Items of interest from various sources of religious news and opinion, in print and on the web.
Wisconsin Ban on Clergy Visits to Prisoners Ruled Unconstitutional. A Wisconsin circuit court judge in Madison found against a Wisconsin Department of Corrections policy that forbade clergy to visit prisons because of risks associated with COVID. For over fifteen months, clergy were forbidden from fulfilling their religious duty to meet in-person with inmates at Wisconsin’s correctional institutions, administer sacraments or provide counseling. At the same time, WIDOC granted in-person access to a host of other individuals ranging from lawyers to law enforcement to teachers to dog trainers. A lawsuit alleged the WIDOC policy violated both state statute and the state constitutional guarantee to the free exercise of religion. Wisconsin state law, Wis. Stat. § 301.33 provides in part: “Subject to reasonable exercise of the privilege, members of the clergy of all religious faiths shall have an opportunity, at least once each week, to conduct religious services within the state correctional institutions. Attendance at the services is voluntary.” The judge agreed, and issued an injunction barring the department from reinstituting the policy. Bauer, Scott. “Judge rules against Wisconsin prisons over visitation policy.” Trending. APNews.com, 15 Jul. 2022. Web. 17 Sep. 2022.
More People Deciding Not to Have Children. A recent study by Michigan State University indicates that a growing number of adults are choosing not to have children, and many are making that choice at a younger age. The survey, which sampled over 1500 adults in Michigan, showed that fully one-fifth of people of child-bearing years reported that they did not want children, and intended to remain child-free. One-fifth of the population of Michigan would represent over 1.7 million people – more than the population of its nine largest cities combined. “People — especially women — who say they don’t want children are often told they’ll change their mind, but the study found otherwise,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, associate professor in the psychology department at MSU and co-author of the study. “People are making the decision to be childfree early in life, most often in their teens and twenties. And it’s not just young people claiming they don’t want children. Women who decided in their teens to be childfree are now, on average, nearly 40 and still do not have children.” Ward, Kim. “Study: One in five adults don’t want children — and they’re deciding early in life.” News. MSUToday.msu.edu, 25 Jul. 2022. Web. 17 Sep. 2022.
Are Robot Pastors Next? Worshipers at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, can now listen to sermons and Buddhist scriptures read by a robot. Inside Kodaiji Temple is a six-foot-tall robot named “Mindar” programmed to deliver a twenty-five-minute sermon on Heart Sutra. Made of silicone skin and aluminum body parts, the robot features a camera embedded in its left eye to allow eye contact with worshippers during sermons and teachings. Mindar’s hands and torso were also designed to replicate human movement and interactions. The robot was developed by a team led by Professor Ishiguro Hiroshi of Osaka University in 2019. The goal of the project was to renew people’s interest in Buddhism, which has been declining due to generational change and modernism in Japan, and to encourage worshipers in using their imagination. Ishiguro explained that Mindar was designed to have an ambiguous gender and age so that worshipers can imagine their own image of Buddha. Moon, Rebecca. “Japanese robot preacher that cost $1 million delivers sermons at Buddhist temple in Kyoto.” NextShark. News.Yahoo.com, 15 Jun. 2022. Web. 27 Jul. 2022.