Why the Catholic/same-sex marriage correlation?

USA Today’s Cathy Grossman at Faith & Reason and the Boston Globe’s Michael Paulson at Articles of Faith have been pondering my little correlation between the proportion of Catholics in a state and the state’s support for same-sex marriage, so let me offer a possible explanation. It’s fair to point out (as Michael does) that Catholics tend to be concentrated in liberal states like Massachusetts, New York, and California, where there are a lot of non-Catholics (Jews, say) who we know support same-sex marriage. But what needs to be looked at are the actual rates of Catholic support for gay marriage. According to a recent WaPo-ABC News poll, white Catholics were evenly split (as opposed to white evangelicals, only 20 percent of whom supported it). That may understate Catholic support, however, at least in some places.

Stepping out on faith

Six friars on their way to a lifelong commitment to God decided to walk 300 miles to show their divine dependence in a unique way, The Washington Post reports. Traveling on foot along highways and byways in Virginia and ending at a D.C. monastery, the pilgrims met everyone from lonely commuters to the Chik-Fil-A cow. They depended on the goodness of strangers for food and housing for six weeks, and once took up a woman’s offer to feed them at the fast-food restaurant – that happens to have Christian roots. “It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us,” recalled Mary Williams, who picked them up in Fairfax, Va. “The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives.

Volunteering and religion

Yesterday’s annual report on volunteering in America was promoted by the White House (press release after jump) to highlight the unsurprising fact that a lot of volunteerism is connected to religious institutions–one-third, to be precise. But the relationship between religion and volunteerism is not simple, as the report’s rankings demonstrate. The high rankings in Utah (#1) and the Upper Midwest point to the emphasis on volunteer service in Mormonism and Lutheranism. At the same time, states with the lowest rates of religious adherence–Vermont, Washington, Oregon–also rank high in volunteerism. At the other end of the scale, it’s clear that the relatively low priority placed by evangelicalism on good works (as opposed to the Great Commission) helps explain the relatively low rankings of the Southern states.Of course, there are factors besides religion at work here.

Catholics heart same-sex marriage

A new study by Columbia political scientists Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips (h/t Robbie Jones),
forthcoming in the American Political Science Review ,
ranks states according to public support for same-sex marriage and civil unions. Putting the rankings together with the 2008 Trinity ARIS survey reveals that six
of the eight states where 50 percent or more of the public supports gay marriage
are the states with the highest proportion of Catholics, ranging from Rhode
Island at 46 percent to New York and California at 37 percent. Meanwhile, the
eight states most opposed to gay marriage include six of the seven with the
lowest proportion of Catholics, from Alabama at six percent to North Carolina at
nine percent. In other words, support for same-sex marriage is directly related to
the proportion of Catholics in a given state. Way to go, bishops!

Georgia to allow headscarves in courtrooms

(RNS) Georgia court officials unanimously voted on Monday (July 27) to allow individuals to wear religious head coverings in state courtrooms. The Georgia Judicial Council adopted the policy after a Muslim woman was arrested last year for refusing to remove her headscarf in a courthouse in Douglasville, Ga. “We felt that it was necessary for there to be a unified policy to clarify that persons of faith who want to wear religious head coverings should be allowed access,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, who oversees national security and immigrants’ rights issues for the ACLU of Georgia. The ACLU of Georgia drafted the policy after a Douglasville Municipal Court judge found Lisa Valentine in contempt of court for refusing to remove her headscarf last December. Valentine was ordered to serve 10 days in jail even after she conveyed to court officials that wearing the headscarf is an expression of faith. “I am very happy to know that no person of faith will ever have to suffer at any Georgia courthouse the type of egregious treatment I suffered because of the expression of my faith,” Valentine said in a statement.

Etiquette for the host

A Canadian newspaper has retracted its story that the prime minister pocketed a communion wafer during the funeral mass of a state official. The Saint John Telegraph-Journal issued a front-page apology for causing Wafergate, which broke as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at the G8 summit and getting ready to meet–who else–the Pope.

Even MORE shirtless missionaries

Q: Who doesn’t want to see scantily-clad Mormon missionaries? A: YouTube, apparently, which flagged the video above for content violations. Chad Hardy, creator of the calendar series “Men on a Mission,” has not backed down from the LDS church (which excommunicated him for his calendar work), and he’s certainly not going to let a little video-sharing site rain on his parade of hunky Mormons. He reposted the video, which advertises the third “Men on a Mission” calendar, promising “the Mormons are back and hotter than hell.” For Hardy’s work with women, see last week’s blog post.

Boston raises priests’ retirement age to stem shortage

(RNS) Priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston will need to wait an extra five years for retirement under new rules aimed at addressing a persistent clergy shortage. Rules taking effect Aug. 1 raise the retirement age for Boston-area priests from 70 to 75. They do not affect priests who are already retired, and only apply to those men who turn 70 after Aug. 1.

Pope defrocks leader of Medjugorje shrine

(RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has defrocked one of the promoters of a world-famous Bosnian shrine to the Virgin Mary, following his investigation on charges of heresy and sexual misdeeds. The Rev. Tomislav Vlasic, an adviser to supposed visionaries at the shrine of Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has been “granted … the favor of reduction to the lay state … and of dismissal from the (Franciscan) Order,” according to a letter signed by the order’s head, the Rev. Jose Rodriguez Carballo. The letter, addressed to Franciscan authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Italy, was dated March 10 and posted last month on the blog of Italian writer and journalist Marco Corvaglia.

Fiji bans massive Methodist hymn-sing

(RNS/ENI) Fiji’s military government has banned a massive annual hymn-singing contest and church conference out of fears that the crowd of some 10,000 singing Methodists could destabilize the strife-torn nation. The government of interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has said the island nation’s Methodist Church will not be allowed to hold its annual conference, which is preceded by a massive choral contest. A Fiji court on July 23 silenced two top Methodist Church ministers and tribal chief Ro Teimumu Kepa. They were charged with defying the Public Emergency Regulation over the church’s planned conference in August. Ro Teimumu, along with the church’s president and its secretary general, were granted bail after being held in custody for two days.

Episcopalians reject bishop who embraced Zen Buddhism

(UNDATED) An Episcopal priest who has practiced Zen meditation and espoused unconventional ideas about Christianity has lost his bid to become a bishop in Michigan, the church announced Monday (July 27). The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who was elected in February to lead the sparsely populated Diocese of Northern Michigan, failed to gain “consent,” or ratification, from a majority of elected standing committees in the Episcopal Church’s 110 dioceses, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced. A majority of Episcopal bishops also rejected the election, according to Neva Rae Fox, a church spokeswoman, who declined to release exact tallies. Under church rules, a bishop’s election is not valid unless ratified by a majority of standing committees and bishops. The controversy surrounding Thew Forrester’s election, stoked in large part by conservative bloggers, blended age-old concerns about fidelity to key Christian tenets with 21st-century online activism.

The gospel according to Gekko

Who says the Holy See isn’t hip to pop culture? It just takes them a couple of decades to catch up. In a speech to the Italian Senate today, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone invoked Oliver Stone’s Wall Street — specifically, Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” speech — as part of his explanation of the current financial crisis. Tomorrow’s edition of the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano features an article explaining the reference. While acknowledging that Wall Street’s “strictly cinematographic merits (are) less than first rate,” the paper says that Stone’s movie “still says something true and worrying about the international financial world of the recent past.”

Questions about faith-healing persist despite not-guilty verdicts

OREGON CITY, Ore. — For more than half a century, children in the Followers of Christ church have died for lack of medical care, a pattern lawmakers and prosecutors have worked over the past decade to change. But as the case of two parents who were found not guilty last Thursday (July 23) illustrates, it is no simple matter. Jurors found Carl and Raylene Worthington not guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava. On a misdemeanor charge of criminal mistreatment, the jury convicted the father and acquitted the mother.

COMMENTARY: Hurts, habits and hang-ups

RICHMOND, Va. — In the multipurpose room where Bon Air Baptist Church holds its contemporary service on Sunday morning, a guitarist played Christian music as people gathered for NorthStar Community’s Saturday evening recovery service. A veteran of the 10-year-old ministry stood at a microphone, gave a brief witness about his own recovery from addiction, and said a prayer. The ministry’s founder, Teresa McBean, stood to teach on boundaries. McBean told a family story and deftly wove it into a teaching on how we are responsible for our own feelings, attitudes and behaviors, but not responsible for other people’s.

Forget it, Jake. It’s New Jersey

On first blush, last week’s round-up of New Jersey rabbis and pols looks like good old corruption-as-usual in the state where I grew up. That is, the Garden State cleaves to the ancient (back to the 17th century) Middle Atlantic tradition of community-by-ethno-religious group (see One Nation Divisible, chapter 2)–and, repeatedly, news reports have highlighted the fact that this story is about the “insular Syrian Jewish community” in the coastal town of Deal, where that community is 10,000 strong year round, and a lot bigger (thanks to vacationers from Brooklyn) in the summer.A classic version of latter-day New Jersey ethno-corruption occurred a few years ago in the large South Asian community in Edison, 35 miles to the northwest. Then, a wheeler-dealer named Rajesh “Roger” Chugh put the arm on Hindus rich and poor to support the gubernatorial candidacy of Jim McGreevey–and was duly rewarded with an assistant commissionership in the secretary of state’s office. (Chugh later resigned in disgrace, as did McGreevey.) But while the Edison story involved a new immigrant community’s move into the big world of state politics, there’s no evidence that this is what was going on in Deal. The wheeler-dealer in this case is Solomon Dwek, whose fraudulent real estate dealings permitted the FBI to turn him into an instrument for exposing 1) the alleged money laundering business of some rabbis; and 2) the fabled readiness of New Jersey public officials to take bribes from developers.