Michelle Cottle will blog for Beliefnet during the week of July 18. Cottle has been a Senior Editor at The New Republic since 1999. She was previously an editor for The Washington Monthly and has done freelance commentary and writing for PBS, CNN, The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic Monthly, among others. She is also a regular contributor to Time magazine.

Specter Sneaks in Stem Cell Bill

Today I want to give a quick shout out to Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. Fed up with the Senate's refusal to vote on a bill that would loosen the Bush White House's restrictive policy on stem cell research, the honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania has threatened to break the impasse by tacking the bill onto an appropriations measure for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Now, I've heard all the stem-cell-related concerns about devaluing life and treating embryos as nothing more than raw materials. But until religious conservatives start seriously acknoweldging the moral issues involved with the eye-popping overproduction of fertilized eggs produced by IVF treatments in this country, I don't want to hear anything about the depravity of using those excess eggs--the vast majority of which will never wind up in a nice warm womb--for important research that could relieve the suffering of millions. You go, Arlen.

A Silver Lining

Yesterday's transit explosions in London were awful, and it's easy to see how they would frighten folks into thinking that such events are going to become a regular part of life. But on some level, the terrorists' abject failure to repeat the carnage of July 7 is also reassuring. (Zero casualties. One injury. Minimal damage.) It's nice to be reminded that these blood-thirsty nutters aren't all great sinister masterminds who can wreak widespread death and destruction whenever they please. Some of them are terrified losers who just drop their defective bombs and flee. While scary and disruptive, this latest episode gives you the sense that this particular batch of would be-butchers are incompetent boobs.

Sharon's Big Risks

I also want to give a shout out to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Say what you will about his past politics, the guy seems to standing tough on this Gaza pullout--going so far as to float the possibility of accelerating the evacuation in the face of mass protests and carloads of settler-sympathizers sneaking into the area to disrupt the process. One journalist keeping a close eye on the process commented to me this morning that he wouldn't be surprised if Sharon got himself shot over this. ("How do you protect the Israeli prime minister from the Israeli people?") God, what an awful thought. We can only pray that Sharon is all-too-aware of this possibility and is taking every precaution imaginable.

A Democratic Victory?

Maybe the Dems are approaching this whole Supreme Court nomination the wrong way. Instead of looking so disappointed that John Roberts seems too reasonable to aggressively oppose, why not declare victory? Say that, of course Bush was going to pick a conservative, as is his right, but that clearly he knew that the majority of the country did not want--and Democrats would not stand for--a firebreathing right-winger ala Scalia.

It may well be that Roberts later turns out to be a winger. But, for now, claiming to have scored points on the President would be better for the Dems than just sitting around looking confused and dejected. Plus, it would drive the conservative groups crazy.

Spotlight on Rove

And finally, because it's Friday and I just can't help myself: the Karl Rove madness. The one glaring flaw in Bush's Supreme Court announcement this week is that the nominee isn't generating nearly enough partisan heat to keep the spotlight from drifting back to the leak story. This latest wave of reports about the classified State Department memo floating around Air Force One in the days just before the leak--with the information about Valerie Plame's status as a CIA agent clearly labeled as secret--has Washington all atwitter about whether Loose-Lips Karl's legal fortunes just took a turn for the worse.

I'm not convinced. Busting Rove under the ticky-tacky technical aspects of the laws governing the outing of a covert agent will be tricky, as will proving that he outright perjured himself before the FBI or the Grand Jury. (Just remember: It all depends on what your definition of "is" is.)

That said, clearly his portliness--and one or two other folks at the White House--did something naughty and unethical in chatting up reporters about Plame in a naked effort to discredit her husband. And there is zero question that the administration misled the public with its sniffy remarks about the absurdity of any allegations concerning Rove's involvement--not to mention its assurances that anyone involved with the leak would be dealt with harshly. So even if no indictments wind up getting handed down by the special prosecutor, I sincerely hope that this bit of sleaziness is not forgotten next time the administration asks us to take its word on something. This is, after all, the President who spent his entire first campaign vowing to "restore honor and dignity" to the White House. I guess we should have pressed him harder about whether that also included honesty.

So What If Roberts' Wife Is Pro-Life?

The Supreme Court circus looks pretty much the same today as yesterday. Conservative groups are supportive. Liberal groups are frothing. Democrats are flummoxed as to what to do next. One emerging liberal tizzy that I find a bit paranoid, though not surprising: The nominee's wife is coming under attack because she, unlike her husband, is openly, aggressively in favor of outlawing abortion. So what? I guess we could assume that, because Mrs. Roberts is pro-life, she would never stay married to someone who didn't share her views. Then again, the prevailing wisdom is that Laura Bush is more liberal than her hubby on a number of issues--including abortion--and we see how much that has shifted W.'s policy views leftward. Sure. Sure. I understand the importance of pillow talk. But I've never really bought into the idea that powerful men (or women), especially those involved in specialized fields like the law, let their professional judgments be dramatically shaped by the opinions of their spouses.

That said, my assumption is that the politically conservative, Roman Catholic Roberts himself is personally pro-life. Then again, so is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. But how Roberts' personal moral views will play themselves out in his judicial positions is anybody's guess.

Grant Theft Auto: Sex Isn't the Problem

Allow me to be a values-obsessed parent for just a moment: Today's papers are reporting that the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the folks who decide what rating to slap on video games, is raising the rating on "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" from "Mature" to "Adults Only" because of the discovery of a hidden "minigame" within the game that is of a sexual nature. (As the New York Times describes it, "The scene depicts mostly clothed digital people performing sex movements.") To unlock this steamy bit of code, players have to go online and download a "mod" program--which presumably means that only a fraction of buyers will even know the sexy stuff exists. No matter, says the ESRB: The mere accessibility of sexual content is enough to merit a ratings bump. Faced with the very unprofitable repercussion of megadistributors like Target and the ominpotent Wal-Mart refusing to stock the game, GTA's producer, Rockstar Games, has ceased production of the offending offering and is manufacturing a cleaned-up version.

Hip hip hoor--hold it a minute. I'm all for keeping sexual sleaze out of kids' hands. But at the risk of beating an exhausted horse, why exactly did it take the hidden presence of sexual content to provoke an "Adults Only" rating? Grand Theft Auto is by all accounts (and in the interest of full disclosure, let me admit that I've never played the game) a revolting exercise in violence pornography totally unsuitable for impressionable psyches. Why exactly did it take a bunch of gyrating pelvises to get the public and the ratings board properly outraged about this game?

Medical Limbo

I realize this is a delicate subject, but is anyone else a little bothered by the case of the brain-dead Viriginia woman whose family is keeping her on life support for the sake of her unborn child? Susan Torres lost consciousness on May 7 as the result of stroke caused by a cancerous tumor pressing on her brain. At the time, her fetus was less than four months into its development. Since then, Torres has been hooked up to a ventilator and various other life-support systems in the hopes that her body will keep functioning until the baby reaches the seven month mark. A website set up by the family to defray the tens of thousands of dollars of weekly medical costs has thus far collected some $400,000 from places as far flung as Germany, Japan, and even a soldier stationed in Iraq.

No question, this is a tragic situation. And I might very well want my family to do the same thing if I met with a similarly horrible fate. But I can't help but be a little squeamish about the idea of this young woman lying brain-dead in a hospital for months and months, serving as nothing more than an incubator. On the one hand, I guess a culture of life argument could be made that her family should do whatever it takes to give that 3-month-old fetus a chance. On the other hand, it seems a little morally creepy to take such aggressive measures to keep Susan Torres in some weird medical limbo for so long.

Iraqi Constitution Woes

Not much good news out of Iraq this week in terms of their ongoing efforts to draft a new constitution. Today we learned that the Sunnis have left the negotiating table, effectively increasingly the influence of the more theocracy-minded Shiites. This is particularly dispiriting considering yesterday's news that a draft of the constitution now circulating already includes language gutting the rights of Iraqi women in the name of Qur'anic law. A draft of the document obtained by the New York Times says that women will enjoy equal rights--so long as those rights do not "violate Shariah," and explicitly establishes a system whereby legal cases dealing with personal and family matters (marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.) would be determined based upon the sect of the family in question. As the Times notes, this change "would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge" (as opposed to the Qur'anic-approved system which permits a husband to divorce his wife--but not vice versa, of course--by simply stating his intention to do so three times in her presence.) American and Iraqi officials insist that nothing has been finalized. Fabulous. But you'll excuse me if I don't hold my breath in expectation of the drafters' being gripped by some great liberalizing spirit any time soon.

Are the Dems Too Sour on Roberts?

Whatever your opinion of the nominee, there's little question that last night's announcement of U.S. Appeals Court of the District of Columbia judge John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court was deftly managed. President Bush's speech was short and sweet, and he stressed his bipartisan consultation on this matter with some 70 members of the U.S. Senate. (We could have done without Bush's by-now almost comic assurances that Roberts "has a good heart," but at least the POTUS cracked a smile when he said it.) The nominee himself positively radiated what CNN's Candy Crowley aptly called a "Dudley Do-Right"-ness, and kept his comments brief, warm, and utterly uncontroversial. (Always a nice touch to start things off by thanking your mum and dad.)

Then came the Democrats, who, my suspicion is, did not do themselves any favors with their grim faces, their stern warnings about how long this confirmation is likely to take, and their pious reminders that "the burden is on the nominee to the Supreme Court to prove he is worthy." I also wonder about the decision to let the spotlight fall on Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin--two of only three Senators to vote against Roberts when he was appointed to his current post in 2003. (Liberal lion Ted Kennedy was the third.) Whether this was the media's or the Dems' decision, the effect was that--even as the punditocracy rambled on at great length about what a safe, well-respected, relatively non-inflammatory pick Roberts is--the Democrats looked like they were spoiling for a fight. This isn't to say that Dems shouldn't be gearing up to give the conservative Roberts a thorough grilling--especially considering that his judicial record is only two years old and so provides few clues to his judicial philosophy. I'm merely concerned about their coming across as overly sour and confrontational so early in the process. There's plenty of time for that in the weeks ahead.

A Fine Balance

Deep into the first post-nomination news cycle, the general consensus is that the confirmation process will be considerably trickier for Democrats than many folks originally expected. Judge John Roberts is recognized to have solid conservative credentials and has taken a couple of legal stands--including once having argued before the High Court that Roe vs. Wade was "wrongly decided and should be overruled"--that already have liberal interest groups apoplectic. Then again, he also has a reputation for respecting judicial precedent and steering clear of inflammatory writings or speeches. Most legal analysts and law professors I've seen quoted do not expect him to be in the vein of a Justice Scalia. And even his Roe-vs.-Wade criticism, delivered on behalf of the first Bush administration, came in the context of his role as counsel arguing the government's anti-abortion position; his judicial--or even personal--views on the issue remain a public mystery. Moreover, the guy is a Washington establishment insider, enjoying bipartisan support within the legal community.

In his brief stint on the bench, Roberts hasn't handled many controversial cases, so there's little in his judicial record for Dems to pick apart. This will make their confirmation questions all the more important. And there's little doubt that the good folks at People For the American Way and, more ominously for the party, NARAL, will be pushing Senators to be as brutal as possible. But Roberts doesn't appear to lend himself to clear, Bork-like vilification. And, barring some unexpected discovery or scandal in his past, most observers assume he will ultimately make the cut. How Dems balance this task without letting themselves get painted as either wimps or politically motivated obstructionists (infuriating either their core constituencies or big chunks of the rest of the country) should make for fine political theater.

Christian Turnaround on Harry

This week, my husband and I are negotiating one of those delicate marital compromises that arise from time to time--namely, how to share custody of our one copy of the latest Harry Potter book. I freely admit to being a huge fan of the kiddie series. As such, I've been thrilled to note a smattering of news stories from around the country, reporting that many of the conservative Christians who originally denounced Rowling's stories for glamorizing witchcraft are warming a bit toward Harry and his pals. In part, this has been the result of books such as Connie Neal's "The Gospel according to Harry Potter" that prise out Christian themes from the books. But mostly it seems to be the product of parents reading the books or seeing the movies themselves--often with an eye to telling their kids why the stories are inappropriate--but then finding much to like in their messages about sacrifice, love, friendship, and good vs. evil. Whatever the cause, it's nice that an increasing number of kids will be allowed to enjoy the books that have done more to promote reading among young people than any other offering in the history of modern publishing.

Can You Solemnly Swear on a Qur'an?

A friend just drew my attention to this story out of Greensboro, NC, about a bit of spiritual controversy taking shape in The Tar Heel State. It seems that there has arisen a disagreement about whether court witnesses should be allowed to swear their oath of truthfulness on a Qur'an instead of the Bible. Some jurists and public officials have no problem with the practice if it serves the goal of ensuring that someone fears both "spiritual and temporal punishment" for lying. Others insist that permitting any book other than the Bible would violate state law, which specifies that only the "Holy Scriptures" can be used--and that those objecting to such an oath can simply give an "affirmation" to tell the truth.

Defending this position and stating that he would not support the use of the Qur'an in the county's nine Superior courtrooms for which he sets policy, Guilford Senior Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Albright asserted, "Everybody understands what the holy Scriptures are. If they don't, we're in a mess." And while expressing openness to the idea of allowing other holy texts into courtrooms, the spokesman for the Adminisitrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh noted that it could complicate matters if, for instance, a particular witness insisted that they worshipped brick walls and asked to be sworn in with his hand on a brick.

Hoping to short-circuit the issue before it becomes a national dust-up, the North Carolina legal community is reportedly spending this week scrambling to come up with a statewide policy that will satisfy everyone. The odds of keeping everyone happy when it comes anything involving religion, of course, highly unlikely. But there is an issue of religious respect and fairness involved here--something that should be of concern to members of all faiths. And it's not as though the state's law on such matters hasn't evolved since its foundation in 1777. Besides, as one judge put it, having someone who doesn't believe in the Bible swear an oath on it is about as effective as swearing them in "on a Sears catalog."

Our Homegrown Nutjob

In case Americans needed a reminder (which we occasionally do) that our nation is more than able to produce its own murderous nutjobs who justify their evil deeds in the name of God, check out today's media reports on the sentencing of Olympics/gay club/abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph. Addressing those assembled at the Federal District Court in Birmingham, Rudolph was not content to babble self-righteously (and apparently without a trace of irony) about his efforts to "promote a culture that respects of life," the villain had the cheek to wrap himself in the language of the New Testament, specifically 2 Timothy 4:7: "As I go to a prison cell for a lifetime, I know that 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.'" No you haven't, you degenerate, self-deluded freak. You have maimed and murdered people--including one poor woman whose only sin was to have been wandering through Olympic Centennial Park at the wrong time--to satisfy whatever ugly demons live in your head. Saint Paul would be appalled at your comparison.

Good News About Teen Sex

Speaking of abortion, a new analysis by the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that the number of U.S. abortions is continuing its decade-long drop and now sits at its lowest point since 1976. One segment among which the rate has apparently fallen particularly steeply in recent years is girls ages 15 to 19, who account for 19 percent of abortions. (By comparison, 56 percent of such procedures are performed on 20-somethings.) Now combine this data with the findings on teen sexuality released earlier this year by the National Survey of Family Growth, showing that, between 1995 and 2002, sexual intercourse among 15- to 17-year-olds of both sexes fell and that those who are having sex are increasingly using contraception.

Let's hear it for America's teens. I love stats like these because, to listen to adults of every political stripe, you'd assume that today's youth were leading some unprecedented charge down the path to moral depredation and sexually dangerous behavior. Conservatives like Jim Dobson and Bill Bennett like to run around complaining about how everything from sex ed to Paris Hilton is threatening the moral fiber of our children. And liberals have a tendency to wring their hands about how few teens have access to reliable info on sex or how onerous are their barriers to contraception. Making matters worse, you have media types of all stripes--from Dr. Phil to the New York Times--traumatizing parents everywhere with talk about this nation's "epidemic levels of oral sex" and tales of how common "hooking up" has become among middle-schoolers. Then there's the recent Simon & Schuster novel "Rainbow Party," a fictionalized look at the existence of an ostensibly real sexual phenomenon in which teens gather for group oral sex parties, with each girl applying a different shade of lipstick and each boy endeavoring to end the evening as "colorful" as possible. Not that anyone who watches these sorts of trends, from guidance counselors to sex researchers, thinks rainbow parties are seriously a burgeoning trend, but you can bet the book sent more than a few parents into meltdown mode.

Heavy sigh. Sorry folks, but the data suggest that our kids' sexploits simply aren't quite as grim--or as colorful--as we imagine. Neither are they especially new. It has now been nearly 20 years since my teen years in the Bible Belt. And let me assure everyone that--while my school chums were all well-bred, socially conservative young ladies who attended church services and youth activities, well, religiously--a big chunk of these gals were having sex (of both the genital and the oral variety) well before they scampered off to college. Now, it's certainly possible I grew up in some atypically trampy pocket of the God-fearing South, but I kinda doubt it.

Bottom line: Despite all the hyperventilation and sensationalist media coverage, the news about sex and teens is actually pretty upbeat. And while there's always room for improvement, today's parents should really take a deep breath and keep in mind that, despite all the cultural evils threatening the moral fiber of our little darlings, teens are apparently doing an increasingly decent job of making responsible choices.

Eye-for-an-Eye on the Supreme Court?

Moving right along from sex to death, let's talk about the Supreme Court. I know most of the amassing cultural warriors are myopically focused on the next Justice's legal views on abortion, but I encourage everyone to take a gander at today's Washington Post piece about the five possible nominees (including presumed favorite Judge Edith Clement) currently serving on the conservative and controversial 5th Circuit Court, which has a notoriously troubling record when it comes to the civil rights of death penalty defendants. Last year, for instance, a three-member panel of the court (which included Judge Edith Hollan Jones, another one of the "mentioned") ruled that one defendant didn't deserve a new trial--even though his lawyer had slept through parts of his original trial--because no one could say for certain if the attorney had been napping during any "critical stage" of the trial. (Eventually, the full court decided that perhaps that standard was a bit too tough and reversed itself.)

It's always been a point of fascination for me that so many "culture of life" conservatives in this country are enthusiastic supporters of the death penalty. But even--or perhaps especially--if you buy into that eye-for-an-eye Old Testament argument, you should be especially concerned about the undeniable inequities in how our justice system operates. Less affluent folks disproportionately wind up with bad (and apparently sleepy) lawyers and are thus much more likely to wind up on death row than rich folks. And as we've seen in recent years, it's all too possible for some innocent loser to wind up unfairly convicted.

With this in mind, I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed that, in the coming the Supreme Court drama, we all take a few seconds out of our Roe vs. Wade squabbling to give a thorough examination of other aspects of the nominee's judicial views (an admittedly daunting challenge if, as in the case of Clement, there isn't much of a paper trail). Not all anti-abortion nominees are created equal.

Introducing Myself

First a bit of personal background to help you decide to what degree you should dismiss my postings as the ravings of a troubled soul. I've worked as a political journalist in Washington for close to a decade now (which already suggests a certain degree of psychological instability), and before that lived for a few years in the liberal haven of San Francisco.

My culturally and spiritually formative years, however, were spent neck-deep in the South. Both sides of my family hail from Alabama, and my own rearing took place mostly in South Alabama and East Tennessee (with brief, periodic stints in Georgia and Mississippi). My younger sister and I were raised in the Southern Baptist Church, and traces of its hellfire-and-brimstone teachings were indelibly etched on my psyche. As a result, while my beliefs about the existence of a personal God may vary from year to year, I remain unshakably convinced of the concept of eternal damnation--at least as it applies to my own soul. My husband, by contrast, crew up a Connecticut Yankee whose religious beliefs were shaped by his family's attendance of considerably milder-mannered Unitarian and Congregationalist churches. What all of this means for our children's spiritual development remains to be seen, though I have vowed never to make my kids sit through a worship service where the minister regularly refuses to let the congregation go home until at least a handful of folks answer his altar call. But enough about me.

Let's get things rolling, and, with any luck, by week's end I'll have figured out a way to work the Karl-Rove-as-chief-leaker madness into my blogging.

So Much for "Creation Care"

Today's New York Times and Washington Post are both reporting on a tiff between the chairmen of two House Committees over the issue of global warming. It seems that Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), head of the Commerce Committee, has launched a congressional probe of three scientists whose research indicates a rapid rise in earth's temperature over the past few decades. Unsurprisingly, such findings don't sit well with the Lone Star legislator--who doesn't buy into all that global warming nonsense and staunchly opposes mandated reductions in greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman of the House Sciences Committee and a supporter of limits on carbon dioxide emissions, suspects that Barton's demands that these researchers justify their work to congress is a troubling attempt to "intimidate scientists rather than to learn from them, and to substitute congressional political review for scientific review."

I myself have not reviewed the study in question. But, for me, this little squabble illustrates precisely why environmentalists, Democrats, and the media are nuts to buy into all the recent hubbub about the evangelical community's deep desire to put "creation care" (i.e. environmentalism) on the domestic political agenda. It's not that there aren't many evangelicals who are indeed serious about such issues. For instance, Richard Cizik, head of lobbying for the conservative National Evangelical Association, is a passionate, outspoken advocate for making environmentalism as big an issue for religious conservatives as, say, gay marriage or abortion. But Cizik's enthusiasm aside, it ain't ever gonna happen. In part, this is because issues like global warming and mercury pollution don't pack the same gut-level punch as anything involving sex. But it is also because the Republican lawmakers who have faithfully championed religious conservatives' social agenda are likely to be much less eager to push an environmental agenda that would impose regulatory burdens on--and risk alienating--the big-money, pro-corporate wing of the party. Even if Joe Barton personally found the scientific evidence on global warming compelling, it would be a cold day in hell before the Republican chair of the Commerce Committee embraced any research that strengthened the case for tougher emissions standards.

Joel Osteen: Self-Help Guru?

On a more overtly religious note, today's NYT front a story about Houston's Lakewood megachurch--congregation 30,000, annual revenues $55 million--which recently relocated to downtown Houston in what was formerly the home arena of the Houston Rockets basketball team. I find of couple of things dishearteneing about the article. For starters, it has that isn't-this-all-so-anthropologically-unbelievable air that the Times brings to most of its reporting on anything dealing with the Christian community. (Oooo, look: These people believe in faith healing and speaking in tongues!) Just as troubling, however, is the description of how Lakewood has grown into a nondenominational powerhouse thanks to pastor Joel Osteen's relentlessly upbeat, be-all-that-you-can-be message that, if you follow God's plan for your life, you too can be, as the Times put it, "healthy, wealthy, and wise."

Now, no one is suggesting that Christianity should be a perpetual downer, wallowing in pain, suffering, guilt, original sin, and endless repentance. Then again, should religion really be all about making people feel super-de-duper about themselves? I thought that was what self-help gurus were for. Osteen apparently disagrees, boasting to the Times about the beautiful simplicity of his message: "If you give, you will be blessed. I talk about things for everyday life. I don't get deep and theological." But on some level, shouldn't one's defining belief system have some deeper element to it than "If you pray and tithe, God will make you successful"?

Moreover, this isn't just about keeping things easy to understand. There seems something distasteful, if not spiritually hazardous, about a man of God peddling the notion that, with enough faith, members of their flock should expect to receive all manner of earthly blessings, including a nice car, a good job, a hot wife, a healthy body, etc. (Osteen apparently likes to open his sermons "with anecdotes from his own life, about how through faith, he received a house, a parking space, a happy marriage.") First off, this just isn't true. Lots of devout, God-fearing folks wind up with really terrible lives. Are we to assume that God loves them less? That they didn't pray long enough, or hard enough, or in an appropriately upbeat fashion? With his shiny, happy sermons, Osteen seems to be sowing some potentially destructive theological weeds.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Here's a piece of news out of Iraq that I find simultaneously revolting and utterly fabulous. It seems that, for months now, many Arabic-language TV stations have been airing videotapes confiscated during the arrest of several terrorism suspects tied to extremist Islamic groups operating in Kurdistan. These videos document not only activities such as the torture, rape, and murders committed by the terrorists, but also footage of the terrorists themselves engaging in enthusiastic man-on-man sex acts.

This, apparently, is what really disgusts many devout Muslim viewers, seeing as how homosexuality is strictly forbidden in the Qur'an.

Why am I thrilled about the tapes? Because graphic evidence of such sexually taboo behavior helps blow a big fat hole in the claims by Islamist extremists that they do what they do because of some uncompromising devotion to Allah, as opposed to being blood-thirsty butchers. And while I myself don't have a problem with gay sex--even among terrorists--you can bet that the young, impressionable men that these thugs are trying to recruit will be less inclined to listen to a sanctimonious lecture about Allah's will when it's being delivered by members of any group known not just for violating Qur'anic sexual law, but for having videotaped themselves in the act.

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