First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of New Orleans, where opponents of abortion rights decided to hold an impromptu protest in an unusual place: inside a church, during church services, while the congregation was in the middle of a moment of silence.
Flip Benham's group Operation Save America disrupted the services of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans on Sunday while the congregation was honoring a member who had died. The organization framed their action as simply an effort to "present the truth of the Gospel in this synagogue of Satan" as part of their efforts "to defeat the culture of death."
Apparently, hundreds of activists who oppose abortion rights gathered in New Orleans this week to hold a series of protests, but Operation Save America members took it upon themselves to interrupt this church's worship service, telling members of the congregation they don't have the "true faith," presumably because Unitarian Universalist churches are pro-choice.
Operation Save America's name may not sound familiar, so it's worth noting the group used to be called Operation Rescue National, an organization that developed a reputation for extremist, sometimes violent, activism.
In this case, members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, no longer able to hold a moment of silence to honor a congregant who recently died, sang while the anti-abortion activists disrupted their services.
The Rev. Deanna Vandiver, the UU speaker during Sunday's service, later argued, "No one should invade the sanctuary of another’s faith to terrorize people as they worship."
It would appear Operation Save America disagrees.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* In Iraq: "The militant group ISIS is continuing its rampage of holy places by destroying the tomb of Jonah, a place thought to be the burial site of the prophet believed by Abrahamic faiths to have been swallowed by a whale or fish. Civil defense officials in Mosul, Iraq, told CNN that ISIS operatives planted explosives around the mosque containing the tomb then detonated it remotely on Thursday."
* In related news, ISIS has also begun targeting Iraqi Christians, telling them to leave Mosul or face the consequences: "Men, women and children piled into neighbors' cars, some begged for rides to the city limits and hoped to get taxis to the nearest Christian villages. They took nothing more than the clothes on their backs, according to several who were reached late Friday."
* As the violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has intensified, the effects have spilled into European streets, "as thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have depicted Israel as the aggressor and sought to isolate it internationally." This week, eight synagogues in France have been targeted by protesters.
* And closer to home: "In a move straight out of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s playbook, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad issued an official proclamation instructing citizens to pray and repent and presided over a revival event on the grounds of the state capitol."