Russians persecuted by gays:  A Russian court has recently banned an LGBTI rights group from attending the 2014 Olympic games.  The decision labels Sochi Pride House an “extremist” group, and states, “‘Propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation’ is a direct threat to the Russian society, while calling attempts to confront homophobia ‘extremist’ because they inherently ‘incite social and religious hatred.’”

Mr. Frank R. O’Brien of Missouri is suing the federal government for the right to make his employees’ health care decisions.  The amusingly-named American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing O’Brien’s case, notes on their website that O’Brien courteously assists “employees in purchasing homes, saving for the college education of their children, and being able to retire.”  Because he’s that kind of caring guy, ACLJ implies, he’s obviously the best person to tell his underlings what’s good for their health, including when to have kids:

O’Brien, a Catholic, says his religious beliefs provide the framework for the operation of his businesses, which employ 87 people. The company website states the OIH mission “is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.” OIH’s statement of the company’s values begins with the following: “Integrity. Our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. We will not discriminate based on anyone’s personal belief system.”

Apparently, as in the cases of O’Brien or the USCCB, individual conscience can be bought by the institutional or corporate conscience to which it belongs.  Serfs.

Jesus never gave up.  He was tireless like that.  Which is probably why Red Bull, the energy drink, used Jesus in an ad they planned to run in South Africa.  But since the world is one big One God orgy, South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council warned that mocking Jesus mocked “the very foundation of Islamic theology” and could lead to–OMG–”secular extremism.”

What do Sam Brownback (Dr.- Kansas) and the USCCB bishops have in common?  Neither is interested in waiting around for you to start acting like a woman.

Everyone’s favorite milquetoast, Eboo Patel, just finished writing a new book for Beacon Press, “Sacred Ground,” the twitters tell us.  It will be out in September.  In July last year, Patel wrote we can only assume is a brief synopsis at HuffPo, “I believe Ground Zero is sacred. I believe every inch of America is sacred.”

Twelve religions worth searching:  What kind of underwear does Tom Hanks wear?  What does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar say before he tucks into his lunch?  Thank God we can now find out!  BeliefNet has a new “Celebrity Faith Database” so we can not only ask how BeliefNet labels celebrities but also search the twelfth great religion of the world, Other.

Sacred guns:  Residents of Wisconsin are asking whether hunting wolves in their state is a violation of religious liberty.

“Passing by on the other side”:  Today I came across this fantastic dissection of the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” by Richard Holloway, which was delivered as a sermon at St. Mark’s Church in the UK in 2003.  Of the first passer-by–who asks himself if the Gentile in the gutter is his neighbor and therefor if he has any obligation to the seemingly dying man–Holloway writes:

His decision arises out of sincere religious conviction, out of the practice, not the abrogation, of his code. And so he passes by a discrete, five feet at least, away from the possible dead Gentile on the other side of the road (and we never find out who the guy is anyway).

Hatin’ on Anarchists:  Nathan Schneider, editor of Waging Nonviolence, writes in his latest for The Nation about the tactics of a movement which has “included people with competing long-tended visions of what resistance is supposed to look like” and the recent violence/non-violence dialogue initiated by Chris Hedge’s “The Cancer in Occupy”:

The effect in OWS’s Direct Action Working Group, one of the movement’s most vibrant quarters, was catastrophic. “Chris Hedges really screwed us,” says Chris Longenecker, who has been with DAWG since day one. “It’s anarchists that are driving this movement.” So many of OWS’s most cherished institutions—the general assemblies, the leaderless structure, the diversity of tactics—have roots in anarchism, and have been maintained by anarchists who’d been practicing them long before the movement began. They include both self-described pacifists and members of black blocs. Within a few days of Hedges’s article, there was a proposal at the General Assembly to create an anarchist caucus, a measure usually reserved for marginalized identity groups. It failed to reach consensus. Some people quit the movement in frustration, others in tears. To Sandy Nurse, it felt like a “witch hunt” against her friends.

Bishops persecuted by Obama: Louis A. Ruprecht writes at Religion Dispatches:

This is fascinating; the Catholic Bishops now appear to be claiming the right to opt out of any programs with which they disagree. Here is their response to the President’s proposed compromise, in their words:

[this] continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.

It’s not just about the money; it’s about Big Brother. And so:

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government.

So the problem is not with government per se, just with the President. This is why it is so rhetorically critical for them to refer to “Obamacare” rather than the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” thereby conveniently forgetting that this was a law passed by the Legislative branch of the US Government, not an Executive Order.

Now, it is perfectly within the Bishop’s rights to petition the US Congress to change a law, or even to vacate it and to start over, as it is their right to question the constitutionality of a law in the courts.

Love, tolerance and little ponies.