Biggest Week of Religion and the Campaign Trail… So Far: News Roundup

In the news this week: a multitude of stories about religion and presidential hopefuls, the NYPD uses an anti-Muslim film, a Minnesotan boy is believed to be the reincarnation of a Buddhist spiritual leader, and other stories.

Thursday’s Republican presidential debate included a section on how religion would influence each candidate. It quoted Paul as saying his religious beliefs "affect my character and the way I treat people and how I live."
 
Romney said he "would also seek the guidance of Providence in making decisions."Gingrich claimed his very candidacy was driven in part by what he perceives as a "war against religion," especially Christianity, in the media. Presidents, he noted, "should go to God; they should seek guidance."
 
And the blog noted that Santorum called America the only nation with founding documents that include "God-given rights," adding that "faith has everything to do" with the decisions a president would make. Deseret News
 
At his last town hall before South Carolinians vote, Rick Santorum was discussing the concepts of freedom and equality that the nation was founded on and said the concept of equality “doesn’t come from Islam” or “Eastern religions.” Instead “it comes from “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” ABC News
 
Rick Santorum became annoyed at reporters for asking him why he didn’t correct a woman at a campaign event who called President Obama an “avowed Muslim.” ABC News
 
Mitt Romney’s newly released tax returns provide more than an accounting of the Republican presidential candidate’s remarkable personal wealth. The documents also give a rare glimpse into tithing to the Mormon church by one its most prominent members. Boston.com
 
Mitt Romney accused President Obama of waging “the assault on religion” during a conference call with Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition on January 25th and said that the administration is “fighting to eliminate conscience clause” protections for health care works and “pave the path to same-sex marriage.” ThinkProgress
 
As the Republican presidential nomination fight heats up in Florida, a Mormon rite that leaves many Jews seething could prove awkward for the candidate in a state that's home to more Jewish people than any other besides New York and California.
 
The religious rite is proxy baptism for the dead. According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church, these posthumous "blessings" are intended to "save" ancestors and others who weren't baptized in life or were baptized "without proper authority." Huffington Post
 
The New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, through a top aide, acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that he personally cooperated with the filmmakers of “The Third Jihad” — a decision the commissioner now describes as a mistake.
 
The film, which says the goal of “much of Muslim leadership here in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States, was screened for more than 1,400 officers during training in 2010. New York Times
 
She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.
 
A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion. In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion. NY Times
 
Minnesotan Jalue Dorjee is believed to be no ordinary boy.
 
According to the highest authorities of the Tibetan Buddhist order, he is the reincarnation of the speech, mind and body of a lama, or spiritual guru, who died in Switzerland six years ago. Jalue is said to be the eighth appearance of the original lama, born in 1655. Star-Telegram
 
Federal job discrimination complaints rose to an all-time high last year, led by an increase in bias charges based on religion and national origin.
 
Charges of religious discrimination jumped by 9.5 percent, the largest increase of any category. Claims of bias based on ancestry or country of origin rose 5 percent. Washington Post