Have a question about someone else's religious practices--or your own? Send e-mail to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com with "Etiquette" in the subject line.

I have always heard a child born of a mixed marriage--ex: Catholic/Jewish--is raised in the faith of the mother. Is this true? If so, why? --Michele

You may be thinking of the Jewish principle of matrilineal descent, which holds that anyone born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, whether or not they practice Judaism. In the Conservative and Orthodox branches of Judaism, children born of a non-Jewish mother must undergo a formal conversion ceremony before they are recognized as Jewish. Reform Judaism, however, affirms descent through either the father or the mother. In Islam, the faith of the father is often considered decisive. In some Muslim societies, a Muslim father has rights over his children that their non-Muslim mother might not have. In other religions, children of mixed marriages may be more up for grabs, so to speak. Obviously, if children are baptized in a particular denomination, they would probably identify themselves as being raised a certain kind of Christian. In this day and age, more and more people are choosing their spiritual paths when they're older, and identifying with faith groups based on their own beliefs, not those of family members. I will be visiting a mosque in a southern city as part of an adult education class on local religious groups. I know that I will need to remove my shoes, but do not know what is appropriate dress. I am female. Do I need to cover my head? May I wear slacks without offending or should I wear a skirt? --Judy

Modesty is expected at mosques. You'll definitely want to cover your hair, arms, and legs. Flowing, non-clingy slacks are OK in some mosques, but your safest bet is to wear a long skirt. Again, nothing form-fitting; lycra is not your friend. Also, avoid wearing prominent religious jewelry, like a cross or Star of David. I am Hindu and my husband's family is Christian. We want to have my daughter's first birthday party the day after Good Friday. Someone told me that it is not good to have parties on Easter weekend because it is not good etiquette. Am I being disrespectful to my husband's family if we decide to keep her birthday party on that day? My husband and I are OK with it. --Rupa

It really depends on how religious your husband's family is. Some devout Christians spend much of the Triduum--the three days of Jesus' death and resurrection--in prayer or at church services. Though there is no rule against having secular celebrations on Holy Saturday, going to a festive birthday party in between more somber religious services might seem spiritually jarring to the Christians you've invited. However, if your husband's family--and other Christian guests--are not especially observant, it's unlikely they would resent a birthday invitation. In fact, some Christians believe Easter rejoicing can begin as early as Holy Saturday afternoon. They might enjoy celebrating your daughter's birth at a time that focuses on spiritual rebirth.
I recently visited a Greek Orthodox Church with a friend for the first time. As I am a Baptist by faith, I felt awkward when the people of the church got down on their knees to worship/greet the priest as he came by blessing them. Should I, or anyone visiting, practice the same 'rituals'? Should we also pray in the name of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit? I will be visiting this church again and need help. Stand tall--if you want to. As Beliefnet's Orthodoxy columnist, Frederica Mathewes-Green, notes in her handy guide for first-time visitors to Orthodox churches, "Standing there feeling awkward is all right... No one will notice if you don't prostrate. In Orthodoxy there is a wider acceptance of individualized expressions of piety, rather than a sense that people are watching you and getting offended if you do it wrong." It's usually safe to assume that church members of goodwill wouldn't want you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. So don't worry about not kneeling to greet the priest or praying in the name of the Trinity. Just participate in the Liturgy to the extent you find meaningful. I'm having a party and have new neighbors who are Jehovah's Witnesses. Do Jehovah's Witnesses eat pork? Like most Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses are allowed to eat pork. Poor Babe. Members Helping Members As part of Beliefnet's "Religion Etiquette Q&A" column, we occasionally include useful posts by our members. On the Catholicism boards, member Ithaca asked how to behave when visiting a Roman Catholic Mass. Member cajunrick responds:

"The only restriction is that you should not receive the Eucharist. You can sing the songs; stand, sit and kneel when others do, make the sign of the cross and share the sign of peace as you feel comfortable doing. "Roman Catholics typically place a holy water font near each door. We dip our fingers in the water and make the sign of the cross on ourselves as a reminder of our baptism, and a sign that we are leaving the world and entering sacred ground. As we enter the pew, we genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament if present (it is usually indicated by a lighted candle which is most often red), or bow to the altar if the Blessed Sacrament is not present. We kneel in personal prayer as a way of putting ourselves in God's presence." Member Hilaria responds:

"Although you can do anything the Catholics do except take communion, you don't HAVE to do anything. You can march right in, skip the holy water and the genuflecting, sit down in a pew and stay the whole time. Everyone else will be sitting, standing, and kneeling at prescribed times, but you are not obligated to do any of these things, and nobody will think badly of you for just sitting there.

"You should be prepared, however, that at a certain point after the sermon, the priest will say 'Let us offer each other a sign of peace.' At this point, everyone turns to the people standing near them, shakes hands, and says 'Peace be with you' or perhaps 'The peace of Christ be with you.' Don't be worried about doing something wrong--lots of people come to visit our church, so we are accustomed to seeing visitors."

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