Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 2 weeks 1 day ago
As she embarks Sunday on her 2016 presidential campaign, one facet of Hillary Clinton, 67, is unchanged across her decades as a lawyer, first lady, senator, and secretary of state: She was, is, and likely always will be a social-justice-focused Methodist.1) She was shaped by a saying popular among Methodists: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” says Paul Kengor in his book “ God and Hillary Clinton .”As a girl, she was part of the guild that cleaned the altar at First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge, Ill. As a teen, she visited inner-city Chicago churches with the youth pastor, Don Jones, her spiritual mentor until his death in 2009. During her husband’s presidency, the first family worshipped at Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, and Time magazine described her membership in a bipartisan women’s prayer group organized by evangelicals.2) Clinton’s been known to carry a Bible in her purse but, she told the 2007 CNN Faith Forum, “advertising” her faith “doesn’t come naturally to me.” Every vote Clinton made as a senator from New York, she said, was “a moral responsibility.” When asked at the forum why she thought God allows suffering, Clinton demurred on theology, then swiftly turned her answer to activism: “The existence of suffering calls us to action.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 3 weeks 4 days ago
Harvard professor Robert Putnam jokingly calls himself “a nice Jewish formerly Methodist boy.”But the public policy expert’s new book, Our Kids, reads more like a tent meeting revival, complete with an “altar call” at the end. His private meetings and public appearances at the White House and Capitol Hill, and meetings with civic and faith leaders across the country, carry the same fervor.While evangelists convict people of their sinful ways and then convert them to the path of salvation for the hereafter, Putnam’s focus is more on this side of heaven.His goal: to awaken and inspire Americans to “save” young people from a future trapped in a spiral of fractured families, poor schooling, and a grim economic future that Putnam says will cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. Trillions.He is not only aiming for political, social, and religious elites. He’s also aiming at the everyday reader from Boston to Dubuque with a message that failure to act will “undermine democracy and political stability for all.” That’s why the book is subtitled, “The American Dream in Crisis.”“I’m writing for ordinary people, not the political class. I’m holding up a mirror of American society to the ‘haves’ to say ‘look what we’ve become,’” he said.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 4 weeks 5 days ago
“God, family and country” might make for a good country music tune, but that’s not really how most Americans see the strongest influences on their personal identity.The real order is family first (62 percent), followed by “being an American” (52 percent). “Religious faith” lolls way down in third place (38 percent) — if it’s mentioned at all, according to a survey released March 19 by The Barna Group.The California-based Christian research company found another 18 percent of those surveyed said faith had a little to do with idea of who they are, and nearly 20 percent scored it at zero influence.Christians were the largest self-identified group in the survey and Barna looked at them two ways. “Practicing” Christians — defined in the survey as self-identified Catholics, Protestants and Mormons who say they have attended church at least once in the last month and/or say religion is important to them — scored faith first, at a rate more than double the national average.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 5 weeks 4 days ago
Utah’s new law extending employment and workplace protections to LGBT people and conscience protections to individuals, churches, and faith-based associations extends an olive branch to both groups, even as it misses one key sticking point.Panelists for two discussions hosted by the Brookings Institution on March 16 described key features of the legislation, noting that it is:Unique to Utah, with its distinctive religious and political history, not a template for other states or for federal legislation.A measure of healing between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and LGBT people.A law that says nothing about whether bakers, florists or other vendors must accept customers planning a same-sex wedding, even if such marriages violate their religious beliefs.A layer of robust protections for religious groups.Even though other states may not replicate this law exactly, it can serve as a toolkit for orchestrating opposing forces to find common ground, legal and political, experts said.Former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, a Mormon who cautioned that he was not a spokesman for the church, called the legislation “a great victory for the protection of conscience.”Leavitt said the LDS church convened the effort to write the legislation with LGBT activists in an effort to heal the tensions between the two communities, inflamed when the church joined efforts to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008.“It is a doctrine of the church that marriage is between one man and one woman and it will not change,” said Leavitt.But it is also a doctrine of the church that “Jesus Christ would not abide by the withholding of shelter or sustenance or care.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 6 weeks 5 days ago
As the Supreme Court readies to hear a group of cases that could make same-sex marriage legal from coast to coast, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry is piling in from all directions.On April 28, the court will hear arguments in four related cases that address whether state bans on gay and lesbian marriages are constitutional. The ruling is expected by late June.But new opinion polls and friend-of-the-court briefs that were due March 6 show widespread acceptance of marriage as a right for all.Climbing public support: The rate of growth for supporting same-sex marriage has risen so rapidly even the director of the national biennial General Social Survey is marveling at the speed of change.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 6 weeks 5 days ago
Leaders of Christian and Jewish international aid groups say their efforts are often met with twin suspicions: That the real purpose is to proselytize; and that a religious message is tied to material aid.Not so, say Pastor Rick Warren, who has led Saddleback Church to donate millions of dollars and hours of labor in Africa, and Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.The two were keynote speakers at a discussion on “Proselytism and Development in Pluralistic Societies,” sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, at Georgetown University.Both acknowledged at the March 4 event that their motives — “living like Jesus,” said Warren, and “pursuing justice,” said Messinger — are questioned.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 9 weeks 1 day ago
Nadia Bulkin, 27, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, spends “zero time” thinking about God.And she finds that among her friends — both guys and gals — many are just as spiritually disconnected.Surveys have long shown women lead more active lives of faith than men, and that millennials are less interested than earlier generations. One in three now claim no religious identity.What may be new is that more women, generation by generation, are moving in the direction of men — away from faith, religious commitment, even away from vaguely spiritual views like “a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” according to some surveys.Michaela Bruzzese, 46, is a Mass-every-week Catholic, just like her mother, but she sees few of her Gen X peers in the pews.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 9 weeks 5 days ago
After taking heat from the religious right for saying Christians and Muslims have all committed horrors in God’s name, President Obama is now angering the religious left with an upcoming White House conference on combating ”violent extremism” that seems to focus only on Muslims.The back-to-back controversies raise the question: Can Obama — or any president — safely discuss faith in today’s political crosswinds?No, say experts who keep a close eye on presidential God talk. It’s a perilous walk, taken without a safety net as news and social media voices wait to savage him in a nanosecond.Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast triggered fury when Obama mentioned the Crusades, the Inquisition and Jim Crow segregation laws as examples of Christian violence in God’s name.“This is not unique to one group or one religion,” Obama said. “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 10 weeks 5 days ago
The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, which opens in theaters on Feb. 13, has movie morality guardians armed and heading for battle.The Catholic bishop of Buffalo, N.Y., has warned fellow prelates to step up preaching on the true beauty of sex-within-male-female-marriage — and do it pronto.“Remind the faithful of the beauty of the Church’s teaching on the gift of sexual intimacy in marriage, the great dignity of women, and the moral reprehensibility of all domestic violence and sexual exploitation,” wrote Bishop Richard Malone, in a letter Feb. 4 to fellow clergy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.His letter came with multiple links to resources, some 15 to 20 years old, showing the church’s consistent stand against domestic violence and pornography.The Catholic clergymen could be facing a juggernaut: Fandango reports box-office pre-sale numbers are soaring, particularly in the Bible Belt and the Midwest.The Fifty Shades books by British writer E.L. James have sold more than 100 million copies. But the movie trailer — and a Super Bowl ad scrubbed of anything very sexual — sent opposition to the film into high gear.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 12 weeks 1 day ago
Most Americans who know about the deadly attack on the Paris headquarters of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine say it’s OK that the weekly featured cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows 76 percent of Americans know of the Jan. 7 attack, and among this group 60 percent of Americans support the magazine’s right to publish these controversial images, while 28 percent disapprove.However, one in four Americans overall offered no opinion because, they said, they had not heard about the violent attack where 10 artists and writers and two policemen were murdered.The survey of 1,003 U.S. adults was conducted Jan. 22-25, two weeks after the attack. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points in the portion of the report that deals only with those who said they had heard about the incident.The survey looked more closely to see how members of this group explained their views.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 12 weeks 2 days ago
Meet the “Post-Seculars” — the one in five Americans who no one seems to have noticed before in endless rounds of debates pitting science vs. religion.They’re more strongly religious than most “Traditionals” (43 percent of Americans) and more scientifically knowledgeable than “Moderns” (36 percent) who stand on science alone, according to two sociologists’ findings in a new study.“We were surprised to find this pretty big group (21 percent) who are pretty knowledgeable and appreciative about science and technology but who are also very religious and who reject certain scientific theories,” said Timothy O’Brien, co-author of the research study, released Jan. 29 in the American Sociological Review.Put another way, there’s a sizable chunk of Americans out there who are both religious and scientifically minded but who break with both packs when faith and science collide.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 13 weeks 2 days ago
Did God lift Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s overtime pass into the end zone on Sunday, rewarding the prayerful Christian player with a championship victory and a trip to the Super Bowl?Millions of Americans may think so.“One in four Americans believe there will be a 12th man on the field, and that the hand of God will be seen before the final whistle blows in the Super Bowl,” said Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.And 53 percent agree God “rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success,” according to a new PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey released Jan. 22.Indeed, not only did majorities of all but one major religious group put faith in God regarding the faithful, so did 27 percent of the those who claim no religion, the “nones.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 14 weeks 1 day ago
On the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday (Jan. 15), just as the civil rights drama Selma was nominated for best picture in the Oscar race, one fact of American life was little changed.Sunday morning remains, as King once observed, the most segregated hour in America. And, against a backdrop of increased racial tensions, new research shows that most Americans are OK with that.Two in three (66 percent) Americans have never regularly attended a place of worship where they were an ethnic minority, according to new polling analysis released by LifeWay Research.“People like the idea of diversity. They just don’t like being around different people,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Nashville, Tenn.-based research firm. “Maybe their sense is that church is the space where they don’t have to worry about issues like this,” he said. But that could be a problem, because, Stetzer said, “If you don’t like diversity, you’re really not going to like heaven.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 18 weeks 3 days ago
Alan Gross, the Jewish international aid worker held on alleged spy charges in Cuba for five years, was freed on Dec. 17 — what some are calling a Hanukkah miracle on the first day of the holiday that celebrates religious freedom.Gross, 65, of Maryland, has always claimed that he only went to Cuba to bring communications equipment to the small Jewish community left in Havana. However, the Castro government said he was part of a spy network attempting to set up a secret network for Cuban Jews. Gross was serving a 15-year sentence.President Obama chose the Dec. 17 release as a springboard to announce a massive historic “normalization” of U.S.-Cuba relations. Meantime, in Cuba, President Raul Castro, who held a press conference in Havana at noon, was expected to release 53 Cuban political prisoners.Obama particularly credited the “moral example of Pope Francis,” who actively encouraged Gross’ release. Francis, who held private meetings at the Vatican to secure the deal, praised the move, sending “his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 22 weeks 1 day ago
Most Americans say they feel a deep connection to the wider world.But all that spiritual stargazing makes no difference in views about the facts of climate change and global warming, a new survey finds.Just 5 percent of Americans thought climate change was the most important issue in the U.S. today. And religion was a major dividing point on how much — or how little — they think it’s a matter of concern, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.“We asked about spiritual measures such as being in awe of the universe, and you might think it would correlate with views about the universe. But, in fact, they have very little relationship,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducted the survey on U.S. adults’ attitudes toward climate change, environmental policy and science.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 22 weeks 2 days ago
Brittany Maynard chose to die Nov. 1, but on what would have been her 30th birthday Nov. 19, her voice in support of the Right to Die movement rang loud.Maynard, who had an aggressive brain tumor, was the face of Compassion & Choices, the advocacy group campaigning to legalize physician-assisted dying in all 50 states. She still is.On her birthday, the group released a “call to action” video with passages and narration drawn from prerecorded videos with Maynard (pronounced MayNARD) and other advocates explaining why the right to die by legal prescription is important to them. It is now legal in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico.In the video, Maynard concludes: “If there’s one message to come away from everything that I’ve been through, it is no matter what life kind of presents you with, is never be afraid to use your own voice. And even if you are uncertain, even if your voice is shaking, ask the questions you want to ask, speak up for yourself. Advocate.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 22 weeks 4 days ago
Reading religion surveys can seem like confronting the Tower of Babel: stacked questions, confusing terms, unscientific methodology.It gets even crazier when results are contradictory. How does that happen?Some surveys lean like the Tower of PisaThe Pledge of Allegiance is a perfect example.There’s almost always a flap over how many Americans do — or don’t — want the words “under God” kicked out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Indeed, on Nov. 19 a court in Monmouth, N.J., will hear the case of the American Humanist Association battling the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District to have schools edit out mention of God.The humanists claim 34 percent of Americans agree with their view. But, wait. What about a survey conducted earlier this year by LifeWay Research, a Christian research agency? It found that only 8 percent would cut God from the Pledge.Why four times the difference? Look to the poll language.LifeWay asked: “Should the words ‘under God’ be removed from or remain in the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America?” That’s a straight-up question with no preface.The humanists’ survey, however, began with a bit of pointed Pledge history — before getting to the (loaded) question:“For its first 62 years, the Pledge of Allegiance did not include the phrase ‘under God.’ During the Cold War, in 1954, the phrase ‘one nation, indivisible … ‘ was changed to read ‘one nation, under God, indivisible … ‘. Some people feel this phrase in our national pledge should focus on unity rather than religion.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 23 weeks 2 days ago
ISIS terrorist rampages, waves of anti-Muslim hate speech and fear-mongering Islamophobia are inspiring an outburst of online activism in the form of Twitter hashtags.The question is: Does it work, especially over the long term?An army of “clicktivists” — a mix of earnest advocates and pointed satirists — has entered the fray armed with 140-character positive, peaceful or humorous counter-messages.Using names such as #TakeOnHate, #IStandUpBecause, and #NotInMyName, the pushback approach promotes the complexity, diversity and positive contributions of Islam and Muslims. Others, such as #MuslimApologies, offer sarcasm in service of the same message.Yet the hashtags are often immediately co-opted by trolls spewing an opposite message. And some experts question whether clicktivist campaigns have lasting worth.Linda Sarsour has no doubt they do. She’s a Brooklyn-based Palestinian activist in the streets and on social media and a co-creator of #TakeOnHate. The hashtag is accompanied by a resource website, launched in March by the National Network for Arab American Communities.“The insidious thing about anti-Arab hate speech is that it seems to be acceptable, where the ‘N-word’ or anti-Semitic remarks are not taken with the same degree of outrage,” said Sarsour, who was chased down the street in September by a man who was later arrested for threatening to behead her.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 24 weeks 1 day ago
God bless online media. Almost half of U.S. adults (46 percent) say they saw someone sharing “something about their faith” on the Internet in the last week.And one in five (20 percent) say they were part of the Internet spiritual action on social networking sites and apps — sharing their beliefs on Facebook, asking for prayer on Twitter, mentioning in a post that they went to church.“The sheer number of people who have seen faith discussed online is pretty striking,” said Greg Smith, associate director of religion research for Pew Research Center.Megachurch pastors have mega-followings online. Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church streams his Houston services online. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has 1.8 million likes on his Facebook page. And Pope Francis has more than 4.6 million English-language followers, chiefly American, for his @Pontifex Twitter feed.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 24 weeks 5 days ago
Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old suffering with an aggressive brain tumor, died Nov. 1— as she said she would.Sean Crowley, spokesman for the non-profit advocacy organization Compassion & Choices, confirmed Maynard’s death Nov. 2.“She died peacefully on Nov. 1 in her Portland home, surrounded by family and friends,” according to a statement from Compassion & Choices, which first publicized Maynard’s controversial plan to take control of her death.The statement said Maynard suffered “increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms.” She chose to take the “aid-in-dying medication she received months ago.”She captivated millions via social media by announcing her plan to end her life around Nov. 1 by taking a lethal prescription provided to her by a doctor under Oregon’s death-with-dignity law.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 25 weeks 2 days ago
Brittany Maynard’s decision to die soon by a legal, lethal prescription, rather than let a brain tumor kill her, has provoked a national conversation and debate about end-of-life decisions.In a new video, released Oct. 29, she says she feels herself getting sicker by the day. But since she still feels joy in living, she’ll postpone her day of death past the date originally announced — Nov. 1.Maynard, 29, has inspired raging arguments about the values, even about the vocabulary, underlying the choices we make about our last days. Her goal, she still says, is to “influence this policy (on physician-assisted dying) for positive change.”As ethicists, activists and religious voices square off, here are five things to know about death and dying.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 25 weeks 5 days ago
Seven years after officiating at the wedding of his gay son, the Rev. Frank Schaefer has been reinstated as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church.The denomination’s top court upheld a June decision to reinstate Schaefer’s ministerial credentials after a trial court defrocked the Pennsylvania pastor last year.Schaefer appealed and was reinstated by a vote of a regional court, the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals. At that time, Schaefer said, “I will not refuse ministry to anyone. I will never be silent again. I will always speak for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”In the ruling released Oct. 27, the church’s top court upheld Schaefer’s appeal while acknowledging “some within the church do not support this outcome today,” according to United Methodist News Service.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 26 weeks 1 day ago
If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.How does 38 percent sound?That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 29 weeks 4 days ago
Museum of the Bible.That’s it.The name of the museum under construction in Washington, D.C., is official.“We don’t need more to tell people who and what we are,” said the museum’s founder and funder, Steve Green.But, as always with the Bible, nothing is ever simple.The high-tech museum, set to open in fall 2017, is four blocks from the U.S. Capitol and three blocks from a global tourism mecca, the Air and Space Museum. The new museum will feature standing exhibits on the history and impact of the Bible as well as interactive features to bring viewers into Bible stories and characters.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 30 weeks 3 days ago
These are anxious times for white evangelicals, according to two new surveys.At 20 percent of U.S. adults, they are statistically neck-and-neck with the “nones” — people who claim no religious brand. “Nones” now tally up to 19 percent in the 2014 American Values Survey, said Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, which released the survey Sept. 23.Evangelicals, said Jones, are on “the losing side of the culture wars, such as gay marriage, and they see that their share (of society) is shrinking and aging, adding to their sense of being embattled.”“They can no longer say confidently they speak for all people of faith.”Perhaps for that reason, white evangelicals, more than any other religious group, worry that the government will interfere with their religious liberty.The survey asked which concerned people more: The government interfering with their ability to “freely practice their religion” or “religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others.”The overall answer was a tie — 46 percent of Americans overall for each viewpoint. But white evangelicals were significantly more worried about government interference (66 percent) than any other group.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 30 weeks 5 days ago
More Americans today say religion’s influence is losing ground just when they want it to play a stronger role in public life and politics.A new Pew Research Center survey finds 72 percent of Americans say religion’s influence is declining in society — the highest percentage since Pew began measuring the trend in 2001, when only 52 percent held that view.“Most people (overwhelmingly Christians) view this as a bad thing,” said Greg Smith, associate director of Pew’s Religion & Public Life Project. “That unhappiness may be behind their desire for more religion and politics.”Growing numbers want their politicians to pray in public and for their clergy to endorse candidates from the pulpit. And nearly half of Americans say business owners with religious objections to gay marriage should to be able to refuse wedding-related services to same-sex couples.There are three ways to look at the findings, released Sept. 22:
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 31 weeks 3 days ago
James Merritt spent years as senior pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch that featured a mighty choir.Then he changed his tune.At 50, he left First Baptist Church Snellville to plant a new church — 200 people in a rented space at a high school 12 miles away — focused on reaching a young generation.There was and is no choir. And that puts Merritt’s current congregation, Cross Pointe Church, right on trend.The newly released National Congregations Study finds church choirs are on the downbeat in white Protestant churches across the theological spectrum.Choirs stand strong in black Protestant congregations, where 90 percent of regular attendees say there’s a choir at the main service. The same is true for three in four (76 percent) Catholic worshippers.But among white conservative evangelicals, only 40 percent of worshippers say they hear a choir at services, down from 63 percent 14 years ago.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 32 weeks 2 days ago
U.S. religious congregations are marching to their own drums now more than ever.The National Congregations Study‘s latest look at the country’s churches, synagogues and mosques — the third wave of studies that began in 1998 — finds more congregations:Open their doors to gays and lesbians in active membership and in leadership.Show racial and ethnic diversity in the pews.Encourage hand-waving, amen-shouting, and dancing-in-the-aisles during worship.Disconnect from denominational ties doctrines and rules that might slow or block change.The study, released Thursday (Sept. 11), draws on interviews with leaders at 1,331 nationally representative congregations and updates data from 1998 and 2006 studies. Non-Christian congregations were included in the study but there are too few for statistical analysis by topics.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 32 weeks 5 days ago
As thousands gathered Sept. 5 at Temple Beth Am in Miami to mourn journalist Steven Sotloff, they paid tribute to the one quality his family and friends tried hard to conceal from his Islamic State captors: his Jewishness.Sotloff was not only Jewish, he held U.S.-Israel dual citizenship. But during that terrible year of his captivity, dozens of family and friends worked to scrub that detail from any public mention of the 31-year-old reporter for fear he would be persecuted for it. It appears word never got out, though he was brutally beheaded nonetheless.In death, the Jewish values that informed his life are coming forward. One of the most moving testimonies Friday came from a childhood classmate Danielle Berrin, who writes for the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles.Speaking to Jose Diaz-Balart on his morning MSNBC talk show, Berrin said Sotloff’s Jewish education was “one of the beautiful things” about him.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 33 weeks 1 day ago
Joan Rivers, 81, the acid-tongued survivor of popular comedy and entertainment, died Sept. 4. Who could possibly find it funny?Joan would have.Humor, she said, was how she dealt with all life’s triumphs and defeats.She once said, “I knew I was funny and I knew it was powerful” as early as 8 years old.Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, the daughter of Russian immigrant Jews, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard. (“My mother wanted M.D. to stand for Make Dollars.”)But she couldn’t get a door opened to the stage until she started making the gatekeepers — the agents’ secretaries — laugh.She worked her way up through New York comedy clubs, over into TV and finally, after seven auditions, onto a stand-up stint on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” By 1983, she was Carson’s regular guest host until a bitter feud over her competing TV endeavors brought their friendship to an end.Rivers’ first marriage ended in divorce; her second ended in tragedy when her husband killed himself. Even so, she said, “I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 35 weeks 3 days ago
The Moral Monday movement, birthed by activists who protest the actions of the North Carolina General Assembly, will expand to 12 states on August 22 in a so-called Moral Week of Action.The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the NAACP in North Carolina and organizer of the Moral Monday movement, announced that Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania , Tennessee, and Wisconsin would join up.Each state is mobilizing social justice activists and clergy to call out governors and state legislatures for “regressive attacks” on the people Jesus called “the least of these,” Barber said in a press call on August 19. Last year, more than 1,000 people were arrested during a series of Moral Mondays in North Carolina.The objective is to push for the politicians to “repent and reform,” he said. But the marchers will have a daily theme promoting positive actions, not only decrying current policies, he said. Each state sets its own program, but most emphasize the same issues as North Carolina. After each rally there, participants will fan out to register voters.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 37 weeks 1 day ago
You don’t need a doctoral degree to think higher education leads people away from organized religion. That’s been common wisdom for decades.Now, a sociologist’s new generational study upends that thinking.Today, it’s the least-educated members of Generation X—people born roughly between 1965 and 1980—who are “most likely to leave religion,” said Philip Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.Millennials—Americans roughly between the ages 18 and 30—were not included in the study because, Schwadel said, it’s too soon to tell if they will settle on a religious identity.Schwadel, whose study is published in the August edition of the journal Social Forces, found a clear historical shift.“Americans born in the late 1920s and ‘30s who graduated from college were twice as likely to drop out of religion than people who didn’t graduate from college,” he said.The postwar baby boomers proved to be “the last holdout of the church dropouts.” For boomers, “a college degree was still associated with a higher likelihood of leaving religion.”However, for the generation born in the 1960s, there’s no difference between those who did and those who did not go to college in their likelihood of religious affiliation. Now, for America’s middle-aged adults who were born in the 1970s, “those without a college education are the most likely to drop out.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 38 weeks 4 days ago
Most Americans say the waves of children crossing into the United States from Central America are refugees fleeing danger at home. And they say the United States should support these children while reviewing their cases, not deport them immediately.These largely sympathetic views come all points along the political and religious spectrum, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released Tuesday.Democrats (80 percent), independents (69 percent), and Republicans (57 percent) favor offering support to unaccompanied children while a process to review their cases gets underway.Most major religious groups say the same, including white evangelical Protestants (56 percent), white mainline Protestants (67 percent), minority Protestants (74 percent), Catholics (75 percent), and the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent).(The survey sample of 1,026 adults was not large enough to capture the views of smaller religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims, or Mormons).“It makes a difference that we are talking about children facing violence and harm,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “The value of keeping families together cuts across all party lines.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 40 weeks 3 days ago
A new Pew Research survey finds U.S. adults feel most warmly about people who share their religion or those they know as family, friends or co-workers.Americans give their highest scores to Jews, Catholics, and Evangelicals on a zero-to-100 “thermometer” featured in the survey, “How Americans Feel about Religious Groups,” released Wednesday. They’re nestled within a few degrees of each other: Jews, 63; Catholics, 62; evangelicals, 61.In the middle of the chart: Buddhists, 53; Hindus, 50; Mormons, 48. Trending to the chilly negative zone: atheists at 41 and Muslims at 40.Pew took the thermal reading because “understanding the question of how religious groups view each other is valuable in a country where religion plays an important role in public life,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of religion research.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 41 weeks 1 day ago
Most Christians don’t approve of President Obama right now, but he gets high ratings from Muslims and other minority religious groups.It’s not because of their religion, though.Obama’s level of popular approval matches Americans’ political party ties, not their religious identity, age or almost any other demographic characteristic, said Jeffrey Jones, managing editor of the Gallup poll.The newest Gallup tracking poll shows the president’s approval rating in June averaged 43 percent for Americans overall. However, his ratings sank with Catholics to 44 percent, down from 54 percent in June 2013.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 42 weeks 3 days ago
What’s the next religious liberties faceoff? Some suggest it could be between LGBT workers and religious owners of private businesses.On Monday, while news media dissected the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, President Obama pledged to sign an order protecting federal employees from discrimination based on gender identity .But he has yet to sign an executive order version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity for all federal contractors and subcontractors, an order that affects for-profit businesses.Now, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, such an order could rile the waters again, several legal experts say. They see a line between a ruling about contraception and hiring, firing, and benefit concerns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees.
Posted by Lauren Markoe, Cathy Lynn Grossman 42 weeks 5 days ago
Five things to know about one of the most anticipated Supreme Court decisions of the year:1. Corporations can’t pray, but they do have religious rights.Hobby Lobby isn’t a person. It’s a chain of crafts stores owned by a religious family. And though the evangelical Green family objects to parts of the Affordable Care Act’s emergency contraception mandate, it’s not the Greens but the company that writes the check for employees’ health insurance. The first question the justices had to answer was this: Does Hobby Lobby have religious rights? To many Americans, this sounds a little nutty. Does a craft store believe in God?A majority of the justices held that a closely held company such as Hobby Lobby does have religious rights. The court didn’t apply those rights, however, to publicly held corporations, where owners’ religious beliefs would be hard to discern.But well before the justices had delivered their verdict on this question, many legal scholars said they wouldn’t be surprised were they to affirm the company’s religious rights. American corporations do have some of the rights and responsibilities we usually associate with people. And in the 2010Citizens United campaign finance case, the justices overturned bans on corporate political spending as a violation of freedom of speech — corporations’ free speech.
Posted by Lauren Markoe, Cathy Lynn Grossman 42 weeks 5 days ago
The Supreme Court on Monday sided with the evangelical owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., ruling 5-4 that the arts-and-crafts chain does not have to offer insurance for types of birth control that conflict with company owners’ religious beliefs.Beyond the specifics of the Hobby Lobby case before them, the justices broke new legal ground by affirming that corporations, not just individual Americans or religious non-profits, may claim religious rights.Does Monday’s decision mean, however, that the religious beliefs of business owners stand paramount? That they are more important than a female employee’s right to choose from the full array of birth control methods she is promised under the Affordable Care Act? Or that a business owner may invoke his religious rights to deny service to a gay couple?Not necessarily, legal experts say.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 43 weeks 1 day ago
Toss out the party and ideology labels: Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal.The Pew Research Center’s new survey, “ Beyond Red VS Blue: The Political Typology,” finds no sharp lines dividing people by their views on politics, faith, family, and the role and limits of government.“It’s a spectrum,” said Michael Dimock, vice president for research for Pew Research Center.Looking at questions relating to faith and family, he observed, “the caricature that all religious people are Republican is just not true.”Black and Hispanic political liberals who attend church and hold conservative views on issues such as gay marriage hew red on social issues.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 43 weeks 3 days ago
Just because interfaith, interracial, and varied ethnic groups share a common cause doesn’t mean a diverse coalition can hang together.It often takes prayer. And not just a “Bless this group, Amen,” invocation.A new study by three sociologists finds that three out of four interfaith civic coalitions turn to what the sociologists have dubbed “bridging prayer” — interactive, participatory, and often innovative prayers and rituals that highlight their shared identity as people of faith.“Shared issues alone don’t necessarily ensure cooperation,” said Ruth Braunstein, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. “But groups that cannot build a shared culture could find it very difficult to succeed.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 43 weeks 5 days ago
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to finally issue its ruling this week in the highly anticipated case of the craft companies vs. Obamacare.Technically, it’s Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a showdown over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate. The core legal question is whether a private company can have religious rights.But to the general public, this is seen as a showdown between employers — the evangelical Green family behind Hobby Lobby and the Mennonite Hahn familythat owns the Conestoga cabinet company — and the employees’ personal reproductive choices under their insurance.While conservatives have cast the battle as one for religious freedom, the general public may see it as a showdown over personal health choices.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 45 weeks 3 days ago
A Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew turn up together on a Washington, D.C., bus.It’s no joke. They’re the faces of a new ad campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties group. And the ad is the latest volley between Muslim and anti-Muslim groups that has played out most recently on the sides of buses in the nation’s capital.First, the American Muslims for Palestine ran ads during peak D.C. tourism season, the Cherry Blossom Festival in April, condemning U.S. aid to Israel.A month later, blogger Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative responded with bus ads featuring photos of Hitler meeting the grand mufti of Jerusalem and a text equating opposition to Israel’s territorial policies with Nazism.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 48 weeks 3 days ago
A public opinion war on Middle East politics is playing out this spring in new advertising campaigns on public buses and in newspapers.It began when the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) launched bus ads during the April Cherry Blossom Festival condemning U.S. aid to Israel because of that country’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territories.Then on Monday, Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative countered by deploying 15-foot-long ads on 20 buses in the Washington, D.C., system that equate opposition to Israel’s policies with Nazism. One ad shows the grand mufti of Jerusalem meeting Hitler during World War II.“The bus system is considered public space, so speech has First Amendment protections,” said Caroline Laurin, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. “We have no grounds to refuse ads due to their content.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 48 weeks 5 days ago
“I know what you did last Sunday,” claims the title of a new survey.You skipped church. And then nearly one in seven of you fibbed about attending.That’s according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released Saturday. The study, to be presented at the national meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, was designed to measure the “social desirability bias in self-reported religious behavior.”The survey finds that many Christians — and unbelievers, too — will exaggerate about attending worship in live phone interviews. However, when asked in an anonymous online questionnaire, people will answer more realistically.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 50 weeks 2 days ago
The Pew Research Center’s look at “The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States” also examined their beliefs, behavior, and views on social issues. It finds that, beyond the church doors in the lives of the faithful, there are distinct differences between Hispanic evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics:Catholics are less likely than evangelicals to:Attend services weekly — Catholic, 40 percent; evangelical, 71 percentPray daily — Catholic, 61 percent; evangelical, 84 percentTake a literal view of the Bible — Catholic, 45 percent; evangelical, 63 percentThink abortion should be illegal in all/most cases — Catholic, 54 percent; evangelical, 70 percent
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 50 weeks 3 days ago
A new report on the “Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos” reads very much like a biography of Fernando Alcantar.Like six in 10 Hispanic Catholics in the U.S., he was born in Mexico, where “you are Catholic as much as you are Mexican. You like jalapenos and worship the Virgin of Guadalupe,” he said.But once he moved to California after high school, his faith journey diverged — and derailed. Today, Alcantar, 36 calls himself a humanist.The Pew survey report released Wednesday is subtitled: “Nearly One in Four Latinos are former Catholics.” And Alcantar is one of them.
Posted by Lauren Markoe, Cathy Lynn Grossman 50 weeks 5 days ago
The Supreme Court Monday declared that the Constitution not only allows for prayer at government meetings, but religious prayer.Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that the town of Greece, N.Y., did not violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which forbids the government from endorsing a religion — by sponsoring clergy who delivered sectarian prayers.“To hold that invocations must be non-sectarian would force the legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech,” Kennedy wrote for himself and the conservatives on the court.Lawmakers and judges would otherwise have to police prayer, he wrote, involving “government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing nor approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their contact after the fact.”
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 51 weeks 4 days ago
Despite progress in defeating extreme global poverty, most Americans see no end in sight, according to a survey sponsored by Compassion International.Christians who attend church at least monthly and consider religion very important in their life overwhelmingly (96 percent) expressed concern about the world’s poorest people. But they were skeptical that global poverty could be ended in the next 25 years. Only 41 percent of the group said it was possible.And yet Scott Todd of Compassion International, the Christian nonprofit agency that sponsors 1.5 million children abroad, remains upbeat. He sees hope in the numbers of “practicing Christians” who express concern about poverty and a willingness to do more.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 1 year 1 day ago
The Bible encourages the “repression of women,” and it’s silent on such fraught topics as war or slavery.As least, that’s what about one in five U.S. adults believe. But they’re wrong.The American Bible Society’s annual “State of the Bible” survey reveals “the people of the book are not people of this book,” said Geof Morin, chief communication officer for the society.“We know 88 percent of people say they have a Bible. They think: ‘I have a Bible. I have had one for a long time. I must know what’s in it.’ But people overestimate their knowledge,” Morin said.
Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman 1 year 3 days ago
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings. But a new survey finds U.S. voters clearly favor prayer – as long the public prayer is generic and not specifically Christian.Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind survey asked about attitudes on high profile cases before the court, including Greece v. Galloway. That case addresses whether elected officials can open public meetings with religiously specific prayers , such as praying in Jesus’ name.A Jew and an atheist brought suit in Greece, N.Y., saying the Christian prayers excluded many citizens and violated the Constitution, which bans government establishment of religion. Even when the town began inviting non-Christians to give invocations, the “establishment” issue remained a question.