Belief Beat

Hope everyone had an introspective Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, whether observed as a faith-related holiday, a nice break from the work week or something else entirely. Check out this story from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about how mandatory sentencing for drug crimes and non-violent offenses has created “The New Jim Crow” system in America, in that something like half of all adult black men in Chicago and other big cities now have criminal records.

Better late than never, I found an intriguing parallel in these two Sunday New York Times stories:

Israelis Facing a Seismic Shift Over the Role of Women:

At a time when there is no progress on the Palestinian dispute, Israelis are turning inward and discovering that an issue they had neglected — the place of the ultra-Orthodox Jews — has erupted into a crisis.

And it is centered on women.

Evangelicals, Seeking Unity, Back Santorum:

Evangelical leaders, along with many other components of the conservative movement, have been fractured over the race, which contributed to Mr. Romney’s success in Iowa and New Hampshire. But with time running short and Mr. Romney holding considerable advantages, the leaders sought to table their divisions and chose, by a wide margin, to support Mr. Santorum over Newt Gingrich or Gov. Rick Perry of Texas

Ah, the strange bedfellows a common enemy can create… and how we inevitably are surprised when these alliances fall apart once that shared threat is sidelined, resolved or vanquished.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Are you proud of religion reporting that you or your colleagues did in 2011? Religion Newswriters Association has 19 contest categories that recognize journalistic excellence for stories about faith, values, and ethics in newspapers, blogs, magazines, TV, radio and books. The
early-bird deadline is Jan. 13 (tomorrow!); regular deadline is Feb. 1. There are more than $10,000 in prizes. See for details.

If you’re not already an RNA member, joining will get you an additional discount on the contest entry fee — plus, everyone who joins as a new member AND enters at least one contest will be eligible for a drawing for a $200 VISA gift card! (Members get access to valuable journalism resources, ranging from source dabatases and story ideas, to an annual conference packed with professional development and networking opportunities. Annual membership is just $25 for students and retirees, $50 for journalists and educators, and $100 for PR professionals and the general public.)

Contest winners receive cash prizes and an award ceremony at RNA’s next conference: Oct. 4-6 in Bethesda, Md. Hope to see you there!

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

I guess it’s true what they (sort of) say: You don’t go to the Supreme Court with the case you want, but the case you have. It didn’t seem to me that Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was a good example of a church’s “ministerial exception” right to fire someone in spite of anti-discrimination law — because the defendant was mainly a teacher, whose religious duties only came out to about 45 minutes of her day. Nevertheless, the church won. From the NYT story:

The case, Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 10-553, was brought by Cheryl Perich, who had been a teacher at a school in Redford, Mich., that was part of the Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod, the second-largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. Ms. Perich said she was fired for pursuing an employment-discrimination claim based on a disability, narcolepsy

Ms. Perich had taught mostly secular subjects but also taught religion classes and attended chapel with her class.

“It is true that her religious duties consumed only 45 minutes of each workday,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “and that the rest of her day was devoted to teaching secular subjects.”

“The issue before us, however, is not one that can be resolved with a stopwatch,” he wrote.Now

Now we’ll see what the ripple effects are…  How about a yeshiva firing a cafeteria worker for eating a ham sandwich during her break? A parochial school firing a janitor for getting divorced?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

As I expected, the New Hampshire primary resulted in Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman (the Christian conservative candidates) beating Newt Gingrich (Christian conservative redefining himself as conservative Christian), Rick Santorum and Rick Perry (conservative Christians). This is in contrast to the caucus results in Iowa, a more evangelical state, where we saw the conservative Christians do better.

I think I’m on to something here. Let’s see if the pattern continues in South Carolina (Jan. 21) and Florida (Jan. 31). Romney probably has enough momentum at this point, and lack of a single strong challenger, to keep on winning. But without considering anything other than each candidate’s level of Jesus talk and the religious demographics of each state, then we should expect to keep seeing the rest of the pack shift around — with the conservative Christians ranking higher in evangelical South Carolina and the Christian conservatives (assuming they’re still in the race) back near the top in more diverse Florida

And for a little relevant fun, check out Beliefnet’s Politic-O-Matic quiz, designed to assess your beliefs and values in order to find out where they fall on the political party spectrum.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.