GUEST COMMENTARY: Judge Romney by His Platform, Not His Mormonism

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) With the 2008 presidential race under way, the issue of religion and the religious faith of the candidates _ an issue we thought we might have put behind us _ has once again risen to the fore. Forty-seven years have passed since then-presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy found it necessary to openly declare he was “not the Catholic candidate for president” but “the Democratic Party’s candidate who happens also to be a Catholic.” Who would have thought the same nagging questions raised about Kennedy’s fitness for office would surface again in 2007? For many years, people thought Kennedy’s forthright and candid approach had put the matter to rest. The 2000 presidential campaign had another first _ a Jewish vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

Canadian Anglicans Narrowly Defeat Same-Sex Blessings

c. 2007 Religion News Service WINNIPEG, Manitoba _ The national governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada on Sunday (June 24) defeated by the tightest of margins a motion to forge ahead with same-sex blessings across the country. The church’s lay and clergy delegates voted to allow same-sex blessings, but church bishops defeated the move, 21-19. Majorities in all three groups would have been needed to approve the measure. Earlier in the day, delegates approved a statement that said the blessing of same-sex unions is “not in conflict with the core doctrine” of the Anglican Church of Canada.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service House Votes to Change Policy on Overseas Family Planning WASHINGTON (RNS) In a narrow defeat for anti-abortion groups, the House on Thursday (June 21) approved a measure to fund contraceptives for foreign organizations that also provide abortions. The measure passed 223-201, reversing the so-called Mexico City policy that was enacted by former President Ronald Reagan. The policy prohibits grants to groups that promote abortion as a means of family planning. President Bush promised to veto the amendment, which was drafted by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and attached to a $34 billion bill that finances State Department operations and foreign aid.

Oregon Supreme Court Considers Parents’ Circumcision Battle

c. 2007 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday (June 21) stepped into a legal dispute between a father’s wish to circumcise his 12-year-old son and a mother’s belief that the procedure is harmful. James H. Boldt, 60, a former Oregon resident who now lives near Olympia, Wash., converted to Judaism and says he wants his son to undergo the procedure for religious reasons. Lia Boldt, 44, charges that the boy is afraid to tell her ex-husband that he does not want to be circumcised.

The Gospel According to J.K. Rowling

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I had never read a Harry Potter book until three months ago, when a hopeful editor buttonholed me with a plea: Would I, the newspaper’s religion reporter, write about religious imagery in the series? We reporters don’t freely turn down editors’ assignments, so a force-feeding of all six books ensued. After 3,362 pages and 12 weeks of very late nights, I can say I liked the series. I get the hype.

Mourners Lay Unclaimed Infants and Fetuses to Rest

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ By the side of a grave in Metairie Cemetery, Lise Naccari bowed her head, held her husband’s hand and let herself grieve. Hers was a subdued grief, a polite grief. Her eyes were moist, but she held her composure as the priest intoned a blessing that should, at a funeral with four tiny caskets, have been cause for unruly emotion. “Lord God, ever caring and gentle,” said the Rev. Joseph Cazenavette, “we commit to your love these little ones who brought joy to the lives of those of us here for so short a time.” A short time, indeed.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service ACLU Wants Jesus Out of Courthouse NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Jesus has no place in the lobby of Slidell City Court, says the Louisiana ACLU, which has asked court officials to remove his portrait within a week or face a possible lawsuit to force the issue. Several people have complained to the ACLU about the picture, and one has filed a written complaint, prompting the organization to intervene, said Joe Cook, the Louisiana chapter’s executive director. The ACLU also wants the court to remove lettering beneath the portrait that says, “To know peace, obey these laws.” The organization sent a letter Wednesday (June 20) to court officials saying the display violates the First Amendment by advancing religion. Cook said it would be impossible for the court to oblige every religious group with a similar display in the court’s lobby.

UCC Marks 50 Years With Speech by Its Most Famous Member

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) More than 3,000 people attended the United Church of Christ’s General Synod in 2005, and witnessed the mainline denomination’s historic endorsement of same-sex marriage. Attendance at this year’s Synod, June 22-26 in Hartford, Conn., is expected to more than double, according to UCC General Minister and President the Rev. John Thomas. While many are heralding the UCC’s 50th anniversary, Thomas readily admits the buzz this year surrounds the Synod’s star-studded line-up, which includes Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a UCC member and a top presidential candidate. “The momentum took off and the energy is building,” Thomas said.

Israel Sees an Immigration of Choice, Not Necessity

c. 2007 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ For Tanya and Alex Pomson, life was good in Toronto, where the British-born couple had moved in 1996 to advance Alex’s career. He became a tenured professor at York University and she stayed home to raise their four children. But happy as they were in Canada, the Pomsons, who are modern-Orthodox Jews, felt something was missing. The answer, they believed, was in Israel.

Circumspection about Circumcision

Some Jewish Parents Forgo Circumcision, and Tradition RNS’ Dalia Hatuqa looks the decision of some Jewish parents to skip circumcision of their sons, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: [S]ome Jewish parents, albeit a tiny minority, are questioning whether removing a baby’s foreskin is essential to Jewish identity. Those like Evans, whose parental instincts collide with religious conviction, are part of an increasing number of U.S. families who have chosen to forgo the procedure.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Bill, Urges Alternate Research WASHINGTON (RNS) President Bush pulled out his veto pen Wednesday (June 20) for just the third time in his presidency, rejecting a bill that would have eased restraints on government-funded embryonic stem cell research. “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us,” he said in remarks at the White House. Embryonic stem cell research has been a source of heated ethical debate because it offers hope for curing numerous chronic diseases, but also involves killing live embryos. Wednesday’s veto was the president’s second on stem cell research legislation.

Free Trips to Israel a New Rite of Passage, Jews Say

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Mark Zemel took his first trip to Israel last month, hoping to see the sights and make new friends during a free 10-day excursion for young Jewish adults. The 26-year-old law student returned with two bags of Aroma coffee for his parents and something they appreciated even more: his newly minted bar mitzvah status. “That was my trump card,” he said half-jokingly, noting that his less rebellious siblings had already experienced the coming-of-age ceremony at the traditional age of 13. “They were surprised but glad.” From circumcision for baby boys to sitting shiva to mourn the dead, observant Jews live in a world of ritual moments developed over thousands of years.

Washington Archbishop Speaks Softly and Carries a Light Crozier

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Finding the right bishop to lead a Catholic diocese, a Vatican envoy once said, requires identifying “the `saint’ who fits the niche.” One year after he was named archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl won’t say he’s the right “saint” for the nation’s capital. That’s determined by “the Architect,” said Wuerl, 66, gazing heavenward. In the U.S. Catholic Church, there are few niches as prominent as the Archdiocese of Washington, where the archbishop’s influence extends far beyond his flock of 140 parishes and 560,000 Catholics. Often, the archbishop here becomes a de facto spokesman for the U.S. church, and one of its primary representatives in national politics.

COMMENTARY: To Marymount, in Memoriam

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) They closed the original Marymount College the other day. It was 100 years old. Marymount was a small Catholic women’s college in Tarrytown, N.Y. The buildings sit mostly silent now, on 25 acres overlooking the Hudson River at Tappan Zee, just south of Sleepy Hollow, where the headless horseman road. Washington Irving wrote about the neighborhood in 1824, and captured it completely.

10 Minutes With … Mitchell Gold

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Mitchell Gold is well known for his classic couches and comfy chairs sold nationwide at places like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. But Gold, the co-founder and chairperson of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, is increasingly known for his fight against what he calls religious bigotry. Gold recently founded Faith in America, a non-profit advocacy group, that’s hosting “Call to Courage,” a national ad campaign about homophobia from May to November. Gold recently talked about the intersection of faith, furniture and politics.