August 2014

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Supreme Court Prayer Ruling May Lead to Problems
When five Supreme Court justices ruled in Greece v. Galloway that sectarian prayers wereWiccan imageacceptable at local government meetings because everyone, even atheists, could offer them, the justices may have been overly optimistic. Just ask Blake Kirk, a Wiccan of Huntsville, Alabama. Kirk had earlier offered the invocation at the city council without identifying his religion–because no one asked. But when he was invited to participate a second time–and asked what faith he represented–problems arose. When his name and religious affiliation were printed on the agenda, complaints started coming in. And Kirk was disinvited because his presence would have been too disruptive, council members said. While Central Florida seems to be taking in stride the thoughtful secular reflections being offered by non-believers, other regions aren’t so open. It won’t be long until more suits will be filed, and the courts will once again be revisiting the question of whether equal treatment and equal access are truly possible when it comes to prayers at governmental meetings
Interfaith Council Hosts Prayers for Peace Service
The Interfaith Council of Central Florida hosted a Prayers for Peace Service at the Winter Park Campus of Valencia College on July 17 in response to the murders and/or brutalizing of a number of Israeli and Palestinian youth and the rising tensions in the region in general, which have since erupted into all-out war. Program participants represented the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith communities as well as the academic community. The evening concluded with a shared Iftar (the meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast) arranged by the Islamic Society of Central Florida. Some 60 people attended, representing a range of age, religion and ethnicity.
Pope Francis Phones Leaders in Middle East Re PeacePope Francis 2
On July 18, Pope Francis “personally telephoned President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine to share his very serious concerns regarding the current situation of conflict involving in particular the Gaza Strip which, in a climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering for the two populations, is claiming many victims and giving rise to a serious humanitarian emergency,” according to a Vatican press release. “He reminded the presidents, whom he considers to be men of peace and seekers of peace, of the need to continue to pray and endeavour to ensure that all the interested parties and those who hold political office at local and international level work to bring an end to hostilities, making efforts to promote truce, peace and reconciliation in the hearts of those involved.”

Ambassador – International Religious Freedom Nominated
Saperstein 2Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, a position that functions under the State Department. The position had been vacant since October 2013, and faith leaders were pressing to see the vacancy filled. Rabbi Saperstein is currently Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches First Amendment Church-State Law and Jewish Law, states the White House press release. He also serves on a number of boards, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.  He was a Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011. Rabbi Saperstein will be the first non-Christian to occupy the position. According to Wikipedia, the position was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. With religious intolerance and persecution on the upswing in many nations, having an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom is at least a first important step.

Christians Face No-Real-Choice Options in Mosul, Iraq
When the radical Sunni Muslim group ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq (a historically significant region that lies just across the Tigris River from ancient Nineveh), most Christians living in the area left. They recognized that the future for Christians in the region was bleak. Then in mid July, “the Islamic State gave any remaining Christians a final choice to make by Saturday noon: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or face the sword,” according to a Reuters article. “The militants’ seizure of Mosul also drove other ethnic and religious minorities away, such as the Shabak and Turkmen Shi’ites and the Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish group practicing a religion linked to Zoroastrianism.”

Religious and Atheist Literature Have OK from OCPS
According to a press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its localocpsaffiliate the Central Florida Freethought Community, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has dismissed the FFRF/CFFC’s free-speech case against Orange County Public Schools because OCPS has agreed to let FFRF/CFFC distribute all of the literature the school system had previously prohibited. In 2013, FFRF/CFFC sought to distribute atheist literature in several public high schools after the district allowed an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles. Some of the proposed atheist materials were prohibited by OCPS. From the beginning, FFRF and CFFC have maintained that OCPS should close the school-based distribution forum altogether. “The irony is that kids can get a Bible anywhere. It’s the country’s most widely available book,” says FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel. “But where could a Christian kid get a copy of Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation so easily? As long as the forum remains open, they can get one in Orange County Public Schools.”
“Friends Talking Faith” with The Three Wise Guys
3 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. Featured in August is a three-part series titled “The Original Wise Guys.” August’s programs are:

  • August 5:   Faith and Religion: Abraham and Sara  (part one of three)
  • August 12: Faith and Religion: Jesus (part two of three)
  • August 19: Faith and Religion: Muhammad (part three of three)
  • August 26: Faith and Society: Education

National Night Out Slated for August 5 in OrlandoNight Out 2
The 31st National Night Out–a cooperative effort between the City of Orlando, Orlando churches, the Orlando Police Department, the Orlando Fire Department, Orlando residents and Orlando’s Neighborhood Watch programs–will be held Tuesday, August 5. “It’s time to get to know your neighbors and celebrate,” says Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “On Tuesday, August 5, Orlando residents will join 38 million people and 16,000 communities nationwide to participate in the 31st annual event.” The event allows residents and a variety of public and private entities to work together to increase community involvement and make the community safer. Click here to read more from Mayor Dyer about the event.

First Annual Volunteer Fest to Be Held August 7
VolunteersJgepDo you have time, energy and talent to volunteer but don’t know who could most effectively utilize what you have to give? Then the First Annual Volunteer Fest may be just what you need. From 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Thursday, August 7, at the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center (1050 West Morse Blvd., Winter Park, FL) you can explore the volunteer opportunities Central Florida has to offer. Plus you can enjoy the food trucks, the fun activities, music,  zumba, the giveaways and other things of interest that will be part of the fest. The event is being hosted by Volunteers for Community Impact. For more information phone 407-298-4180.

Speaking of Volunteering, Why Not Shepherd’s Hope?Shepherd's Hope 2
Are you a doctor? Trained medical support staff? Just have a soft spot in your heart for people facing medical issues when they can’t afford insurance? Then Shepherd’s Hope might be just the volunteer opportunity for you. But, you say, you don’t know anything about Shepherd’s Hope? No problem. Just click here and read about its origin, mission and accomplishments to date. Then, when you’ve decided you’d like to at least check out the possibilities of volunteering, click here. And if you don’t feel you have either time or talent to volunteer–or if you want to give something in addition to time and talent–there’s at least one other way to help: financial contributions. Although Shepherd’s Hope started out as a predominantly Christian organization, it’s becoming increasingly multi-faith, with volunteers and supporters–and certainly the recipients of the services rendered–coming from a variety of faith traditions.

Non-Profit Co-Founder Writes Book About His Venture
Pastor GeorgeScott George, senior pastor of Pinecastle United Methodist Church (731 Fairlane Avenue, Orlando, FL 32809) and co-founder of the non-profit Community Food and Outreach Center (150 West Michigan Street, Orlando, FL 32806), has written a book about his years of experience in working in very practical, down-to-earth, hands-on ways for community betterment. He not only tells the inspiring story of how CFOC emerged and has developed over the years, he also shares the philosophical insights he’s picked up along the way. Over the years, he has amassed a list of do’s and don’ts that, when put together, provide a solid philosophy that could be helpful to many non-profits and faith-based organizations and individuals who want to help. The book, titled Living Beyond Ordinary, should be released this month (August) and will be available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major booksellers. The first chapter can be downloaded online for free to give you a taste of what Pastor George has to say.

Orange County Mayor Jacobs Hosting Health SummitMajor Jacobs
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs announces: “In the spirit of keeping Orange County healthy, on [Saturday] August 9, 2014, I will be hosting the 2014 Mayor’s Health Summit from 9 am to noon at the Renaissance Senior Center, located at 3800 South Econlockhatchee Trail in Orlando. In addition to offering access to blood-pressure checks, Body Mass Index readings (BMI) and lipid checks, the summit will also offer onsite mammograms, healthy cooking demonstrations, and 30-minute information sessions on diabetes [and] colon, breast and cervical cancer. Mammograms are offered by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling 407-303-1615. The Health Summit is open to the public, and admission is free.”

Interfaith Discussion Wednesday, August 13
The topic for the monthly Interfaith Discussion on Wednesday, August 13, is: “Does your faith tradition seek converts (seek to proselytize, in other words)? If yes, what is the rationale for doing so? How do you feel when you know someone from a different faith tradition, denomination or sect is trying to proselytize you?” The discussion group meets from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month at Adventist University of Health Sciences 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.

Side-by-Side Comparison of World’s Religions at Website
How does the teaching of Hinduism on the subject of deity compare to the teachings of Islam and Sikhism on the same topic? Or how does Jewish teaching about the afterlife compare to that of Christians and Baha’is? Don’t have time to spend hours researching such topics? Fortunately, you don’t have to–because the website has a side-by-side comparison for looking at up to three faith traditions at a time, which makes it really easy. And speaking of the website, it also provides an array of excellent overviews of the beliefs and practices of a large number of faith traditions as well as the views of non-theists.

Unique Opportunity to Study Florida’s Turtles Up Close
turtlesThe Sanford Herald reports: “See and hold live turtles and learn more about the turtles of the Wekiva River at 9 am [Saturday] August 16 at Nature Pavilion at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Principle investigator and herpetologist Eric Munscher from of the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group and the Turtle Survival Alliance will describe his studies of the different turtles in the Wekiva, their habitats and populations. Wekiva Wild and Scenic River Ambassador Virginia Oros will join the one-hour program that will include what residents do to help protect turtles. Stay and enjoy the new Wekiva Wilderness Trust Nature Pavilion to see a live alligator, snakes and turtles and learn some interesting facts about these and other species. There are also fossils and artifacts that illustrate the area’s rich history and its abundance of wildlife and plant life. . . . The program is free, but the park entrance fees apply. For more information, contact Oros at 407-330-6727 or”

Seven Percent of Americans “Spiritual” But Not “Religious”
From the New York Times: “‘Spiritual but not religious.’ So many Americans describe their belief system this way that pollsters now give the phrase its own category on questionnaires. In the 2012 survey by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project, nearly a fifth of those polled said that they were not religiously affiliated—and nearly 37 percent of that group said they were ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious.’ It was 7 percent of all Americans, a bigger group than atheists, and way bigger than Jews, Muslims or Episcopalians.” Learn even more about this interesting and increasing spiritual/religious self-designation by reading the article in full.

All Are Invited to Indian Independence Day CelebrationIndian Independence
The community at large is invited to join Central Florida’s Indian community as they celebrate the Independence Day of their homeland. The event, which is being sponsored by the New Age Group (the seniors group) of the Hindu Society of Central Florida, will run from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm on Sunday, August 17, at the Hindu Society’s community hall (1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707). It will feature a cultural program and a speech, followed by an Indian lunch/snack. For those who RSVP by email by August 10, there will be no charge. Those who haven’t booked will be charged $5.00 at the gate. Seating is limited, so early booking is recommended. For more information, contact: Madan Arora, 407-971-9259; Dev Sharma, 407-862-9920; Prashant Saoji, 321-460-0800; or Babuji Ambikapathy, 407-230-2762. You may also get more information by tuning in to “Manoranjan–The Radio Show” on 1440 AM (with simulcast at every Saturday from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

Hope CommUnity Center Helps Children Fleeing Violence
HopeOne of the summer projects of Hope CommUnity Center (1016 North Park Avenue, Apopka, FL 32712) has been to provide English and Basic Life Skill classes to a group of 20 youth from Central America. These young people, most of whom are recent arrivals, have described fleeing situations of extreme violence and poverty, and have expressed the desire to reunite with family members here in the United State. “I like coming to Hope,” stated one of the young people. “This is a place where I feel welcomed and safe, and I am learning things that will help me succeed as a person.” Founded by four Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Hope CommUnity Center has been serving the migrant and working-poor communities of Apopka for more than 40 years. “The spirit and values that guide the center are Christian-gospel mandates,” say staff. “Love, hospitality, solidarity and service are at the core of the message of Jesus Christ and require of us, who claim to be people of faith, a concrete response to the people who are suffering and to the root causes of their life-threatening distress. Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, for to them belongs the Kingdom of God.’” Click here for more information about the center and how to become involved.
Public Invited to Muslim Group’s Eid Celebration PicnicIslamic Center 2
The Islamic Center of Orlando is inviting the general public to join them in their Eid Celebration Picnic on Saturday, August 16, at 2:00 pm in Pavilions 1 and 2 at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake (3401 South Hiawassee Road, Orlando, FL 32835). This is an event with food and fun activity for the entire family. Young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim, all are invited. Please RSVP by email to or by phone at 407-361-6666.

How Can Everyone Help OCPS? The Ways Are Many!
Orange County Public Schools has opportunities for faith-based entities, community organizations and every individual in the region to help make the county’s schools more effective. Not only are faith-based and other community organizations invited to adopt a school, everyone can help raise funds for schools through a program called called Fuel My School, and it’s as easy as 1-2-3. When you’re shopping at all your favorite online stores–Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Sports Authority, just about any store–be sure to do it through your school’s online mall at The school you’ve designated will get a commission. And it’s at no extra cost to you! Is that great opportunity or what? Check it out. The students and teachers of Orange County will be grateful.

Rollins College Offers Lifelong Learning Classes
Are you 50 years of age or older and have a bucket list of things you want to learn? Then the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning may be just the thing for you. During September, October and November, RCLL will once again offer an array of classes that address subjects ranging from Art to History to Estate Planning to Comparative Religion to Health to Cooking and much more. In fact, the array of classes is truly amazing. Each class costs $60, but there are a limited number of scholarships available to help those on highly limited incomes. Classes fill up, so register as soon as you know which class/classes you’d like to take. Questions may be directed to Dr. Jill Norburn.

RCLL Class: “Getting To Know My Non-Christian Neighbors”
Following is the description of a class offered by the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning: A few decades ago, the odds were overwhelming that the family moving into the house next door would be Christian. The only question was whether they’d be Baptists, Catholics, Methodists or some other denomination. But those odds are changing. Although self-described Christians still account for more than 75 percent of the U.S. population, other faith traditions are on the increase. And the fastest-growing religious affiliation in the U.S. is “no religious affiliation.” So just what is the respective worldview of these other faith/no-faith groups? Why not let them speak for themselves? At each class session, hear two presenters each give a lively half-hour overview of the main features of their faith tradition/worldview. Then you as a class will have half an hour to ask them questions. In all, you’ll hear eight presenters from eight faith traditions/worldviews: Baha’i, Buddhism, Hinduism, Humanism/Atheism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Unitarian Universalism. James Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, will serve as the class convener and moderator of the question-and-answer periods. The dates for the classes are (Mondays): September 8, 15, 22, & 29  from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. The classes will be held at Winter Park Towers (1111 South Lakemont Avene, Winter Park, FL 32792). For more detail and to register, go to the item above and follow the various links provided.

Hindus Sponsoring Student Essay-Writing Competition
Hindu SocietyThe New Age Group (the seniors group) at the Hindu Society of Central Florida is sponsoring a student writing competition, with prizes to be awarded during its celebration of Grandparents Day on Sunday, September 14, at 1:30 pm at the community hall of the Hindu Society of Central Florida (1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707). The essays, which are open to all students and not just those residing in Central Florida and not just Hindus, will address issues related to a positive lifestyle. Topics and essay length for each age grouping are: elementary (primary) school: Physical Activity (150-250 words); middle school: Junk Food (250-500 words); high school: Healthy Lifestyle (300-750 words); college: Causes and Cure of Diabetes (500-1,000 words). The winner and two runners-up in each age group will receive a small cash prize. All writers will receive a community-service certificate for participating. All entries must be sent by email, and the essay must be included in the body of the email (not sent as an attachment). Submissions must be received by September 9, 2014. Writers should include: full name, age, grade, name of school, email address and phone number. Essays should be original and written by the student (without parental editing). Winners will be announced at the September 14 event, and winning entries will be posted on the website of the Hindu Society of Central Florida. The Grandparents Day celebration is free to all who RSVP by September 9. As part of the event, there will be an on-the-spot drawing competition (children must bring their own supplies), with winners being awarded small cash prizes. Only those who RSVP will be able to attend. For further information, call: Madan Arora, 407-971-9259; Dev Sharma, 407-862-9920; or Jayant Vaidya, 407-977-1826.

Global Peace Film Festival Coming Septebmer 16-22GPFF
One of the best events in Central Florida is the annual Global Peace Film Festival. Such a world-class event needs to be shouted from the housetops as well as from the street corners. This is the 12th year the film festival has stimulated thought and action on socially and morally important issues. So plan to take advantage of as many of the movies as possible. The films, the venues, the discussion opportunities–they’re all falling into place. So keep an eye on the GPFF website as information specific to this year’s event will soon be posted in full detail.

Orlando to Host Hindu Mandir Executives Conference
Not familiar with the term “mandir”? It’s the word Hindus and Jains typically use for their temples. And speaking of their temples, they’re on the increase in North America, with more than 500 in the United States and Canada. The rapid increase in mandirs is why this year will be the ninth year that there has been a Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (to be held at the Renaissance Orlando Airport, 5445 Forbes Place, Orlando, FL 32812, from September 19 to 21). The event allows Hindu mandir personnel to talk shop and share the insights they’ve gleaned as Hinduism expands in both the United States and Canada. Typically, representatives of such gatherings come from about one hundred mandirs. The events are held in different parts of North America to make it easier for different regions to avail themselves of the opportunity to participate. Hindu University of America (113 S Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando, FL 32825) is playing a major role in the planning and hosting this year’s event in Orlando. For those wanting to know where Hindu mandirs are located, this helpful website provides a state-by-state guide.

Save The Date for Third Annual Multi-Faith Workshop
The New Age Group of the Hindu Society of Central Florida has announced that its third annual Multi-Faith Workshop will be held on Sunday, November 2, at 1:30 pm. Among other things, the event features brief presentations from a wide variety of faith traditions concerning a particular theme. More details and the theme for this year’s workshop will be advertised in upcoming issues of this newsletter.

Stand Up For Peace 5-K Run Set for September 21
Islamic Society of Central FLDo you ever feel powerless to make a difference in a world full of turmoil? It’s easy to hope for peace, but it’s better to work for it. So if you’re serious about peace, why not participate in the 5-K Peace Run on September 21. Support the causes you’re passionate about.Register today. The 5-K run starts at 8:00 am. From 9:00 am to 1:00 pm there will be food and fun events for the whole family. The Peace Run, sponsored by the Center for Peace at the Islamic Society of Central Florida, will be held on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus of Seminole State College (100 Weldon Blvd, Sanford, FL).

Your Tax-Deductible Contributions Always Appreciated
The Interfaith Council of Central FloridaFriends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, Building US and the just-emerging InterDiversity Institute–all of which work closely together–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. Thank you.

Baha’i ReflectionAbdul
“I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.”
An extract from a speech given in Paris in 1911 by Abdu’l-Baha, son of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith

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  James Coffin, Executive Director
PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310
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