RAP Sheet

Rabbi David Saperstein Tapped as First Non-Christian to Serve as U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom

posted on July 29, 2014

At Religion News Service, Lauren Markoe and Brian Pellot report that Rabbi David Saperstein has been tapped by President Obama to become the next U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom. Politically liberal, with a long career of advocating for social justice and religious freedom, Saperstein is the first non-Christian to hold the position. “As ambassador, the man named as the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine in 2009 will head the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, and will be tasked with monitoring religious freedom abuses around the world,” the authors write.

Read at Religion News Service

Asylum Politics

posted on July 29, 2014

In Texas Monthly, Sonia Smith reports on a group of Sikhs currently detained at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center in El Paso, TX. Many of the Sikhs faced persecution in India and have been kept imprisoned for months due to a congressionally mandated “bed quota,” international politics, and a desire to stem the flow of Asian immigrants. Frustrated, the group staged a hunger strike in April for asylum, Smith reports. Only two strikers have been paroled.

Read at Texas Monthly

Pagan High Priest Finds Few Believers Inside an Arkansas City Hall

posted on July 29, 2014

In The New York Times, Richard Fausset covers Bertram Dahl’s quest to open a Pagan temple next to his house in Beebe, Arkansas. Complicating Dahl’s desire for a temple is his contentious relationship with a Pentecostal church across the street and wariness on the part of Beebe’s large Christian population, as well as a more secular obstacle: city law. Mayor Mike Robertson argues that a temple in Dahl’s backyard would violate zoning codes; for his part, Fausset writes, “Mr. Dahl suspects the city government began discriminating against him once local officials realized he was a Pagan.”

Read at The New York Times

Appeals Court Upholds Decision Overturning Virginia’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

posted on July 29, 2014

“A federal appeals court on Monday struck down Virginia’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying that withholding the fundamental right to marry from gay couples is a new form of ‘segregation’ that the Constitution cannot abide,” Robert Barnes and Jenna Portnoy write in The Washington Post. The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a decision by a lower court, the authors report, adding to the consistent stream of successful challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.

Read at The Washington Post

For Muslims in New York, Observing Ramadan is a Blend of Rituals Far and Near

posted on July 24, 2014

In The New York Times, Kiran Nazish reports on the observance of Ramadan by New York City’s estimated 600,000 to one million Muslims. During Ramadan, which runs from June 28 to July 28 this year, observant Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. In many Middle Eastern countries, offices and schools close around midday and the prayers and post-sunset meals are often communal, an atmosphere is missing in New York. “Everyone back home fasts and huddles together to the mosques, praying together. Yes, I miss that,” Mohab Sewilam, a Muslim lunch cart owner in New York, said. But, he added, “I now have a little home here in New York that I can enjoy with my community.”

Read at The New York Times

Fleeing Israeli Troops, Gaza Muslims Find Refuge in a Christian Church

posted on July 24, 2014

At The Daily Beast, Jesse Rosenfeld reports on the many Gaza Muslims who have sought refuge in Saint Porphyrios Church, the only Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City, in the wake of continued fighting in the area. Already, in 16 days of fightining, over 650 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed, and whole neighborhoods—including about 50 mosques—have been bombed by Israeli forces. Echoing the sentiments of many of the nearly 1,000 people seeking sanctuary at the church, Etadil al Saerky said, “It’s for Christians so it won’t be target.”

Read at The Daily Beast

And They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love

posted on July 24, 2014

At Slate, Sarah Stankorb reports on how disagreement over the proper treatment of LGBTQ individuals continues to divide the United Methodist Church. The issue, which has deeply split UMC congregations, has many individuals in the church calling for an amicable schism, so that each congregation can decide locally whether to join with progressive or conservative Methodists. According to Stankorb, however, any schism would endanger what makes the UMC special. She writes, “There is something radical about people coming together each week despite major differences of opinion and still calling one another brother and sister. Schism threatens that.”

Read at Slate

Nursing Home Evangelism: Preaching at the Last “Bus Stop to Eternity”

posted on July 24, 2014

At Religion News Service, Adelle Banks reports on the growing popularity of retirement and nursing homes as sites for evangelism, particularly among members of Revival Ministries International, a Christian evangelical group. Pastor Eric Gonyon, who works with the group, says that their evangelists have obtained more than 500,000 commitments and recommitments at retirement and nursing homes since 2007. “There’s no more ‘I’ll do it next year,’” said Rhonda Rowe, an experienced nursing-home evangelist and member of RMI. “There’s no more ‘I’ll decide about this in 10 years.’ This is it.”

Read at Religion News Service

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