10 August 2004 Daily Links

Veli-Matti Karkkainen, a Finnish theologian who has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary, the United States’ largest interdenominational seminary, since 2000, was forced to leave the country at the end of July. Chris Herlinger, writing for Ecumenical News International, reports on how the rules governing visas for religious professionals, academics and journalists have changed since September 11th. Karkkainen, a Pentecostal, a member of several World Council of Churches working groups, and a full, tenured professor at the evangelical college, was denied a visa because of Fuller’s status as an interdenominational institution. Because Fuller has no denominational ties, it does not fit the classification of a religious seminary under new federal government guidelines.

A month after the news broke of the Bush-Cheney campaign’s 22-point plan to reach conservative churches, causing angry denunciations from Christians left and right, the story has settled comfortably into the culture war narrative. David Kirkpatrick at The New York Times finds the scare in an evangelical Missouri church and its congregants — happy recruits who see the re-election effort as a spiritual battle. The Washington Times’s Amy Faganspeaks to Jay Sekulow, of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, about the “‘left-wing thugs'” who are using tax-exemption laws to selectively target the right. Before the story is entirely swallowed by the right-left meta-narrative, it’s well-worth remembering why the plan was contested in the first place. Melissa Rogers, former director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, delivers a timely reminder in The Star-Telegram: “There are some legitimate ways for political campaigns to try to reach religious people. Soliciting directories isn’t one of them.”

A view from the outside: Michael Valpy, of Canada’s Globe and Mail, peers over the border at his funny, fervent neighbors down south. Valpy spoke with Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, who told him that the key constituencies of both the Republican and Democratic parties — black Americans on the Democratic side and white evangelical Protestants on the Republican side — are the two most highly religious segments of the U.S. public. “‘The views of the two communities on religion and public life are virtually identical.'”

The tombs of Muslim soldiers who fought for France during WWII were desecrated by vandals who painted swatiskas and other neo-nazi graffiti on the graves. Read more.

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