Southern Religion

Pressure on Australian Scientology mounts

The Church of Scientology this week denied one of the charges lodged by Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, using parliamentary privilege.

Affirming another of Xenophon’s charges, Australian Scientology suicide soldier Edward McBride’s family called for a probe of the circumstances of McBride’s 2007 death.

Australia World News reported:

Police investigating [McBride’s] death in 2007 had been repeatedly stymied by the church, which failed to provide personal audit files as requested, [his brother] Stephen McBride said.

“Every time I think of scientology I still get a real bad aftertaste in my mouth,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“There’s something just not right about it.”

Mr McBride is adamant the church contributed to his brother’s suicide, with the coroner reporting [a barrage of] telephone messages contained intimidating statements, such as “this behaviour is unacceptable” and “you have missed your interview”.

Senator Xenophon said said he still did not have the governmental support required to launch a probe. Nonetheless, “This is a hell of a week and I think we are distracted with other issues, but I think it’s inevitable there will be an inquiry, one way or the other.”


November 24, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion, WWW | , | Comments Off on Pressure on Australian Scientology mounts

Too many simple, probably wrong answers about Nidal Hasan

Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek:

Major [Nidal] Hasan may suffer from loneliness, isolation, PTSD, and a terror of being deployed overseas. He may, indeed, be mentally ill. But he was also allegedly exchanging e-mail with Anwar al Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric whose rhetoric urges Muslims to see terrorism as a selfless and righteous act for the greater good of the global Muslim community. In his tract “44 Ways to Support Jihad [.pdf],” al Awlaki writes, “Jihad today is obligatory on every capable Muslim. So as a Muslim who wants to please Allah it is your duty to find ways to practice it and support it.” Even if Hasan was not, strictly speaking, an enlisted man in a terrorist cell, he was exposed to these ideas. They may have framed his thinking. They may have given him a “rationale” to act as he did. Either-or choices don’t satisfy. Bruce Hoffman, professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, puts it this way: “Just because somebody may be mentally unstable doesn’t mean this isn’t an act of terrorism.”

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Religion, terrorism | , | 6 Comments

Grinding FBI hate-crime numbers to fit your ax

First, just the facts, then select samples from the annual grinding of the axes:

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Politics, Religion | 1 Comment

Swine flu Tuesday’s light viral touch

Vaccinated workplace safe & groaning aloud is encouraged:

[H/T: BoingBoing]

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Education, Health, Science | Comments Off on Swine flu Tuesday’s light viral touch

Manhattan Misdeclaration

Robert Parham of blisters the Manhattan Declaration signers for misrepresentation and misappropriation of historic themes:

Talk about historical revisionism and theological misdirection. Many of these signatories are the spiritual heirs of the Christian slaveholders. They come from the faith tradition that opposed the civil rights movement, abandoned public schools for private Christian schools, demonized government funding for the poor and disadvantaged. Their theological soul-mates are the ones who said AIDS was a gay disease and refused to address the issue for 20 years. As for the rights and equality of women, for heaven’s sake, the Southern Baptist signatories believe women should be homemakers, helpmates to their husbands who are the breadwinners. Southern Baptist fundamentalists believe women are unworthy of ordination.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kennedy, Tobin & Catholic muscle in the public square [Addendum]

It exploded into public view last week. Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin of Providence, RI, because of the pro-choice political views expressed by Rep. Patrick Joseph Kennedy (D-RI), asked him in 2007 not to take communion.

Tobin was and is flexing church political muscle, as his letter to Kennedy made clear:

In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions, therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.

Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life director Mark Silk’s painstaking review leaves no doubt about either the intended force of the letter or Tobin’s willingness to follow up with additional force. The disappointed bishop said that had Kennedy ignored the request, “the next step might have been more direct.”

Right-wing Catholics celebrate and defend the action, just as they call for similar actions against Department of Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of whom are Roman Catholic. Indeed, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has repeatedly said Sebelius should stop taking Communion until she changes her stance. Even so, Catholic priests are not somehow compelled to follow Tobin’s model.

Monsignor John Brenkle of St. Helena Catholic Church, whose church Pelosi attends while at home in California, exemplifies an alternative to Tobin’s strong-arm approach. Brenkle told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

There are people who would strongly forbid Nancy Pelosi from receiving communion, but I’m sorry, we don’t question people’s religious or political stance.

Bishops are not themselves in overarching agreement, as Catholic religion journalist David Gibson explained:

In reality, the Catholic hierarchy and the nearly 70 million-strong church itself are hardly so unified, even if their efforts on current health care reform and gay marriage have been impressive. Both within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and throughout the pews, American Catholics are deeply split on a range of issues that affect matters internal to the church as well as policy in the public square. And contrary to another popular notion, the bishops can take as much flack from the right as they do from the left.

True and yet fatally incomplete, as Gibson reveals further along in his column when he explores the why the USCCB president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, is pushing to reassert the authority of bishops:

According to church insiders, the irritation of George and some other bishops stems from frustration that lay Catholics did not seem to heed their warnings about voting for Barack Obama, (53 percent of Catholic voters went for the Democrat) and anger at Notre Dame’s decision to invite Obama as its commencement speaker last May over the objections of the local bishop in Indiana, John D’Arcy. Cardinal George and dozens of other prelates joined D’Arcy in protesting the invitation.

It is clear then that even if journalists all become (and they should be) masters of basic canon law as is required to deal with the factual details, this will still be about the Roman Catholic Church exercising authority over U.S. domestic political policy, and yearning to exercise more. Is it too much to group some Bishops with the American Taliban? Remonstrance is to be expected. It is merited by events.


Bishop Tobin’s record of public political arm-twisting dates at least to his comparison of Rudy Giuliani to Pontius Pilate in May of 2007 (the same year that he penned his until recently private letter to Kennedy), reports Meredith Shiner of Politico.

That characterization was part of Tobin’s answer, via an op-ed in the Rhode Island Catholic, to a Giuliani presidential campaign fundraiser invitation.

The column was political throat cutting of the most ordinary kind and defies his recent positioning of himself as the diligent, caring spiritual shepherd. For example, Tobin wrote:

Rudy’s public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing. Even worse, they’re hypocritical.

Now this is what we get from Rudy as he attempted to explain his ambiguous position on abortion in a speech at Houston Baptist College earlier this month: “Here are the two strong beliefs that I have, here are the two pillars of my thinking . . . One is, I believe abortion is wrong. I think it is morally wrong . . . The second pillar that guides my thinking . . . where [people of good faith] come to different conclusions about this, about something so very, very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint. You give them a level of choice here . . . I’ve always believed both of these things.”

What? This drivel from the man who received high marks, and properly so, for his clear vision and personal courage in healing New York City, and by extension, the nation, after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Religion | Comments Off on Kennedy, Tobin & Catholic muscle in the public square [Addendum]