbolic Doomsday Clock is moving a notch closer to the end of humanity. It is now set at two minutes to midnight. . . . The clock is the closest to the ‘midnight’ hour it has been since 1953, after the United States tested its first thermonuclear device, followed months later by the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb test. . . . The doomsday prediction reflects recent geopolitical events, including North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile test, the war of words between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and an accidental inbound-missile alert that terrified Hawaii. . . . The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote in an accompanying opinion piece in The Washington Post that: ‘The world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II.’”
Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys
Hear the varied perspectives of the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steve Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri as each week they discuss how faith impacts both the simple and the complex aspects of life. These three clergy come together as friends to discuss topics from the perspective of the different religions they represent. They contend that “good religion works for peace, respects and values others regardless of their religious perspective, and works through acts of compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.” Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys airs on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm on 90.7 WMFE FM in Orlando. Tune in on your radio or listen online. You can also listen to any show already aired. During February, Friends Talking Faith will feature the following:
- February 6: Faith and Society: The Legalized Marijuana Fight
- February 13: Faith and Religion: What’s Love Got to Do with It?
- February 20: Faith and Politics: A Conversation with a Congresswoman
- February 27: Faith and Society: Predatory Lending, Living Wage, Healthcare
6th Annual ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ Slated for Feb 8
Men, strap on your stilettos or blingy flip-flops on February 8 to join in the 6th Annual ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ fundraiser for Harbor House. Whatever your footwear, you’ll raise awareness of domestic abuse and the resources available to survivors through Harbor House of Central Florida. This fun-filled event will begin at 6:00 pm at the Orange County Courthouse (425 North Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801). Your destination will be the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 South Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801). If you can’t participate, consider sponsoring some other walker, simply making a donation or helping to promote the event. Click here for more information on how to participate.
Interfaith Discussion: Your Faith’s Teaching about Gender
What does your faith teach about gender roles and gender status? Is one gender subservient to the other? Are there some spiritual roles from which one gender is barred? Are gender roles highly nuanced—equality in some; definite hierarchy in others? These are just some of the questions about gender roles and gender status that will be addressed when the Interfaith discussion group meets on Wednesday, February 14. Interfaith Discussions are held from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month at Adventist University of Health Sciences (671 Winyah Drive, Orlando, FL 32803) on Florida Hospital’s main campus. The exchanges are respectful, open and candid, and the participants represent a variety of faith traditions as well as those who question the validity of faith altogether. For directions to the meeting, click here. Admission is free. Everyone is invited.
Survey: 57 Percent of Americans Support Legal Abortion
From the Pew Research Center: “More than four decades after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, most Americans (57%) are supportive of legal abortion, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. But a substantial minority (40%) says abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and within some U.S. denominations and religious groups, this figure is much higher. . . . For instance, most Jehovah’s Witnesses (75%) and Mormons (70%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, a survey of more than 35,000 Americans in all 50 states. The same holds true for members of some evangelical churches, including the Pentecostal denominations Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) (77%) and Assemblies of God (71%), as well as America’s largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (66%). Indeed, among all those who are part of the evangelical tradition, nearly twice as many say they oppose legal abortion as support it (63% to 33%).”
History Exhibit: 100 Years of Judaism in Central Florida
The Orange County Regional History Center (65 East Central Blvd., Orlando FL 32801) will feature an exhibit until February 20 highlighting 100 years of Judaism in Central Florida. The exhibit is titled “Kehillah,” a word that means community. And to tell the history of Orlando’s Jewish community is to tell the history of Orlando itself. From the days of Orlando’s infancy, Jewish settlers, migrants and immigrants became pioneers of business and industry. Through photographs and artifacts, learn how Central Florida’s Jewish community played a major role in the region’s development while keeping Jewish ties and traditions alive. Click here for more information about times, entry cost, parking and other details about the History Center. This month is your last opportunity to see the exhibit.
Have Your Questions about Islam Answered by Muslims
Here are two options to learn more about Islam: (1) The Islamic Center of Orlando sponsorsan open house at 6:30 pm every Wednesday night to answer the public’s questions about the Islamic faith. And it’s being done in a relaxed and casual setting “over a cup of coffee.” They’re even providing the coffee! The question-and-answer events are held in the dining room of the Muslim Academy of Orlando (MAGO), situated at 11551 Ruby Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32836 (just off Apopka-Vineland Road, near Lake Buena Vista). For more detail or to make a reservation, phone 407-495-6139. (2) On the fourth Saturday of every month (February 24 will be the next), the Islamic Society of Central Florida hosts an “Open House Invitational” at which you can learn about Islam and the Muslim community—again, from Muslims themselves. The event Includes a presentation, a question-and-answer time, an international dinner, a tour of the mosque, and more. The event is conducted at the Center for Peace at the headquarters of the Islamic Society of Central Florida (1021 North Goldenrod Road, Orlando, Florida 32807). A tour of the mosque will be conducted at 5:30 pm, followed by the rest of the program. Register at Eventbrite.
JCC to Feature Four Authors at Jewish Book Festival
On Sunday, February 25, from 11:15 am to 3:00 pm, the Roth Family Jewish Community Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) will host four distinguished authors for the Central Florida Jewish Book Festival, which is part of a national network of programming sponsored by the Jewish Book Council. The lineup of authors for this year’s festival includes Michelle Edwards, artist and author of the children’s book A Hat For Mrs. Goldman; Pam Jenoff, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling novel of historical fiction, The Orphan’s Tale; Paul Goldberg, noted author of the newly released Florida-themed fiction novel The Chateau; and Justin Loeber, communications expert and author of the irreverent, Millennial-approved Get Out Of Your Own Way Guide To Life. Click here for more information, event times and ticket details.
Author to Speak at Inclusive Excellence Speaker Series
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., scholar and author, will speak at the Winter Park Community Center (721 West New England Avenue, Winter Park FL 32789) on Tuesday, February 27. The event is sponsored by the Valencia College Peace and Justice Institute in conjunction with Valencia’s Teaching/Learning Academy, Human Resources and Organizational Development, Black Advisory Committee, Student Development and African Heritage Committee. It will begin at 6:00 pm with a reception, followed at 7:00 pm by a moderated conversation. There will be a book signing at 8:30 pm. Copies of Tatum’s books are available as e-books for those with a Valencia ID. Tatum’s books include: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation. For more information, call the Peace and Justice Office (407-582-6524) or email Ann Persaud at or Michele Lima. For more information and to register, go to Eventbrite. The event is free and open to all.
Second Chances Florida Promoting Amendment
Nearly 1.5 million people in Florida are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction. Florida is one of only four states with a lifetime ban on voting for those convicted of a felony. Many Floridians believe a change is long overdue for us to return voting rights to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debt to society. Those affected by the current lifetime ban are our family members, friends and neighbors who have earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities. It’s simply the right thing to do. This amendment would return the ability to vote to people with prior felony convictions. The provisions of the proposed amendment include that felons must fully complete their entire sentences – including any probation, parole and restitution – before earning back the ability to vote. And the Amendment specifically excludes those people who have committed murder or a felony sexual offense. Click here for more information.
Christians to Host Annual Better Man Event at Calvary Orl.
The 2018 Better Man Event will be held at Calvary Orlando (1199 Clay Street, Winter Park, FL) from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Saturday, March 3. And just what is the Better Man Event? The organizers describe it as a Christian non-profit organization that invites men to a higher calling. For some 13 years, the high-energy events and powerful messages of the Better Man Event have become a movement in the Central Florida community. This year’s theme is “Extra-ordinary” speakers include Mark Batterson, Emitt Smith, Nick Vujicic and Brian Head Welch. They will be speaking to some 4,000 men. Click here for details about the March 3 event and to book tickets. Click here to view a brief promo video about the event.
Bach Festival to Present ‘The Magnificats: Bach and Beyond‘
On Saturday, March 3, at 7:30 pm at Knowles Memorial Chapel on the campus of Rollins College (1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789), the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra, under the direction of John V. Sinclair, will perform J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D,BWV 243, and John Rutter’s Magnificat. The joyful text, which is Mary’s song of praise—“My soul doth magnify the Lord”—is presented in two diverse and powerful settings. Both Magnificats feature cheerful melodies, colorfully exuberant and festive fanfares, and peaceful and reflective moments. Featured in the performance are: Sherezade Panthaki, soprano; Laura Pudwell, mezzo-soprano; Robert Bracey, tenor: and Michael Dean, bass. Click here for seating options and ticket prices. Tickets may also be purchased by phoning 407-646-2182
Atlantic Institute to Host Awards Banquet March 6
The Atlantic Institute will hold its annual Peace and Dialogue Awards on Tuesday, March 6, at the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel (600 North Lake Destiny Drive, Maitland, FL 32751). The ceremony will honor five individuals who actively promote diversity and intercultural exchange in Central Florida. The Atlantic Peace and Dialogue Awards is held annually, allowing people of different cultures, backgrounds and faiths to come together to celebrate those who work for harmony within the community. This year`s topic is “Looking Past Stereotypes: Accepting Others in Today`s World.” Those being honored this year are: Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. John Hitt, University of Central Florida, President. Global Vision and Education Award: Dr. Sandy Shugart,Valencia College, President. Public and Community Service Award: Mark Brewer, Central Florida Foundation, President/CEO. Peace and Dialogue Award: Dr. Marc Levy, Pediatric Surgeon,Orlando. Media and Communications Award: Maria Padilla, Editor, Orlando Latino. Click here for ticket and sponsorship information.
‘Rethinking Conflict and Peacebuilding’ Set for March 13
Mark your calendars for a half-day seminar (8:30 am to 12:00 noon) of “Difficult But Necessary Conversations” featuring as presenters: the Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, a Methodist pastor from Belfast Ireland, and the founder and director of the Belfast-based Rethinking Conflict; and the Rev. Dr. James Morris, senior pastor of Carter Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Orlando and a long-time champion of social justice and interfaith relations. The venue for the event, which will be held March 13, is the Bush Auditorium at Rollins College (1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789). And the main focus of the Difficult But Necessary Conversation will be America’s “Cultural Racism.” More details will be included in the March issue of the Interfaith Council newsletter. If you would like to be put on a communication list to receive updates before the March newsletter, send an email to Peacebuilding Seminar. In the meantime, learn more about Dr. Mason (and more here), and learn more about Dr. Morris.
Your Tax-Deductible Contributions Greatly Appreciated
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and Friends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, we invite you to contribute on a regular basis to these community-based, community-benefitting activities. It may be every month, once a quarter or annually. And it may be a large contribution or small. But whatever it is, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you played a part in helping to make our community more harmonious and peaceful. All contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Or you can click here to contribute online. Thank you for your help.
Believe nothing on the faith of traditions,
even though they have been held in honor
for many generations and in diverse places.
Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it.
Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past.
Do not believe what you yourself have imagined,
persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests.
After examination, believe what you yourself have tested
and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.—Buddha
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