Updates: Interfaith in South Carolina, Marianne Williamson, Nones, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 8, 2014 — 7 Comments

Here are some updates on stories previously mentioned or reported on at The Wild Hunt.

Hollicrop-589x1024At Patheos, Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, writes about her meeting with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, as part of an interfaith proclamation that was issued for the month of January. Quote: “I don’t support Haley politically. But that is not the point; politics is not what brought us together on this occasion. Once elected, Haley became my governor, and I am deeply grateful for her support of interfaith work. To our knowledge, South Carolina is the only state in the U.S. to acknowledge the importance of religious plurality and issue a formal proclamation. Haley may understand, better than any other governor in the nation, that nurturing diversity will strengthen us, not just spiritually, but also economically and in the public sector.” Last month, Wild Hunt staff writer Heather Greene wrote about Gov. Haley’s proclamation, and the role Emore (as a Pagan) has played in South Carolina’s interfaith community.

marianne-williamson-smilingBack in December I noted the Congressional candidacy of New Age superstar Marianne Williamson, author of the immensely popular self-help book “A Return to Love.” Now, the Religion News Service has a piece up about her “prayerful” bid for political office. Quote: “With about four months before primary elections, Williamson is seeking to tap into widespread discontent and disillusionment and apply her own brand of well-packaged, transformational wisdom to stoke ‘a people’s movement. It’s the people who have to intervene, because the political status quo is part of what has taken us to where we are,’ Williamson said in an interview this week, highlighting corporate money as a primary cause for the present state of affairs. ‘It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.’ Williamson launched her campaign in October. She wants to end the status quo of capitulation to corporate money in politics and encourage an engaged, loving electorate.” With the recent retirement announcement of Democrat Henry Waxman, who currently holds the contested California seat, what was once a long-shot now seems somewhat more likely.

religion-50-year-change-Figure2We talk a lot about the “nones” here at The Wild Hunt, those folks who refuse to be pinned with a religious label, and who have experienced rapid growth in recent years. The ongoing question is: what will their ascent mean for our society and how we conceive religion’s role in it? Americans United points to some new data from Baylor University researchers, which shows the United States becoming more religiously diverse, including the rise of “nones” and “others.” Quote: “The proportion of Americans who identify with “Other” religious traditions has doubled, an increase that is closely tied to the increased immigration of Asian populations who brought non-western religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) with them. While still a small proportion of the overall population, they contribute greatly to the increased religious diversity of the American religious landscape. In 20 states, scattered in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian religion. Judaism is the largest non-Christian religion in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, and Buddhism is the largest religion in 13 western states. In Delaware and Arizona, Hinduism is the largest non-Christian religion, while in South Carolina it is the Baha’i.”

blog-jesusinschool-500x280_1At the end of January, I profiled how a Buddhist student was harassed by the Christian majority at a public school district in Louisiana, prompting litigation from the ACLU. Since then, the story has exploded across the Internet. Now, prominent culture blog Boing Boing points to an ACLU-penned petition to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for a federal investigation. Quote: “No child should be subjected to the type of humiliation that our son has endured. The Department of Justice has the power to end this unlawful religious discrimination at schools in Sabine Parish and set an example for the rest of Louisiana— but we have to make sure they take the case. Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to launch an immediate investigation into this unlawful religious discrimination so that no other child has to go through the harassment that our son has endured.” We will keep you updated as this story develops.

President Obama at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast.This past Thursday was the National Prayer Breakfast, for those who missed it (that would include me). You can read President Obama’s full remarks, here. Quote: “Now, here, as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion.  And, yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too — because religion strengthens America.  Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to civil rights, workers’ rights.” As I’ve pointed out in the past, despite the bipartisan good-naturedness and calls for religious freedom, the National Prayer Breakfast has deeply problematic elements for anyone who isn’t a Christian. Activist groups have called on politicians, to seemingly no avail, to boycott this event. At least the existence of gays and non-believers was invoked this year. Maybe we’ll actually get to a point where it’s robustly interfaith too.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    “…we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion.”

    Really? How much more patronising can you get?

    • Franklin_Evans

      Gee, that’s easy: verbatim quote, complete with chapter and verse.

      All sarcasms intended. See my Reply to Deborah.

  • Deborah Bender

    Leoht, it sounds as if you haven’t read the first paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .”

    In terms of eighteenth century political thought, the assertion that the Creator has endowed human beings with universal rights was a challenge to a then-popular idea that rights are granted by human rulers to their subjects, and may be taken away by those rulers at any time.

    The religious right in America uses this indisputable historical fact to argue that in the absence of monotheism, our society would revert to making rights contingent on the views of the government, and therefore, that people who don’t believe in the-one-true-God will not defend freedom. The direction in which their argument presses is the establishment of a state church, which the First Amendment does not allow, but the basic argument has to be met head on.

    Our Constitution and its Bill of Rights were written and adopted based on the belief in inalienable personal rights endowed by our Creator, and it’s hardly
    surprising that a President of the United States would mention this in
    an address to a prayer breakfast.

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter

      Hardly surprising, but still disappointing.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      The declaration wasn’t addressed to me. I just took American independence as self evident. 😉

    • Franklin_Evans

      In agreement with Deborah’s points, and extending them:

      It cannot be overlooked that these documents were composed, edited and approved in the late 18th century. The English language, its common lexicon, its syntax and grammar, bear strong differences to the language we speak today.

      Attempting to project the modern language onto those documents is at best a demonstration of ignorance, at worst a willful attempt to denigrate and corrupt the documents and their immediate impacts on the people of that time.

      I hold to the belief that the Preamble to the Constitution, the “no religious test” clause and the first ten Amendments form a cohesive and simple statement of a secular morality, a moral code under which codes of political ethics and social harmony are not only possible, but in some ways imperative. That we’ve never quite had either one, to be sure, was not from lack of trying, but more from lack of identifying the enemies of it and dealing with them as they deserved.

  • Gus diZerega

    The origins of the Prayer Breakfast are with the right wing theocratic
    group called “The Family.” They are about as nasty as an outfit can get
    and not have killed anyone. They are well represented among the worst
    of Republican politicians and apparently some Democrats. Presidents
    have been pressured or delighted (as the case may be) to get involved in
    this crap for years. That Obama explicitly mentioned many other
    religions and those who do not believe is a significant step forward.
    He explicitly undermined the theocratic intent of its originators, while
    not giving them something to beat him with.

    In a perfect world
    he would not have attended. If he were a man of strong principle he
    would not have attended. But given who he is, he did OK.