Daily Links 17 December 2004

Just Like a Greek Tragedy
Not content with proving the existence of God, Google aims to recreate His mind.
Mob Morality
Stoner jokes about biblical precedents for wedding-party hook-ups; a Catholic comic speculating on her “get-out-of-hell-free card”; Will and Grace’s shallow materialist Karen musing about transforming an historic church into a gay bar; a Scrubs character telling his fiancee it “sucks” that they won’t be allowed to read their own vows in a Catholic ceremony. It’s pretty rough stuff that makes up the new Parents’ Television Council (PTC) study on negative TV treatments of religion, “Faith in a Box: Entertainment Television and Religion.” But if the examples of “insults to faith” picked by the PTC are lacking in substance — by and large the complaints concern innocuous stock punchlines older than the medium itself, along with the occasional allusion to hypocrisy among the clergy or moral values politician — PTC’s justification for demanding changed content is worse. Citing a 2003 poll indicating that 90% of Americans believe in God and 80% believe in Jesus’ resurrection, PTC founder and president, L. Brent Bozell (who also owns CNSNews) said that “Hollywood” (read: “people who make TV sitcoms”) isn’t accurately reflecting the viewpoints of a majority of Americans (read: Christians). Bozell kindly suggests that Hollywood be helped to overcome its fantasy — that “spirituality is trendy, but organized religion is outdated and oppressive” — so it can accept the new “reality”: The People are religious, so Hollywood had better give the people what they want (read: more networks like PAX).
Choose Your Ideology Yellow Pages
Two boycotts, two stories. GetReligion runs two “put your money where your morals are” stories side-by-side: one on the California Committee to Save Merry Christmas, which has urged a boycott of Federated Department Stores for taking the Christ out of Christmas, and one on “Buy Blue” websites that point Democrats towards blue-friendly companies. But only one of these boycotts/”directed-spending campaigns” gets the laughable comparison to “the Christian Yellow Pages.” (Hint: It’s not the Christian cause, even if the Catholic League proposed “religion friendly” shopping decals…)
Away in a Cowshed
The 600-member charismatic New Life Church in Minsk has been banned from meeting under Belarus’ religion law. The church, which bought a cowshed on the outskirts of the city two years ago, intending to rebuild it as a church, has faced repeated obstructions from the government, which has barred the church from worshiping at the cowshed; threatened to demolish the building; denied the church’s church’s compulsory re-registration; threatened the pastor and administrator with fines for leading unregistered worship; and sent police or riot police to each Sunday service. The church has also been prevented from renting another meeting space in Minsk, but according to Aleksandr Kalinov of the State Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, these difficulties are all their fault. “‘They insist on trying to use the cowshed as a church — they refuse to find other premises.'” All other official regulatory agencies approved the use of the cowshed for the church, but the religious affairs department objected, and arranged for the church’s permission to be revoked, which in turn cost the church its re-registration last November. No similar constraints have been put on an Orthodox congregation building a church nearby.
Teaching England to Swing
Former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, has urged Britain’s conservative party to follow the lead of U.S. Republicans in tapping the “values vote” by appealing to the social conservativism of the Labour Party’s working-class base. “‘To crudely import Bible Belt politics would not work in Britain,'” said Duncan Smith, “‘But we would be equally unwise to ignore the power of moral purpose in politics.'”
Plano Clear for I Heart Jesus Pens

A federal judge in Texas has issued a temporary restraining order against the Plano school district, prohibiting it from interfering with any students who wish to distribute religious messages at today’s holiday parties. Parents in Plano, with the help of the locally-based conservative Liberty Legal Institute, are suing the school over last year’s winter break party, when a student was not allowed to distribute pens bearing a Christian message, but instead had to leave them on a desk for classmates to pick up. The order also allows the parents of the student to distribute religious messages to other parents at the party, and for children to bring Christmas-colored napkins if they desire.

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