French Gunman Kills Based on Religion and Identity: News Roundup

In the news this week: Jews in France killed by gunman, Americans grow uneasy with religion in politics, the largest gathering of atheists in history, and other stories.

Children spilled out of Beth Hanna Jewish school under a spring sun and the watchful eyes of armed police. Leah Chicheportiche mingled with other waiting parents in this northeastern Paris neighborhood, including many men sporting the trademark black hat of Hasidic Jews.
 
"We're a bit worried — even here in Paris — after the incident," said Chicheportiche, a mother of five, keeping a watchful eye on two daughters licking ice-cream cones on Tuesday (March 20).
 
A day after a motorcycle gunman mowed down three children and a rabbi in the southern city of Toulouse, she added: "We hope they'll arrest him quickly."
 
As schools across France marked a moment of silence for Monday's victims and the government notched up its terror alert for the southwestern region and increased security around religious institutions, many ordinary French are grappling for answers. Religion News Service
 
Back in 2001, when Pew first asked the question, just 12 percent of Americans complained that their politicians talked too much about religion.
 
That number has risen steadily ever since and hit a record high in the new poll: 38 percent of Americans, including 24 percent of Republicans, now say their political leaders are overdoing it with their expressions of faith and prayer. The Pew study said that between 1996 and 2006 the balance of opinion on this question consistently tilted in the opposite direction – favoring more church input on political and social issues.
 
And more Americans than ever, 54 percent, believe churches should keep out of politics. That's up from 43 percent in 1996, according to the Pew Research Center. Christian Science Monitor
 
A coalition of atheist and secular organizations are coming together on Saturday to hold what is being billed at the largest gathering of atheists in history.
 
David Silverman, chairman of the event committee and president of the American Atheists, said the rally is aimed at uniting atheist organizations and letting the religious know that there are nonbelievers among them. CNN
 
Religious leaders in Wisconsin are voicing their support for a planned mosque in Brookfield, as minor opposition to the project begins to foment in some quarters.
 
Members of the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network were drafting a letter in support of Masjid Al'Noor, the mosque proposed by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee in an industrial area of the city.
 
"This is about the rights of decent human beings to have a place to worship," said Rabbi Steven Adams of Congregation Emanu-El in Waukesha, who was drafting the letter on behalf of the group. "Part of our mission is to foster dialogue and support for religious expression, and we feel very strongly that this is in keeping with that." Journal Sentinel
 
When a Sikh family in Sterling, Va., received a death threat in the form of a letter addressed to “Turban family,” on February 28, it was not the family’s first experience with religiously motivated threats to their safety.
 
They had seen a hate letter of this kind, demanding that the family leave the country or be killed, back in 2003: “We used to live in Gaithersburg, Md., where we got two letters, and graffiti (was scribbled on) our home. At that point it was very scary.” The graffiti said something along the lines of “Osama go back” or “Go back to your country.”
 
The victim, who asked that his identity be kept confidential for security reasons, said his family contacted the county police, who investigated but were unable to find any suspects. Divanee
 
At this point in 2011, 22 state legislatures had either passed or were considering bills to prohibit judges from considering either Islamic law, known as Shariah, or foreign law in their decisions.
 
What a difference a year can make.  
 
The wave of anti-Shariah legislation has broken in recent weeks, as bills in several states have either died or been withdrawn, raising questions about whether the anti-Shariah movement has lost its momentum. Religion News Service