When President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the START Treaty this week — which places additional limits on the circumstance under which use of nuclear weapons is authorized and reduces nuclear weapons stockpiles by 1/3 — faith leaders responded with strong statements of support, which received ample news coverage. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and the Washington Post’s On Faith section placed the treaty in the context of the faith community’s decades-long efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, citing Catholic, Evangelical, Methodist, and Presbyterian advocacy on the issue. Catholic News Service reported that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops endorsed the pact, and outlets such as Associated Baptist Press, World Magazine, Religion News Service and the Christian Post reported support for the treaty among evangelical leaders such as Rich Cizik, Joel Hunter, and Two Futures Project executive director Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. (A USA Today article on the treaty also included a quote from Tyler.) The breadth of coverage speaks to the faith community’s dedication to this issue.
And it’s not just statements. People of faith are organizing and pushing for a action, as well. Today, Faithful America circulated a petition from True Majority calling for “a legally binding verifiable agreement, including all nations, to eliminate nuclear weapons by a date certain.”
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When former Bush administration staffer Marc Thiessen appeared on EWTN (a Catholic television network) last week and cloaked torture under the euphemistic guise of “enhanced interrogation” and made a theological case for waterboarding, many people of faith took exception and refuted Thiessen’s preposterous claims.
Now Faithful America is launching the taking the “Don’t Spin Our Faith” campaign, flooding EWTN with email petitions calling for a correction of Thiessen’s misinformation — which they made no effort to do while he was on the air or afterward — and reminding them that they have a moral and journalistic responsibility to tell the truth about torture.
EWTN is certainly not the first outlet to let torture defenders spin and deceive (recall that the Washington Post hired Thiessen as a columnist), but religious media have a special obligation to the millions of people of faith rely on religious media to stay informed on the pressing issues of the day in a manner consistent with their values. Click here to join Faithful America’s campaign to make sure that religious media is a “No Spin Zone” when it comes to torture.
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Even though climate change legislation has been relegated to the side stage for the moment, the issue is still receiving some political attention. The Wall Street Journal reported today that the 2011 federal budget holds some promising measures:
Mr. Obama’s budget calls for $39 billion in tax increases on fossil-fuel producers over 10 years. It also includes an estimated $1.4 billion to help developing countries address the impacts of climate change, reduce deforestation and shift to low-carbon energy sources. And it proposes tripling federal support for nuclear energy, by adding $36 billion in new loan authority for an Energy Department program aimed at speeding the construction of new reactors. (emphasis added)
Although the challenge of equipping people who are already feeling the effects of climate change requires greater investment than this, it’s encouraging to see that it hasn’t fallen off the radar, even as legislation stalls. The thousands of Faithful America members who joined the DaySix campaign are watching closely, as are countless other people of faith across the country and around the world.
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Following an ABC News investigation and efforts from faith groups such as Faithful America and The Interfaith Alliance, the weapons manufacturer that had been putting Bible verses on gun sights used by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is changing its practices:
Trijicon, the gunsight maker that has imprinted Bible verse numbers on its scopes, has announced that it will no longer imprint the verses on the sides of scopes intended for the U.S. military, and will also provide clients with the kits to remove the Bible verse numbers from existing scopes.
Thanks to everyone who stood up to this misuse of faith — including over 5,000 Faithful America members!
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UPDATE: The manufacturer is now going to remove the Bible verses from the gun sights.
ABC Nightline News broke an unsettling story this weekend– apparently, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have been outfitting their troops with high-powered rifle sights that bear Biblical inscriptions.
When asked about it, the military seemed nonchalant. A military spokesman yesterday said, “This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency… Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”
Seems to me that’s a faulty analogy which doesn’t account for the fact that the purpose of the gun, unlike a dollar bill, is to inflict bodily harm upon another human being.
While there has been a slight change of tone since then— a separate military spokesperson said, “We are aware of the issue and are concerned with how this may be perceived”– the situation still gives me pause.
Obviously Trijicon, Inc., the firm producing the rifle sights, should be allowed to put whatever inscription on their product they like. But that the U.S. Armed Forces used taxpayer dollars to pay for these sights is troubling, not only from a constitutional perspective, but especially from a religious perspective.
It sounds like these inscriptions weren’t just innocuous decorations on firearms. Michael Weinstein, a former Air Force attorney now with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said that members of his group on active duty spoke of commanders who referred to weapons with the sights as “spiritually transformed firearms of Jesus Christ.”
Regardless of one’s views on the morality of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think we can all agree that God’s messages of love and hope for the world are a bad fit for a tool used to aim a rifle at another human being.
Sign Faithful America’s petition to make your voice heard on this abuse of faith.
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