B’nai B’rith International issued a statement this week calling on the Jewish community to end all dialogue with the Presbyterian Church, reports Eric J. Greenberg of the Forward. The proposed severence of contact comes after the church’s recent decision to divest from Israel, its comparison of the Jewish state with apartheid South Africa, and its refusal to stop funding messianic congregations which target Jews for conversion. Most of the mainstream press has passed on this story, but even those journalists who’ve examined it tend to lump the mainline Presbyterian goals together as “liberal”; its funding of messianic congregations, however, is just weird.
“Religious Message Halts Train”: Jason George can’t be faulted for all the holes in his cryptic report in The New York Times–that a New York-bound Amtrak train was detained for 90 minutes yesterday after a passenger found a note containing Muslim and anti-Semitic phrases in a bathroom. Law enforcement officials said that the note, which “made no explicit threats,” did make “statements against Jews and praised God,” but would not elaborate on its text. But even if George was prevented from investigating the religious nuances of the note, there’s another subtext to explore here: Namely, what are the implications of equating hateful speech and religious zeal with terrorist threats, and how is such an equation to be applied?
A study conducted by Eric Freedman, a journalism professor at Michigan State University, has found that many Central Asian media outlets are prohibited from covering controversial religious issues. “There are major religious conflicts in this volatile area of the world,” says Freedman, “and citizens of the region can’t find out what’s going on from their own media.”Read more.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, the Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, part of a local Pentecostal ministry contracted by Genessee County to run drug rehabilitation programs, has been accused by a former patient of trying to convert him from Catholicism to the Pentecostal faith. Joseph Hanas says he was forced to read and memorize tenets of the church, and that when he dropped out of the program because of the proselytizing, he was punished by the court. Read more of Amanda Luker’s report in The New Standard. Update: Richard Bartholomew of Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion investigates further: “Hanas had asked the trial judge, Genesee Circuit Judge Robert M. Ransom, for transfer to a secular program, to which Ransom responded by sending him to prison and boot camp. Why? One snippet in The New Standard story not in the ACLU papers notes that Judge Ransom is ‘also an Inner City Christian leader,’ although I was unable to find any other reference for this.”