Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

Pope: UN racism conference ‘important’

Pope: UN racism conference ‘important’ By FRANCES D’EMILIO

The Associated Press April 19, 2009 »

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday praised this week’s U.N. anti-racism conference and urged countries to join forces to eliminate intolerance, as the Vatican appeared to distance itself from the U.S. boycott of the meeting.

The conference beginning Monday in Geneva is an important initiative, the pope said, because ‘even today, despite the lessons of history, such deplorable phenomena take place.’

Some countries are boycotting the meeting to protest language in the meeting’s final document that they say could single out Israel for criticism and restrict free speech. Among those countries is the United States. The State Department said Saturday that the Obama administration would not join the conference ‘with regret.’ But department spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. was ‘profoundly committed to ending racism’ and would work with all people and nations ‘to build greater resolve and enduring political will to halt racism and discrimination wherever it occurs.’

Italy has also said it would skip the weeklong conference if changes are not made at the last minute. The Netherlands announced on Sunday that it would not go to the conference because some nations are using it as a platform to attack the West.

‘The Holy See is distancing itself from the criticisms of some Western countries,’ Asia News, a Catholic news agency that is part of the missionary arm of the Vatican, said of Benedict’s words. Benedict said he sincerely hoped that delegates who attend the conference work together, ‘with a spirit of dialogue and reciprocal acceptance, to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance.

‘ Such an effort, Benedict said, would be ‘a fundamental step toward the affirmation of the universal value of the dignity of man and his rights.’ Benedict told pilgrims at the papal vacation retreat in Castel Gandolfo that the declaration, born out of the first world conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, recognized that ‘all peoples and persons form one human family, rich in diversity.’ But beyond such declarations, firm and concrete action is needed at national and international levels, he said.

The Vatican, an independent city state, holds observer status at the United Nations. It had already announced it will send a delegation to Geneva for the racism conference. Monsignor Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Vatican’s diplomat for the U.N. based in Geneva, had said some weeks ago that the Vatican was hoping that a ‘balanced’ final declaration could emerge from the conference, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Filed under: Culture, Politics, Social Justice

Health Workers and Religious Exemptions/Washington

By Michelle Boorstein
Well, President Obama’s faith outreach team says they welcome disparate viewpoints.
A group of faith leaders, including five from the president’s own hand-picked faith advisory group, just released a signed document calling for the Obama Administration to be much more specific about what kind of exemptions religious health care workers should be entitled to when it comes to tasks they morally oppose.
The document, signed by a small but ideologically diverse group, comes about six weeks after the White House started the process of rescinding the so-called “conscience clause” regulation put in place last year by the Bush Administration. That regulation cut off federal funding for thousands of state and local governments, hospitals, health plans, clinics and other entities if they do not accommodate workers’ moral or religious beliefs.

The Obama White House announced its plan to rescind the Bush regulation, but didn’t say what it would be replaced with, if anything. Now this group of eight yesterday released comments calling for the White House to be not only more specific but to reaffirm its commitment to decades-old federal laws meant to offer some “conscience” protections.
The document is part of a surge of feedback sent to the Department of Health and Human Services as a 30-day comment period comes to an end.
Signers include five members of the advisory council to the White House’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Initiatives: Nathan Diament of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Rev. Joel Hunter; Wake Forest Divinity School Director Melissa Rogers; Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners.
The group spans the spectrum politically but includes mostly religious traditionalists.
Those who opposed the Bush regulation to begin with would say existing federal laws already create protections for people opposed to abortion and sterilization. But this document says federal law hasn’t gone far enough to protect religious workers. It also notes that the Bush Administration regulation never defined “abortion,” leaving it unclear whether the term includes dispensing birth control pills or Plan B contraception, among other services.
Also signing the document were Catholic law professor Douglas Kmiec, Southern Baptist Convention lobbyist Richard Land and Washington and Lee law professor Robin Fretwell Wilson.

By Michelle Boorstein  |  April 8, 2009; 10:04 AM ET Washington Post

Filed under: healthcare

WHITE HOUSE: Faith-Based Office Update

The White House God Squad

Two months after announcing the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the White House released the full list of council members just a few hours before they meet for the first time this evening. The full list is below the jump, but just a few initial observations:

* Only two of the 25 council members come from secular organizations (Fred Davie’s Public/Private Ventures is a secular non-profit, but he is very much rooted in the faith world). That is likely to raise eyebrows among critics of the faith-based initiative and questions about whether the “and” in the council’s title is just for show.

* Former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy’s name is not on the list. Dungy’s invitation to join the council had been leaked last week and generated an immediate outcry among liberal groups like People for the American Way because of his support for an anti-gay marriage initiative in Indiana. A White House source tells David Brody that Dungy just couldn’t make all of the meetings. Believe that? Me neither. 

* With Dungy off the council, it definitely skews left. There are some notable exceptions, including Frank Page of the Southern Baptist Convention and Anthony Picarello of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

* The council has a wider range of religious diversity than we saw at faith gatherings during the Bush years, and there are more conservatives in the fold than Bush had liberals.

Each member of the Council is appointed to a one-year term.  The members of the Council are:


Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco

*Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America


*Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ


Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association

*The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President-Elect, National Council of Churches USA


Dr. Arturo Chavez, President & CEO, Mexican American Catholic College

Fred Davie, Senior Adviser, Public/Private Ventures 

*Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, Orthodox Jewish Union


Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed

*Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign


Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church

*Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies


Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core

*Anthony Picarello, General Counsel , United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


*Nancy Ratzan, Board Chair, National Council of Jewish Women


Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs


Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners

*Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Disciples of Christ (Christian Church)



NOTE: Members marked with an asterisk were announced today. The White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer.  Other members of the Advisory Council were announced earlier this year.

Filed under: Church-State

World Fair Trade Day is May 9

Because we’re going to break the world’s record for the largest Fair Trade break on World Fair Trade Day, May 9th! We’re an ambitious bunch even when we’re relaxing.

Breaking the Record: The World’s Biggest Coffee Break

Catholic Relief Services is rallying its troops to get ready for World Fair Trade Day on May 9.

The CRS Fair Trade Fund is a proud sponsor, and we invite you to join us in celebrating the power of economic justice! Fair Trade supporters around the country will take a Fair Trade Break in an effort to break last year’s record, when 50,000 people in Finland took a Fair Trade Break. Find out how you can participate .

Filed under: Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, consumerism, Fair Trade, Social Justice, Spirituality