2012: Top 10 religion stories of the year

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As we near the end of 2012 — can you believe we made it this far!? — the time has come for the Top 10 of everything.

For example, the above video (featuring four guys and a gal playing a single guitar and singing a really catchy tune) made YouTube’s Top 10 Trending Videos list, ranking No. 2 behind a Korean dude dancing “Gangnam Style.”

Meanwhile, members of the Religion Newswriters Association have determined their annual Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year.

I thought it would be fun to list the Top 10 in random order and let GetReligion readers vote themselves. So, please rank your Top 10 in the comments section (write-in votes are allowed). I’ll provide a link at the bottom for the actual RNA link, but wait and click it after you comment. (By the way, the Newtown school shooting occurred after the RNA ballot was prepared, so it’s not reflected in the below list.)

Anti-Muslim video — The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. President Obama, at the U.N., calls for toleration tolerance of blasphemy, and respect as a two-way street.

Contraception fight — U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Obamacare requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. The government backs down a bit, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.

Kansas City bishop conviction — Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it.

Rise of the ‘nones’ — A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that “nones” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.

Romney’s Mormonism — Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain, in the U.S. presidential race.

Same-sex marriage and denominations — Denominational votes The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly adopts a trial ritual for blessing same-sex couples. Earlier, the United Methodists fail to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) vote to study, rather than sanction same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Same-sex marriage and states — Voters OK same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, bringing the total approving to nine states and the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota defeats a ban on same-sex marriage after North Carolina approves one.

Sikh temple shooting — Six people are killed and three wounded at worship in a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. The shooter, an Army veteran killed by police, is described as a neo-Nazi.

Southern Baptist black president — Southern Baptist Convention elects without opposition its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans.

Vatican and the nuns — The Vatican criticizes the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of U.S. nuns, alleging they haven’t supported church teaching on abortion, sexuality or women’s ordination.

After you rank your Top 10, check out the RNA results. HuffPost Religion’s editors also take a crack at the Top 10 religion stories.

A boring, non-sacramental Christmas in Syria

I hope all of our readers who celebrate Christmas are having a blessed one. As I prepared for my church’s Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve (where the youngest Hemingway made her choir debut), my thoughts turned to Christians elsewhere in the world where Christmas is not just a time to celebrate God made flesh but also a time to fear bombings or violence. This Reuters piece headlined “Christmas brings fear of church bombs in Nigeria” begins:

Kneeling over a dusty grave on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, 16-year old Hope Ehiawaguan says a prayer, lays down flowers and tearfully tells her brother she loves him.

He was one of 44 killed on Christmas Day last year when a member of Islamist sect Boko Haram rammed a car packed with explosives into the gates of St Theresa’s Church in Madalla, a satellite town 25 miles from the center of Abuja.

Boko Haram has killed hundreds in its campaign to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria and is the biggest threat to stability in Africa’s top oil exporter.

Two other churches were bombed that day and on Christmas Eve 2010 over 40 people were killed in similar attacks.

But such is the commitment to religion in a country with Africa’s largest Christian population that millions of people will pack out thousands of churches in the coming days. It is impossible to protect everyone, security experts say.

“I feel safe,” Ehiawaguan says with uncertainty, when asked if she will come to church on December 25 this year.

“Not because of security here … because we have a greater security in heaven,” she says, wiping away her tears.

I say it all the time, but Reuters is a valuable source for religion news outside of the United States and Europe. The quotes the reporter got are theological even as the story itself blends politics and other aspects of culture. That story is much more substantive than this 24-second bit on the Pope decrying violence in Syria that was on CBS.

Sadly, terrorists did manage to kill 12 Christians, according to this CNS report:

Gunmen shot dead six Christians and set fire to an evangelical church in the northern state of Yobe, police said. Wire reports said the pastor was among the dead in the midnight attack.

Separately, a Baptist church in neighboring Borno state was attacked. Nigeria’s The Nation said six church members were killed.

But it was this BBC story that left me less than impressed with its headline and lede. The headline:

Syria crisis: Low-key Christmas for Christians

The lede:

During the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples that the bread and wine he shares with them represents his body and his blood.

“This is my body, which is given for you,” he says. “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In Syria, the real blood of civilians was mixed with real bread in Halfiya, the day before Christmas Eve, according to opposition activists. They say the civilians were bombed by a government warplane as they were queuing at a bakery, killing some 90 of them.

OK. So the entire story is sad, with people refusing to speak with reporters or give their name for fear of being targeted. We learn that minority areas, including those dominated by Christians are being targeted by the government. The already-small population of Christians is fleeing the country. Is describing this simply as a “low-key Christmas” appropriate? What a boring headline for the reality of what Christians in Syria are dealing with this Christmas.

In any case, I don’t know where the Beeb reporter got her info, but Christians in Syria do not believe that Jesus told his disciples that “the bread and wine he shares with them represents his body and his blood.” Traditional Christian belief is that in the Eucharist we receive the actual body and blood of Christ.

The teaching that communion only represents Christ’s body and blood is certainly present among some Christians, but not among Orthodox Christians.

To further compound the error by saying “the real blood of civilians was mixed with real bread in Halfiya” is just insulting to those sacramental Christians who believe we partake in the real body and blood of Christ.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t be surprised. But how would a reporter not know this? I’d more expect a reporter to mock traditional Christians for this belief than be ignorant of it.

Xmas quiet in Jerusalem? Check the Julian calendar

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Along with millions of other Americans, I am on the road this fine Christmas Day. Thus, when checking into a typical American hotel, I was immediately presented with the Holiday edition of USA Today.

Turn the front page and, lo and behold, there is this rather bizarre variation on a very, very familiar story about Christmas.

The basic thrust of the story? Hey, did you know that Christmas is different in the Holy Land itself, as opposed to normal life for Christian human beings on Planet Earth (which seems to have a lot to do with the calendars used in shopping malls)? The lede focuses on the point of view of one David Parsons, formerly of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Long ago, he moved to Jerusalem and, dang it, this American Christian is still struggling to get his holiday vibe going.

In the Holy Land, there are no Christmas tree sellers on the side of the road, no Jingle Bells played on the radio, no Black Friday department store sales. And that’s not a bad thing, he says.

“Here there aren’t those constant ads on the television or sales, sales, sales. Being free of that allows you to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas,” says Parsons, who left North Carolina long ago.

Christians make up less than 2% of the populations of both Israel and the West Bank territory, and though here is where Jesus was born, lived and died, there are few outward signs of the celebration of his birth in much of the region.

In Jerusalem there are almost no Christmas decorations except for the Old City’s Christian Quarter. Dec. 25 is just Tuesday, a working day for Jews and Muslims.

As it turns out, there are some quite religious Christmas celebrations in logical places such as, well, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Some of those have been known to show up on global television networks.

The big problem with this story, however, is that the people who produced it seem to know nothing about the history of Christian liturgical calendars in this part of the world.

You see, there is a very good reason that Dec. 25th is simply another day for many — in some places most — of the Christians in the Middle East.

Why is that? Well, that’s because the ancient Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is following the ancient Julian calendar and, thus, Christmas falls on Jan. 7, so the celebrations tend to kick into gear on Jan. 6.

This is one of the most commonly known facts about Eastern Orthodoxy, leading to a wave of photo opportunities on Jan. 7 that often show up in American newspapers — reminding news consumers that there is, for many Orthodox believers, an “Orthodox Christmas” for the same reason as there is an “Orthodox Easter.”

Click here for a quick explanation of this situation. It’s a rather basic fact to know about Christianity in the Middle East.

Read the whole story. Maybe there was supposed to be a reference to the ancient date for Christmas in there somewhere and it got edited out. Instead, the story ends like this:

As they do every year, at sunset on Christmas Eve, Parsons, his wife and their 13-year-old son will go to Mar Elias, a beautiful old stone monastery that affords a commanding view of Bethlehem and Shepherd’s Field.

Last week Parsons’ employer, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, hosted a homey Christmas party for staffers and volunteers, who hail from across the globe. The pro-Israel organization also threw a kosher-catered Christmas-Hanukkah party attended by Israeli officials.

At home in his Jerusalem apartment, Parsons does his best to keep alive the Outer Banks traditions of his child hood by the sea.

“I have my own little oyster roast, but it’s with the seafood I can find here.” The only problem, Parsons said, is that “it’s hard to invite my Israeli friends over for Christmas because it’s definitely not kosher. That’s life in the Holy Land.”

Totally bizarre. It’s like the story is totally focused on the American way of doing Christmas, or something, even though the story is set in Jerusalem. Most strange.

Shocker! Liberal clergy back gay rites! (updated)

What we have here is a totally predictable story, to an almost stunning degree. It’s almost a non-story, from the get go.

What has me confused, however, is whether or not The New York Times crew realizes that it is publishing a totally predictable story, a story in which there is not a single new or unpredictable element.

You see, there are quite a few signs in the story that the Times folks know that there is little or nothing new in this piece. Then, at other times, the world’s openly liberal newspaper of record — especially on religious and moral issues, saith former editor Bill Keller — seems to think that this story is important.

The key is the story’s Something Really Big Has Happened Lede, which only sounds big because the newspaper’s editors chose to omit a crucial fact.

More than 250 religious leaders in Illinois have signed an open letter in support of same-sex marriage, which the legislature is likely to take up in January.

“We dedicate our lives to fostering faith and compassion, and we work daily to promote justice and fairness for all,” the leaders wrote in the letter, which was released Sunday. “Standing on these beliefs, we think that it is morally just to grant equal opportunities and responsibilities to loving, committed same-sex couples.

“There can be no justification,” they continued, “for the law treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This is not the first time members of the clergy have endorsed same-sex marriage, but the public nature of the letter and the number of signatures made it an especially strong statement.

Now let me be clear: This is a story. Years ago, it would have been an important one.

What I am arguing is that at this point it is a totally predictable story, for reasons that — to their credit — the Times persons make little effort to hide. The story notes, for example that “many” of the Christian and Jewish leaders who signed this liberal statement noted that “they had long supported same-sex marriage.”

So what does the lede fail to mention? This story does not cite a single clergyperson who, by signing this statement, was changing her or his position on this issue. In fact, the story does not list a single clergyperson whose stance represents a violation of her or his denomination’s stance on the moral status of sex outside of marriage.

In other words: Where is the news?

By the way, I would feel precisely the same about a Times story reporting that a large flock of Catholic, Orthodox, Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Mormon and evangelical Protestant clergy had produced a statement documenting their opposition to same-sex marriage. The difference, of course, is that the Times would not print that story and certainly would not open that alleged news report with a Something Really Big Has Happened Lede.

Note the denominations that are backing this liberal proclamation:

“It’s not a religious right — it’s a civil right,” said the Rev. Kevin E. Tindell, a United Church of Christ minister at New Dimensions Chicago. “It’s a matter of justice, and so as a Christian, as a citizen, I feel that it’s my duty.” Mr. Tindell, who is gay, is raising three children with his partner of 17 years.

The Rev. Kim L. Beckmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who lives in the Chicago area, said she was drawn into the movement “as my gay and lesbian parishioners were welcomed into our congregation.”

“I have participated in blessings of these unions for longer than we’ve even been talking about marriage,” she said. “I’m thrilled to take this step.” …

The Rev. Kara Wagner Sherer of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chicago said it was a way for religious leaders to say, “I’m a faithful Christian or a Jew or Muslim, and I think that marriage equality is important.”

“It doesn’t have to be a faith issue,” she said. “We understand our Scripture in a different way.”

Now, that quote from the female Episcopal priest raises an interesting question: Did any mainstream Muslim leaders actually sign this letter? Did any Muslims sign the letter, period?

The logical thing to do is to look online and fine the list. However, at the moment, all I can find is news reports about the letter, many of which — unlike the Times story — note another predictable element of this development, which is that most of the women and men who signed this statement are from the Chicago area.

I am several pages into a logical online search and I can’t find the actual list. Surely it is online? Or, perhaps, was the story in the Times meant to serve as the official announcement?

Help me find the list, please. Once we have found it, we can search the list for (a) Muslims, (b) Catholics who are not liberal nuns, (c) Orthodox Jews, (d) evangelical Protestants who are employed by major evangelical denominations, (e) Mormons linked to major Mormon organizations, (f) Anglicans who are not part of The Episcopal Church, etc., etc. In other words, let’s search the list for surprising names, the kinds of signatures that would represent a truly newsworthy development.

Again let me stress: We are talking about a journalism issue here, exactly the same journalism issue that would be raised, let’s say, by a Fox News report trumpeting an anti-gay-marriage statement released by a long list of religious leaders who are part of religious groups that support their various traditions’ ancient doctrines on sex and marriage. That statement wouldn’t be big news either.

UPDATE: Thank you to reader Joyce Garcia. Here’s the link to a .pdf of the list. The list is pretty much what I expected, including its reference to an “Orthodox” parish — a St. Thomas Mission that is actually part of a liberal splinter group. Check the list. Check it twice.

Galileo meets the Mayan apocalypse

Far and away my favorite headline of Friday was the one that ran in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Experts almost certain world not ending today

How great is that? And I say that as someone who was not quite as impressed as Romenesko with this front-page folio line from the Omaha World-Herald yesterday.

The story is well done, with a nice look at calendars and apocalyptic thinking. It begins:

A previously undiscovered zombie planet will not crash into the Earth today, obliterating all human life and leaving the cockroaches to roam the desolate landscape, a drove of authorities said.

These authorities, ranging from rocket scientists to anthropologists to religious leaders, also said that the sun will not spout a flare 100 million miles wide that will char the Earth like a marshmallow dropped into a campfire.

Nor, the experts confidently claim, will a distant supernova send a concentrated laser beam of gamma radiation hurtling toward our homes at near light speed, annihilating any trace of our ever having existed.

Probably.

They cannot say for sure because the future is by its nature uncertain, despite science, despite our desires, despite what we may or may not have marked on next week’s calendar.

What I wanted to highlight was the excellent way the story briefly explained why the Mayans were not predicting the end of the world when a calendar ended:

The ancient Mayan civilization, for example, used a calendar system that ran in cycles, like a car’s odometer. When one cycle ended, that calendar ended, and another one began.

I keep being reminded of something Amy Sullivan mentioned at the Religion Newswriters Association conference earlier this year. She said that when you find religion news mistakes, these are typically mistakes being made by people off the Godbeat. The corollary to that is that there are reporters who are on the Godbeat or otherwise in tune with religion news and that they do a good job of telling religion news and explaining it. For all of the bad reporting on the Mayan calendar, we did see some good stuff, too.

The story did have a religion passage that might be worth discussing:

The Vatican weighed in, too.

The Rev. Jose Funes, the Vatican’s top astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, wrote in the Vatican’s newspaper this month that the end of the world nonsense is “not even worth discussing.”

The Vatican, you may remember, has not always found itself on the side of science. It condemned Galileo in 1633, for example, for correctly arguing that the Earth revolved around the sun. An apology came 359 years later.

Oh, we remember. But is what we remember what actually happened? It reminds me of one of my favorite comment threads to a GetReligion post headlined “King of Night Vision.” The entire back and forth is worth re-reading if you don’t have time to read an actual history of Galileo. One commenter put it:

We need to be more careful with the myths that we create, especially those myths which are somehow supposed to be about our casting aside of myths.

I just put that out as a reminder since the culture seems to have rewritten the Galileo story a little bit.

It might be nice to see a story with a bit more reflection on the theological implications of why society celebrates (before condemning) precise predictions of the end of the world. There are probably quite a few areas to explore about what this cultural obsession says, what it signifies and what various religious bodies might say about the culture’s engagement with doomsday scenarios. Or maybe I’m just saying that because my pastor preached a great Advent sermon today about just this.

WWROD: Which denominations do what well?

So, GetReligion readers, have you submitted a religion-rooted question yet to veteran scribe Richard Ostling, over at his new weblog? That would be the one called “Religion Q&A: The Ridgewood Religion Guy answers your questions” (click here for some background).

Anyway, this week’s Ostling offering here at GetReligion focuses on a question that is sure to raise hackles in a few corners of the world of organized religion.

The provocative question, from one Judy in Pennsylvania:

The various Christian denominations seemingly have particular strengths in the theology, practice, outreach, and church polity of their forms of Christian faith. How would you see these strengths being shared among individual churches and Christians across the USA and around the globe in an effort to strengthen the Christian faith?

This is the time of year, Ostling noted, when media folks are inclined to assemble lists of various kinds.

This particular list, however, is by its nature rooted in opinion and, thus, is a bit perilous. Nevertheless, based on his decades of experience on the religion beat, he offered some of his views. The list starts like this:

Salvation Army — Taking Jesus seriously, and not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas (“as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me.”)

Eastern Orthodox — Worship that conveys awe and mystery. Unwavering devotion to the faith that “was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Roman Catholics — Doctrinal clarity. Rich intellectual tradition. Parochial schools. Hospitals. Charities. And much, much else. But could benefit by learning from:

Presbyterian; Reformed churches — Skill with sermons (usually). Classic Protestant governance balancing regional oversight with local iniitiative, plus responsibility, voice, vote, and sense of vocation for lay members (concepts that helped create secular republics).

Lutherans — Choirs. Parish architecture and other visuals (often). Wise handling of schism to honor conscience and limit strife.

Anglicans; Episcopalians — Liturgy. Hymnody. But could learn much from the Lutherans on schism.

You get the idea.

Head on over to his site to read the rest and, by all means, leave a few questions that will force this religion-beat patriarch into hard-news terrain.

Just do it. Make our day.

Ghost of Notre Dame’s modern-day ‘Rudy’

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Is the pope Catholic?

Wait. That’s not what I wanted to know. Here’s my real question: Is Grant Patton Catholic?

“Grant who?” you ask.

Patton is a Notre Dame football player featured this week in an inspirational sports column in The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.:

If there wasn’t already a movie about an unlikely Notre Dame football walk-on, defensive lineman Grant Patton might have scripts to browse. When he was a senior at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, he did not play football. During his first two years of college, he did not even attend Notre Dame. When he was finally accepted to the university as a junior, he played for his dormitory’s intramural football team. But on Jan. 7 the senior will put on his gold helmet and run through the tunnel with the Fighting Irish as they face Alabama for the national championship. He’s “Rudy” with a cellphone and a Twitter account, and he’s as astonished by his journey as anyone.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” Patton said by phone from South Bend, Ind., perhaps while pinching himself. “To be on the field, with that jersey, with that helmet, it’s like a Disney moment.”

Keep reading, and the writer tells of Patton’s “lifelong devotion to the Fighting Irish.” But what inspires that devotion?

Later, we learn that Patton enrolled at Holy Cross College in South Bend, which often serves as a feeder school for Notre Dame.

Let’s pick up the story after Patton receives his gold helmet:

“It’s just a great story for kids to know that if you have a dream and you follow it, you can do anything,” St. X coach Mike Glaser said.

Patton picked the perfect time to become a Notre Dame football player. The No. 1 Irish blitzed through a 12-0 season, including victories over Michigan, Stanford and Oklahoma. Although Patton has not played, the experience has been indelible.

He said the first time he ran out of the locker room under the iconic, hand-painted “Play Like a Champion Today” sign, he felt numb. He knelt on the grass and gathered himself.

He knelt on the grass and gathered himself. Is that a fancy way of saying he prayed?

The story ends this way:

“It’s crazy after games when you see 200 people outside wanting his autograph,” said his mother, Alison. “He’s not Manti T’eo or the quarterback, but they don’t care. He’s someone who plays for Notre Dame, and that’s all he ever wanted.”

All he ever wanted. But why?

Is this purely a sports story? Did Patton grow up adoring the Fighting Irish simply because he loved football? Or do I sense a deeper calling? (Patton has a private Twitter account, but his public profile includes a Scriptural reference.)

I’ll ask again: Is Grant Patton Catholic? And if so, shouldn’t that important detail make its way into the story?

Gold-and-blue ghost, anyone?

Got news? White House vs. Little Sisters of the Poor

From coast to coast, the lawyers of religious groups and charities can almost quote the following legal language by heart. This is, of course, linked to the strange — from a church-state separation perspective — Health and Human Services mandate that attempts to create two different levels of religious liberty in the United States.

Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). …

To cut to the chase, this legal language appears to offer (Justice Anthony Kennedy, please call your answering service) religious liberty for activities inside sanctuary doors, involving believers, and religious liberty lite for forms of religious ministry that impact the public.

As I noted, via direct quotation, in a recent Scripps Howard News Service column:

“Consider Blessed Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity reaching out to the poorest of the poor without regard for their religious affiliation,” said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lorio this June, during the American bishops’ Fortnight For Freedom campaign. “The church seeks to affirm the dignity of those we serve not because they are Catholic but because we are Catholic. The faith we profess, including its moral teachings, impels us to reach out — just as Jesus did — to those in need and to help build a more just and peaceful society.”

Now this precise conflict has hit the headlines in an amazing and symbolic case that simply has to end up in a high court, sooner rather than later, unless White House lawyers jump in and make changes.

The problem is that this story is making headlines, at this point, in Catholic and alternative, “conservative” news sources. Once again, we are in that strange era in which the defense of old-fashioned liberal values is suddenly “conservative.”

In this case, we are dealing with a news story — period. Here it is at LifeSiteNews.com, with material drawn from, ironically, the rather funky libertarian conservative Daily Caller.

The Obama administration’s HHS mandate may force the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor to cease their U.S. operations, according to Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, the religious order’s communications director.

The Little Sisters currently provide group homes and daily care for the elderly poor in 30 U.S. cities.

Sister Constance told The Daily Caller that the Little Sisters may not qualify for a religious exemption from ObamaCare’s requirement that employers provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs free of charge to female workers.

“We are not exempt from the [ObamaCare] mandate because we neither serve nor employ a predominantly Catholic population,” Constance said. ”We hire employees and serve/house the elderly regardless of race and religion, so that makes us ineligible for the exemption being granted churches.”

Catholic teaching forbids contraception, sterilization and abortion, but President Obama’s health-care overhaul law requires employers to offer services that cause all three to their employees without a co-pay. Failure to comply will result in fines of $100 a day per employee — even for religious orders like the Little Sisters whose members have taken vows of poverty.

“[I]t could be a serious threat to our mission in the U.S.,” said Sister Constance, “because we would never be able to afford to pay the fines involved. We have difficulty making ends meet just on a regular basis; we have no extra funding that would cover these fines.”

My point, in this post, is not to debate the HHS mandate itself. However, it is clear that, as currently worded, the Little Sisters of the Poor do not qualify for protection — for the same reason that the sisters walking in the footsteps of Mother Teresa do not qualify.

My point here is journalistic: Is this an interesting news story?

I would argue that it would be hard to imagine a more symbolic showdown than, literally, The United States vs. The Little Sisters of the Poor. That, friends and neighbors, is quite a headline. The fines hitting the various branches of this poverty-based religious order would, literally, be millions of dollars a year.

But this would never happen, right?

As it turns out, the Little Sisters of the Poor have previously been forced to leave other countries because of religious-liberty disputes.

“[A]s Little Sisters of the Poor, we are not strangers to religious intolerance,” Sister Constance wrote in a June 2012 essay for The Tablet, a Brooklyn-based Catholic newspaper. “Our foundress was born at the height of the French Revolution and established our congregation in its aftermath.”

“Our sisters have been forced to leave numerous countries, including China, Myanmar and Hungary, because of religious intolerance,” she wrote. “We pray that the United States will not be added to this list.”

Got news? Not yet.

Help your GetReligionistas look for the headlines in the mainstream press. This is a poignant news story, right?


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