SCA’s Morning Read for 8/20/13

NationalMorning Read
Obama Administration Mulled Ending Holy See Ambassadorship (Newsmax)
During the past year, the Obama administration strongly considered ending diplomatic relations with the Vatican as it pondered whether it should appoint a new envoy to the Holy See, Newsmax has learned. The recent Obama nomination and Senate confirmation on August 1 of Ken Hackett as the new U.S. Ambassador has ended internal Obama administration debate on the matter.

States
(MA) On a mission to save godless Massachusetts (Boston Globe)
At quarter to nine in the morning on Easter Sunday, I drove into the sprawling parking lot of the Revere Showcase Cinema, a megaplex theater across the street from The Squire strip club. I passed an expanse of run-down carnival equipment and pulled in alongside the few other cars parked there that early. We weren’t there to see a movie; we were going to church.

(CA) Calif. lawmaker removes son from school over transgender law (LGBTQ Nation)
A Republican state lawmaker says a new California law allowing transgender students to choose which restroom and locker room they use is part of the reason at least one of his sons will not return to his local public school this fall. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who lives in the Southern California mountain community of Twin Peaks, described his family’s decision in a column published on WND, a conservative website.

(SD) Godless Billboards Blanket South Dakota (United Coalition of Reason)
These words, superimposed over an Earthrise image, can be seen on seven prominent billboards across South Dakota. Their appearance marks the formal launch of the South Dakota Coalition of Reason (South Dakota CoR), an alliance of the seven non-theistic (atheist and agnostic) groups in the state, reaching from the Black Hills to the Big Sioux River.

Education
Republican Horrified to Discover that Christianity Is Not the Only Religion (Jezebel)
It’s an honest mistake, assuming that the Constitution only protects your own personal megachurch faith. But one Louisiana Republican is learning the hard way that religious school vouchers can be used to fund education at all sorts of religious schools, even Muslim ones.

Birth control info required in state sex education classes (Chicago Tribune)
Public schools that teach sex education will be required to provide students with information about birth control under a new state law. The change, signed into law late Friday afternoon by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, is a departure from current policy in which abstinence is the only required curriculum for schools that choose to teach sex education.

Back To Prayer?: California Officials Sponsor Religious Event To Kick Off School Year (Americans United)
As public school students head back to class this week in a number of districts nationwide, the Religious Right and its allies wasted no time stirring up trouble with a back-to-school prayer stunt in California. Yesterday in Bakersfield, around 100 people showed up for an event sponsored by state and local politicians to offer prayers for the coming school year, which started today.

Texas won’t mess with facts on evolution (Washington Post)
Things are heating up in Texas and not because of global warming. It’s the opposite: a fevered insistence among some anti-science zealots that the laws of nature do not apply in the Lone Star State. And even if they do, for God’s sake don’t tell the children.

Family Freedom & Development Protection
Abortion Restrictions Failing This Year in Court Challenges (Bloomberg Businessweek)
State legislatures trying to curtail abortions have suffered a 0-for-8 losing streak after court challenges to their new laws this year. The laws, all but one signed by Republican governors, drew on ideas from a playbook created by an anti-abortion group.

State lawmaker questions ‘pregnancy crisis centers’ (Charleston Daily Mail)
About two months after the state attorney general publicly questioned methods used at abortion clinics, a state lawmaker has seemingly turned the tables and posed similar inquiries to “pregnancy crisis centers,” which tend to oppose the practice. Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, sent letters to 37 crisis centers Friday. He said he wants to know what goes on at the centers and if they are misleading women about their services.

Equal Rights & Discrimination
Hawaii religious leaders sign gay marriage appeal (The News Tribune)
More than two dozen Hawaii faith leaders of various religions signed a resolution Monday calling the state to pass a law legalizing gay marriage. Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist and other leaders read and signed the poster-sized declaration at an interfaith brunch at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu.

Puerto Rico: Legislators to Consider Law Allowing Same-sex Couples to Adopt (GLAAD)
Faced with strong religious opposition, Puerto Rico is to consider proposed laws which would allow gay couples to adopt, and which would establish a public school curriculum examining gender issues, including sexual discrimination.

Faith Leaders Lift Up the Religious Case for LGBT Acceptance and Rights (Arcus Foundation)
“Church wasn’t just church for me. It was family,” says Aubrey Thonvald, 31, who grew up in rural Willmar, Minnesota, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) was the center of her home life. “Yet, there was a strong sense that if I lived fully into who I was, then that family wouldn’t want me.”

Progress in San Antonio (Huffington Post)
This summer I took my sons on a civil rights tour of the South. I wanted them to see the best of our history, how we rose above the institutionalized evil of slavery and segregation to form a more perfect union. If I’d planned it better, we would have stopped in San Antonio, where the debate about extending anti-discrimination law to gays and lesbians has taken an ugly, if paradoxically encouraging, turn.

Gay Marriage and Conservative Judaism (Huffington Post)
On a Shabbat morning, more than 34 years back, I decided to visit Sinai Temple, a conservative Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles. At the time, having been displaced from Iran, my country and home, I did not know much about Conservative Judaism. In fact, apart from a cursory idea about the religious philosophies of Orthodox Judaism, I knew nothing about Reform Judaism either.

Liberty Counsel vows to block implementation of NJ bill prohibiting sexual orientation ‘conversion therapy’ (God Discussion)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed legislation today that prevents any licensed therapist, psychologist, social worker or counselors from using sexual orientation change efforts with a children under age 18. Offenders jeopardize their licensed status under the new law, which does not apply to clergy, or anyone who is not licensed by the state.

What transgender people teach us about God, and our humanity (Washington Post)
There are certainly more egregious quotes from Moore’s recent essay, but to focus on them would miss the larger point – that there is no transgender question. The question is about how people of faith continue to grow in their understanding of our transgender brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, teachers and pastors.  And it’s a growth that, make no mistake, Mr. Moore wants to shut down.

Religion
Map: What Religion Does Your Member Of Congress Identify With? (Buzzfeed)
A breakdown of Congress’ religious makeup. One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

Letter: Enforce churches’ tax status (The Tennessean)
The Rev. James Thomas was quoted in the Aug. 15 article about pulpit politics, stating: “We have to worry about freedom of religion.” Freedom of religion has nothing to do with sponsoring a political candidate. The American people are subsidizing religion through a nonprofit status all religions enjoy.

Ex-employee gets $750K in suit against dealership (Standard Speaker)
A federal jury has awarded $750,000 in damages to a former employee of MotorWorld Group who filed a discrimination lawsuit against the car dealership. Fadwa Charnitski claimed in a lawsuit she was subjected to a hostile work environment and was fired because she is a Muslim woman from Kuwait.

U.S. nuns strike a positive note on Vatican investigation (Religion News Service)
U.S. Catholic nuns — accused by Rome of “radical feminism” for advocating social justice at the expense of issues such as abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia — responded to a Vatican knuckle rapping with a brief, conciliatory statement on Monday (Aug. 19).

Humanist and Nontheistic Chaplains
Isn’t a Humanist Military Chaplain an Oxymoron? (Huffington Post)
Must a military chaplain believe in God? We shall soon find out the answer to that question and it will inform us if the Chaplain Corps truly understands what the Constitution and the Supreme Court say about religious liberty. The Navy recently received an application by a highly qualified chaplain candidate who is endorsed by the Humanist Society.

World
Athlete Ally Begins Social Media Campaign, ChooseMadrid, To Protect Gay Athletes In 2020 Olympics (Huffington Post)
Russia has made its share of headlines lately and it looks like their 2014 Olympic games could have a ripple effect felt for years to come. Earlier this summer, President Putin signed an anti-LGBT bill into law essentially making it illegal for any Russian citizen (or even tourists visiting the country) to wear “gay propaganda” or proclaim his or her homosexuality in public for fear of receiving fines or being imprisoned.

First Same Sex Marriage Ceremonies Performed in New Zealand (Christian Post)
New Zealand’s first same-sex marriage ceremonies were performed Monday, as dozens of gay couples married across the country. While the country legalized same-sex marriage in April of this year, Monday marked the opening of the government office responsible for its implementation.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians facing relentless persecution (God Discussion)
Egypt’s Coptic Christians continue to face persecution from the country’s Islamist majority, many of whom have been undertaking a campaign of intimidation, Jewish News One reports. The persecution has included sexual harassment, violence, vandalism, arson and murder against the Christian population.

Singapore’s government orders church to compensate female employee fired for alleged adultery (Washington Post)
Singapore’s government has ordered a prominent church to pay compensation to a former employee who was fired for alleged adultery, officials said Tuesday. The Faith Community Baptist Church has reportedly said it will abide by the order and pay the woman 7,000 Singapore dollars ($5,500) in salary and maternity benefits, but it insisted it was correct to dismiss her.

Pope Francis: ‘Faith And Violence Are Incompatible’ (Huffington Post)
Pope Francis called for peace in Egypt during his Sunday address in St. Peter’s Square with a prayer: “we continue to pray for peace in Egypt together, Mary Queen of Peace pray for us.” The Catholic leader also took the opportunity to condemn those who would resort to violence in the name of faith.

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