Mass merchandising

Storefront churches are a long tradition in the United States, but in Italy, they still make news. Today’s edition of the Milan paper Corriere Della Sera reports that priests are now offering Sunday Mass in a movie theater at a shopping center in suburban Rome. Pope Benedict has denounced Sunday shopping (a relatively recent practice here) as a distraction from worship. No word yet if he regards this as a satisfactory solution.

Gender in NC

Looking through PPP’s latest North Carolina poll, I came across the following. On the question of whether the choice of Biden made them more or less likely to vote for Obama, men said less by 32-29, while women said more by 32-24. On the question of whether the choice of Palin made them more or less likely to vote for McCain, men said more by 42-39, while women said less by 43-35. In each case, there’s an 11-point “cross-gender” gender gap. I thought the Palin choice was supposed to appeal to women of the Walmart variety, of whom there is no shortage in North Carolina.


GoM’s got an interesting back-and-forth between Obama-supporting pro-life Catholic Doug Kmiec and National Right to Life Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. There’s no shortage of careful parsing here–a bit of a heavy slog, but that’s in the nature of the abortion debate between professionals. So for comic relief, check out this screed from Randall Terry, “Founder, Operation Rescue” (as he now styles himself) who, having been booted out of that organization and his Protestant church for all manner of immoral activities, went over to Rome a couple of years ago. Terry claims that Kmiec’s assertion that “it violates no aspect of Catholic teaching for a Catholic Voter to endorse, support, or vote for Barack Obama” is “theological [sic] and morally false.” Terry asserts: No Catholic may in good conscience vote for Obama, because of his support for Roe vs.

“I am a betting man”

The Democratic National Committee has wasted little time putting together an attack ad on McCain and gambling. Brody thinks it could work with evangelicals, and on such matters his opinion is worth paying attention to. I have my doubts though. While It’s generally believed that reports on George W. Bush’s drunk driving hurt him with evangelicals in 2000, McCain is a much better known quantity, and most evangelicals have already made up their minds who they’re voting for. But as always in a close election, a percentage point here or there in a swing state can make a big difference.

Happy Pulpit Freedom Sunday!

Jay Sekulow understands that the “remedy” for the IRS rule against political endorsements from the pulpit is legislative. Why doesn’t the Alliance Defense Fund? Update: Here’s today’s AP story on the initiative. Melissa Rogers is seriously on the case, and the best place I know for your one-stop shopping. What’s odd about this whole exercise is that it comes at a time when the country, including religious conservatives, is growing more critical of mixing religion and politics.

Religious Right Voodoo

OK, the touchstone of the narrative of John McCain and the religious right is his angry denunciation, following the 2000 South Carolina primary, of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance.” But now, thanks to Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr.’s fascinating investigative piece on John McCain and the gambling industry in today’s NYT, we learn the sequel–and something more about the underworld of Republican inside politics in the Bush-Delay years. As anyone who has followed the Abramoff scandal even slightly knows, the Great Game had to do with playing one Indian tribe off against another. Tribes that wanted gaming licenses hired lobbyists to get them in, while other tribes, feeling their business threatened, hired lobbyists to keep them out. From the moral values standpoint, a politician could claim to be opposing gaming interests even as he was taking money to protect gaming interests.

First Debate Religion Free (Almost)

That McCain opened with offering our prayers for Ted Kennedy was about as far religion was brought into the debate last night. Beliefnet’s Paul Raushenbush feels a little perturbed that both the candidates left religion out of foreign policy. For Raushenbush, neither candidate seemed to really acknowledge the influence of religion on global politics. But he considered the absence of the buzz term “Radical Islam” a refreshing change in campaign vocabulary.

What Pulpit Freedom?

The Gray Lady weighs in on Pulpit Freedom Sunday and, surprise of surprises, takes the dimmest of views. But while the editorial makes a couple of important points, it includes this odd statement: “The tax code mandate they are challenging has protected the separation of church and state by denying tax deductions for contributions to charitable organizations that engage in secular campaigning.” But the mandate is not really about separation of church and state, and it does not prevent religious institutions from engaging in “secular” campaigning–if that means, say, advocating passage of this or that piece of legislation. Rather, it says that any tax-exempt (501 c 3) organization, secular or religious, cannot engage in partisan political activity–activity on behalf of a particular party or candidate for office. The principle at stake is what might be called the separation of non-profits and political partisanship.

What’s Beyond the Pale

Andrew Sullivan, who is not exactly mincing words these days, calls Sarah Palin an “unqualified fundamentalist liar.” It’s a commonplace that an atheist cannot be elected president of the United States. Can a fundamentalist be elected veep?

Disputed dinner fails to deliver on dialogue

c. 2008 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dined with 300 religious and political leaders Thursday night (Sept. 26), but the event that drew condemnation and protest offered far less dialogue than advertised. What was promised as a discussion of how religion can contribute to solving global problems turned into an evening of polite speech-making. The criticism of Ahmadinejad for his bellicose statements on the Holocaust and Israel was tempered by calls for bridge-building and reconciliation.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Evangelist Tony Alamo charged with illegal transport of children (RNS) Evangelist Tony Alamo was charged Thursday (Sept. 25) with transporting children across state lines for sexual activities, just five days after authorities raided his Arkansas ministry. Alamo, 74, was charged after police and social workers interviewed six girls who were removed from the compound on Sept. 20, The Associated Press reported.

Disputed dinner fails to deliver on dialogue

NEW YORK-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat down with 300 religious and political leaders Thursday night for a dinner at a midtown Manhattan hotel that drew condemnation and protests but proved to be far less an event than advertised. What had been promised as a dialogue on the ways religion can contribute to solving global problems turned into an evening of polite speech-making in which criticism of Ahmadinejad for his bellicose statements on the Holocaust and Israel was tempered by calls for the importance of bridge-building and reconciliation.