The question surrounding some of this week’s religion news is whether the idea of separation of church and state is getting through to a few people. For example, a proposal in Louisiana have the Christian Bible as the state book has been dropped. State Rep. Thomas Carmody said that the bill had become a distraction. (I wonder if he actually meant “embarrassment.”)
State Rep. Wesley Bishop had earlier warned Carmody about potential difficulties: “You cannot separate Christianity from the Bible. If you adopt the Bible as the official state book, you also adopt Christianity as the state religion…. We are going to open ourselves up to a lawsuit.”
People in the U.S. military who don’t want to be classified as atheist but maintain reason over faith can now be classified as “humanist.” In the military, 3.6 percent of members consider themselves humanists.
Marvel Comics has gone beyond acceptance of gender and sexual orientation diversity by introducing a Muslim teenager from New Jersey as the newest superhero. Kamala Khan’s shapeshifting superpowers are written to explore ideas not only of identity and coming of age but also of faith. Although not the first comic book to feature a Muslim superhero, the new Ms. Marvel is the first to headline her own comic book.
For the first time, a pope has taken responsibility for the ‘‘evil’’ of priests who raped and molested children. Pope Francis asked forgiveness from the victims and promised that the church would be even bolder in protecting youth. Last month he named four women and an abuse survivor to a sex abuse advisory panel to address the sanctioning of bishops who cover for pedophiles. Pope John Paul II denounced children-abusing priests, and Pope Benedict XVI said he was regretful when he met with victims. Neither one took personal responsibility for these crimes or asked for forgiveness.
After the Boy Scouts of America revoked the troop charter of Seattle-area Rainier Beach United Methodist Church because the scoutmaster is gay, Pastor Monica Corsaro published a statement in Time, explaining why they are supporting Geoff McGrath. Earlier this week, the Boy Scouts of America revoked the troop charter of a Seattle-area United Methodist Church because the church would not boot the scoutmaster Geoff McGrath, a married, gay Eagle Scout. Monica Corsaro, the pastor of the church, explains why:
“Putting him in the leadership of this troop would reflect and live out the values of our congregation, and that we would not have a troop at Rainier Beach UMC unless it was fully inclusive, because that is who we are.”
Corsaro’s entire column is well-worth reading.
In a wealthy Davidson (NC) community, a statue of a homeless Jesus lies on a park bench outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, an installation that has resulted in great controversy. From the woman who called the police because she thought it was actually a homeless person to the Rev. David Buck who said that “it gives authenticity to the church,” the responses show how people perceive their relationship to the god that they worship. Just the NPR article got over 1,000 responses, some of them very angry. One end result is that more churches plan to install replicas of this statue. Buck is a brave man.
Although a Supreme Court ruling in Alabama is horrible, the blatantly unconstitutional statements from Chief Justice Roy Moore may overturn the ruling. The issue of Hicks v. Alabama is whether women who use drugs during pregnancy can be charged with child endangerment. Hicks argued that the word “child” in the chemical-endangerment statute did not apply to an unborn child, but eight of the nine justices disagreed with that position.
Moore not only used biblical references in his arguments but also continued the myth that United States law is based on religion: “I write separately to emphasize that the inalienable right to life is a gift of God that civil government must secure for all persons—born and unborn…. When it was signed by our Founding Fathers in 1776, the Declaration returned to first principles of God, His law, and human rights and government.” He also claimed that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration with Sir William Blackstone’s legal treatise in mind,“that God’s law was superior to all other laws.”
Like other fundamentalist Christians, Moore is trying to rewrite history: Jefferson’s reference in the Declaration of Independence is to a deistic “Creator.” Moore’s belief that the right to life is divine and should be enforced by government is made moot by the First Amendment. His references to the Nazi officials tried for crimes against humanity in Nuremberg, Germany, after World War II compared them to others, like the pregnant woman, who should be found guilty of crimes although they have not broken any laws. To Moore, divine law should receive preference over secular law.
Roy Moore is well known for his disdain toward the First Amendment. After he refused to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments from the state judicial building in the 1990s, he was sued. Despite losing, he kept the monument and defended himself by saying, “Actually, the organic law of our country establishes God as the basis for our justice system.” An ethics panel unanimously found that he had “willfully and publicly” disobeyed the law and removed him as Chief Justice, but he was re-elected in 2012.
American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has determined that “there are consequences” for those making “foolish declarations.” He referred to the boycott of the Christian rock band Jars of Clay after lead singer, Dan Haseltine, supported for marriage equality. Maybe Fischer will understand the consequences for Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty for his anti-LGBT, anti-black comments instead of seeing this as the “persecution” of the Religious Right.
Logic, however, is not the strong suit of fundamental Christians. Thirteen states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books despite the Lawrence v. Texas ruling legalizing sodomy throughout the United States. To clean out meaningless laws from the state books, a Louisiana legislator introduced a bill to remove the anti-sodomy law. The House voted to keep the law 67-27 with 11 members abstaining.
Louisiana’s legislative illogic comes in with their legalization of necrophilia. It is one of four states that does not explicitly ban the practice of having sex with dead bodies. [map] Three other states—Nebraska, New Mexico, and Vermont—also have not banned necrophilia, but these states have no anti-sodomy laws.
Some states think that necrophilia is banned under prevention of “crimes against nature” or classify it as a sexual assault against a person who can’t give consent. That premise didn’t work in Wisconsin. Three young men arrested for trying to exhume a corpse for sex were charged with attempted sexual assault for intent to have sex with an unwilling party. An appeals court threw out their conviction with the position that state law doesn’t recognize a corpse as a person, removing consent as an issue. The Supreme Court did reinstate the conviction on shaky grounds with a 5-2 vote.
Being Christian can be dangerous. Marco Gusmini, 21, was crushed and died when a giant crucifix in the Italian Alpine village of Cevo fell on him. Dedicated to Pope John Paul II in 1998, the 98-foot-high cross crashed down during a ceremony three days before today’s historic canonization for the late pope and his predecessor, Pope John XXIII.
Sainthood for John XXIII was fast-tracked as Francis did away with the traditional requirement of two vetted and verified miracles in exchange for a nun reporting in 1966 that he allegedly cured her of gastrointestinal hemorrhaging after she appealed to “the Good Pope.” Francis has already elevated saints with not one confirmed miracle. Some Catholics see saints as good PR, especially when the Vatican wants to build its membership in Africa and Asia. Polish Monsignor Slawomir Oder said that the proclamation of saints “helps strengthen the faith of the people.”
Meanwhile, there was evidently no indication of Marco Gusmini’s death during today’s ceremony. Maybe his village will remember him.