Religious Advocacy Groups Boom on Capitol Hill: News Roundup

In the news this week:  a remarkable increase in religious advocacy groups in Washington, Atheism and the holidays, a Presidential candidate promotes profiling, and other stories. 

The field of religious advocacy has mushroomed on Capitol Hill in recent decades, a new survey shows, with the number of groups growing fivefold since 1970 and hundreds of millions spent each year to influence issues from school vouchers and immigration to the right of women overseas to have abortions.
The report, released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, appears to be the most extensive research ever done on D.C.-based lobbyists and advocates on faith matters. It documents the widening range of domestic and foreign issues religious groups push and fight and shows the entrance in recent years of religious minority groups, such as Muslims, Sikhs and secular organizations, into the field. Washington Post
In towns all across America, individuals are called out by their very neighbors for their lack of belief, and are excluded from their community because of their nontheism. Stories of discrimination against atheists are increasingly commonplace in the media, as atheists are frequently and wrongly charged with being amoral troublemakers who seek to destroy the foundations of America.
This type of prejudice runs counter to the generosity that is supposed to be the hallmark of the holidays. That's why the American Humanist Association recently announced the launch of a holiday advertisement campaign aimed to raise awareness of discrimination against nonbelievers in America. Huffington Post
Springfield, Missouri, hosted the Skepticon IV convention over the weekend. While there, many atheists shopped at the local stores and restaurants. One of the restaurants that members of the atheist community patronized was Gelato Mio. However, it soon became clear that the owner of that establishment didn’t want to serve non-believers. He put up a sign on his window that read, “Skepticon is NOT welcomed to my Christian Business.” Examiner
Today, as two of Smith's adherents eye the nation's highest office, religious discrimination remains an obstacle for Mormon political candidates for president and a vexation for church members. USA Today
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said at Tuesday's CNN National Security Debate that he would improve airport security by profiling, particularly Muslims and young men.
"Obviously Muslims would be someone you'd look at, absolutely," Santorum said. "Those are the folks who … the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes by and large, as well as younger males." Santorum said profiling was important because the American security apparatus should strive to "find the bomber, not the bomb."
Corey Saylor, Council on American-Islamic Relations national legislative director, put out a release on Wednesday that asked for Santorum to repudiate the comments. CNN


First Time That Atheists Are Included in Pope’s Interreligious Talks: News Roundup

In the news this week: the Pope hosts an interfaith dialogue event including non-believers, over 180 Muslim women, who are also community leaders, met in Istanbul, TLC is airing the “All American Muslim” series, and other stories.

When Pope Benedict XVI departs from a seldom-used railway station inside Vatican City on a train taking him to Assisi, he will follow the tricky path of interfaith dialogue first explored by his predecessor, John Paul II.
In the central Italian town, the 12th century birthplace of St Francis, the pontiff on Thursday is set to meet representatives of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and the world's other major religions. Kansas City Star
Four leading atheist intellectuals will take part in the inter-religious talks in Assisi for the first time in a sign of Pope Benedict's growing interest in dialogue between ''faith and reason''. Sydney Morning Herald
On October 24, a ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia dedicated the first monument on Chaplains Hill, commemorating 14 Jewish chaplains killed on active duty in America’s armed forces. The Jewish Daily Forward
More than 180 Muslim women from 45 countries attended panels and seminars in İstanbul last week focusing on educating and empowering Muslim women and promoting their rights from an Islamic perspective.
“There are 750 million Muslim women in the world, and there is no single institution that speaks for us,” said Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA). She said that’s why this conference was organized to bring together powerful Muslim women who are making changes in their communities while working in different professions. Today’s Zaman
Individuals who practice religion and spirituality report better physical and mental health than those who do not.  To better understand this relationship and how spirituality/religion can be used for coping with significant health issues, University of Missouri researchers are examining what aspects of religion are most beneficial and for what populations. Now, MU health psychology researchers have found that religious and spiritual support improves health outcomes for both men and women who face chronic health conditions. Health Canal
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Justice statistics indicate that complaints of religious harassment in the workplace are on the rise.
In fact, according to University of Tennessee professor Rosalind Hackett, religious harassment claims are second only to complaints about sexual harassment. "This is the second most problematic issue in the workplace," she said. Knoxville News Sentinel
What's life like as a Muslim-American?
A new eight-part series on TLC that premieres November 13 will try to answer that question by following the lives of five very different Muslim-American families. The show, "All-American Muslim", was filmed in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit that's known for its large Arab-American population. It promises to go "inside the rarely seen world of American Muslims to uncover a unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world," according to a press release. Huffington Post
A Florida judge can rely on Islamic law to decide a case involving a local mosque, an appeals court has ruled.
The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal dismissed without comment a petition to prevent Hillsborough Judge Richard Nielsen from invoking Islamic law, The St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday.