Polygamy show features a lot of wives but little faith

(RNS) For a show that centers around a family in which polygamy is an article of faith, there’s very little religion in TLC’s new reality show, “Sister Wives.” But there were enough wives to pique the interest of Utah authorities, who are investigating felony charges of bigamy. The show, which premiered Sunday (Sept. 26), follows Kody Brown, a 41-year-old advertising salesman, his three wives and 12 children, as they welcome a fourth wife into their Utah home. By the end of the seven-part series, the family includes five adults and 16 children.

Catholics face vocal `mutiny’ over teachings on gay marriage

WASHINGTON (RNS) For 13 years, the Rev. Joseph Palacios lived, prayed, and studied with the Jesuits. But he left the Roman Catholic order in 2005 because he would not profess a vow of obedience to the pope. “I felt that I could still be a Catholic priest,” Palacios said, “but I could not deal with that kind of scrutiny and command from the top.” Now, the 59-year-old priest and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic university, is again at odds with the church’s hierarchy, this time on one of its signature issues: the definition of marriage. In recent years, Catholic bishops have used their moral influence and deep pockets to push for bans on same-sex unions in states from California to Maine.

COMMENTARY: A life well-lived

(RNS) Which Brooklyn-born woman celebrated her 99th birthday this month (Sept. 30) by promoting a new documentary film about her career as a journalist, award-winning author of 20 books, celebrated photographer and a global humanitarian? It’s the same woman who, in 1931 at age 20, graduated with a doctorate from the University of Cologne, making her the youngest person to earn a Ph.D. at that time. The same woman who, with her perfect knowledge of German, attended a Nazi rally in the 1930s because she, as a young Jewish girl, wanted to learn first-hand why Adolf Hitler exercised such evil power over millions of people. The same woman who, a few years later, flew in rickety Soviet aircraft to write a book about the people who lived in Russia’s bleak Arctic region.

Thursday’s roundup

At the risk of devolving into a crazy cat-lady blog, yesterday we mourned the retirement of Catherine of Tarragon, the official house cat of Washington National Cathedral. Today we introduce you to her successor, Carmina (photo, left), who takes the reins this Sunday. And yes, she was named after the opera. The developer behind the disputed “Ground Zero mosque” plans to use interest-free Islamic loans to finance the $140 million project, according to the NYT. Good story from WaPo on aging white churches struggling to survive in the nation’s richest black county.

LDS apology re: Prop. 8

Joanna Brooks’ fine essay on Elder Marlin Jensen’s apology for…well, we’ll get to that…at a meeting of 90 members of the Oakland, CA stake (diocese) points to ongoing uncertainty about the role of the LDS Church in public life these days. Jensen’s a lovely guy (I’ve had dinner with him a couple of times), and that very rare bird: a Mormon General Authority who says he’s a Democrat. That he should go to Oakland to hear firsthand the distress of gay and pro-gay rights Saints is at once no surprise and something remarkable under the Mormon sun, given the extraordinary lengths Salt Lake went to mobilize its California troops on behalf of Proposition 8 in 2008. What gives?Exactly what Jensen apologized for is not entirely clear. Brooks quotes one attendee who reported his words as follows: “To the full extent of my capacity, I say that I am sorry .

Buddhist Bhutan bans clergy from voting in elections

(RNS) Officials in Buddhist-majority Bhutan have barred Hindu and Buddhist clergy from voting in upcoming elections in order to keep a clear distinction between religion and politics. The landlocked Himalayan nation considers Mahayana Buddhism the state religion and funds a large monastic community, but also requires religion to be above politics. The country’s regulatory authority on religious organizations is now busy identifying Buddhist and Hindu clergy who should be barred from voting. Phurpa Dorji, the senior coordinator for the eight-member chhoedey lhentshog regulatory body, said the list of religious figures who should be above politics was yet to be finalized. The members have met four times since April 2009, and more meetings are being planned.

Lord Jesus Christ booted from library for bad behavior

BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (RNS) Lord Jesus Christ has been booted from the library for recurring bad behavior. Lord Jesus Christ, a 50-year-old transgender woman who had his name legally changed after a revelation from God, received an order on Sept. 8 from the Clapp Memorial Library Board of Trustees, warning of criminal charges if she appears in the library again. Christ said Tuesday (Sept.

EEOC charges auto store with harassing Sikh employee

WASHINGTON (RNS) AutoZone harassed a Sikh employee for wearing a turban and eventually fired him, according to a lawsuit announced Tuesday (Sept. 28) by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. The suit said employee Frank Mahoney-Burroughs was treated like any other employee at the store in Everett, Mass., until he converted to Sikhism. “For years, our client was a model employee,” Sandeep Kaur, a staff attorney for the Sikh Coalition said in a statement. “Things changed as soon as he converted to Sikhism and started wearing a turban.

Buzz builds around new unofficial saint of abuse victims, whistle-blowers

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Mother Mary MacKillop won’t be canonized until Oct. 17, but some Catholics already have an unofficial title for the 19th-century Australian nun: Patron Saint of Whistle-blowers. MacKillop (1842-1909), Australia’s first native-born saint, was co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, an order of nuns dedicated to the religious instruction of children and care for the poor. The strong-willed MacKillop, who worked under harsh conditions in the Australian outback, was once briefly excommunicated by her bishop for reasons that have never been entirely clear. According to a new Australian television documentary set to air a week before her canonization, at least one of the reasons MacKillop was punished was for that members of her order denounced clerical child abuse.

Wednesday’s roundup

Let us pause for a moment to remember the long and illustrious career of Catherine of Tarragon, the official house cat of Washington National Cathedral (that’s her on the left). She’s apparently retired to North Carolina, and will be replaced on Sunday by a young upstart named Carmina. Today’s also the anniversary of the 1907 laying of the cornerstone for the House of Prayer for All People … Meanwhile, in actual news … One of Bishop Eddie Long’s accusers is calling him a “monster.”

Abuse charges aren’t Long’s first brush with controversy

(RNS) Bishop Eddie Long was once best known as an Atlanta-area megachurch leader and internationally known religious broadcaster. Now there’s another title: Accused sex offender. As the Lithonia, Ga., pastor faces charges of using money and gifts to coerce young men into sexual relationships, experts say the man who built New Birth Missionary Baptist Church into one of the nation’s largest black megachurches has long been as controversial as he was influential. “There’s people who he considers to be his spiritual brothers and sisters or children around the world,” said Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The three men who were considered his “spiritual sons” are accusing Long of a range of sexual advances; a fourth, with similar charges, said Long told him, “I will be your dad.”

10 minutes with … Marilyn Mellowes

(RNS) PBS’ American Experience and Frontline explore the role of religion in American life across more than 400 years in the six-hour series “God in America,” which will air over three consecutive nights starting Oct. 11. The journey interweaves historical dramatizations, interviews with scholars and documentary footage, covering themes such as the complexities of religious liberty, competition in America’s religious marketplace and religion as a source of social reform. Series Producer Marilyn Mellowes talked about developing the series, its timely relevance and what she hopes audiences will take away. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

COMMENTARY: Nature vs. nurture

(RNS) I was always told that you’re not supposed to discuss religion or politics in polite company. That was before gay marriage became the item du jour. Polls indicate a little more than half of Americans favor legal protections for same-sex couples. Gay marriage is another story; 44 percent of Americans support it, while 53 percent are opposed. Gay marriage proponents want to redefine a word, marriage, and grab ahold of the hundreds of legal protections and financial incentives that are granted with a marriage license.