Ten Red Herrings
Stop the presses — the Supreme Court has decided to hear cases on displaying the Ten Commandments. To which The Revealer says: yawn. This news is a red herring of Moby-Dick proportions, a massive distraction that will pull religion writers from the real job of chronicling religion and ritual, faith, faithlessness. Editors eager to cover the subject like sports will demand frequent updates on the progress of the game, pollsters will narrow their questions and their eyes as they focus on this allegedly revealing indicator of something-or-other. Pundits free of any biblical knowledge about the Commandments and their place in scripture will feel free to tell us their place in our lives, and readers will nod or shake their heads in fury. Deep in the heart of Alabama, Judge Roy Moore must be smiling.
Countries With a View
What does Jak King see in his unobscured View From Vancouver? A Talibanized America, but not the one Chuck Colson means. King is less worried about a Taliban overthrow of the U.S. government, than of the U.S. government willingly bringing a similar system on itself. A few dark clouds: the FBI confiscates a book about Osama bin Laden and, finding margin notes, demands the library’s circulation list; two Attorneys General in Kansas and Indiana censor 7,000 CDs destined for public libraries because the music “‘did not mesh'” with “majority values”; the art wars resurface in DC with the cancelling of a politically critical exhibit; a West Virginian man is fired from his job for heckling President Bush; there are now 20,000 names on the no-fly list.
Back to the Wafers!
“‘We are not telling them how to vote. We are telling them how to take Communion in good conscience.'” The New York Times’ Laurie Goodman and David Kirkpatrick report on the efforts of Catholic bishops to influence the election by warning their congregants that a vote for Kerry is a sin that would require confession before receiving communion. There is opposition though, among liberal Catholics who do not agree that abortion, stem cells and gay marriage trump all other concerns. 200 Catholic organizations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including orders of nuns and brothers, support a counter-campaign, buying advertisements in diocesan newspapers with the slogan “Life Does Not End at Birth.” (Also of interest is the mention of “a representative of the White House for prominent Catholic conservatives” who had weekly conference calls with the Republican Party for four years, given as an example of how assiduously Republicans were courting the Catholic vote. Sounds like a position of some influence…)
Pray for the persecuted misogynist
Neil Noesen, a former K-mart pharmacist who refused to fill a college student’s birth control prescription or even transfer it to another pharmacist who was willing to fill it, defended himself to the judge presiding over his disciplinary hearing by saying, “‘I could have trouble sleeping at night. I could be suffering the worst kind of pain: spiritual pain.'” Well, we don’t usually think pain can be objectively compared, but we’ll take Noesen at his word this time. So to judge his defense, we propose a side-by-side comparison. Noesen will find a way to carry a pregnancy to term, decide whether or not he’ll be able to keep the child as a young college student, deal with whether or not the other party to the pregnancy will stick around, deal with how he’s going to pay for medical bills, clothing, food and child-care as a potentially single parent, deal with the diminished opportunities available to a child born before its parents were ready to be parents. Oh yeah, and we’d like to see him squeeze it out. So, uh, how does that stack up against your insomnia, Neil?
Voila, we’re Muslim
Turkish ambassador to France, Uluc Ozulker, says that the objection to Turkey joining the E.U. is religion. “‘If Turkey were Christian, there would be no problem. But, voila, we are a Muslim country.'” French President Jacques Chirac supports Turkey’s membership, but believes it will take up to 15 years for the country to be accepted.
Quit it!
Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to stop spitting on them. After years of enduring petty harassments at the hands of yeshiva students, Christian clergy in the Old City want the government to condemn the spitting and fight-provoking. Daniel Rossing, director of a Jerusalem center for Christian-Jewish dialogue, says the number of such incidents has increased recently, “‘as part of a general atmosphere of lack of tolerance in the country.'”
Pesky Cheney
The elusive beliefs of Dick Cheney almost come above ground in rural Ohio, where the VP campaigned this week. Well, so he said the word once –“‘We believe that our nation is one nation under God. And we believe Americans ought to be able to say so.'” — but he was surrounded by a lot of God talk in the introductory prayer led by National Right-to-Life Committee founder John Wilke, who asked God, be it His will, to give the ticket Four More Years!
Loudspeakers That Shake The World

Cairo’s minister of religious endowments, Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, has declared that the call to prayer issued by the city’s 4,000-plus mosques is out of control in terms of volume, style, timing and length: Especially at dawn, The New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar reports, some mosques blast not just the 12-sentence call, but also all of the verses and prayers the mosque’s iman will use — a process that can last up to 45 minutes. Zaqzouq’s solution is to centralize the calls, requiring each mosque to issue its call in sync with the main broadcast. Opponents have criticized the minister as, variously, an infidel, a party to a Western conspiracy (based in Langley, VA) against Islam, and accused him of promoting “bida,” an innovation bordering on heresy.