Religious Leaders Join Immigration Protests

BY PIET LEVY
                                                                                                                      © 2006 Religion News Service

s hundreds of thousands of people flooded the nation's cities on April 10, demonstrating for immigrants' rights, religious leaders rallied at their side.

On the Mall in Washington, with the Capitol behind him, Cardinal
Theodore E. McCarrick prayed in Spanish and English for the tens of thousands of predominantly Hispanic immigrants standing before him waving American flags.

"Dear friends, we are in an historic moment in our nation's history," McCarrick told the crowd after comparing the immigration protests to Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963. "We are a nation of immigrants. Let us not now turn inward after all these centuries."

The Catholic cardinal was followed by Lutheran, Jewish, Methodist,
Muslim, and Baptist leaders -- many speaking a bit of Spanish, all of them asserting immigrants' rights to stay in the United States.

Rabbi Scott Sperling of the Union for Reform Judaism compared the
protests to Passover. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, a Muslim chaplain at Howard University, likened undocumented workers to slaves. And Bishop Theodore Schneider of the D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged, "We want a door, not a fence."

Their participation was consistent with a tradition of religious social action and support for civil rights movements.
The outpouring of protest is aimed primarily at a U.S. House bill that could make illegal immigrants, or anyone assisting them, felons. The immigration reform debate has stalled in the Senate.

Not all religious leaders and institutions are united in decrying the House bill. The Christian Coalition, for instance, supports the principles of the House bill, although the group is skeptical that it will pass into law.

"Our people believe national boundaries are to be respected and
Scripture reinforces the rule of law," said Jim Backlin, vice president of legislative affairs for the coalition, citing the New Testament's Book of Romans to argue his case.

Backlin was dismissive of the demonstrations, saying the display of
Mexican flags at protests earlier this month showed "where their hearts were to begin with," and that the widespread show of American flags at Monday's marches was "a political move."
 

Religious Leaders Sign Declaration 
Condemning Violence Against Women

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                             © 2006 Religion News Service

Dozens of religious leaders from a broad array of faiths have signed a declaration calling violence against women "morally, spiritually and universally intolerable" and have called for proper use of sacred texts to condemn abuse.
"While as people of faith we hold divergent opinions on a wide range of issues, today we proclaim with one voice that violence against women exists in all of our communities and is intolerable," said the Rev. Marie Fortune, founder of FaithTrust Institute, a Seattle-based organization that offers resources to religious organizations to address abuse.

The letter was released on April 5 at a news conference.

Signatories include representatives of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Jainism and Buddhist organizations.
"People don't like to think about their religious communities as ...including these kinds of problems," said Rabbi Elliott Dorff, a Conservative rabbi and president of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, which offers programs for abuse victims and for abusers. "This declaration ... takes it out into the open and it says that we do in fact realize that this is happening in our communities."

Imam Mohamed Magid of Sterling, Va., a member of the executive council of the Islamic Society of North America, said he has preached about domestic violence and urges other imams to do the same so mosques can be a place where women can seek assistance.

"I tell them ... in my Friday sermons, if you beat your wife at home, it's not your own business, it's my business as well," he said.

Retired Major Marilyn White of the Salvation Army said her evangelical denomination joined with the other faith groups in addressing the issue because "our religious and spiritual traditions compel us to work for justice, and that means the eradication of violence against women."

Declaration supporters are hoping others will sign onto the document at www.faithtrustinstitute.org and that it will be posted at women's shelters and on bulletin boards of houses of worship across the country.
 

British Judge Rules for Da Vinci Code Author

BY AL WEBB                                                                                                                © 2006 Religion News Service

Britain's High Court ruled on April 7 that author Dan Brown did not plagiarize and breach the copyright of an earlier book in writing his novel The Da Vinci Code.

Two of the three authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail had
claimed that Brown lifted parts of their 1982 book, which theorizes that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, and that the bloodline continues to this day.
The Da Vinci Code, which has sold more than 40 million copies and has reportedly made Brown the highest-paid author in history, explores a similar theme to the 1982 book.

Brown conceded in testimony during the five-week trial that the earlier book was one of a number of sources that he used in researching The Da Vinci Code, which was published in 2003. However, he insisted that he had not copied its central premise, nor had he even finished reading it.

The 71-page ruling by High Court Justice Peter Smith said The Holy
Blood and the Holy Grail did not have a central theme in the way its authors suggested. The theme was instead "an artificial creation for the purposes of the litigation working back from The Da Vinci Code," he said.

"Even if the central themes were copied," Smith said, "they are too
general or too low a level of abstraction to be capable of protection by copyright law."
The case brought by authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh "has failed," the judge said. "Dan Brown has not infringed copyright. None of this amounts to copying The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail."

The publicity-shy Brown said the court's ruling "shows that this claim was utterly without merit. I'm still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all."

The judge ordered Baigent and Leigh to pay 85 percent of the costs incurred by Brown's publisher, Random House, estimated at $2.25 million, and their own costs of $1.4 million. He also denied them any right to appeal.
 
 
Report: Overall Anti-Semitic Incidents 
Down, But Up on College Campuses

BY ANSLEY ROAN                                                                                                     © 2006 Religion News Service

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2005 dropped slightly
compared with the previous year, but the number reported on college campuses rose by almost a third, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.

Overall, there were 1,757 anti-Semitic incidents last year, a 3 percent drop compared with 2004, when the 1,821 total marked a nine-year high. The incidents ranged from harassment, including physical assaults and threats, to vandalism, including anti-Semitic graffiti.

Acts of vandalism decreased by 4 percent, and harassment decreased by 3 percent. "While any decline is encouraging, we remain concerned because too many people continue to act out their Jewish hatred," Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. "The numbers remain sobering because we know from painful experience that it only takes one incident of anti-Semitism to affect an entire community."

On college campuses, 98 incidents were reported in 2005, compared with 74 in 2004. These figures were lower than the high of 106 reported in 2002. Many of the college cases involved vandalism, including a report from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where swastikas were carved into a bulletin board, and a case at Atlantic Cape Community College in New Jersey where swastikas and other extremist symbols were carved into freshly poured concrete.

Other concentrations of incidents were attributed to public activities by neo-Nazi and other hate groups and anti-Jewish harassment in high schools and middle schools. In the eight states with the highest number of harassment reports, 13 percent were due to extremist group activity, including distribution of fliers.

The annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents includes data collected from 42 states and the District of Columbia. It's based on crime statistics and information collected from the organization's 30 regional offices.


 
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