Diverse faith groups agree on disaster-relief ethics

(RNS) More than 20 faith-based organizations, from Scientologists to Buddhists to Catholics, have come together to produce a guide on addressing the spiritual and emotional needs of disaster victims. The document was released by the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, an organization made up of 49 U.S. non-profit groups whose missions includes disaster response. National VOAD brings the groups together to focus on the five stages of disaster: preparedness, relief, response, recovery and mitigation. In 2008, these groups gave more than $200 million in direct financial assistance and volunteered more than 7 million hours of labor. While National VOAD works to restore homes and businesses after disasters, it also recognizes that spiritual, emotional and psychological trials may persist after the physical ramifications of a disaster have been addressed. The diverse group of Catholics, Scientologists, Buddhists and Jews teamed up to form a 10-point set of minimum standards when dealing with survivors of catastrophes.

Canadian judge dismisses polygamy charges

TORONTO (RNS) A judge on British Columbia’s Supreme Court has dismissed criminal charges against two alleged polygamists who say Canadian law protects their right to have more than one wife. Supreme Court Justice Sunni S. Stromberg-Stein on Wednesday (Sept. 23) threw out polygamy charges against Winston Blackmore, 53, and James Oler, 45, leaders of rival factions in the polygamous community of Bountiful in British Columbia’s interior. Blackmore and Oler belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway sect from the mainstream Mormon Church, which banned polygamy more than a century ago. Blackmore was charged with one count of polygamy with at least 19 women named in an indictment.

Muslim march organizers find an unlikely ally

ELIZABETH, N.J. — Plans to attract thousands of Muslims to Capitol Hill on Friday (Sept. 25) for prayer have drawn anxiety, praise, enthusiasm and criticism, but they’ve also made unlikely allies of the New Jersey mosque where the idea was born and a conservative Christian group. Organizers at the Dar-Ul-Islam mosque would seem to have little in common with the Washington-based Christian Defense Fund. Yet on Tuesday, mosque members attended a special reception hosted by the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, the Defense Fund’s leader, in Washington. “I know I will lose donors and supporters,” Mahoney said.

Next week, blasphemy gets its own holiday

TORONTO — You’ve never seen Jesus like this before: dripping red nail polish around the nails in his feet and hands, an irreverent riff on the crucifixion wounds. The provocative title of the painting: “Jesus Does His Nails.” Blasphemous? Absolutely. Deliberately provocative?

Need a High Holy Day ticket? Have you tried Craigslist?

(UNDATED) Alex Marmur wanted to go to synagogue on Yom Kippur, but didn’t want to pay temple membership dues to get tickets. So he turned to Craigslist. “I use it for buying and selling all types of concert tickets,” said Marmur, a 44-year-old business analyst from San Francisco. “So I figured Yom Kippur is not that different.” He’s not alone.

Racism in the Catholic Church?

Catholic Bishop Terry Steib of Memphis has drawn a lot of attention recently for saying that racism persists in the church, and offering the controversy over President Obama’s appearance at University of Notre Dame as an example. In Philly earlier this month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the U.S. black bishops’ pastoral letter, “What We Have Seen and Heard,” Steib, who is black, said racism still exists in the church “and cited the recent furor in Catholic circles over the honorary degree awarded by Notre Dame University to Obama,” according to the Catholic Standard & Times, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Steib has spoken out on politics before, saying last October that Catholics “cannot be a one issue people” and asking this May “Is it love for one another that causes some among us to wish that President Obama will fail when we are as a nation struggling with two wars and the worst economic conditions in our country in fifty years?” I called Bishop Steib’s offices in Memphis, to ask if he might be willing to amplify his Philadelphia comments, or provide some more context for them. His spokesman, the Rev. John Geaney, said the bishop doesn’t talk to the media.

God-talk at the UN

As might be expected, there was a good bit of God-talk at the UN Wednesday, as world leaders lined up for open mic day. For instance, President Obama framed the turmoil between Israel and Palestine thusly: We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It is paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the night. It is paid by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are God’s children.

The gay LoveGuv speaks

WaPo’s OnFaith host, Sally Quinn, talks with former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey about sex, scandal and seminary. McGreevey, as you’ll recall, was a rising star in the Democratic constellation until he came out as a “gay American” and resigned his office. There were also allegations of sex with a staffer, and a nasty divorce with his wife. McGreevey is now studying for the Episcopal priesthood at General Theological Seminary in New York. In a separate video, Quinn and McGreevey talk about “claiming my truth” and coming out as gay:

Thursday’s religion round-up

Religious leaders meeting in Pittsburgh outside the G-20 Summit were told their concerns for the poor will be discussed at the conclave. The White House Faith-based (…) office held a town hall meeting in New Hampshire (primary state already?) on fatherhood, and Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists will mark 10 years since they agreed on how Christians are saved. Four teachers at an Episcopal school in Florida say they were fired only to be replaced by younger, more buxom women. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will convene a meeting on the environment in New Orleans next month, the presiding bishop of the ELCA said it would be “devastating” if conservatives withheld donations, and Philippine nationals claiming to be Jehovah’s Witnesses allegedly forged $116 billion in bonds to finance religious missions. A rabbi told a House committee considering a gender discrimination bill that equal treatment is “a core teaching shared by an array of faith traditions” and a former bank robber found Jesus in a Florida county jail.

Atheist on the warpath

PZ Myers, biology prof and proud atheist, takes umbrage at what he see as a dishonest effort to reassure the public that all those Nones are not really Big Bad Unbelievers but mostly just skeptics about organized religion. No doubt, there are some who push in this direction–notably those (like Pew) who insist on referring to Nones as “unaffiliated,” as if they just happen not to be on anyone’s membership rolls at the moment. But Myers (& co.) need to understand that, just because they would like to believe that all the Nones are folks like them, it ain’t necessarily so.Myers writes:The results of yet another poll are out,
showing that the godless are rising and promise to rise for years to
come. In 1990, we made up 8% of the population; now in 2009, we’re 15%. They’re extrapolating forward and estimating that we will make up 25%
of the country in 20 years.In fact, the number of Nones is generated by asking respondents “What is your religion, if any?”

Dalai Lama joins Vancouver Sun as guest editor

(RNS) The Dalai Lama will join the staff of the Vancouver Sun as guest editor when he is in town for the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit. Saturday’s (Sept. 26) edition of the Vancouver Sun will follow the theme “Educating the Heart,” including stories written by Vancouver Sun reporters and the Dalai Lama himself. “The Dalai Lama holds a special place in the hearts of people all over the world, and especially here in Vancouver,” editor Patricia Graham wrote last March when the paper announced the Dalai Lama’s newest assignment. Some of the stories will have an appropriate humanitarian angle.

Archbishop says no funerals for pro-abortion politicians

(RNS) The American archbishop who heads the Vatican’s supreme court said Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive the sacraments, including funeral rites, according to a report by a conservative Catholic Web site. Archbishop Raymond Burke, who led the archdiocese of St. Louis until he was appointed prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, is known as a forceful critic of public figures who support abortion rights and gay marriage. At a gathering of Catholic conservatives in Washington last Friday (Sept. 18), Burke reiterated that criticism, saying “It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself in this manner.”

Father in faith-healing case released from jail

OREGON CITY, Ore. — An Oregon father who was convicted of second-degree criminal mistreatment in the faith-healing death of his daughter was released from jail Tuesday (Sept. 22). Carl Worthington had been sentenced to two months but was released six days early since he did not have disciplinary issues while in county jail. Inmates may earn three days of “good time” for each month served.

Christian leaders urge sanctions against Iran

WASHINGTON (RNS) High-profile evangelical leaders and religious liberty groups called for get-tough sanctions against Iran on the eve of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday (Sept. 23). The group, Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran, sent a letter to Congress calling for sanctions on refined petroleum exports and a total arms embargo to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “For the world’s most dangerous regime to obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons is something that neither the United States nor the community of nations can allow,” the leaders said to Congress. The letter expressed the concern about a possible arms race among Middle Eastern and Arab nations in response to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Memorizing Quran helps Muslims keep faith intact

PORTLAND, Ore. — The rich, deep voice reciting the Quran sounds like an imam leading prayers in a mosque. The cadence has a pulse of its own: prolonged syllables, followed by rippling shorter ones. Up the scale and down. It stops just short of music.