Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
Be careful what you wish for: A new study suggests that school vouchers could actually hurt organized religion
Matthew Rozsa has an interesting post in Salon:
Although school vouchers may be a boondoggle to churches, a new study from The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that “they offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than 80 percent of private school students in the 2011/2012 school year attended a religiously-affiliated school, with Catholicism being the most common religious affiliation. The authors studied 71 Catholic parishes in Milwaukee from 1999 to 2013.
“We find that expansion in voucher policy is, unsurprisingly, associated with increases in voucher revenues for parishes with schools,” the study stated. “We also find that voucher expansion prevents parish closures and mergers.”
At the same time, the authors seemed surprised to discover that vouchers do not subsidize religious activity beyond the operation of religious schools. Rather, the opposite occurred. “Vouchers cause a significant decrease in spending on non-school religious purposes such as religious staff salaries, mission support, and church maintenance. We also find that voucher programs lead to a significant decrease in church donations,” the study continued.
Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether one believes that religious institutions should focus on religion or on making money by supplanting public schools. . .
Jessica Remo reports at NJ.com:
Let the girls play ball.
That was the message sent Wednesday from the the Archdiocese of Newark’s newly installed archbishop, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, a dramatic reversal of a decision made two weeks ago to remove two 10-year-old girls from St. John’s 5th grade CYO basketball team.
After the girls were removed, their nine boy teammates stood in solidarity, refusing to play without them at a game on Friday. The story of their resolve gained widespread publicity after being reported by NJ Advance Media.
The team was told after that game that their season was forfeited because of the “stunt” and the final regular season game was canceled, parents said.
But today, Cardinal Tobin announced that the girls are to be immediately put back on the team, their 7-3 record is to be reinstated, the two regular games that were not played are to be rescheduled and played immediately, and the team is to continue on together into the playoffs.
In a statement, Jim Goodness, spokesman for the archdiocese, wrote, “While he recognizes that the recent decisions by CYO officials were aimed at an appropriate and consistent application of the organization’s rules, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Archbishop of Newark, believes that the Saint John’s JV Black team should not have been penalized for mistakes that adults responsible for following the league rules may have made.” See the full statement, below.
After school, the team gathered in the gym where they waited for “an important announcement” from their coach, Rob Martel, who is also the father of one of the girls on the team.
“Our season is going to continue as a team, and we’re going to the playoffs,” Martel told the group, fighting back tears. Watch how the team reacted in our video, above.
Last year, the team made it all the way to the championship game. . .
Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Hadash party, leads the Joint List, the third-largest bloc in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. He writes in the NY Times:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.
Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.
In Arab towns, the government has made building permits so difficult to obtain, and grants them so rarely, that many inhabitants have resorted to constructing new housing units on their properties without permits just to keep up with growing families that have nowhere else to go. As a result, Arab communities have become more and more densely populated, turning pastoral villages into concrete jungles.
In southern Israel, more than 100,000 Arab citizens face a particular crisis. In the Naqab desert, known in Hebrew as the Negev, there are 35 villages that are officially “unrecognized” by the state. The residents of these unrecognized villages have Israeli citizenship, yet the state has refused to provide even basic services like water, electricity utilities, paved roads and schools.
Worse, because the Israeli government refuses to recognize these villages’ existence, they all live under the shadow of demolition orders from the state. Residents never know when the police will come to evict them and bulldoze their homes.
These policies have existed for decades, but Mr. Netanyahu has turned them into a political bludgeon. Several weeks ago, when it became clear that the government would be forced to implement an Israeli High Court ruling to evacuate Amona, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank built on land stolen from Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to destroy Arab homes throughout Israel in retribution.
The prime minister soon made good on his threat. That was why, a few weeks later, a huge force of armed police arrived to destroy homes in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran.
I first visited Umm al-Hiran not long after I had been elected secretary general of the Hadash party. I spent several weeks living in the Naqab and took part in a nonviolent protest against the demolition of another village, Al Araqib. I was beaten by police and arrested. I had to call my wife, Nardin, from jail.
After a long legal battle, the government has moved to destroy Umm al-Hiran so that a religious Jewish community can be built in its place. This new town would erase all traces of Arab presence, even replacing the town’s name with the more Hebrew-sounding Hiran.
The residents suggested a compromise: Create an Arab neighborhood within the new town so that their community could remain intact. The state rejected this idea: Hiran was to be for Jews only.
A few weeks ago, I had reason to call my wife from the Naqab again. This time, I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. On Jan. 18, as I stood with the residents of Umm al-Hiran, Israeli police who had arrived to demolish the village pepper-sprayed me and then shot me in the head and the back with baton rounds.
These bullets, which are about 3 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter, have a hard plastic base and a high-density foam tip. Supposedly nonlethal, they have caused numerous serious injuries, including skull fractures and eye loss, and have been associated with at least one fatality. In my case, the bullet missed my eye and only grazed my skull.
More grave, police actions that day resulted in two deaths: . . .
Apartheid, pure and simple.
Sometimes two relatively harmless things (bleach and household ammonia, for example), each useful in its own right, become a toxic mess when mixed. Religion and government are like that. It turns out to be very important to keep them separate, as we see not only in Israel but in certain US states where religion pushes into government.
The Catholic church is in no position to instruct us on morals. I think Jesus commented on this. Matthew 7: 3-5
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
I think Jesus still has some standing in the Catholic church, approaching that of the BVM. Perhaps the Catholic church will develop some humility? No, probably not.
Here’s the report by Gina Rushton in Buzzfeed News:
“Between January 1980 and February 2015, 4,444 alleged incidents of child sexual abuse [were] made to 93 Catholic Church authorities,” Gail Furness SC said in her opening address to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. “These claims related to over 1,000 separate institutions.”
Analysis has shown that 7% of Australia’s Catholic priests abused children in the six decades since 1950, Furness said.
“Of priests from the 75 Catholic Church authorities with priest members surveyed, and who ministered in Australia in that period, 7.9% of diocesan priests were alleged perpetrators and 5.7% of religious priests were alleged perpetrators,” she said.
In one religious order, St John of God Brothers, 40% of religious brothers and sisters, priests or lay people were alleged to have abused children between 1950 and 2010. The church exploited troubled boys at the Kendall Grange boys’ home in Morisset north of Sydney.
During the same period, 21.9% of members of the Salesians of Don Bosco Brothers; 22% of members of the Christian Brothers; 20.4% of members of the Marist Brothers; and 13.8% of members of the De La Salle Brothers order were alleged perpetrators.
Of the 1,808 alleged abusers, 597 were religious brothers, 572 were priests, 543 were lay people, and 96 were religious sisters.
Accounts in all public hearings involving the Catholic Church were “depressingly similar”, Furness said.
“Children were ignored, or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [brothers] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept, or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed, as did cover-ups.”
Of the alleged victims, 78% were male and 22% were female, while 90% of the alleged perpetrators were male, she said. . .
Catherine Rampell writes in the Washington Post:
Much-dreaded “sharia law,” or something resembling it, may well be coming to the United States.
Just not in the form many Americans expected.
That is, the religiously motivated laws creeping into public policymaking aren’t based on the Koran, and they aren’t coming from mythical hard-line Islamists in, say, Dearborn, Mich. They’re coming from the White House, which wants to make it easier for hard-line Christians to impose their beliefs and practices on the rest of us.
A few days after declaring his intention to impose a religious test upon refugees so that Christians would be given priority, President Trump gave a bizarre speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. In between a plug for “The Apprentice” and boasts about his disastrous calls with heads of allied states, he made some less-noticed policy news.
He vowed to help blur the line between church and state by repealing the Johnson Amendment.
For those unfamiliar, this tax code provision bars tax-exempt entities such as churches and charitable organizations from participating in campaigns for or against political candidates. It dates to 1954, when it was signed by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was not terribly controversial at the time.
The provision basically says that if you want to be exempted from paying taxes — meaning you are effectively subsidized by other taxpayers, who pay for your access to emergency services, roads and other government functions — you can’t be involved in partisan politics. You can’t, among other things, take tax-deductible donations from your worshippers and turn around and spend them on political campaigns.
That’s just the trade-off you agree to make.
Certain religious organizations, in particular those from the evangelical Christian community, have opposed this law in recent years. And during the campaign, Trump indicated he’d do his darnedest to get them what they really want: not the ability to endorse candidates from the pulpit — a practice that the IRS has already been ignoring — but the ability to funnel taxpayer-subsidized funds into the political process.
The president can’t “totally destroy” the law unilaterally, despite Trump’s pledge to do so; he’ll need action from Congress, but that may not be hard to secure these days. Republicans control both houses of Congress, and the most recent Republican platform included a commitment to repeal the Johnson Amendment.
Also this week, the Nation’s Sarah Posner published a leaked draft of an executive order that would require federal agencies to look the other way when private organizations discriminate based on religious beliefs. Coincidentally, these seem to primarily be religious beliefs held by conservative Christians.
The effect of the order might be to create wholesale exemptions to anti-discrimination law for people, nonprofits and closely held for-profit corporations that claim religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity. It would also curb women’s access to contraception through the Affordable Care Act. (A White House official did not dispute the draft’s authenticity.)
This is, of course, all in the name of preserving religious freedom. Except that it allows some people to practice religious freedom by denying jobs, services and potentially public accommodation to those with differing beliefs. . .
Consider two headlines on the front page of the online Washington Post right now:
Problem solved: Austin claims religious freedom rights to allow sanctuary for those targeted by ICE—not by interfering with ICE, just not doing the job ICE is paid to do. They have a strong claim that this is in exact accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and thus definitely a religious-freedom case. Jesus in general seemed in favor of taking care of the poor and the homeless and the downtrodden, which is exactly why the Romans (that would be Trump) eliminated Him.
So Austin is free to be a sanctuary city, so long as it is viewed as a religious response, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ (i.e., the Christian religion).
Sarah Posner reports in the Nation:
leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination. A
The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”
The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, but when asked Monday about whether a religious freedom executive order was in the works, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.
The exemptions, Lederman said, could themselves violate federal law or license individuals and private parties to violate federal law. “Moreover,” he added, “the exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations.” It would be “astonishing,” he said, “if the Office of Legal Counsel certifies the legality of this blunderbuss order.”
The leaked draft maintains that, as a matter of policy, “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”
It sets forth an exceptionally expansive definition of “religious exercise” that extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” “It’s very sweeping,” said Ira Lupu, a professor emeritus at the George Washington University Law School and an expert on the Constitution’s religion clauses and on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). “It raises a big question about whether the Constitution or the RFRA authorizes the president to grant religious freedom in such a broad way.”
In particular, said Lupu, the draft order “privileges” a certain set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity—beliefs identified most closely with conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians—over others. That, he said, goes beyond “what RFRA might authorize” and may violate the Establishment Clause. . .
Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more, including the full text.
I find this frightening, though of course evangelical “Christians” have been working toward this for a long time.