Religion

When Charlie Is Not French

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...

How Mindfulness Can Transform Movements for Racial Justice and Equality

While Black History Month is rightly steeped in regard for the struggles and triumphs of the past, consciousness in the present is what will move us forward through the other 11 months of the year.

(AP Photo/Edward Kitch)
(AP Photo/Edward Kitch) The kind of mindfulness exemplified by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, shown here at a 1966 news conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., could transform movements for racial and social justice. The American civil rights leader and the Buddhist master came together to call for a halt to the U.S. bombing of Viet Nam. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's University of Texas at Austin Public Voices Fellowship. B lack History Month is like a meditation retreat where mindfulness is the goal, but it is not being cultivated in our everyday actions. In Buddhism, we say "mindfulness off the cushion" is the real aim of practice. Gil Fronsdal offers a wonderful analogy instructive even for those unfamiliar with Buddhist practice, describing meditation as “ mindfulness with training wheels .” In fact, #blacklivesmatter contains the seeds of a bona fide mindfulness movement within and across racial groups because...

Chapel Hill Murders Are About More Than a Parking Dispute

Fights over space—whether in subways or suburban neighborhoods—are more often contests about privilege.

(Photo / Jenny Warburg)
(Photo / Jenny Warburg) Mourners at vigil in The Pit at University of North Carolina/ Chapel Hill on February 11, 2015, where the lives of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Deah Shaddy Barakat, who were killed in Barakat's apartment, allegedly by neighbor Craig Hicks, who shot each of them in the head. I have three categories of Facebook friends who are, like me, North Carolinians or University of North Carolina alumni. The first are deeply crushed by the murder of three young Muslim people in Chapel Hill on Tuesday. The second group is also horrified, but part — if not most — of their horror derives from their dismay that mass murder could occur in their idyllic and upper-class town. Then there’s the third group whose members are, at best, are in denial; at worst, they’re willfully blind. For those unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of my home state, Chapel Hill is known as a mythically progressive oasis in a red state, and it’s squarely in the Triangle, a...

Jindal's Prayer Rally Brings Together 'Prophets,' Bigots and Right-Wing Activists

Once hailed as the GOP’s top intellectual and reformer, the Louisiana governor headlined a gathering organized and sponsored by some of the most extreme figures in the party.

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman) Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaks during a prayer rally, Saturday, January 24, 2015, in Baton Rouge. Jindal continued to court Christian conservatives for a possible presidential campaign with a headlining appearance at an all-day prayer rally hosted by the American Family Association. A version of this article first appeared at Right Wing Watch , the website published by People for the American Way. L ouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who only a few years ago was lamenting the GOP’s decline into “ the stupid party ,” is now staking out a position on the party’s far-right fringe in apparent preparation for an expected run for the presidency. Jindal has reached out to the party’s increasingly extreme base by undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools; promoting wild conspiracy theories about Common Core, an effort to adjust school standards that he supported before it became the target of the Tea Party’s fury; and hyping the purported...

Terrorists Will Never Limit Our Free Speech, But Government Can

“Lone wolf” nutjobs and small bands of extremists can't threaten our values, but our own institutions can.

(Photo by Boris Roessler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
Photo by: Boris Roessler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images The front pages of international newspapers show the January 11, 2015, memorial march for the victims of the Paris terror attacks. Millions of people demonstrated on January 11 in a march through the French capital for the preservation of democratic values. T errorists can't limit our speech. They can murder and maim, and cause widespread panic, but they don't have the capacity to threaten to our democratic values. They never have, and they never will. The real threat is that we might voluntarily surrender some of our rights in order to defend ourselves against terrorism. In that sense, suggesting that a handful of bloodthirsty wackos have the capacity to prevent us from drawing offensive cartoons or mocking a religion gives them far more power than they actually posses. It's true that armed extremists can shape the way society operates in fragile or failed states, where they can sometimes wield something approaching real...

Pages