Religion Posts

  • My new Twitter handle is now live - check me out at @jackiewgibson!

  • CNN has posted a history of bias against Sikhs - more reason for people to learn about religions before they attack anyone:...

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here:

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here:

  • Hackers group Anonymous takes down Vatican website:

  • WGN-TV calls doomsday prophecies "an illusion":

  • RT @graceishuman: Really,? Asking people JUST LEAVING the service how they felt about it? Tacky, tacky, inappropriate

  • Whitney Houston's funeral service really took the world to church. Love Pastor Winans' honesty, very moving.

  • #teacher ? Here are appropriate responses to situations with your Jehovah's Witness student:

  • #Teachers: Want to know why your Jehovah's Witness student won't say the pledge and how to respond?

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Ethics & Religion

Following the retirement of Protestant John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will include no Protestants. Elena Kagan, awaiting confirmation to replace Justice Stevens, is Jewish. That puts the count at 6 Catholics and 3 Jews on the court:

Catholic Justices: John G. Roberts, Jr. (chief justice), Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor

Jewish Justices: Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan (awaiting confirmation)

Per the U.S. Constitution, religion cannot be a factor in the choice for who will fill a government office. But people certainly think about it. With Kagan in place, the court will no longer have a Protestant voice – a fact some consider scary and others consider hopeful. For those in the latter category, they say it’s great that justices are no longer pigeon-holed into the “woman” or “Jewish” category but are welcomed into the court even if they don’t have a stereotypical role to play. They say it’s exciting that we’ve become diverse enough that we it doesn’t matter whether we have a Protestant in place. Not to mention the Supreme Court existed for almost 50 years before adding a Catholic to the bench and it took another 80 years beyond that to include a Jew.

Those on the other side say the Protestant voice isn’t going to be heard at that level and decisions won’t be made that fit within Protestant values (particularly related to abortion, marriage, etc.). Given that half the United States claims to be Protestant, the lack of a Protestant justice is, at the least, surprising.

The Wall Street Journal speculated as to why more Catholics and Jews than Protestants are becoming justices.

Of course, representation for everyone would be ideal. The court now includes African American and Hispanic justices, women and men, Jews and Christians. But how can we as a nation sit back and question the lack of a Protestant justice when the court is also lacking Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, LGBT, and Asian-American representation?

Perhaps when it’s time to choose the next justice, we should be considering all genders, all races, and all religions. And for now, we can sit back and be proud of the diversity we have attained so far.

Read biographies of the justices on the Supreme Court site.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

UPDATE: On May 25, the New York City Board voted 29-1 to APPROVE the building of the mosque.

Do you think a mosque should be built just two blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?

Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement plan to build a community center/mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero (in the former Burlington Coat Factory building). Earlier this month, the Community Board of Lower Manhattan voted to support the initiative.

Cordoba wants to send a symbolic message that not ALL Muslims support extremist ideologies – that in fact, most support a pluralistic Islam that respects other religions.


-The mother of a 9/11 victim said she doesn’t want to look at a mosque near the 9/11 site.

-Muslim author-filmmaker Kamran Pasha said the terrorists of 9/11 “had no more to do with my faith than the Crusaders did with true Christianity.”

-One rabbi suggested Cordoba build the mosque but use it as a museum about the horrors of terrorism and extremism.

RT’s opinion:

First and foremost, Religion Transcends does not support any speech that tears down the religious beliefs of another human being. Sadly, in this debate, people are slinging mud and throwing out bigoted names for all people of the Islamic religion. One writer has even compared the mud-slinging to McCarthyism. Let’s have a diplomatic discussion, please. Speaking of someone’s religion is like speaking about their family name; you tear down a lot more than just a belief when you tear down someone’s religion.

On to the question at hand: I don’t see how America could disprove of freedom of religious practice. Isn’t it the same as the Swiss banning minarets atop mosques? Or the French telling Muslim women they can’t wear the hijab and burqa?  All religious followers should be permitted (and are permitted constitutionally) to follow the religion of their choice and to practice that religion in whatever (lawful) way they so choose. And anyway, intentions to increase interfaith understanding seem to be well-aiming.

That being said, if building this mosque would incite violence, anger, or further damage to the 9/11 victims’ families, then our system has a responsibility to stop that threat.

The issue isn’t cut and dry. I would agree with the rabbi when he suggests we leave it up to the victims’ families. If the families say go ahead and build, then Cordoba should respect them enough not to hold a celebratory opening day on the same day they grieve the loss of their loved ones. Let the mourners have their space and time to mourn. And let Muslim-Americans be Muslim-Americans.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

Religion has been used in various times and places – not for good, but for evil. It would seem that religious fanaticism represents a faith hijacked by those who would use it for judgmental, political, and sometimes murderous purposes. For those of us who see religion as a positive – as something that can heal, restore, and uplift the world – it can be difficult to understand WHY religious fanatics would use religion for anything but good. It can also be hard to understand how killing can ever be a good thing, particularly when it is done in the name of religion.

If you’d like to understand the motivations behind modern-day terrorism and grave acts committed in the name of religion, I recommend When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball and Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

I would also recommend a new film, Not in God’s Name: In Search of Tolerance with the Dalai Lama (South Carolina ETV/Paradise Filmworks). This movie was released to public TV stations this spring and is now available on DVD.  The film explores India, which houses eight religions. The film explains how those religions peacefully coexist…and why sometimes they do not. The filmmaker interviews the Dalai Lama (no stranger to conflict resolution) who recounts the causes and solutions to conflict in the name of God. Here is the trailer:

Through these media you will learn how religious violence often starts with political conflict, economic hardship, or socio-cultural divisions and disagreements. If we as humans can get to the root of these problems, we may find that religion can be a catalyst for peace and relationship-building – instead of a device used to tear down, judge, and destroy. We may find, as the Dalai Lama says in the film, that we are one family. And that we don’t have to blame religion for tearing us apart.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

On April 15, US District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the law authorizing a National Day of Prayer in the U.S. is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment (which prohibits a federal endorsement of religion). The National Day of Prayer has been a lawful celebration since 1952 and would have been celebrated this year on May 6.

In this article, Crabb said she didn’t want to suggest prayer is wrong; rather, she wanted to send a message that the government cannot endorse any one religious message from any religion.

President Obama’s role
President Obama did not put an end to the National Day of Prayer. Initially he had said he would proclaim the day but would pray privately (instead of publicly, as the day calls for). Crabb’s ruling stops him from being able to call for the celebration. Obama’s administration says it will appeal the ruling.

The American Center for Law and Justice has also filed an amicus brief to have the decision overturned. The group represents 31 members of Congress.

The Graham issue
The National Day of Prayer Task Force had organized an event at the Pentagon for the National Day of Prayer. Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was set to speak at the event. But after 9/11, Graham had called Islam a “wicked religion.” So Muslims called for him to be removed from the National Day of Prayer event, and the Pentagon withdrew his invitation. Following the withdrawl, the National Day of Prayer Task Force backed out of the Pentagon event.

Their anger hasn’t died down. But it all seems kind of moot if no one will be able to publicly celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

It seems both sides could be argued – of course Americans would like their freedoms protected without having government tell them what to believe. But does removing a long-held celebration suggest that what’s being celebrated is wrong? What do you think?

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010