How Religion Divides and Unites Us: News Roundup

This week saw interesting news from almost all of Tanenbaum’s key areas of focus, from workplace discrimination settlements to the ongoing violence in Nigeria to the Pope’s call for an interfaith peace conference. Here, a smattering of stories from around the web:

American Grace
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the transcript of a conversation with David Campbell, one of the authors (along with Robert Putnam) of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.
Campbell presented fascinating findings from the authors’ research, including key trends in Americans’ religiosity, as he explored his key research question: How can America be religiously devout, religiously diverse and religiously tolerant?
Said Campbell: “We’re going to show you some evidence today that that is actually the case, that Americans are quite accepting of those who are of other faiths, which is a remarkable thing given that so many Americans are themselves not only religious in a nominal sense, that is, they have a religious affiliation, but they’re also quite serious about their religion. They attend religious services. They contribute a lot of money to their religious congregations. But in spite of that, we still find a high degree of religious acceptance. So that’s the puzzle.”
Kirpan Tensions
Baptized Sikh males are expected to carry kirpans, small, blunt ceremonial daggers, as a sign of their commitment to their faith – and that includes youth.
Last month, a 4th grader in Canton, Michigan was found to be carrying a kirpan. Initially, the principal allowed the child to carry it. But after parents expressed concern and a legal review, the school district decided that it violated federal and local policies against carrying weapons (or things that look like weapons) in schools.
“That concerned some Sikh parents, who say the kirpan is a nonthreatening item that symbolizes their commitment to fighting against evils, such as greed.” (Kansas City Star)
“"It's not an assault weapon," Tejkiran Singh , 47, of Canton. "It's so small, so blunt… The whole purpose of wearing it is that it's a reminder of our spirituality," he said.” (The Economic Times)
In response, local Sikhs are holding a forum to education the community about Sikhism and allay any concerns they might have. The school district also plans to meet with the Sikh community to continue conversations on the issue.
Discrimination at Work
A North Carolina auto parts manufacturer will pay out nearly $37,000 to an employee in a suit filed by the EEOC. Employee Dwayne Butler was subject to a random drug test that required him to give a saliva sample. As a follower of Santeria, his religious beliefs prohibited him from providing saliva to anyone for anything other than a religious purpose. Butler told his employer about his beliefs and offered to submit to alternative forms of drug testing, but was fired for his refusal to submit to the saliva test. (News Observer)
Also in North Carolina, another payout – this time for $110,000.  The EEOC reached the settlement with Measurement, Inc. after it fired long-time employee Jacqueline Dukes for refusing to work on Saturday, her Sabbath. As part of the settlement, Measurement will also have to provide religious diversity training for its managers and employees. (News Observer)
Peacemaker in the News
Peacemaker in Action Yehezkel Landau was part of a delegation that traveled to Nigeria last month to call for fair and peaceful elections there. He was profiled in the Hartford Courant.
“Landau, a Jew, took his shofar to Nigeria. He blew the horn in celebration of the country's 50th year of independence. Now, back home, he'll watch the news, stay in touch with his friends and pray. He knows more than most that it's the people on the ground — the imam, the pastor — who will make all the difference. He knows that the march will continue.”
Assisi Summit
Following the recent violence in Egypt, Pope Benedict is calling for a peace summit to be held in Assisi, Italy this October. “Speaking in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said the aim of the summit would be to "to solemnly renew the effort of those with faith of all religions to live their faith as a service for the cause of peace".” (BBC)