|Non-Theists Sue Brevard County Over Invocations
A July 7 news release from the Central Florida Freethought Community states: “Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) is one of several local and national organizations jointly filing suit in federal court today against Brevard County. The groups assert that the County’s continual rejection of atheists, humanists, and other non-believers who wish to offer a secular invocation before board meetings violates the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. . . . The lawsuit notes that in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that local governments may not discriminate based on religion when choosing who will deliver solemnizing statements to open government meetings. Yet Brevard County is doing exactly that by refusing to allow anyone who does not profess monotheistic beliefs to offer an official invocation. . . . ‘Over the last half-century, our country has made great progress—both legally and socially—-toward eradicating discrimination and meeting the goal of equality for all, which lies at the heart of our Constitution,’ asserts the lawsuit. ‘Discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, and (more recently) sexual orientation has become prohibited or disfavored. Nevertheless, in Brevard County’s eyes, people who do not believe in God remain a disfavored minority against whom it is acceptable to discriminate’. . . . 48 months of [Brevard County Commission] invocations are cataloged and graphed here.”
Local Muslim Attorney Battles for Justice for Christian
Orlando attorney Shahzad Ahmed filed a complaint on July 21 with the Human Rights Cell of the Pakistani Supreme Court in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian who has been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. According to his recent newsletter, attorney Ahmed argued in part that “Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code violates the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, of which Pakistan is a signatory, and other international documents, which call for the freedom of thought, religion and expression. Further, the case lacks evidence.” Ahmed reports that the Pakistan’s Supreme Court has “temporarily suspended Bibi’s death penalty and is reviewing the conviction as a whole.” Ahmed notes that “there are other persons and NGOs who have been pressuring Pakistan on this issue as well.” Unfortunately, he says, “the task of defending Asia Bibi is not over yet.” Thus he invites everyone to continue making their concerns heard and staying up-to-date by following his Facebook page about Bibi’s plight.
Northland Begins Live-Streaming Services for the Deaf
Northland, a Church Distributed (530 Dog Track Road, Longwood, FL 32750), reported on July 29 that the church has launched a new venture: the live-streaming of ASL-interpreted (American Sign Language) services for the deaf and hearing-impaired. The interpreted services will feature a picture-in-a-picture format, allowing those who are deaf or hearing-impaired to watch services online and participate together with their hearing-able friends and family. The interpreted services, available at NorthlandChurch.net, will be live-streamed each Sunday at 11:00 am and are accessible on any mobile device, laptop or desktop. According to Krista Elliott, Northland’s lead ASL interpreter, the interpreted live-stream will allow the deaf and hearing-impaired to grasp the full meaning of the music and sermons. Elliott adds that many people who are deaf or hearing-impaired rely on ASL more than on written language. “If you’re born without hearing,” she says, “then English is no longer your first language.”Lawyer Differentiates Religious and Civil Marriage
In an article posted on the website of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty— “Obergefell Decision Does Not Remove the Separation of Church and State”—the organization’s general counsel, K. Hollyn Hollman, makes a number of observations about what the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage does and does not mean. She states: “Marriage is a religious act that occurs in the context of a religious community consistent with religious texts, traditions and understandings.” But she adds: “Marriage is also a civil institution that affords certain legal privileges and protections.” The latter statement, she says, “acknowledges an important distinction that has often been lost in the heated debates about marriage equality and the intersection of religious liberty.” Hollman quotes the court’s majority opinion as saying: “‘Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.’” Hollman adds: “This kind of respectful treatment of dissenting views is important in continuing to protect religious liberty without harming the rights the court affirmed today.” She notes that “churches will continue to make their own decisions about what kind of marriage ceremonies they conduct. Ministers will not be forced to perform same-sex weddings.” However, she suggests that “harder questions, particularly about religiously affiliated institutions and individual religious objectors, will depend on new fact scenarios and the interplay of a variety of laws.”Animated Map Shows How Five Religions Spread
Is computer technology impressive or is it impressive? Before you answer, check out this animated portrayal of when and where Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam spread across our globe. You’ve done it? OK, you can now answer that question about how impressive computer technology is.
“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 complicated aspects of life. “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. The Friends Talking Faith schedule for August features the following:
- August 4: Faith and Society: Early Childhood Development and Poverty
- August 11: Faith and Psychology: Children and Grief
- August 18: Faith and Religion: Children and Multi-Faith Families
- August 25: Faith and Psychology: Children’s Mental Health
Muslims Offer Course in “Prophetic Medicine”
“There is an epidemic of degenerative diseases and mental disorders that are now being linked to the Standard American Diet (SAD), the abuse and overuse of prescription drugs, the questionable practice of vaccinations, pharmaceutical residues in city tap water and other environmental exposures to toxins, and a general acidic lifestyle combined with little or no exercise.” That’s the beginning for the description of a course being offered at the Islamic Society of Central Florida’s Center for Peace (1021 North Goldenrod Road, Orlando, FL 32807). “The content of this eight-week course is designed to give you the basic tools that you need to change your lifestyle and to reverse disease and chronic health conditions that plague your life. The class is open to the public and to people of all religious faiths and cultural backgrounds.” The series begins on Thursday, August 6, at 6:30 pm. Go to Eventbrite to register and for details about meeting times and costs.
Take a Virtual Tour of Guang Ming Buddhist Temple
If you’ve been down toward Orlando International Airport and have driven past the Guang Ming Buddhist Temple (6555 Hoffner Avenue, Orlando, FL 32822), you may have wondered what such a unique and beautiful structure must look like inside. Well, wonder no more—because the Guang Ming staff are offering you a virtual tour right while you sit in the comfort of your favorite chair. (Just click on the “Play” arrow when you enter the website.) Breath-taking though the virtual tour will be, the on-site reality is even more impressive. So definitely plan to go for a visit some Sunday morning. Services are conducted from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. (And an array of classes are held throughout the week—Buddhism discussion groups and study classes, meditation classes, Chinese cultural classes and more. Certainly too many to try to explain here. So you should just visit. But there are certain dress and decorum expectations that guests and members alike are expected to honor. For answers to specific questions, send an email or phone 407-281-8482.
Interfaith Discussion: The Role of Women in Your Faith
The topic for the Interfaith Discussion on Wednesday, August 12, is: “What is your faith tradition’s position on the status of women? Are they considered totally equal to men? Are there roles they aren’t allowed to play? To what degree do they play leadership roles in your faith’s activities? Can they be ordained clergy (or the equivalent in your faith tradition)? Is education encouraged? Is there a great disparity between women’s role in the more conservative segments of your religion when compared to the more progressive segments?” The discussion group meets 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 discussions 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 place, click here. Admission is free. Everyone is invited.
Free Back-to-School Physicals Available
Shepherd’s Hope is collaborating with Nemours Children’s Hospital for the second year to bring free Back-to-School Physicals to uninsured families at two of Shepherd’s Hope’s health-center locations in August. Physicals are an annual requirement for any child entering a public school in Florida. Unfortunately, in some instances these essential physicals are no longer being offered by county health departments, and families with no insurance typically have no pediatrician. So free physicals are being offered to children and youth up 18 years of age, provided the families are uninsured and have access to physicals from no other source. Appointments are required. At the Longwood Shepherd’s Hope Health Center (The Sharing Center Plaza, 600 North US 17-92, #124, Longwood, FL 32750) physicals will be provided on Monday, August 10, 1:00 to 4:00 pm; Thursday, August 13, 9:00 am to 12:00 noon; Monday, August 17, 1:00 to 4:00 pm. For appointments phone 407-876-6699 x 243. At the Dr. Diebel, Jr., Memorial Shepherd’s Hope Health Center (2008 North Goldenrod Road, Orlando, FL 32807) physicals will be provided on Thursday, August 13, 1:00 to 4:00 pm; Monday, August 17, 9:00 am to 12:00 noon; Thursday, August 20, 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm. For appointments phone 407-876-6699 x 247.
Hindus Invite Public to Independence Celebration
The Hindu Society of Central Florida (1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707) invites the public to join them for festivities surrounding the celebration of India’s Independence Day. This two-hour cultural event will start promptly at 12:00 noon on Sunday, August 16, in the HSCF’s Community Hall. It will feature an Indian cultural program, followed by Indian snacks. The public is invited. Entry is free with prior RSVP by email (no later than August 12). For further information, contact Madan Arora, 407-971-9259; Dev Sharma, 407-862-9920; Prashant Saoji, 321-460-0800; or Babu Balasundram, 407-334-8006.
What Is the Second-Largest Religion in the US?
Pop quiz: What’s the second-largest religion in the United States? Clue 1: More than 16 percent of the world’s population have “membership” in this group. Clue 2: It’s the largest religious category in seven nations. Clue 3: This group is the second-largest religious grouping in 48 percent of the world’s nations. Have you figured it out? It’s the “nones”—that group that doesn’t identify as Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or any of the other world religions or subsets of them. It’s the group that doesn’t feel closely enough connected to any faith tradition to want to wear that faith’s label. Check out the maps from the Pew Research Center of each nation’s second-largest religions and first-largest religions. You may find the information both interesting and instructive.
Muslims in US Increasingly Face Discrimination
Atrocities committed by extremists who label themselves Muslim, whether carried out in the United States or overseas, draw considerable media coverage and condemnation—as they should. But what goes far less reported are incidence of subtle and not-so-subtle acts of discrimination and hatred against rank-and-file American Muslims—simply because they’re Muslim. In an article titled “Living While Muslim,” Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, discusses the rise of anti-Muslim harassment and discrimination in the United States. He cites a February 2015 study by LifeWay Research that “found that 27 percent of Americans believe ISIS represents what the Islamic religion really is.” However, a surprising number—73 percent—said they think American Muslims face “a great deal or a fair amount” of discrimination.
HOPE Helps Asking for Your Help in August
Do you believe in preventing homelessness through Housing, Outreach, Prevention and Education? Then you need to hear this news from HOPE Helps, Inc
(149 East Broadway, Oviedo, Florida 32765). For the first-time ever, a foundation has come forward to give an extra boost to this highly appreciated Seminole County non-profit. Up to a ceiling of $25,000, all money given to HOPE Helps during July and August will be matched dollar for dollar. That means that $25,000 can instantly become $50,000. It’s not magic because it requires your contributions and that of an un-named foundation. But it feels like magic to HOPE Helps. And the good that can be done with the money will feel like magic to those who benefit from everyone’s generosity. It’s easy to give: Just click here
. And if you have questions, contact HOPE’s CEO, Joan Faulkner, by email
or by phone (407-366-3422 x 3001
JCC to Host 32nd Annual Beat-the-Heat 5K Run
Some people are eternal optimists—such as the organizers of the 32nd Annual Beat-the-Heat 5K Run sponsored by the Roth Family Jewish Community Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751). Endure-the-Heat might be a more apt title! One thing is certain: Participants will definitely feel the heat by the time they finish! But it’s for a good cause. And it’s a great community event. So mark your calendars for Wednesday, August 12, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. Then go to the JCC website to learn about the prizes and details of how to register. Proceeds will benefit the JCC’s Marvin & Bonnie Friedman Scholarship Fund and the JCC’s many programs and services.
Six Republican Catholics Seeking Presidency of US
From the Pew Research Center website: “Only three Roman Catholics have ever run for president on a major party ticket, and all were Democrats. But that may be about to change. So far six Catholics (including some early favorites) are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. . . . This bumper crop of Catholic presidential candidates comes at a time when the leadership of the Republican Party is, by many measures, becoming increasingly Catholic. For instance, the House of Representatives had 69 Catholic Republicans at the beginning of the current, 114th Congress – a group that has nearly doubled in size in the last six years and includes House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. . . . In addition, a Roman Catholic, Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2012. Ryan was only the second Catholic ever to run on the Republican ticket, the first being William Edward Miller (a New York representative who was Barry Goldwater’s running mate in 1964).”
Two Interfaith Council Members to Speak at Nu Class
The Rev. Kathy Schmitz, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Orlando and a member of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, will speak at the Nu Class of First United Methodist Church of Orlando on Sunday, August 9. In a presentation titled “How Does Harper Lee’s New Book Impact Our Views on Race in America?” she’ll discuss the recent Harper Lee book, Go Set A Watchman, as a starting point for a conversation on whites responding to race issues in America. On August 23, the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, chair of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and one of “The Three Wise Guys” on the 90.7 WMFE FM radio program Friends Talking Faith, will address the Nu Class on the topic “Emerging Christianity and the Church.” He will focus on the predictions about the form and focus of Christian congregations in the future and the way things may differ from what we see currently. The public is invited to both presentations. In fact, the public has a standing invitation to the Nu Class, which “provides an alternative learning experience for adults of all ages where diverse opinions are discussed in a spirit of mutual respect.” The class meets on the First Floor, Room 6, of First United Methodist Church of Orlando (142 East Jackson Street, Orlando FL 32801). The class goes from 9:30 to 10:45 am each Sunday. Click here for location and parking information.
Holocaust Center Exhibit Focuses on Women
Through September 25, the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) will feature an exhibit titled “Remembering Ravensbruck.” The exhibit highlights the unique experiences of women in the Holocaust. Every Jew who was captured and forced to endure the hardships of slave labor camps suffered enormously. This exhibit silently tells the story of the special suffering of women and girls who were sent to this terrifying place. Created by the Kennesaw State University Public History and German Studies programs and the Ravensbrück Memorial Site, the exhibit tells the story of the Nazi concentration camp where as many as 150,000 women were interned. The panel-based exhibition features historic photographs, maps and artwork created by the prisoners, highlighting the stories of individual women imprisoned at the camp as well as female guards who willingly implemented the Nazi “Final Solution.” On Thursday evening, August 27, at 6:00 pm, the Center will host a Teachers Forum lecture that looks at why some women were targeted for persecution by the Nazis. How did their concentration-camp experiences differ from those of men? Discover what can be learned from exploring the particular hell known as Ravensbrück. Tours of the exhibit and the August 27 lecture are free, and the public is invited. For more information, phone 407-628-0555
Lifelong Learning Center Posts Fall Classes
As the old saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” But if you’re 50 years of age or older, the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning is doing what it can to keep you away from that workshop. As the Orange County Commission on Aging newsletter puts it: “The fall schedule for Rollins Center’s Lifelong Learning is now available! With 125 courses in poetry, current events, the arts and more, classes are offered at multiple locations including—Winter Park, Oviedo, Lake Mary and Lake Nona.” Check out the offerings for September, October and November. Then attend the orientation on Thursday, August 13, at 6:30 pm, at Rollins College’s Bush Auditorium. Be sure to RSVP. By the way, if the classes don’t fill your schedule, check out the volunteer opportunities that will not only help keep you away from the “pitch-fork guy” but will help create a better local community in the process.
Save the Dates for Global Peace Film Festival
If you’ve attended the Global Peace Film Festival in the past, you know what a rich experience you’ll be missing if you don’t mark your calendars right now to ensure as much availability as possible during the week of September 28 to October 4. “The Global Peace Film Festival, established in 2003, uses the power of the moving image to further the cause of peace on earth. From the outset, the GPFF envisioned ‘peace’ not as the absence of conflict but as a framework for channeling, processing and resolving conflict through respectful and non-violent means. People of good faith have real differences that deserve to be discussed, debated and contested. . . . GPFF works to connect expression—artistic, political, social and personal—to positive, respectful vehicles for action and change.” Keep checking the website, as the 2015 schedule of films and events will soon be posted. By the way, the GPFF isn’t just a passive exercise: There’s ample opportunity for a wide range of volunteerism—including monetary contributions!
Sixth Annual National Faith Symposium Oct 13-14
Plans are coming together for the sixth annual National Faith Symposium, which will be held October 13-14 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, FL. The Symposium is one of the State of Florida’s premier events to bring together leaders of faith, child welfare, juvenile justice and others to talk about how we can more effectively work together to empower Florida’s children and families and set them on a path to success. The event is being held in collaboration with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Children and Families and their partner, the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council. Two of the featured speakers will be: Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut (which has sent “100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006”); and James Towey, President of Ave Maria University, former Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush and legal counsel to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Also included on the roster is Anita Franklin, a gospel recording artist who released her first single in 2013—“You Are Jehovah God,—which was inspired by her life as a single mother and the trials she faced that gave way to blessings. Go the the Faith Symposium website for more information and to register.
Interfaith Entities Seeking Additional $19,000 in 2015
The Interfaith Council of Central Florida, Friends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, and the just-emerging InterDiversity Institute—all of which work closely together—have done the math and have concluded we need $19,000 more for 2015 than our donors have committed. We invite those who are blessed by the contribution we make to the community to help us in return. All contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Indicate which of the four entities above you wish to receive the benefit of your gift. Thanks to all whose support has made our activities possible.
“The pain we feel when someone leaves our life is in direct proportion to the joy they bring while a part of our life for a few moments. In my life you made me feel as if I truly meant something to someone.”
—from Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scriptures)
Betty Alter, Newsletter Production and Administration
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