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Should Courts Get to Define Religion?


Posted on 2016/5/7 19:30:08 ( 1640 reads )

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA, May 5, 2016 (by Michael O'loughlin,The Atlantic):

HPI Note: Trustees of temples in the US should pay attention to this unusual court case which could ultimately impact their organization.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court will decide whether a local shrine should be tax-exempt--a decision that could have broad implications for faith organizations in America. A case now in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, about whether the 21 religious brothers and sisters who run the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro should have to pay taxes, could have huge repercussions. The Court's decision will be an important part of the ongoing debate in America about who defines religious practice--believers or bureaucrats--and whether religion itself should be afforded a special place under the law. The case centers on a colonial-era law in Massachusetts that exempts religious houses of worship and parsonages from property taxes if they are used for religious worship or instruction. The shrine has enjoyed this perk since its founding in 1953. But in recent years, the City of Attleboro, nestled between Providence and Boston, has faced a tightening budget. It began looking to see where it could collect more revenue. The shrine, the only major tourist attraction in town, was an obvious target for tax collectors.

The city valued the property at $12.8 million, all of which had previously been exempt. But in 2013, officials decided that $4.9 million of that value represented property not used for religious worship or instruction. They declared that a maintenance shed, coffee shop, conference rooms, and a religious bookstore--along with the forest preserve that covers more than half the campus--are used for secular purposes. The shrine, the city decided, had to pay up, and received a $92,000 tax bill. Under pressure, the shrine paid, but then sought a tax abatement through the courts, arguing that all 199 acres were used for religious purposes. Faith leaders from across Massachusetts agreed and filed a brief in support of the shrine.

The conflict is about the tax status of religious organizations, but the deeper issue is about who gets to define religion. If the justices rule that shrines' grounds are taxable, the results could be devastating for other religious organizations. The Court's decision could also empower other municipalities to take a closer look at tax-exempt properties in their own jurisdictions as possible cash cows. Other religious organizations in Massachusetts are monitoring the case, fearful that their own assets could be the next targets for taxation. And it's not uncommon for state judges to look to other jurisdictions for guidance or for federal courts to consider trends in the states as they rule on similar cases.

For more, go to source




Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/5/7 19:29:58 ( 1567 reads )

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The pweor of the hmuan mnid: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig! Mybae the Hunidsim Tdoay sfatf can sotp slpel ckchenig?



Hindu American Foundation Releases Bullying Report


Posted on 2016/5/4 18:02:37 ( 2602 reads )

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, May 2, 2016 (HAF): The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the advocacy organization for the Hindu American community, has today announced the release of its 2016 "Bullying in American Schools" report. The report includes testimonies and data demonstrating how Hindu American students are being singled out, bullied, and ostracized by their peers, largely due to academic curricula that reinforce negative and inaccurate stereotypes.

"For many years the American perception of Hinduism has been wrong, in large part due to the content of textbooks, and our kids pay the price," said Samir Kalra, Esq., Senior Director and Human Rights Fellow of the Hindu American Foundation. "These textbooks have enormous power in shaping the only 'official' information many young Americans will ever see--and the impression they will form--regarding the sizable and growing block of their peers who practice Hinduism."

The release of the bullying report is part of HAF's larger campaign to help foster safe spaces for Hindu American students and promote cultural competency in classrooms across America. The pilot study is just one step towards helping lessen the alienation that many Hindu American schoolchildren face in schools. HAF is a participating organization in the White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders Act to Change efforts to combat bullying and bias.

Read the full report at "source" above.



Why Sanskrit Should be Taught in Indian Institutes of Technology


Posted on 2016/5/4 18:02:26 ( 2590 reads )

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INDIA, May 2, 2016 (My Digitalfc by Michel Danino): All too predictable -- we seem to have gone through this countless times in recent years. No sooner had the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) issued a circular to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) encouraging them to initiate teaching activities centred on Sanskrit and in particular on texts of science and technology, than some of our politicians and "public intellectuals" rose as one man to brand it another obscurantist attempt to saffronise education. "I don't think an IIT engineer will need Sanskrit in his profession. It is not right to force something like this," opined a leading light of the Congress party.

Doubtless, IIT engineers will have no use for Sanskrit "in their profession". But why stop there? They will have no use for history either and, therefore, it was wrong to "force" it upon them at school. Wrong also to have our future engineers study literature or any art form. Who needs any of that and how would it help you get a fat paycheck, which arguably is the sole objective of human existence?

What is needed is not governmental intervention, but the creation of an atmosphere of genuine culture where students are invited to critically explore wider horizons. Let the thali of Indian culture be offered to them, and let them be free to accept or reject this or that dish -- but after tasting it. And let our "Public Ignoramus" spare us his high-decibel, stereotyped and neo-colonial disparagement of one of the finest heritages humanity may yet claim.

Much more at "source" above.




Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/5/4 18:02:16 ( 2291 reads )

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Devotion must not be like the flood of the rainy season in which all get washed away. Devotion should be like the river that retains water even in the hottest season.
-- Saint Kabir (1440-1518)



CSDS: A Citadel of "Academic Freedom" Being Unmasked by Madhu Kishwar


Posted on 2016/5/3 18:04:39 ( 2924 reads )

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INDIA, May 1, 2016 (Swarajya Magazine by Madhu Purnima Kishwar): Madhu Kishwar, the senior most professor at the Delhi based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), has sent a legal notice to the Director CSDS making serious allegations of gross and systematic discrimination against her.

She alleges that the proverbial last straw has been the arbitrary and vindictive action of denying her institutional affiliation for availing the prestigious Mahatma Gandhi National Professorship awarded to her by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) - the MHRD created organization that provides core funding to CSDS.

Kishwar is not only a renowned social scientist but also a leading public intellectual and pioneer of human rights, women's rights activism in India through the organization and journal Manushi, she founded in 1978.

Kishwar's declaration of intent to fight a legal battle and write a series of articles exposing the lawless manner in which CSDS has been functioning in the name of "academic freedom," is available at "source" above.



Couple Charged in Hate Crime; Allegedly Dumped Cow Head on Hindu Man's Property


Posted on 2016/5/3 18:04:28 ( 2712 reads )

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JACKSON TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA, USA, May 2, 2016 (Morning Call): A Tannersville couple allegedly dumped a severed cow head at a Hindu man's property in Jackson Township hoping it would scare the victim into moving away, according to court records.

Ricky Strausser, 25, and Kimberly Ann McKee, 19, both of Tannersville, allegedly committed the hate crime in March after attending a gathering of residents who were angry with Dr. Sansar Sastri, who runs Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary from his 90-acre property on Possinger Drive, records show. Besides ethnic intimidation, Strausser and McKee were also charged with harassment, loitering and prowling at night, criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, scattering rubbish and criminal conspiracy.

Sastri told police he began living on the property about a month. The property is also used as a sanctuary that houses 20 cows that had been rescued from abuse and slaughter. Signs outside also identify the property as a sanctuary. He said he had talked to his neighbors about his religion and the protection of the cows and learned that many did not agree with his beliefs. He said some of his neighbors own cows for slaughter [the source of the severed head].



"Na-mah-staaay"


Posted on 2016/5/3 18:04:17 ( 2717 reads )

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ILLINOIS, U.S., May 2, 2016 (North by Northwesternby Gauri Rangrass): I remember the first time I wished I were white. I was four years old. My brownness was harder to hide. It was something I spent fifteen years of my life trying to like, and eventually, love. My internal battle with Hinduism was even more difficult. It was not long into my childhood before I started to reject my Hindu identity. I fought with my parents when they encouraged me to go to the temple. I never bothered to learn the significance of Hindu traditions, which were often the only way my mother could make her new home in Michigan feel familiar.

The first time I picked up and read a Hindu philosophy book, I was sixteen. I learned about Dharma and Hinduism. It made sense to me. It felt intrinsic. By the time I started my freshman year at Northwestern, I had finally reclaimed Hinduism as a part of my identity.

Maybe that's why, as I sit on a yoga mat in Studio 2 in SPAC, anger rushes through my veins when a white instructor presses her hands together, leans over, and says, "Na-mah-staaay." I'm the only brown person in the class and it seems that I'm also the only one who feels uncomfortable returning the gesture. Not once does the instructor reference the Indian and Hindu origins of yoga. Why can't this trendy yoga persona also include a true understanding of yoga's Hindu origins?

More of this interesting opinion piece at "source" above.



Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/5/3 18:04:07 ( 2547 reads )

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Parents must teach children to appreciate those who are different, those who believe differently; teach them the openness that they need to live in a pluralistic world where others have their unique ways, their life and culture; teach them the value of human diversity and the narrow-mindedness of a provincial outlook; give them the tools to live in a world of differences without feeling threatened, without forcing their ways or their will on others; teach them that it never helps to hurt another of our brothers or sisters.
-- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927-2001), founder of Hinduism Today



Supreme Court to Hear Freedom to Temples Plea on July 13


Posted on 2016/5/2 20:10:00 ( 3250 reads )

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HYDERABAD, INDIA, April 29, 2016 (The Hindu): The final hearing on a long-pending writ petition in the Supreme Court filed by Swamy Dayananda Saraswathi to free temples from government control and challenging the Endowments Acts of three States will commence in July.

The decision brought cheer to the Temple Protection Movement (TPM) active in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana which had filed the intervener petition against the A.P. Endowments Amendment Act 8 of 2014.

The issue gained momentum after the main writ petition (WP 476 of 2012) filed by Swamy Dayananda Saraswathi and others challenging the Constitutionality of endowments acts of three States - Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry was listed for final hearing in Supreme Court on July 13.

[Under these acts, nearly all Hindu temples in India are under the management of government-appointed officials, but not minority institutions have not so been taken over, even though in theory the act would allow the government to take over a church or mosque.]



Kanchi Sankaracharya Acquitted in Auditor Radhakrishnan Assault Case


Posted on 2016/5/2 20:05:46 ( 2586 reads )

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CHENNAI, INDIA, April 29, 2016 (The Hindu): A sessions Court here on Friday acquitted the 80-year-old Kanchi Acharya, Jayendra Saraswati, and eight others in connection with the decade-old auditor Radhakrishnan assault case. "All the accused are acquitted, you are free to go," the Judge said when the case came up for pronouncing order.

The Acharya, who appeared before the court accompanied by a posse of lawyers and his disciples, was allowed to sit and answer over 90 questions that ran to over 63 pages. He submitted that all the allegations against him was false.

On September 20, 2002, Mr. Radhakrishnan, a former associate of the Kanchi Mutt in Kancheepuram, was attacked with deadly weapons in which he and his wife were seriously injured. The Foreshore Estate police registered case against Jayendra Saraswati and 11 others in connection with the attack.



Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/5/2 20:05:35 ( 2477 reads )

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Hindu society has been the meeting point as well as the melting pot of as many spiritual visions as the human psyche is capable of springing up spontaneously. It has been a willing and welcoming platform for as many seers, sages, saints and mystics as have responded to the deeper stirrings in the human soul. It has been a repository of as many metaphysical points of view as human reason can render in human language.
-- Sita Ram Goel (1921-2003), Hindu renaissance thinker and writer, founder of Voice of India



Ancient Hindu Temple Reopens after 27 Years in Kashmir


Posted on 2016/5/1 19:59:07 ( 3175 reads )

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SRINAGAR, JAMMU/KASHMIR, April 28, 2016 (The North Lines): Centuries-old Vetaal Bero temple in the highly-sensitive area that had been shut after most pandits were forced to migrate to Jammu and other parts of the country due to militancy in 1990, was reopened on Thursday. Jogi Langkar (canteen where food is served for sadhus) in Rainawari area of Srinagar, the locality in the heart of old city that was once home to a high number of Kashmiri pandits, is again reverberating with the sound of temple bells after 27 long years.

"After the migration of Kashmiri pandits, the area of the temple was illegally sold by Dharmarth Trust to a local property dealer. When residents in the area came to know about it, they informed Kashmiri pandits of the locality in Jammu, who responded with swift legal action and the area was recovered from the property dealer," Rajindra, who resides near the locality, said.

Another Kashmiri pandit Utpal Koul, who used to reside next to the temple, said, "This temple is centuries old, even I remember during early nineties special langar used to be organized here for Amarnath pilgrims. Today is the birth anniversary of Lord Bero and we came to celebrate this festival here from different areas of the country and even some families have come from US for this occasion."



Veggies In Cattle Country: Leading Texas Hospital Now Promoting Plant-Based Diet


Posted on 2016/5/1 19:58:57 ( 2834 reads )

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MIDLAND, TEXAS, april 28, 2016 (Fronteras Desk): A leading hospital in Texas is making a name for itself by taking on the ranching industry, an iconic fixture in the history of the Lone Star State. The hospital is now promoting a plant-based diet rich in vegetables and whole grains for patients and visitors.

Nurturing cattle, sending them to the feedlot and then onto the slaughterhouse is a part of the culture here, burnished into a big part of what makes Texas, Texas. Now, Midland Memorial Hospital, a major medical player in the heart of cattle country, has become the first in the state to buck that culture.

"We decided to embark on offering plant-based meals first for the patients as a prescribed diet," cardiac surgeon Dr. Staton Awtrey said. "And then to roll that out and offer that to staff and visitors." "They might change their diet to not have a heart attack. But they have all these collateral benefits they never anticipated," Awtrey said. Awtrey also claimed a plant-based diet will mitigate or reverse and ultimately cure arthritis, diabetes and hypertension. Awtrey said plant-based food promotes weight loss and the ability to get off certain kinds of medications.

[The full article includes an entertaining audio interview with a Texan fully converted to a vegetarian diet.]



Daily Inspiration


Posted on 2016/5/1 19:58:47 ( 2726 reads )

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Like treasure hidden in the ground, like flavor in the fruit, like gold in the rock, and oil in the seed, the Absolute is hidden in the heart.
-- Akka Mahadevi, twelfth-century Vira Saiva saint

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