Religion Briefs United Methodist Publishing House lays off 30
Sales have been dropping for years
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The United Methodist Publishing House has laid off 30 of its 1,000 employees due to declining sales and rising production and labor costs.
Also, 20 or so vacant jobs will not be filled to save money, according to Neil Alexander, chief executive of the publishing house.
Sales have been dropping for several years, while health care and other costs have increased. Also, an outside actuary made a mistake in estimating future pensions expenses, leaving the agency with a bill $700,000 higher than expected, Alexander said.
Manufacturing costs have also risen, as have expenses for the publishing house’s Nashville office, its distribution center and its 70 Cokesbury bookstores.
Among the agency’s products are Sunday school, vacation Bible school and Scripture study materials, along with church and clergy supplies.
The agency is self-supporting, financing its operations with its own revenues, and receives no money from the general funds of the denomination. The United Methodist Church has nearly 8 million members in the United States, and an additional 3.5 million church members overseas.
Hate-crime arrests in Quran desecrations
NEW YORK — A 23-yearold man was arrested on hatecrime charges after he threw a Quran in a toilet at Pace University on two different dates, police said.
Stanislav Shmulevich of Brooklyn was arrested July 27 on charges of criminal mischief and aggravated harassment, both hate crimes, police said. It was unclear if he was a student at the school. A message left at the Shmulevich home was not returned.
Muslims view the Quran as a sacred object and consider mistreating it as an offense against God. The religion teaches that the Quran is the direct word of God.
In the Pace incident, a teacher found the Islamic holy book on Oct. 13 in a toilet on the lower Manhattan campus. A student discovered another book in a toilet on Nov. 21, police said.
Muslim students accused the school of not taking the incident seriously enough at first. Pace classified the first desecration of the holy book as an act of vandalism, but university officials later reversed themselves and referred the incident to the New York Police Department’s hate crimes unit.
The incidents came amid a spate of vandalism cases with religious or racial overtones at the school. In an earlier incident on Sept. 21, the school reported another copy of the Quran was found in a library toilet, and in October someone scrawled racial slurs on a student’s car at the Westchester County satellite campus and on a bathroom wall at the campus in lower Manhattan. Police did not connect Shmulevich to those incidents.
Pace University has 14,000 students on its campuses in New York City and suburban Westchester County.
Shambo the bull dead, religious tension not
LONDON — A Hindu monastery in a quiet corner of Wales seems an unlikely locale for dissent. But the seizure of Shambo the bull from Skanda Vale and his subsequent slaughter underlined the difficulties Britain faces in accommodating its wide array of religions.
Hindus, Muslims and Christians have seized on the Shambo case to complain that the government is interfering in their spiritual lives.
Shambo was taken away from the monastery on Thursday at the end of a long and public battle between Hindus who revere bulls and authorities who said he must be killed because he had tested positive for tuberculosis.
Officials said they had to prevent the disease’s spread. The monks argued that Shambo could be effectively isolated and claimed the death sentence trampled on their religious rights.
More than 100 devotees prayed and chanted in front of the bull for hours, trying to prevent authorities from taking him; police eventually had to drag some away.
Christians have also complained of state interference in their spiritual lives.
Some groups criticized a court decision this month banning a teenage girl from wearing a “chastity ring” at school. They were also upset over a British Airways directive that a flight attendant could not wear a cross where it was visible to passengers.
The Guardian newspaper commented Friday that the Shambo case was “utterly disastrous” for the government’s image.
“Images of burly police officers carrying off Hindu worshippers, cutting their way into a temple and leading off a healthylooking bull for slaughter do not play well,” it said.