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Church Blogging #21

By Nick Mottern

On Sunday, April 26, 2009 Martha Conte, Margaret Eberle, Nora Freeman and I attended Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, NY in our bannering campaign to encourage Westchester County clergy and congregations to actively oppose the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

We found a remarkable openness to our message among the congregation and the first occasion in more than a year of church visits in which a pastor made an on-the-spot revision of the day’s sermon to include our witness.

In the conclusion of his sermon “God Is Still Speaking”, the Rev. Dr. John W. Miller said: “God is probably speaking through these four people who appeared today to bring a message of peace.”

'Witness for Jesus' in Afghanistan

US soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan's predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show.

Perhaps the goal is to make the Muslims Christian enough to support torture?

My Meeting with the White House Faith-Based Office

April 27, 2009

Dear David,

I am writing to tell you about my meeting last week, along with other representatives of CARD (Coalition Against Religious Discrimination), with Joshua DuBois, the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

I entered the meeting with very mixed emotions. Although I was glad that the Secular Coalition for America has the political connections to meet face-to-face with the person who runs President Obama's new faith-based office, I was saddened that this meeting was even taking place -- saddened that our new president has decided to continue the failed faith-based policies of his predecessor.

Recognizing the Jewish State of Israel

Recognizing the Jewish State of Israel
What are the consequences of Israel’s newest demand for recognition on the Palestinian people and prospects for peace?
By Abu Yusef from occupied Palestine | Palestine Monitor | 19 April 2009

Here in Palestine, we have been utterly confused as to why Israel has publicly backtracked from the Annapolis Peace Process over the last weeks, in the midst of overt US pressure to continue the broken negotiations.

We understand that parties like Shas, Likud, Israel Beitenu and others in the coalition do not want to achieve any meaningful peace, and that in fact they want only to extend the Israel’s civilian and military reach into the occupied Palestinian Territories…so why would they be adverse to what had taken place since Annapolis? If anything they should be the ones eagerly promoting a return to the process, while the Palestinians should be running for the hills.

After all, since Annapolis:

  • Not one of the over 6 million Palestinian refugees from abroad has been granted the right of return to either Israel or the occupied Palestinian Territories.
  • Gaza, while disengaged from by Israel in the civilian sense, remains occupied and controlled by Israel in every other way imaginable.
  • The number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has increased to over 11,000.
  • The Judaization of East Jerusalem has continued full bore with the destruction and seizure of hundreds of Palestinian homes.
  • The illegal annexation Wall has continued to grow in the occupied Palestinian Territories despite its condemnation in international and Israeli courts.
  • The settlement enterprise not only continued throughout 2008, it increased dramatically. Tenders for new construction increased by 550% (!), and a whole 55% of these were designated for construction even beyond the illegal annexation Wall.
  • The system of checkpoints and movement restrictions, by which Palestine is turned in to a series of isolated cantons, have increased dramatically throughout 2008, and are set to increase ever more according to the promises of Israel’s Avigdor Liebermann.

Iran President Triggers UN Conference Walkout

Iran president triggers UN conference walkout
By Harvey Morris at the United Nations, Tobias Buck in Jerusalem and Reuters in Geneva | Financial Times

United Nations officials on Monday tried to save an anti-racism summit in Geneva after some delegates walked out in response to a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, the Iranian president, describing Zionist rule in Israel as racist.

”Following World War II they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering,” Mr Ahmadinejad told the conference, speaking through a translator.

Peter Gooderham, British ambassador, condemned the Iranian leader’s ”offensive and inflammatory comments” that prompted the temporary walk-out. Delegates said they would return after he had finished speaking.

DOJ: No Evidence Anyone 'Affected' By Widespread Proselytizing in Military

By Jason Leopold, The Public Record

A U.S. Army soldier who was allegedly forced to attend fundamentalist Christian themed events and sued Secretary of Defense Robert Gates claiming his First Amendment rights were violated should not be permitted to seek relief in federal court because he failed to take his grievances to his superiors, the Justice Department said in court documents filed last week in response to the Army’s soldier’s federal lawsuit.

US Religious Right Concedes Defeat

US religious Right concedes defeat
America's religious Right has conceded that the election of US President Barack Obama has sealed its defeat in the cultural war with permissiveness and secularism.
By Alex Spillius | Telegraph UK

Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.

James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family - one of the largest Christian groups in the country - and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.

Muslim Americans at Odds Over FBI Contact

Muslim Americans at Odds Over FBI Contact
By Jacqueline L. Salmon | Washington Post

A behind-the-scenes controversy has broken out among Muslim American leaders over a coalition of Muslim organizations' threat to cut off contact with the FBI because of what it calls the agency's "McCarthy-era" tactics.

The coalition of two dozen Muslim American groups said last week that the FBI's treatment of one of its member organizations and what it regards as inappropriate FBI infiltration of mosques have disrupted the growing trust between the agency and the Muslim community. The coalition blasted the FBI, saying in a statement that "these McCarthy-era tactics are detrimental to a free society."

Israeli Soldiers Say Army Rabbis Framed Gaza as Religious War

Israeli soldiers say army rabbis framed Gaza as religious war
By Cliff Churgin | McClatchy Newspapers

Rabbis affiliated with the Israeli army urged troops heading into Gaza to reclaim what they said was God-given land and "get rid of the gentiles" — effectively turning the 22-day Israeli intervention into a religious war, according to the testimony of a soldier who fought in Gaza.

Literature passed out to soldiers by the army's rabbinate "had a clear message — we are the people of Israel, we came by a miracle to the land of Israel, God returned us to the land, now we need to struggle to get rid of the gentiles that are interfering with our conquest of the land," the soldier told a forum of Gaza veterans in mid-February, just weeks after the conflict ended.

FBI Planting Spies in U.S. Mosques, Muslim Groups Say

FBI planting spies in U.S. mosques, Muslim groups say
By Eliott C. McLaughlin | CNN

Ten U.S. Muslim organizations threatened this week to cease working with the FBI, citing "McCarthy-era tactics" by the agency, including efforts to covertly infiltrate California mosques.

The groups claim the FBI has sent undercover agents posing as worshippers into mosques, pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation.

The FBI declined to comment on specific allegations but called the proposed move unproductive.

Naked and Guilty

By Jeff Sharlet
Young Christians encounter sex, violence, and the eros of evangelicalism in a Texas hell house.
“Sexual purity,” a young Christian virgin once told me, is the most radical commitment a soul can make. He called it a rebellion: against materialism, consumerism, and “the idea that anything can be bought and sold.” By purity he meant chastity, not just abstinence but a belief in sex as something apart from the world, even as sex literally creates our world. Read the rest.

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

The coming evangelical collapse
An anti-Christian chapter in Western history is about to begin. But out of the ruins, a new vitality and integrity will rise.
By Michael Spencer | CS Monitor

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

US Most Religious and Most Violent Wealthy Nation: Go In Peace

Pollster finds 82% of people in the world consider religion an important part of their daily lives. That drops to 38% in 27 wealthy nations despite being 65% in the United States and higher in the poorer states of the United States.

The Other Brother: Hybrid Vigor and Reconciliation

The Other Brother: Hybrid Vigor and Reconciliation
By Gary Corseri

I had the good fortune to be born a hybrid: half Sicilian Catholic and half Ukrainian Jew. Beyond that, I was blessed with parents who let me evolve my own identity in my relationships with the Divine and the human.

On both sides of my family tree there were fools and sages, cynics and dreamers, the myopic and the far seeing, the generous and the greedy. I grew up in a middle class Jewish neighborhood in Queens. On weekends we were far more likely to spend time with my father's rather large extended Sicilian family than with my mother's rather small Jewish family. My friends went to shul and studied for their bar mitzvahs. I went to my best friend's bar mitzvah, and once I went to a Christmas Mass with one of my Italian aunts. I liked the bar mitzvah because I got to drink a little wine. I didn't like the Mass so much because I didn't understand the words and I soon got tired of all the sitting and standing. But I liked my Aunt Sadie's face when she prayed.

Americans United Says President Obama's 'Faith-Based' Program Lacks Adequate Constitutional Safeguards

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Thursday, February 5, 2009

Church-State Watchdog Group Expresses Disappointment That Bush-Era Rules Allowing Religion-Based Hiring Discrimination Remain In Place

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama’s “faith-based” initiative is being rolled out without repeal of Bush-era policies that violate civil rights and civil liberties.

Obama issued an executive order today appointing Joshua DuBois as executive director of the White House faith-based office and setting up an advisory council on faith-based and other issues.

'Jihadi Rehab' Possibility for Post-Gitmo

'Jihadi rehab' possibility for post-Gitmo
By Nic Robertson | CNN

U.S. lawmakers considering the closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center will likely be looking at a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia that focuses on religious re-education for captured jihadists.

President Barack Obama last week issued executive orders relating to Guantanamo, including one requiring that the facility at a U.S. Naval base in Cuba be closed within a year.

Now some analysts are asking not only if intelligence agencies will be able to get the information they need to keep America safe -- but also where the prisoners will eventually end up.

The answer to the second part of this question may lie partly in the Saudi rehab program that analysts in that country say has helped deal a big blow to al Qaeda.

Holocaust Denier Bishop Richard Williamson Reinstated By Pope

Holocaust Denier Bishop Richard Williamson Reinstated By Pope | Huffington Post

Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including that of a Holocaust denier whose rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jewish groups.

The four bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent - a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism.

To Understand War Criminals We Must Learn to Respect the Irrational Mind

To understand war criminals we must learn to respect the irrational mind
by Greg Felton | Media Monitors

"The psychopath, in this case the pro-Israel apologist, feels no compunction about lying to justify the torture and mass murder of a defenceless civilian population because in his dissociative mental state he sees no connection between himself and his victim."

(THE SCENE: A graduate seminar in political psychology at a Canadian University. The professor enters and takes his place at the end of a medium-sized oblong table)

Professor: “Good morning, and welcome to Aberrant Political Psychology. I’m Professor Langston. Before we begin, a show of hands—how many of you are taking this course because you want to know what makes people become evil? (A few hands go up.) Hmm. You’ll save yourself and this class a lot of aggravation if you leave right now and sign up for a Bible study course. ‘Evil’ is a moral absolute found only in the simplistic, zero-sum world of religion and American movies. It has no place in a rational investigation of the human mind.”

Mosques Not Spared In Gaza War

Mosques Not Spared in Gaza War

No Moment of Silence for IL Students

No moment of silence for Ill. students |

A federal judge in Illinois ruled a state law requiring students to observe a moment of silence is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman overturned the law Wednesday, saying the required moment of silence was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion designed to introduce prayer in public schools, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

Gettleman put a temporary ban on the law in May after Buffalo Grove High School student Dawn Sherman and her father, atheist activist Rob Sherman, filed a legal challenge.

"This has just brought closure for everyone, for all the districts in the state of Illinois," said Venetia Miles, spokeswoman for Township High School District 214 in Arlington Heights.

No “Common Ground” with Bigot Rick Warren

Why I Will Be Protesting on MLK Day
By Sunsara Taylor

When Barack Obama invited Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback mega-church and author of The Purpose Driven Life, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, some raised their voices in protest. And when it was announced that Warren would be the key-note speaker at the historic Ebenezer Church in Atlanta for Martin Luther King Day, just the day before the inauguration, a few objected to this as well. But all too many told people to just calm down, drink the Obama’Laid of “common ground,” and reach out their arms to this pastor who is nothing more than a Christian fascist in a Hawaiian shirt.

White House Report Seeks To Mask Monumental Failure Of 'Faith-Based' Initiative, Says Americans United

Bush Initiative Was Focused On Politics, Not Policy, Charges Church-State Watchdog Group

Today’s White House report on President George W. Bush’s “faith-based” initiative seeks to mask the shortcomings of a badly failed policy, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“The Bush initiative played crass politics with social service funding and jeopardized civil rights and civil liberties,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “All the PR spin in the world can’t turn this monumental Bush failure into a success.

“President Bush should have gotten the Golden Globe,” Lynn continued, “for playing a ‘compassionate conservative’ while doing precious little to actually help disadvantaged Americans.”

President-Elect Obama, You Must NOT Be Silent!

by Linda Milazzo

I don't believe in god. I never have. I don't believe in religions. I study them, but I don't practice them. I try to understand them to be sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of others, and to attempt to appreciate the motivations behind religious thought and deed. But they are irrelevant to living my life.

Long ago as a freshman at CUNY's Queens College I was introduced to Taoism. Taoism began in ancient China as a religion, then morphed into a dogma free/deity free philosophy. Since my late teens I've tried hard to apply MY understanding of my Tao to my life. I have the freedom to choose my own path and not judge the paths of others. But since I have freedom of opinion, I fall prey to judge. I try not to. But I do.

Through the Tao, I'm both a peacemaker and a warrior since Taoism couples with the art of self-defense. I understand my right to protect myself when needed, and to protect the defenseless when they need me. Since I'm by nature protective, it suits my sensibilities to aid the weak, where I fancy myself absurdly as inordinately strong.

Proselytizing in the Military to Continue Under Obama

By Jason Leopold, The Public Record

Barack Obama's decision to have the evangelical megachurch leader Rick Warren conduct the invocation at next month's presidential inauguration proves that fundamentalist Christians still wield enormous power within the federal government and will likely continue to be a dominating force under an Obama administration.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the U.S. military where for the past several years, in apparent violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, chaplains have openly proselytized to thousands of active-duty soldiers and, in some cases, have tried to convert Iraqis and Afghans to Christianity.

Iranian President Offers Message of Hope and Peace on Earth

Alternative Christian Message | by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad |

Translation of the Alternative Christmas Message, delivered by the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Upon the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary, the Word of God, the Messenger of mercy, I would like to congratulate the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain.

Muslim Arrested Over Head Scarf In Courtroom

Muslim Arrested Over Head Scarf In Courtroom |

A head scarf landed a Muslim woman in jail Tuesday after she refused to remove it during a hearing at the Douglasville Municipal Court.

Lisa Valentine, also known by her Islamic name, Miedah, 40, was arrested for 'violating a court policy of no headgear', Chris Womack, deputy chief of operations for the Douglasville Police Department said on Wednesday.

Valentine was in court with a nephew who was facing a traffic citation. She was wearing a hijab, the head covering worn by Muslim women.

When she refused to remove it she was handcuffed and taken to Judge Keith Rollins' chambers. He cited her for contempt and ordered her held in jail for 10 days.


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