NATIONAL NEWS: San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Insulted at Padres Game

San Diego Gay Men Chorus (Screenshot)

San Diego Gay Men Chorus (screenshot)

The members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus claim they were insulted with homophobic slurs while trying to perform the National Anthem.

Saturday night “turned into a nightmare” for the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, according to a recent statement from the organization. The Padres, which sponsors an annual “Out at the Park” event geared toward LGBTQ patrons, invited the chorus to perform the National Anthem. However, once the 100 volunteer gay vocalists reached the field, their microphones were turned off and a recording of a female voice was played. The chorus also claims its members were subjected to homophobic slurs as they left the podium. “No attempt was made to stop the recording and start over,” the chorus remarked in a public statement on Saturday night. “No announcement of apology was made to the singers or their friends and families in the stands.” Read more »

LOCAL NEWS: Faith Leaders Are Advocating for Pennsylvania Fairness Act

Bible

Faith leaders and congregations have joined Equality Pennsylvania in pushing state legislators to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.

Last weekend, 18 Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish and Episcopalian congregations joined forces with Equality Pennsylvania to push elected officials in Harrisburg to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. The act, currently known as HB 1510 and SB 974, would add protections for gender identity/expression and sexual orientation to Pennsylvania’s existing Human Relations Act,, which was passed in 1955. Read more »

NATIONAL NEWS: Pope Francis Disappoints With Trans Comments

Pope Francis blesses baby  while in Philadelphia.

Pope Francis blesses a baby during his Philadelphia trip in September 2015.

Pope Francis makes discouraging remarks about trans youth identity and same-sex marriage.

Pope Francis has disappointed members of the Catholic church on matters pertaining to LGBTQ relations in his recent letter Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), which covers marriage and the family. In his writing, he supports the College of Pediatriciansrecent claims that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.” “The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created,” Pope Francis states. He further asserts that if individuals believe they have “absolute power over our own bodies,” it could potentially imply that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.” The 261-page document also included statements that there are “absolutely no grounds” for sincerely acknowledging “homosexual unions.” All of this comes as another reminder that Pope Francis is not as socially progressive as many followers had initially hoped. Read more »

Bullets and Bigots: Remembering Philadelphia’s 1844 Anti-Catholic Riots

It started with a Bible, of all things. Bishop Francis Kenrick, who, like many of the newest Philadelphians in the mid-1840s, had come to America from Ireland, learned that the city’s public schools, which started each morning with a Bible reading, were using the King James version of the Good Book. That was the Protestant Bible; Catholics used what was known as the Douai Bible. Different books for different faiths. Anyway, the Bishop — he’d founded St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1832, the same year he earned commendation from Philly Mayor John Swift for his and his fellow Catholics’ service to the city’s sick in a cholera epidemic — had asked the Board of Controllers of the Philadelphia schools if Catholic children might read the Douai Bible instead of the King James. The Board of Controllers approved the use of other versions of the Bible, and that was that.

In one sense, the board was yielding to the inevitable. Irish Catholics were pouring into the city; between 1830 and 1850, the Catholic population rose from 35,000 to 170,000, and the number of Catholic churches from 22 to 92. As always happens in such paroxysms of change, the extant population wasn’t thrilled with the newcomers. Imagine if, say, thousands of Syrian refugees suddenly descended on the city, with their own peculiarities of language and culture and a different religion. There was gossip about the Irish. Innuendo. Insinuation. Talk of a papal plot to rule the whole world and stamp out other faiths …

It took another year and a rumor to light the fire, though. The story spread that a school director in Kensington, a Catholic named Hugh Clark, had visited a girls’ school and demanded that its principal put a halt to Bible reading completely. Clark insisted he’d been misunderstood; when he observed a group of Catholic students leaving class for their own Bible reading, he merely remarked that if the Bible was causing such division in classrooms, perhaps it would be better if it wasn’t read. But the rumor grew, and flew, among the city’s less-recently-settled Scots-Irish Protestants: Hadn’t it been Bishop Kenrick who wanted the different Bible? There was no pleasing those people. What was wrong with the King James, for heaven’s sake? (Just imagine what Twitter would have made of all that.) Read more »

Philly Religious Leaders Condemn Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks during a rally coinciding with Pearl Harbor Day at Patriots Point aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, speaks during a rally coinciding with Pearl Harbor Day at Patriots Point aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

Yesterday, prior to speaking at a campaign event in South Carolina, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump issued a press release calling for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The call has drawn fire from other Republican politicians, including several who are critical of the Obama administration’s strategy for combating the fundamentalist Islamic State organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL. It also may have played a role in acts such as last night’s desecration of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society mosque by an unidentified man who threw a severed pig’s head at its door. It’s also led to the Philadelphia Daily News likening Trump to Hitler on today’s cover.

But as Trump has seized on Islam itself as the grounds for the ban, we thought it more appropriate to ask leaders in the local religious community to respond. Several did: Read more »

Mayor Nutter: Trump Is an “Asshole,” a “Madman” and a “Danger to Society”

nutter mosque attack

[Updated with news of hate crimes reward announcement.]

On Tuesday afternoon, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Mayor-elect Jim Kenney as well as other officials and local religious leaders gathered at City Hall to respond to the pig head left at a North Philadelphia mosque on Sunday night.

Nutter also used it as an opportunity to deliver a blistering tirade against Donald Trump, who this week suggested closing the borders to Muslim immigrants entirely. Read more »

After San Bernardino Shooting, “Thoughts and Prayers” Anger Is Wrong

After Tuesday’s massacre in San Bernardino, this is almost certainly the most viral, most-Facebooked newspaper cover in the country today:

daily news thoughts and prayers

The idea? That “thoughts and prayers” are useless — that it’s time to take action and pass some gun control already!

I’m not unsympathetic to that idea. As has been widely noted, we’re experiencing about one mass shooting per day in the United States this year; and while it’s true that the number of homicides in this country is down, radically, from the 1990s peak, it’s also true that we’re still experiencing levels of gun violence that other countries endure usually only if they’re in the middle of a civil war or some other sectarian violence. And our violence is gun-fueled: We’re not counting the number of “mass stabbings” in America, are we?

Still, the anger over politicians expressing “thoughts and prayers” is misplaced, for two reasons: Read more »

What Lots of Americans Don’t Get About Islam

Veterans during a rally Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I., held to demonstrate against allowing Syrian refugees to enter Rhode Island following the terror attacks in Paris.

Veterans during a rally Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I., held to demonstrate against allowing Syrian refugees to enter Rhode Island following the terror attacks in Paris.

I am a Christian. So is Pope Francis. So was the Rev. Fred Phelps.

I don’t think anyone reading this would confuse any one of the three of us for the other.

Yet too many of us here in America do exactly that when it comes to dealing with Islam and Muslims, and in our current paranoid state in the wake of the ISIS attacks on Paris, our inability or refusal to recognize diversity within Islam may mean that we will fail in meeting a humanitarian imperative. Read more »

Dispatch From a Philly Church: Trying to Make Sense of the Paris Killings

Overbrook Presbyterian Church (photo via Google Maps)

Overbrook Presbyterian Church (photo via Google Maps)

Other than during summer, when the Jersey Shore tempts even the most God-fearing families to its surf and sand, the parking lot at Overbrook Presbyterian Church is generally pretty full; a couple of times each year — Easter Sunday and Christmas — it is positively overflowing.

Yesterday’s service had no official significance, but less than 48 hours after ISIS-sponsored militants took to the streets of Paris, committing cold-blooded murder at least 129 times, the parking lot was more reminiscent of one of those holy days than your average Sunday morning. Read more »

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