Unleash the Hounds (link roundup)

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There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, more than our team can write about in depth in any given week. Therefore, the Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Religious freedom in the courts

  • Colorado school district officials violated the Constitution when they openly supported a Christian mission trip to Guatamala, a court ruled. According to reports, the Douglas County School District produced fliers and information about the trip and sent them home to families, as well as hosting a fund drive for the trip during school hours. As reported by the Denver Post, “The case started in 2014 when a group of students from Highlands Ranch High School’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes decided to take a spring break mission trip to Guatemala.” With the help of the American Humanist Association, parent Jane Zoe sued the school. The District Court of Colorado ruled in favor of Zoe, saying that the “constitutional rights of Ms. Zoe and her son guaranteed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution were violated by those defendants. “
  • In Chicago, a nonprofit, Christian-based after-school club won its case against the state of Illinois, which had previously attempted to tax the organization. The state argued that the organization, By the Hand Club for Kids, was operating primarily as a non-religious organization to benefit the community through the offering of homework assistance, hot meals, after-school care, and medical attention. However, the organization’s lawyers stated that the club, which is reportedly a ministry of the Moody Church, was in fact a religion-based project and should not be taxed. The Circuit Court of Cook County ruled in favor of the club, saying that the state had “clearly erred when it substituted its own judgement of religious purpose.” The church was defended by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is described as and “alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

Religion news outside of the United States

  • As reported by Huffington Post, “Israel passed a law on July 19 to declare that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, something members of the Arab minority called racist and verging on apartheid.”  The Knesset passed what is being called a “watered-down” version of a highly controversial bill called the Jewish Nation-State Bill. The Times of Israel explains that this law “for the first time enshrines Israel as the national home of the Jewish people,” and it will become a “basic law” informing all other legislation. The bill was voted on just two months after the country’s 70th birthday.
  • An Australian court forced a woman to remove her niqab, reports the Guardian. According to the story, the judge felt that the niqab posted a security risk; the woman was in the courthouse because her husband was on trial for terrorist activities. The judge reportedly said, “Australia is obviously a multicultural society and I agree that religious dress should be accommodated as much as possible, but the right of religious freedom and the right to participate in public life are not absolutes.” The woman was reportedly compliant, willingly removing the niqab when passing through court security for an identity check.  However, her lawyers said there was an implied right to wear the veil and that she had applied for permission and was able to wear during past hearings. The debate, as illustrated in the Guardian, touches at the heart of the limits of religious freedom within very specific public forums.

In other news

  • Sex and gender diversity is growing, according to Salon. Writer and sociologist Georgiann Davis discusses the recent reported increase in the transgender population. She writes that “according to the Williams Institute at UCLA, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, the percentage of trans adults — an umbrella term used to describe those whose gender does not match with the sex they were assigned at birth — has doubled in the last 10 years from 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent.” Davis goes on to describe why the number is increasing, citing the increasing visibility and acceptance of not only the transgender experience but also those of other LGBTQ+ communities. She concludes, “There is no way to predict how large the sex- and gender-diverse population will get, but there is evidence that society is changing from the simplicity of male or female.”
  • In another study, researchers have now confirmed that the adult children of same-sex parents are “doing swimmingly.”  As reported in Think Progress, “The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has been following a contingent of lesbian families since they first started to plan to have kids in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those children are now about 25 years old.” This study is considered to be the longest-running of its kind, and it has proven, as reported, that “kids raised by same-sex couples turn out pretty much the same as everybody else.”
  • 12 boys and their soccer coach were recently saved from a Thailand cave, after being trapped inside when heavy monsoon rains flooded it. The story made international news as well the video of the boys during the rescue. What struck many people was how calm the kids were when the emerged from being trapped, and now it is being reported that the coach used his meditation training as a Buddhist monk to keep the boys’ spirits up. According to news sources, coach Ekapol Chanthawong led the boys in periodic meditation throughout the two-week crisis; it was that practice that enabled the children to be conserve energy and make it through without panic. The group’s calm was noted by rescuers.
  • Speaking of meditation, one artist creates sculptures that he says help put people in a meditative state. Anthony Howe is an American kinetic sculptor whose works are propelled by wind. His work has been featured at major world events, such as the Olympics, the Academy Awards and more. In a video on how he creates his works, Howe said, “The main thing I want people to take away from seeing my pieces is a moment or two when everything comes to a stop and they are sorta put into a semi meditative state, and they are released from the turmoil of their daily lives.”