International religious freedom report released
The State Department's fourth annual Report on International Religious Freedom, released yesterday, names the usual suspects of inhibiting freedoms—Burma, China, North Korea—but also cites France, Belgium, and Germany for monitoring or discriminating against religious minorities.
The report says they are part of "a trend in Western Europe" that stigmatizes certain religions by officially and wrongfully associating them with dangerous "sects" or "cults."
As in 2001, the report names China, Cuba, Laos, Burma, North Korea, and Vietnam as totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that "regard some or all religious groups as enemies of the state." Seven other countries—Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan—are listed as governments hostile to specific religious groups.
The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 requires the State Department to produce such a report each year and to designate "countries of particular concern" (CPCs). These designations have yet to be made for 2002. However, the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends that this year's CPCs include Burma, North Korea, India, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
There's Something Wrong with Evil
In the New York Times Book Review, "Close Reader" columnist Judith Shulevitz notes that the word evil is "fast edging out" regime change as "buzzword of the year." Considering that the President began talking about evil and the axis of evil long before preheating the oven for an attack on Iraq, Weblog marvels at her tardiness.
Nevertheless, she scores some points against the relativists. Shulevitz is playing off a "modern" tendency to understand human evil by integrating intent into our moral calculus. Modern thinkers also tend to psychologize evil—to try to understand even the most offensive behavior in terms of the inner dynamics that are more or less common to all people. But too much attention to intent and psychodynamics merely leads to relativism. Take Eichmann and Hitler—if they meant well, does that in any way diminish their evil? Or take bin Laden—if his planning of the September 11 attacks was an outgrowth of sincerely held religious beliefs, does that somehow make the attack less iniquitous?
Shulevitz opts for moral absolutism, which she says is genuinely "postmodern." Evil acts, regardless of intent or motivation, are evil. Discovering that al Qaeda terrorism or Palestinian suicide bombings are done by people who think they are doing right "doesn't make them less evil, but it does make them more terrifying."
Shulevitz concludes, "What matters is whether your beliefs are the correct ones, and we figure that out … by examining what your belief leads you to do." As Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them."
Sex abuse crisis:
- Cardinal praised for role at rally | Protester interrupts speech on Common. (The Boston Globe)
- Bishop pushes role of church in policy | The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops hopes sexual abuse scandals do not lessen the role of religious ideals in shaping public policy. (The Boston Globe)
- Archdiocese of Boston to begin training programs for abuse prevention (Associated Press)
- Death of disgraced priest brings conflict over burial | Rev. Maurice Grammond died in a Portland, Ore., Alzheimer's care home. (The New York Times)
Archbishop of Canterbury:
- Another blow to new archbishop | The Church Society joins other conservative groups in opposing Rowan Williams (Daily Telegraph, London)
- Evangelicals' threat to new archbishop | Direct action threat over liberal views on sexuality. (The Guardian, London)
Church and state:
- Church members asked to support commandments | Petitions go out (The Express-Times, Bethlehem, Penn.)
- Redondo Beach restricts prayer at meetings | In wake of appellate court decision, City Council agrees to limit invocations to nonsectarian messages (Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif.)
- A telling tale of two temples | Newport Beach neighbors battle over form of Mormon project, while Redlands twin is half completed. (The Los Angeles Times)
- Church seeks new home in sports bar (Associated Press)
- Validating Opus Dei, Pope canonizes its founder | Sainthood process went by in lightning-quick period by previous church standards.
- Also: Controversial leader made a saint by leading admirer, Pope John Paul II (Star Tribune)
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