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Religious Freedom Day

January 16 is Religious Freedom Day, commemorating the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. In his proclamation | [.pdf] this year, President Barack Obama writes:

The Virginia Statute was more than a law. It was a statement of principle, declaring freedom of religion as the natural right of all humanity — not a privilege for any government to give or take away. Penned by Thomas Jefferson and championed in the Virginia legislature by James Madison, it barred compulsory support of any church and ensured the freedom of all people to profess their faith openly, without fear of persecution. Five years later, the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights followed the Virginia Statute’s model, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”.

This is a good time to review both the frequently misstated history of religious freedom in the United States, and the frequently misdescribed current law: Religious Expression in American Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.

The struggle to variously redefine the former and rewrite the latter is ongoing.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Education, History, Law | | 1 Comment

‘A Once-Catholic Episcopalian Looks at Benedict’s Offer’

When the pope defended his outreach to Anglicans as ecumenism, Pulitzer Prize winning author Jack Miles explored the impact of a reverse offer.

In the Catholic magazine Commonweal, Miles wrote:

If the Episcopal Church were in a tit-for-tat mood, it could issue its own marching orders. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who occupies the same position within her church that Rowan Williams occupies within his (and who happens to be the daughter of Catholic converts to Episcopalianism), might issue an open invitation to the member groups of the Roman Catholic Leadership Conference of Women Religious to disaffiliate from Rome and reaffiliate — as religious congregations, not individual women — with a church where they would be welcomed for their often superior education as well as their selfless charity, rather than suspected of…well, whatever it is that the Vatican suspects them of.

While that idea has a touch of enlightening humor about it, the point is painfully clear and becomes more so when he turns to the Eucharist. About Holy Communion he writes:

The Rev. Canon Colville Smythe, a retired priest who generously volunteers his services at St. Edmund’s, spoke wisely, I thought, in a sermon on the Feast of Christ the King, when he said that Holy Communion, rather than Baptism, is the sacrament that nowadays typically begins a seeker’s journey toward sacramental Christianity. Baptism, in our time, typically comes later. In Smythe’s view, we should thus welcome all visitors—not just visiting baptized Christians—to receive the sacrament. As it happened, his sermon was delivered on the day when the New York Times reported that Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island had asked Representative Patrick J. Kennedy not to receive Communion because of his position on abortion. Not long before this, Archbishop Raymond Burke, who in 2004 took a cue from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and led the way in denying Communion to presidential candidate John Kerry, had denounced Boston’s Cardinal Séan O’Malley for allowing the late Ted Kennedy to receive a Catholic funeral.

In that context, you may indeed wonder with Miles what peace conservative Episcopalians will find if they accept Pope Benedict’s offer to swim the Tiber.

We believe Miles’ piece, “Trading Places,” is well worth your time, here.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Religion | , , , | Comments Off

Manhattan Declaration online petition pitch: Fail

Not quite two months after the Manhattan Declaration was unveiled they have less than half the 1 million signatures they wanted by Dec. 1. Thus having failed, they emailed all of the signers this week, pitching efforts to date as a success. And calling for a push on to the million.

The pitch dwells on rumors of success, and outlines a special effort by four Catholic archbishops:

Just ten days ago, Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, DC, Archbishop Dolan of New York and Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville reached out to all of their brother Catholic bishops asking them to spread this document throughout their dioceses and encourage their clergy and faithful to study it and join as signatories.

That signature shortfall they’ve failed to confess is unexpected. After all, the signatures are unverified.

If the petition gatherer does not somehow verify that there is one, unique, living human being who has associated himself or herself with each signature (and not the same human being behind more than one signature), the petition is open to padding.

The Manhattan Declaration‘s signature-collection process does filter for robots. But apparently does no other identity verification. Not even a verification email to the address signers give them.

Our testing suggests that it just bumps the counter each time someone fills the form out properly and “signs.”.

Which means people can sign several times under bogus names, and that a suitably unethical person can sign for you. Most anti-spam software sidetracks their email appeals. So you might never know.

Yes. That million-signature petition, assuming they eventually get their million signatures — it’s_a_joke.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Politics, WWW | , , , , , | Comments Off

One Haitian quietly informs, struggling at the end

Interview with Haitian @cat_laine by @XeniJardin of @BoingBoing:

Interview transcript here.

[H/T: @Maddow]

January 16, 2010 Posted by | WWW | , | Comments Off

   

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