Church and State Separated in Virginia

On this day January 16, 1786: Under James Madison's guidance, the General Assembly passes Thomas Jefferson's Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. Passage of the bill ended the cozy relationship between church and state in Virginia and set all religious beliefs on equal footing.

Laws of Burgos of Proclaimed

On this day December 27, 1512: The Spanish Crown declared the Laws of Burgos, the first time Spain issued laws governing indigenous peoples. Their promulgation was to prevent mistreatment of native peoples whose American territories Spain had conquered. In addition, the Laws of Burgos provided for the teaching of and conversion to Catholicism of the native population.

Little Difference in Belief between Catholics and Protestants

October 31 is traditionally thought to be the day Martin Luther nailed to a Wittenberg church door his 95 theses or issues he had with the Catholic Church, thus commencing the Reformation. The division of the church into Catholics and Protestants resulted in hundreds of years of intolerance, persecution, torture and war. The bloodshed on each side was so great that in 1554 Sebastian Castellio wrote,

. . . dost Thou now command that those who do not understand Thy precepts as the mighty demand, be drowned in water, cut with lashes to the entrails, sprinkled with salt, dismembered by the sword, burned at a slow fire, and otherwise tortured in every manner and as long as possible? Dost Thou, O Christ, command and approve of these things? . . . If Thou, Christ, dost these things or if Thou commandest that they be done, what has Thou left for the devil?

Now 500 years later those who sacrificed so much on both sides of the divide would be astonished, perhaps dismayed, that so few believe what cost them their lives.

Surveys in the United States and Western Europe by the Pew Research Center reveal that most Catholics and Protestants now believe many of the same concepts that caused bloodshed in the past. That salvation was obtain solely by faith was a rallying cry among Protestants during the Reformation. Now a majority, like Catholics, believe that both faith and works are required. Whereas 500 years ago, Protestants held that the Bible alone was necessary to understand God’s will, today they are in the minority. Along with Catholics, the majority of Protestants hold that church tradition along with the Bible is necessary to understand God’s will.

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Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley Burned in Oxford

Broad Street where Oxford Martyrs Burned.jpeg

Picture: Karen R. Scott

On this day October 16, 1555: Hugh Latimer, former Bishop of Worcester and Nicholas Ridley, former chaplain to Edward VI, were burned at the stake in Oxford. They refused to convert from the Church of England to Catholocism under Mary I. A stone cross on Broad Street in Oxford marks the spot of their execution.

Roger Williams Banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony

On this day October 9, 1635: Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Massachusetts General Court found him guilty of criticizing the government for illegally seizing Native Americans' land and also challenging the right of the church to reprimand religious dissenters. During his lifetime he could never enter the colony without risking his liberty and life.

'Evangelical' Dropped from Princeton Student Group Name

Princeton Evangelical Fellowship students voted to drop the word 'evangelical' from their name due to the negative connotations associated with the word 'evangelical'. The students are now known as 'Princeton Christian Fellowship'. A spokesperson for the group emphasized that discussions regarding the name change began before the last election. However, 'evangelical' has become burdened with politics and therefore interferes with the group's ministry.

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Sabbath Railway Work Angers Ultra-Orthodox in Israel

Working on Sabbath to keep trains running in Israel has resulted in a political storm. Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the work stopped during the Sabbath hours to satisfy ultra-Orthodox parties that form part of his ruling coalition. Ultra-Orthodox Jews insist upon a strict Shabbat observance. However, the High Court of Justice overruled Netanyahu's order stating that orders only from Labor Minister Katz were enforcable. Katz ordered resumption of work, even during Sabbath hours, angering the ultra-Orthodox. Before the court's intervention, trains were shut down across the nation during Shabbat leaving many stranded commuters, including soldiers who could not return to their posts.

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Female Genital Mutilation in Russia

Until recently, Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) has been legal in Russia. However, legislation recently was drafted banning the practice after a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew caused an uproar over the procedure.

When asked about FGM, Mufti Ismail Berdiev said FGM was a 'healthy custom' that should be practiced on all women 'to end depravity on Earth and reduce sexuality.' He opined that at creation women were destined for the birthing and raising of children and that FGM does not interfere with this God-given directive.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church agreed that FGM was a 'time-honored practice' but was probably unnecessary for Orthodox Christian women because promiscuity was not a problem for among them.

Rabbi Boruch Gorin neither condoned or condemned FGM but agreed that men are surrounded by many sexual temptations.

Mufti Ismail Berdiev later claimed he was joking about FGM but stressed that women's sexuality must be restrained. 

Hijab Now Part of Approved Uniform for Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Police in Scotland

Muslim women who choose to become part of the RCMP may now wear the hijab while on the job. The Mounties became the third police force in Canada to allow the hijab. Officials noted that the decision reflects Canada's growing diversity and hopes to encourage Muslim women to become Mounties. The hijab has been worn by Muslim female members of the Canadian military since 1996.

Scotland Police, also in an effort to recruit more minorities, have also approved the hijab as part of its official uniform. 


Fighting Radical Islam, Germany Grants Islam Same Legal Standing as Christianity and Judaism

There is no separation of church and state in Germany. It levies a church tax to support established religions. Islam is Germany's fastest growing faith and its members seek the same legal standing as those who follow Judeo-Christian beliefs. Part of this goal has been realized as Islam is now part of public school and university programs just as Judaism and Christianity are. Teachers of Islam can now receive state-certified training for teaching Islam in public schools. Germany hopes that such measures will counteract radical Islam.

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