Former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean sued pageant officials Monday for libel, slander and religious discrimination, accusing them of telling her to stop mentioning God even before her controversial remarks against gay marriage, the Associated Press is reporting.
Prejean, 22, was fired in June by pageant officials who said she missed several appearances. Her attorney says she was ousted because of remarks in April during the Miss USA pageant that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Those comments, made in response to a question by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, made Prejean a darling of Christian conservatives. But the ardor of some cooled after seminude photographs began circulating on the Internet and reports surfaced that she had had breast implants.
Following, courtesy of the Associated Press, is the text of the letter from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI delivered last month by President Barack Obama. After that comes the Vatican response, which Time writer Jeff Israely -- whom we quoted at length last week on the exchange -- calls "pro forma."
Most Holy Father,
I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me and I am so deeply grateful to him. I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our church and inspire our world during challenging times.
I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer over a year ago and although I am undergoing treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me.
I am 77-years-old and preparing for the next passage of life. I’ve been blessed to be part of a wonderful family and both my parents, specifically my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained and nurtured and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that i have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my past.
I want you to know, your Holiness, that in my 50 years of elected office I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I’ve opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a U.S. Senator.
I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I’ll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.I’ve always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness. And though I have fallen short through human failings I’ve never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith.
I continue to pray for God’s blessings on you and on our church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.”
The Vatican response:
The Holy Father has read the letter in which you entrusted to President Obama, who kindly presented it to him during his recent meeting.
He was saddened to know of your illness and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particular grateful of your prayers for him and for the needs of our universal church. His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful Father.
He invokes upon you the consolation and peace of our risen savior, to all who share in his sufferings and trust in his promise of eternal life, commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort and strength in the Lord.
After attacks on Muslims in New York and California, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations is targeting what he says is “growing anti-Muslim rhetoric” on the Internet and talk radio.
CAIR is seeking federal hate crime charges in the attacks on a mother and daughter in Smithtown, N.Y., and a taxi driver in Pleasanton, Calif.
In the New York incident, which occurred on Aug. 20, a Long Island man has been charged with second-degree aggravated harassment after threatening to kill and attempting to rundown the mother and daughter, each of whom was wearing an abaya, a black robe that covers the head and body.
The woman said the man "kept striking a match on a matchbook like if I was to start pumping the gas he would throw the match at me.”
The man said he had done nothing wrong, according to the Newsday report.
"They shouldn't be allowed to wear that around here," he said in a statement to police. "This is not Iraq. They should not be dressing like that here. Send them back to Iraq."
In California, two men have been charged in the beating last week of taxi driver Jaswinder Bangar after he picked them up from a Pleasanton bar, according to a report in the San Jose Mercuary News. Police said the men called Bangar derogatory names as they punched him, breaking a tooth and causing lacerations that required several stitches to close.
In a statement on Monday, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said “Our nation’s religious, political and community leaders need to address the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric on the Internet and on talk radio that can lead to such incidents.”
Sun colleague Joe Burris has a nice story on "the thunder that followed the lightning:" the joyful return of Bethel A.M.E. members to their historic church, two months after fire forced them to take up temporary quarters at Temple Oheb Shalom.
The Rev. Frank M. Reid III, Bethel's senior pastor, said he hopes the reopening serves as an inspiration to the city that one of its oldest churches has quickly rebounded.
"At the same time that people are being hit by economic lightning and fire, in less than two months our church, which suffered tremendous damage, is back in," said Reid, the longest-serving pastor (20 years) of a church that dates back to the late 1700s.
Reid marched in the middle of the processional, surrounded by parishioners who embraced and sang songs such as "This Is the Day That the Lord Has Made."
"It's a reminder to people," Reid said, "that no matter how bad a hit you take, when we turn to each other, instead of turning on each other, a bad situation can become a good one."
A few months back, Catholic officials joined with other faith leaders to announce plans for a “Summer of Peace” in Baltimore, with prayer, collections and volunteers directed toward reducing violence in the city.
Crime has continued unabated, with 18 people shot in a single incident in July and two shot in the Inner Harbor on a Saturday night in August. In an interview with the Catholic Review, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien was asked how frustrated he was.
“It’s safer in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think, sometimes,” said O’Brien, who was archbishop to the military services before he came to Baltimore. “Still, there are good people out there patrolling the streets and taking an interest in the neighborhoods and sacrificing themselves for the youth in the communities. If not for them, it could be much worse.”
Asked the causes of violence, he listed several factors that he says are interrelated.
“It’s family life, it’s education and lack of employment,” he said. “The industry of the city is drugs, it seems. It’s a vicious circle and we have to see how other communities have found a way to break that vicious circle because it’s destructive. I don’t think we’ve been very successful so far.”
He does name one program that appears to be working.
“Operation Safe Streets has [been successful] because they’ve gotten those who were on the wrong side of the fence, back to a sense of responsibility and to help the community in a positive way,” he said. “That is a great breakthrough. I don’t think we should give up on that.”
The Catholic Review has a story on archdiocesan efforts against crime here, and the transcript of its interview with O’Brien here.
On Friday, we mentioned the sealed envelope that an ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy asked President Barack Obama to deliver last month to Pope Benedict XVI. At the time, the White House said no one, not even Obama, knew what it contained.
During the graveside service Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick read from Kennedy's letter, and shared the Vatican's response.
From the Associated Press:
McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, read from a letter from Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI, hand-delivered earlier this year by Obama.
"I know that I have been an imperfect human being but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path," the dying senator wrote. He wrote the pontiff "with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines."
The Vatican responded with a letter that said "his Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope."
This was a good idea for a story, and Nicole Neroulias has done a good job with it. Following the release of “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s blood-soaked World War II revenge fantasy, the Religion News Service writer has asked several rabbis whether Judaism would condone the savagery inflicted by the film's Jewish heroes on their Nazi oppressors.
Rabbis and academics point out that Judaism distinguishes between acts of self-defense and vengeance and Jewish law frowns upon torturing an enemy – even Adolf Hitler himself, said Rabbi Joel Roth, a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
‘On the other hand, I also understand the human emotion,’ he said. ‘Dispassionately, do you want to see them scalped? No, but you have to consider the context. And, if it's a greater deterrent that would save other people's lives, maybe one could defend it.’
Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a New York-based Jewish think tank, heralds the film as a long-overdue ‘fun action Jewish-revenge fantasy.’
Roth, meanwhile, wonders about a backlash from depicting Jews as ‘more Goliath than David,’ giving more fodder to those who see Israel as an aggressor and oppressor rather than a haven for survivors of centuries of persecution.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, places “Basterds” in what Neroulias calls “an emerging genre of celebrated Jewish resistance, including last year's ‘Defiance,’ about a community of Jews who found refuge in a Belarus forest during the Holocaust, and 2005's ‘Munich,’ about efforts to assassinate Arab terrorists who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.”
“Tarantino's World War II fantasy and its orgy of violence are little more than cartoonish savagery and perhaps a cathartic experience for some Jewish viewers,” Neroulias writes. “It's a sort of reverse form of Schadenfreude: Jews giving Nazis the ultimate taste of their own medicine.
“Yet the film also represents a growing genre of Jewish-themed films in which the victims become the victors. Anne Frank is no longer hiding in the attic; the fate of Judaism no longer depends on benevolent gentiles like Oskar Schindler.”
But then, there’s that business about abandoning his early opposition to abortion to become one of the Senate’s most powerful advocates for legal access to the procedure that the church condemns.
During his meeting last month with Pope Benedict XVI, President Barack Obama handed the pontiff a sealed letter from Kennedy — the White House says nobody, not even Obama, knows what it contained — and asked him to pray for the Massachusetts director.
Israely notes the silence from Benedict following Kennedy’s death, and catalogs areas of conflict between Kennedy and the church.
His first marriage, to former model Virginia Joan Bennett, ended in divorce in 1982, with the marriage annulled by the Roman Rota more than a decade later. And there are the infamous episodes in his life that showed a man not quite in control of his demons. But ultimately, beyond his personal travails, Kennedy's relationship with the Church hierarchy was destined for conflict because of politics. The Senator became both the face and the engine of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that has long led the battle for abortion rights, stem-cell research and gay marriage, all of which Catholic doctrine strictly forbids.
"He is a complicated figure," the Rev. James Martin, an editor with the Jesuit magazine America, tells Israely. "Catholics on the right are critical because of his stance on abortion. Catholics on the left celebrate his achievements on immigration, fighting poverty and other legislation that is a virtual mirror of the Church's social teaching.”
“Back at headquarters,” Israely writes, “there is little room for nuance.”
"Here in Rome, Ted Kennedy is nobody,” a Vatican official of U.S. nationality tells him. "If he had influence in the past, it was only with the Archdiocese of Boston, and that eventually disappeared too."
Members of a Baltimore County church are looking for a place to worship on Sunday after a two-alarm fire early Friday destroyed their sanctuary.
Fire investigators say a lightning strike could have caused the fire at the Sharp Street United Methodist Church in Chase, Sun colleague Brent Jones reports. Ten-foot-high stained glass windows were shattered, the outer structure of the building was charred, and a smoky smell remained in the air for hours as church members steadily came by to observe the damage.
Lewis Foust was one of the men who built the sanctuary in 1972.
"That's really the hurtful part -- to see what you have done just gone," he told Jones.
Founded 145 years ago, the church was widely considered the oldest in Chase. If a lightning strike is confirmed, it would be the third such case involving a local historic church over the past two years.
The 140-year-old First Mount Olive Free Will Baptist Church in West Baltimore was destroyed by a fire sparked by lightning in July 2007, and Baltimore's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Druid Hill Avenue was hit by lightning last month. The Bethel congregation is set to return to its church Sunday.
Last month in Kentucky, an Assemblies of God congregation drew international attention with its "open carry celebration," in which the pastor invited members of to come to bring their guns to church, that they might "celebrate our rights as Americans."
Next month in Baltimore, a Catholic church will ask parishioners to bring weapons to church -- for a very different purpose. Responding to increased gun violence in the city, organizers say, St. Gregory the Great is sponsoring its seventh "Gun Turn-In Day" on Sept. 12.
Since the parish began its effort to get guns off the streets, organizers say, more than 100 have been turned in.
“The police have verified that in the past, some of these weapons that have been turned in have been very lethal,” Monsignor Damien G. Nalepa said in a statement. “We appeal to all the citizens of our city to help stop the violence and turn in guns.”
Co-sponsored by the Catholic Review, the event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church at 1542 N. Gilmor St. Organizers are offering $100 for each workable automatic or semi-automatic handgun or assault rifle, and $50 for any other workable gun turned in.
According to flyer being circulated for the event, no questions will be asked.Parish staff members and volunteers log the type of gun, and verify that it is unloaded and safe. At the close of the event, the guns are to be turned over to local law enforcement.
The Catholic Review is challenging the community to contribute to a fund so such gun buy-backs may be held more regularly. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to: The Cathedral Foundation Inc., Attn.: Catholic Review Gun Buy-Back, P.O. Box 777, Baltimore, MD 21203.
More information is available by calling Nalepa at 410-523-0061.
Most Catholic bishops in the United States disagree with the loud tactics of some of their peers in opposing President Barack Obama’s appearance at the University of Notre Dame, but have kept quiet because they do not want to engage in a public battle over the issue, one archbishop has told the National Catholic Reporter.
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore was an early opponent of the decision to invite Obama to speak during commencement exercises and receive an honorary degree from the Catholic university. Obama supports legal access to abortion and embryonic stem cell research, which the church opposes.
In March, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien wrote to Notre Dame President John Jenkins that he was “disappointed and bewildered” by the invitation. But letter-writing doesn’t seem to be the kind of activity that Santa Fe, N.M. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan is decrying in his interview with NCR.
Rather, Sheehan says that refusing to talk to a politician or refusing communion because of a difference on a single issue – approaches that O’Brien hasn’t discussed publicly – was counterproductive. He describes such actions as a “hysterical” reaction and said the Catholic community risks isolating itself from the rest of the country.
Sheehan tells NCR that he prefers "consultation, collaboration, building bridges not burning them."
At the June meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, NCR’s John Allen reported that some bishops said privately that they were appalled at the conduct of the most vocal opponents and others said the debate had become too narrow and partisan, but the issue was never brought up in public session. The bishops interviewed at the time commented anonymously.
In her obituary today for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Catholic News Service weiter Nancy Frazier O'Brien notes the Massachusetts Democrat’s longtime support for legal access to abortion. But she also reminds those who might not have remembered that it wasn’t always so.
O’Brien quotes extensively from a 1971 letter on the subject by Kennedy:
"While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life," Kennedy wrote.
"Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. When history looks back at this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."
Of course, Kennedy would eventurally become a staunch supporter of abortion rights. As O’Brien notes, he earned a nearly 100 percent negative rating in recent years from the National Right to Life Committee and a 100 percent positive rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America for his abortion-related votes in the Senate.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy meets with Cardinal Lawrence Shehan at the Baltimore Basilica in 1980. (Jed Kirschbaum/The Baltimore Sun)
On other issues, O’Brien writes, Kennedy “stood firmly on the side of the Catholic Church.” These included immigration reform, the minimum wage and opposition to the war in Iraq. According to news reports, he died with a Catholic priest at his side.
A Florida church that has made a ministry out of spreading messages against Islam has launched a new protest this week using children, The Gainesville Sun reports.
On the first day of the new school year Monday, a 10-year-old elementary school student was sent home after showing up wearing a t-shirt that read “Islam is of the Devil,” according to The Sun. On Tuesday, three more children wore the shirts.
The shirts, which also include the Gospel passage “Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me,” were produced by Dove World Outreach Center.
On its Web site, DWOC describes itself as “a New Testament, Charismatic, Non-Denominational Church that believes in the whole Bible and that we are to act in response to the word of God in order to change the times we are living in.”
The church has drawn protests in Gainesville with signs carrying what Muslims and others say are anti-Islam messages. Senior Pastor Terry Jones has described the effort as a “great act of love.”
School officials say the shirts violate a district dress code that prohibits clothing that may offend or district other students or otherwise disrupt the learning process, according to The Sun. They have given students the choice of changing them or going home.
"It's pretty offensive, isn't it?" Islamic Association of North Florida President Saeed R. Khan asked The Sun. "Particularly in a school setting where you are trying to create an atmosphere where people are supposed to respect each other and live with each other, where we have people of every ethnicity and every religion."
One of the children sent home on Tuesday told The Sun that the message is aimed at the religion, not its adherents.
"The people are fine," 15-year-old Emily Sapp said. "The people are people. They can be saved like anyone else."
Jones told The Sun that spreading the church's message was "even more important than education itself."
It was three years ago that I shared a room with Ted Kennedy. (True, the room held a couple hundred people, but I did share it with him.)
Among the ministries our church has supported since its inception is World Relief, the Baltimore-based international humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. Given that we have always had at least one of our members working at World Relief, it would be awkward not to. But we are happy to support their work, and grateful that our proximity affords us opportunities to be involved with World Relief that small churches elsewhere wouldn’t have.
Political views at our church run the gamut from reactionary to libertarian to conservative to moderate to liberal to socialist to Canadian. Given the poor reputation evangelicals have earned for our movement by ham-handed political activism, we are loath to advocate for our views on policy issues without being asked to offer them. Yet we have chosen to join with our friends at World Relief in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, an advocacy position that stems from World Relief’s compassionate work with refugee populations. Aside from protecting the right of pastors to smoke cigars in their studies, it’s about the only cause on which we feel we should speak out.
Thus I found myself on a very hot summer day surrounded by other religious professionals in a large conference room (auditorium? cafeteria?) just off Capitol Hill. I had traveled to Washington, my intern in tow, to learn about how our church could support the goal of passing legislation to reform immigration policy in a comprehensive manner. (That my intern had spent a good month working with me and was still in the dark about my political views led me to believe that I was supporting this cause in a suitably nonpartisan fashion.)
What I realized quite early on in the day was that there was very little I could do: the elected representatives serving our area were already on board as favoring reform, and besides were probably not waiting up at night to hear a small evangelical congregation weigh in with their views. So as a recovering political science major I became a fascinated observer of the process in which I was, however tangentially, involved.
Local Muslims are planning to fulfill their Ramadan obligation to help the needy on Saturday by giving a hot meal, clothing, health screening, contacts for job training and other assistance to more than 1,000 homeless people in Baltimore.
Organized in 19 cities nationwide by Islamic Relief, the annual Day of Dignity will be hosted locally by Masjid Ul Haqq at 514 Islamic Way. Since coming to Baltimore in 2005, organizers say, the effort has served nearly 3,500 people.
Initiated in Los Angeles, the event is now held annually in New York, Washington, Philadelphia,Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit and other cities.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern says it was written to clarify a blasphemy provision in the Irish Constitution. But in an age when countries are repealing such regulations, critics say it is a step backwards.
“One of the world’s most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised – a green and pleasant silicon valley. This preposterous blasphemy law puts all that respect at risk,” the British atheist Richard Dawkins said in a statement read last month at the first meeting of Atheist Ireland. “It is a wretched, backward, uncivilised regression to the middle ages. Who was the bright spark who thought to besmirch the revered name of Ireland by proposing anything so stupid?”
According to Padraig Reidy, the answer is: No one.
“Nobody wanted this law: no one can think of a single thundering priest, austere vicar, irate rabbi or miffed mullah ever calling for tougher penalties for blasphemy,” Reidy wrote last month in the Guardian. “Certainly there were the frequent, and frequently ignored missives from Armagh [seat of the Church of Ireland], warning the Irish not to abandon God for 4x4s and Nintendo Wiis. And there was widespread dismay when popular comic Tommy Tiernan pushed the Bible-baiting a bit too far on the Late Late Show. But never did anyone suggest we needed tough blasphemy laws. Until the justice minister, Dermot Ahern, decided we needed to fill the ‘void’ left by our lack of one.”
You're not introducing new blasphemy laws in the 21st century," Michael Nugent, chairman of the group Atheist Ireland, told the Canadian news service Canwest. "These are hangovers from earlier times and certainly in most western countries are anachronisms."
If Ahern tries to enforce the law, Nugent told Canwest, his group will come up with a suitably outrageous blasphemy to challenge it.
Over at the Baltimore Jewish Times, editor Neil Rubin has an interesting cover story on the continuing growth of Conservative Judaism in Baltimore, amid a national decline in the movement. As he asks local rabbis to explain this relative success, he reveals a vibrant community, engaged on such issues as same-sex relationships, interfaith marriage and innovations in worship.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has removed the pastor of a Cumberland church as it investigates allegations that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s, the archdiocese annouced on Sunday. Monsignor Thomas Bevan, pastor of St. Patrick Church since 1997, has denied the allegations, according to the archdiocese.
Representatives of the archdiocese met with parishioners and staff at St. Patrick on Sunday to inform them of the allegations and to answer questions, according to the archdiocese. Counseling assistance has been offered to all those affected, according to the archdiocese.
The individual alleging the abuse says it occurred on a number of separate occasions in the mid-1970s while he was a student at the parish school of St. John Catholic Church in Frederick, according to the archdiocese. Bevan was assigned to St. John from 1974 to 1979, according to the archdiocese.
The archdiocese says it learned of the allegations in June, and immediately reported them to civil authorities in Frederick County. The archdiocese says the authorities instructed the archdiocese not to take any further action, including continuing its own investigation or making contact with Bevan.
The archdiocese says it received permission from the authorities last Tuesday to resume its investigation and representatives of the Archdiocese met with Bevan on Wednesday. Bevan denied the allegation, according to the archdiocese. The archdiocese removed him from ministry and revoked his faculties to function as a priest, pending an archdiocesan investigation, according to the archdiocese.
In 2005, the archdiocese says, it received an allegation of child sexual abuse against Bevan that dates back to 1974. The archdiocese says it reported it to the Frederick County State’s Attorney and conducted its own investigation into the claim. The archdiocese determined that there was not sufficient evidence at the time to remove him.
The archdiocese's independent review board, which reviews the church’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations, affirmed its handling of the 2005 allegation and the civil authorities in Frederick County did not pursue the matter, according to the archdiocese.
Thomas Bevan was ordained in 1963. In addition to his assignments at St. Patrick in Cumberland and St. John in Frederick, he was associate pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middle River from 1963 to 1974 and pastor of St. Mark in Fallston from 1979 to 1991. He was a temporary administrator at St. Mary in Cumberland from 1991 to 1992 and at St. Patrick in Mount Savage in 1992.
While at Mount Carmel, he taught at the parish high school; while at St. John, he taught at Mount St. Mary's. He also has been executive director of the Secretariat for Priestly Life & Ministry for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and has worked in the archdiocese's Office of Clergy Education.
The archdiocese is asking anyone with information relevant to the allegations against Bevan to contact its Office of Child and Youth Protection at 410-547-5599.
In its statement, it also urges anyone with knowledge of any child sexual abuse to report it immediately to civil authorities. If clergy or other church personnel are suspected of committing the abuse, the archdiocese asks that those with knowledge also call the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection Hotline at 1-866-417-7469.
A few years back, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin enlivened a Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration when he said the reason the Gulf Coast had been battered by “hurricane after hurricane” was that “God is mad at America.”
On Friday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist suggested that the Lord has no problem with the Sunshine State.
Crist said he wasn’t trying to take credit, the Associated Press is reporting, but he told a group of real estate agents on Friday that he had had prayer notes placed in Jerusalem’s Western Wall each year of his administration, and no major storms had hit Florida. He noted that just before his election in 2006, Florida had been affected by a total of eight hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.
"Do you know the last time it was we had a hurricane in Florida?” Crist asked, according to the AP. “It's been awhile. In 2007, I took my first trade mission. Do you know where I went?"
He spoke of traveling to Israel, visiting the Western Wall and inserting a note that read, "Dear God, please protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties. Charlie."
At the time, the Rev. David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., told us that it may be possible to look back over decades or centuries and reflect on the righteousness of an historic event.
"God does reveal himself through nature and human experience," said Dockery, a Baptist. "But it is impossible, or nearly impossible, for us to understand and interpret those things within the experience itself. It usually requires a time of reflection, looking back upon the event, to know what good God was trying to bring out of an event, or what kind of judgment he was performing at the time."
President Barack Obama is taking advantage of the start of Ramadan on Saturday to make another overture to the Muslim world. In a holiday message now on the White House Web site, he wishes Muslims Ramadan Kareem, and then details U.S. efforts to engage Muslims in much the same language that he used during his address in Cairo in June.
“Beyond America’s borders, we are … committed to keeping our responsibility to build a world that is more peaceful and secure,” Obama says in the new message. “That is why we are responsibly ending the war in Iraq. That is why we are isolating violent extremists while empowering the people in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we are unyielding in our support for a two-state solution that recognizes the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security. ...
“All of these efforts are a part of America’s commitment to engage Muslims and Muslim-majority nations on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. And at this time of renewal, I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world.”
The complete transcript follows, after the jump.
On behalf of the American people – including Muslim communities in all fifty states – I want to extend best wishes to Muslims in America and around the world. Ramadan Kareem.
Ramadan is the month in which Muslims believe the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, beginning with a simple word – iqra. It is therefore a time when Muslims reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God.
Like many people of different faiths who have known Ramadan through our communities and families, I know this to be a festive time – a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But I also know that Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection – a time when Muslims fast during the day and perform tarawih prayers at night, reciting and listening to the entire Koran over the course of the month.
These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.
For instance, fasting is a concept shared by many faiths – including my own Christian faith – as a way to bring people closer to God, and to those among us who cannot take their next meal for granted. And the support that Muslims provide to others recalls our responsibility to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build – and the changes that we want to make – must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities.
This summer, people across America have served in their communities – educating children, caring for the sick, and extending a hand to those who have fallen on hard times. Faith-based organizations, including many Islamic organizations, have been at the forefront in participating in this summer of service. And in these challenging times, this is a spirit of responsibility that we must sustain in the months and years to come.
Beyond America’s borders, we are also committed to keeping our responsibility to build a world that is more peaceful and secure. That is why we are responsibly ending the war in Iraq. That is why we are isolating violent extremists while empowering the people in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we are unyielding in our support for a two-state solution that recognizes the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security. And that is why America will always stand for the universal rights of all people to speak their mind, practice their religion, contribute fully to society and have confidence in the rule of law.
All of these efforts are a part of America’s commitment to engage Muslims and Muslim-majority nations on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. And at this time of renewal, I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world.
Jewish groups are interpreting the new document to mean that the bishops see interfaith dialogue as an opportunity to invite Jews to become Catholic, AP religion writer Rachel Zoll writes.
In a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jewish leaders say they do not object to Christians sharing their faith, but warn dialogue with Jews becomes "untenable" if its goal is to persuade Jews to accept Christ as their savior. The signers were the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and rabbis representing Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews.
"A declaration of this sort is antithetical to the very essence of Jewish-Christian dialogue as we have understood it," they wrote in the letter Thursday.
Their protest is the latest in a series raised by Jewish leaders during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Jews were angered in 2007 when Benedict endorsed a long marginalized version of the Latin Mass that included a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, and again earlier this year when the Vatican rescinded the excommunication of a Holocaust denier.
The latest episode stems from a statement issed by the bishops in June to clarify a 2002 document that they said mistakenly played down the importance of sharing the Gospel and was therefore misleading.
"While the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate," Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of a bishops' committee on doctrine, told the AP. He had said the revisions affirmed statements from the Holy See.
As Zoll writes, the tensions are rooted in a complex theological debate about salvation for those outside the Catholic Church. Discussion of the issue between Jews and Catholics focuses on the significance of the ancient covenant between God and the Jews.
Pope John Paul II had spoken repeatedly of a covenant "never revoked." Many Jewish groups view the bishops' statement as stepping back from the pope's position.
We had been wanting look at the relationship between Baltimore's Jewish community and Ashkelon, the southern Israeli seaport that it adopted five years ago as a twin city, and we saw our opportunity with the visit of Tal Bouhnik and Liron Menashe, who are now finishing their year representing the Jewish state here in the United States.
The Shinshinim program that brought the two 19-year-olds here is one of several links between Baltimore and Ashkelon. Thousands of Baltimoreans have traveled to Ashkelon in the last five years for cultural exchanges, service projects, business or tourism; hundreds of Ashkelonians have visited Baltimore. The local community has contributed nearly $8 million to the Israeli city, including rapid assistance during the conflict with Gaza in the form of emergency vehicles, workshops for adults under stress and toys for children in shelters.
Megrahi was released Thursday by Scottish authorities on humanitarian grounds. He was diagnosed last year with advanced prostate cancer; he recently was given months to live.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the release was motivated by Scottish values to show mercy.
"Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade," MacAskill said, according to the Associated Press. "Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive ... However, Mr. al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power."
Megrahi, the only suspect convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, continues to protest his innocence. As the AP describes it, his 2001 conviction was based largely on the testimony of a shopkeeper who identified him as having bought a man's shirt in his store in Malta; Scraps of the garment were later found wrapped around a timing device discovered in the wreckage of the airliner. Critics of the conviction question the reliability of the store owner's evidence; to many in Libya and some in the West, Megrahi is an innocent scapegoat.
"I say in the clearest possible terms, which I hope every person in every land will hear — all of this I have had to endure for something that I did not do," he said in a statement on his release. "To those victims' relatives who can bear to hear me say this, they continue to have my sincere sympathy for the unimaginable loss that they have suffered."
Nonetheless, U.S. officials urged their Scottish counterparts against the release, and President Obama called it "a mistake."
The Post story includes comment from Anastasios Vrenios, 68, a singing teacher in Northwest Washington, and Stephanie Bernstein, 58, a Bethesda rabbi. Shapira writes that Vrenios, whose son Nicholas was a passenger on Flight 103, is "unbothered" by Megrahi's releaase.
Vrenios said the terrorist merits a special mercy because of his grave prognosis; continued imprisonment does nothing to eradicate terrorism, he argues.
“I am thinking as a decent human being,” Vrenios said. “Let the man go and die in his own country — he’s dying anyhow. I am not going to say: ‘How dare you? Let’s go blow his head off.’ It’s the ill that has to be cured, and that’s a far more serious matter. I am just so disillusioned by man and the kind of thing he can resort to in this world.”
Shapira reports that Bernstein, whose husband, Michael, also was killed in the attack, worries that the release violates both a biblical sense of justice and a promise made by the court system that convicted Megrahi.
Bernstein has been tracking Megrahi’s case for weeks, trying to persuade the Obama administration to strongarm the Scottish government to keep Megrahi imprisoned.
“Releasing him sends the wrong message,” she said. “It will be seen by [Libyan president] Col. Moammar Gaddafi as a sign of weakness. If we don’t try to work towards a just world, what good is this release?”
I've been wondering myself about these questions. Many of the passengers of Flight 103 were American students returning home for Christmas after spending the fall semester abroad; they included several students from my college and another from my hometown. What does mercy dictate in this case?
This just in: Reality show villainess Omarosa Manigault Stallworth, late of The Apprentice, Celebrity Apprentice and The Surreal Life, has entered the seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She plans to study for a doctorate in ministry.
On her first day this week, the Dayton Daily News reports, United Theological Seminary President Wendy Deichmann offered her the gift of a mustard seed – an allusion to the Biblical passage in which Jesus likens the tiny seed to the Kingdom of God.
"Very few people have faith in my transformation, so this is a wonderful gift," the newspaper quoted her as saying. The News reports that she is taking classes in the Old and New testaments and the History of Christianity, and will be required to minister to the sick and dying at hospitals.
A classmate, meanwhile, told the News that he supports Manigault Stallworth’s effort. "People need to know that she is as sincere and as authentic as anyone I've known who's taken this journey," said classmate F. Willis Johnson Jr.
We weren't familiar with the work of ApologetiX, but the press release that hit our inbox this week struck us as fairly amusing.
“ApologetiX is best described as ’Weird Al’ Yankovic meets Billy Graham," says lead singer J.Jackson, who writes parody lyrics to hits from the 1950s through today. "We appeal to both the Christian and secular audiences. I think we’re the only band that’s been featured on the radio shows of both Billy Graham and Howard Stern, not to mention ‘The 700 Club’ and ‘The Dr. Demento Show.’”
The hard-touring Christian parody band is scheduled to appear Sept. 4 at the Tent in Bel Air. According to the release, the six-piece group will play 40 states this year. From the release:
ApologetiX’s repertoire covers the gamut of rock and roll from Elvis to today’s artists, with an occasional rap or country song thrown in for good measure. Metallica’s 'Enter Sandman' becomes 'Enter Samson.' John Cougar Mellencamp’s 'Jack and Diane' becomes 'Iraq & Iran.' Green Day’s 'The Boulevard of Broken Dreams' becomes 'The Boulevard of Both Extremes.' The Eagles’ 'Life in the Fast Lane' becomes 'Life in the Last Days.' "
A look through the group's discography suggests no one is safe: The 2006 album Wordplay include parodies of "Somebody Told Me" by the Killers, which is fronted by Mormon singer Brandon Flowers, and "Vertigo," by the occasionally overtly Christian band U2.
Updated, with comment from Lenny's Owner Alan Smith
The Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore have finalized their purchase of the Lenny’s Delicatessen property on Corned Beef Row, but the landmark restaurant will continue on the site for at least a while yet.
Lenny's Owner Alan Smith has told Sun colleague Elizabeth Large that he has signed a five-year lease to continue at the East Lombard Street property, and when the time comes to leave, he plans to stay "on or around Corned Beef Row." (Note: In a press release on Thursday, the Jewish Museum of Maryland said it was a three-year lease.)
Ultimately, the Jewish Museum of Maryland hopes to have raised the money necessary to build a new wing on the parcel, museum spokeswoman Simone Ellin said.
Lenny’s opened in Owings Mills in 1985 and added the East Lombard Street location in 1991, according to a history posted on its Web site.
The $1.5 million purchase was funded by a grant from the Herbert Bearman Foundation. The Jewish Museum of Maryland is dedicated to the interpretation of the Jewish experience in America with special attention to the collection, preservation, and study of Jewish life in Maryland.
“The Associated is excited about our purchase of the property adjacent to the Jewish Museum,” Associated President Marc B. Terrill said. “This is an opportunity to increase The Associated and the Museum’s presence in downtown Baltimore and to expand programs and services to our constituents living in the area.”
Over at beliefnet, Kris Rasmussen sees reason to hope in the recently released NFL star’s interview Sunday with 60 minutes.
“It seems part of Vick's character rehab plan as designated by the NFL and the [Philadelphia] Eagles is for Vick to have a long term-mentor and as an outspoken Christian [former Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony] Dungy has agreed to take on that role,” Rasmussen writes. “Dungy had met with Vick when he was still in prison and In a recent interview, Dungy has said that Vick has told him that he realizes he needs ‘to get closer to the Lord’ and that is why the former coach has committed to continue to work with Vick.”
The former Atlanta Falcon was sentenced in November 2007 to 23 months in prison for his role in an interstate dogfighting ring. He was released to home confinement in May and conditionally reinstated by the NFL in July. He signed with the Eagles last week.
“Lots of folks suddenly find God while in prison," Rasmussen writes. "Many a celebrity has found Jesus as part of a smart p.r. move. So it is absolutely fair for the general public to be skeptical and to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude with Vick. At the same time, after watching that ‘60 Minutes’ interview, I found myself thankful for Dungy's example of compassion and wisdom by stepping into a volatile situation and attempting to lead someone to redemption -- without hesitation or skepticism.”
The number of inquiries into the Sisters of Bon Secours, who have their U.S. headquarters in Marriottsville, “shot up” from 199 in 2007 to 263 last year, the Catholic Review reports. Sister Patricia Dowling, vocation director for the international congregation of women religious, credits the use of Web sites, blogs and the social networking sites Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
“It’s good to take advantage of the technology because we’re trying to increase the visibility of religious and priests,” Dowling tells the archdiocesan newspaper. “We’re planting seeds and getting the word out that the religious life and the priesthood is alive and well. You can’t choose what you don’t know about.”
The information appears in a story about Patricia Dooley, a 51-year-old former journalist who entered the Sisters of Bon Secours last week.
“I felt at home with the sisters,” Dooley says. “I decided, I’ll take the step until God is no longer asking me to move forward. I never felt like I was to stop.”
Eight women have joined the sisters in the last five years, the Catholic Review reports. The have ranged in age from the early 30s to the late 50s.
“People of all ages are exploring the religious life,” Dowling says. “Older women are discovering that even though they have done it all, they still have a lot more to give and are searching to use their gifts in different ways.”
Archbishop Edwin O'Brien continues to draw comment following his address to the U.S. Strategic Command last month calling for steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The latest example is a glowing profile in the National Catholic Reporter.
"Bishops can be classified lots of ways, from the canonical (coadjutor, auxiliary, etc.) to the political (liberal, moderate or conservative)," the piece by John L. Allen Jr. begins. "For those inclined to creativity, however, here’s a novel bit of taxonomy: The “Only Nixon could go to China” bishop, meaning a prelate able to say or do paradigm-changing things because nobody can question his credentials as a loyal man of the church."
The story, entitled "Baltimore's O'Brien draws respect across party lines," continues:
Increasingly, America’s premier example is Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, a no-nonsense champion of Catholic doctrine and discipline, and someone who, in the words of Baltimore native and Catholic writer George Weigel, “would happily take a bullet for the church.” Consider how O’Brien has spent that capital:
Veteran leader in seminary formation and a rock-solid theological conservative, O’Brien has demanded greater transparency and accountability from the Legionaries of Christ despite the order’s image as a favorite of the late Pope John Paul II.
A former West Point chaplain and military archbishop with a hawkish reputation, O’Brien recently strode into the heart of the military establishment at the United States Strategic Command in Omaha, insisting upon the elimination of nuclear weapons.
A one-time proponent of the death penalty, O’Brien now champions abolition -- talking about his conversion in a way that has prompted “soul-searching” among even the most conservative legislators, according to Mary Ellen Russell of the Maryland Catholic Conference. He’s also spoken passionately in defense of immigrants.
Delivered by someone else, these messages might be dismissed as liberal rants. Coming from O’Brien, they pack more punch -- in part because, as Fr. Tom Hurst, rector of the Sulpician-run St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and a longtime friend, says, “the words ‘O’Brien’ and ‘liberal’ don’t go in the same sentence.”
“Robert Novak, the conservative columnist whose scoops broke many a career, made his reputation as a journalist by being unafraid to attack his ideological brethren,” the piece by Ron Kampeas begins. “The same dynamic underlay the contentious and at times ugly relationship he had with fellow Jews.”
Kampeas writes that Novak had a ‘distaste for robust Judaism” and says “his attacks on the pro-Israel community repeatedly veered into the conspiratorial. And there’s an interesting passage on his faith journey:
Novak was born to Jewish parents, but said he never felt particularly connected to the faith. "The family was not very observant," he told CNN in 2005, describing his upbringing in Joliet, Ill.
"My father had never been bar mitzvahed and his father was not a very good Jew, but I was bar mitzvahed," Novak said.
He cooperated in 2003 with the Washingtonian magazine in a feature about his conversion to Roman Catholicism five years earlier, and said that although he joined a Jewish fraternity in college, he was turned off by Judaism.
"I found the same thing in Judaism as a young boy as I did later in the Unitarian Church and then at the Episcopal Church," he said. "They seemed very ungodly. The clergymen seemed very secular."
Following his conversion, U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) reportedly quipped, “Well, we’ve now made Bob a Catholic. The question is, can we make him a Christian?”
The story illustrates a general rule I articulated in Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. While non-Jews who convert to Judaism often come from seriously religious Christian backgrounds, Jews who adopt Christianity nowadays almost without exception are people who never connected with Judaism educationally and/or emotionally. They convert from ignorance, from innocence. This wasn't always true -- it used to be that Jewishly educated Jews not infrequently converted whether from fear or ambition. But today, in the absence of such motives, it almost never happens.
The Waldorf man, a Polish Jew who was arrested in 1941, describes hard labor and starvation at Auschwitz. He says he doesn't know why he didn't follow fellow prisoners who killed themselves by running into the electric fence that enclosed the camp.
Now he is waiting to hear whether he will be approved for the check from the German Ghetto Workers Fund, established by the German government in 2007 to distribute money to camp survivors who have not participated in other compensation programs. If he gets the money, he says, he will donate it to The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"For going through [ the Holocaust], 2,000 is not a big deal," he told Jones. "This is not for my enjoyment. I just don't want to leave the money for [the government]."
Bethel A.M.E. Church, the large, predominantly African-American congregation that has been holding Christian worship services in a synagogue since a July 1 lightning strike damaged its historic building, plans to head back home next week.
The church is set to return to the landmark sanctuary at 1300 Druid Hill Ave. in time for Holy Convocation, the annual event with which it welcomes members back at the end of summer, spokeswoman Crystal Lowe said. The four-day event, which includes guest speakers, financial seminars and a lunchtime "Hour of Power" daily, is scheduled for Aug. 24 through 27.
The first communion service is set for Sunday, Aug. 30 -- less than two months after the church sustained fire and water damage in the lightning strike.
Church members held their first Sunday services after the strike at Pier Six Pavilion in the Inner Harbor. The next week, Senior Pastor The Rev. Dr. Frank M. Reid III and Rabbi Steven M. Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom announced that the church would hold future services at the synagogue on Park Heights Avenue.
Amid scenes of rancor between politicians and voters at public forums on health care reform in Maryland and nationwide, one local Evangelical congregation is planning a town hall meeting of its own.
Organizers say the session Thursday at Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium will focus on the question of "how to navigate the health-care proposals as a Christ-follower." From the church Web site:
With all the "noise" out there about health care, it's hard to know how to respond.
We'll talk about the issue from a different perspective: How to navigate the health-care proposals as a Christ-follower.
This is not a politically driven agenda, and instead will be a conversation navigated by Danny O'Brien. Danny has years of experience in the health care industry.
Bring your concerns and thoughts, and we'll all talk about this issue in a constructive manner. See you there!
The session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the church at 9505 Deereco Road. More information, from an e-mail promoting the event, after the jump:
You may have seen the health care town halls on television, and wondered how one makes sense of all that is being said. Because this matter is pertinent on so many levels, we hope it will serve you to facilitate a dialogue.
The purpose is two-fold: first, health care is a complex matter, and it is helpful to untangle the issues and proposals together. Unfortunately, the tone of the current debate is such that there are a lot of exaggerated claims.
Secondly, and more importantly, we want to talk together about the biblical principles that can help us navigate these issues in a way that would demonstrate His love and character. The political environment has the potential to be toxic; there is a "more excellent way."
Two years after coming to Baltimore, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien will move into his official residence on North Charles Street this fall, the archdiocese announced today. Cardinal William H. Keeler, who hosted Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa at the Greek revival building adjacent to the Baltimore Basilica, will be moving to a Catholic retirement community in Baltimore County.
“Like the Basilica, the Archbishop’s Residence is a spiritual treasure for our Church and our city,” O’Brien, who has been living in an apartment in North Baltimore owned by the Sulpicians, said in a statement.
“The Cardinal has done much to preserve and advance that history and I look forward to following his example as visitors and guests will continue to be welcomed at the residence to share this living symbol of our Catholic heritage.”
The building has served as the official home of Baltimore’s archbishop since it was built in 1829, according to the archdiocese. It is believed to be the oldest archbishop’s residence in the United States.
The building was used for planning meetings for the church’s early provincial councils, regular meetings of the nation’s archbishops and diplomatic receptions, according to the archdiocese. Other noteworthy visitors included U.S. President Andrew Johnson and former Confederacy President Jefferson Davis in 1866.
Keeler, 78, served as the archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007. He said in a statement that he had been “overwhelmed by the goodness of people who have reached out and offered assistance to me during this time of transition.”
The advertisement is sleek and subtle, surfacing on the upper right side of the St. Petersburg Times' Web site, tampabay.com.
The text floats onto the screen: "Love" then "Hate" then "What is the answer?"
The final display comes in a flash of light: "Scientology.org."
It's a small spot, rotating among a lineup of online ads that includes commercials for Radio Shack and BlackBerry. But it has drawn some attention, partly because the newspaper has published several stories recently featuring serious allegations involving the Church of Scientology and its top leaders.
Why is the embattled church giving advertising dollars to a media organization publishing damning allegations against it? Deggans writes that Scientology officials did not return calls requesting comment.
Obama continues Bush initiative, under media radar
In his first months in office, President Barack Obama has continued key elements of the faith-based initiative, established by President George W. Bush to broaden the role of religious and other organizations in the delivery of social services. But a new study of newspaper coverage finds that Obama’s continuation of the once-controversial effort has generated little of the contentious coverage that greeted Bush’s effort.
The report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which examined coverage in eight national and regional newspapers in 2001 and 2009, finds also that the program is not as closely associated with the current president as it was with his predecessor.
Among the key findings, according to the report:
Coverage of the faith-based initiative was almost 50% more likely to be on the front page of newspapers in 2001 than in 2009. In the first half of 2001, 15% of the stories - 43 stories in total - appeared on the front page. In the first half of 2009, that number dropped to 10%, or only five stories.
Issues related to the separation of church and state were the top concern in the press in 2001. Fully 40% of the newspaper coverage focused on whether the initiative violated this constitutional line. In 2009, the top controversy in the coverage analyzed was the unresolved faith-based hiring issue. More than a third of the stories (36%) dealt with this debate.
In each year studied, Christianity was referenced nearly as often as Judaism and Islam combined. In total, the Christian faith was directly referenced in 32% of the stories. This was followed by references to Judaism and Islam, at 21% and 15%, respectively.
In both years, newspaper coverage of the faith-based initiative was often a Washington-focused story. Of all the articles analyzed, 56% carried Washington, D.C., datelines, while no other single city came close.
The conservative radio host has drawn condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and the Simon Weisenthal Center for a lengthy bit in which he compared “the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in German.”
“Well, the Nazis were against big business,” Limbaugh said. “They hated big business and, of course, we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years of mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn.”
Jewish Democrats have pressured House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, a Jewish Republican from Virginia who has said the GOP needs Limbaugh, to repudiate his comments. But some Jewish Republicans say a Democratic congressman should also be held accountable for bringing “brown shirts” into the debate over healthcare reform.
Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington state Democrat, had said he would not be holding public meetings with constituents during the August recess out of concern for the possibility of being ambushed by critics of healthcare reform, who have disrupted other such events.
“What we’re seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics,” Baird told the Columbian of Vancouver, Wash. “I mean that very seriously.”
According to Fingerhut, the controversy “underscores the degree to which Jewish organizations continue to lose ground in their fight to keep partisans on all sides from demonizing their political opponents as Nazis.”
In Emmitsburg on Aug. 30, the Daughters of Charity and the Seton Club of Harrisburg, Pa., will observe Elizabeth Ann Seton's 235th birthday with a Mass and celebration.
The Mass, to be celebrated by the Michael J. Kennedy, is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Basilica at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. The celebration, to follow in the Sisters Courtyard, will include balloons, snow cones, birthday cake and face painting.
Special honor will be paid to women and girls named Elizabeth Ann or Elizabeth, who are invited to join in a special procession and encouraged to register at the Shrine Visitor Center between 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m.
Visitors may tour the Seton Shrine on the grounds of the Provincial House of the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors may tour the Visitor Center, the Basilica and the Seton Shrine Museum as well as historic buildings that date back to Mother Seton's lifetime including the Stone House, where she first lived and the White House in which she opened the first free school for girls in the United States on February 22, 1810.
Her legacy includes six religious communities with more than 5,000 members and several schools, social service centers, and hospitals throughout the world. in 1975, she became the first native-born American to be canonized.
Organizers are looking for alumni of Father Kolbe and St. Casimir schools in advance of a reunion scheduled for next month – part of an effort to bolster the century-old program amid news of Catholic school cutbacks and closings elsewhere.
Father Kolbe School in Canton officially became St. Casimir Catholic School in July. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has returned the management of the K-8 program back to the Faith Community of St. Casimir.
From a release sent our way by the Rev. Ross Syracuse:
Plans are in full swing for the St. Casimir/Fr. Kolbe School 2nd Annual Alumni Reunion scheduled for Sunday, September 20, 2009. The celebration revolves around Catechetical Sunday which is a kind of official kick-off of the educational programs for many parishes.
The day begins with Mass at 10:00 AM at St. Casimir. This will be followed by an Open House at St. Casimir Catholic School. The attendees will then move on to Della Rose's Restaurant (Clinton Street) for an Outdoor Barbeque from 12:00 to 2:00 PM.
Plans are to make the reunion an annual event. The newly formed school board is asking alumni to contact the parish office at 410-276-1981 or the school at 410-342-2681 to update their contact information and/or pass along contact information for classmates.
Jackie Wolff wept as she recalled the chaotic night she was ordered to stand at a microphone in the mess hall and confess her "crimes" in front of 300 fellow workers, many jeering and heckling her.
Gary Morehead dredged up his recollection of Scientology leader David Miscavige punishing venerable church leaders by forcing them to live out of tents for days, wash with a garden hose and use an open latrine.
Steve Hall replayed his memory of a meeting when Miscavige grabbed the heads of two church executives and knocked them together. One came away with a bloody ear.
Mark Fisher remembered precisely what he told Miscavige after the punches stopped and Fisher touched his head, looked at his palm and saw blood.
A church spokesman called the new defectors' accounts of physical abuse "false and categorically denied." The church also rejected the claims of the first four defectors.
"Yet now 15 former Sea Org members have gone on the record with their stories of abuse during years of working at or near the church's top management. ...
"As more people who have escaped the grip of the Church of Scientology come forward to tell their stories, the secrecy that has been a hallmark of the church's internal operations is being stripped away. The truth is that this organization abuses people to advance its quest to become a global force, and even the church's ever-present public relations machine cannot put a pretty face on that."
Shaukat Malik is a Muslim-American Certified Public Accountant from Potomac. He left his native Pakistan in 1972 and has been living in the United States since 1980.
Religous laws supporting Taliban ideology must be amended in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The so-called Hadood ordinance to enforce Sharia in Pakistan, and certain laws incorporated into the Afghanistan constitution -- especially those relating to family laws and women -- provide the Taliban the opportunity to use these laws as part of their manifesto for setting up an Islamic kingdom run by a caliph.
Sharia/Hadood laws in Pakistan, if fully enforced, are not very different from what the Taliban are prescribing. Both restrict minority and women's rights and are biased in favor of men when it involves matters concerning divorce & polygamy.
Religous and right-wing parties in Pakistan are sitting on the fence for political gain when it comes to dealing with extremists living in Madrassas all over Pakistan. Time has come for the Pakistan Peoples Party, which enjoys a majority in parliament, to repeal the Hadood ordinance promulgated under false pretence by a military dictator. This will have the powerful effect of forcing extremist/Taliban sympathizers to come out in the open, should they opt to oppose this legislation under the "Burqa" of 1,400-year old Sharia law.
Without doing this, the environment for viable economic activity cannot be created and the Taliban, as direct decedents of the "Mujahidin heroes" who fought the Soviet infidel, will continue to destroy humanity on both sides of the border.
The legislative action should be accompanied by a sweep of all madrassas in Pakistan and the arrest and removal of Taliban/extremists hiding with the help of fascist clerics. In addition, all madrassas should be converted to regular schools by incorporation into the district education system.
It is not possible to kill all Taliban without removing their support system. Using drug production for pharmaceutical use, creating jobs and denying them safe haven in madrsassas will cut out their supply of new recruits.
For what it's worth, I have never met any of those ensnared in the money-laundering scandal in Deal, NJ and Brooklyn, NY. Nonetheless, it's always embarrassing when you have a scandal involving several rabbis. Clergy are supposed to do better, right?
Of course, you have the defenders coming forward and pointing out that they were trying to help their institutions rather than personal gain, or even doing a favor for a guy who'd fallen on hard times -- only to learn the hard way that he was an FBI informant. All of that will come out in court, and it's pretty unlikely that some of them will see any significant time behind bars.
But all that doesn't matter. Clergy are supposed to do better.
Less than two years ago, there was a similar scandal involving a group of schools and institutions run by a Chassidic Rebbe in California. And he, having pled guilty to significant crimes, will likely begin serving his sentence shortly.
At a hastily-arranged seminar in business ethics early this week, this Rebbe made a surprise appearance. He offered no defenses, no justification for what happened. On the contrary, he admitted that what he did was wrong, what his organizations and people did was wrong, and must never happen again.
And he also took another step forward. He disclosed that together with a team of lawyers and accountants, his institutions had created a compliance plan to ensure that it would never happen again -- that everything done would be completely above board. And he publicly offered to share that plan with others.
The Bible tells us that a judge may not take any sort of bribe, because "bribery blinds the eyes of those with clear vision, and distorts the words of the righteous" (Exodus 23:8). When you or your chosen cause stand to benefit, there is a temptation to look the other way. It doesn't matter who you are or your chosen calling -- the Bible says it's human nature. G-d tells us that clarity of vision, intelligence, and decades of honest and upright behavior will not provide foolproof protection. It's not that your accountant is inherently more honest; it's that your accountant doesn't stand to benefit, and is able to appraise the situation with an unbiased eye.
In the wake of something like this, we all need to look seriously at our own situations, just to be sure that an impartial third party is there to give us the hard advice that we may not want to hear.
Matthew Hay Brown writes and blogs about faith and values in public and private life for The Baltimore Sun. A former Washington correspondent for the newspaper, he has long written about the intersection of religion and politics. He has reported from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, traveling most recently to Syria and Jordan to write about the Iraqi refugee crisis.