Friday News Roundup: I’ll take a little bit of everything, please.

istock_000003001750xsmallIt’s another one of those weeks: tons of interesting stories, but not clustered around one media-frenzied topic.

What we got: some more reactions to Obama, a few interesting studies, some controversial news from the world of education, some more commentary on the ever-more-high-profile intersection of religion and medicine and a thought-provoking question about religion and dolls.  That’s right, dolls.  Take the jump.

Starting off:  There’ve been strong reactions from all quarters on Obama’s Cairo speech.  Religion and Ethics Newsweekly brings together the takes of scholars across a wide range of religions and disciplines (including a few friends of Tanenbaum, like the Chair of our Religion and Conflict Resolution Program Advisory Council, Marc Gopin – who actually writes a great blog of his own, MarcGopin.com).  The Dallas Morning News collects views from a group of (heavily Christian) religious leaders.

Next up, statistics.  It may seem like there have been a glut of ’em lately, but between all the controversial social and political topics and the ever-shifting demographics of our world, there’s always something to investigate:

  • The Hartford Institute for Religion Research looks at the demographics of American Megachurch attendees in the provocatively-titled report Not Who You Think They Are.

Even as Canada becomes dramatically more multi-faith through immigration, only 28 per cent of Canadians tell pollsters they approve of Islam, for example. Just 30 per cent approve of Sikhism.

The numbers rise a little for other religions, but they’re still underwhelming. Only 41 per cent of Canadians approve of Hinduism, while just 53 per cent approve of Judaism and 57 endorse Buddhism.

Seventy-two per cent of Canadians have a favourable opinion of Christianity, which remains the country’s largest faith group — even though only about one out of four Canadians attend church with any regularity.

Many Canadians believe some of the country’s minority religions promote violence.

Schools have turned out to be a fertile ground for controversy this week:

  • The New York Times reports on the heated debate over a Muslim school in northern Virginia and its attempts at relocation:  “Many residents living near the 34-acre campus along Popes Head Road, a narrow byway connecting two busy thoroughfares, say they oppose it because they fear it will bring more cars, school buses and flooding of land that would be paved over for parking lots.  But others object to the academy’s curriculum, saying it espouses a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. A leaflet slipped into mailboxes in early spring called the school ‘a hate training academy.’
  • In New Jersey, a Muslim school is breaking ground for its expansion into a new site.  The North Brunswick Sentinel reports that the school enjoys a good rapport with the surrounding community, churches and synagogues.

Finally, a few closing tidbits:

  • The People’s Press Collective blog weighs in on the questions of whether health care providers working at publicly-funded hospitals can refuse procedures on religious grounds without running afoul of the Establishment Clause.
  • On a lighter note (depending on how you look at it), to shepherd us into the weekend:  Should dolls get religion, or be given one? Probes more into the American Girl doll series that you probably ever have.  (The Riverdale Press)

Have a great one and I’ll see you next week, same bat place, same bat channel.

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