This week (Feb. 7-14, 2014) in religion news:
- Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, has been banned in India.
Penguin India agreed, in an out-of-court settlement, to stop producing and selling the books and to pulp existing ones. Doniger is a somewhat infamous American Indologist and professor of history of religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School. In a statement, Doniger said, “I am glad that, in the age of the Internet, it is no longer possible to suppress a book. The Hindus is available on Kindle; and if legal means of publication fail, the Internet has other ways of keeping books in circulation. People in India will always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that may offend some Hindus.” What does this mean for the relationship between religious beliefs and public policy?
- Also, this week in Kansas, the House passed a bill that will allow business to refuse customers based on the costumer’s sexual orientation and the business owner’s personal religious beliefs. HB 2453 passed the Republican-dominated House on Wednesday 72-49 and has gone to the Senate for a vote. Though not an issue of censorship, this bill is similar to the penal code in India that allowed the censorship to occur – if a book or piece of literature offends a religious group, the government can ban and pulp it. What do these political moves mean for modern society, religious belief and social tolerance?
- On Monday, PewResearch’s Religion & Public Life Project released a report about Russians returning to religion but not to physical churches. Pew’s report highlights major religious groups in Russia, trends in practices and beliefs and trends in religious self-identification. The report breaks down differences in religious beliefs further by age, education and gender. From the report: “the share of Russia’s population that does not identify with any religion dropped from 61 percent to 18 percent.”
- Pope Francis blessed 10,000 to 15,000 couples in St. Peter’s square on St. Valentine’s Day. Couples, both married and unmarried, traveled from more than 30 different countries to receive a blessing and advice from the Pope.
Next week in religion news:
Look for original content in reaction to the banning of Wendy Doniger’s book in India and Kansas House Bill 2453.
The issues of censorship and freedom of speech are pertinent on a local and global scale. What effect does social media and the Internet have on those two topics in regard to religious beliefs? Does the Internet allow people to create interfaith communities and come together in a tolerant discourse on religious differences? Or does it do the opposite?
I want to pursue a story that will show that the issues of censorship, freedom of speech and religious belief are all closely tied and are prevalent on a local and global scale.