Religion in the news
“The result of this deliberate strategy of secularization is that more and more of our brothers and sisters today live without any awareness of their need for God,” Archbishop José H. Gómez wrote in a Feb. 15, 2010 pastoral letter. Gomez's sentiment was echoed by his mentor, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who criticized the “harsh new sense of the separation of Church and state” ushered in by the Supreme Court's 1947 decision in Everson v. Board of Education. See Los Angeles Times news analysis.
Many people attend services outside of their own religion, and blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs, according to a nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. Americans have the idea that religion and spirituality are a matter of choice, according to Paul Lichterman, a professor of sociology and religion at USC.
“Church attendance, which political analysts see as a key indicator of political behavior – the more often one attends services, the more reliably conservative the vote – is starkly different in California: In inland areas, almost four in 10 voters said they went to services at least once a week, while three in 10 coastal voters made that claim.”
Catholics, representing about 24 percent of the U.S. population, now constitute about 30 percent of Congress, according to a recent analysis by Congressional Quarterly and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The shift reflects greater religious diversity both across the nation and on Capitol Hill. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, documents how America has accommodated religious diversity over the centuries. See news release.
The percentage of Americans who do not claim a religious identity has nearly doubled since 1990, growing to 15 percent of the populations last year, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. This trend is particularly evident in New England, where the Puritans once held a grip on religious establishments. Nonetheless, religiosity in the United States remains high when compared to other industrialized nations, as is discussed in chapters 1 and 2 of Religious Liberty in America. See news release.
A French parliamentary committee has proposed a ban in hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport. It also recommends that anyone showing visible signs of "radical religious practice" should be refused residence cards and citizenship. "The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable. We must condemn this excess," the report said. See the Web Sage primer, “Faith and Conscience in America.”
Swiss voters voters pass a referendum – by a 57.5 vote – banning the defining feature of mosque architecture. The action has sparked an intense debate throughout Europe, which is struggling to cope with the assimmilation of large numbers of Muslim immigrants. Some say the move is necessary to curtail Islamization of European society; others say the action strikes at the heart of religious liberty. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, discusses Muslims in America and Europe on pages 91-92.
“The targets and casualties of Muslim violence are overwhelmingly Muslim, rather than American or European, and the toll in destroyed property and economic havoc is Muslim by an even more disproportionate margin. This is not a war between the mandarins of the Atlantic Alliance and the mullahs. It is a civil war within the ranks of Islam, fought across two hemispheres.” — By Frank Viviano, June 18, 2009. See Web Sage article, “Beyond the Clash of Civilizations.”
President Barack Obama attempts to restart America's relations with the Muslim world. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, discusses "the clash of civilizations" and Muslims in America on pages 91-92. See the Web Sage article, “Beyond the Clash of Civilizations.”
A French court convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, fining the French branch $888,000 for swindling former members, but stopped short of shutting down the group. In June, state prosecutor Maud Morel-Coujard had demanded that the church be dissolved and its bookstore shut down. But because of a change in the law after the case had begun, the government could not disband such a group for a conviction of fraud.
The new center-right mayor of Rome erected a creche on the Piazza del Campidoglio, a hilltop square, which competes for attention with the Vatican's popular display. Religious Liberty in America covers the issue of Christmas displays on public property and compares the U.S. system of religious liberty with European nations. See news release.
“In a nation of unprecedented religious diversity, the United States once managed to navigate religion in public life with relatively generic acknowledgments of the sacred — a tradition often referred to as civil religion. But now, Professor Alan Wolfe said, ‘the civil religion, those informal kinds of agreements, can't work if everyone is going to be litigious.’”
Now an annual tradition, thousands of marchers took to the streets in U.S. cities to rally for immigration reform. The immigration debate has raised the core questions: What does it mean to be an American? What are American values? Does God bless America, or que Dios bendiga los Estados Unidos? The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, discusses the immigration debate in the context of civil religion. See press release.
Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan told a Congressional committee that he was at a loss to explain how the financial system broke down. Some say the financial crisis was the result of poor regulatory structures; others maintain the financial markets were overregulated. Author Claire Berlinski postulates that the crisis was a result of a moral breakdown. Religious Liberty in America deals with civil religion and capitalism on pages 53-55. See press release.
“What gets you on the news is the extreme statement. The easiest way to get 15 minutes on the news, or your 15 minutes of fame, is to be rude,” President Obama said on NBC's Meet the Press. See “A crash course in American coarseness” by Tim Rutten. Also see Web Sage essay on religion and political civility.
South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech Sept. 9 is indicative of a zero-sum political game and a degeneration of political civility in America. “I think that the opposition has made a decision. They are just not going to support anything for political reasons. ... There's some people who just cynically want to defeat me politically,” President Obama said on Univision.
The senior managing editor of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, said megachurch pastor Rick Warren "has that gift of being able to popularize ideas that are in some ways commonplace." Religious Liberty in America discusses religion and marketing on pages 19-20. See news release.
Author Adrian Wooldridge says the U.S. has "gotten it right" when it comes to balancing religion in public life. The University of Massachusetts Press book, Religious Liberty in America: The First Amendment in Historical and Contemporary Perspective by Bruce T. Murray, shows how the U.S. manages the issue through the First Amendment. See news release.
Matthew J. Franck reviews Kevin Gutzman's Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution.