Religion News Service’s Omar Sacirbey reports that last week the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, ordered a review of the curriculum for courses on Islam taught to senior officers. The order came after several officers complained that course materials contained inaccurate and inflammatory information about Islam. Dempsey canceled a class entitled, “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” taught as an elective at the Joint Forces Staff College, after learning the course asserted Islam was at war with the west.
Last Friday, the White House released new guidelines on public/private partnerships between governmental agencies and faith-based groups, reports Adelle M. Banks. The director of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood partnerships, Joshua DuBois called the new guidelines “an important step” towards clarifying what religious-based social service organizations can do (e.g. display religious art, scriptures and other symbols in their facilities) without jeopardizing federal funding sources. Yet the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says these new guidelines fail to address critical questions, most notably whether faith-based groups can discriminate in their hiring and firing practices.
For the second time in a decade, New Hampshire Episcopalians may elect a gay man to become bishop of the state’s diocese. The senior associate rector at Boston’s Trinity Church, the Rev. William W. Rich, a gay married man, is one of three finalists the diocese’s search committee has nominated to replace the retiring Bishop Gene Robinson. In 2003, the election of Bishop Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, sparked an ongoing rift in the Anglican Communion, with many conservative Episcopal congregations splitting from the American church and joining Anglican churches in Africa.
Mitt Romney is beating President Barack Obama for the “very religious” vote (54 percent to 37 percent), so reports a new Gallup poll released last week. However Obama leads the Mormon Romney among “moderately religious” (54 percent to 40 percent) and “nonreligious” (61 percent to 30 percent) voters. During the GOP primary campaign, Romney lost the “very religious” vote to the conservative Catholic Rick Santorum. Self-described “very religious” voters make up half the electorate.
Praying Americans will find they have non-theistic company on the “National Day of Prayer,” scheduled for this Thursday. Religion News Service‘s Kimberly Winston reports, “The National Day of Reason—or ‘NDR’ in the shorthand of the nontheist community—will also be held May 3, part protest, part celebration and totally godless.”
On May 1, 1933, Dorothy Day and a handful of like-minded Catholics fanned out in New York City’s Union Square to sell the first edition of The Catholic Worker. Marking this 79th anniversary, The New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante profiles a few of Day’s spiritual descendants who, during the Great Recession, continue to live by the Catholic Worker’s ethos of creating “‘a new society in the shell of the old’—peace, less disparity of wealth, an end to economic exploitation, violence, racism.” Day’s newspaper, which is still sold on the streets of New York City, “delivered the message of compassion and justice at the cost of one penny; the price has never gone up.”
Reuters reports that Islamic separatists continued their attacks on Christians in northern Nigeria. Gunmen on motorbikes threw homemade bombs into a university theatre in Kano, where Christians had congregated to worship, and then shot worshippers who fled the building. With some 10-15 reportedly killed, these are the latest in a spate of killings in northern Nigeria, targeted at the region’s minority Christian population. The militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, hopes to topple Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and create an independent, Islamic state in the north of the country.
At Tablet, “The Scroll” editor Marc Tracy tells President Obama that he wants to be “doubly pandered to.” Tracy is, after all, both a Millennial and Jewish, two constituencies that the president “overwhelmingly won in 2008, but who lately have feinted toward straying toward the Republicans (in the Jews’ case) or staying home (in the Millennials’ case).” The difference between the two, Tracy suggests, is that Jews are “iffier on Obama because of things he has done (pressured Israel, not fully backed Israel on Iran),” while the politically liberal Millennials are upset by things left undone “(Guantanamo Bay is still open, he hasn’t done all that much high-profile on the environment).” In either case, “endless emails about George Clooney aren’t going to cut it. George Clooney is, like, old.”
At Religion Dispatches, Joanna Brooks explains why Mitt Romney’s wealthy Mormon donors have exploited SuperPacs to remain out of the spotlight. According to Brooks, such campaign donation anonymity fits into broader Mormon cultural norms about wealth and philanthropy. “Wealth means status in the world of Mormonism, as it does just about everywhere else,” Brooks writes. But in Mormon communities there are “no plaques bearing donor names affixed to Mormon chapels or temples … People may know who the big givers are in Mormon communities, but it would be a breach of cultural etiquette to advertise one’s own contributions.”
Commentary‘s Jonathan S. Tobin wonders if all the “pandering” to the “cool kids” will be the winning strategy it was for Obama’s first presidential campaign. Romney, by contrast, is seeking the adult vote. “That’s a good idea,” writes Tobin, “because although Obama may not be as cool as he or his idolaters think he is, the incredibly square Romney isn’t likely to convince anyone that he is hip. The real question is whether coolness will matter as much in 2012 as it did in 2008.”