RAP Sheet

U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Immigrant Children

posted on July 23, 2014

In The New York Times, Michael Paulson writes, “America’s response to the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant children, many of them fleeing violence and exploitation in Central America, has been symbolized by an angry pushback from citizens and local officials … But around the nation an array of religious leaders are trying to mobilize support for the children, saying the nation can and should welcome them.” This “backlash to the backlash,” Paulson reports, is widespread among faith leaders—including normally conservative evangelicals and Catholics, who consider this a moral crisis, not a political one.

Read at The New York Times

How Orthodox Agudah and Wal-Mart Money United To Back School Vouchers

posted on July 23, 2014

“The largest donor to the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America is a Christian family from Arkansas,” Josh Nathan-Kazis writes in The Jewish Daily Forward.  The Walton Family Foundation, run by descendants of the late Wal-Mart founder and Presbyterian Sam Walton, incorporated the Agudah into its network of organizations fighting for conservative school reform in 2008. The unlikely partnership has since proved mutually beneficial, Nathan-Kazis reports, as the Agudah promotes voucher systems and public funding for religious schools and receives substantial donations from the Foundation in return.

Read at The Forward

The State Department’s Twitter Jihad

posted on July 23, 2014

In Politico Magazine, Jacob Silverman reports on the U.S. State Department’s efforts to fight terrorists’ dominance of social media. Under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the office began engaging in “twenty-first-century statecraft,” taking to Twitter and other social sites to try and undermine the hold that organizations like ISIL have on young minds. This could be a brilliant way of engaging, Silverman writes. “But State’s messages usually arrive with all the grace of someone’s dad showing up at a college party”—that is to say, the State Department is losing the Twitter war.

Read at Politico Magazine

Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

posted on July 23, 2014

David R. Wheeler reports at The Atlantic that many Protestant churches are cutting back on full-time positions as church attendance and giving decrease, making hopeful ministers take on multiple jobs in order to make a living. For rural pastors of small congregations, Wheeler reports, working multiple jobs has never been unusual; but for seminary grads with thousands in debt, the trend is problematic. “What’s new is the across-the-board increase in bi-vocational ministry in Protestant denominations both large and small,” Wheeler writes, “which has effectively shut down one pathway to a stable—if humble—middle-class career.”

Read at The Atlantic

Inside Rand Paul’s Jewish Charm Offensive

posted on July 22, 2014

In The National Journal, Shane Goldmacher reports on Senator Rand Paul’s efforts to reach and persuade the Jewish community as part of his presidential campaign strategy. Paul’s “charm offensive” involves pushing pro-Israel policy and creating tight relationships with generous Jewish donors and important Jewish voters, though his apparently isolationist foreign policy (and wariness of his family name) works against him. As Goldmacher puts it, “He may not win them over, but not losing them could be enough.”

Read at The National Journal

The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan—and Watched it Crumble

posted on July 21, 2014

In The New Republic, Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon have penned an investigative report on Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts over the past year to achieve a comprehensive Israel-Palestine peace plan. Between March 2013 and April 2014, Kerry led a long round of peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Although they appeared to make a fair amount of progress, the talks ultimately collapsed in April, leading to further pessimism regarding the prospects for reaching a long-term solution in the near future. Avi Dichter, the former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency, said, “The American effort will always be multiplied by the amount of trust between the two leaders. So if Kerry’s pressure represents the number five, and then Obama’s helps bring the American effort to ten, it really doesn’t matter. You’re still multiplying it by zero. The final result will always be zero.”

Read at The New Republic

Are Gay Rights and Religious Liberty Compatible?

posted on July 21, 2014

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball reports on the current debates around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a potential religious exemption to the law, which would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by federal contractors. After the Hobby Lobby decision, which exempted some corporations from covering contraception, religious groups–including progressive ones–and LGBT-focused groups have clashed over the question of whether President Obama should include a similar exemption in his nondiscrimination executive order, raising fears that the issue could drive a more permanent wedge between gay rights supporters and religious groups. “The religious exemption debate has now been polarized to the point where people are saying, ‘All or nothing,’” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy for the center-left think tank Third Way. “The narrative that’s now beginning to form is that Democrats are against religion. It’s not true and it’s very dangerous.”

Read at The Atlantic

Neighborhood Ravaged on Deadliest Day for Both Sides in Gaza

posted on July 21, 2014

In The New York Times, Anne Barnard and Isabel Kersher report on the ongoing ground offensive being waged by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. On Sunday, the fighting was concentrated in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in Gaza City where at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Overall, Sunday was the deadliest day in the conflict so far. “We are not deterred,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a televised address. “We will continue to operate as long as necessary.”

Read at The New York Times

States of the Union

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

Maine

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By Brook Wilensky-Lanford

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THE TABLE

A setting to debate the issues of the day.

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

How Should We Teach the Bible in Public Schools?

By Mark A. Chancey

The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools

By Annie Laurie Gaylor

We Must Teach about Religion in High Schools

By Joseph Laycock

To Teach or Not to Teach?

By Cynthia N. Dunbar

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