Into the depths of USA’s church-state Inferno

IRS Commissioner Steven Miller was already having a rough day at the House Ways and Means Committee when one particularly hot question shoved him into the lower depths of a church-state Inferno.The question concerned a letter sent by IRS officials in Cincinnati to the Coalition for Life of Iowa, linked to its application for tax-exempt status."Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational," said the … [Read more...]

Mitt Romney faces the Moral Majority

When the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979, many fundamentalist pastors were appalled by his decision to wade into the muck of politics.Even more shocking, Falwell said this would be an interfaith project from the get-go, one open to conservatives in many flocks -- including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The goal was to focus on the moral convictions that united believers in different faiths, not the scriptures, creeds and theology that separated … [Read more...]

State of the Godbeat 2010

This was not your typical New York Times headline: "For Catholics, a Door to Absolution is Reopened."The news report itself offered a flashback into an earlier age, back to the days before Vatican II or even to the tumultuous times of Martin Luther. On one level, this was simply a trend story about the Vatican trying to revive some old traditions. However, there were complicated details behind the blunt headline."In recent months," the Times reported, "dioceses around the world have been … [Read more...]

How Evangelicals Talk 101

There she goes again.According to a top strategist in the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, Sarah Palin believed that the decision to pick her as the Arizona Republican's running mate was actually made by Almighty God.Translated into the logic of an Associated Press report, this political theology sounded like this."In an interview with the CBS news magazine '60 Minutes,' Steve Schmidt described Palin as 'very calm -- nonplussed' after McCain met with her at his Arizona ranch just … [Read more...]

Our political high holy day, part I

EDITOR'S NOTE: First of two columns on President Barack Obama's inauguration.As Aretha Franklin finished singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," the queen of soul did what she has done for decades -- she improvised.The result was a soaring bridge between the inauguration of President Barack Obama and a sermon 45 years ago at the Lincoln Memorial."Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with freedom's holy light, protect us by thy might," sang … [Read more...]

Politics dominate 2008 religion

After waves of headlines about faith and politics, President-elect Barack Obama was the clear choice as the top Religion Newsmaker of 2008.The odds were also good that the Religion Newswriters Association would pick the White House race as its top news story. But there was a problem. There were so many faith-based issues in play during this election year that America's religion-beat specialists had trouble deciding which of these hot stories was No. 1.In the end, this was the winning item: … [Read more...]

Obama meets The 700 Club

NASHVILLE -- Washington correspondent David Brody knew it was a symbolic moment when Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network.Then there was the landmark Nevada trip to interview Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his wife Landra at their home. Landing a face-to-face interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton for "The 700 Club"? Say no more.Finally, after a year of negotiations, Sen. Barack Obama's staff took a leap of faith and scheduled an interview with … [Read more...]

Gov. Sarah Palin, Antichrist

The punch line rocketed around the World Wide Web, inspiring smiles in pews friendly to Sen. Barack Obama.The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners saw a campaign button based on this one liner and, on the "Interfaith Voices" public radio show, said it was a fine response to Gov. Sarah Palin's jab at the work of "community organizers."Donna Brazile -- who ran Al Gore's 2000 White House campaign -- saw the same gag and, on CNN, quickly linked it to the Bible's message that "to whom much is given, much is … [Read more...]