Secular Coalition’s Morning Read for April 2, 2013

National, Political and General News
John Roberts’ Ruse To Trap Kennedy On Marriage Equality

During oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice John Roberts may have revealed his antipathy to federal marriage equality by attempting to discredit an argument, broached by Justice Anthony Kennedy, that the Defense of Marriage Act violates states rights. And his persuasiveness — or lack thereof — may ultimately determine whether the law stands or falls. Enter John Roberts, who repeatedly sought to knock down the more circuitous 10th Amendment argument, and present Kennedy a choice: You’re either with us, or with the liberals.

Skeptics vs. believers Will U.S. become polarized by faith?Morning Read
While Americans have become less attached to religious institutions, there is little evidence they have become less religious. In 1992, according to the indispensable Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans described religion as “very important.” In 2012, it was … 58 percent. There is a similar stability in the proportion of Americans who regard prayer as an important part of their lives. It is Europe that remains the global religious outlier. America has about the same level of religious commitment as does Latin America. As Robert Putnam of Harvard University points out, “The average American is slightly more religious than the average Iranian.”

Jim McGreevey’s redemption is the real deal
McGreevey, who left the governor’s mansion, got divorced and enrolled in an Episcopal seminary, is the subject of a new HBO documentary, “Fall to Grace” by Alexandra Pelosi. The film about his work with addicts and convicts shows some of what I saw in the jail that day, and you can can make up your own mind…This is the work McGreevey does every day now, helping these women try and turn around their lives…Prison ministry is hard, emotionally draining, thankless work. People do it because they believe in it, because they’re driven by faith, or love, or whatever it is that I, frankly, don’t have enough of.

Cardinal Dolan: Catholic Church could do better on gay outreach
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the top U.S. Catholic prelate, says the Roman Catholic Church has to make sure that its defense of traditional marriage is not reduced to an attack on gays and lesbians. Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (the main lobbying group against the HHS contraception mandate) and last month was reputed to have gathered some votes in the Vatican conclave where Pope Francis was eventually elected.

Science in Politics
Obama Announces $100M Research Fund To Map The Human Brain
President Obama is announcing a new investment into research to map the human brain in hopes of unlocking some of its mysteries. A senior administration official says the president plans to announce Tuesday a $100 million investment for next year.

Courts
Hobby Lobby Granted Full Court Hearing for Mandate Case
Christian-owned craft giant Hobby Lobby will be able to make its appeal against the federal contraception mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges, rather than the usual three.  “Full court review is reserved only for the most serious legal questions,” explained Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a March 29 press release. The Becket Fund is representing the owners of Hobby Lobby in court. Duncan said that the decision to grant a full nine-judge hearing speaks to the gravity of the issue.“This case asks whether the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to religious freedom, or whether it leaves out religious business owners like the Greens,” he explained.

States
(Washington) state senator stalls abortion coverage bill
The panel heard from religious leaders on opposing sides. Seattle’s Catholic Archbishop Peter Sartain argued the bill would make insurance coverage of abortion mandatory in Washington, even for employers with religious objections to abortion. Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Olympia said the bill should be passed to provide “freedom of religion and freedom from religion.”

(Arkansas) State Representative Calls Eight-Year-Old Atheist a Fool
A concerned mother writes to her state representatives urging them not to vote for legislation that will inevitably lead to the bullying of her atheist child… and one of the representatives writes back to say the eight-year-old girl is a fool with a darkened heart for not believing in God.

(California) Creationist stakes $10,000 on contest between Bible and evolution
A California creationist is offering a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove in front of a judge that science contradicts the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.

(Pennsylvania) Sen. Casey Backs Marriage Equality
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a conservative Democrat and one of the last holdouts in his party on the issue of gay marriage, on Monday announced his support for marriage equality.

International
(Bangladesh) Government announces steps to prevent abuse, defamation of religion in internet
The government today announced it constituted a cyber crime tribunal while works are underway to toughen related laws as part of a series of steps to prevent abuse or defamation of religion in the Internet. The press conference came three days after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged stern actions against people to be found defaming and exploiting Islam using the internet as rightwing Islamic parties threatened to wage an intensified street campaign against “atheist bloggers”.

Religion
How Many U.S. Christians Believe Christ’s ‘Second Coming’ Will Happen Soon? More Than You May Think (SURVEY)
According to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, resurfaced by the think tank last week in anticipation of Easter Sunday, nearly half of U.S. Christians believe that Christ will “definitely” (27 percent) or “probably” (20 percent) return to Earth in or before the year 2050. Conversely, 38 percent believe that Christ will definitely or probably not return within the next four decades.

Catholic priest says gay marriage opponents’ freedom to preach is under attack
Talking Points Memo published a Fox News clip today in which Father Gerald Murray complained that the freedom to preach by gay marriage opponents is being attacked (see video embedded below). “You can caricature Christian teaching and call it bigotry and that’s reasonable speech on the left these days,” he said.  “This nonsense that we want to disadvantage blacks, when we say that homosexual activity is sinful, to call that equivalent to denying them their basic rights — no, we’re telling them if you want to live a good life, you have to follow what Jesus said.  Basically, this is an attack on our freedom to preach what we believe.”

My Passover evolution (Herb Silverman)
As an Orthodox Jew growing up in Philadelphia, Passover was my favorite holiday because children were an integral part of the ceremony, and I got to sit at the Seder table with grownups. After the Seder leader hid the Afikomen (a piece of matzo) during the meal, the child who found it received a small prize. I always enjoyed sipping the ritual wine, while my mother voiced her concern that I would become an alcoholic. (I now think that Manischevitz wine would be an effective one-step program to prevent alcoholism.)

Brazilian evangelist has big plans for U.S.
Fourteen years after he started out in the countryside outside Sao Paulo, Santiago sits at the helm of a booming Pentecostal church in Brazil, the world’s fastest-growing evangelical country. He now leads 4,000 churches, including 10 in the United States, where fiery worship and exorcisms form part of the appeal. Like many missionary churches, the Worldwide Church plans to proselytize and attract the local Brazilian diaspora and America’s growing Hispanic population and non-immigrant whites, as well.

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