Promoters of Anti-Muslim Film Exposed: News Roundup

In the news this week:  details emerge about forces behind anti-Muslim film, presidential candidates increase “God talk,” and other stories.

California Coptic Christian and Muslim leaders on Monday denounced an anti-Islamic movie that has sparked violence in the Middle East, as the filmmaker and his family left their suburban home and went into hiding.

The Southern California religious leaders joined a chorus of condemnation about last week's killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans as violence continued and the leader of the powerful militant group Hezbollah called for more protests.

At the center of the controversy is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Cerritos man and self-described Coptic Christian who made "Innocence of Muslims," a crudely produced film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, philanderer and child molester.  Seattle Times

The Southern California men behind the anti-Islamic movie that has enraged the Arab world were influenced by a fiery Coptic cleric who owns a home in Huntington Beach and is known around the globe for insults to the prophet Muhammad that are strikingly similar to those in the film.

The preacher, Zakaria Botros Henein, sometimes called Islam's Public Enemy No. 1, teaches that Muhammad was a necrophile, a homosexual and a pedophile.  LA Times

At campaign events these days, Mitt Romney often says that if he is elected president, he will emphasize the role of God in American society and will not “take God out of the public square.”

That kind of rhetoric is a departure from earlier less God-focused versions of the Republican candidate’s stump speech and his early apprehension with discussing his Mormon faith.

According to Mark DeMoss, Romney’s adviser to the evangelical community, such lines are designed to create a contrast with a Democratic Party that had to fight to get God into its platform at its recent convention.  CNN

President Barack Obama's campaign is continuing its push for people of faith to cast a November ballot in their favor.  On Monday they unveiled a "People of Faith for Obama" a new initiative to mobilize voters that included Web video of the president and a faith platform.

In the video candidate Obama makes the case that his faith plays a major role in his decision-making process.  He says when hearing stories of faith from Americans he is touched, “They reinforce the power of my Christian faith which has guided me through my presidency and in my life, as a husband, as a father, and as a president.”

The president also made specific reference to the issue of religious liberty.  “In a changing world, my commitment to religious liberty, is and always will be unwavering,” he said.  CNN

Three-quarters of the world's human population of seven billion live under strong government curbs on religion, or among serious "social hostilities" involving faith issues, find researchers.

The US and UK, say the researchers, are among countries showing a worrying rise in religious discrimination.

The conclusions of the project, conducted by the Pew Research Centre, an American think tank’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, were published on Thursday. The analysis, of 197 countries and territories, identifies a sharp rise in religious limits globally and a 6% increase in restrictions in the four years until 2010.  The Guardian UK

Sixteen members of a breakaway Amish community in rural eastern Ohio, including its leader, were convicted of federal hate crimes Thursday for the forcible cutting of Amish men's beards and Amish women's hair.

Sam Mullet Sr. and the 15 followers were found guilty of conspiracy to violate federal hate-crime law in connection with what authorities said were the religiously motivated attacks on several fellow Amish people last year.  CNN

Irony of Ironies – An International Day of Peace?

Dear Friends,

Today is the International Day of Peace.  It should be a day of hope and optimism.  But it is not. 

Daily violence reminds us that peace is often elusive, hard to achieve, and too often sabotaged by small groups with disproportionate impact. So for me, the International Day of Peace is not a day of hope. 

Rather, it is a reminder to imagine what is possible and a call to work harder to defeat the forces of religious prejudice, division and death. And they are all around us. In only the past few weeks, we have repeatedly witnessed divisive, violent, and even deadly conflicts over our differences and different ways of believing. And we know there is more to come.

Just last month, we were shocked when six Sikhs were murdered as they attended a religious service in Wisconsin.  While the motive for the attack will never be definitively known because the shooter took his own life, we do know that he associated with white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.  It is likely that the killer took aim out of hate. What we do not know is whether he truly intended to target Sikhs or whether he shared a common misperception that Sikhs are Muslims and was acting out of anti-Muslim hatred.  For the families of the dead, it doesn’t matter. A man with a gun hated.  And he destroyed families forever.

It was less than two weeks after the Wisconsin attack that the offices of the Family Research Council were targeted by a gunman.  When approached by a security guard, the gunman reportedly announced, “I don’t like your politics,” and then shot the man.  Fortunately, the victim survived.  The Family Research Council’s political stances are informed by particular, strongly held Christian beliefs.  And the violent attack targeted those beliefs. Here again, a violent attack based on religious prejudice.

Last week, it was an anti-Islamic film’s impact that overtook the news. Created in the U.S. by an Egyptian Coptic Christian who claimed to be an Israeli Jew, the film was used to spew hatred at every turn.  Translated into Arabic and promoted by individuals who seek to demean Islam, the film inflamed by depicting the prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and homosexual.  We know the division and violence that quickly ensued.  While a coordinated attack was executed on a U.S. Consulate in Libya which ended the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Jews were blamed for creating and/or funding the film, feeding historic angers and escalating anti-Semitism.  Islamic extremists advocated for retaliation against America for the blasphemy.  Demonstrations against the film sprung up in Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East and beyond.  Though some involved sought to peacefully protest, violence made the news, with the destruction of property and, more disturbingly, more deaths and devastated families. 

I wish that were all, but it is not.  We have a glimpse of a future where ads are being placed on New York City subway platforms that explicitly promote hatred toward Arabs and Muslims while surreptitiously seeking to drive a wedge between two religious groups that have suffered bigotry in the U.S. – Muslims and Jews.  Next week, the American Freedom Defense Initiative is slated to put up advertisements that read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.”  It concludes with two Stars of David framing the words, “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” 

In each of these instances, religious differences are being used to inflame.  The result: a world where the faithful of every religion are at risk of being targeted, harmed, and maybe killed. 

On this day dedicated to peace, I believe we have to acknowledge the realities around us.  But I also believe that we can use this day to imagine what is possible and then take action to realize it.  Each of us can take personal responsibility for overcoming divisive voices – by living lives marked by respect, by being a vocal ally of those targeted, and by joining a global movement that says “Enough” to the hate.

IMAGINE…a more peaceful world that respects difference.  We are committed to making that vision a reality.

In peace,

Joyce S. Dubensky

(pdf version)

NYPD Spying Generated Nothing: News Roundup

In the news this week:  NYPD spying never generated a lead, soldiers not criminally charged in Quran burnings, and other stories.

In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.

The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.

Police hoped the Demographics Unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. And if police ever got a tip about, say, an Afghan terrorist in the city, they'd know where he was likely to rent a room, buy groceries and watch sports.

But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.  Huffington Post

Six U.S. Army soldiers and three Marines escaped criminal charges for mistakenly burning Qurans and urinating on the corpses of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, but they received administrative punishments, U.S. military officials said Monday.

A military investigation concluded that miscommunications, poor guidance and soldiers' decisions to take "the easy way instead of the right way" resulted in the burning of more than 300 Qurans and other religious books at a U.S. base in Afghanistan early this year.

U.S. military leaders widely condemned both the Quran burning and the urination, which was captured on video. The Quran burning triggered Afghan riots and retribution killings, including two U.S. troops who were shot by an Afghan soldier and two U.S. military advisers who were gunned down at their desks at the Interior Ministry.  USA Today

A Muslim man who once ran for Franklin alderman is suing a security company, claiming his religious rights were violated when its guards demanded he remove his cap before entering Nashville’s Juvenile Justice Center.

Rashid al-Qadir claims security guards violated his First Amendment right to the free exercise of his religion by telling him he could not wear the small, brimless cap called a kufi. Al-Qadir says he offered to remove the kufi for inspection but then wanted to put it back on. The guards refused and demanded he leave the building. Al-Qadir says he left voluntarily because he was afraid of being arrested or hurt.

In a motion filed Tuesday, attorneys for G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc. do not dispute al-Qadir’s account of the April 11, 2011, events. Instead, they argue the suit should be dismissed because al-Qadir cannot prove his claim that the guards were acting on behalf of the government. Greg Grisham, an attorney for the company formerly known as Wackenhut, said he could not comment further on the suit.  The Tennessean

The law of God will collide with the law of man this week in a crowded federal courtroom in Cleveland, where 16 Amish defendants — 10 men with full beards, six women in white bonnets — will stand trial on charges related to a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish men and women last year.

The case has attracted national and international attention, in part because of public curiosity about the normally reclusive and peaceful Amish community, and because of the peculiar nature of the alleged crimes.

Interest also has been heightened by the fact that the federal government rather than a local prosecutor brought the charges. The case is the first in Ohio to make use of a landmark 2009 federal law that expanded government powers to prosecute hate crimes.  Religion News Service

Republican Ticket to Make History – Absence of Protestant Christian: News Roundup

In the news this week: Republican ticket to make history, atheist group billboard targets candidates’ religions, atheism on the rise in the U.S., and other stories.

In selecting Paul Ryan for his running mate, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has made modern political history: a major party ticket with no Protestant Christian.
Some historians call it the first ever. Others say it's technically the first since Abraham Lincoln. And there is an argument to be made regarding Dwight Eisenhower.
But in any case, "this Republican ticket really symbolizes the passing of an era," said William Galston, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. CNN
A prominent atheist group is using next month's Democratic National Convention to take aim at the presidential candidates' religion, putting up billboards targeting Mormonism and Christianity in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Our political system is rife with religion and it depends too much on religion and not enough on substance," said David Silverman, president of American Atheists, sponsor of the ads.
The billboard targeting Christianity features an image of Jesus Christ on toast and this description of the faith: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love.’ ”
The billboard targeting Mormonism lambastes – and, Mormons would say, distorts – specific Mormon doctrines: "God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.”
The Mormon billboard features a man in white underwear, a reference to special Mormon garments. CNN
Religiosity is on the decline in the U.S. and atheism is on the rise, according to a new worldwide poll.
The poll, called “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60 percent.
At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose, from 1 percent to 5 percent. Washington Post
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is urging Metro-North to put up ads of its own in response to "inflammatory" postings in the Hartsdale station.
The ad in question, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, lists the number of deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11" and says "It's not Islamophobia, It's Islamorealism."
Feiner says the ad can't be removed, but is offensive. He wants Metro-North to warn passengers that the ads could be upsetting and don't represent Metro-North's views or that of the community. NY Daily News
Mere hours after the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) expressed fears that recent statements made by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) could make area Muslims a "target," shots were fired at a suburban Chicago mosque.
According to an alert issued by CAIR, two air rifle shots were fired at the outer wall of the Muslim Education Center mosque in Morton Grove Friday evening, while the building was full of worshippers observing Ramadan. Huffington Post


Ephraim Isaac Combines Life Wisdom and Research to Build Peace

Tanenbaum Peacemaker, Professor Ephraim Isaac, recently spoke on air with Our Sacred Journey’s Audrey Kitagawa about the intersections of his academic scholarship and peace-building work. Ephraim is the Director of The Institute of Semitic Studies, and founder of Harvard’s Afro-American Department, the Coalition of Ethiopian Elders, and the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center. Though an impressive litany of distinctions follow Ephraim Isaac, he attributes his primary formation as a peacemaker to the influence of his Yemenite Jewish father and Oromo Ethiopian mother. From his father Ephraim memorized the stories of biblical prophets and their cry for justice. And through his mother he inherited an Ethiopian disposition towards peace and a powerful tradition of eldership.

In the interview Ephraim advocates for the important and politically distinct role of elders in resolving local conflict. He describes them as grassroots people of faith—morally upright, truthful, patient, well-informed, tireless at work, unafraid of criticism—who use their own cultural fluency to speak “heart to heart” in mediations. Through an effective approach, elders have brought reconciliation to village disputes without the use of police and negotiated the release of Germans kidnapped in Ethiopia without the involvement of politicians or conflict analysts. These interventions have brought the elders world-wide recognition and heightened attention from the U.N.
Ephraim couples his interpersonal peacemaking with rigorous academic study of ancient languages and texts. As dry and technical as his linguistic study may outwardly appear, Ephraim believes that ancient languages help us to better understand the roots and fundamentals of cultures and to bring people together. “Knowledge isn’t a frozen thing,” he explains, but a means of retrieving ancient cultural perspective that can be adapted to current situations.
Ephraim’s interview highlights an important theme among peacemakers: So much of the daily peace-building effort is about building bridges to seemingly unconnected places—between the head and heart, past and present, local and global communities—until the interdependence of our world and the primacy of human relationships within it become undeniable.


Peacemakers on Religious Groups Bombed, Peace Talks with Kony, & More: PIA Media Update

Check out the latest new coverage of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action:

Benny Giay, West Papua, Indonesia
Benny joined a coalition of Papuan churches in declaring the province an emergency zone after a series of shootings and violence that Indonesian authorities have failed to resolve. Benny calls upon the United Nations, and other international bodies, to intervene in the violence.
Benny delivers a diplomatic briefing about the current surge of violence in Papua, outlining the colonial roots of the conflict and Jakarta’s attempt to maintain territorial integrity while violating human rights. In order to fulfill the Papuan’s “land of peace” dream, Benny says Papua needs humanitarian intervention and the support of a third party.
Betty Bigombe, Uganda
Betty, the first person to initiate peace talks with LRA leader Joseph Kony in 1994, comments on the U.N.’s international appeal to help end the threat of the LRA. Although the U.N. appeal is coming very late, Betty states it is still important to protect people from the group’s resurgent attacks in the region.
Canon Andrew White, Iraq
Andrew reports on the devastating wave of car-bombings at a major Shia festival in Baghdad in June. This is the most violence Iraq has seen in one month since U.S. troops withdrew last December.
Andrew seeks to preserve 365 ancient sefer Torah scrolls from rotting in the basement of a church museum by transferring them to Baghdad’s one remaining synagogue. The effort is emblematic of Andrew’s ongoing protection of and service to the seven remaining Jews in Baghdad.
Andrew delivers the 2012 Commencement Address at Wheaton College, Illinois, urging students not to take care, but to take risks.
Andrew wins the 2012 Ultimate Christian Library Book Award for Faith Under Fire.
Ephraim Isaac, Ethiopia
Ephraim was unanimously voted the 2012 winner of the Morton Deutsch Conflict Resolution Award by the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence. The award recognizes Ephraim’s impressive peace-building work over the past forty years, in addition to his most recent involvement in Ethiopia.
Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, South Africa
Right to Care, South Africa’s largest HIV/Aids NGO, just appointed Nozizwe a member of the board. Nozizwe’s action-oriented approach and history of speaking truth to power make her a strong leader in fighting the pandemic.
Bill Lowrey, South Sudan
Bill presents a holistic model of reconciliation in a video for Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership forum.
Sakena Yacoobi, Afghanistan
Sakena has recently been honored with two major awards: The World’s Children’s Prize Honorary Award and The Asia Foundation’s Lotus Leadership Award, for her critical contributions to the education and health of Afghan women and children.


Protests Against the HHS Mandate Around the U.S.: News Roundup

In the news this week: countrywide protests against the HHS mandate, the history of tension between the Vatican and U.S. clergy, the first black leader of the Southern Baptists, and other stories.

Hundreds gathered on Capitol Hill and at rallies across the nation on Friday (June 8) in a double-barreled attack on President Obama’s health care law and a mandate to require employers to provide insurance coverage of birth control.
Speakers such as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and anti-abortion activist Lila Rose rallied conservatives in one of 160 coordinated noontime rallies across the country.
Bachmann, a former GOP presidential candidate, emphasized that the fight over the insurance mandate is not about birth control or women’s rights, but the freedom to practice religion without government involvement.   Washington Post
A conflict that has entangled the Vatican, American bishops and the largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns may seem to have erupted suddenly, but it actually has its roots in decades-old disputes over Roman Catholic teaching.
The headlines came in April, when the Vatican orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had strayed far from authentic doctrine and gave three American bishops the authority to overhaul the organization.
But the contretemps can be explained in the context of long-simmering differences that have also divided the broader church into opposing camps of theological liberals and conservatives — with many Catholics caught in between. Each side is acting consistently according to long-established priorities. Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS – Baptist pastor Fred Luter Jr. once preached the Gospel through an amplifier on street corners in this city's Lower 9th Ward.
Tuesday, he's set to become the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention— a group created more than a century ago to support slavery — at the group's annual meeting here.
The rise of Luter, 55, from street preacher to religious leader is more than a tale of personal fate. It's a historic moment in the denomination's 167-year history, a history tainted with racial segregation and human bondage, historians and convention leaders say. USA Today
A Massachusetts judge has found that the rights of an atheist couple and their children aren't being violated when the words "under God" are recited in the Pledge of Allegiance in Acton schools.
The Boston Globe reports that Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty also ruled there was no violation of state law or the school's anti-discrimination policy.
The judge ruled Friday that including "under God" in a voluntary patriotic exercise doesn't "convert the exercise into a prayer." She said the case presented a "familiar dilemma" of balancing conflicting interests in a pluralistic society.


38 Tibetan Self-immolations since 2009: News Roundup

In the news this week:   self-immolations in Tibet, support for a Vatican reprimanded nun, NYPD sued over targeting Muslims, and other stories.

At least 38 Tibetans have set fire to themselves since 2009, and 29 have died, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group in Washington. The 2,000 or so monks of Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province have been at the center of the movement, one of the biggest waves of self-immolations in modern history. The acts evoke the self-immolations in the early 1960s by Buddhist monks in South Vietnam to protest the corrupt government in Saigon. New York Times
Jews face special risks that require vigilance, though there is no “specific, credible threat” against Jewish targets, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the Forward during a visit to the newspaper’s New York offices.
In a June 4 meeting with the paper’s editorial staff, Napolitano cited the particular exposure she said Jews face in explanation of a DHS security grant program that mostly benefits Jewish groups.
“Unfortunately there are risks attendant on the Jewish community that are not attendant on all other communities,” she said. Jewish Daily Forward
The board of the largest membership organization of U.S. theologians issued a statement of support Thursday afternoon (June 7) for Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a member in their ranks who was the subject of harsh criticism from the Vatican just days ago.
Writing that it considers Farley’s work “reflective, measured, and wise,” the leadership of the some 1,500 member Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) says in the statement it is “especially concerned” that the Vatican’s criticism presents a limiting understanding of the role of Catholic theology.
In a formal notification released June 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticized Farley’s 2006 book on sexual ethics, titled Just Love.
Farely’s positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage "contradicts" or "is opposed to" or "does not conform to" church teaching, the Vatican notification said. National Catholic Reporter
For whatever reason, neither President Obama nor his Republican challenger is talking much about religion these days — neither about his own faith nor that of his opponent, or the social issues that motivate religious voters.
It is a striking departure from the faith-based overtures heard in this year's Republican primary and in some past presidential campaigns, and it serves to mask a central aspect of each man's life story, in which faith plays an important role. But analysts on both sides of the political spectrum say religion is perceived as a no-win subject by both campaigns, and it is not likely to play a prominent role in the 2012 election. LA Times
Muslim civil rights activists are headed to court to end a New York City Police Department program that they say violates their constitutional rights by spying on Muslims based only on their religion.
The lawsuit, Hassan et al. v. City of New York, is the first legal challenge against the NYPD’s alleged spying and profiling of Muslim Americans in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that was first reported by The Associated Press last year. The suit, to be filed Wednesday (June 6) in a federal court in New Jersey, seeks an “immediate end” to the NYPD surveillance program, and calls for the NYPD to destroy all records of information obtained through the program. Washington Post


U.S. Nuns Break Silence: News Roundup

In the news: U.S. nuns respond to Vatican, struggling with Ramadan as an Olympic athlete, and other news stories.

The largest umbrella group for U.S. nuns on Friday broke weeks of near-silence on a stinging Vatican report that they had undermined Roman Catholic teaching, saying the inquiry was "flawed" and based on "unsubstantiated accusations" that were causing pain throughout the church.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been considering for six weeks how they should respond to the Vatican findings, which accused them of promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith," while failing to emphasize core teaching on abortion. The Vatican ordered a full-scale overhaul of the organization overseen by three American bishops, a decision that has led to an outpouring of support for the nuns nationwide. Kansas City Star
For far too long, the story of American Muslims has been told by others; rarely do American Muslim men emerge as protagonists of their own narratives, representing their religion or depicted in a way other than as violent extremists, misogynists, and irrational, angry, bearded brown men. That situation is changing with the release on June 1st of "All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim." San Francisco Chronicle
Recently, the HuffPost Religion section put a call out on Paganism that those interested in the varied strands of Paganism should read.
The result is a list of 27 books that range from introductory to scholarly in nature and cover the entire gamut of Pagan religions — Witchcraft, Wicca, Shamanism, Asatru, Druidism, Egyptian and Hellenic.
These books grapple with issues of sexuality, tell personal stories of faith, and provide information on the various Pagan religious rites.  Huffington Post
When the Qatari sprinter Noor al-Malki makes her debut at the London Olympics, she will not be among those contending for a medal. Breaking her own national record in the 100 meters will be enough of a prize.
But even this modest goal presents a challenge.
Al-Malki, 17, whose oil-and-gas rich country is sending women to the Olympics for the first time, knows she will need all her energy and strength to run a fast race. To do that, however, might require her to break the fast during Ramadan.
Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk during the 30-day holy month, which begins on July 20 and overlaps with the Olympics. But al-Malki and the 3,500 other Muslim athletes expected to compete in London may look to ancient Islamic tenets that allow exemptions — for travelers, the sick and others — out of concern that not eating or drinking, even water, throughout the day could put them at a competitive disadvantage. Huffington Post
Education is the weapon of choice for a Chicago area Islamic leader in his fight against the radicalization of Islamic youth and the discrimination of American Muslims.
Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, 36, is the director of the Gain Peace project, an Islamic outreach program based in Chicago. Ahmed blames misinterpretations of the Quran and Islam for the dual extremes of Islamophobia and violent Islamist radicalism. He sees education as the way forward to both break down stereotypes and counter terrorist groups looking to recruit Muslim-Americans to commit acts of violence.
Ahmed’s organization sparked controversy five years ago after erecting a billboard near O’Hare Airport that asked “Why Islam?” But the Indian-born medical doctor insists education and peace are his goals, not conversion. Medill Report


New Study Asks, Will America Elect a Mormon President?: News Roundup

Apologies for the delay in posting – last week was a big one for us!

In Tanenbaum news, our annual Award Ceremony was Monday, May 21st at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental in New York City. We were proud to honor our president and founder Dr. Georgette F. Bennett with the first-ever Visionary Award, and PBS correspondent Ray Suarez with the Media Bridge-Builder Award. Pictures will be up on the website soon; for now, you can check out the coverage on Lifestyle + Charity magazine. Thanks to all who attended and supported this year’s event, which broke Tanenbaum fundraising records!
On the election trail, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney’s Mormonism continues to make headlines.  The Deseret News reports on a new study:
"Our results suggest that Romney’s religion will remain a potential political stumbling block," Monson wrote in tandem with his co-authors, David Campbell of Notre Dame and John Green of the University of Akron. "However, the application of our analysis extends beyond Mitt Romney, and even the electoral viability of Mormon politicians more generally. … Our results suggest that sustained contact across religious boundaries — interreligious bridging — fosters religious tolerance in the political sphere."
Meanwhile, television pundit Bill Maher posted a tweet calling Mormonism a “cult:”
"Why even listen to #MittRomney on foreign policy? His entire FP experience is 2 yrs trying to brow-beat Frenchmen into joining his cult"
The Obama camp quickly distanced itself from Maher. Obama senior strategist David Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" that Romney's faith was "not fair game" and said the campaign "absolutely" repudiated any effort to inject religion into the race, as UPI reported.
Workplace discrimination issues were also top of mind last week, as several new lawsuits were announced and one pending piece of legislation made headway in California:
  • Sheldon Reichstein filed suit against Youth Advocate Programs Inc. in Texas, claiming that colleagues made derogatory remarks about his race and religion. (Southeast Texas Record)
  • A Time Warner employee is suing, alledging that he was terminated on the basis of religion after complaining about co-workers viewing pornography at work. (Reuters)
  • A New Jersey lingerie store employee is claiming that her Orthodox Jewish employers terminated her for dressing too provocatively. (ABC News)
  • In California, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which would offer more protections to employees needing to wear religiously-mandated clothing or headwear, moved forward in the state assembly. (IndiaWest)
In Education news, a coalition of educational and religious groups issued an 11-page pamphlet on bullying, harassment and free expression in schools. (Huffington Post) This comes on the heels of a contested Illinois anti-bullying bill to which religious groups objected; the bill eventually failed amid concerns that it was promoting a same-sex lifestyle.
Following in the footsteps of our own Peacemakers in Action, an international interfaith delegation headed to Nigeria to promote peaceful coexistence among Nigerians of all faiths.