Wednesday’s roundup

Rich Cizik, the former DC lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who lost his job after telling NPR that he supports same-sex civil unions, returned to the same NPR show to reflect on the fall-out. The change, he says, has been good for him. And he still supports civil unions: “While I haven’t come to a conclusion on [gay marriage,] I am convinced that you can’t deny rights to people based on their sexual orientation. It’s wrong,” he says. “It’s even wrong, I think, as Christians to take that position.

N.J. Supreme Court declines to take gay marriage case

TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) Supporters of gay marriage said they would press on with their fight despite the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case in which six same-sex couples asked for the right to marry. “We … will never give up — not until our dying breath,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, the state’s largest gay rights organization. Goldstein said Monday’s (July 26) announcement by the state’s highest court maintains the unequal legal status of same-sex couples. “Same-sex couples will continue to be denied the consistent right to visit one another in the hospital, to make medical decisions for one another and to receive equal health benefits from employers, all because of the deprivation of the equality and dignity that uniquely comes with the word marriage,” Goldstein said in a statement.

Report: Anti-Jewish incidents remain `sustained and troubling’

WASHINGTON (RNS) A Jewish group that tracks anti-Semitism has published its annual report of more than 1,200 incidents of assaults, vandalism and harassment against Jews in 2009, saying the level of incidents remained “sustained and troubling.” “America is not immune to anti-Semitism, and 2009 was no different in this regard than in any other year,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, in a news release. In total, ADL reported 29 incidents of physical assaults on Jewish individuals, 760 cases of anti-Semitic harassments and threats, and 422 reports of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2009. This number of cases comes to about three incidents per day, said Deborah Lauter, the ADL’s director of civil rights, in an interview. “Generally, these things are very underreported,” she said.

Anglicans reject move to `separate’ U.S. church

(RNS) Anglican leaders meeting in London have rejected a move to “separate” the Episcopal Church from the wider Anglican Communion, a proposal that officials called premature and “unhelpful.” The proposal was offered Saturday (July 24) by Dato Stanley Isaacs, a member of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee from the Province of South East Asia, according to a statement issued Monday. The Episcopal Church has come under fire from sister Anglican churches for its decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003, as well as a lesbian assistant bishop in Los Angeles earlier this year. In June, the U.S. church was removed from Anglican panels that host ecumenical dialogue with other Christians, as well as a committee that determines doctrine and authority. But the 13 members of the Standing Committee — who are elected from the 44 member churches of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion — said formally exiling the U.S. church was not the proper response.

Michael Jackson and Jesus

David LaChapelle is the photographer and director widely known in the fashion world for his pictures of such figures as Naomi Campbell, Whitney Houston, Uma Thurman, and recently Lady Gaga. On display in the Paul Kasmin Gallery in NYC is his latest installation, “American Jesus”. LaChapelle has taken pictures that display Jesus interacting in modern-day representations of Biblical events. In one image, a scantily-clad prostitute wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair. In another, Jesus stands at the center of a table as in The Last Supper, only this time he is surrounded by thugs and criminals.

Tuesday’s roundup

A judge sentenced a Tennessee mother of three to 42 months in the clink for taking money and services for five years to battle breast cancer — which she never had. Filmmaker Oliver Stone angered Jewish groups by seeming to defend Hitler, and also digging up the old Jews-control-the-media trope (he later says he’s sorry). Robert Duvall discusses faith on film with NPR. Actor Will Smith wants to play original bad-boy Cain (Adam and Eve’s wayward murderous son) in “The Legend of Cain” where Cain, it turns out, is a vampire. Speaking of brought back from the dead, former President Jimmy Carter said the endorsement of Texas pastor Jimmy Allen in 1976 helped him win the White House and no longer be a “a forlorn, woeful, forgotten, hopeless candidate.”

Eating disorders a hidden problem for Orthodox Jews

(RNS) When Faryn Hart settled into her seat at the weekly Shabbat table set for 20 at her home in Johannesburg, South Africa, she also settled into the role her grandmother expected her to play. Yes, she would study medicine. Yes, she would marry an engineer. Yes, she got an A on her exam. And yes, she’d take another helping of whatever was coming from the kitchen.

COMMENTARY: Expecting the unexpected

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (RNS) As about 300 nervous freshmen listened at orientation, the dean of arts and sciences at Binghamton University made a stirring case for the liberal arts. “Liberal,” as in “liberating,” he said, setting the mind free, claiming human freedom. In a complex and volatile world, knowing how to think and to address the unexpected will be critical skills. Single-track thinking and job-oriented skills won’t be enough. On a practical level, you will change careers several times, Dean Donald Nieman said, and some of those careers aren’t even invented yet.

Getting the Vatican story straight

In the indispensable Commonweal, Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus of Duquesne Law School and eminent canon lawyer, does a yeoman’s job of trying to sort out the Vatican’s sexual abuse story. The basic problem is this: In his 2001 letter clarifying John Paul II’s motu proprio establishing the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in sexual abuse cases, future pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger noted that the authority of the CDF (over which he presided) was “in force until now” (hucusque vigens). That is to say, such authority, granted in the 1922 papal letter Crimen Sollicitationis, had not been not superseded by the 1983 revision of canon law, which appeared to place authority elsewhere. But, Cafardi contends, in order to maintain “bureaucratic bella figura” (proper form), Ratzinger fibbed. The CDF didn’t really have, or at least didn’t understand itself to have, authority over such cases.

Are Catholics losing Latin America?

Lots has been brewing in the Western Hemisphere _ Chile, Argentina and Cuba have all been wrestling with teh Catholic Church in recent weeks. A quick recap of what’s been happening in Latin America: Argentina decided to legalize same-sex marriage, an act that went against Catholic Church lobbying (picture, lop left). After debates that kept delegates in their chambers until the early hours of the morning, Argentina became the first Latin American nation to extend equal rights of marriage to same-sex couples. From the LA Times: The 4:05 a.m. vote came after an exhaustive debate that dragged on for more than 14 hours. Hundreds of supporters of the law, waiting outside Congress in freezing temperatures, erupted in cheers and tears of joy when news of the vote reached them.

Anti-abortion `Pro-Life Freedom Ride’ turned away from King’s tomb

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Invoking the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, anti-abortion clergy members and their supporters on Saturday (July 24) embarked on a “Pro-Life Freedom Ride” but were turned away from King’s tomb in Atlanta. The group, organized by New York-based Priests For Life, held a prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood clinic before making the three-hour drive to Atlanta, where they had planned to hold a service at King’s tomb. King’s niece, Alveda King, directs African-American outreach for Priests for Life, and said she has “no doubt that if they were alive, my uncle Martin and my father A.D. would be with us on these Freedom Rides for the unborn.” The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, told a kick-off rally here that the group plans to fight for “equal protection for our youngest brothers and sisters.”

First Arab tapped to lead global Lutheran body

STUTTGART, Germany (RNS/ENInews) The Lutheran World Federation has chosen Palestinian Bishop Munib A. Younan as its next president, the first Arab to lead the Geneva-based umbrella group for 70 million Lutherans. Younan, 59, was elected on Saturday (July 24) at the LWF’s 11th assembly in Stuttgart. He succeeds the Rev. Mark Hanson, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who held the post for seven years. Younan told delegates he was introduced to the LWF as a refugee when he drank chocolate milk at the Martin Luther School in Jerusalem, an event that inspired him to enter the church ministry. “That this election took place in Germany is especially meaningful and emotional for me, since my church grew out of the German mission to the Holy Land,” Younan told delegates.