Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
The fact that more than two-thirds of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with houses of worship is heavily influencing both sides of the debate over whether the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) should allow openly gay boys and men to be members or leaders in the organization. The BSA is expected to announce its decision on a new policy February 6. More from NBC News:
“I think it’s clear that the Scouts have made a sea change in who they are and that down the road they will be a different organization than they are today,” said Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, whose leader, Frank S. Page, urged for a prayer be held among congregations on Sunday that the board members would not allow gays.
“I think there are a lot of parents and students who will make the decision to look for other organizations that are more in line with the principles that they espouse,” he said.
The Scouts’ board meeting starts today, and a decision on the gay ban is expected Wednesday.
The Scouting movement has heavy involvement from religious groups, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church together sponsoring more than 1 million Scouts, according to Boy Scouts data for 2011. Overall, faith-based groups sponsored nearly 70 percent of the more than 100,000 Scouting units that year, compared with civic organizations backing 23 percent and educational outfits 8 percent.
In the Scout Oath, youth pledge to do their “duty to God,” and the organization holds special celebrations in tandem with churches, such as “Scout Sunday,” just ahead of the Feb. 8 anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts in 1910. This year, “Scout Sunday” was held Feb. 3 in a number of congregations across the country, and people on social media reported troops receiving their religious medals and posted pictures of Scouts in uniform at church. The BSA offers a guide to the church observance on its website.
“Boy Scouts are like baseball and apple pie,” said Rev. Chase Peeples of the gay-friendly Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ in Kansas City, Mo., which honored Scouts on Sunday and displayed on its front lawn a banner with a rainbow background reading, “We welcome ALL Boy Scouts.”
Image: Boy Scout troop, via Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock.com
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Monday, January 21st, 2013
Deborah Mitchell, a Texas mom who is raising her two teenagers without religious faith, has sparked a national online conversation in which parents are vehemently defending their views that children should be raised with religion, without it, or with whatever works best for any individual family. Mitchell’s blog, and a recent online article, elevated the debate at a time when one in five Americans is unaffiliated with a religious tradition. More from CNN:
This week, she gained a whole new audience and the reassurance that she’s not alone. Her essay on CNN iReport, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” drew 650,000 page views, the second highest for an iReport, and the most comments of any submission on the citizen journalism platform.
“When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.
For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.”
Mitchell posted the essay detailing her seven reasons for raising her children without God on CNN iReport because she felt there wasn’t anyone else speaking for women or moms like her. As she sees it, children should learn to do the right things because they will feel better about themselves, not because God is watching. She asks questions like: If there was a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God, why would he allow murders, child abuse and torture?
Lots of people disagreed with her. Tons. They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the CNN.com homepage. But there were plenty of others who wrote thoughtful rebuttals, respectfully disagreeing with Mitchell while not foisting their own beliefs on her. Take, for instance, a Methodist dad, who said faith can be hard to nail down, but “not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don’t completely understand is silly.”
Others said Mitchell presented a simplistic view of religion.
“Presentations such as these seem to ignore a substantial percentage of believers – well-educated, compassionate, liberal folk, Christian and non-Christian alike – who, I feel, are able to worship without being blind to the realities of the world, or without lying to their children about their understanding of these complexities,” wrote commenter RMooradian. “I’ll be raising my children with God, but I understand those who cannot!”
But Mitchell’s essay also struck a chord with hundreds of like-minded parents raising children in a world where lack of belief puts them in the minority, often even in their own family.
“Thank you for writing this. I agree with everything you say, but I’m not brave enough to tell everyone I know this is how I feel,” a woman who called herself an “agnostic mommy of two in Alabama” posted in the comments. “Thank you for your bravery and letting me know I’m not alone.”
Image: Woman typing, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 28th, 2012
In a move that one rabbi called “fatal to the freedom of religion,” a German court has ruled that boys cannot be circumcised because the practice inflicts bodily harm on children who are not able to give their own consent for the procedure. The Guardian newspaper has more:
A judge at a Cologne court said that the circumcision of minors went against a child’s interests because it led to a physical alteration of the body, and because people other than the child were determining its religious affiliation.
Religious leaders said the court had stepped into a minefield with its decision, which undermined their religious authority and contravened Germany’s constitution.
Ali Demir, chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, said: “I find the ruling adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory against all the parties concerned.”
Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, called it “an egregious and insensitive measure” which amounted to “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in religious communities’ right of determination.”
The ruling followed a lengthy legal battle, sparked when a Muslim couple decided to have their son circumcised, specifically for religious reasons, by a Muslim doctor in Cologne. The doctor, identified only as Dr K, carried out the circumcision on the four-year old boy in November 2010, before giving the wound four stitches. The same evening, he visited the family at home to check up on the boy. When the boy began bleeding again two days later, his parents took him to the casualty department of Cologne’s University hospital. The hospital contacted the police, who then launched an investigation. The doctor was charged with bodily harm, and the case was taken to court.
While the court acquitted Dr. K on the grounds that he had not broken any law, it concluded that circumcision of minors for religious reasons should be outlawed, and that neither parental consent nor religious freedom justified the procedure. It ruled that in future doctors who carried out circumcisions should be punished.
The court weighed up three articles from the basic law: the rights of parents, the freedom of religious practice and the right of the child to physical integrity, before coming to the conclusion that the procedure was not in the interests of the child.
It rejected the defence that circumcision is considered hygienic in many cultures, one of the main reasons it is carried out in the US, Britain and in Germany.
After much deliberation, it concluded that a circumcision, “even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent.”
Image: The German flag, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
A North Carolina Baptist pastor has issued an apology for a sermon in which he encouraged parents to hit children who exhibit homosexual behaviors, news sources are reporting.
According to CNN.com, the Rev. Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, was preaching an unscripted sermon the Sunday before the state was to consider a constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.
“The second you see your son dropping that limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist,” CNN reports Harris said in the Sunday sermon. “Man up. Give him a good punch.” “You’re not going to act like that,” the pastor advised parents to tell their children. “You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.”
Wednesday, Harris issued an apology on the church’s website, saying, “I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended. I did not say anything to intentionally offend anyone in the LGBT community. My intent was to communicate the truth of the Word of God concerning marriage. My words were not scripted. It is unfortunate I was not more careful and deliberate.”
Image: Church, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, March 19th, 2012
The new rule that mandates health insurance plans to cover contraceptive medication will apply to health plans offered by religious organizations, Obama administrations clarified late last week. The announcement clarified an earlier statement that an “accommodation” would be offered to religious groups who object to funding birth control medication on the basis of their faiths.
The New York Times reports that Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that the government would guarantee women access to birth control “while accommodating religious liberty interests:”
The new proposal escalates the election-year fight over the administration’s birth control policy.
President Obama had previously announced what he described as an “accommodation” for religiously affiliated organizations that buy commercial insurance but object, for religious reasons, to covering contraceptives and sterilization procedures. In these cases, the White House said, the insurer “will be required to provide contraception coverage to women free of charge.”
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services went a step further and said it would propose a similar requirement for group health plans sponsored by religious organizations that insure themselves.
Sebelius said that in lieu of the religious institutions paying for the contraceptives, pharmaceutical companies could offer substantial rebates to allow the faith-based groups to provide the medication without funding it themselves.
Image: Birth control pills, via Shutterstock.
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