(RNS) Nuns and parents face jail. Pope Francis faces first-year scrutiny. “Religious freedom” may be a misused, even a dangerous claim. Today’s roundup is all about where society draws the lines on religion, culture and politics.

Sister Megan Rice, the 84-year-old nun sentenced to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility in 2012, tells the judge, “Please have no leniency on me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor you could give me.”

Today, a Pentecostal couple in Pennsylvania will learn their sentence for allowing their sick infant to die without seeing a doctor. The parents, who believe in faith healing, were under court order to get medical help beyond prayer for their kids after their two-year-old son died in 2009. USA Today says their lawyer plans to talk about the couple’s religious beliefs.

Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday (March 13) in Vatican City. Now, he faces first-year scrutiny. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday (March 13) in Vatican City. Now, he faces first-year scrutiny. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The Associated Press calls this a “critical week” for Pope Francis as he nears the end of his first year. The agenda: Meetings on financial reform, preparations for a summit on family issues this fall, and the photogenic highlight – the formal welcome and presentation of red hats to 19 new cardinals.

Speaking of family matters, the results from surveys requested by Francis show Japan’s bishops were particularly blunt. The church in Japan, they said, is unwelcoming and lacks “practical kindness.” When it comes to sexuality and family life, they said, “There is a big gap between the Vatican and reality,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

When Rachel Marie Stone looks at the movement against childhood vaccines, she’s troubled by the “casual abuse of the venerable concept of ‘religious freedom’ in order to secure the right to refuse, on dubious scientific grounds, an effective and important public health measure.” That may change. A Mother Jones story breaking down vaccine exemptions state by state and points out “some states are rethinking the personal belief loophole.” 

Speaking of rethinking … Kansas legislators woke up and smelled the discrimination taint oozing from a “religious freedom” bill that would have given retailers wide license to refuse service to gays and God knows who else. Even a lawmaker who voted for it in the House sounded relieved Tuesday when the chairman of a state Senate committee said they would not take up the bill. Now, perhaps, they can turn their attention to a new bill proposed to allow spanking hard enough to leave marks. It’s unclear if there would be any religious exemption. 

If you’re struggling with the theology behind “Snake Salvation” pastor Jamie Coots’ death by snakebite,  Jeffrey Weiss explains why it’s not that crazy. “Any religion is, by definition, crazy to a nonbeliever.”

Pastor Jamie Coots shown here praying  during a service in Middlesboro, KY., died by snakebite.  Photo courtesy National Geographic Channel

Pastor Jamie Coots, shown here praying during a service in Middlesboro, KY., died by snakebite. Photo courtesy National Geographic Channel


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Is Zionism a theology? If you take an anti-Zionist position does that make you anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic (there’s a difference)? Mark Silk’s “Spiritual Politics” examines theological questions raised by the Presbyterian Church (USA) new study guide, “Zionism Unsettled.”

Muslims disagree on whether schools should close for two Eid holidays, writes Omar Sacirbey. Is it a government role to recognize and set a date for religious celebrations?

We’re addicted to sound, leaning perhaps too far back on the “lean back” experience of iTunes Radio, says columnist Jonathan Merritt. That can be bad for the soul, he says as he makes a case for “spiritual silence.”

But staying silent isn’t always good for the soul, says Jana Riess, In her latest “Flunking Sainthood” post, she calls for Mormons to return to a tradition of public confession where people bring forward their true selves.

We can’t speak for your soul but subscribing to the daily roundup would be good for your mind.

Categories: Beliefs

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media.

2 Comments

  1. All religions are indeed crazy to outsiders, and many insiders who bolt. I remember staying with an aunt and uncle in Ireland. His science/engineering job required him to drive the roads a lot to visit sites, some distant. He made it a practice to pick up hitchhikers, enjoying the conversations, especially with the many foreigners.

    He told me of one recent conversation with “two American young men about an American religion,” that is, Mormonism. He found their story about the origins of their beliefs, and their beliefs about the corporeal nature of the Trinity and the proliferation of new gods throughout the universe, to be bizarre.

    I asked him, But what could be more bizarre than the belief that a Jewsish carpenter starting preaching and performing miracles and claiming to be God and then being arrested for treason and being crucified and then rising from the dead? He agreed.

    P.S. From his well educated wife, and other well educated sources, I was told that this uncle, when younger, asked the ghost of a priest who kept showing up on Sunday mornings at his parish church if he could be of help. The priest indicated he needed a Mass server. The dead priest and my uncle then proceeded to say Mass (the priest silently) in front of a packed church (the scheduled live priest discreetly slipping away). Most parishioners also began to slip out but some stayed to the end, and many were satisfied that they had fulfilled their obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. No one took communion from the dead priest.

    My uncle, also trained in PR, would neither affirm nor deny the story, lol. So who or what are you going to believe?

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