This Week in God, 11.15.14

First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of Maryland, where the state's largest school district has approved a pretty significant, religiously inspired change to its school calendar. The Washington Post reported this week:

Christmas and Easter have been stricken from next year's school calendar in Montgomery County. So have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Montgomery's Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

Note, the county hasn't eliminated religious holidays, and students will still be off for major holidays like Christmas. The schools will still be closed when all other state agencies are closed.
But to avoid references to Muslim holidays, the calendar won't specifically reference any religious holidays associated with those days off.
Libby Nelson noted, "The school board's decision seems to have made everyone mad: Muslim leaders are furious that the board would get rid of religious holidays before acknowledging Muslim ones, while conservative media outlets are accusing the board of 'banning' Jewish and Christian religious holidays in order to appease Muslims."
In fact, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly told his audience this week that this story is -- you guessed it -- the "first salvo this season in the ongoing war on Christmas." He added, "They just wiped out all our traditions because [of] these people."
Aren't the holidays fun?
For more on this story, our friends at msnbc's "Politics Nation" did a great segment earlier this week.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Pope Francis had a busy week, delivering a striking rebuke to Cardinal Raymond Burke, who had an unfortunate habit of intervening in domestic U.S. politics, while also announcing plans "to build showers for the homeless under the sweeping white colonnade of St. Peter's Square."
* This looks like a problem: "A Mormon bishop in Los Angeles is under fire for his assertion that Sen. Harry Reid is unworthy to enter the faith's temples because of his support of Democratic Party positions. Mark Paredes, in a Wednesday blog titled 'Good Riddance to Harry Reid, the Mormon Senate Leader,' expressed his belief that Democrats' support of same-sex marriage, abortion rights and gambling runs contrary to church stances."
* And as Republican opposition to net neutrality becomes the norm, the religious right movement is also unified in its opposition to the policy. Like many GOP officials, however, social conservatives don't seem to know what net neutrality is.