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August 19, 2013 | By The Times editorial board
In what could be its most significant church-state case in decades, the Supreme Court will decide whether official prayers at government meetings that overwhelmingly favor one religion violate the 1st Amendment. Although the case involves a town in New York, not the federal government, the Obama administration has filed a "friend of the court" brief that is distinctly unfriendly to the separation of church and state. According to Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the town council of Greece, N.Y., did not engage in an unconstitutional establishment of religion "merely because most prayer-givers are Christian and many or most of their prayers contain sectarian references.
August 17, 2013
Re "Invoking God in America," Opinion, Aug. 14 Joseph Margulies posits that a kind of generic "civil religion" pervades politics. This helps explain why candidates persist in touting their belief in God, blatant pandering that flouts the Constitution's declaration that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office. " Perhaps future candidates will heed this emphatic stricture from a document that, as Margulies puts it, is a "demonstration of God's hand in helping to guide America's destiny.
August 13, 2013 | By Joseph Margulies
In one recent week, time took two heroes. So far as I know, the legendary civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers and the esteemed public intellectual Robert Bellah never met. They lived on opposite ends of the country and traveled in different circles. But they were connected in an important, symbolic way, and their passing within a few days of each other provides the occasion to reflect on their common lesson for modern American life. Bellah was a sociologist at UC Berkeley. Though he began his professional career as an authority on Japan and the Far East, he made his most enduring contributions tracing the complex relationship between religion and civic life in the United States, and first came to the attention of the wider public for his 1967 article "Civil Religion in America.
August 11, 2013
Re "White House takes GOP side on church-state cases," Aug. 9 Letting someone open a town council's meeting with a prayer doesn't amount to government endorsement of his religion? As an attorney, I feel that any court inclined to uphold such prayer should consider these questions: Will the council abide prayers reflecting the full variety of beliefs held by the town's residents? Are such prayers to be allotted pro-rata, per the adherents' respective populations? If the town's religious plurality shifts, say, from Christian to Islamic, will imams then supplant pastors?
August 4, 2013 | By Diane Winston
Last week, Pope Francis loosed a media tsunami by dropping a pebble of sanity into an ocean of religious angst. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?" he told reporters on the flight back to Rome after his trip to Brazil. What did it mean? Was he changing church teaching? And how might it affect 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide? Hundreds of news stories and thousands of blogs, tweets and commentaries later, most observers heard in Francis' statement a proposal to end to his predecessor's hard line on homosexuality.
August 3, 2013 | By Elaine Woo
Robert N. Bellah, a UC Berkeley sociologist who turned the analysis of religion's role in American society into a bestselling book and a thriving academic pursuit, died Tuesday at an Oakland hospital. He was 86. The cause was complications after heart surgery, said his daughter, Jennifer Bellah Maguire. Bellah made his mark with a provocative 1967 essay titled "Civil Religion in America," which argued that a central feature of the American political tradition was the belief in God as a higher authority over the nation.
July 31, 2013 | By Gary Goldstein
The free-form documentary "The Gardener" takes acclaimed, exiled Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf ("Kandahar") and son Maysam to Israel to investigate the 170-year-old Bahai faith, which - although based in Haifa - has its roots in Persia. Unfortunately, the elder Makhmalbaf, who wrote and directed, puts many spins on this ethereal mood piece - it is by turns poetic, impressionistic, metaphorical and even a bit trippy - without satisfying such genre basics as structure, depth and resolution.
July 31, 2013 | By Tiffany Hsu
True Religion Apparel Inc., the Southern California denim company known for its pricey jeans, has named a new slate of executives several months after changing owners. David Conn was named the Vernon business' new chief executive. Conn previously served as president of retail licensed brands for VF Corp., an apparel company known for brands such as Lee, Wrangler and 7 For All Mankind. Interim CEO Lynne Koplin was named True Religion's chief merchandising officer. Erik Bauer, formerly an executive at the Children's Place retail stores and Gap North America, is now chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
July 29, 2013 | By Meredith Blake
A cringe-inducing interview between religion scholar Reza Aslan and "Spirited Debate" host Lauren Green has gone viral, with Buzzfeed calling it “the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done.” Aslan's book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” paints a portrait of Jesus based on the tumultuous era in which he lived and the threat he posed to the stability of the Roman Empire. His version of Jesus doesn't completely jibe with the pacifist figure of the Gospels, which is why some conservatives - or at least other denizens of Fox News - have suggested that Aslan is biased because he is Muslim.
July 16, 2013
Re "Miracle or coincidence?," Postscript, July 13 Lawrence R. Krauss says that a major problem with miracles is that they condition you to believe in faith over science. I couldn't agree more. Moreover, I can speak to the hostility of religion toward science. I teach a philosophy course at a local community college. We discuss metaphysics, free will, the arguments for the existence of God, the scientific method, evolution, epistemology and various ethical theories. Many of my students are downright hostile toward evolution.
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