An interesting exchange
George Bush's press conference yesterday has received some attention in the media, and his comments on his faith-based initatives were duly noted. "Queried on his commitment to separation of church and state, he vigorously defended his proposal to provide federal help to religious and charitable organizations that help the needy," reported the Associated Press. The Washington Post was a little more accurate about the nature of the exchange, noting that Bush "refused to give ground when challenged on his plan to encourage religious groups to provide social services with federal money, which he calls his faith-based initiative." Just for fun, here's the exchange between Bush and the unnamed reporter:

Q Mr. President, why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and state? And you know that the mixing of religion and government for centuries has led to slaughter. I mean, the very fact that our country has stood in good stead by having the separation—why do you break it down?

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, I strongly respect the separation of church and state—

Q Well, you wouldn't have a religious office in the White House if you did.

THE PRESIDENT: I didn't get to finish my answer, in all due respect. I believe that so long as there's a secular alternative available, we ought to allow individuals who are helping to be able to choose a program that may be run by a faith-based program—or will be run by a faith-based program. I understand full well that some of the most compassionate missions of help and aid come out of faith-based programs. And I strongly support the faith-based initiative that we're proposing, because I don't believe it violates the line between the separation of church and state, and I believe it's going to make America a better place.

Q Well, you are a secular official.

THE PRESIDENT: I agree, I am a secular official.

Q And not a missionary.

Q Sir, on the air strikes in Iraq …

Unlikely to cause much of a stir …
The New York Times reported yesterday that Absolut Vodka, maker of fine advertising (oh, and alcoholic beverages, apparently) is launching an ad honoring the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "Absolut and its importers have been supporting [GLAAD] for two decades with cash contributions and merchandise donations," the paper said. It's a relatively safe move on Absolut's part. What are religious conservatives going to do? Stage a massive protest of Absolut Vodka?

YMCA hit for being too pro-Palestinian
"A new report by a division of the international YMCA movement that portrayed Palestinians as the victims of Israeli occupation and aggression has stirred controversy within the YMCA organization and angered American Jewish leaders," reports the Chicago Tribune. A delegation from the World Alliance of YMCAs visited Palestinian-controlled areas of Israel in November "to express our solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Palestine who are victims of a failed peace process and Israeli oppression." The Chicago Tribune summarizes the report, which you can read online in its entirety: "Among the conclusions in the report posted on the World Alliance's Web site was that Israeli forces were committing systematic and widespread human-rights violations against Palestinians; that innocent people, 'mainly women, the elderly and children,' had been subjected to the use of force; and that Palestinians believe there was widespread indifference to their plight, particularly in Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States." Needless to say, the report is controversial. "The language, tone, and characterizations included in these materials do nothing to aid the true cause of peace and stability, nor do they position the YMCA for effective service across the boundaries of the dispute," said Kenneth Gladish, national executive director of the YMCA of the USA in a letter to World Alliance General Secretary Nicholas Nightingale. In a statement on its Web site, the World Alliance of YMCAs is standing by its report. "The YMCA has long held the view that if there is to be a settlement of the conflict in the Middle East, it can only happen when there is justice for the Palestinians and security for the people of Israel," the statement says. "We are also convinced that our mission as a Christian organization compels us to work for reconciliation between people who are or have been in conflict. Yet we know that justice is the pre-condition of reconciliation." issued its own one-sided report of the one-sided report: "YMCA Goes on Anti-Israel Crusade."

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Other stories:

Colorado's anti-faith-healing bill likely to pass:

  • Faith healing bill advances | Colorado House narrowly approves repeal of child abuse exemption for religions that practice faith healing (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)
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Higher education:

Eastern Orthodox tensions:

Symbol strife:


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