No Buddha Swimwear for Sri Lanka

Buddha bikinis are out this summer, at least in Sri Lanka.

The furor started when a Buddhist monk saw advertisements for Buddha swimming apparel and petitioned Sri Lanka's supreme court to ban the product. It was painful, he told the judges, to see bikinis "with Buddha's image on the breast and crotch areas," according to a report in the Daily Mirror.

The monk, Kusaladhamma Thera, argued that the swimwear offends the sentiments of the island nation's Buddhist majority, which makes up about 70 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 19 million.

The court responded by banning Buddha swimwear and adding a prohibition against the importation of candles with depictions of Buddha.

Amish Move Beyond Farming

An American religious group made business news with a recent study showing that the number of Amish involved in commercial business has surpassed those who farm for a living.

In some Amish communities, 80 percent of members work in factories or small businesses, according to the second edition of "Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits," written by Donald B. Kraybill and Steven M. Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press). Overall, the figure could be as high as 60 percent -- 20 percentage points higher than a decade ago.

One of the most striking discoveries is the success rate of Amish entrepreneurs, 20 percent of whom are women. Only 5 percent of Amish small businesses fail, compared with the national default rate of 50 percent.

"These folks are not just making buckets and brooms," Kraybill said, adding that the most popular Amish products include fine furniture, lawn furniture, storage sheds, quilts and leather goods.

"Many of these firms are sizable operations with annual sales over several million dollars," he said. "The phrase 'Amish millionaire' is no longer an oxymoron."

Group Aims to Take Over S.C.

A Texas group wants conservative Christians to move to South Carolina -- migrating in waves of 12,000 at a time -- to form a biblically inspired government and secede from the United States.

Decrying a national tolerance of abortion and gay marriage, and the teaching of evolution, ChristianExodus.org hopes to achieve a majority of like-minded Christians in the state by 2016, the planned year of secession, according to the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

The leader of the group, 28-year-old Cory Burnell of Tyler, Tex., said South Carolina was chosen because it is a small conservative state.

Scholars say the group is symptomatic of a rise of separatist sentiment that is particularly strong in the South. But government and Christian leaders in South Carolina are less worried about the group achieving its goal of independence than about the movement's impact on the state's image.

"Doesn't South Carolina have enough problems already?" asked the Rev. Joe Darby, pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston. "Groups with strange opinions and strange beliefs pop up every once in a while. . . . I would tell these people to reevaluate their faith and get a life."

Teens' Bible Time Limited

Despite recent upsurges in worship service attendance among U.S. Protestant teenagers, fewer than a third of them report that they read the Bible at least once a week, according to the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina.

The majority of U.S. Protestant teenagers -- 68 percent -- say they read the Bible less frequently than once a week or not at all, the report said. Of all U.S. teenagers, about one in four reads the sacred scripture of their religious tradition weekly or more often.

The incidence of low Bible reading contrasts with increased numbers of U.S. teenagers claiming religious affiliations and attending worship services in recent years, principal researcher Christian Smith said.

"The findings here suggest that far fewer U.S. teens regularly engage in more personal religious practices of faith -- like scripture reading -- that many religious traditions, especially Protestantism, have long emphasized as crucial for spiritual growth," he said.

Celebration

This month's spotlight: Ratha Yatra, Hindu chariot festival.

Date: Today.

Description: Ratha Yatra is a 2,000-year-old Indian festival honoring Jagannatha, Lord of the Universe and a manifestation of Krishna. Once a year, the god's image is taken from a temple and displayed on a 40-foot-tall, red-and-blue chariot. This year, for the 24th time, the chariot will be pulled down Constitution Avenue as part of the National Independence Day Parade. The parade begins about 12:45 p.m. at Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street NW. A related event, the Hare Krishna Festival of India, takes place from noon to 10 p.m. on the Mall across from the Capitol.

More information: www.festivalofindia.org

Religion 101

My wife was raised Southern Baptist in Texas and not allowed to drink, smoke, dance or play cards, yet friends here who are Southern Baptists say they are allowed to do all these things. How can that be?

Unlike hierarchical denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention has no authority to establish doctrine or policy for its member churches, which are autonomous. So teachings on the issues you mention can vary from congregation to congregation. Prohibitions against dancing and card-playing are culture-based and not as common as they once were, said an official with the denomination's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville. But most churches still advise against use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances that can harm one's health, he said.

Have a question on religious traditions or practices? Send an e-mail to religion@washpost.com.

-- Compiled by Bill Broadway

Saturday in Religion: Background checks on youth workers.