Kennedy, Tobin, Matthews, Donohue…

Reacting to Chris Matthews’ hard-balling of Bishop Thomas Tobin, the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue huffs:No non-Catholic would ever treat a bishop this way. But too many
liberal Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, think they are exempt
from the same standards of civility that apply to others.Let’s just say that when it comes to the Irish Catholic civility exemption, Donohue has some personal expertise.

Christian Scientists concerned about health care provisions

(RNS) Atheists are celebrating and Christian Scientists are worried now that a provision requiring private medical insurers to reimburse for “religious or spiritual health care” has not been included in the Senate’s health care reform bill. In a news release headlined “Victory!”, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said the deleted language “would have mandated payment to Christian Scientist practitioners for `faith-healing’ expenses.” The Madison, Wis.-based foundation called it a “great victory for the separation of church and state and a deserved defeat for the Christian Science lobby.” The Boston-based Church of Christ, Scientist, which teaches its followers to rely on prayer rather than medicine for healing, sees it as a matter of choice. “President Obama said those happy with their current health care should be allowed to stay with it.

Poll: Americans pin poverty passage on Obama, not Bible

(RNS) More Americans believe a statement about giving “justice to the poor and homeless” came from President Obama instead of its true source, the Bible. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Bible Society found that 54 percent of U.S. adults polled believe the statement — “You must defend those who are helpless and have no hope. Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless” — came from a celebrity or politician, when the statement actually comes from Proverbs 31:8. Of the 1,001 adults surveyed, 16 percent believed the statement came from Obama; 13 percent said it came from the Bible. Other popular answers included the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Oprah Winfrey.

Zondervan pulls `kung fu’ book after complaints

(RNS) Evangelical publisher Zondervan has pulled a leadership book featuring a kung fu theme after Asian-American Christian leaders led an online protest against its imagery. The book, “Deadly Viper Character Assassins: A Kung Fu Survival Guide for Life and Leadership,” and its related curriculum included Asians in ninja garb with the words “character creep” and videos that featured “Caucasians speaking with fake Asian accents,” said the Rev. Soong-Chan Rah, an associate professor at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. “It’s inappropriate to use an ancient culture to simply market the book when it’s not really about martial arts,” Rah said Tuesday (Nov. 24). He wrote a Nov.

Tuesday’s round up

Hate crimes targeting people because of their religion were at their highest since 2001, according to a new report based on FBI data. President Obama will name Hannah Rosenthal as the State Depart.’s special anti-Semitism envoy. The Texas mosque attended by accused killer Maj. Nidal M. Hasan has become the center of a media and FBI swarm. Federal authorities unsealed terrorism-related charges against eight Somali-American men.

Twilight: Bigger than Jesus?

Actress Kirsten Prout, who stars in the upcoming third installment of the Twilight series, has dismissed a Vatican official’s criticism of its just-released predecessor. “The Vatican pretty much condemns everything,” she told the Canadian site PopEater. “Anything bigger than the actual church is condemned a lot of the time. To have attention, and that kind of fandom and that dedication, I think that’s unattractive to them.” No word yet on Pope Benedict’s reaction to Sarah Palin’s autobiography.

COMMENTARY: Telling times

(RNS) Now begins the holiday season, our annual extravaganza of travel, shopping, worshipping, eating and deep emotions. Some treasure every moment of it. Some look anxiously for gold amid the dross of hyper-everything. Some sink into a seasonal funk. Our economy kicks into now-or-never mode.

Think you don’t know Yiddish? Oy vey!

(RNS) Whether they call it a temple, synagogue or shul, you can tell a lot about Jews by what they call their house of worship. So says a new survey of American Jews — and non-Jews — that says one’s place on the religious spectrum can be pinpointed, in part, by the use of Hebrew and Yiddish words and phrases. The survey, by researchers at Reform Judaism’s flagship seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, found that the use of Hebrew and Yiddish is changing, reflecting “subtle self-definitions” of new generations of American Jews. The survey found that some Yiddish-origin words and phrases like klutz (clumsy person) and shpiel (lengthy speech) have become part of the American conversation. Non-Jews with strong Jewish ties tend to flavor their speech with Yiddish words and grammatical constructions, including terms like “mensch” (good person), “heimish” (cozy) and phrases like “I don’t know from that.”

Islam’s prophet shrouded by myth, devotion

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (RNS) For believers, he is the trustworthy messenger of God, a living link to the divine whose life and teachings animate the lives of an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. Yet for detractors, Islam’s Prophet Muhammad is a polygamist who spawned a religion that subjugates women, condones violence, and was, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “spread by the sword.” In short, when his best-known modern portrait is a 2005 Danish cartoon that depicts a surly bearded man with a bomb hidden in his turban, Muhammad has an image problem. “He’s been remade in the image of Osama bin Laden,” said Bruce Lawrence, who directs the Duke Islamic Studies Center at Duke University. “People connect the dots and see this fanatical side of Islam and say (militants) must be following someone, and they point to Muhammad.”

Matthews v. Tobin

I doubt that Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has received such a dressing down since one of those sisters of St. Joseph caught little Tommy stealing pears from an orchard in Erie, Pa. in 1956. OK, I don’t know this. But Chris Matthews did a Hardball number on him last night that His Excellency will not soon forget.

Purity, Republican style

The NYT’s Adam Nagourney has been all over the story of a proposed list of 10 GOP commandments that if you only violate two of them, you’re still a Republican in good standing. The list, which will be presented to the RNC for its approval, is apparently the brainchild of James Bopp, Jr., an RNC member from Indiana who is prominent in the Federalist Society and is general counsel for National Right to Life and special counsel for Focus on the Family. He’s big in the defense of traditional marriage movement too.Despite Bopp’s impeccable social conservative credentials, the list itself seems a little light on social conservatism: just opposition federal funding of abortion and support of the Defense of Marriage Act. Under the terms of proposal, you could be staunchly pro-choice and in favor of same-sex marriage and have your Party credentials in order. Similarly, there are only two limpish commandments that engage the foreign policy agenda of the party’s neocon wing: support for “containment” of Iran and North Korea and for troop surges in Iran (still?) and Afghanistan.

Report: Religion-based hate crimes highest since 2001

WASHINGTON (RNS) Hate crime incidents targeting people based on their religion were at their highest frequency last year since 2001, according to a new report. The report, compiled by the Anti-Defamation League from FBI data, found 1,519 religious hate crimes in 2008, accounting for about 20 percent of all bias crimes. It was an increase from 2007, when 1,400 crimes of religious bias were reported. The number of crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions also increased in 2008. There were 1,013 hate crimes against Jews last year, accounting for about two-thirds of all religious bias crimes.

Woman sues over bishop’s power to shutter churches

CLEVELAND (RNS) An Akron woman who was blocked by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese from holding a protest vigil in a closed church has sued the diocese, claiming it has no authority under state law to close churches without parishioners’ consent. The case, filed by Nancy McGrath, who leads a newly formed Catholic protest group called Code Purple, sets up a battle between church law and civil law. It could decide whether parishioners have property rights in their parishes or whether Bishop Richard Lennon, whose name appears on parish property deeds, has sole control over all assets. “It’s very well established under Ohio law that a Catholic bishop holds the property of a parish in trust for the parish,” said McGrath’s lawyer, Robert Gippin. “We’re saying he can’t dispose of the trust or terminate the assets without the consent of the beneficiaries.”

Episcopal group denounces anti-gay law in Uganda

(RNS) A U.S.-based group that includes several Episcopal bishops is challenging Anglican leaders to denounce a proposed bill in Uganda that would severely criminalize homosexuality. “The Anglican Communion has committed itself to the pastoral care of gay and lesbian people,” said the Rev. Lowell Grisham, co-convener of the Chicago Consultation. “At a time like this, we implore its leaders to speak out.” The Chicago Consultation, which includes several Episcopal bishops on its steering committee, is dedicated to the “full inclusion” of gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual individuals in the Anglican Communion and its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church. The consultation asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Uganda’s Anglican leader Archbishop Henry Orombi, to speak out against the bill.

Monday’s round up

The U.S. Catholic bishops called the newly unveiled Senate health-care bill an “enormous disappointment” because of the way it funds abortions and leaves about 24 million people, including immigrants, without coverage. A group of 145 Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical leaders together declared that they will not obey any laws that would require them to participate in abortions or recognize same-sex unions. The Catholic bishop of Providence wrote to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., two years ago to ask him not to take Communion, the latest revelation in a long-simmering saga.Sarah Palin climbed the mountaintop to dine with Billy Graham. In what’s believed to be a White House first, the Obama administration on Friday hosted a celebration of Sikhism’s first guru, and a Colorado billboard put up by a car dealer portrays Obama wearing a turban and asks whether he is a “President or jihad?” [sic].