Continuing a trend reaching back to the early 1990’s, Americans are “growing impatient with religious politicking,” reports G. Jeffrey MacDonald for Religion News Service. While “54 percent [of Americans] want houses of worship to keep out of politics,” that “doesn’t mean they plan to keep mum in the public square.” Faith remains integral in American politics and electoral decision-making, he notes, but churches and pastors at the pulpit may see a smaller role in the 2012 election.
“Dozens of Roman Catholic dioceses, schools and other institutions are suing the Obama administration” over the birth control mandate, Rachel Zoll reports for The Associated Press. Now taking legal action, the organizations’ efforts “represent the largest push against the mandate since President Barack Obama announced the policy in January.” Not satisfied when “Obama offered to soften the rule,” the religious organizations have decided to spearhead the fight against the mandate in “federal courts around the country.”
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley,” David Axelrod said Mitt Romney’s Mormonism was off-limits for the Obama campaign, according to Lisa Mascaro of The Los Angeles Times. “We’ve said that’s not fair game,” Axelrod said. Referring to an ad proposal targeting Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah wright, he added, “And we wish that Gov. Romney would stand up as strongly and as resolutely consistently to refute these kinds of things on his side.”
Defending Georgetown’s decision to invite Kathleen Sebelius to speak at a commencement ceremony, Maureen Dowd at The New York Times is disheartened by the reaction of the Catholic Church, her own faith tradition. “I always liked that the name of my religion was also an adjective meaning all-embracing,” she writes. “I was a Catholic and I wanted to be catholic.” She adds, “So it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic.” Seeing the Church as “intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting,” Dowd laments that “[r]ather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting.”
Matthew Cantirino, a Georgetown alumnus writing for First Things, gives a harsh critique of Georgetown and their decision to invite Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak at a commencement ceremony this past weekend. Saying that “the Sebelius invitation was absurd,” Cantirino calls the situation “absolutely heartbreaking.” He sees the invitation to Sebelius, a proponent of the birth control mandate and pro-choice policies, as “a kind of betrayal.”
At Tablet, Laura Silver chronicles the surprising effects of using meditation to “take a break from the computer screen and separate, at least a tiny bit, from the need to respond to everything at the speed of text.” Silver’s daily practice of meditation has not only allowed her to (briefly) disconnect from the demands of the digital age. Meditation has also reconnected Silver “to a Jewish community that I want to return to on a regular basis.”
Writing for Christianity Today, Tobin Grant reports how “the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorized by Congress Wednesday removes protections for immigrant women who are victims of violence.” Evangelicals are split on the issue. Those who oppose the law reject that it eliminates “a woman’s confidentiality—a husband would now be interviewed after his wife has filed for the visa to verify her accusations against him.” In a statement from the opposition, leaders wrote, “abusers often exploit a victim’s immigration status.” Conversely, “proponents of the new visa provisions see the changes as a way to stop potential immigration fraud.”
McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed writes on a new study from the Brookings Institution, which asked citizens about their knowledge on Mormonism and their willingness to vote for a Mormon candidate. While “American still know virtually nothing about Romney’s faith,” the study found “their opinions of the religion remain highly malleable.” This could be good news for the Romney campaign because “over the next six months, Americans are going to receive a widely-amplified education on Mormonism.” The study points out “that conservatives who were told about Romney’s faith were much more likely to support the candidate.”
“Tens of thousands” Orthodox Jewish men filled Citi Field in New York “to discuss the dangers of the Internet.” Reporting for The New York Times, Michael Grynbaum writes how the 40,000 men convened to hear about “the potential problems that can stem from access to pornography and other explicit content on the uncensored, often incendiary Web.” While “many attendees readily conceded that the Internet played a big role in their lives,” heated debate and “exhortations” to avoid the “filth” on the Internet filled the stadium.
At CNN, Charles Garcia uses the 508th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ death to investigate the possibility that the great Italian explorer was really a Jew. Among other historical oddities, Garcia points to the fact that Columbus “was originally going to sail on August 2, 1492, a day that happened to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples of Jerusalem.” Garcia writes that Columbus decided to leave the following day, in order “to avoid embarking on the holiday, which would have been considered by Jews to be an unlucky day to set sail.”