RAP Sheet

Religion Remains a Strong Marker of Political Identity in U.S.

posted on July 30, 2014

At Gallup, Frank Newport reports on a recent Gallup poll showing that with little exception, religion remains a strong predictor of political affiliation: “Very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and less frequently identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with those who are moderately or nonreligious.” This pattern has stayed true and stable for over six years, Newport reports, but both Democrats and Republicans would benefit from expanding their appeal to the more and less religious, respectively.

Read at Gallup

U.N. Agency: Israel Shelled Gaza School Sheltering Evacuees; 20 Reported Killed

posted on July 30, 2014

In The Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan, William Booth, and Ruth Eglash report, “Israeli artillery shells slammed into a U.N.-run school sheltering evacuees from the Gaza conflict early Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens of others as they slept,” adding to a death toll of over 1,270 Palestinians. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which ran the shelter, condemned the attack—one of six strikes on UNRWA facilities—as a violation of international law. Israel asserts that militants have stored rockets in some U.N. facilities, but has called for a partial afternoon cease-fire nonetheless.

Read at The Washington Post

In Church Attics, Clues to the Private Life of Early America

posted on July 30, 2014

In The New York Times, Michael Paulson reports on the efforts of James Fenimore Cooper Jr. and Margaret Bendroth, two historians attempting to collect the treasure troves of centuries-old historical material lying in storage in old churches. The challenge is in persuading church leaders to let Cooper and Bendroth take the documents, Paulson reports. “In some cases, churches are excited to do so. But for some of the churches, letting go of documents is difficult — the papers, even if brittle and faded, are a form of patrimony, like silver and pewter communion vessels, to be treasured.”

Read at The New York Times

Why Court Rejected Atheists’ Lawsuit Against Cross at Ground Zero

posted on July 30, 2014

At The Christian Science Monitor Warren Richey reports, “A federal appeals court in New York has rejected a challenge by an atheist group opposed to displaying a large steel cross in the museum at ground zero of the 2001 World Trade Center terror attacks.” American Atheists’ suit claimed that the cross, a piece of wreckage found by construction worker Frank Silecchia days after the attacks, promotes religion and violates separation of church and state. The court ruled that given its story, the cross is a historical monument that became an inclusive symbol of hope and comfort after the attacks.

Read at The Christian Science Monitor

Religious Conservatives Embrace Proposed E.P.A. Rules

posted on July 30, 2014

In The New York Times, Theodore Schleifer writes, “More than two dozen faith leaders, including evangelicals and conservative Christians, are expected to speak at the E.P.A. headquarters in Washington,” voicing support for proposed regulations on carbon pollution. While the Republican Party as a whole often questions the science behind climate change, support for environmental regulations by conservative faith leaders seems unusual. “But in recent years a number of well-known conservative religious groups have embraced global warming as a serious concern,” Schleifer writes—a concern for public health and the health of God’s creation.

Read at The New York Times

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

States of the Union

Writers tell us stories about where they discovered religion and politics in their states.


A Spiritual Frontier Opens for Business.

By Brook Wilensky-Lanford

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A setting to debate the issues of the day.

Should we teach religion in public schools? And if so, how?

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By Mark A. Chancey

The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools

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We Must Teach about Religion in High Schools

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