Posted by Lauren Markoe 10 hours 42 min ago
Sapped by three weeks of a water-only diet, three activists for immigration reform ended their fasts Tuesday with a morsel of bread blessed by a priest and “passed the fast on” to others who hope to keep attention focused on the issue.“You have truly put your faith in action,” said retired Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, one in a small crowd of political and clerical dignitaries who came to the National Mall to praise those who have gone without food in a bid to pressure Republican House leaders to pass an immigration reform bill.Also seated alongside the quiet and wan fasters: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; the Rev. Bernice King, the daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Secretary of Labor Tom Perez; Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; and the Rev. Al Sharpton.In recent weeks, the fasters have attracted high-profile visitors, including President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden, to the heated tents where the fasters have been living on the National Mall.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 2 weeks 5 days ago
It may be as close as a person can get to praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, without actually going there.The newly released movie “Jerusalem,” filmed in 2D and 3D and playing on IMAX and other giant-screen theaters across the U.S. and the world, gives viewers grand, hallmark panoramas, at once awe-inspiring and intimate.For years filmmakers had sought the rights to capture the city from the air, but never before had permission been granted, in part because the holy city is a no-fly zone.Still, before filming began in 2010, producer Taran Davies came up with an extensive wish list of all the sites and rituals he wanted in the film, and presented it to advisers familiar with the spectrum of religious and secular officials who would have to approve.“They all laughed and said forget about it,” Davies said. “They said, ‘It’s impossible and you’re not going to get half of what you’re looking for.’”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 2 weeks 6 days ago
Speaker of the House John Boehner signaled Wednesday that there would be no immigration reform this year, an announcement made the same day that some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical pastors met with President Barack Obama to try to advance the issue.Only months ago, immigration reform seemed to enjoy strong bipartisan momentum.It still does across the nation, said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, one of the eight clergy invited to the Oval Office meeting.“I urged the president not to make this a divisive issue, but to work with House Republicans,” said Moore. “We need to work together to fix the system rather than just scream at each other.”The Obama administration, in a statement issued after the meeting, squarely blamed House Republicans for the impasse. The Democratic-led Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform plan in June.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 3 weeks 6 days ago
The Supreme Court struggled Wednesday with a case that asks whether government bodies can open with prayers that some people find overly religious and excluding.From their lines of questioning, it’s unclear whether the court is ready to write new rules on what sort of prayer falls outside constitutional bounds. And more than one of the justices noted that just before they took their seats, a court officer declared: “God save the United States and this honorable court.”Few court watchers believe the justices will rule all civic prayers unconstitutional — the nation has a long history of convening legislative bodies with such language.Rather, the question raised by Town of Greece v. Galloway is how sectarian these prayers can get.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 4 weeks 5 days ago
WASHINGTON — In a case that could determine restrictions on expressions of faith in the public square, the Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider religious prayers that convene government meetings.At issue in Greece v. Galloway is whether such invocations pass constitutional muster, even when government officials are not purposefully proselytizing or discriminating.Can a town council, for example, open its meetings with prayers invoking Jesus Christ, as happened repeatedly in the town of Greece, N.Y.?“There’s a whole lot at stake here,” said Ira Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in the First Amendment’s religion clauses.“This case is about first principles: whether the government of a town, acting through its town board, can advance a particular brand of Christianity or any other faith,” said Lupu.On the other side of the question, Jeff Mateer of the Texas-based Liberty Institute invokes free speech rights and hopes the court will reason that government has no business parsing the words of those who wish to pray in a public forum.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 5 weeks 9 hours ago
It last happened in 1888 and, according to one calculation, won’t happen again for another 77,798 years: the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.This year, Nov. 28 is Thanksgiving and the first full day of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins at sundown the previous night.For many Jewish Americans, this is no trivial convergence, but a once-in-an-eternity opportunity to simultaneously celebrate two favorite holidays, one quintessentially American, the other quintessentially Jewish.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 5 weeks 5 days ago
American Jews say they face discrimination in the U.S., but they see Muslims, gays, and blacks facing far more.This and other findings from the recently released Pew Research Center’s landmark study on Jewish Americans help make the case that Jews — once unwelcome in many a neighborhood, universitym, and golf club — now find themselves an accepted minority.“While there are still issues, American Jews live in a country where they feel they are full citizens,” said Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 7 weeks 10 hours ago
Suzan Johnson Cook, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, will announce this week that she is resigning after 17 months on the job, according to two sources familiar with her office.President Obama nominated the former Baptist minister to serve as his top adviser on protecting religious freedom around the world. When confirmed by the Senate in April 2011, she became the first woman and the first African-American in the position, which had been held by two people before her.Obama had been criticized for taking too much time after his own swearing-in to nominate a religious freedom ambassador, a position created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 8 weeks 2 days ago
They taught English, gym, music, and fifth grade, and are typically described as “beloved” by their students.But that didn’t stop the Catholic schools where they worked from firing these teachers for their same-sex relationships, or, in one woman’s case, for admitting that she privately disagreed with church teaching on gay marriage.A recent spate of sackings at Catholic institutions — about eight in the past two years — is wrenching for dioceses and Catholic schools, where some deem these decisions required and righteous, and others see them as unnecessary and prejudicial.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 9 weeks 10 hours ago
Hanukkah comes early this year. But it apparently never comes to Hobby Lobby.The national craft store owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green seemingly refuses to carry merchandise related to Hanukkah because of Green’s “Christian values,” and some Jews are taking offense.“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever,” wrote Ken Berwitz, the New Jersey blogger who brought the Hobby Lobby Hanukkah flap to light in a Sept. 27 blog post.Berwitz’s outrage has spread to other bloggers who are taking Hobby Lobby to task as a store that courts the general public, but refuses to stock anything related to Judaism — even in communities with significant Jewish populations.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 9 weeks 1 day ago
WASHINGTON — In the most comprehensive study of American Jews in 12 years, a strong majority said being Jewish is mostly about ancestry or culture, not the religious practice of Judaism.“A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, shows strong secularist trends most clearly seen in one finding: 62 percent of U.S. Jews said Jewishness is largely about culture or ancestry; just 15 percent said it’s about religious belief.“Non-Jews may be stunned by it,” said Alan Cooperman, co-author of the study. “Being Jewish to most Jews in America today is not a matter of religion.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 9 weeks 2 days ago
Evangelical businessman Steve Green on Thursday unveiled what he called “the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found” and will add it to the collection of religious artifacts that will form the core of the Bible museum he is building in Washington, D.C.The artifact, dating from 840 A.D., is written in Hebrew on parchment and shows Babylonian vowel marks. Green said it was purchased less than a year ago from a private collection and is of Middle Eastern origin. But he declined to name the seller or how much he paid for it.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 10 weeks 15 hours ago
Conservatives are rallying around a House bill designed to protect religious people who advocate for traditional marriage — a belief, they say, that is held in increasing contempt.But supporters of same-sex marriage say the bill actually protects the discriminators — individuals and nonprofits that would deny gay people benefits or services simply because they are married to a same-sex partner.More than 60 House members — mostly (but not all) Republican — have signed on to the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which was introduced Sept. 19 by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who came to Congress in 2010 on a wave of support from the conservative Tea Party.
Posted by Yonat Shimron, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Lauren Markoe 13 weeks 5 days ago
As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 13 weeks 6 days ago
The weeks leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days are supposed to be marked by self-questioning: What failings must I atone for, and to whom must I apologize?A group of artists, writers and animators are hoping a cartoon goat may help.They call it the eScapegoat, and it’s supposed to approximate the original scapegoat, described in Leviticus as an important player in the atonement ritual of the ancient Israelites, who symbolically placed their sins upon the animal and sent it into the wilderness.
Posted by Lauren Markoe, Adelle M. Banks 14 weeks 9 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Fifty years to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., knocked on the nation’s conscience with his dream, religious leaders gathered in a historic church to remind the nation that he was fueled by faith.Later, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial where King thundered about America’s unmet promises, King’s children joined the likes of President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey to rekindle what Obama called a “coalition of conscience.”At Shiloh Baptist Church, where King preached three years before his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh clergy summoned King’s prophetic spirit to help reignite the religious fires of the civil rights movement.King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice A. King, said at the service that her father was a freedom fighter and a civil rights leader, but his essence was something else.“He was a pastor,” said King, who was 5 when her father electrified the nation in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “He was a prophet. He was a faith leader.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 15 weeks 6 days ago
A Royal Bris! A Royal Bar Mitzvah! Hanukkah at Buckingham Palace!From the moment Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged, a rumor ran happily through the Jewish blogosphere (and menacingly on many anti-Semitic websites): the couple’s progeny, the heir to the British throne, would be Jewish! And then, on July 22, a son was born — a Son of Israel!Um, no.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 16 weeks 6 days ago
Amid persistent criticism that the U.S. marginalizes religion and religious people in its foreign policy, Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday tapped ethicist and campaign adviser Shaun Casey to lead the State Department’s new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.Casey is a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and advised President Obama’s campaign and other Democrats on outreach to religious voters.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 16 weeks 6 days ago
WASHINGTON — What’s one way to ensure that a new Hebrew-immersion public charter school isn’t a Jewish school? Hire a priest to run it.Sela, which means “rock” or “foundation” in Hebrew, opens in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 19. As a public school, Sela may not teach or show preference to any religion. But the intimate connection between Hebrew and Judaism makes some people wonder whether the separation is truly possible.The question is not just for Sela, but for the dozen or so other public Hebrew charter schools from Brooklyn, N.Y., to San Diego that have started since the first one opened in Florida in 2007. And more Hebrew language charters are in the design stage.Making things even more complicated is Hebrew’s ties not only to Judaism but to Israel. When the Sela staff began naming classrooms for major cities in Israel this summer, the school’s executive director, Jason Lody, said there would be no class named after the disputed capital of Jerusalem.“We want to be a public school of excellence,” Lody said. “We don’t want to be sidetracked by political conversations that don’t focus on getting our 4-year-olds ready for kindergarten.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 18 weeks 6 days ago
The Anti-Defamation League’s study of anti-Semitism in the U.S. shows a 14 percent decrease in incidents during 2012, the second consecutive year of a downward trend.Overall, the ADL counted 927 anti-Semitic incidents — including assaults, vandalism, and harassment — down from the 1,080 incidents reported in 2011. Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director, called the trend “encouraging.”“While these numbers only provide one snapshot of anti-Semitism in America, to the extent that they serve as a barometer the decline shows that we have made progress as a society in confronting anti-Jewish hatred,” he said.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 18 weeks 6 days ago
A federal appeals court has ruled unconstitutional a 2002 law that allows Americans born in Jerusalem to designate Israel as their birth country on their passports.The lawsuit, brought by an American couple whose American son was born in Israel in 2002, challenged the government to uphold the law. Instead the court found it unconstitutional.The State Department has not permitted Americans born in the city to list “Israel” as their birthplace on their passports, despite the law.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 19 weeks 2 days ago
She graduated from all-female Bryn Mawr College in 1995, where she came out as gay and also as a woman called to the priesthood. After college, she graduated from Harvard Divinity School, married her girlfriend, became an Episcopal priest, changed her name — and changed her gender.Today the Rev. Cameron Partridge, a religion scholar at Harvard Divinity School and Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, is living outside Boston with his wife and two young children in what looks, to those who don’t know them, like a typical heterosexual marriage.We talk to Partridge about his transgender and spiritual journeys, his discomfort with simplistic views of male and female, and feeling at home in Anglicanism. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 19 weeks 5 days ago
There is a lopsided divide in America about what it means to be a religious person, with a majority believing that it’s about acting morally but a strong minority equating it with faith.Nearly six out of 10 Americans (59 percent) say that being a religious person “is primarily about living a good life and doing the right thing,” as opposed to the more than one-third (36 percent) who hold that being religious “is primarily about having faith and the right beliefs.”The findings, released Thursday, are part of a report by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution that aims to paint a more nuanced picture of the American religious landscape, and the religious left in particular.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 20 weeks 2 days ago
Most people have heard of Hanukkah and Passover and maybe Yom Kippur — the Jewish Day of Atonement. But Tisha B’Av?Translated as the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, it counts as one of the most important days on the Jewish calendar. But even many Jews have not heard of this period of mourning, which requires a 25-hour fast to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.Tisha B’Av, many rabbis say, can be a tough sell, in part because a radical group of far-right Jews wants to rebuild the temple on the site of what is now the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most revered sites.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 22 weeks 6 days ago
When it comes to God and country, white evangelicals report the strongest levels of patriotic feelings in a new poll, with more than two-thirds (68 percent) saying they are extremely proud to be an American.That figure was markedly higher than for white mainline Protestants (56 percent), minority Christians (49 percent), Catholics (48 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (39 percent), according to the study, conducted by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.White evangelicals are also more likely than any other religious group surveyed to believe that God has granted the U.S. a special role in history (84 percent) and to say they will likely attend a public July 4th celebration (62 percent).
Posted by Lauren Markoe 23 weeks 5 days ago
People who hoped the Arab Spring would lead to greater religious freedom across the Middle East have been sorely disappointed, and a new Pew study confirms that the region has grown even more repressive for various religious groups.“In 2011, when most of the political uprisings known as the Arab Spring occurred, the Middle East and North Africa experienced pronounced increases in social hostilities involving religion, while government restrictions on religion remained exceptionally high,” according to the report by the Pew Research Center.The study shows the number of countries in the Middle East or North Africa with sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10 during 2011, a year that coincided with most of the political uprisings of Arab Spring.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 24 weeks 16 hours ago
For the first time, the federal government has issued written guidelines for houses of worship that are confronted with a homicidal gunman.Vice President Joe Biden released the new rules on Tuesday, six months after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 dead, including 20 children.Beyond seeking shelter and waiting for police to arrive, as many Newtown victims did, the new rules also advise adults in congregations to fight back — as a last resort — in a bid to stop the shooter. The new federal doctrine is “run, hide or fight.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 24 weeks 1 day ago
The way fans reacted to Dolores Hart’s decision to become a cloistered nun, you might have thought the movie star had announced her intention to kill herself.Even close friends and family could not fathom why this Grace Kelly look-alike, who gave Elvis his first on-screen kiss and had her pick of acting jobs, would stow herself away in a nunnery for the rest of her life.As if to test her resolve in those weeks before she left Hollywood, Universal Studios offered her a role opposite Marlon Brando, a role she turned down shortly after she broke off her engagement to Don Robinson, a kind and handsome businessman who loved her intensely.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 26 weeks 9 hours ago
Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, ordained in the liberal Reconstructionist tradition, sees a divide between generations of American Jews that could spell disaster for the community.One generation he calls “legacy” or “tribal” Jews — those who built the national organizations and synagogues that have served for decades as the backbone of American Jewry. But reams of statistics show legacy Jews have enjoyed limited success attracting younger Jews.The other is what he calls “covenantal” or “innovation sector” Jews, a younger generation that has founded a myriad of niche Jewish organizations — environmental, social justice and political — that can, in Schwarz’s vision, build on their parents’ work toward a more brilliant American Jewish future.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 26 weeks 5 days ago
In a conference full of people who champion traditional religious values, Amardeep Singh knew that everyone might not appreciate his recounting of the “uncomfortable” cab ride he had taken the previous day.Singh, a featured speaker at the second annual National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington on Thursday, told the several hundred attendees that his D.C. taxi driver had the radio tuned to a religiously minded commentator, who was explaining that women become lesbians because they had been abused.His cab story — both his telling and the reaction to it — reveals fault lines in the coalition of Americans concerned that government and popular culture are eroding religious freedom and trying to banish religion from the public sphere.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 28 weeks 17 hours ago
The Obama administration isn’t afraid to call out Republicans for playing politics on Capitol Hill, or Wall Street for runaway profits or insurance companies for health care woes.But why, when it comes to protecting religious freedom abroad, is the State Department so hesitant to name names?Watchdogs say the State Department missed a key opportunity to put teeth into its annual assessment of global religious freedom, which was released by Secretary of State John Kerry Monday.Continuing a pattern begun under President George W. Bush, the report does not include a list of “countries of particular concern,” or “CPCs” — the diplomatic term for countries that either actively suppress religious freedom or don’t do enough to protect it.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 28 weeks 6 days ago
WASHINGTON — Twenty-five top Christian leaders gathered in the U.S. city with perhaps the worst reputation for civil discourse Wednesday and committed themselves to elevating the level of public conversation.Meeting in a row house three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the group spanned the Christian spectrum, and included officials from liberal churches and the most conservative of interest groups.“The ground of our spiritual understanding is in treating other people as the image of God, treating people with respect,” said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.“Faith leaders have a remarkable opportunity to shift the conversation, but it’s very challenging, particularly in a larger society that wants to understand everything as a battle, as engaging the enemy, rather than with someone who might have something to teach us,” she said.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 29 weeks 1 day ago
Growing up Catholic in England, Candida Moss felt secure in life, yet was told in church that Christians have been persecuted since the dawn of Christianity. Now, as an adult and a theologian, she wants to set the record straight.Too many modern Christians invoke, to lamentable effect, an ancient history of persecution that didn’t exist, Moss argues in her newly published book, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented A Story of Martyrdom.Although anti-Christian prejudice was fairly widespread in the church’s first 300 years, she writes, “the prosecution of Christians was rare, and the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years.”We asked Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, to talk about the travails of early Christians, and how they are misappropriated in the public sphere today. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 29 weeks 5 days ago
An undisclosed community on Wednesday accepted the body of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which is now “entombed,” according to police in Worcester, Mass.Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, found a funeral home in Worcester to handle the body, but had struggled to get a cemetery to accept it. The Boston Globe reported that the body is buried in a community outside Massachusetts.“As a result of our public appeal for help, a courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased,” read a statement posted on the Worcester Police Department’s website.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 30 weeks 15 hours ago
His English was terribly broken, and punctuated by sudden fits of giggles. But for nearly an hour, the Dalai Lama entranced an arena full of admirers, who said his message came across just fine.The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, speaking to an audience of 15,000 at the University of Maryland Tuesday, described himself as “a simple Buddhist monk” with a simple message: We are all human beings and should be good to one another.“I look at you,” he said, surveying the crowd, a University of Maryland visor crowning his head. “All human beings. No differences.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 31 weeks 1 day ago
It can be hard to come up with a list of countries with the most egregious records on religious freedom when some of the world’s worst offenders aren’t even nation states.For its annual report of violators, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom counts 15 nations where abuse of religious liberty is “systemic, egregious, and ongoing.”But the commission, which was created by Congress in 1998 as an independent watchdog panel, also wants to highlight the crimes of non-nations, which for the first time this year get their own section in the report.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 31 weeks 2 days ago
WASHINGTON — The adult survivors of the Holocaust are mostly gone now, and those who survived as children — and were old enough at the time to remember their ordeals — are now in their 70s and 80s.It won’t be long before no eyewitnesses remain.That’s why, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum marks its 20th anniversary today (April 29) with more than 750 survivors, museum officials are calling it one the last large gatherings of those who managed to escape Hitler’s death machine.For those who have dedicated themselves to teaching future generations about the Holocaust and its victims, the demise of the survivors means looking backward in a different way — a way that no longer includes people looking others straight in the face and recounting what they saw and what they lived.
Posted by David Gibson, Lauren Markoe 33 weeks 17 hours ago
No sooner had the reality of the Boston Marathon bombing sunk in on Monday afternoon than Muslim activists in the U.S. began sending out a slew of news releases, tweets, and Facebook messages urging prayers and aid for the victims — and condemning whoever was behind the horrific attack.“American Muslims, like Americans of all backgrounds, condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s cowardly bomb attack on participants and spectators of the Boston Marathon,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement on Monday.It’s a familiar race against time for Muslim groups. Almost as soon as the smoke cleared around Copley Square, they knew from long experience that some would immediately point the finger of blame in their direction.Many widely believed Muslims were behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, until American militiaman Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the crime.“We also call for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators,” Awad added, echoing a statement from the Muslim Public Affairs Council that called on “all of us as Americans to work together to bring those responsible to justice.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 34 weeks 5 days ago
Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus lived a comfortable life in 1930s Philadelphia, where he made a good living as a lawyer, and she kept a stylish house. They were secular Jews who sent their children to a Quaker school, and unlikely candidates for the mission they assigned themselves. Gilbert revealed the plan to his wife as he was shaving in the bathroom, so their young son and daughter would not hear.He wanted to go to Vienna and save 50 Jewish children from the Nazis.
Posted by Lauren Markoe, Caleb Bell 36 weeks 19 hours ago
Isn’t it remarkable, attorney Ted Olson said after arguing for same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, that the other side wasn’t really arguing against it?“No one really offered a defense,” he said of his opponents’ bid to uphold Proposition 8, the 2008 California referendum that effectively ended gay marriage in the state by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.The question inside the courtroom was not so much can there be gay marriage, but “how do you establish marriage equality?” said David Boies, another attorney for Prop 8 opponents.Indeed, the lawyer trying to prop up Prop. 8, which was struck down by federal trial and appeals courts, spent barely any time talking about the virtues of traditional man-woman marriage or the hazards of same-sex marriage.And that, for supporters of gay marriage, shows just how far this debate has come in the U.S.: It’s no longer “if” it will be accepted and legal, but “how” and “when.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 37 weeks 5 days ago
In 1974, when the Rev. Jorge Bergoglio was the top Jesuit in his native Argentina, a former nightclub dancer named Isabel Peron came to head the nation – an accidental and weak president.Isabel Peron served less than two years in office before a right-wing military coup placed her under house arrest, and launched a seven-year campaign of torture and killings of tens of thousands of trade unionists and other leftists: Argentina’s Dirty War.As life in communist Poland propelled Pope John Paul II’s crusade against the Soviets and coming of age in Nazi Germany shaped Pope Benedict XVI, Argentina’s Dirty War posed deep, existential questions for the future Pope Francis.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 37 weeks 6 days ago
Jews worldwide welcomed newly elected Pope Francis as a friend on Wednesday, and pointed in particular to his sympathetic and strong reaction to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in his native Argentina — the deadliest bombing in the country’s history.As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis “has had a warm relationship with the Jewish community of Argentina, and enjoyed close friendships with many prominent rabbis,” said Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee. “As far as I have heard and read in the few minutes since he was elected pope, he has shown deep signs of respect and friendship towards the Jews,” said Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome. “It’s a good starting point.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 38 weeks 5 days ago
Five key Catholic bishops are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking.The act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday, is intended to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and allows the federal government to spend money to treat victims and prosecute offenders.That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.But for the first time since the original act became law in 1994, it spells out that no person may be excluded from the law’s protections because of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” — specifically covering lesbian, transgender and bisexual women.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 39 weeks 6 days ago
An advertisement in Athens intertwines a swastika with a Jewish star. Hungarian politicians declare Jews a national security risk. A gunman executes three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in France. Such recent instances of anti-Semitism reflect a growing wave of hatred toward Jews across Europe, one documented by civil rights groups and concerning to those who fear that, nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, it has again become socially acceptable to vilify Jews. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., convened a hearing on Wednesday on this rise in anti-Semitism, calling it a threat not only to Jews, but to other religious minorities and the ideal of tolerance in general.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 42 weeks 6 days ago
WASHINGTON — Longtime White House aide Joshua DuBois, who heads the White House office focused on the intersection of religion and public policy, will step down on Friday, President Obama announced Thursday.Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, asked DuBois to lead his White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009 when the Pentecostal reverend was 26, and hoped DuBois could sustain the ties he had helped forge between Obama and religious groups during the 2008 presidential campaign.DuBois will teach at New York University starting later in the year, according to White House officials, and also plans to write a book based on the inspirational messages he sent to Obama daily.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 43 weeks 5 days ago
Super Bowl halftime shows often burn more vivid images into the American conscience than the most-watched football game of the year, and can claim millions more viewers.They can also ignite controversy, as Janet Jackson did with her halftime “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004. Last year, performing with Madonna, British-born hip-hop star M.I.A. gave the finger to 114 million people.Outraged by the raunchy behavior, or simply to capture some of the Super Bowl’s supersized audience, some religious programmers are now producing halftime shows of their own.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 44 weeks 6 days ago
WASHINGTON — Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups — particularly gays and lesbians — are trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the public square.The findings of a poll published Wednesday reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon.“They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.”
Posted by Lauren Markoe 45 weeks 15 hours ago
In the past four decades, American attitudes have changed markedly on gay marriage, smoking, bullying, and a host of other cultural issues.But on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, public opinion today looks much as it did back then.When it comes to American views on the legality of abortion, “the trend lines look about as flat as they can be,” said Daniel Cox, research director at the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.Just a few years after the justices decided Roe, Gallup pollsters began asking Americans about abortion. In 1975, 54 percent said it should be legal only under certain circumstances; last year, that figure was virtually unchanged, at 52 percent.And the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life this month found that 63 percent of Americans don’t want Roe overturned, a mere 3-percentage-point increase from 1992.In more recent years, opinions on the morality of abortion have remained similarly stable, with about half of Americans (47 percent) calling it “morally wrong” and four in 10 considering it “morally acceptable” or “not a moral issue,” according to Pew.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 46 weeks 17 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Dozens of the nation’s faith leaders said on Tuesday that they’re ready to take on the gun lobby and demanded that politicians take quick and concrete steps to stem gun violence.At a Capitol Hill press conference and in a letter to Congress, more than 45 clergy and heads of religious groups — representing the spectrum of American religious life — petitioned lawmakers to reinstitute a ban on assault weapons, require background checks on all gun buyers, and make gun trafficking a federal crime.Organized by the two-year-old coalition Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence, the signers said the slayings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month had pushed them to redouble their efforts, and created an opportunity to beat back the gun lobby.The Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical who heads the progressive Christian group Sojourners, took on Wayne LaPierre, the outspoken executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, directly.LaPierre’s statement after Newtown that the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is “morally mistaken” and “religiously repugnant,” Wallis said.
Posted by Lauren Markoe 47 weeks 1 day ago
WASHINGTON — The persecution of Christians “vastly rose” in 2012 as radical Islamists consolidated power in Africa, according to Open Doors, a Christian missionary organization which publishes an annual list of offending nations.Increasing threats to African Christians can be seen in focused attacks, such as the killings of Christians in Nigerian churches by the radical Muslim group Boko Haram, but also in the greater prevalence of radical Muslims in government, according to the California-based Open Doors.In Mali, for example, which made the biggest leap on the “World Watch List,” from unranked in 2011 to No. 7 in 2012, a coup in the north brought fundamentalist Muslims to power. “The situation in the north used to be a bit tense, but Christians and even missionaries could be active,” said Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra.