Huckabee and the Jews

Would Jewish conservatives embrace Mike Huckabee as the GOP presidential nominee in 2012? Zev Chafets–whose book, A Match Made in Heaven, deals with Jewish-Evangelical support for Israel–suggests as much in Ariel Levy’s profile of Huckabee in the current New Yorker: “There’s a lot of Jewish money on the right that’s got to go someplace,
especially if Obama continues to be perceived as unfriendly to Israel.” I’m skeptical.From what I can gather, if Jewish Republicans are lining up behind anyone at this early date, it’s Mitt Romney. He strikes them as a serious guy, a businessman, and he also hails from a religious minority. As for Huckabee, while they like him personally–many people do–his evangelical roots and base of support give them the willies.

Faith groups give G20 nations failing grade on poverty

WASHINGTON (RNS) An alliance of religious denominations has given the world’s richest nations a near-failing grade for their progress on eradicating world poverty. Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of more than 75 religious groups that advocates debt forgiveness for poor nations, gave the Group of 20 a “D” grade in a report released Tuesday (June 22) ahead of the June 26-27 G20 summit in Toronto. Melinda St. Louis, the deputy director of Jubilee USA, said the G20 has made “shockingly little progress” since its last meeting in September. In the last nine months, the G20 has delivered only $1.2 billion in new resources to low-income countries; the Canadian government will spend the same amount on security alone for the three-day summit.

Muslims slam Supreme Court decision on `material support’

(RNS) Muslim and civil rights groups are criticizing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upholds a federal law prohibiting “material support” for accused terrorist groups, which critics maintain could include humanitarian aid. The law, which the Supreme Court upheld Monday (June 21) in a 6-3 decision, prohibits providing cash and weapons to terrorist groups, but also training in how to hold elections and peacefully resolve conflict. Critics say the law, which exempts medicine and religious materials, is vague and has implications for Muslim charities and individual Muslim donors who want to fulfill their religious duty to aid the poor. Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argued the law violated the First Amendment right of free speech. “The maze of government laws has created a lot of fear and confusion that puts a chill on Muslim giving,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group.

Supporters decry `horrifying’ 27-year sentence for slaughterhouse chief

(RNS) Orthodox Jewish leaders say the 27-year prison sentence announced Monday (June 21) against former kosher slaughterhouse chief Sholom Rubashkin far outweighs his white-collar crime. Rubashkin, 51, was convicted last November on 86 counts of fraud stemming from a $26.8 million loss to lenders after an immigration raid found nearly 400 undocumented workers at his Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. Prosecutors opted not to pursue the immigration charges after the decisive fraud conviction; a state trial recently acquitted him of knowingly employing underage workers. Defense attorneys had asked for a six-year prison term, citing Rubashkin’s 10 children, faith-based philanthropy and other contributing factors for leniency. Prosecutors also scaled back their original request for life imprisonment to 25 years.

Christian Reformed Church tackles sex abuse

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (RNS) The Christian Reformed Church has acknowledged its own failures in dealing with victims of clergy sexual abuse and has passed recommendations aimed at improving awareness, prevention and justice. At the CRC’s annual Synod, meeting in Palos Heights, Ill., delegates prayed for forgiveness in failing to respond justly and compassionately over the years to abuse victims, according to a news release posted on the CRC website. Delegates also expressed repentance that perpetrators of abuse have not always been disciplined adequately by church councils. The prayer followed a lengthy discussion on a report from the denomination’s Abuse Victims Task Force, which was asked by the Synod several years ago to establish guidelines on how churches handle abuse allegations.

Homeowners weigh morality of walking out on mortgages

ORLANDO, Fla. (RNS) Lynn Thompson quit paying the mortgage on her investment property — not because she couldn’t afford the payments, but because she thinks walking away is better for her long-term financial health. Thompson bought the property here for $175,000 in January 2007, just as the housing market began its slow downward slide. At the time, she planned to rent the house and eventually sell it for a profit. Today, she estimates the house is worth $85,000, maybe less.

Tuesday’s roundup

The Times Square would-be bomber told a federal court in New York he’s a “Muslim soldier” and said he wanted to avenge the killing of Muslims by U.S. forces overseas. Faisal Shahzad said he wants to “plead guilty 100 times over” to the attempted bombing. Sentencing is set for Oct. 5. President Obama, who is meeting with LGBT leaders at the White House today, is checking off his list of promises to gays and lesbians, says the AP.

Critics say Caner isn’t only ex-Muslim with dubious past

(RNS) Liberty University is expected to release a report this month on whether Ergun Caner, president of the school’s Baptist Theological Seminary, fabricated or exaggerated his life story as a former Muslim extremist rescued by Jesus. Caner is no ordinary ex-Muslim. His story has made him a favorite in conservative Christian circles, and many credit the charismatic preacher with helping boost enrollment at the school founded by the late Jerry Falwell. At the same time, Caner has become the poster boy for critics who say he’s just the latest charlatan in a line of supposedly ex-Muslim terrorists who have found an audience among Christian fundamentalists seeking to attack Islam. Most worrisome, the critics say, is that the self-styled former terrorists have been welcomed as “experts” on Islam and terrorism by religious institutions, universities, media outlets, members of Congress and even the military.

COMMENTARY: Daddy complex

(RNS) I have a father. He’s wonderful, and I love him. I don’t need my pastor to be my father. I don’t need any employer to be my father. And I certainly don’t need my president to be my father.

Ted Haggard’s Second Act

Over at Religious Connections, Frink sticks in the shiv, so why do I have a hard time resisting the urge to let bygones be bygones? Maybe it’s that lapdog eagerness for approval, on display in Jesus Camp. Maybe it was seeing him drag has disgraced butt around Arizona in Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary. The world he made just got too big for him, so now he’s back to square one, with another church to grow. Now he’s a little open and affirming, now a little down on the religious right.

Vatican emissary wraps up talks with Castro

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican’s foreign secretary ended a five-day trip to Cuba with a “cordial, respectful and continuous” talk with President Raul Castro on Sunday (June 20). The meeting between Castro and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti underscored the increasingly significant role of the Catholic Church in the communist nation and prompted local hopes of a papal visit in 2012. Timing his visit to mark the 10th Catholic Social Week in Cuba and the 75th anniversary of Cuba-Vatican relations, the two men discussed an “international agenda,” with promoting dialogue between Cubans — on the island and in the U.S. — at the heart of the agenda. “A secular state does not mean marginalizing or rejecting its religious dimension,” said Mamberti. “A state should recognize the central role that religious freedom plays and promote it positively.”

Reformed bodies merged at Mich. assembly

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) The world’s largest association of Reformed churches can now break bread together as the World Communion of Reformed Churches following the merger of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Reformed Ecumenical Council. The new union, celebrated Friday (June 18) during a global assembly at Calvin College, represents 80 million Christians from 108 countries, in nearly 230 denominations worldwide. “We live in a world that is fragmented and filled with conflict,” said WARC President Clifton Kirkpatrick, a former stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “I cannot think of a better time to have what we accomplished today (become reality).”

Health-sharing ministries report growth after health care reform

WASHINGTON (RNS) Membership in two of the largest Christian “health-sharing” ministries has grown since President Obama signed the massive health care reform bill into law earlier this spring. Christian Healthcare Ministries and Samaritan Ministries, with a combined membership of more than 70,000 people, have both grown in enrollment, officials said. “The health care reform bill removes the option of having (no insurance),” said the Rev. Howard Russell, executive director of Christian Healthcare. “The second thing is that the pricing to be part of out ministry is much lower than traditional insurance,” Russell said. Members of Christian Healthcare pay a monthly membership fee of between $135 and $455 to the ministry, which in turn passes it on to other members with certain medical bills, or sends it directly to members in need.

New Orleans clergy cool to idea of armed parishioners

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) The Louisiana Legislature may have cleared parishioners to carry guns to church, but the idea seems to sit pretty uncomfortably with clergy, whom legislators thought they were helping by providing homegrown security. “Unequivocally, no,” said Elder John Pierre, asked whether some members of his Living Witness Church of God in Christ should arm themselves to protect the congregation. Pierre’s church operates in a gritty downtown neighborhood, ministering to addicts as well as families. Occasionally, disruptive people have wandered in off the street, he said. “But we’ve been here 29 years, and there’s never been a time that a gun would have solved anything,” Pierre said.