In Brief
In Brief

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Evangelicals Choose Bassett for Key Post

The National Association of Evangelicals has chosen W. Todd Bassett, a former top official of the Salvation Army, to serve as its executive director.

NAE officials said Bassett is not succeeding the Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned in November as president amid a sex and drug scandal.

"This is a new role that we used to have in years gone by and we now have," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs.

Bassett was national commander of the Salvation Army from 2002 to April 2006. His role with NAE will include oversight of its administrative, communications and financial activities.

-- Religion News Service

Driver: Bus Policy Barred Muslim's Veil

Bus driver Gene Bandlow says he was just following policy when he asked a woman with an Islamic veil to step off his bus last July.

He didn't believe passenger Tasha Douglas was a terrorist, nor did he intend to discriminate against her religion, said Bandlow, who has been driving a city bus for 6 1/2 years in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"I'm not an idiot," Bandlow said. He said he decided to come forward after letters to the editor in the Grand Rapids Press suggested that he believed she was a terrorist.

Bandlow, 37, said he would not have told her she could not wear the veil had he known she was wearing it for religious reasons.

Since September, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, working on Douglas's behalf, have been in talks with transit officials about the incident. Douglas's attorney, Miriam Aukerman, said she finds it hard to believe that Bandlow did not recognize Douglas's garb as being religious.

"If that's the case, I think it points to the need for diversity training within" [the transit system], she said.

Since Douglas's complaint surfaced in September, Rapid officials have modified their ban on head coverings and apologized to her.

Rapid spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk has said that the original policy was for security reasons so that on-board cameras could identify riders in the event of a disturbance.

Douglas, 30, has said she was humiliated by the incident.

-- Religion News Service

Seminary to Host Transgender Meeting

The first Transgender Religious Summit will bring together 50 activists, transgender members of faith communities, academics and religious leaders this weekend at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.

"Transgender people are emerging from the spiritual closet," said Justin Tanis, program manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, a D.C.-based advocacy group that is co-sponsoring the summit with the seminary's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry.

The summit is designed to create dialogue among transgender people and their allies in faith communities who are concerned with human rights and social justice issues. Participants come from Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and pagan faith communities.

-- Religion News Service

British School Bans Girl's Cross Necklace

A British school has rekindled fury over the wearing of religious items by ordering a 13-year-old student to remove a silver crucifix on a chain around her neck, on unspecified "health and safety" grounds.

The Robert Napier School said Samantha Devine's wearing of the tiny cross as a necklace violated its dress code, which bars jewelry. It cited health and safety regulations.

In Britain, government-mandated health and safety rules are a general set of regulations that can cover a wide variety of possibilities, including bans on hanging baskets (on grounds they might fall on a passer-by) and school ball games (in case someone gets hit).

The teen insisted she would continue wearing her crucifix necklace "even if I get suspended or expelled," and rejected a school suggestion of a compromise by wearing the crucifix as a lapel badge.

Paul Jackson, the school's deputy head, said the only exception to the ban on jewelry would be if the jewelry were an essential requirement of a particular religion.

-- Religion News Service

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