Religious Conservatives Threaten Brokers of Filibuster Compromise

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Richard Land, James Dobson and Paul Weyrich are angry _ angry at “activist” judges who they say are legislating from the bench, angry at Democrats who try to derail judicial nominations and angry at Republicans who are allowing the filibuster to survive. But these leaders of the Christian right reserve a special anger for Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who helped broker a compromise on judicial nominees with seven Democrats and six other Republicans. McCain can “forget about his presidential ambitions” in 2008, said Weyrich, co-founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority and president of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation. McCain, a longtime nemesis of religious conservatives, wasn’t the only lawmaker threatened with retribution.

Religious Progressives, Outpaced by Conservatives, See Hope in Judicial Fight

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Six months after the November elections left them defeated and demoralized, progressive religious groups by most measures continue to be outpaced and drowned out by well-organized conservative groups. Yet progressive leaders say the fight over judicial nominations has shown they are making measured progress in moderating the influence of conservative heavyweights with close ties to Republicans. Leaders of the “religious left” say they are slowly but steadily resurrecting a moribund movement. There is a coordination unseen since the heyday of the Vietnam era, they say, and plans are taking shape to match conservatives in media, mobility and _ most important _ money.

COMMENTARY: Common-Sense Center Must Assert Itself

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In 1919, after a pointless war had decimated Europe’s youth, Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote an epitaph for the center, where common sense, compromise and reason join hands to sustain civilization. “Things fall apart,” he wrote; “the centre cannot hold.” He blamed the “blood-dimmed tide” on too little “conviction” and too much “passionate intensity.” Yeats died 20 years later, as the cresting of national socialism in Germany, Stalinist totalitarianism in Russia and imperial arrogance in Japan were about to lay waste to another generation’s “ceremony of innocence.” Extremes are always on the march. Religious extremism joins forces with political opportunism, tribal hatred buys weapons, the rich demand too much, mobs shout for blood, and the crafty plot while their targets relax. When extremes triumph, basic human rights are sacrificed without remorse.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Bush Affirms Position on Embryonic Stem Cell Research WASHINGTON (RNS) As Congress debated legislation that would lift some restrictions on stem cell research, President Bush affirmed his position Tuesday (May 24) by welcoming to the White House families with children who had been “adopted” as frozen embryos. “Rather than discard these embryos created during in vitro fertilization, or turn them over for research that destroys them, these families have chosen a life-affirming alternative,” Bush said in remarks in the East Room. “In the complex debate over embryonic stem cell research, we must remember that real human lives are involved _ both the lives of those with diseases that might find cures from this research, and the lives of the embryos that will be destroyed in the process. The children here today are reminders that every human life is a precious gift of matchless value.” At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of the House of Representatives debated legislation that would go beyond the restrictions Bush placed on stem cell research in 2001.

COMMENTARY: To Engage Moderate Muslims, We Must Understand Radical Islam

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The United States is not faring well in the war of ideas with radical Islam. Earlier proposals for “rebranding” America were shallow, current proposals for “public diplomacy” lack focus, and many U.S. policies are unpopular, a situation aggravated by the Muslim world’s media portrayal of them in a distorted and conspiratorial light. But the major problem is a refusal to say, and probably to understand, the nature of the ideas we are fighting. Not until the Sept.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Pope Chides Spain for Liberal Policies, Says Family Threatened VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI told Spanish bishops that he prays the traditional family will survive attempts to “degrade its dignity and attack its freedom” in Spain, once one of Europe’s most Catholic countries. In a letter to the bishops issued by the Vatican on Monday (May 23), Benedict did not refer directly to the government of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, but he made clear that he strongly opposes new laws liberalizing divorce and abortion and legalizing same-sex marriages. “The human being, who is born, grows up and is educated in the family, is capable of undertaking the path of good without uncertainties, without allowing himself to be disoriented by fashions or ideologies alien to the human person,” he wrote. The pope said he prayed to the Virgin Mary to preserve the family from social injustice and all that might “degrade its dignity and attack its freedom.” He said he also prayed for respect for life “from the first instant of existence to its natural end” and for “freedom of religion and of conscience for all people.” The late Pope John Paul II expressed strong concern over the “secularization” of Spain at a meeting with Spanish bishops at the Vatican in January.

Citing Morality, Bush Takes Risky Stand on Embryonic Stem Cells

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) President Bush’s announcement that he would veto any effort to expand embryonic stem cell research puts his Republican Party between a rock and a hard place politically, making the GOP appear morally and ethically out of touch with the majority of Americans. The hard line Bush and his conservative allies have taken on the stem cell issue could backfire just as the hothouse politicizing of the Terri Schiavo case did. In the latter instance, the White House and some GOP members of Congress took an unequivocal stand on a volatile end-of-life issue. Surveys showed it was unpopular with the general public.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Religious Conservatives Express Concern Over Korean Stem Cell Research (RNS) Two leading religious groups expressed concern over reports of scientific advances in South Korea that may make it easier to clone human embryos for stem cell research. “Up until now, people were beginning to wonder whether human cloning for any purpose was feasible at all. This development makes it feasible enough to be a clear and present danger,” Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the pro-life activities division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The New York Times. The researchers from Seoul National University wrote about their findings in the journal Science, which was published Friday (May 20).

COMMENTARY: Is It Really a Holy Bible for Christians?

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The boys were about 10 years old as I recall, but youth was no excuse, according to my grandmother. During a skirmish after Sunday school, one boy hit the other over the head with his hard-bound Bible. The assailant brought down the wrath of my godly grandmother, who moved him to tears with the words: “This is the holy word of God. How dare you use it as a weapon!” Even though I was just a child myself, I thought my grandmother was being a bit dramatic.

Filmmaker: Christianity Exploding in Africa

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Christianity in many of its forms and denominational faces is exploding across the continent of Africa, says documentary filmmaker James Ault. In Ghana, for example, the number of churches is doubling every few years, he says. In Zimbabwe, Christian ministers are regularly casting out demons and bringing healing, stability and comfort to people of all ages. And meanwhile, says Ault, Pentecostalism in Uganda has taken off and is given much of the credit for a miraculous stemming of the AIDS epidemic there. “The power and vitality of the Christian movement in Africa is beginning to be seen on the world stage,” said Ault, who spoke recently at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Mich..

President Bush Affirms `Culture of Life’ at Catholic Breakfast

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ More than 1,500 conservative Catholics from across the country attending the second annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Friday (May 20) heard President Bush ask for their prayers and affirm “a culture of life.” The phrase, which Bush uses often, was made popular by the late Pope John Paul II, who also decried a “culture of death.” It has become shorthand in conservative circles for a stance in opposition to abortion rights, physician-assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research. For Catholics, it can also mean opposition to the death penalty, which Bush supports. During his brief remarks, Bush referred several times to the late pontiff, who died April 2. “The best way to honor this great champion of human freedom is to continue to build a culture of life where the strong protect the weak,” said President Bush.

COMMENTARY: Our Actions Speak Louder Than Words to Muslims

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If Newsweek dedicated an entire year of issues to touting how wonderful America is to the Muslim world, it would not be effective, and not because _ as has been touted by some _ Muslims “hate us for our freedom.” It is because many times _ especially in dealing with the Muslim world _ our actions have not always been consistent with our words, and Muslims pay attention to our actions. This goes far beyond a recently retracted Newsweek report, based on a single anonymous source, that U.S. interrogators at a prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a copy of the Quran down the toilet. The alleged American disrespect of the Islamic holy book is just the latest flash point to trigger protests, some of them deadly, of a country that prides itself on being a champion of human rights. Although our initial justification for invading Iraq was weapons of mass destruction _ a claim found not to be true _ the U.S. has claimed that the invasion was a good thing because Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator with a horrible human rights record.

Black Religious Leaders on Left and Right Join Filibuster Debate

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ African-American religious leaders on both the left and right joined the fray Thursday (May 19) in the battle over President Bush’s filibustered judicial nominations. After hearing that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., might join a conference of conservative black pastors in calling for an immediate up-or-down vote on Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown, a group of Democratic black pastors hastily arranged a meeting of their own Thursday. They rebutted the claim that racism and sexism underlie opposition to Brown, an African-American judge from California. “I flew all night to make sure I would be here to respond to the call to speak truth to power,” said the Rev. Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco.

COMMENTARY: Survey Connects Increased Wealth to Decreased Faith

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) An old maxim asserts there are only three topics in life truly worth discussing: sex, politics and religion. But there is a fourth one as well: class. The New York Times is currently running a series about class structure. The findings are based on a survey that focused on the meaning of class in today’s America.