Religion

What Some Black Church Leaders Have Wrong About Gay Marriage -- and Civil Rights

From Stonewall to Black Lives Matter, the African American LGBT community has always been on the forefront of fights for equality.

(Photo: AP/Jacqueline Martin)
(Photo: AP/Jacqueline Martin) On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples had a right to marry anywhere in the country. T he African American church and its leadership have often been at the forefront of movements for equality. But the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has shed light on the resistance to social change among some black church leaders —and has left them sounding more like white conservative leaders. On June 26, the Court ruled that two consenting adults have the right to get married—even if they are the same gender. As conservatives lamented the loss of morality and warned of the hellfire that would soon rain down upon us, President Barack Obama and the White House celebrated the decision. Just a few hours later, Obama delivered a eulogy for Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney was a South Carolina state senator and a pastor at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church before he was shot and killed, along with eight...

Conscience and the Culture Wars

Conservatives say marriage equality and health-care laws threaten their religious freedom. Should they be exempt?

AP Photo/Doug McSchooler
AP Photo/Doug McSchooler Dominic Dorsey uses a megaphone as he leads a group of opponents to Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in a march towards Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . T hese days, conservatives seem to own “conscience.” Consider the current objection to marriage equality. “Some citizens may conclude that they cannot in good conscience participate in a same-sex ceremony, from priests and pastors to bakers and florists,” argues the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson. “The government should not force them to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood.” Serving same-sex couples, business owners assert, would make them complicit in relationships they deem sinful, and so they claim religious exemptions from state and local antidiscrimination laws. Conscience is also the rallying cry of conservatives opposed...

Mother's Day, For Real

In the real America, the lives of women—especially black and brown women—are no bed of roses.

In partnership with The OpEd Project, The American Prospect presents this series, curated by Deborah Douglas, examining aspects of life unique to women, on one of greeting card industry's biggest days. (Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock) Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament DEBORAH DOUGLAS “What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous...

Netanyahu's New Government: Weak, Extreme, and Unpredictable

To stay in power, Israel's prime minister created a government even further right than he is.

(Photo: AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
(Photo: AP/Sebastian Scheiner) A s the minutes and seconds left for Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government flashed on my screen Wednesday night, I passed the time by reading Daniel Kahneman on the futility of political predictions. "Reality emerges from many different agents and forces. ... Short-term trends can be forecast with fair accuracy from previous behaviors," writes the Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel laureate in economics. "You should not expect much from making long-term forecasts." Kahneman seems overly optimistic about even short-term predictions when it comes to the politics of his native land—though he could fairly answer that in Israel seven weeks is long-term. That's how long it's been since the Israeli election, when Netanyahu defeated both his left-wing challenger and all of the country's pollsters. Immediately after the vote, the impression among the public and most of the expert class was that his way was paved to a new coalition, stronger than the one...

The West's Regard for Charlie Hedbo Victims Not Extended to African Targets of Extremist Violence

Massacres in Nigeria and Garissa, Kenya, did not draw nearly as much worldwide attention or grief as Charlie Hebdo. What does that say about how we value African lives?

(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
(Photo: AP/Lionel Cironneau) People in Nice, France, hold "I am Charlie" signs while participating in a silent march on January 10, commemorating the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. O n May 5, the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will receive the PEN American Center’s annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award. As of May 1, 145 writers have signed a letter of protest, on the grounds that the award would endorse the Islamophobia many associate with the magazine. Yet beyond a criticism like this, the fact that the Charlie Hebdo attack still occupies so much worldwide attention speaks to a selective memory of human rights abuses. In the months since, atrocities elsewhere have not inspired the same humanitarian response. And this is cause for concern. As it should be, the savage attack on Charlie Hebdo ’s Paris headquarters in January in which 12 were killed threw many of us into a deep stupor. The world stopped. Then, the world moved immediately to demonstrate...

Pity the Purist in the GOP Primaries (A Tear for Bobby Jindal)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
I t's the season for pandering to the base, which is as good a time as any to ask whether the glorious, fascinating mess that is today's Republican Party can ever unify enough to win back the White House—or whether unity is something they should even be after. Because it may well be that a fractured, contentious GOP is the only kind that can prevail next November. You probably missed it, but over the weekend nearly all the Republican presidential candidates (with the notable exception of Jeb Bush) hotfooted it back to Iowa to participate in the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Forum, where they testified to the depths of their love for the Lord and their hatred for His enemies, particularly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The entreaties to this band of the base—important in primaries everywhere, but critically so in Iowa, where 57 percent of the attendees at the Republican caucuses in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christian—are a good reminder of the internal and...

First in the Nation: New Abortion Restrictions in Kansas

The ban of a common medical procedure is giving the state a dubious distinction.

(Photo: AP/John Hanna)
Protesters rally against abortion at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka in January. Kansas and Oklahoma both recently banned a medically safe and common abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation but referred to by opponents as "dismemberment abortions." T ypically, “first in the nation” is a title that a state would feel proud to receive. However, in the case of Kansas’s first-in-the-nation law that criminalizes doctors who perform a certain type of abortion procedure, our policymakers should be ashamed. In a state that is already hostile toward women, this new law prevents doctors from providing the best care to their patients and limits women’s ability to decide what is best for themselves and their families. Even worse, Kansas has already been joined by Oklahoma, with Governor Mary Fallin’s signature on nearly identical legislation. These bills are sprouting up throughout the country as part of an extreme, anti-women agenda that intends to ban abortion care across the U.S...

The Latest Target of 'Religious Freedom' Advocates: Reproductive Rights in the Nation's Capital

A House committee has voted to overturn a local D.C. law that prevents discrimination based on employees' reproductive choices.

(Photo from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah is the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which voted late Tuesday night to disapprove the District's Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. H ere’s a riddle for all you students of the American political system: You are an elected representative, and you would like to curry favor in your home district among right-wing conservatives. One way to do this is to pass a local law sanctioning discrimination against LGBT citizens and women who choose to use birth control, under the guise of “religious freedom.” But you’ve recently discovered that such a law can backfire pretty spectacularly. Just look at poor Mike Pence, Republican governor of Indiana, regarded as presidential material not long ago. What other tactic, besides sanctioning religion-based discrimination, could you use? Well, if you’re a member of Congress, you’ve got the people of the District of Columbia to whom you can teach a thing or two; they’re not...

How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of 'Religious Freedom' Laws

They've been the driving force behind anti-LGBT legislation. But now their numbers are falling off.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(Map from Gallup) Southern states still rate among the highest in the country for church attendance, as the map shows. But recent surveys suggest that once-dominant white evangelicals are in decline in the South. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies . L ast month, Indiana sparked a national debate over so-called "religious freedom" bills, a controversy that soon flared up in other states across the South and country. A similar bill stalled in the Georgia House amidst the backlash. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act only after substantial revisions, although civil rights advocates say it still doesn't go far enough . North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, who is also a Republican, said he won't support his state's proposed RFRA bill, which scholars and activists say would allow for a wider range of discriminatory practices based in religion...

Miscarriage of Justice: Asian-American Women Targeted -- and All Women Threatened -- by Feticide Laws Like Indiana's

Purvi Patel's pregnancy ended with a medical emergency—and a 20-year prison sentence. 

(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin) Purvi Patel is taken into custody after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent on Monday, March 30, 2015, at the St. Joseph County Courthouse in South Bend, Indiana. Yet she may simply have had a miscarriage. L ike many women, Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman living in South Bend, Indiana, had an unplanned pregnancy. But unlike most women’s experiences, her unplanned pregnancy and subsequent stillbirth led to a criminal conviction. Today, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Patel, an unmarried Indian-American woman living with her parents in South Bend Indiana, kept her pregnancy a secret for months, while working a low-wage job to support her parents and grandparents, who suffer from costly health conditions. Last summer, Patel believed she had suffered a miscarriage. She went to an emergency room seeking assistance for heavy vaginal bleeding. Just a few hours after she underwent medical...

This Is No Time for Liberals to Give Up on Israel

Because of Netanyahu's bellicosity—and Republican support for it—it's now possible in Washington to argue about Israel. With so much at stake, liberals must.

(Photo: EdoM via Wikimedia Commons)
T onight most American Jews will sit down with family and friends for the Passover Seder. Whether they tell the story of redemption from slavery according to the Hebrew traditional text, a radical rewriting, or not at all, they'll eventually get to a sumptuous holiday meal and to conversation, often including politics. Judging from the reaction of some of my close friends and respected colleagues to the Israeli election, one subject that liberal Jews—that is, most American Jews—won't want on the menu is Israel. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu has spoiled the taste beyond redemption. The manner of his victory—a lurch rightward, an unholy alliance with the GOP, a last-minute scare video about "droves" of Arab voters "advancing" on the polling places—has made talk of Israel even more bitter to the tongue. The tension in American Jewry between being liberal and being Zionist has been growing for years. But the election on March 17, 2015, may have been a breaking point. Believe me, I...

The 'Rapacious' Business Model That Rules the Church of Scientology

When L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetcs enterprise collapsed, he told his wife that the only way to make money was to found a religion, according to the HBO documentary, Going Clear.

(Photo: PictorialEvidence via Wikimedia Commons)
This article was originally published by AlterNet . In America, salvation is big business, and he who dies with the most souls wins. Plenty of lives are wrecked along the way, but no matter. When consumer capitalism meets religious yearning, the sky’s the limit of what can you can get away with. That’s the subtext of Alex Gibney’s latest film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief , which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and screened on HBO on March 29. L. Ron Hubbard, or LRH, as he liked to style himself, was an American of unprepossessing origins in search of meaning and money. Possibly he found the first, and is just now cavorting with intergalactic spirits in the sky. Most definitely he found the second, riding a rocket ship of wacked-out ambition to create what is now essentially a tax-free shell company with $3 billion in assets and real estate holdings on six continents. Gibney doesn’t give us LRH as a madman, or even a simple huckster. The penny-a...

3 Trends Driving Liberal American Jews Away From Israel

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. I n the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory last week—and the sordid campaigning that made it possible—liberal American Jews may be feeling, more than they ever have before, pained by, conflicted about, and even estranged from Israel. There are certainly consequences for policy, as U.S. policy toward Israel could become a much more partisan issue than it is now. But more than that, there's a crisis of the spirit emerging. It's fed by three trends, all of which serve to alienate liberal American Jews from Israel, all of which were highlighted by this election, and all of which look inexorable. The first, of course, is the hopelessness of the Palestinian situation. When, just before the election, Netanyahu abandoned his stated support for an ultimate two-state solution, it didn't surprise...

Netanyahu's Campaign Road Show Comes to Washington

The Israeli prime minister didn't offer an Iran policy to Congress. He offered dread and overconfidence to Israel voters.

 

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he step to the podium prior to speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. I n the end, Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress was precisely what was expected from the beginning, from the day that House Speaker John Boehner publicly invited the Israeli prime minister: an Israeli campaign event before a more impressive and much more sycophantic audience than the Israeli prime minister could have found at home; a Republican show designed to use Israel against President Barack Obama; and a blow to the connection between Israel and the United States that Netanyahu and Boehner supposedly hold so dear. The campaign theatrics were there in Netanyahu's opening lines, when he addressed the leaders of the House and Senate and called special attention to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid—a move meant to distract the Israeli audience from the absence of Vice...

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