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Let us pray? Supreme Court divided on God in government
November 6th, 2013
12:18 PM ET

Let us pray? Supreme Court divided on God in government

By Bill Mears and Daniel Burke, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Should prayers to God open government meetings?

That's the controversial question a divided Supreme Court debated on Wednesday.

At oral arguments about whether public prayers at a New York town's board meetings are permissible, the high court took a broad look at the country's church-state history and even the Supreme Court's own traditions.

Two local women sued officials in Greece, New York, objecting that monthly Town Board public sessions have opened with invocations they say have been overwhelmingly Christian.

But the case's implications extend far beyond upstate New York and could have widespread consequences, according to constitutional scholars.

"This is going to affect communities across the country," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.

The frequent court battles over public prayers, Ten Commandment memorials and holiday displays might strike some Americans as silly, but they touch on deep questions about national identity to reach back to the Founding Fathers, Haynes said.

"It's a long struggle in our country about self-definition and what our country was founded to be. That's why we keep circling back to these emotional and highly divisive questions."

At Wednesday's oral arguments, the court's conservative majority appeared to have the votes to allow the public prayers to continue in some form, but both sides expressed concerns about the level of judicial and government oversight over prayers presented by members of a particular faith.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Church and state • Courts • Culture wars • Discrimination • Interfaith issues • Prayer • Religious liberty • Traditions

A look inside Jerusalem
September 15th, 2013
07:54 AM ET

Why everyone fights over Jerusalem

World-renowned chef, best-selling author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain returns for the second season of CNN's showcase for coverage of food and travel. "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" is shot entirely on location and premieres Sept 15 @ 9pm ET/PT. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook. Bourdain's first stop: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

By Daniel BurkeCNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -  Heaven and Earth are said to meet atop Jerusalem’s sacred mounts, but the city’s stony streets have seen more than their share of hellish violence.

King David subdued the Jebusites, the city's Canaanite founders. The Babylonians and Romans routed the Jews. Muslims booted the Byzantines. Christian Crusaders mauled Muslims and were, in turn, tossed out by the Tartars.

The Ottomans followed, then Britain, then Jordan, before finally, in 1967, the city came nearly full circle when Israel annexed East Jerusalem. That sparked another cycle of violence, this time between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It’s easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world,” says Anthony Bourdain, who visits Jerusalem in the season premiere of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” which debuts Sunday night on CNN.

“And there’s no hope - none - of ever talking about it without pissing someone off.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown • Belief • Christianity • Faith Now • Greek Orthodox Church • History • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Israel • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism • Middle East • Muslim • Religious violence • Sacred Spaces

My Take: Town prayers need less Jesus, more Krishna
May 21st, 2013
11:35 AM ET

My Take: Town prayers need less Jesus, more Krishna

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) — At first glance, it would seem that the town of Greece, New York, has been brazenly violating the First Amendment. For roughly a decade, it invited local Christians — and only Christians — to offer prayers opening its Town Board meetings.

Two non-Christian town residents — Susan Galloway (who is Jewish) and Linda Stephens (who is an atheist) — objected, arguing that this practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding that the town’s practice of repeatedly inviting Christians to offer demonstrably Christian prayers amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Baha'i • Church and state • Interfaith issues • My Take • United States

My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service
April 18th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

At the interfaith prayer service held in today for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing (including Lu Lingzi, a graduate student at Boston University, where I teach), President Barack Obama was once again called upon to play the pastor-in-chief at a moment of national tragedy.

In his speech, Obama did a lot of cheering for the home town, praising Boston as “the perfect state of grace.” He recalled his time as a law student at Harvard. He cheered on the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Bruins. And he repeatedly referred to Bostonians as a gritty people who would not give in to terrorism in the 21st century any more than they bowed to the British in the 18th.

As I listened to the speech, however, I couldn't help hearing echoes of President Ronald Reagan.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Bible • Interfaith issues • Massachusetts • My Take • Politics • United States

February 5th, 2013
11:50 AM ET

Can religion prevent violence?

By Jim Roope, CNN

(CNN) – When tragedies happen like the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, the question of faith often comes up. How can horrible events like that be allowed to happen?

Rabbi Marvin Heir with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said he’s not surprised that people question religion, and, God in tragedies.

Hear his and others' perspectives on the role of religion in our world from religious thought leaders in the player above or on CNN Radio Soundwaves

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Faith Now • Interfaith issues • Leaders • Violence

December 7th, 2012
04:01 AM ET

Church Threatened Over Muslim Convention

(CNN affiliate KTLA) - An Episcopal church in Pasadena has been getting hate mail over its decision to host the annual convention of a Muslim American civil rights group. All Saints Church in Pasadena will host the Muslim Public Affairs Council's 12th annual convention on Dec. 15, which is expected to draw about 1,000 people.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Episcopal • Interfaith issues • Muslim

The Gospel according to Obama
President Obama is not just a racial trailblazer, but some say a religious pioneer as well. No president has ever shared his type of Christianity, historians say. Some say he may revive a form of Christianity that once dominated America.
October 21st, 2012
06:59 AM ET

The Gospel according to Obama

By John Blake, CNN

President Barack Obama was sharing a pulpit one day with a conservative Christian leader when a revealing exchange took place.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Christian who has taken public stands against abortion and same-sex marriage, had joined Obama for an AIDS summit. They were speaking before a conservative megachurch filled with white evangelicals.

When Brownback rose to speak, he joked that he had joined Obama earlier at an NAACP meeting where Obama was treated like Elvis and he was virtually ignored. Turning to Obama, a smiling Brownback said, “Welcome to my house!”

The audience exploded with laughter and applause. Obama rose, walked before the congregation and then declared:

“There is one thing I have to say, Sam. This is my house, too. This is God’s house.”

Historians may remember Obama as the nation’s first black president, but he’s also a religious pioneer. He’s not only changed people’s perception of who can be president, some scholars and pastors say, but he’s also expanding the definition of who can be a Christian by challenging the religious right’s domination of the national stage.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Church • Courts • Creationism • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Evangelical • Evolution • evolvution • Faith • Fundamentalism • Gay marriage • Gay rights • God • History • Homosexuality • Interfaith issues • Obama • Protestant • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage • Schools • Science

Interfaith group protests ad that says 'Support Israel. Defeat Jihad'
Opponents of the New York City subway ad unveiled their own ad on Tuesday.
September 25th, 2012
05:03 PM ET

Interfaith group protests ad that says 'Support Israel. Defeat Jihad'

By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN

(CNN) - Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders gathered in New York to protest advertisements that claim "Support Israel. Defeat Jihad" smattered across 10 city subways stations Monday and to debut a counter-ad that is due up in the same stations at the end of the week, according to the interfaith group.

"I am Muslim," explained Adem Carroll of the Muslim progressive traditionalist alliance on the steps of New York City's City Hall. "On a personal note, when I ride the subway and see messages smeared that demean me, I am scared."

Carroll is speaking about an advertisement originally rejected by New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority that reads: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Interfaith issues • Islam • Israel • New York

My Take: An American tradition of bigotry
A member of the Miwaukee area Sikh community weeps as he listens to information about the shooting spree in Wisconsin.
August 7th, 2012
01:37 PM ET

My Take: An American tradition of bigotry

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Like many Americans, I reacted to the murders at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with horror, and to the apparent arson at a Joplin, Missouri, mosque with sadness.

But I did not react with shock.

As the adviser to the Sikh Association at Boston University and a professor of many Muslim students, I am aware of the day-to-day discrimination these religious minorities experience in the United States. And as a historian I am aware of the history of discrimination against both groups throughout U.S. history.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Church and state • Culture wars • Immigration • Interfaith issues • Islam • Mitt Romney • My Take • Opinion • Politics • Religious liberty • Religious violence • Sikh • United States

A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...
The worlds of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, left, Michael Benson, center, and Mayor Cory Booker collided 20 years ago. The unlikely trio has maintained a friendship ever since.
June 23rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Newark, New Jersey (CNN) – Mayor Cory Booker waits in his wood-paneled city hall office for his next visitors. His life, even on a Sunday, is tightly scheduled. He checks the time on his cell phone and lets the ribbing of his two friends, who are now late, begin.

“Jewish time is even worse than black time,” he says, “although I should never drag all the Jewish people down with Shmuley.” And then, about the other guy: “I thought Mormons were always 15 minutes early?”

If the friendship between these men – a black Christian mayor, a rabbi running for Congress and a Mormon university president – wasn't so real, this would sound like a bad joke. Instead, it’s a reflection of how three men from profoundly different backgrounds met 20 years ago, connected and changed one another.

So when this unusual trio got together for a rare meeting this spring, we jumped at the chance to join them.

But before the others arrive, let’s introduce the players.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Faith Now • Interfaith issues • Judaism • Politics • Race

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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