Lieberman's talk of religion criticized after weeks of free ride

"Can a Democrat and a Jew pull off what a conservative Christian couldn't" by infusing every speech with religious language, ask The Washington Post's Hanna Rosin and Ceci Connolly. "If he gets away with it, is it a double standard? Each time Lieberman pushes the church and state boundary, both Christians and civil libertarians are on alert." It seems that the freedom Lieberman has been given to quote Scripture at every turn (while avoiding talk about how faith might impact specific policies) is coming to a close. The Anti-Defamation League is asking the vice-presidential candidate to cease making "overt expressions" of faith in a political context. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation's Joseph Loconte is criticizing Lieberman for not taking his faith far enough: "[Lieberman's nomination] signals not the mixing of religion and politics but, rather, the enfeebling of religious belief as a guide to public policy," Loconte writes in the Los Angeles Times. Despite all the God talk, a towering assumption goes unchallenged: Religious convictions ought not to influence the political process. … At issue is not the sincerity of the candidates' faith but the fact that they have chosen to confine their beliefs to the sanctuary. This cannot be good for democracy." Speaking of vice-presidential candidates, Republican nominee Dick Cheney will reportedly be emphasizing his Christian faith this week. He's speaking to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group today.

Meeting of world's religious leaders overshadowed by who's not there

Religious leaders from around the world are meeting at the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations. They include Israel's Rabbi Meir Lau, Iran's Ayatollah Abdollah Vaeze Javadi, the World Council of Churches' Konrad Raiser, Hindu leader Ela Gandhi, a Vatican official, a Shinto high priest, Anne Graham Lotz, and the National Association of Evangelicals' Richard Cizik. But all the press can talk about is that the Dalai Lama won't be there. Conservative evangelical groups like the Family Research Council are criticizing the meeting. "The political agenda of the summit sponsors, combined with (U.N.) Secretary-General (Kofi) Annan's deference to the Communist government of China, are proof positive that the Millennium Summit will do little to strengthen the cause of religious freedom around the world and will more likely offend the values of the pro-life and pro-family faithful," says Robert Maginnis, vice president for foreign policy for the organization. Cizik also sounds wary, but says he's going because "we felt it better to have someone there and see it from the inside." If the evangelicals seem too wary, consider this: media mogul Ted Turner, who once called Christianity a religion for losers, is serving as honorary chairman of the meeting. (See more at CNN and The New York Times.)

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New York Times editorializes against "spontaneous" prayer

"Although the stadium prayers seem spontaneous and undirected, they are in fact part of a movement, started by Christian ministries and radio talk show hosts, to promote school prayer," laments the unsigned editorial. "The purpose is to get around a recent Supreme Court decision that banned as unconstitutional school-sponsored student-led prayers that are broadcast over the public address system. … A prayer initiated by students may pass legal muster. But its message of religious orthodoxy may be just as socially coercive for teenagers as a voice over the public address system. In that respect, it is no less threatening to religious freedom than organized school prayer. Mainstream religious leaders should speak out against a strategy that imposes religious observance on a captive school audience." So, uh, if a "message of religious orthodoxy" is a threat to religious freedom, does that mean that only heresy is protected speech?

Power Team founder's divorce leads to exodus from group

John Jacobs, founder of a evangelistic team that runs a kind of sideshow-freak exhibition of strength called The Power Team, has divorced his wife. More than a dozen members of the group have resigned, according to Charisma News Service, as have the three men who formed an "advisory council" to Jacobs during the divorce.

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