Clergy petition Village Voice to drop ads linked to sex trafficking

(RNS) Three dozen religious leaders have signed an ad calling on Village Voice Media to remove an adult section of its that they and others claim is a conduit for child sex trafficking. “As moral and religious leaders of many creeds and backgrounds, we are united in calling on your publication to shut down the Adult section of,” reads an open letter to Village Voice Media CEO Jim Larkin in an ad published Tuesday (Oct. 25) in The New York Times. The ad lists 14 states in which adults have been arrested for selling minors for sex using, according to media reports. In a July statement, spokesperson Steve Suskin said the site is committed to preventing people from misusing it for illegal activity.

A New Pledge of Allegiance?

I was discussing the history of the Pledge of Allegiance in my class on religion and the media today, and was astonished to learn that some of my students–one from Santa Barbara, others from upstate New York–had been accustomed to recite the Pledge in public school with the words “under all” replacing “under God.” As in: “one nation, under all, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”Under all what? All gods, goddesses and beliefs, as one blog comment I found puts it? Or, self-referentially, the same “all” that liberty and justice is for? Howsoever, if this is indeed happening in school districts across the U.S., it would appear that some teachers or administrators or school boards have quietly (I can’t find any news coverage) decided that–as Michael Newdow argued before the Supreme Court–“under God” is an unconstitutional establishment of religion that they want no part of.

COMMENTARY: The hard work of just being there

NEW YORK (RNS) Eighteen months ago, when our recovery ministry was getting off the ground, a veteran of such a ministry visited from Richmond, Va., and told us simply: “Your job is to be there every Sunday.” She told us to be a fellowship of peace and purpose where people in recovery from addiction can learn how to make “conscious contact with God — through prayer and meditation, singing and mutual support. The word will spread, she said. Be there even when it’s difficult. Be radically welcoming. Give the best you can.

TuesdayâÂ?Â?s Religion News Roundup

Moammar Gadhafi was buried at dawn this morning, “somewhere in the desert” of Libya. Libyan officials want to keep the location secret to prevent his tomb being desecrated or turned into a pilgrimage site. The burial comes after the corpse of the late Libyan dictator was put on public display in a supermarket meat locker for four days. His son Muatassim and a top aide were buried with him, with a few relatives and officials in attendance. Islamic prayers were reportedly read over the bodies.

Monday Godbytes

Do you like infographics? Yes? Good, because, a website dedicated to extracting data from the Bible, just released a “Sentiment Analysis to the Bible.” The analysis (visualized at left), reportedly displays “good” or “positive” happenings in the bible in black and “bad” or “negative” things in the Bible in red. Speaking of bad – and good – things, the Daily Mail has a story on a Catholic man who rescued his Jewish girlfriend from a Nazi concentration camp during World War II by dressing up like an S.S. officer.

Muslim mortgages in limbo after bank collapse

TORONTO (RNS) The collapse of a lender that offered Shariah-compliant mortgages has left Muslim homeowners in the Toronto area with many questions and so far, few answers. Founded in 2004, Toronto’s UM Financial partnered with an Ontario credit union to offer mortgages and other financial products that promised to circumvent Islam’s ban on interest and usury. Earlier this month, UM Financial, which bills itself as Canada’s “premier Islamic financial institution,” was put into receivership by an Ontario court over a dispute with the credit union. Now, the apparent collapse of UM Financial has left about 160 Muslim homeowners in and around Toronto wondering who controls their properties, how to continue payments and whether their religious beliefs will be violated. “What is going on?

Shifting course, St. Paul’s orders protesters out

LONDON (RNS) More than a week after welcoming anti-corporate protesters onto its grounds, London’s historic St. Paul’s Cathedral now wants them to go away because their presence is costing too much money. Asking the demonstrators to leave peacefully after nine days of occupying a makeshift tent city in the churchyard, St. Paul’s dean, the Rev. Graeme Knowles, said “we have done this with a very heavy heart.” At first, the cathedral opened its doors to the Occupy London Stock Exchange group and ordered police to stay away.

Vatican blasts `idolatry’ of global markets

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Blaming the world’s economic and financial crisis on an “economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls,” the Vatican on Monday (Oct. 24) released an ambitious proposal for global regulation of the financial industry and the international money supply. The 16-page document from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a “central world bank” to regulate the “flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks,” such as the U.S. Federal Reserve. The proposal also calls for a global tax on financial transactions, whose revenue would go to a fund to help “support the economies of the countries hit by crisis.” Ultimately, the plan would help establish a “world political authority” envisioned by Popes John XXIII in 1963 and Benedict XVI in 2009.

Monday’s Religion News Roundup

The AJC profiles Herman Cain’s Atlanta church, noting that it’s solidly Democratic and some of his fellow parishioners don’t recognize the man they see on the campaign trail. Notes one: “This is kind of weird.” The LAT, meanwhile, profiles the Kansas City IHOP (no, not the pancake place) where round-the-clock prayer has been going on for 12 years solid. The Vatican today denounced the “idolatry of the market” and called for a global bank to rein in greedy financiers who got us into this mess. Our own Francis X. Rocca notes, however, that while this was issued by the Vatican, it’s unclear whether it was issued by B16 himself, or if he even saw it before it was released.

Catholics see difference in loyalty to faith, hierarchy

WASHINGTON (RNS) American Catholics have by and large remained loyal to the core teachings and sacraments of their faith, but increasingly tune out the hierarchy on issues of sexual morality, according to a new study released Monday (Oct. 24) The sweeping survey shows that over the last quarter-century, U.S. Catholics have become increasingly likely to say that individuals, not church leaders, have the final say on abortion, homosexuality, and divorce and remarriage. That trend holds true across generational and ideological divides, and even applies to weekly Mass attenders, according to the survey, which has been conducted every six years since 1987. “It’s the core creedal sacramental issues that really matter to American Catholics, more than the external trappings of church authority,” said Michele Dillon, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire and a co-author of the report, in releasing the report at the National Press Club. At the same time, the authors note, Catholic loyalty and identity remain remarkably strong, even as 83 percent of Catholics say the clergy sexual abuse scandal has hurt the bishops’ moral and political credibility.

Jewish chaplains memorialized at Arlington

ARLINGTON, VA. (RNS) In a ceremony steeped in Hebrew prayers and military hymns, a monument to Jewish chaplains who died in active duty was unveiled Monday (Oct. 24) at Arlington National Cemetery. “They are unrecognized heroes of both Jewish and American life, but today we begin the process of publicly acknowledging their contribution and their ultimate sacrifice,” said Allan Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Community Centers Association, which sponsors the council that endorses Jewish military chaplains. The cemetery’s Chaplains Hill has been home to three monuments — one for World War I chaplains, another for Protestant chaplains from the two world wars and one for Catholic chaplains from World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

Market Idolatry

Market is greatMarket is goodLet us thank Market For our food.By Its Invisible Hand We all are fed, Give us, Supply and Demand, Our Daily Bread.Amen.The new statement on financial reform from the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace contains a pretty good overview of the current world economic crisis–but other such overviews are readily available. Its advocacy of what Pope John XXIII called “a true world political authority” to deal with the problem long term will be regarded by even the most sympathetic as pie-in-the-sky. No, the Vatican’s strong suit is religion, which is why I am delighted to be able to agree with George Weigel in his pronunciamento: “As for the document itself, no morally alert person objects to bringing
discussions of global finance within the ambit of moral reasoning; that
is an entirely worthy intention.”Within that ambit, the Council associates itself with Pope John Paul II’s concern that, in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, the victors would be led to violate the Big Commandment to “have no other gods before me.”In 1991, after the failure of Marxist communism, Blessed John Paul II had already warned of the risk of an “idolatry of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities.” Today his warning needs to be heeded without delay and a road must be taken that is in greater harmony with the dignity and transcendent vocation of the person and the human family.That’s the message that the Weigels and the Michael Novaks–to say nothing of non-Catholic conservatives–should take to heart. Of course, like other idolators, the market devotees really believe that they’re right; they do not accept the Vatican’s contention that the first cause of the economic crisis is “an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls.”

DNC rediscovers religion

Back in May of 2010, intrepid WaPo religion reporter Michelle Boorstein disclosed
the surprising news that the Democratic National Committee had
disbanded the six-person religious outreach team that, under previous
DNC chair Howard Dean, helped flip Congress to the Democrats in 2006. Dean’s successor Tim Kaine lamely insisted that religious outreach would
get cranked up again for the midterm elections, but it never happened.With
the 2012 election cycle under way, new chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
has sent a signal that religion will again figure in the DNC operation. To wit: Last Thursday, a press release announced the appointment of
Derrick Harkins, pastor of Washington’s 19th Street Baptist Church, to
head an outreach effort. Harkins has a good resume–for a pastor. But there’s no evidence that he has ever done any political work.

Vatican hails end of Gadhafi regime

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican called the death of Libya’s longtime leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi the end of a “harsh and oppressive regime,” and pledged to work with the country’s new government. Gadhafi, 69, was shot by rebels on Thursday (Oct. 20) near his native city of Sirte, and video images of his dead body appeared almost immediately on the Internet. “It is hoped now that the Libyan people might be spared further violence due to a spirit of revenge, and that the new leaders can undertake as soon as possible efforts necessary for bringing peace and rebuilding in a spirit of solidarity,” the Holy See Press Office said in a statement.

Friday Godbytes

CNN reports that the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi – killed just yesterday by revolutionaries – apparently practiced a “renegade” version of Islam. Folks at Relevant Magazine and the Washington Post are asking whether or not Jesus would be in the streets with the Occupy Wall Street protestors – or if he would protest at all. Megapastor Mark Driscoll is head of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He apparently likes he church’s name so much that he had it copyrighted, and – according to blogger Tony Jones – is now sending cease-and-decist letters to all other churches that use that same title (a group that includes several small churches, seminaries and even fellow megapastor Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Church in Michigan). Legal awkwardness in 3âÂ?¦2âÂ?¦1âÂ?¦ Houston, Texas has a lot of big, wealthy churches.