World-renown artists will perform an eclectic concert of music from around the world highlighting Sephardic, Yiddish, Bosnian, Hebrew, and Greek musical traditions. “Bridge to Peace” is a celebration of both the diversity and commonality of culture.
Wednesday, Apr 09, 2008 7:00 PM EDT
at Museum of Jewish Heritage: Edmond J. Safra Hall
RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE ’08
Clinton Pastor Backs Reverend Wright
New York Sun – 4/2/08
One of the Democratic presidential candidates has a pastor who opposed both Iraq wars, supports same-sex marriage, opposes the death penalty, and has been a passionate critic of American foreign policy. The clergyman isn’t the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Obama’s spiritual leader who has become a household name and a campaign issue for his fiery rhetoric, but the Reverend Edward Matthews, a little-known Arkansas preacher who is the closest Senator Clinton has to a pastor of her own. While Mrs. Clinton says she would have quit Rev. Wright’s church, Rev. Matthews expressed sympathy for Rev. Wright in a 35-minute phone interview with The New York Sun. “We preachers get irresponsible,” Rev. Matthews, the former pastor of First United Methodist Church in Little Rock, said yesterday with a laugh. His take on Rev. Wright’s now-infamous exclamation, “God Damn America,” is that many pastors, himself included, say things “that if we had to say it over again we probably wouldn’t say it in the same way.”
Obama Found a Home in His Church
Associated Press – 4/3/08
A young Barack Obama was searching for answers, and perhaps a place to belong, when he decided to visit a fast-growing church recommended by friends. What he heard left him in tears. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright preached that day about suffering _ about the seemingly endless problems of the world and of individuals. But he also talked about the importance of hope, the audacity of believing things can be made better. “Hope is what saves us,” Wright said. That message moved Obama to embrace Trinity United Church of Christ, along with its philosophy of translating faith into action. But it’s a side of Wright that has been overshadowed by his inflammatory remarks about everything from race relations to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The furor over Wright’s remarks has provoked the greatest crisis for Obama’s presidential campaign thus far, but Obama has refused to leave Trinity or sever his ties with Wright, saying there is much more to Wright and the church. Asked Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Hardball” if he thought the questions about his relationship with Wright were unfair, Obama said: “I think that’s fair game in the sense that what my former pastor said was offensive. I think that in politics, whether I was white, black, Hispanic or Asian, somebody would be trying to use it against me. I do think that it is important to keep things in perspective.”
McCain Shies Away From Religion Talk
Politico – 4/3/08
Traversing the country this week on a tour of places that have shaped his life and informed his values, John McCain spoke in strikingly personal language to introduce himself to the American public. But missing so far is any significant mention of religious faith. In an Oprah Winfrey era in which soul-baring and expressions of faith are the norm for public figures, the presumptive Republican nominee, open and candid about much else, retains a shroud of privacy around his Christianity. Raised Episcopalian, McCain now attends a Baptist megachurch in Phoenix. But he has not been baptized and rarely talks of his faith in anything but the broadest terms or as it relates to how it enabled him to survive 5½ years in captivity as a POW. What drives him — at least outwardly — is precisely what he has been talking about this week: a love of country and sense of duty instilled by a military family with a long legacy of service.
McCain’s Support for School Vouchers
CBN News – 4/1/08
John McCain continued his “This is Your Life” tour [last Tuesday] in Alexandria, Virginia, and spoke about the need for school vouchers. See below from his speech: “If a failing school won’t change, it shouldn’t be beyond the reach of students to change their schools. Parents should be able to send their children to the school that best suits their needs just as Cindy and I have been able to do, whether it is a public, private or parochial school. The result will not be the demise of the public school system in America, but competition that will help make public schools accountable and as successful as they should be in a country as great and prosperous as ours.” McCain has been very consistent on this issue. In the Senate he voted FOR a DC federally funded school voucher program. Supporting school vouchers is part of the resume the McCain camp will pitch to Evangelicals to say, “Hey, the guy is in line with your values.”
Jewish Leader Calls Hagee ‘Extremist’
Associated Press – 4/2/08
The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism said Wednesday that synagogues in the movement shouldn’t work with the Rev. John Hagee, a Christian Zionist, calling him an “extremist” on Israeli policy who disparages other faiths. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said Hagee and his group, Christians United For Israel, reject any Israeli land concessions to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Reform Judaism supports creating a Palestinian state; Hagee sees a biblical mandate for the territory so End Times prophecy can be fulfilled. Yoffie also condemned Hagee’s views on Roman Catholicism and Islam. The San Antonio pastor has suggested that Catholic anti-Semitism shaped Adolf Hitler, among other comments. Hagee has vehemently denied he is anti-Catholic and said his remarks have been mischaracterized.
Obama Says Yes, McCain Says No to Faith Compassion Forum
CBN News – 4/4/08
The Brody File has confirmed that Barack Obama WILL attend the religious Compassion Forum next Sunday April 13th at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton has already confirmed that she’ll be there. John McCain was invited but has declined the invitation. His campaign tells The Brody File: “We have a scheduling conflict.” A source within the McCain camp tells The Brody File that they have a compassion tour of their own scheduled for later this spring where they will continues to do “outreach to people of faith across the country.” We will follow up with details on this tour and bring them to you. As for the Forum, this is a chance for Obama and Clinton to talk about how faith, scripture and public policy all come together. The influential group, “Faith in Public Life” is behind the idea and it’s a great one. Once again, we will see Obama and Clinton on stage talking about their faith and how it informs their views. We won’t see that with McCain since he declined. That’s too bad because the environment will not be threatening at all. Many of these issues are right up his ally and you would think this would be a good way for McCain to reach out to faith voters, many who may be moderate and/or Independents.
Dobson Will ‘Certainly’ Vote in Election ’08
Christian Post – 4/1/08
Dr. James Dobson said Sunday that he would vote in November, ending the widespread rumor that he would sit out during this year’s presidential election due to dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates.“Let me just say that I will certainly vote,” the influential conservative leader said on Hannity’s America. “I think we have a God-given responsibility to vote, and there are all of the candidates and the issues down the ballot that we have an obligation to weigh in on and let our voices be heard.” However, Dobson – who founded Focus on the Family but spoke as a private citizen – added that he “has problems” with all three major presidential contenders, especially the Democrats, according to FOTF’s Citzenlink publication. In terms of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, Dobson has strongly criticized the Arizona senator for what he deemed as anti-family and anti-conservative stances. His criticisms include McCain’s support for embryonic stem-cell research, his “legendary temper,” and frequent use of “foul and obscene language.” “I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience,” Dobson had said in February when he announced his endorsement of then-presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. But during Sunday’s interview, he seemed to be reconsidering his stance with McCain, foregoing the fiery words he once aimed at the likely Republican nominee. Yet the issue of McCain’s support for embryonic stem-cell research was again brought up as a point of contention.
Move Over U.S. Religious Right, Here’s The Evangelical Center
Reuters – 4/2/08
Move over Religious Right: you’re getting squeezed by the evangelical center. That is one of the central points of a new book by David P. Gushee entitled “The Future of Faith in American Politics”. To Gushee, the evangelical center combines much of the theology of the Religious Right with the social concerns of the left, give it a broad engagement in many of the pressing issues of our day. Gushee does not demonise the Religious Right – which he says is simply exercising its citizenship responsibilities in a free society – but he does critique its entanglement with the Republican Party, its hectoring tone and what he sees as its narrow focus on issues like abortion and gay marriage.
A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference. The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw “demonic” images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional. According to the lawsuit, the student’s art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words “John 3:16 A sign of love” in his drawing. His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project. Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the boy he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester. The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class. Later that day, assistant principal Cale Jackson told the boy his religious expression infringed on other students’ rights.
With the Commandments, Must City Make Room?
Washington Post – 4/1/08
The Supreme Court said yesterday that it will decide whether a city’s decision to place a monument to the Ten Commandments in a public park means it also must make room for the display of other directives purportedly sent from above. In this case, a religious group that operates from a pyramid outside Salt Lake City wants to place what it calls the Seven Aphorisms in a city park, contending that the words are lesser-known instructions that Moses received from God. Pleasant Grove City, Utah, said no. But a federal appellate court has agreed with the religious group Summum — founded in 1975 by its leader, Summum “Corky” Ra — that if a city accepts the Ten Commandments, it opens itself to requests from others and may not discriminate. Unlike the Supreme Court’s most recent cases over government display of the Ten Commandments, the Utah case is a free-speech challenge that does not involve the Constitution’s provision on establishment of religion. It will be heard next term.
Supreme Court to Consider Ten Commandments vs. ‘Seven Aphorisms’
Los Angeles Times – 4/1/08
WASHINGTON — If a city allows a monument with the Ten Commandments to be erected in a public park, must it also allow other religions and groups to display monuments of their choosing? The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up that question in an unusual dispute over the reach of the 1st Amendment and freedom of speech. In the past, the court has said the free-speech rule applies in parks and officials may not discriminate against speakers or groups because of their message. In this context, freedom of speech means a freedom from government restrictions. But last year, the U.S. appeals court in Denver extended this free-speech rule to cover the monuments, statues and displays in a public park. It ruled in favor of a religious group called Summum, which says it wants to erect its “Seven Aphorisms of Summum” next to the Ten Commandments in Pioneer Park in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Its ruling left the city with an all-or-nothing choice: Allow Summum and others to erect their own displays in the park, or remove the other monuments.
School returning ‘In God We Trust’ to Gym Wall
Associated Press – 4/2/08
A Dallas-area school will put “In God We Trust” back on a gymnasium wall after the U.S. motto was painted over when one parent objected. The motto had been on a wall at B.B. Owen Elementary School in The Colony. District spokesman Dean Tackett said a parent complained about displaying the word “God” in school, so the phrase was painted over. But Tackett said on Tuesday, in response to complaints from other parents about the hasty removal, “In God We Trust” will be re-painted on the wall. KTVT-TV reports some parents wrote the words “In God We Trust” on their children’s T-shirts and backpacks, then sent their students to school. The Texas Education Code says a public school or an institution of higher education may display the U.S. national motto.
From the Altar, a Vow of Protest
Baltimore Sun – 3/31/08
Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton was always vexed by the notion that despite the country’s traditional separation of church and state, Maryland gave her – a religious leader – the power to change people’s legal status by signing their marriage licenses. At the same time, the Reconstructionist rabbi from Baltimore was troubled by the state’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Finally, after contending with her conflicted feelings for years, she decided she had had enough: She told couples she would happily conduct religious wedding ceremonies, but to find someone else to sign their civil documents. The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2004 in Massachusetts – the only state where such unions are legal – was the tipping point for her. “The incongruity of that not being possible here was heightened. It was the last straw. I finally was able to say with clarity: ‘I really cannot do this anymore,'” said Bolton, the rabbi at Congregation Beit Tikvah. Bolton has joined a small but growing band of clergy who have decided that they won’t sign any marriage licenses as agents of the state until it allows gays and lesbians to marry. Some rabbis and ministers in states including Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan and Connecticut have told their congregants that when it comes to weddings they are in the business of religious ceremonies – only – and they have redirected couples to the local courthouse for the paperwork.
U.S. Muslims and Mormons Share Deepening Ties
Los Angeles Times – 4/2/08
The Mormon Church has to be among the most outgoing on earth; in recent years its leaders have reached out to, among others, Latinos, Koreans, Catholics and Jews. One of the most enthusiastic responses, however, has come from what some might consider a surprising source: U.S. Muslims. “We are very aware of the history of Mormons as a group that was chastised in America,” says Maher Hathout, a senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. “They can be a good model for any group that feels alienated.” Which perhaps explains an open-mosque day held last fall at the Islamic Center of Irvine. More than half the guests were Mormons. “A Mormon living in an Islamic society would be very comfortable,” said Steve Young, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attending the event. The sentiment is echoed by Muslims. “When I go to a Mormon church I feel at ease,” said Haitham Bundakji, former chairman of the Islamic Society of Orange County. “When I heard the president [of LDS] speak a few years ago, if I’d closed my eyes I’d have thought he was an imam.” Though the relationship has raised eyebrows and provided ammunition for critics of both religions, Mormons and Muslims have deepening ties in the United States.
Senate Probe of ‘Prosperity Preachers’ Faces Defiance
Associated Press – 3/31/08
Another deadline passed Monday in a Senate committee’s investigation into a half-dozen Christian ministries that preach a gospel of prosperity, with one group signaling a new willingness to cooperate, another promising information and two more remaining defiant, a Senate aide said. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa will continue communicating with the two holdouts — Texas televangelist Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar, a Copeland protege from suburban Atlanta — and considers subpoenas a last resort, said Jill Gerber, a Grassley aide. “Sen. Grassley is just taking it one step at a time,” Gerber said. “We’ve received a lot of cooperation so far. If he had decided to pursue subpoenas earlier, he might not be getting the voluntary cooperation he is getting now. Patience is something he’s willing to exercise.” Dollar, however, responded by comparing Grassley’s inquiries into church governance with questioning churchgoers about their prayers and confessions. Dollar’s lawyer, Marcus Owens, asked the Senate Finance Committee “to evaluate, on the record, whether to issue a subpoena to the church.” Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, sent letters to six Christian ministries in November giving them a month to provide answers about spending on private planes, oceanside mansions, board oversight and involvement in for-profit businesses. The ministries have denied wrongdoing.
Breakaway Episcopal Parishes Win First Case in Property Battle
Christian Post – 4/6/08
Eleven congregations that broke away from The Episcopal Church celebrated a court ruling this past week that supported their efforts to keep church properties. Judge Randy I. Bellows of Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled Thursday that the 11 churches could pursue their case under Virginia’s “division statute,” which grants property to departing congregations when there is division within the denomination. Citing hundreds of churches across the country that are involved in disputes within The Episcopal Church, the judge wrote in his opinion letter that evidence of a division within the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the national body and the global Anglican Communion “is not only compelling, but overwhelming.” “The only way in which this Court could find a ‘division’ not to exist among the pertinent entities in this case is to define the term so narrowly and restrictively as to effectively define the term out of existence,” Bellows wrote in his summary. The judge concluded that the division statute applies in the case of the 11 congregations “walking apart” from the national body.
Mormon Followers Install a New Leader
Associated Press – 4/5/08
Mormons stood by the thousands with upraised hands Saturday, officially installing their first new leader in 13 years. Thomas Monson took over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February after the death of Gordon Hinckley, but the faith traditionally calls for a sustaining vote by members in a ceremony known as the solemn assembly. Each church organization took its turn standing when called to cast votes in the packed conference center. The ceremony has been practiced since 1880, when John Taylor was named president of the church. Mormons last held an assembly in April 1995, when Hinckley was named president. He was remembered Saturday by church apostle Russell Nelson, who said all Latter-day Saints felt a deep sense of loss with the 97-year-old Hinckley’s Jan. 27 passing. “However, we have felt our mood shift from grief to gratitude,” Nelson said. “We are very grateful for what we have learned from this great prophet of God.”