Southern Religion

Ursuline Sisters combat human trafficking

Human trafficking victims are often too intimidated to coopreate, Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Kentucky lawmakers passed tough new penalties in 2007, but so much is required of the victim that there have apparently been no prosecutions.

Attorney Cori Hash, director of the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic in Lexington, said she has dealt with four cases of human trafficking in recent years, but none have gone to trial. “We have some great laws on the books,” she said. But there are “realistic limitations on using those laws when working with a victim.”

Most victims are threatened with violence against themselves or their families, Hash said. Many come from foreign countries and may not trust the American justice system — or fear that their relatives back home could suffer retribution. Others simply have to move away to find work and can’t cooperate with prosecutors.

“Human trafficking laws ask a lot of the victims,” she said. “They require pretty intensive cooperation and lots of evidence.”

The Ursuline Sisters held a seminar on the problem recently:

Learn more about the issue worldwide from the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics | Comments Off on Ursuline Sisters combat human trafficking

The first ‘March for Life’ was in 1974

Tony Spence of Catholic News Service wrote:

Today marks 36 years that pro-life groups have assembled in Washington to mark the 1973 Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Roe v. Wade. At CNS we thought it would be interesting to see what we said about that first march on Jan. 22, 1974.

Fredrick A. Green covered the first march for CNS (then NC News). He reported that 15,000 people showed up, many on buses from around the country.

“The right-to-life advocates spent the morning lobbying the offices of senators and members of the House of Representatives and then gathered in the afternoon at the west steps of the Capitol to hear speeches by congressional sponsors of human life amendments and leaders of the right-to-life movement.

“Later, they marched in a ‘circle of life’ around the Capitol,” he wrote.

The rest is here.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on The first ‘March for Life’ was in 1974

Unholy moly: Believer complaints against atheist bus ads rejected


Complaints filed against atheist bus ads have been rejected by the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA news release said:

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has concluded that the “There’s probably no God” bus ad campaign by the British Humanist Association is not in breach of the advertising code. The ASA will therefore not launch an investigation and the case is now closed.

The ASA carefully assessed the 326 complaints it received. Some complained that the ad was offensive and denigratory to people of faith. Others challenged whether the ad was misleading because the advertiser would not be able to substantiate its claim that God “probably” does not exist.

The ASA Council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation. Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.

Probably the end of it in the UK. We believe.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

Proposition 8 foes hold “marriage equality training camps” in Los Angeles

They want to win back the lost ground.

The LATimes reports:

Determined to avoid the mistakes of their last, losing campaign for gay marriage, gay rights activists are launching … “marriage equality training camps” in Los Angeles this weekend. … to train activists in “the practical, hands-on skills to organize in their communities to restore marriage equality for same-sex couples to California.”

The rest is here.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | 1 Comment

The gay marriage debate cranks up in Wyoming

Focus on the Family Action is making telephone calls to drum up support for a measure would let Wyoming voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to specify that the state won’t recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Comments Off on The gay marriage debate cranks up in Wyoming

Obama’s mention of Hinduism

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama referred to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and non-believers. As well as Hindus, a mention that was front-page news in the Times of India. Emblematic of a peacemaker?

Vamsee Juluri, Professor of Media Studies, University of San Francisco,

I think that the global dream that is America has found in Obama the sort of popular 21st century religious sensibility that has been forming unnoticed by the dogmas of fundamentalists and some of their more dogmatic opponents too. A few months ago, this picture appeared of the charms Obama carried in his pocket. One of the figurines he had was of Hanuman, a Hindu God, although this version was probably from Obama’s days in Indonesia. The Indian press was happy, but the best interpretation came from right here, a Bay Area writer who said that what Hanuman implies is not just whether we literally believe in “monkey gods” but really the ideal of service. That is the sort of inspiration perhaps we could draw from religion, ours and others; because, like everything else, our beliefs too are being tossed together and tossed around with globalization. What better place than America for everyone to see the best in everyone else, and in their own selves too. Then, and I hope we can, the only “clash of civilizations” we will hear ever about again will be nothing more than the jingle-jangle of all the world’s religious trinkets in our great President Barack Obama’s pockets.

The rest is here.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Religion | 2 Comments

Obama’s Mention of ‘Non-Believers’ doesn’t herald new secularism

Pete Winn of CNS writes:

Conservative religious leaders say they don’t believe that President Obama intended to signal a new role for secularists and atheists in the post-election world Tuesday, when he mentioned “non-believers” in his inaugural speech.

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers,” Obama pointedly said during an oration in bitter winds on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

But the new president may have been playing to the crowd, according to Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Read the rest.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | Comments Off on Obama’s Mention of ‘Non-Believers’ doesn’t herald new secularism

Roe v. Wade 36th anniversary marked by Obama ad

Thousands of antiabortion advocates rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court to mark the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Two days after inauguration of a president who supports abortion rights, the gathering has a new feel. For example, as the Washington Post reported:

Nicole Balmos, a chef from San Antonio, said she was making her first trip to the annual rally and was drawn there because of the election of Barack Obama as the country’s 44th president. “I do believe that God has put him in this position because people need change,” said Balmos, 28. “I just pray that God softens his heart so we can stop killing babies.”

For the occasion, President Barack Obama’s life story has been incorporated into an anti-abortion ad:

In the 41-second ad, sponsored by, a camera slowly zooms in on a fetus in a womb as these words appear on the screen: “This child’s future is a broken home. He will be abandoned by his father. His single mother will struggle to raise him. Despite the hardships he will endure this child will become the 1st African-American President.” The ad ends with a photograph of President Obama and this message: “Life: Imagine the Potential.”

Dallas Morning News Religion Blog’s Bruce Tomasco says:

The ad suggests that Barack Obama’s struggling, single mother might have chosen to abort her pregnancy — and that the country would be poorer as a result.

There is no evidence, to my knowledge, that Obama’s mother ever contemplated such a course.

And, really, couldn’t you make the same argument about anyone? If Tim McVeigh’s mom had had an abortion, might those 168 people in Oklahoma City still be alive?

Here is the ad:

The ad is emblematic of the renewed intensity of the struggle after the conclusion of eight years of George Bush’s decidedly pro-life presidency.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Still-accelerating Baptist decline

The Nashville Tennessean pads out the story of Southern Baptist Decline, finally reaching this beating heart:

Bill Leonard, a Baptist historian at Wake Forest University, believes that conservatives underestimated the power of demographics. Much of the mainline decline is due to lower birthrates in those denominations. For years Southern Baptist churches grew because their people had more children than mainliners.

When that changed, fewer Baptist babies meant fewer Baptists, Leonard said.

The decline in children among Baptists is seen in Sunday school attendance.

In 1971, there were 1,434,892 children ages 6 to 11 in Southern Baptist Sunday schools. By 2007, the last year for which statistics are available, that number had dropped by about 455,000 to 979,429. At the same time, the U.S. population grew by 46 percent.

“Biblical inerrancy can’t hold off demographic realities forever,” Leonard said.

Leonard gives undue credit to the conservative “resurgence,” or “takeover” if you prefer the more honest term term.

Neither the Tennessean nor other close looks at well-vetted numbers suggests that the conservatives held anything off. They in fact made a bad demographic situation worse, at every step.

Roger Finke, a sociologist of religion at Penn State University, told the Tennessean that “growing religious groups often share two characteristics. They have a set core of beliefs as a denomination but allow innovative practices in their local congregations.”

The conservatives are innovation-hostile:

Finke believes that the conservative resurgence stifled innovation.

“They preserved a more conservative theology,” he said, “but they ended up placing controls on local congregations.”

The Rev. Rick White of the People’s Church in Franklin saw the disapproval of innovation firsthand.

White supported the conservative resurgence, and was part of the conservative takeover of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. In the 1990s, though, White began to experiment with church growth techniques from seeker-sensitive churches like Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago and the purpose-driven Saddleback Church in California.

That put White on the outs with conservative leaders. The Rev. Paige Patterson, an architect of the resurgence, once referred to churches like Willow Creek as “Satan-sensitive churches.”

. . .

White said that many former resurgence backers eventually dropped out.

“This is not what we signed up for,” White said.

Neither the demographics nor the conservative inflexibility is changing.

Whether written on the wall, or elsewhere, the story told by competent, unbiased analysis is the same. Down the now well-established path lies accelerating decline.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Religion | | 2 Comments

Warrenology: A science?

Warrenology was invoked by Mark Silk of Spiritual Politics yesterday for another run at Rick Warren’s inauguration invocation.

He and Dan Gilgoff now agree with us that Pastor Warren’s ever so carefully inclusive prayer, wasn’t.

Until he actually stood to deliver at the inauguration, a great many of us thought Warren was a contender for the “America’s Pastor” role created by the Rev. Billy Graham. As Beliefnet’s Steven Waldman explained:

[Graham] pulled it off by using broadly inclusive language. In 1989 he referred just to “God” and in 1993 he declared: “I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.” Note, too, that he used the word “I” rather than “we,” which would have assumed all in the audience were Christian.

Warren, says Mark Silk, “wanted to have it both ways–gesturing at inclusivity while sacrificing nothing to exclusivity.”

It didn’t really work, and one scholar and friend of Warren’s has flatly called it “a mistake,” although Warren’s core audience on the evangelical right seems to have been well-pleased.

What were we to expect of a man given to inspirational references to Hitler youth, confusion of gays with pedophiles (and later denying that), support of condom-burning African regimes and other, similarly interesting views and involvements? All mined from his recent past, where it lay fresh and unfossilized.

Whatever Warrenologists may conclude about the big guy’s intentions and effects, he was never asked to audition for the role as “America’s pastor.” Not by a president who not only pulled an unprecedented range of American faith traditions into his inaugural festivities, but was also the first to acknowledge nonbelievers.

Ours is a more complex, democratic era than the one the elder Rev. Graham handled so well. Even if he is later invited to audition for the role, it may be beyond Warren to preside now as Graham did over his era.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Politics, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment