- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2014

For the second time in two years, the clothing store Urban Outfitters has pulled a faith-based item from its shelves after drawing the ire of Hindus.

The item is a duvet cover with the image of Lord Ganesha, an elephant-headed god prayed to for wisdom and help overcoming obstacles, and in a statement the store said it never meant to offend, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported.

“Though Lord Ganesha merchandise is popular within the market we understand the sensitivities certain items may carry,” the company stated.

Rajan Zed, the Hindu man who spearheaded the protest of the store, posted a statement on his website thanking the company for pulling the duvet, but said an official apology was still in order.

“Such trivialization of Lord Ganesha [is] disturbing to the Hindus world over,” Mr. Zed said. While Hindus are free to express themselves artistically, “faith [is] something sacred and attempts at trivializing it [hurts] the follower.”

Last year, the store pulled socks with Lord Ganesha’s image from its shelves.

School’s out

The education arm of Hobby Lobby’s vast empire announced this week that “unforeseen delays” would prevent a new bible-based curriculum from launching at the beginning of the school year.

The Museum of the Bible curriculum, slated for beta testing within the Mustang Public Schools system in Oklahoma, has been postponed until January 2015, said Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative.

Mr. Pattengale said in a statement that despite the “aggressive timeline to deliver the curriculum for the upcoming school year,” the delays “have made meeting that deadline unattainable.”

The curriculum was approved by the Mustang school board in April, the Religion News Service reported. It was described as a four-year elective on the “narrative, history and impact” of the Bible.

The curriculum is one of two major projects in the pipeline for Hobby Lobby President Steve Green. A sprawling home for the Museum of the Bible is also planned for Washington, D.C. Planners are set to meet with the city’s historic preservation board later this month to review details of the museum, which will house thousands of biblical artifacts.

Papal permission

The South Korean Catholic Church has asked its neighbors to the north to allow a few Catholics to attend Pope Francis’ visit to South Korea next month.

Father Hur Young-yup, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seoul, told The Associated Press that Catholic officials first asked North Korea’s permission six months ago, but after getting no response, made the request again to allow about 10 Catholics from the isolated country to celebrate with the pope during his trip to the Korean peninsula.

Francis is scheduled to visit South Korea Aug. 13-18, the AP reported. It’s the first trip by a pope to the Korean peninsula in 25 years.

Vatican Radio reported that Francis planned to meet with young people during the 6th Asian Youth Day, beatify 124 Korean martyrs and say a Mass of reconciliation.

“It can be said that Korea is a country that symbolizes the world’s need of peace and reconciliation,” said Fr. Hur, according to Vatican Radio.

Fr. Hur said there were about 50,000 Catholics in North Korea before the Korean War. Fr. Hur said if North Korea allows some of its residents to attend the visit, it would be “symbolically significant,” the AP reported.

Warm fuzzies

Catholics, Evangelical Christians and Jewish people give Americans the warmest feelings, while Mormons, Muslims and Atheists get the cold shoulder, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.

The survey of more than 3,200 adults asked respondents to rate eight popular faiths on a scale of zero to 100, “where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating.”

Judaism had the warmest temperature of 63, followed by 62 for Catholics and 61 for Evangelical Christians. Atheists and Muslims had the two “coldest” rankings at 41 and 40, respectively.

Feelings toward Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons fell in the middle of the thermometer, with Buddhists at 53, Hindus at 50, and Mormons at 48.

The survey was conducted May 30 to June 30 through mail and online. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

• Meredith Somers covers religion and faith issues for The Washington Times.

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