Category Archives: Religion

Sheriff’s Office wise to pull out of training session

Good for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office for pulling out as a sponsor of an anti-terrorism training session this week. The training is being conducted by John Guandolo, who resigned from the FBI after it was revealed that he had a sexual relationship with a confidential source. He has since made wild claims about the Obama administration, including that CIA Director John Brennan is a secret Muslim who was recruited by foreign intelligence agents. Muslims were understandably concerned about Guandolo training law enforcement officers.

Sheriff’s Office shouldn’t have scheduled Muslim conspiracy theorist

What was the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office thinking when it scheduled John Guandolo to conduct a terrorism threat training session next week? Guandolo resigned from the FBI after it was revealed that he had a sexual relationship with a confidential source. Since then, he has been making a living peddling Muslim conspiracy theories. He has fed the idea that President Obama is a Muslim and that administration officials are helping Muslim Brotherhood agents infiltrate the U.S. government. He claimed that CIA Director John Brennan is a secret Muslim who was recruited by foreign intelligence service operatives. Guandolo bragged to The Eagle that, “I am the only one in this country doing this program or anything close to it.” That should have been a big red flag to the Sheriff’s Office.

Court majority doesn’t understand danger of religious intimidation

churchstateThe reasoning process of the conservative majority (all five are Catholics) in ruling that legislative assemblies can start their sessions with prayers “is nothing short of horrific,” columnist Martin Schram wrote. “They just don’t get how intimidation happens. The four dissenters (three are Jewish, one is Catholic) understood the dangers of silent religious intimidation. It can be strong enough to shatter the wall of separation between church and state, built brick by brick by founders who expected it would forever make America special.”

Brownback calling on ‘freedom fighters’ in Wichita

bbackwinGov. Sam Brownback is headlining an “Awakening Freedom Tour” event Saturday at Central Christian Church, 2900 N. Rock. Brownback will talk about the spiritual history of Kansas and about being a family-friendly state. Brownback also spoke last month at a tour event in Lenexa. The tour focuses on moral decline in the United States and the “battle to remove God from the public dialogue.” Organizer Donna Lippoldt of Wichita said that “we need to get some freedom fighters up and going to take this country back.” Take the country back from whom?

Christian bakers should let them eat cake

gayweddingcake“Conservative Christians should not be in the condemnation business, but in the restoration business,” wrote Cal Thomas, in a column about the Arizona bill meant to guarantee the “free exercise of religion” for businesses and their employees as gay-rights advocates push for legal and societal approval of same-sex marriage. Thomas said: “The Christian bakers who refused to bake the cake might have used their opportunity to tell the gay couple about the God who loves them more than they could ever love each other. That would have been a proper – and biblical – exercise of their faith and religious freedom under the First Amendment’s free-speech clause.”

Welcome to Wichita, Monsignor Kemme

kemmeCongratulations to Monsignor Carl Kemme on being named the next bishop of Wichita. Kemme, who is currently vicar general for the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., will be ordained in Wichita May 1. Kemme said he did not seek the position and thought there were many other priests who were more qualified. His humility and pastor’s heart likely were reasons why Pope Francis chose him.

Brownback headlining Christian ‘freedom fighters’ event

brownbackraisedhand2Gov. Sam Brownback will be a headline speaker at an “Awakening Freedom Tour” event Saturday in Lenexa. He will be speaking on the spiritual heritage and legacy of Kansas. The event, organized by the Wichita-based Culture Shield Network, is aimed at encouraging participants to serve as freedom fighters for God and to solidify the role of Christian faith in public life, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “We need a great awakening,” said network founder and director Donna Lippoldt. “It’s time to cause a revolution. We need to get some freedom fighters up and going to take this country back.”

Brownback tries to downplay pope’s criticisms

popefrancisGov. Sam Brownback tried to downplay recent comments by Pope Francis (in photo) about economic policies, suggesting there wasn’t any disagreement between them. What the pope was really trying to say, Brownback told the Topeka Capital-Journal, was that “we shouldn’t have unfettered capitalism.” Brownback said he didn’t think the pope was saying “you should tax and take all the money from the private sector and it should be run by the public sector.” Of course that wasn’t what the pope was saying. He wasn’t discussing economic extremes. What the pope said was that trickle-down economics hasn’t helped the poor and reflects “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

Pope also concerned about unfair economic policies

popefrancisPope Francis is not only calling on Catholics to focus less on social issues and more on caring for the poor, he is critical of economic policies that hold the poor down. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope wrote in a new treatise. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson noted how these views are in sharp contrast with those of some U.S. politicians who “are determined to keep the poor from receiving health care, food assistance, housing subsidies and a host of other benefits” and who consider income inequality a virtue.

Catholic Church at a pivot moment

Pope Francis’ recent statements about how the Catholic Church should be focused more on the poor and less on gay marriage, abortion and contraception are “a pivot moment for the church,” Bob Keeler wrote. “Like St. Francis of Assisi, whose name he took, this pope is trying to repair the church by calling it back to the words of Jesus, who cared a lot more about the poor than about rigid rules and fancy robes.” But, Keeler asked, will the bishops go along?

Most Muslims oppose violence, al-Qaida

Large majorities of Muslims surveyed in 11 foreign countries oppose violence in the name of Islam, the Pew Research Center found. For example, 89 percent of Pakistani Muslims surveyed think that suicide bombings can never be justified. Only in the Palestinian territories did a majority of Muslims say that suicide bombings often or sometimes could be justified. Also, the percentage of Muslims who have a favorable view of al-Qaida ranged from 1 percent in Lebanon to 35 percent in the Palestinian territories.

‘Pillars of Islam’ display taken out of context

So public school administrators now must worry about something on a wall being photographed and then uploaded for cultural warriors everywhere to see, misunderstand and condemn. That’s chilling and sad, our Wednesday editorial argues. Someone took a photo of a bulletin board at Wichita’s Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School showing the Five Pillars of Islam. The photo was then widely distributed via social media, along with claims that the school had “banned all forms of Christian prayer.” The truth is that, in context, the bulletin board fit perfectly into the core knowledge curriculum’s study of the five major religions of the world – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The point was not to promote religion but to serve fourth-grade social studies this fall.

Don’t use Kapaun as prop in political fight

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, shouldn’t misuse former Army chaplain and Kansas native Emil Kapaun (in photo) to paint President Obama as some anti-Christian extremist. In a recent commentary, Huelskamp speculated that if Kapaun “served in Afghanistan today rather than Korea six decades ago, President Obama would probably give the Catholic priest discharge papers instead of the Congressional Medal of Honor.” Huelskamp noted that he attended the White House ceremony in April at which Obama awarded Kapaun posthumously with the Medal of Honor (and spoke movingly about Kapaun’s faith and witness). But Huelskamp claimed that the type of actions that earned Kapaun the honor “are now forbidden by the commander in chief.” That’s not the case. The Defense Department has a policy against “unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert” service members, but there is nothing that prevents or discourages the ministry and care that Kapaun lived out on the battlefield and as a prisoner of war.

An ‘Ellison said, Pompeo said’ situation

In an ABC News interview highlighting his status as the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (in photo), D-Minn., mentioned a fellow House member who “said Muslim Americans are not condemning terrorism enough.” That was a reference to a June floor speech by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. Ellison’s anecdote continued: “And I said, ‘well, let me guarantee you, Muslims are condemning terrorism every day all the time…’ and I gave him a whole list, and he said, ‘Thanks for telling me, I didn’t know, I won’t be saying that again.’” Asked about the incident, Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board in a statement: “Rep. Ellison’s claim is wrong. I continue to believe that Islamic clerics in mosques and the madrassas around the world have an obligation to consistently denounce terrorism done in the name of their faith. While it is true that Rep. Ellison did complain to me on the House floor, it is a shame that he did so by simply repeating the comments of (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and demanding I back down.”

Pompeo’s claim about Muslim leaders was ‘irresponsible’

What possessed Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, to give a speech on the House floor last week claiming that Islamic religious leaders across America don’t publicly and frequently condemn acts of terrorism? What’s more, he said their “silence” makes them “potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.” U.S. Islamic leaders regularly and repeatedly condemn terrorism and say that it violates the core tenets of Islam. Muslim communities also have been instrumental in preventing terrorism by reporting extremist activities. And Muslims, of course, serve in the U.S. military and law enforcement, fighting on the front lines against terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called on Pompeo to correct his “false and irresponsible” remarks and provided him with links to dozens and dozens of statements by U.S. Muslim leaders condemning terrorism. “It is difficult to understand how an elected official with the resources available to any member of Congress missed such an overwhelming amount of material,” a CAIR official wrote. Pompeo responded that he was “not backing down.”

Pope’s decision to resign is remarkable

Pope Benedict’s decision to resign is remarkable historically, as the last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, and that was due to a schism in the church. Benedict said he lacked the strength to continue the demanding job. “In order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary – strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” he said.

Is new regulation on contraception a fair compromise?

Columnist Cal Thomas argues that President Obama’s latest compromise on the contraception mandate still doesn’t go far enough. He objects that private businesses (such as Hobby Lobby) are not exempt, and thinks that Catholic institutions might still get stuck with paying for the free coverage that will be provided by the insurance companies. But columnist Margaret Carlson faults the Catholic bishops for not accepting the compromise and moving on. “Even though the new regulation shows that the president has taken the bishops’ objections into account, they refuse once again to declare victory and move on to aiding the poor and comforting the sick,” she wrote. “They will not be satisfied, apparently, if even one employee of a Catholic-aligned institution is getting birth control through insurance.”

Brownback shares faith at prayer event

Gov. Sam Brownback spoke for about 10 minutes at the ReignDown USA prayer and worship event held Saturday in Topeka. In addition to talking about the phrase “In God We Trust” as it pertains to the country, Brownback shared how being diagnosed with cancer in 1995 led him to a stronger commitment to his faith, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “I finally reached up and said, ‘God, this life’s yours.’ It started a great adventure,” he said. Brownback prayed “for forgiveness of his sins, while also asking forgiveness of man’s sins, like broken treaties with Native Americans and slavery, or generalizations, such as greed and lust,” the Capital-Journal reported.

Thou shalt not misspell Ten Commandments

Oops. A new Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds has two misspelled words and a punctuation error: “Sabbath” came out “Sabbeth,” “maidservant” ended up “maidseruant,” and “neighbor’s” is missing the apostrophe. Columnist John Kelso suggested an additional commandment: “Thou shalt not drop out of school until thou has completed eighth grade.”

Democrats can’t be Christians?

Asked by the Huffington Post about comments at a recent forum suggesting that Democrats should not be Catholics, state Senate candidate Steve Fitzgerald (in photo) of Leavenworth even went further: “Christ said marriage is between one man and one woman, and the Democratic platform said that it’s not true. So therefore, my point was that one cannot support the Democratic platform and be a follower of Christ,” Fitzgerald said. He is the GOP challenger to state Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City. Referring to his intended advice to Democrats, Fitzgerald told Huffington Post: “My actual message was ‘fix the party or leave.’” Kultala, who is Catholic, recalled that at the meeting of the Polish American Democratic Club, “I was so angry I was seeing spots.” She also told Huffington Post: “He does not have the right to dismiss my faith because it is not the same as his. He’s trying to make it sound that you are only truly faithful if you are a right-wing Republican. That’s not right.”

Senseless killings over an unseen movie

How tragic that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens (in photo), and three staff members were killed Tuesday as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was overwhelmed by a mob upset about an obscure film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. The violence made Stevens the first U.S. ambassador to die in the line of duty in 33 years. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo also has been targeted by protesters. Boston Globe columnist Farah Stockman watched the trailer on YouTube believed to have inspired the violence, for a movie credited to California real-estate developer Sam Bacile. She found it hard to believe something that “felt like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoof” with “terrible acting” and “weird cardboard-looking desert backdrops” could lead to the death of Stevens, a friend of a friend. “The blame for Chris’ death rests squarely with the mob who attacked our embassy. Their actions are despicable, and perhaps were incited by long-standing enemies of the United States. Muslims who are angry at how their religion has been portrayed must stop responding in violent ways that perpetrate the idea of Islam as a dangerous faith,” Stockman wrote. “But shouldn’t people who knowingly incite violence against the United States – as a crude, thinly-veiled publicity stunt – also be held accountable?”

Kansans favor public prayers

Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court nixed school-initiated prayers as a violation of the First Amendment, 74 percent of Kansans think that public schools should open their day with either a spoken prayer (36 percent) or a silent one (38 percent), according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for KWCH, Channel 12. Similarly large majorities also favor some kind of prayer to open local and legislative meetings, with 71 percent saying it’s OK for such prayers to mention Jesus. Though 58 percent of those surveyed said they’d be willing to listen to a public prayer in a religion other than their own, 54 percent said it would be unacceptable for a prayer to mention Allah in a public meeting where the majority of citizens are Muslim.

Sebelius’ invitation to Georgetown under fire

Some Catholics are upset that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to give a commencement address May 18 at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, wrote a letter urging Georgetown to rescind the invitation to the former Kansas governor, calling it “scandalous and outrageous that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly ‘pro-choice’ Catholic.” The letter mentioned Sebelius’ role in mandating that most employers cover birth control under the health reform law – a mandate since altered to try to accommodate religiously affiliated employers. The University of Notre Dame drew similar flak when President Obama addressed the graduating class of 2009.

Legislative prayers shouldn’t be political

The prayers offered at the start of each day’s legislative session are supposed to be ecumenical and not political. But every once in a while some invited pastor doesn’t follow the guidelines. In 1996, former Wichita pastor Joe Wright prayed a political prayer that has been widely circulated on the Internet. Last Thursday, Father James Gordon of St. John Vianney in Maple Hill near Topeka used the prayer time to lobby against abortion and same-sex marriage and for religious freedom. Some pastors may think it compromises their integrity to not speak out on certain issues. But if that’s the case, there is a simple solution: Don’t accept the invitation to pray. As Wichitan Thomas Witt, the executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, responded to Gordon’s prayer: “Using prayer to launch political attacks against one’s opponents is unacceptable.”

Why the disconnect on contraception policy, practice?

How did there come to be such a disconnect between the Catholic Church’s official policy against contraception and the lives of average parishioners? Elaine Tyler May, a professor at the University of Minnesota and author of the book “America and the Pill,” recounted how the pope convened a special commission in the 1960s to evaluate whether the church should change its stance on contraception. “A significant majority of its members favored lifting the ban, including 60 of 64 theologians and nine of the 15 cardinals,” May wrote in the Washington Post. When the pope sided with the minority and reaffirmed the ban in 1968, many church leaders and leading Catholic theologians, as well as many parish priests, publicly criticized the decision, arguing that Catholic women and men should follow their own consciences. Two years after the decree, two-thirds of Catholic women were using contraception,” May wrote. “Quickly, the gap between Catholic and non-Catholic women disappeared.” Today, according to research by the Guttmacher Institute, about “98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church.”