The Great Passover-Easter Smackdown

Today, friends, is both Good Friday and the beginning of Passover, which means that Christians and Jews celebrate important holidays at the exact same time rather than almost-at-the-same-time, as generally happens with Christmas and Hanukkah. Much to the chagrin of inter-religious couples everywhere, this weekend is an amazing confluence that could require attendance at both a Passover ritual meal, called a seder, and Easter Sunday brunch. Personally, I’ll be out of town at a wedding, but talking to friends of both faiths about their weekend plans got me thinking about the differences between the traditions. Below, a comparative analysis from a purely secular point of view. In other words, if you’re religious, you won’t want to read any further, as the irreverence and disinterest in matters of the spirit may offend you.

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GAY NEWS FLASH: Presbyterian Church (USA) Changes Its Constitution to Embrace Same-Sex Marriage

The largest body of Presbyterians in the country, Presbyterian Church (USA), has voted to change the definition of marriage in its constitution to include same-sex couples. The Washington Post reports:

The 171 regional presbyteries (local leadership bodies within the PCUSA) have been voting on whether to change the wording to call marriage a contract “between a woman and a man” to being “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.” On Tuesday, the denomination reached its needed majority of “yes” votes from at least 86 presbyteries to take effect. The change will be included in the church’s “Book of Order,” part of its constitution, taking effect on June 21.

The Presbyterian Church has a growing record of LGBT acceptance. Last June, as the Post points out, the Church voted to allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages. And right here in Philadelphia we have David Norse, who became the first openly gay man to be ordained Presbyterian minister in Philly. He continues to do a variety of outreach for the LGBT community through his work with Broad Street Ministry.

For more, check out the Post’s story here.

Jewish Reform Group Installs First Openly Lesbian Leader in Philadelphia

This afternoon, at the 126th annual Central Conference of American Rabbis, which takes place in Philadelphia this year, Rabbi Denise Eger was named the reform group’s first openly lesbian president. More from

denise egerEger, 55, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., said she sees this moment not as a triumph for her alone, but for all those who have supported her and LGBT causes along the way.

“It’s a wonderful tribute to all those LGBT colleagues and allies who worked so hard to channel hearts and minds and to work for equality and to cast the widest open tent for Judaism,” she said.

Her installation also comes as the organization celebrates the 25th anniversary of its resolution calling for ordination of gay rabbis. And this year the board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution calling for the inclusion of transgender rabbis and gender expression, Eger said.

The resolution will mean no discrimination in hiring and will provide education for the lay community, she said.

“This is a full arc of working very hard for religious rites and civil rights,” Eger said.

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Is President Obama Really Christian?

Reverend Dr. Luis Leon (R) looks on as United States President Barack Obama (C) prepares to leave St John's Episcopal Church after an Easter service, in Washington, 31 March 2013. Photo by: Drew Angerer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Reverend Dr. Luis Leon (right) looks on as United States President Barack Obama (center) prepares to leave St John’s Episcopal Church after an Easter service, in Washington, on March 31,  2013. Photo | Drew Angerer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Forget the Oscars. Here’s how Erick Erickson, the blogger-activist recently labeled by The Atlantic as America’s “most powerful conservative,” entertained himself this weekend:

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Pope Francis Holds Private Audience With Transgender Man


This weekend at the Vatican, Pope Francis met with a Spanish transgender man, Diego Neria Lejárraga, after he wrote a letter to the Pope complaining that his church discriminated against him following his gender-reassignment surgery. The Washington Blade says Lejárraga complained about the rejection he felt from his fellow congregants, who even went so far as to abuse him with verbal attacks, calling him names like “the devil’s daughter.”

“After hearing him on many occasions, I felt that he would listen to me,” Neria told a newspaper publisher in Spain.

Human rights groups are applauding the Pope’s move, calling it a historic, forward-thinking move for the papacy. Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of LGBT Catholics group Dignity USA told the Blade that the meeting is a “very significant event.”

“For the Pope to meet with a transgender man about to be married, and for that meeting to result in this man feeling more hopeful about his place in the Church, shows a concern for those at the very margins of our church,” she said. “I hope the Pope listened carefully to this man’s experience, and will speak about what he heard.”

SEPTA Loses Round in Anti-Islam Bus Ad Battle


SEPTA has lost an early round in its battle to keep an anti-Islam advertisement off of its buses. A federal judge last week ruled the agency cannot present testimony that the ad is false — saying the First Amendment protects political speech even when it’s incorrect.

“Long standing Supreme Court precedent instructs that political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because the listener believes that it is false or disagrees with the message it advances,” Judge Mitchell Goldberg wrote in his ruling. (See the full ruling below.)
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96-Year-Old Pastor Has Credentials Revoked After Officiating Gay Son’s Wedding

An all-too-familiar, all-too-unfortunate story:

Chester Wenger has dedicated 65 years of his life to the Mennonite Church USA, serving as a pastor, missionary, and church leader based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania since 1949. That all came to an end recently, however, when he officiated the marriage of his gay son, who, it should be noted, was excommunicated from the church 35 years ago for being gay. More from Think Progress:

Chester Wenger and his wife Sara Jane | Photo from The Mennonite

Chester Wenger and his wife Sara Jane | Photo from The Mennonite

Wenger “grieved deeply” about the church’s decision to expel his child, but when same-sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania in May, his son asked him to officiate his wedding to his partner of 27 years. The retired pastor “happily agreed,” openly defying the established rules of his tradition in order to perform the union on June 21.

After he reported the marriage to the Lancaster Mennonite Conference credentialing committee, however, church authorities convened on September 10 and formally retired Wenger’s ministerial credentials. They argued his actions violated established church guidelines, which read “Pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant ceremony.”

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GAY NEWS FLASH: Defrocked Reverend Frank Schaefer Refrocked By Methodist Church

Schaefer stands in front of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

Schaefer stands in front of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

Reverend Frank Schaefer, the man who was defrocked by the Methodist Church for officiating the marriage of his gay son, received some good news this morning. The Judicial Council of the Methodist Church has affirmed his appeal, which asked that he be reinstated to ordained ministry. Read Schaefer’s reaction on GLAAD’s site:

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Philadelphia Has a Burqa Crisis?


[UPDATE: Daniel Pipes has responded to Joel Mathis in the comments.]

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it was a dude dressed like a nun who tried to rob a Philadelphia Wells Fargo Bank this week. What would be the reaction?

Would we become scared of Catholics? Would we consider curtailing their rights and religious practice? Would we call for a full ban on veils and habits?

Or would that all just be a silly, massive overreaction?

Remember your answer. And keep that in mind next time you hear from Daniel Pipes — which will probably be soon.

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