Oregon

Sojourners Donor Spotlight: Barbara Clark

Barbara Clark

Barbara and husband Andrew at a prime bird-watching spot in Kerala, India. Photo via Barbara Clark

Influenced in her early 20s by the civil rights movement, Barbara learned about Sojourners during the time that she and her husband served in Tanzania with the Peace Corps. Experiences interacting with folks diverse in religious belief and race during this time profoundly influenced her understanding of faith and social justice. She shares that her life has been influenced by Catholics and Mennonites, pagans and Methodists, Anglicans, Quakers, Hindus, and Buddhists: “At the core, a lot of us on the planet are looking for the same thing: to get along with one another, to have enough to eat, [and] to be able to live with some measure of safety and security.”

Love Is a Piece of Cake

Image via Goran Bogicevic/shutterstock.com

Image via Goran Bogicevic/shutterstock.com

A cake shop has been in the news lately. Sweet Cakes in Oregon made national headlines when a same-sex couple levied a lawsuit against it for refusal of service.  

This is where the story gets interesting.   

In the state of Oregon, same-sex marriages are legal. The couple went to the cake shop to order a wedding cake for their upcoming union. The cake shop said no on the ground of their religious beliefs — or as they put it, "standing on the word of God." 

This sparked raging debates on whether a business has the legal right to discriminate solely based on their religious beliefs. Investigations have been held, feelings have been hurt, Scripture has been quoted and misquoted, and Facebook rants have been posted. 

Franklin Graham has now added his two cents, starting an online donation campaign to help with the bakery’s looming legal fines — its actions violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which states that persons cannot be denied service based on their sexual orientation.  

In Graham's plea he stated that the shop owners were being "persecuted" for their religious beliefs. But this is not called persecution — this is called being held to a standard of decency, tolerance, and love. These are tenants Christ wanted his followers to imitate.   

Most Christians would throw a fit if a bakery, store, or other business denied them service because of the owner’s religious beliefs. There would be lawyers on the phone, news crews outside the establishment, and more Facebook rants about how our society is slowing losing its “Christian heritage.”   

Isn’t interesting that some Christians are ok with denial of service to this same-sex couple in the name of business/religious liberty, but wouldn’t want to the tables to be turned on them?   

Just because 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian does not mean we all see eye to eye. But is Christianity truly “persecuted” if it comprises more than three out of every four people in a society?  

What people are mad about is that their version of Christianity is not the norm or the most accepted one anymore. Many Christians see same-sex marriage as a nonissue.  Many church denominations have had intense and productive conversations about homosexuality in the church. Some are still divided.  Many people, churches, and denominations need to hold more conversations, prayer, and discernment. The United States and the Church have a long way to go until full equality is achieved. 

The issue with regards to this bakery is not their religious liberty, Christian persecution, or even the right to practice one’s faith. It is the notion that discrimination is wrong.  

In this war of words many are not seeing the real issue, which is this — discrimination, even under the guise of religion, is still discrimination, and it is against the most basic and fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ.    

Half of U.S. States Consider Right-To-Die Legislation

Photo via Mariano Cuajao / Flickr / RNS

Brittany Maynard. Photo via Mariano Cuajao / Flickr / RNS

More than a dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, are considering controversial medically assisted death legislation this year.

The laws would allow mentally fit, terminally ill patients age 18 and older, whose doctors say they have six months or less to live, to request lethal drugs.

Oregon was the first state to implement its Death with Dignity Act in 1997 after voters approved the law in 1994, and four other states — Montana, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington — now allow for medically assisted death.

As of April 10, at least another 25 states have considered death with dignity bills, according to Compassion & Choices, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that advocates for these laws. Some of those bills already have died in committee.

“The movement has reached a threshold where it is unstoppable,” said President Barbara Coombs of Compassion & Choices, who was also chief petitioner for the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.

The issue of medically assisted death rose to prominence last year with the case of Brittany Maynard, 29, who was told she had six months to live after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Maynard was a strong advocate for Death with Dignity, and when she learned of her grim prognosis, she moved from her home state of California to Oregon where terminally ill patients are allowed to end their own lives.

“I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity,” she wrote in an op-ed on CNN.com.

“My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?”

Oregon Dentist Fined for Pressuring Employee to Attend Scientology Seminar

REDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GettyImages

Pedestrians walk past the Church of Scientology along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. REDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GettyImages

BEND, Ore. — State labor officials have ordered a dentist to pay nearly $348,000 to settle allegations that he threatened to fire a dental assistant unless she attended a Scientology-related training session.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries contends Dr. Andrew W. Engel repeatedly "badgered" Susan Muhleman about the three-day conference despite her concerns that it would conflict with her Christian beliefs. He also turned down her request to attend secular training instead, investigators said.

As a result, Muhleman quit AWE Dental Spa in August 2009 — weeks before the conference  and moved out of state to find a job, the state agency said.

Muhleman said she was opposed to going to the Scientology conference but worried about losing her job at the height of the recession, when the local jobless rate was about 15 percent.

Members of Mosque Under FBI Scrutiny Say They're Being Pushed to Adopt Americanized Islam

Hands with Muslim prayer beads, Omer N Raja / Shutterstock.com

Hands with Muslim prayer beads, Omer N Raja / Shutterstock.com

In the past two years, the FBI has placed at least five men with affiliations to the mosque, including its longtime religious leader, on the nation's no-fly list, a roster of suspected terrorists barred from flying in the United States. None has been charged with a terrorism-related offense, and federal officials haven't told them why they're on the list.

The unexplained actions are aggravating the FBI's already poor relationship with the mosque and fueling fear and frustration among Muslims that their house of worship appears to be once again in the government's crosshairs.

"It's not that we're doing anything wrong," said Jesse Day, who converted to Islam two years ago and regularly attends the Friday services. But like many others at the mosque who flinch at the sight of a camera and suspect an informant moves among them, he worries.

Hating the Invisible Man (Day Seventeen)

Invisible Man, Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com

Invisible Man, Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com

We finally made it to the Oregon Coast yesterday. I took some pictures in the redwood forest that I’ll share soon, but this post isn’t about that.

We got in before dinner and were happy to learn that we had a hotel room with an ocean view. Not only that, but it actually is right on the beach. So of course, we decided to sleep with the windows open.

It’s one thing to fall asleep to the nature sounds on my iPad; it’s entirely another to drift into an alpha state to the real thing.

And then came the noise. It was this periodic buzzing/honking/humming that started sometime in the middle of the night. It sounded like someone snoring through the wall in the next room. Seriously? I drive two thousand miles to sleep next to the ocean and you’re going to keep me awake snoring?

Oregon Announces Moratorium on the Death Penalty

Yesterday Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced a moratorium on all executions in the state, declaring capital punishment to be a “perversion of justice.”

Oregon has carried out two executions in the last 47 years, both during Kitzhaber's tenure as governor.

With convicted murderer Gary Haugen facing the death penalty on Dec. 6 — coupled with the governor's growing frustration with the death penalty — Kitzhaber had had enough and halted Haugen's execution as well as any in the foreseeable future.

"I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer and I will not allow further executions while I am governor," Kitzhaber said in The Oregonian.

Sparing Haugen’s life is not only a powerful victory for his family and loved ones, but also for anti-death penalty activists such as Naseem Rakha, who has devoted much of her career to writing about capital punishment as a journalist and novelist.

Kevin Palau answers, "What is an Evangelical?"

kevin palau 2010 Web

As the evangelical community in Portland rediscovered the calling of showing, in addition to sharing their faith, everything has changed. And it's only the beginning of what God is doing in our city. We're in it for the long-haul.

Not only have many great needs been met, but churches are working together in relationship as never before. The impact of one church humbly serving is profound. But the impact of a united Church serving in concert, actually has the power to change how the world views the Gospel.

Crime, Forgiveness and Retributive Justice: A God's Politics Interview with Naseem Rakha

naseem_portrait
Naseem Rakha, author of the 2009 novel The Crying Tree sees justice differently. Rakha, an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on National Public Radio and elsewhere, has covered two death penalty cases in Oregon -- the only two in that state's history -- and has spent considerable time exploring the deeper story behind capital punishment, retributive justice and forgiveness.

"What I learned from talking to these victims is that there is a place, not called closure, not called moving on, but there is a place of empowerment," Rakha said in a recent interview with God's Politics. "Crime strips people of power, and there's nothing that the justice system or really even churches can give to you to replace that power. It is an act of wanting to sit down and meet with the person who strips that power from you that has transformed people's lives and gotten them to a point where they can forgive the act, because they see the perpetrator no longer as a monster, but as a human that has made a terrible mistake."

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