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." Crosswalk.com issued its own one-sided report of the one-sided report: "YMCA Goes on Anti-Israel Crusade."
- YWCA calls for earlier sex education | Girls "want to know how to tackle abusive relationships, sexual diseases, pregnancy, and pressures to have sex," says manifesto (Ananova)
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)
- Little mercy for faith healing | Moderate and conservative Republicans line up on opposite sides of debate (The Denver Post)
- Children of faith healers deserve protection | The legislature send the clear message that all parents, regardless of their church's political power, must seek medical care when sick children are at risk of severe harm. (Doug Friednash, Rocky Mountain News)
- Freedom of religion or state-sanctioned child abuse? | Rising death toll fuels debate over parents who choose prayer over medical treatment on behalf of their children (Time)
- Wheaton professor's firing rallies students | Anthropology professor did not adequately "integrate faith and learning" in his coursework, says administration (The Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois)
- College turns to religious freedom act for rezone help | San Jose Christian College may sue under new Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (San Jose Mercury News)
- Campuses ban alleged church cult | The College of the Holy Cross latest to kick out resurgent Boston Church of Christ (The Boston Globe)
- Earlier: The Cost of Discipleship? | Despite allegations of abuse of authority, the International Churches of Christ expands rapidly. (Christianity Today, Sept. 1, 1997)
- Earlier: A push becomes a shove | Colleges get uneasy about proselytizing (U.S. News & World Report, Mar. 13, 2000)
Eastern Orthodox tensions:
- Jehovah's Witness trial resumes | Case seen as a key test of Russia's treatment of minority religions (Associated Press)
- New cardinal in a clash of creeds | The pope, who plans to visit Ukraine in June, will be stepping into a whirlwind of clashing creeds and interests. (The New York Times)
- Russian Orthodox bishop takes on defiant parish | Seizes funds: Court ruling gives him the right to prevent defection (National Post, Canada)
- Michigan town scraps bumper stickers | Critics say rainbow on "We Are Traverse City" stickers is a symbol of gay rights (Associated Press)
- Some Chester, Ohio, residents seek fight over church on emblem | Police patch shows Chesterland Baptist Church as symbol of community's "spiritual strength" (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio)
- Net gain for saint and sinners | The church reassesses the 'seedy' image of the Internet in order to recruit computer users as new converts (The Guardian, London)
- Arkansas Senate committee nixes Web filtering bill | 297 of state's 310 school districts already use filters (Associated Press)
More stories of interest:
- First action filed under N.Y. abortion clinic-access law | Activists will test 15-foot "buffer zone" law (Associated Press)
- VHP against relief work by missionaries | Hindu activists claim missionaries' earthquake relief efforts only aimed at conversions (The Tribune, Chandigarh, India)
- FBI probes two church grants | Probe part of FBI's investigation of relationship between former Massachusetts Senate president William M. Bulger and his fugitive brother (The Boston Globe)
- Zondervan targets niche of travelers who don't care where the best bars are | New Christian travel book series broadens scope away from Holy Land (Book Publishing Report)
- Third term debate ill-founded, says Zambian archbishop | "Is it morally justified to change the Constitution for one person or for one sector of society?" asks Lusaka's Roman Catholic Archbishop. (Post of Zambia, Lusaka)
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