Uncivil Liberties: The Assault on U.S. Muslims

October 21, 2009 by Rev. David L. Ostendorf · Comment
Filed under: Faith, Politics 

Relatively unseen, unknown, and definitely unabated, the assault on U.S. Muslims continues under the government’s “war on terror” and the political right’s war on Islam. The outcomes of both are unconscionable as the civil liberties of American Muslims are assaulted and the religious rights of faithful peoples are trampled.

For a nation rooted in the principle of religious liberty, the smothering arc of religious intolerance has been long and despicable. From the western frontier to the New Frontier Christians themselves have fought and refought theological and cultural battles for dominance in the uniquely American religious marketplace. The toughest of those fights were instigated and waged by Protestants against Catholics—with anti-Catholicism an ideological bedrock stretching from “proper” Protestants to the Ku Klux Klan. As recently as 1960 the anti-Catholic mantra played a role in the Presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic ever elected to the office. Read more

Regarding Immigration, “the Bible says…”

October 14, 2009 by Rev. David L. Ostendorf · 2 Comments
Filed under: Faith, Immigration 

When anti-immigrant leaders turn to religion—or attack religious groups—to advance their restrictionist agenda, the raw edges of their white nationalism are subtly cloaked in the flags of faith and contrived concern for the dispossessed.

Recently the Tanton Network’s Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hosted a “religious perspectives on immigration” panel in Washington, D.C. to counter religious “supporters of amnesty for illegal aliens.” Roy Beck and NumbersUSA subsequently weighed in with an attack on Christian leaders who have declared “war on the unemployed in their pews” by “favoring more foreign workers (and illegal aliens) over unemployed Americans;” disingenuously, he also derides church leaders for abandoning the Black Underclass by favoring immigration reform. CIS’ James Edwards’ rounded out the fray with a scornful attack on the National Association of Evangelicals for becoming “the most recent religious bureaucracy to foist biblically questionable immigration policies on citizen parishioners.” Read more

Minneapolis Neighborhood Stands United Against White Nationalism

October 8, 2009 by Stephen Piggott · Comment
Filed under: American Identity, Faith 

A few months ago, I wrote about how a small community in Ohio was fighting back against the rise of hate crimes by creating a diversity task force. Last weekend the neighborhood of Midtown, in Minneapolis held a day long workshop entitled, “More Than Skin Deep: Uprooting White Privilege and White Supremacy One Cell at a Time” at the local Young Women’s Christian Association, YWCA. The workshop was designed “for white people who already have an understanding of white privilege and white supremacy (WP/WS) and want to learn more about how to dismantle WP/WS through embodiment work, education, visioning and practical action.” The workshop was completely booked, filling all 40 seats available. The event went off without a hitch and was very successful by all accounts. But there is cause for cheer not only for the workshop that went on inside the YWCA but also for the events that took place outside.

Read more

Anti-Choice Zealot Smears Kennedy

September 9, 2009 by Guest Blogger · Comment
Filed under: Faith, Politics 

by Edmundo Rocha

Equal political voice and democratically responsive government are widely cherished American ideals. Yet, what is happening today is a far cry from what has been happening at recent town halls, where angry protesters stooped to ad hominem attacks. Hatefulness is not attractive or persuasive.

In a Sept. 2 WorldNetDaily column, anti-choice zealot Jill Stanek shamefully dismisses Sen. Edward Kennedy’s accomplishments in the Senate based on a single issue - abortion. What was left out from her column was how Kennedy’s Catholic faith grounded his work and commitment on behalf of those less fortunate and those marginalized. His legislative history proves it. He authored more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in his time, of which 500 became law. Read more

A Step Forward for ELCA Clergy

August 28, 2009 by Amy Spicer · Comment
Filed under: Faith, News 

Last week the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination took a progressive and much needed step. Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted 559 to 441 to lift a ban that prohibited sexually active gay and lesbian people from serving as ministers.

The new policy allows individual ELCA congregations to hire homosexuals as clergy as long as they are in a committed relationship. Until this vote, gays and lesbians had to remain celibate to serve as clergy. The proposed change would cover those in “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” Read more

Where are the Names?

May 26, 2009 by Amy Spicer · Comment
Filed under: Faith, International 

Following a nine-year investigation and a devastating 2,600-page report, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin slammed Irish Catholic orders Monday for concealing their culpability in decades of child abuse. Archbishop Martin is a veteran Vatican diplomat who also believes more money, a considerable amount, needs to be provided to compensate the victims of this abuse.

The report, which was released last week, details abuse in church-run industrial schools in Ireland from the 1930s to the 1990s. Yes, that’s right. A 60-year gap, in which these crimes were not just committed, but covered up. And even more shocking, the findings won’t be used for criminal prosecutions, due in part to the Christian Brothers having successfully sued the commission in 2004. No real identities, either of victim or perpetrator, even appear in the final document. And so the cover up continues. Read more

Post-Postville: It’s About Worker Exploitation, not ICE

May 12, 2009 by Rev. David L. Ostendorf · Comment
Filed under: Economy, Faith, Immigration 

Had ICE been smart a year ago today, it would have claimed—with credibility—that it raided the Postville, Iowa Agriprocessors plant in order to save the workers it seized that infamous day. Postville and the 2008 ICE raid is not simply the story of failed immigration policy; it is the story of years of indifference to the exploitation of the nation’s low-wage workforce.

Long before the raid thrust Postville into the lexicon of the immigrant rights movement, Agriprocessors exploited its workforce with impunity. For years, fear, intimidation, injuries, short-pay, and under-age hiring characterized everyday life on the packinghouse lines. State and federal agencies responsible for enforcement of labor and safety laws were absent, indifferent, or simply lax. Many who rightly voiced outrage over the raid had not raised their voices over worker treatment at the plant that for years had gone relatively unnoticed, unspoken, and unchallenged. Read more

Handel’s Messiah: Music for Many Good Causes

April 10, 2009 by Joan Flanagan · Comment
Filed under: Culture, Faith 

Music can be a marvelous way to make money. Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid concerts have raised more than $33 million to save family farms. The First Lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, donated the royalties from her last album to La Fondation de France and personally delivered the first check for €280,000 to a school in Haiti wiped out by mud. Organizer Pete Seeger will be celebrating his 90th birthday with a concert May 3rd to help clean up the Hudson River.

Most people think of Messiah as Christmas music, but it opened in Dublin, Ireland, on Good Friday in 1742 as a fundraiser. It was advertised “For the relief of the prisoners in the several Gaols” since the Messiah came to free the prisoners. Handel was a very successful entrepreneurial musician, but he gave away all the profits from Messiah. Read more

A Victory for Gay Rights: Illinois House Committee Approves Civil Unions

March 13, 2009 by Jill Garvey · Comment
Filed under: Faith, Politics 

A bill recognizing same-sex civil unions was approved by the Illinois House Human Services Committee for a full House vote under the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. If it passes in the Illinois House it would be a fitting step forward for a state with the Lincoln legacy to uphold.

Religious groups opposed to expanded rights for gay couples are already mobilizing however. The question is, will Illinois’ gay rights activists be blindsided the way Californians were?

Groups, such as Catholic Conference of Illinois and the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), are going to wage a fierce fight. On Wednesday LDS sent out an email from their website urging recipients to

“help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill.”

Read more

Again, the Town Square

February 19, 2009 by Guest Blogger · Comment
Filed under: American Identity, Faith 

By Paul Russell

With a transforming worldview and new administration, Americans are hungry to redefine the middle-ground of the dynamic between church and state. Almost everyone, outside of President George Bush’s fundamentalist-base, feels ignored and hurt. The fact is that the U.S. is home to growing religious populations. Increasingly, these faithful Americans live in an environment that dismisses them from fully participating in the social, political and economic spheres. The landscape is ripe for increasing intolerance and violence towards our neighbors.

Recently, in Queens, NY, Jasmir and a friend were walking home. A few young men taunted them, threatening to cut Jasmir’s hair. Because of Jasmir’s Sikh identity, he keeps his unshorn hair in a bun atop his head. Jasmir fled to the nearest store; “Call the police!” The young aggressors pulled him back outside and delivered a brutal assault.

One boy stabbed Jasmir in the eye with a broken glass bottle. Read more

Muslim Americans Wronged by Airline and Passengers

January 3, 2009 by Jill Garvey · Comment
Filed under: American Identity, Faith 

A family of nine traveling to Florida on New Year’s had a very unpleasant holiday. The family was benignly discussing the safest place to sit on a plane when fellow passengers became “suspicious”. The family, including three children, was escorted from the plane by federal marshals and questioned extensively. Once it became clear to the FBI agents interviewing them that they were in fact just a regular family traveling on holiday, they were cleared to fly. AirTran refused to rebook them on another flight however. The family had to buy tickets on a different airline.

I’ve heard the “safest place to sit” conversation at least a dozen times on airplanes over the years. I know several people who have to sit in particular places on planes, either through superstition or some silly belief that one can actually survive a plane wreck. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had run of the mill conversations about the safety of planes. So I can only imagine that the “suspicious passengers” had to be just plain stupid or, more likely, racist. Read more

Spark the Love in Our Hearts

December 27, 2008 by Ana Turck · Comment
Filed under: Culture, Faith 

There is something about the season that always makes me nostalgic for Christmas back home. Especially Christmas Eve, which was the main event in my family. My sister and I would wake up early, excited about setting up the tree that day. We would wait impatiently for mom to finish her coffee. In true Bosnian fashion, the morning coffee was akin to a marathon. The pacing was precise and there was no hurry reaching the finish line. It was a process, rather than an event, and the spectators were left annoyed. Read more

Of Joy and Justice

December 25, 2008 by Rev. David L. Ostendorf · Comment
Filed under: Faith 

One of the most beautiful and powerful texts in Christian scriptures is the Magnificat recorded in the Gospel of Luke, the joyous and searing response to the birth of Jesus, reprised from the equally powerful Song of Hannah in the Hebrew scripture of Samuel.

This is not the more familiar image of the innocent babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, surrounded by angels singing in the night air. Nor is it the image of the innocent, sweet, loving Jesus heralded over the centuries by Christians across the globe, bringing simple peace. Perhaps that is why this Song of Mary is seldom lifted up, even though it precedes the familiar birth narrative by only a few verses. Read more

Saddleback or Brokeback? The President-elect’s Penchant for Preachers.

December 18, 2008 by Rev. David L. Ostendorf · Comment
Filed under: Faith, Politics 

For Barack Obama to wander from the progressive United Church of Christ to the conservative Saddleback Church, from a prophetic pastor to a placid one in such a short period is a stunning religious-political journey on many levels. This is a journey from a historic church rooted in the abolitionist movement and fundamentally committed to civil and human rights—including gay rights—to a church with little visible connection—save a few recent forays—to the perils of human oppression. Read more