First up from the God Machine this week is a specific kind of invitation extended to far-right evangelical leaders by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).
As we talked about last week, Jindal, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is set to host a massive prayer rally called "The Response" next month in his home state. The event is not without controversy in light of the religious extremists, including the American Family Association, which are helping sponsor the evangelical event.
Jindal has so far been publicly indifferent to the hullabaloo and this week, according to the conservative Washington Times, the GOP governor reached out to church leaders to encourage their participation in the upcoming rally (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
In a letter distributed to pastors, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal calls on them to consider public service, as part of his invitation to a gathering scheduled to take place a day before a highly-publicized prayer event Jan. 24 at Louisiana State University.
The letter, which begins with "Pastor ..." invites recipients to consider being a guest at a pastors' briefing hosted by the American Renewal Project, which is to take place the night before "The Response: Louisiana" will take place at LSU.
Much of the letter was unremarkable, though the correspondence specifically told pastors, "As we make an appeal for leaders of faith to rise up and engage America in the public square with Biblical values, we are trusting you will hear God's call on your life for this mission.... The time has come for pastors to lead the way and reset the course of American governance."
The notion that church leaders -- as opposed to public officials elected by the American public -- would "lead the way and reset the course of American governance" seemed like an odd sentiment in a secular democracy. Indeed, given that the separation of church and state is a bedrock principle in the American system of government, it's rather alarming that a governor and likely presidential hopeful is looking to pastors -- presumably, ministers who share his beliefs and agenda -- to establish the course for public policy.
Given that so many of Jindal's allies on the extreme fringe, this is all the more problematic.
With about a month remaining before "The Response" event kicks off, look for protests to continue. If you missed it, Rachel's segment from earlier this week is well worth your time.
It's likely to be pretty quiet here at MaddowBlog for the next couple of days, so readers should expect a light-to-nonexistent posting schedule. That said, I'll be around in case there's breaking news of interest, and there will be a new installment of "This Week in God" on Saturday morning.
We'll return to a normal posting schedule on Monday morning.
Rachel Maddow reports on volunteer librarians who are using their holiday time off to travel to Ferguson, Missouri to help the local library there sort through the abundance of books donated in the wake of protests over the Michael Brown grand jury... watch
Rachel Maddow reports on Sony Pictures reversing course and distributing 'The Interview,' which depicts the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong Un, in defiance of threats from hackers believed by the U.S. to be backed by North Korea. watch
Kevin Cope, president of the Louisiana State University Faculty Senate, talks with Rachel Maddow about objections by the university community to Governor Bobby Jindal using a campus facility to headline an even with the American Family Association. watch
Rachel Maddow reports the surprising news that the Clifford Sloan, the State Department envoy whose job has been to arrange the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, is leaving his position despite a recent spike in productivity. watch
Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether any rules of Congress will be triggered as Rep. Michael Grimm has pleaded guilty to a felony and what political pressures he might suffer from fellow House Republicans. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the scant history of members of Congress expelled from office as a result of a felony conviction, pointing out that in nearly all cases, the decency of the politician or the electorate prevent that situation from happening. watch
* Despite being a felon, Grimm doesn't want to resign: "New York Rep. Michael Grimm on Tuesday afternoon in Brooklyn federal court pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion, admitting to hiding more than $1 million in wages and income."
* Thanks, Vladimir: "With a Russian-backed separatist insurgency still gripping eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Parliament voted on Tuesday to take steps toward joining NATO. It was a pointed rebuke to Russia that immediately drew an angry response."
* People like round numbers: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 18,000 for the first time on Tuesday, capping a run that saw the index tack on 1,000 points in only six months. It was the fifth straight session of gains for the Dow, handing investors a merry Christmas as 2014 draws to a close."
* Oklahoma: "A federal judge in Oklahoma City on Monday said that the state can resume executing prisoners this winter, rejecting the argument by some medical experts that using the same sedative involved in the bungled execution of Clayton D. Lockett in April amounted to an illegal experiment on human subjects."
* I'm still amazed this actually happened: "A Baltimore Fox affiliate apologized Monday night for a report it ran over the weekend that deceptively edited protesters to look like they were chanting 'kill a cop.'" Joy-Ann Reid's related report is well worth your time.
* Obviously overdue: "The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that it would scrap a decades-old lifetime prohibition on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, a change that experts said was long overdue and could lift the annual blood supply by as much as 4 percent."
* Ebola: "There are reasons for both hope and continued worry about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday."