As a first-time intern in DC, I have been astonished with the sheer quantity of things to do and see. Leaders in a city of leaders are always looking for a crowd to share their thoughts. Many of these opportunities have a great deal to do with our work at Faith in Public Life, so we will be taking advantage of these Washington resources by attending and offering our analyses.
Yesterday morning, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) chaired a hearing on a bill regarding the public expression of religion. This issue, a favorite used by some religious conservatives to label those who disagree with their agenda as anti-God, has been brought to the House of Representatives by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) with H.R. 2679, the Public Expression of Religion Act of 2005, or PERA.
Current law allows for people to file suit against state and local governments for alleged constitutional violations of the Establishment Clause in the 1st Amendment; i.e. the 10 Commandments in public courthouses or school prayer. Also, if court affirms a violation has occurred, the individual’s attorney fees are to be paid by the offending authority. PERA would change two aspects of the law: 1) only injunctive relief would be permitted in these cases (10 Commandments need to be taken down, but no monetary award), and 2) the attorney fee-shifting would be eliminated. Individuals would need to pay their legal fees even if the court finds a violation has been committed.
Though testimonies and debate focused on the legal procedures, it is apparent that the intent of the bill was to allow more leeway for religion in the public sphere and to take power away from those who claim to be offended by it. This debate asks a question that our organization, Faith in Public Life, and ourselves, as people of faith, are confronted with continually. What is the appropriate relationship of religious belief in politics and the public sphere? It is discouraging to watch as some individuals exploit faith for political gain by focusing on only a couple sensational issues; and we recognize the danger of a religious majority imposing its beliefs on others. However, we simultaneously believe faith has an important role in building a public conscience and enacting social justice.
We have tried to show that concerned religious individuals have already started to answer these questions. Take a look at our Faith Issues Resources, where you can find links to several resources and voices of faith on this issue of church and state. Several of those voices are highlighted in our Media Speakers Bureau, which includes Melissa Rogers, visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School and the founder and director of its Center for Religion and Public Affairs (check out her article Religious Freedom For All: Why the Supreme Court is right and the Family Research Council is wrong about religious freedom); K. Hollyn Hollman and Rev. J. Brent. Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, which works to further the Baptist heritage that champions the principle that religion must be neither advanced nor inhibited by government; Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance and host of State of Belief, which is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Use these resources to learn how people of faith are integrating religion and public life in a meaningful way — without violating the lines that separate religion and government — to promote the common good.
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According to the New York Times,
“House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a planned vote to renew the Voting Rights Act on Wednesday after a rebellion by lawmakers who said the civil rights measure unfairly singled out Southern states and unnecessarily required ballots to be printed in foreign languages.”
And as the Los Angeles Times points out,
“The effort to amend the requirement that nine states clear election laws with the Justice Department was led by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). The requirement, he argued, unfairly singled out Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.”
Of course, these states do have a long history of discriminating against minority voters, and recent studies of Ohio and Florida show that the statist tendency continues to manifest itself by disenfranchising American voters.
So, who is Lynn Westmoreland?
Oh yeah, he’s the guy who appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report on Monday to chat about his other agenda: posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings to help folks remember the Rules.
Watch the clip to see what happens when Stephen Colbert asks Rep. Westmoreland if he can remember those rules himself.
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Welcome to the first issue of Faith in Public Life’s Blog Round Up!
Once a week we’ll bring you an informative summary of the trends and posts in our corner of the blogosphere. Suggestions for the round-up or the blogroll are always welcome.
Several bloggers happily lead with the election of the Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori to be the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Chuck Currie notes the historical significance of female church leadership, and dismissing the pessimists An Inch At a Time recalls:
“I remember the deep pain, division and anguish of the 1970′s when the ordination of women (the last great threat to global Anglicanism and Western Civilization as we know it) was the thing that was going to split the church. I remember the lines for communion stretched out at diocesan convention with folks jockeying to get into position so they wouldn’t have to receive communion from (horrors!) a woman priest.”
Celebrating the news, the Faith and Policy Weblog kicks naysayer, the Rev. (not the right time) Herrmann, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Quincy, Illinois, into its hall of shame.
Avoiding that fate while reporting from the General Convention, Father Jake confesses to being a recovering chauvinist. He writes, “We have crossed the ‘threshold demanding a courageous act of faith.’ Now, for some of us recovering chauvinists, there may need to be a form of ‘ego death’.” And dotCommonweal explores the ecumenical dimension. “Cardinal Walter Kasper has been warning the CofE that moving ahead with such ordinations would create a ‘serious and long lasting chill’ between the Catholic Church and the Anglican communion.”
On any moderate shift within the Southern Baptist leadership with the election of Rev. Frank Page, Mainstream Baptist is skeptical. And so is Andrew Sullivan due to information from his friends “inside the Baptist Beltway.”
In addition to the twists and turns of church politics, American political events have kept our blogger friends busy. Several including Pam’s House Blend, The Center for Faith in Politics and Jewish blogger jspot take up Dem Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s signing of a strict ban on abortions in Louisiana.
Connecting morality to the minimum wage, Oklahoma-based Mainstream Baptist prints a speech he delivered Monday on the steps of the State capital. As the speech reaches its climax, he appeals to the religious leaders of his state: “You are standing in line to siphon off faith-based funds that were formerly distributed directly to the working poor. There will be a PAYDAY SOMEDAY!”
Muslim bloggers Truth and Beauty and City of Brass discuss the recent NYTimes article on two American Muslim Clerics seeking a middle ground in American faith and culture. City of Brass writes, “America is already the greatest Islamic nation in the world. Muslims of all sects within Islam can pracctice their faith freeely here [sic], build masajid, pray. There is no nation on earth that officially calls itself “Islamic” that accords all believers the same freedom of faith. None.”
Tired of the Republican use of “cut and run” to describe the Democratic position on the Iraq War, The Green Knight comes up with a new term for the Republican stance: lie and die.
Faith in Society reviews a new book entitled Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy. “In particular, the book suggests that where it has previously defended the social order, the church now has a brand new opportunity to exercise its prophetic role, challenging injustice, shaking institutions and undermining some of the central values and norms on which society is built.”
And finally, pointing out that activist judges have conspired to slowly, gradually change the “face of America to a gorgeous deep, golden tan!,” the Religious Left Blog follows the religious right’s logic and points out “how to really protect marriage.”
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It’s an exciting time to be a blogger interested in faith and progressive politics. There are more of us every day (we’ll be featuring some of the best here at FPL), and national leaders in our community are becoming more and more aware of how important blogs can be in spreading the good news about their work. With all that energy in the cyber-air, it’s almost providential that we get to announce that the first ever Progressive Faith Blog Con is on its way.
The Blog Con will take place from July 14-16 in Montclair, NJ (just outside of New York). It’s the brain-child of some of the best minds in our corner of the blogosphere, and will feature Velveteen Rabbi, Mainstream Baptist, Chuck Currie, Pastor Dan of Street Prophets, XPatriated Texan, Talk to Action, Philocrites, CrossLeft, JSpot, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and many, many more. Check out the site for more details on attending. You won’t want to miss it! The buzz about the event is already building here, here, here, here, and, well, you get the point.
We at FPL are thrilled to be working on this, and will be sure to keep you all up to date as the calendar ticks down to July 14. Register now (space is limited!), spread the good word on your blogs, and make sure you’re there for this landmark event.
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Welcome to Faith in Public Life’s corner of the blogosphere! We’re glad to join the hundreds of bloggers out there in this growing and exciting community. Like any responsible new neighbor, we’ll try to make a good first impression, keep the yard looking tidy, and not make TOO much noise.
As you’ve hopefully noticed from the rest of this website, Faith in Public Life isn’t a normal organization. We exist as a resource center for faith communities working for justice and the common good. When we do our jobs right, we provide faith leaders and community members with the tools they need to more effectively carry out their work. When our partners win, we win, so to speak.
In keeping with this mission, this blog won’t be entirely normal either. We’ll feature our share of staff-written content on current events at the intersection of religion and politics, but we’ll spend most of our time featuring the best work of others, in an attempt to build up the strongest voices for justice and the common good in our community.
What does it mean to use a blog to provide resources to the community? We’ll frequently feature cross posts from bloggers whose voices add to the national debate on faith in politics. We’ll have guest blogs from our board members and partners who don’t maintain regular blogs but who are excited by the chance to engage in conversations with this community. We’ll put together a weekly highlight reel of the most interesting posts from far and wide in the faith blogosphere. And we’ll use the blog to post audio and video clips of our partners making an impact in mainstream media outlets.
We hope that this blog can play a role in building up this exciting community. Leave comments, tell us all what you think, and spread the word about Faith in Public Life as a resource center for bloggers who care about faith, justice, and the common good.
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