Wednesday, August 24, 2016

USCIRF 2016 Annual Report

The USCIRF recently released its 2016 Annual Report on religious freedom.  Find the full report here in pdf format.  The overview in pdf can be found here.  See here for a page with links to other parts of the report.

The USCIRF recommends that nine countries be redesignated as countries of particular concern: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  It also recommends that eight other countries be designated as CPCs:  Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.  Ten other countries have been identified as having serious violations of religious freedom, though not to the point of deserving the CPC designation:  Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.

Choosing a New Place to Worship

The Pew Forum recently reported survey results from asking Americans about the factors that influence a change in place of worship.  See the overview here.  Not surprisingly, moving residences figures prominently in why people change the place of worship.

But when searching, the most commonly cited factor in choosing the new place of worship is quality of service.  Style of service is the third most cited factor.  Both of these relate to what we in our class call the ideal strictness of the individual.  Having friends or family in the congregation is also important, which matches the notion of religious capital.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Is Installing Solar Panels a Form of Religious Activity?

A Unitarian Universalist Church in Bedford, Massachusetts is claiming that it is, see here.  Because their church building, which was built in 1817, is located within the town's historic district, it is subject to certain construction regulations.  The town's Historic District Commission denied the church's request to install solar panels, presumably because it would negatively affect the historic look of the building.  The church has now sued the Commission claiming that denying their request violates the free exercise of their religion.  They claim that their members have a religious calling to undertake energy-conscious activities.

How courts have ruled in such matters has shifted over the decades, and it is unclear what will happen here.  One issue that could be relevant is the degree to which installing solar panels can be depicted as something that is tied to fundamental tenets of the church.