Chris Lisee

Articles By This Author

Faith and Rights Groups Call for Hate Crime Hearings

by Chris Lisee 08-24-2012

Amid a rash of recent attacks that are being investigated as hate crimes, a coalition of more than 150 organizations is calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to conduct hearings next month with the aim of revamping hate crime legislation.

Led by the Sikh Coalition, the group of civil rights and religious organizations issued a letter on August 21 urging committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to look into hate crimes and hate groups in the United States.

The letter noted that the shooter that killed six at a Wisconsin Sikh temple, or gurudwara, in August had ties to hate groups. It also cited 10 Islamic institutions in seven states that have been vandalized, shot at, or burned in the past month.

Does Megachurch ‘High’ Explain Their Success?

by Chris Lisee 08-20-2012
Worship concert, rehoboth foto / Shutterstock.com

Worship concert, rehoboth foto / Shutterstock.com

Maybe religion really is the opiate of the masses – just not the way Karl Marx imagined.

A University of Washington study posits that worship services at megachurches can trigger feelings of transcendence and changes in brain chemistry – a spiritual “high” that keeps congregants coming back for more.

“We see this experience of unalloyed joy over and over again in megachurches. That’s why we say it’s like a drug,” said James Wellman, an associate professor of American religion who co-authored the study.

The study, “‘God is like a drug’: Explaining Interaction Ritual Chains in American Megachurches” was presented on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver.

Family Research Council Accuses Southern Poverty Law Center of Sparking Shooter’s Hatred

by Chris Lisee 08-17-2012
RNS photo by Chris Lisee

Tony Perkins speaks outside the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C., RNS photo by Chris Lisee

WASHINGTON — The head of the Family Research Council on Thursday accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of sparking hatred that led accused gunman Floyd Lee Corkins II to shoot a security guard at the conservative Christian lobbying group’s headquarters.

FRC president Tony Perkins called the Wednesday shooting “an act of domestic terrorism.”

“Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy,” Perkins said.

The SPLC tracks domestic extremists and lists the FRC as an “anti-gay” hate group. On Thursday, Perkins called “an end to the reckless rhetoric that I believe led to yesterday’s incident that took place right here.”

The SPLC's Mark Potok called Perkins' accusations "outrageous," and said his group is committed to offering "legitimate and fact-based criticism."

N.Y. Cardinal Timothy Dolan Defends Obama Invitation to Al Smith Dinner

by Chris Lisee 08-15-2012
RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan defended his invitation of President Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner in October, saying he is trying to encourage civility and dialogue amid a bitter battle with the White House over abortion rights and access to contraception.

Dolan has received “stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama,” he wrote in an Aug. 14 blog post. At issue are Obama’s new health care regulations, which require employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraceptive services for women.

Conservatives and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – of which Dolan is president – have criticized the regulations, which they say abridge the religious freedom and conscience rights of faith-based employers.

But the nonpartisan charity dinner is a time for civility, engagement, and dialogue, Dolan wrote.

“Those who started the dinner 67 years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them,” Dolan wrote.

Report Highlights Islam’s Global Diversity

by Chris Lisee 08-14-2012
RNS photo by Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian

Portland's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of Portland, draws diverse Muslims. RNS photo by Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian

Nearly all Muslims can agree on the basic beliefs of Islam: There is one God, Muhammad is God’s prophet, Muslims should fast during the holy month of Ramadan, and give alms to the poor.

Yet beyond these central pillars of the faith, Muslims worldwide vastly differ as religious convictions are shaped by cultural and social contexts, according to a new report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity” draws on 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 39 countries, and finds that Muslims differ sharply over questions of faith like who counts as a Muslim and what spiritual practices are acceptable.

With 1.6 billion adherents, Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, behind Christianity, and accounts for one-quarter of the world’s population.

Survey: Most Americans Keep Faith Private Online

by Chris Lisee 08-03-2012
Facebook image: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

Facebook image: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

Meet the social media “nones.” A new survey finds that Americans, while mostly religious, generally do not use social media to supplement worship and mostly keep their faith private online.

The Public Religion Research Institute survey found about one in 20 Americans followed a religious leader on Twitter or Facebook. A similar number belonged to a religious or spiritual Facebook group.

The results seem to defy the familiar story of prominent religious leaders using social media to build a following – and a brand.

“We were surprised when this turned up really low levels of people engaging religion and faith online,” said PRRI research director Daniel Cox.

Pollster: Romney’s Israel Visit to Have Little Effect on Jewish Vote

by Chris Lisee 07-26-2012
Mitt Romney, July 23, 2012. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images.

Mitt Romney, July 23, 2012. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — Neither Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel Saturday nor President Obama’s Middle East policies will have much effect on Jewish voters this fall, according to a new report that says Jewish voting patterns are predictable and unchanging.

The report, “Making Sense of the Jewish Vote,” predicts Jewish Americans will follow historical precedent and largely vote Democrat this fall. Moreover, Jewish voters will have a negligible effect on the presidential election’s outcome, even in swing states, said Jim Gerstein, a pollster with polling firm GBA Strategies who compiled the report.

Still, the Republican Jewish Coalition recently announced a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign targeting Jewish voters in swing states Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. “My Buyer’s Remorse” features testimonials decrying Obama’s posture toward Israel and economic policies.

GODSPEED: Religion at the Olympics, from Greece to London

by Chris Lisee 07-26-2012

A 600-foot footrace was the only athletic event at the first Olympics, a festival held in 776 B.C. and dedicated to Zeus, the chief Greek god.

For the next millennium, Greeks gathered every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus through sports, sacrifices and hymns. The five-day festival brought the Greek world together in devotion to one deity.

What began in ancient Greece as a festival to honor a single god, Zeus, has now become an almost Olympian task, as organizers of the games navigate dozens of sacred fasts, religious rituals and holy days. 

The London Olympics will try to accommodate religious athletes with 193 chaplains, a prayer room in every venue and a multifaith center in the Olympic Village.

Athletes at the ancient Olympics believed their training honored the gods, and victory was a sign of favor from a deity. As contests like wrestling, boxing, and horse racing were added to the Olympic roster, they supplemented devotional sacrifices, hymns, and ceremonies.

“The idea was that you were training to please Zeus. But part of the festival would be to visit the temple, visit the cult statues, making offerings, celebrating and seeing your family,” said David Gilman Romano, a professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona.

The combination of Greek sport and worship led the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, to ban the Olympics in 393 A.D.

Bachmann's Muslim Brotherhood Claims Draw Fierce Fire

by Chris Lisee 07-19-2012
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Accusations by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that an Islamist group has infiltrated the U.S. government are drawing fierce criticism from fellow lawmakers and religious groups.

Bachmann and four other GOP legislators have sent letters to five government agencies citing "serious security concerns" about what Bachmann has called a "deep penetration in the halls of our United States government" by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Bachmann also accused Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Rep. Anthony Weiner's wife, of having family connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., defended Abedin. "These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit, and they need to stop now," he said in a Senate speech on Wednesday.

Bachmann's letters cite a report by Frank Gaffney, a conservative who has accused President Obama of "embracing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Debate Reignites Over Religion at Air Force Academy

by Chris Lisee 07-17-2012
Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy

The chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy

The long-smoldering debate at the U.S. Air Force Academy over the role of religion in cadets' lives has reignited, just as a new class arrives on campus for basic training.

Accusations of improper proselytizing on the Colorado Springs, Colo., campus have been challenged by those who argue that AFA guidelines curtail religious expression.

The two sides recently clashed over a letter from 66 House Republicans urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to investigate the USAF’s growing “hostility toward religious freedom” under guidelines set last September by USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

In response to allegations of proselytizing, Schwarz mandated that only chaplains could endorse religious programs.

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