FaithWorld

from Reihan Salam:

Are we having the wrong marriage debate?

The marriage debate is entering a new phase. As recently as 1996, a Gallup survey found that 68 percent of Americans opposed civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. On May 8 of this year, Gallup released a report which found that only 48 percent were opposed to same-sex marriage while 50 percent were in favor. The next day, in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, President Barack Obama announced that he too favored the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a move that delighted social liberals, many of whom believed that the president’s previous tepid opposition was rooted in political concerns rather than real conviction.

Even in the months since, the legal and political ground has continued to shift in favor of same-sex marriage. Just this week, a divided panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law that limits federal recognition of marriages to couples consisting of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, ballot initiatives aiming to uphold laws authorizing same-sex civil marriage are leading in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Perhaps most strikingly, a re-energized Romney campaign has made little effort to capitalize on opposition to same-sex marriage.

Opponents of the practice have no intention of throwing in the towel; nor is it inevitable that the legal and political efforts of advocates will continue to succeed. In November, Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson are releasing What Is Marriage?, a vigorous intellectual critique of the case for same-sex civil marriage that has attracted wide attention in traditionalist circles. Moreover, opponents have achieved a number of political victories at the state and local level, most notably in North Carolina in May of this year.

Yet the deeper problem for opponents, as the political theorist Peter Berkowitz argued in a 2005 Policy Review article on “The Courts, the Constitution, and the Culture of Freedom,” is that what Girgis, George, and Anderson refer to as the conjugal view of marriage, in which procreation and lifelong marital fidelity are central, has been supplanted by a very different view. As Berkowitz put it, “children, once at the center of marriage, have now become negotiable, and what used to be negotiable -- love, companionship, sex -- has moved to the center.” The legal recognition of same-sex marriage thus represents “an adaptation of law to a profound change in social meaning.”

***

In light of this deeper shift, one wonders if we have been having the wrong marriage debate all along. Though no one should discount the importance of the marital aspirations of same-sex couples, it is not the only marriage issue we face. The share of poor and middle-income American adults actually living in stable marriages has been hitting new lows.

from Bernd Debusmann:

Obama and the American fringe

The prospect of President Barack Obama winning another four-year term in November is swelling the ranks of anti-Muslim activists and groups on the extremist fringe of American society. Their growth has accelerated every year since Obama took office in 2009.

So says a new report by a civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, that has tracked extremist groups for the past three decades and found that last year alone, the number of anti-Muslim groups tripled, from 10 to 30.

Between 2008 and the end of 2011, according to the center, there was an eight-fold increase in the number of militias and "patriot" groups whose members inhabit a parallel universe where the federal government wants to rob them of their guns and their freedom.

“Mormon question” may again dog Mitt Romney’s U.S. presidential bid

(U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to supporters in Detroit, Michigan June 9, 2011/Rebecca Cook)

Republican Mitt Romney has remade himself in a second run for U.S. president, with a leaner campaign apparatus and a message focused with laser-like precision on the nation’s economic problems. But the “Mormon question” still remains for the former Massachusetts governor: are Americans ready to put a Mormon in the White House?

Surveys suggest American voters are more accepting of the idea now than when Romney staged his first presidential run in 2008. But at the margins, many remain suspicious of Mormons. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found voters less comfortable with the idea of a Mormon president than having a leader of any religion other than a Muslim, or an atheist.

Bin Laden sea burial not in line with Islam, Muslim clerics say

(Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, from which Osama bin Laden was buried at sea somewhere in the north Arabian Sea/U.S. Navy)

Clerics in Saudi Arabia, a staunch U.S. ally and the country of Osama bin Laden’s birth, dismissed Washington’s assertions it observed Islamic rites in disposing of the al Qaeda leader’s body in the Arabian Sea. Bin Laden, shot dead by U.S. forces in a raid on a compound in Pakistan on Monday, was placed in a weighted bag and dropped into the north Arabian Sea from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier, the Carl Vinson, the U.S. military said.

But many Muslims in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf Arab region, including opponents to bin Laden’s militant ideology, said the fact funeral rites were read for him did not diminish their shock at the way his body was disposed of.

Bin Laden ‘eased’ into sea in contentious burial

(Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, from which Osama bin Laden was buried at sea somewhere in the north Arabian Sea/U.S. Navy)

He may have been America’s enemy number one, but after U.S. forces killed him, Osama bin Laden was afforded Islamic religious rites by the U.S. military as part of his surprise at-sea burial on Monday.

The U.S. military said preparations for the al-Qaida leader’s burial lasted nearly an hour. His body was washed before being covered in a white sheet and religious remarks translated into Arabic by a native speaker were read over bin Laden’s corpse.

U.S. Muslims hope for better days after bin Laden

(People cheer and wave U.S. flags outside the White House as President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the nation on the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, in Washington May 1, 2011/Jim Young)

Many U.S. Muslims were as relieved as most Americans to hear of Osama bin Laden’s death, though they feared the stigma attached to their community since the September 11 attacks will not disappear so quickly. U.S. Muslims have grown frustrated that their condemnations of bin Laden and al Qaeda have gone unheard as some Americans associate Islam with his message of violent jihad.

“It has been a nightmare to try to constantly explain to ordinary Americans that we are not associated with bin Laden. We have tried very hard to convince people that Muslims are not one monolithic group standing behind this monster,” said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. “We were also victims of bin Laden’s ideology of hate,” he said. “The man hijacked our religion, committed crimes in the name of our religion and caused the greatest damage to the American Muslim community and Islam.”

Timeline: Life and Death of Osama bin Laden

(Osama bin Laden speaks in this still image taken from video released on a website September 7, 2007. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital Islamabad, a U.S. source said on May 1, 2011/Reuters TV)

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan and his body was recovered, President Barack Obama announced on Monday.

Here is a timeline of major events in bin Laden’s life.

1957 – Osama bin Mohammad bin Awad bin Laden born in Riyadh, one of more than 50 children of millionaire businessman. There are conflicting accounts of his precise date of birth.

Rio de Janeiro taps spiritual help for sunny Obama visit

rio

(Arpoador Beach in Rio de Janeiro February 14, 2011/Ricardo Moraes )

Rio de Janeiro, famed for its warm beaches and sunny skies, has hired a spiritual guru to keep the clouds away for U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit this weekend.

Adelaide Scritori, a medium who followers believe can help control climate patterns, claims to make contact with an ancient spirit known as Chief Cobra Coral who, according to legend, is powerful enough to influence natural phenomena.

“She goes into deep concentration so that she can communicate with the chief, and she asks him for good weather,” said Osmar Santos, her husband and a spokesperson for the Chief Cobra Coral Foundation that supports Scritori’s work.

U.S. churches could benefit from new community radio law

microphone

A traditional BBC microphone in London, October 31, 2008/Toby Melville

A tiny nonprofit organization operating a national campaign from the basement of Calvary United Methodist Church in Philadelphia for 12 years to get more non-commercial radio stations approved may soon see its dream come true.

On January 4, the nonprofit Prometheus and other groups seeking to diversify media ownership, scored a victory when President Barack Obama signed into law the Local Community Radio Act. It directs the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the national airwaves, to allow more low-power stations access to the FM radio dial.

Once implemented, the law is expected to result in as many 2,000 new stations, beginning in about 2013. That would more than double the approximately 800 low-power stations currently in operation, compared with around 13,000 commercial stations nationwide. “It makes a lot more room on a medium (FM radio) that a lot of people still use,” said Prometheus founder Pete Tridish.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and abortion at U.S. military bases…

One little-reported aspect of the political wrangling around attempts to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the U.S. military was how the religious right tied it to another hot-button cultural issue: abortion.

This would certainly have caught the attention of socially conservative Republicans who were instrumental in defeating a measure aimed at its repeal in the U.S. Senate on Thursday night.

Many if not most conservative U.S. evangelicals were already strongly opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military — a point underscored by a Pentagon study unveiled at the end of November that found that military chaplains were strongly opposed to ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”