May 21st, 2013
04:45 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - God may not notice the thousands of prayers tweeted for victims of Oklahoma’s devastating tornado - but Ricky Gervais sure has. And he is not pleased.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 75,000 people have used the hashtag #PrayForOklahoma, including pop starlets, pastors and politicians, according to Topsy.com, a trend-monitoring site.
For example, the White House tweeted,
But the hashtag and the sentiments it promotes prompted a fierce backlash on social media, led by Gervais, a British comedian, and other prominent nonbelievers.
And while one Oklahoma City pastor says he appreciates the Twitter prayers, some religious scholars say devout petitions require more than moving your hands across a keyboard. FULL POST
May 21st, 2013
02:55 PM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) – A Vatican spokesman on Tuesday refuted claims that Pope Francis performed an exorcism on a man in St. Peter’s Square after Mass on Sunday. But he did not altogether deny the encounter.
“The Holy Father had no intention to perform any exorcism,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. “Instead, as he frequently does for the sick and suffering persons who approach him, he simply meant to pray for a suffering person who was presented to him.”
Speculation that Francis performed an exorcism began to ricochet around the Internet when video of the encounter from TV2000, a Catholic television station in Italy, was posted online.
In the video, Francis smiles and takes the hand of an unnamed man in a wheelchair. After a priest whispers in the pope's ear, his demeanor changes and he places his hands on the man’s head. The video shows the man in the wheelchair convulsing before his body goes limp with his mouth agape.
May 21st, 2013
11:35 AM ET
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.
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