William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League, speaks at a news conference after seeing "The Passion of the Christ" in New York in this Feb. 25, 2004 photo.
Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

This Week in God, 1.10.15

First up from the God Machine this week is the disappointing reaction to the terrorist violence in Paris from some notable religious activists in the United States.
 
Looking back, it’s unfortunate that immediate reactions to terrorism from some high-profile social conservatives is too often disheartening. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for example, TV preachers Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were quick to blame Americans for the attack.
 
Fourteen years later, as much of the world was coming to grips with developments in France, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer suggested Charlie Hebdo bore some responsibility for what transpired this week. Right Wing Watch noted that Fischer “raised the possibility that this attack was punishment for the magazine’s repeated violation of the commandment that ‘you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’” The AFA host added, in an apparent attempt at blame, “They made a career out of taking the name of God, the God of the Bible, the father of the Lord Jesus.”
 
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, was just as provocative, issuing a statement titled “Muslims are right to be angry.” The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reported:
…Donohue criticized the publication’s history of offending the world’s religiously devout, including non-Muslims. The murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier “didn’t understand the role he played in his [own] tragic death,” the statement reads.
 
“Had [Charbonnier] not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Donohue says, in what must be one of the more offensive and insensitive comments made on this tragic day.
 
“Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated,” says Donohue. “But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.”
Even some conservatives were unimpressed with the argument. National Review, making the case against Donohue’s statement, highlighted what it saw as a flaw in the activist’s reasoning: “It risks sending a message of dangerous moral equivalence — one side is wrong in killing and making death threats; the other side is wrong to offend religious believers. We must keep clear in our minds the moral distinction here: All people have a right not to be murdered; nobody has a right not to be offended.”
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
 
* In France: “The Grand Synagogue of Paris did not host Shabbat services and closed Friday for security reasons, the first time that’s happened since World War II. The Synagogue, the largest place of worship for those of the Jewish faith in Paris, was closed Friday amid the ongoing efforts by French authorities to hunt down the suspects involved in terrorist attacks around the city.”
 
* In Miami: “As Florida became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent a memo to all church employees reiterating that any expressions of support for gay marriage – even if it’s only a tweet or Facebook post – could cost them their jobs.”
 
* In Turkey: “Turkey is getting a brand new church for the first time in nearly a century. The $1.5 million Virgin Mary Syriac church will be built in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy, Daily Sabah reports. A government source told the AFP that this is the first church that the government has allowed Christians to build from the ground up since the republic formed in 1923, though other churches have been restored and reopened.”
 
* And in D.C.: “When it comes to religion, Congress appears to be much more devout than the rest of the country…. According to [the Pew Research Center], more than 92 percent of the 535 members of Congress are Christian, including at least seven pastors. “
 

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This Week in God, 1.10.15