Religion News Service’s Lauren Markoe reports on a recently released pamphlet containing guidelines on bullying and religiously motivated free speech in public schools. A project supported by a range of groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the pamphlet’s intent is to help teachers and students differentiate between acts of unlawful intimidation and acts of speech protected by the First Amendment. One excerpt from the pamphlet reads, “Repeatedly bombarding a fellow student with otherwise protected speech [including proselytizing], even if it ostensibly conveys an idea, can … constitute harassment.”
The New York Times’ Susan Saulny explores the existential quandary that some black Mormons might face at the polling booth come November. With both a Mormon and an African American on the presidential ballot, some black Mormons—a group that up until 1978 was excluded from full membership in the Mormon Church—might feel a sense of mixed loyalties. Saunly found that whomever they vote for—including for Obama—these Mormons’ religious sensibilities will inform their political decisions.
On Wednesday, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Colin Powell came out in support of gay marriage. “I have no problems with it,” Powell said. “I don’t see any reason not to say that [same-sex couples] should be able to get married under the laws of their state or the laws of the country.”
At The Los Angeles Times, Amro Hassan provides a glimpse into Egypt’s polling stations, which are hosting the first truly contested presidential election in a generation. Several would-be voters have been hospitalized for heat exposure, and some have been treated for injuries resulting from “pushing and shoving” in the long lines that have formed outside schools and other governmental buildings during this two-day long election. Yet Hassan writes, “none of the discomfort accompanying this historic election … is deterring voters.”
Writing in The Boston Review, Michael Sandel poses a seemingly simple question: “are there some things that money should not be able to buy?” There are “the things that money can’t buy, and the things that money can buy but arguably shouldn’t,” he writes, in an article culled from his latest book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Sandel explores the world of blood donations and buying pre-written wedding toasts and finds how money can affect how we view things and how “sometimes market values crowd out non-market norms worth caring about.”
Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker criticizes the “Rickett’s Plan,” a proposal for a Republican Super PAC ad, news of which broke last week. The ad, which would have exploited Obama’s connection with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, made use of what Cobb sees as an out-of-date tool: “the Professional Black Friend.” By suggesting the ad employ an “extremely literate, conservative African American” as a spokesperson, the proposal shows its “myopic perspective on race.” Cobb writes: “In an age in which cynicism is the default setting for much of the public, the belief that a single black spokesperson can offer insulation from charges of racism is less than tenable.”
At The New Republic Ed Kilgore sees the campaign as a tug-of-war between Romney and the conservative base. Through November, Romney aims to keep the campaign rhetoric locked onto one key issue: the economy, Kilgore asserts. To Romney’s camp, “this election is purely and simply a referendum on Obama’s economy,” an issue that is “particularly attractive to swing voters.” Pushing back on the Romney campaign are social conservatives, who “want their ideological motivations to be reflected in the Romney campaign’s rhetoric.”
During reporter Isobel Coleman’s visit last week to Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah fired Sheikh Abdel Mohsen Obeikan, “one of the most popular Islamic leaders.” At The Atlantic, Coleman sees the dismissal as a symptom of a larger battle over women’s rights in the country. Many suspect Obeikan was removed over the “internal struggle to define the role of women in society.” Despite King Abdullah’s tight reign, Coleman asserts that “dissent over women’s status in society will remain at the heart of competing visions for the country.”
Unlike elsewhere in the world, archaeology in Israel holds center attention and “is followed with the same passion” of soccer in other countries, asserts Mordechai Beck at The Christian Century. “The problem is that another people – the Palestinians – have similar claims to the same land,” making the finding full of political meaning. Beck explores how objects and sites dating back to Biblical times instigate controversy and political disputes thousands of years later.
After Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng’s miraculous escape from “house arrest by jumping over a high wall and hiding out in a pig sty,” Pastor “Bob” Xiqiu Fu from Midland, Texas was “the first to know.” CNN’s Eric Marrapodi reports on Fu’s dealings with Chen and the efforts the former took to ensure the activist’s escape from China. Fu founded ChinaAid, a “Christian human rights organization that has been campaigning for Chen’s freedom.” When the House Foreign Affairs Committee met to discuss Chen’s escape, it was through Fu’s cell phone that Chen was contacted. At the center of the international drama was Fu, a pastor from Texas.