Over at Religion & Politics, Thomas Lewis has an essay on the admixture of religion and politics in Rhode Island. Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island in large part to create a haven of religious tolerance, after he was expelled from Massachusetts. Rhode Island is also an interesting venue for such fights because it is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and overwhelmingly Democratic. The essay points to the central conundrum in these fights: Williams wanted to keep religion and politics separate, but they keep mixing anyway, and in the U.S. the default position has become to keep the public square - the officially public square, that is anything governmental - free of all religious symbols. But, how is that not an endorsement of secularism? These issues are very, very thorny.
Islamophobia is one of the uglier sins of our day. Also one of the more prominent. But, a victory was achieved yesterday in the fight against Islamophobia when Chief Judge Todd Campbell of the Nashville federal District Court ruled that the building of a new mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee could proceed. In June, a local judge cited “tremendous public interest” in ruling that the new mosque needed to meet a different, and higher, hurdle from that imposed on other religious building permits. The lead counsel for the mosque was the Becket Fund’s Deputy General Counsel Luke Goodrich.
Earlier in the day, before the ruling, the Becket Fund released a powerful statement on the issue. The letter detailed the campaign of intimidation and violence to which the mosque’s members had been subjected. And, in the finest tradition of American concern for liberty, the letter stated:
Rabbi David Saperstein,Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement in response to the charge made my Cong. Michele Bachmann and other House Republicans, that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the U.S. government:
I am deeply troubled by the allegations made by Rep. Michelle Bachmann and other Members of Congress in letters to the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and State, asserting that respected government officials and religious organizations are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The letters assert that Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary Clinton, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and ISNA President Imam Mohammed Magid, are all connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, posing a potential security risk to the United States.
The Reform Movement, and I personally, have worked with Ms. Abedin, Imam Magid and ISNA for many years. All have worked on behalf of U.S. interests at home and abroad, built relationships across religious lines and affirmed U.S. constitutional values.
A new poll shows President Obama opening up a jaw-dropping 48 percent lead among Latinos, 70% to Gov. Romney's 22%. In 2008, Obama beat Sen. John McCain among Latins by 36%. Of course, many of Romney's strongest moments during the GOP debates were when he was criticizing his opponents for being too humane on the issue of immigration, so the numbers should not surprise. But, they spell one thing for Romney and the Republicans: Defeat. If Obama wins the Latino vote by any margin north of 40%, he takes Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and it is difficult to see how Romney loses all three of those states and still makes it to 270.
Georgetown's Michael Kazin has a snappy, incisive essay up at the New Republic about why businessmen do not usually make good politicians. Amidst all the fevered speculation about when Romney left Bain, and what is in those tax returns, Kazin's lesson is more accessible and more important: The skill set needed to be successful in business is vastly different from the skill set needed to win an election and to govern afterwards. It is worth remembering that this is Mr. Romney's fourth campaign, and in the three previous ones, he only won once.
For many people, the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to continue its ban on gays is an easy call. In one sense, I think this judgment is correct. The Boy Scouts made a bad decision. But, the more important issue is whether or not the Boy Scouts of America have a right to make bad decisions. They do.
Michele Bachmann released the text of a letter she sent to Cong. Keith Ellison yesterday, explaining why she is calling for an investigation into the possibility of infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood in the u.S. government. The letter repeats earlier charges by Bachmann hurled at Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Hard to judge whether this is more vile than crazy or more crazy than vile. But, it is a measure of where today's GOP is on the zaniness spectrum. Look for Bachmann to get a rousing ovation when she addresses the GOP convention next month. She is not that far out-of-the-mainstream of today's GOP. Sadly. Very sadly.
At his Religion News Service blog, Mark Silk skewers Douthat's essay about the Episcopalians, with a different argument from the one I made yesterday.
Thde difference between Silk and Douthat is an obvious one: Silk is a scholar.
It is unsurprising that Leon Wieseltier took a couple of weeks before giving us his thoughts on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. It was worth the wait. You can read his short essay here.
Mitt Romney had one of his better moments yesterday, better because his words sounded recognizably human. At a fundraiser in Jackson, Mississippi, Romney said: