RNB Roundup, Oct. 16, 2008: Religion in Politics; Battling Scientology; Church of England schism over gays; more…

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Religion playing lesser role in US elections than in past

Scratch the surface of any US elections, and religion can usually be found not far below. But this year it seems to be playing less of a determining role than in the past, experts say. Religion divides the electorate and weighs heavily on a society in which eight of 10 Americans say they believe in God. In 2004, evangelical Christians were seen to have helped President George W. Bush win a second term. But with just three weeks left before the November 4 vote, economic concerns have taken center stage in this White House race, pushing morality-related issues to the sidelines. Looking back at 2004, US experts have discerned little change in the religious landscape and electoral preferences in the past four years. A sweeping investigation by the Pew Research Center this summer found “a remarkable stability in the candidate preferences of major religious groups when compared with those at a similar stage in the 2004 campaign.” But John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute and senior fellow in Pew Forum on religion and public life said all religious communities were increasingly concerned about the economy.

Barack Obama ‘Muslim claims’ man thrust into spotlight

The man behind false claims that Senator Barack Obama is a Muslim has been thrust into the limelight after he repeated his assertions about the Democratic presidential candidate in a television interview.

– Source: Barack Obama ‘Muslim claims’ man thrust into spotlight, Telegraph (UK), Oct. 15, 2008


Battling Scientology

In a world wracked with uncertainty, there is at least one thing you can bet on: pick a fight with the Church of Scientology (CoS), and its leaders will fight back — always with vigor, often with a vengeance, and sometimes with litigation that can be long and costly. The idea of locking legal horns with the CoS might be enough to cool the ardor of some critics. But that is not Gregg Housh’s style. Housh, an Internet activist and provocateur, is not an easy guy to characterize. A member of a group that calls itself “Anonymous,” Housh is pitted in what appears to be an escalating rift with the CoS. Core constitutional issues such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are central to the dispute.

– Source: Battling Scientology, The Boston Phoenix, Oct. 15, 2008

Human Rights

CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos

From the country that attempts to police the world on human rights issues:

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency’s use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects — documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

– Source: CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos, Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2008


Church of England schism over gays

The schism over gays that has seen two dioceses vote to “leave” the US Episcopal Church is threatening to split the Church of England.
On October 14 parishes were urged to seek alternative oversight from another bishop if their own diocesan bishop expounded “unbiblical” teaching. Evangelicals at a conference in London were told that the Church of England now consists of “two religions”, one liberal and pro-gay and the other, conservative and strictly biblical.

The Rev Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, the conservative evangelical grouping that represents dozens of Anglican congregations, told parishes they should go ahead and seek alternative oversight, even if the Church of England fails to “accommodate” this solution through its General Synod. Without agreement from the Synod of the kind that set up “flying bishops” for traditionalists who opposed women bishops, to seek alternative oversight from a bishop outside the diocese would be tantamount to schism in all but name.

– Source: Church of England schism over gays, The Times, (UK), Oct. 15, 2008

Conservative Christians lead push for Prop. 8

The service was one of many events this fall supporting Proposition 8, which would create a state constitutional amendment to take away the right of gay and lesbian couples to get married in California. Christian conservatives have come to dominate the religious debate surrounding Prop. 8 – even though the Bible’s statements on homosexuality are complex and disputed among Christians. Catholics, Mormons and evangelicals have been contributing millions of dollars and flying into the state from around the nation to lead rallies and services that preach support for the measure. […] Liberal groups representing Christians, Jews and others are trying to defeat the measure. But their efforts have been far more modest, even though priests and rabbis in the Bay Area have played a pivotal role in creating and cultivating a theology that includes lesbians and gays as equals to heterosexuals. Conservatives and liberals generally use dramatically different lenses to interpret the Bible. Christian conservatives tend to emphasize an interpretation of the Bible that doesn’t change with the times. They say the Bible describes marriage as only between a man and a woman. […] Liberal Christians tend to emphasize that divine revelation can come from many places, even outside the church. For example, many denominations don’t allow same-sex marriages, while California law does. “Culture is going to manifest Christ in a way that summons the church to new realities,” said Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus.

– Source: Conservative Christians lead push for Prop. 8, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 15, 2008


Former FLDS calls new life as single mom ‘heaven’

When [Carolyn] Jessop, a single mom with eight kids between the ages of seven and 21, is not zigzagging around her neighborhood in West Jordan, she has to find time for her boyfriend of more than three years, time to write, and time to sew (she makes some of the costumes for the HBO series “Big Love“). While working on costumes for the show, she watched “Big Love,” about a polygamist family in Salt Lake City, but she said it was unrealistic to the point of being almost unwatchable for her. One plotline, about a plural wife who racks up thousands of dollars of credit-card debt, particularly bothered Jessop. In the show, her husband bails her out. In real life, a wayward FLDS wife would not have been in that situation. “She never would have done that,” Jessop explained in a telephone interview Monday. “She wouldn’t have been allowed to have assets in her own name.” Watching TV is just one way Jessop and her family struggle toward normalcy as they build new lives out of what they lost. Jessop grew up in a Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints colony in Eldorado, Texas. She was assigned to marry to Merrill Jessop, a much older man, when she was just 18 years old. In 15 years of marriage, she bore eight of his children and suffered physical and emotional abuse. “I spent the first three years of my marriage in incredible shock,” she said. “Then it just became something you knew was going to happen.” All she could do was stay out of the path of aggression. After her husband returned from work, she learned to stand more than four feet away from him to avoid being struck. She fled to a safe house in Salt Lake City in 2003, when she was 35, and more recently wrested custody of her children from the FLDS leader. Today, she is the bestselling co-author of “Escape,” a memoir that chronicles her plural marriage to the man who ran the FLDS colony that would, years later, make national headlines after government agents raided the compound, seized property and took several children into custody when allegations of abuse surfaced.

– Source: Former FLDS calls new life as single mom ‘heaven’, Park Record, Oct. 14, 2008

Religion in the Workplace

Christian accuses British Airways of discrimination over cross

A devout Christian has appealed against an employment tribunal ruling that British Airways did not discriminate against her when it asked her to stop wearing a visible cross to work.

– Source: Christian accuses British Airways of discrimination over cross, Telegraph (UK), Oct. 15, 2008


Hate preacher Bakri takes a 26-year-old wife – younger than his pole-dancer daughter

A pole-dancing daughter with breast implants and a second wife nearly half his age. Sounds like just the kind of dysfunctional family radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed so despised when he lived in Britain. But on Wednesday it emerged the preacher of hatred has more in common with some of the decadent westerners he was so fond of condemning than he would perhaps like to admit.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday October 16, 2008.
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