Conservatives want senator to resign after affair

WASHINGTON (RNS) The president of the Christian conservative Family Policy Network sent Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a letter Monday (June 20) calling on him to follow the lead of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and resign rather than leave Republicans and conservatives open to charges of hypocrisy. Vitter admitted to a “serious sin” in 2007 after his phone number was found in the 2001 client records of a D.C. madam, when he was a member of the House. Weiner resigned after first lying about and then admitting to “inappropriate” online communication with various women. “There are a lot of people that I think are committing outright hypocrisy and are forced to do so as long as he (Vitter) remains in office,” said Joe Glover, the president of the Family Policy Network, based in Forest, Va. “I don’t think the senator should put those folks in the untenable position of having to pragmatically defend his presence in the Senate.”

Orthodox basketball play allowed to cover her arms

JERUSALEM (RNS) The international basketball federation has decided to permit an Orthodox Jewish basketball player to cover her arms during competitions in accordance with her religious beliefs. FIBA made the decision several weeks after point guard Naama Shafir, a member of the Israeli national women’s basketball team, said she would be unable to play in the sleeveless regulation jerseys worn by all players. Shafir, who studied at the University of Toledo, helped the Ohio university’s Lady Rockets win the 2011 Women’s National Invitation Tournament last April. She has dressed modestly throughout her college career, and the team accommodated her religious needs, from kosher food to Sabbath observance. FIBA will permit Shafir to wear skin-colored sleeves under her jersey.

Religious order vows to end paddling at New Orleans school

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) The religious order that runs the last remaining Catholic school in the country to use corporal punishment says it will no longer allow the practice, putting it in line with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The new administration of the Josephites order also affirmed the recent decision to transfer the Rev. John Raphael, the former president of St. Augustine Catholic High School, back to Baltimore. The announcements were made Tuesday (June 21) in a press release. St.

Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

Today’s Wordsmith word of the day is Laodicean, which means lukewarm or indifferent, especially regarding religion. As in, many American newspaper editors display a laodicean attitude toward people of faith. The word derives from Laodicea, a city in Asia Minor whose apathetic citizens were rebuked in the Book of Revelation. Enthusiastic pagans and New Agers gathered to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge today – 20 were arrested on drug and disorderly conduct charges. Emergent Christians plan to hold a “Wild Goose” festival this week in N.C. The Vatican will submit a report on its treatment of children to the United Nations this fall, 14 years after it was due.

Pawlenty’s prominent pastor not a political pawn

(RNS) When GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty goes to church, he knows he’ll hear a 27-minute sermon — never longer, never shorter. But whether he’ll hear a biblical endorsement of the Republican platform is far less certain. Pawlenty gets his spiritual guidance from Leith Anderson, senior pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., and president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). And while Anderson runs a tight ship as a megachurch pastor, he toes no partisan line — for better or for worse, depending on one’s point of view. “I’ve never preached a political sermon that says you ought to vote for this party or that candidate, or that we should be taking specific stands on certain legislation,” said Anderson, who’s been at Wooddale since 1977.

Report: Mercedes to unveil new eco-friendly popemobile

BERLIN (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has a lot of ground to cover when he heads back home to Germany this September, but thanks to a new popemobile from Mercedes, at least 30 of those kilometers (18.5 miles) will be on the greener side. The Vatican has contracted with Mercedes for the first-ever hybrid popemobile, according to a report by business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. Citing company sources associated with the top-secret project, the magazine reported that the vehicle, based on Mercedes’ M Class, would come with both a battery and a gasoline engine. It was never considered, according to the report, to resort to an entirely battery-powered car since security threats require the pope to always have the option of a quick getaway. The new hybrid engine would allow the popemobile to go 30 kilometers (about 18.5 miles) purely on battery power, which would require a one-hour plug-in charge.

COMMENTARY: Muzzled by Mammon

(RNS) “Leave politics to the politicians,” an irate churchgoer said after his pastor waded into political issues. “Don’t write about something you know nothing about,” an irate reader said when a Christian blogger ventured into political issues. Another said the same when a preacher commented on shabby corporate ethics. Don’t imperil our not-for-profit tax status, church leaders warn their preacher who ventures too close to the line. Remember the separation of church and state, they say.

Anti-Mormon Dems

Curiously enough, Democrats are now significantly more likely than Republicans to say they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon for president, according to the latest Gallup survey. In December of 2007, the numbers were 18 percent for both parties (19 percent for Independents); today the Republican naysayers are still at 18 percent, while the Dems have bounced up to 27 percent. Whether this means anything is another question. In February 1999, it was 16 percent (R) versus 22 percent (D); in February 2007, 30 percent (R) versus 23 percent (D). The basic story is that Mormons are well up in the negativity sweepstakes (22 percent), but not as high as gays/lesbians (32 percent) and nowhere near as high as atheists (49 percent); Muslims are not included in the survey report.

J Street in Hartford

If all politics is local, Jewish politics is hyper-local. Well, hyper anyway. So it happens that last week the Hartford Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) sponsored a talk by Colette Avital, former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Israeli consul in New York. These days, Avital is serving as a senior adviser to the dovish Israel lobby J Street, which co-sponsored her visit to Hartford.This did not sit well with the Jewish Ledger,
the local weekly that has been owned since 1992 by N. Richard Greenfield. To say that
Greenfield cleaves to the right is to suggest that, oh, Anthony Weiner may
have employed his Twitter account in a manner ill-befitting a member of

Lesbian minister to face Methodist church trial

(RNS) United Methodists will begin a trial Tuesday (June 21) against a Wisconsin minister who’s accused of breaking church rules by celebrating a same-sex marriage and being in a lesbian relationship. The Rev. Amy DeLong, 44, of Osceola, Wis., could be defrocked if the 13-member jury composed of local clergy finds her guilty of either charge. A minister for 14 years, DeLong agreed to officiate at a same-sex ceremony in 2009, the same year she and her partner registered as a couple under Wisconsin’s domestic partnership law, according to United Methodist News Service. The United Methodist Church, which has about 11 million members — about 7.7 million in the U.S. — calls homosexual activity “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The denomination bars “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” from ministry, and prohibits all clergy from celebrating same-sex marriages, even in states where it is legal.

Van Impe leaves TBN over `Chrislam’ remarks

(RNS) Jack Van Impe, a popular End Times broadcaster, has ended his decades-long run on Trinity Broadcasting Network after a dispute over naming ministers that he accuses of mixing Christian and Muslim beliefs. Earlier this month, Van Impe named California megachurch founders Rick Warren and Robert H. Schuller as proponents of “Chrislam,” which he defined as “a uniting of Christianity with Islam.” TBN pulled the episode before a repeat broadcast could air. Michigan-based Jack Van Impe Ministries said its board of directors decided unanimously Thursday (June 17) to no longer work with TBN. “We would not be able to minister effectively if we had to look over our shoulder wondering if a program was going to be censored because of mentioning a name,” said Ken Vancil, executive director of the ministry, in a statement.

Church of England to allow gay bishops—sort of

LONDON (RNS) The Church of England has issued a set of “legal guidelines” that pave the way for openly gay clergy to become bishops — so long as they are and promise to remain celibate. Details of the internal report, entitled “Choosing Bishops,” were carried by Christian Today, an independent London-based publication, on its website on Monday (June 20). The new guidelines aim to bring church policy in line with Britain’s Equality Act, passed in 2010, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The guidance says “openly gay clergy can become bishops so long as they are celibate,” according to the Christian Today report. The Equality Act would not allow gay clergy to be prohibited solely because they are gay.

Monday’s Religion News Roundup

There’s a Buddhist parable that compares the world and its manifold sensory pleasures to a burning house. We’re so preoccupied playing with our toys, the lesson goes, we don’t notice the flames blazing around us. The NYT reports that 39 Buddhists are continuing their three-year-long meditation retreat in Arizona despite fast-approaching wildfires that have incinerated more than 200,000 acres since May. In this case, I guess, the flames are literal, and the “toy” (i.e. meditation) is the front door Buddhism recommends for escaping the house. Kill the Buddha, indeed.

All Southern Baptist eyes on black New Orleans pastor

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Even before the Southern Baptist Convention elected the Rev. Fred Luter to national office, there was already widespread speculation that Luter is poised to become the denomination’s first African-American president. Representatives of 16 million Southern Baptists overwhelmingly elected Luter first vice president on June 14 at their annual meeting in Phoenix. By the time Baptists gather again next summer in Luter’s backyard, many expect the pastor of this city’s 5,000-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church — one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the state — to clinch the top post. “Many of us are thinking this is the first step toward him being elected president next year,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., who nominated Luter for the vice presidency. “I haven’t talked to a person who hasn’t affirmed that, including the present president, Bryant Wright, the past president, Frank Page” and others, Akin said.

COMMENTARY: Be sure to read the warning labels

(RNS) It’s hard to escape the barrage of TV ads that praise the benefits of various medications and then conclude with a rapid-fire list of the drug’s potentially harmful side effects. But one widely used drug needs no advertising. Its use has spiked religious fanaticism throughout the world — an unregulated medication driving people to commit acts of physical and psychological violence in the name of religion. The pill is called FAITHAGRA. Produced in shadowy undisclosed locations, the tablet comes in three easily recognizable shapes: a Star of David for Jews, a cross for Christians, and a crescent for Muslims. Users of FAITHAGRA need to be warned of the risks of this mysterious and dangerous medication.