Blogging Religiously

From a New York point of view

No easy peace on gay marriage or the Middle East09.23.11

Catching up with a few things after — during — a very busy week. (I’ve been reviewing hundreds of state education reports. You don’t want to know.)

1. So Archbishop Dolan is fighting mad at the Obama administration over gay marriage. It’s not just that the administration will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, but how the administration is characterizing those who oppose gay marriage.

He wrote to Obama: “The institution of marriage is built on this truth, which goes to the core of what the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and the millions of citizens who stand with us on this issue, want for all children and for the common good of society.  That is why it is particularly upsetting, Mr. President, when your Administration, through the various court documents, pronouncements and policies identified in the attached analysis, attributes to those who support DOMA a motivation rooted in prejudice and bias.  It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing.”

A staff analysis from the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (of which Dolan is president) notes that the Justice Department is comparing the Defense of Marriage Act to racial discrimination laws.

The analysis states bluntly: “According to the government?s view, support for a definition of marriage that recognizes that sexual difference is a defining and valuable feature of marriage now constitutes a forbidden intent to harm a vulnerable class of people.  The false claim that animus is at work ignores the
intrinsic goods of complementarity and fruitfulness found only in the union of man and woman as husband and wife.  DoJ?s contention thus transforms a moral disagreement into a constitutional violation, with grave practical consequences.”

2. On the same subject at the state level, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked a state court on Friday to toss a lawsuit filed by an evangelical lobbying group that challenges the state’s gay marriage law.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms filed the suit in July, contending that the state Senate broke its own procedural rules before its closely watched vote approving same-sex marriage.

According to the AP: “In his motion to dismiss, Schneiderman relies heavily on the separation of powers to argue the court shouldn’t get involved in matters “wholly internal” to the legislature. He also contends the various meetings between executive and legislative branch members, lobbyists and other interested parties were proper under the open meetings law.”

Also, a short article on the NYCF website makes the case that town clerks who have religious objections to same-sex marriage should not have to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. They are standing behind Rose Marie Belforti, Ledyard town clerk in Cayuga County, who apparently wouldn’t issue a license to a lesbian couple.

NYCF states: “They’re putting legal pressure on Mrs. Belforti to sign same-sex “marriage” licenses, but Rose Belforti is standing tall. We know that the fragrance of Rose’s act of obedience is a sweet smell to her Savior.”

3. As the U.N. wrestles today with whether to create a Palestinian state — and all that would mean — the Jewish Week writes about a recent meeting of local Israelis and Palestinians right here in Yonkers.

The meeting was apparently called by the Dialogue Project, “a 10-year-old venture to build relationships between different ethnic and religious groups.”

Dergham Alkhatib, 43, who spent much of his childhood in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, told the Jewish Week that he was “conditioned to hate Jews.” Now he says: ““We have to overcome this miserable history, instead of looking at all Palestinians as terrorists and all Zionists as people who want to steal Palestinian homes.”

After Alkhatib talked about his concern that Palestinian refugees will be taken care of, the JW described what happened:


But Alkhatib’s comment drew an emotional response from Cari Gardner, 66, who said any reference to refugees or a Palestinian “right of return” is something that “triggers” her. She has no idea what “right of return” means, she told Alkhatib, known to friends as Leo. Does it mean that all Palestinian refugees should return, she asked, and, if so, to where — to the West Bank or to within Israel’s pre-1967 borders? Finally, she asked, can’t the refugees simply go on with their lives?

That, in turn, drew an emotional response from Lori, an American convert to Islam whose late husband was Palestinian. Turning to Gardner, Lori said that, while she understands her concern, she likens the feelings of Israelis who fear a massive influx of Palestinian refugees to the feelings of Palestinians in 1948 who witnessed a massive influx of Jews. “How did they feel seeing all these people coming in?” she asked.

Some might see such exchanges, especially between people who know and like each other, as a dismal sign. And many Jews and Muslims believe that such dialogues achieve little, if anything, and serve only to legitimize abhorrent points of view.

Nevertheless, members of the Yonkers group said participating in the dialogue over the years has changed their perception of the other group.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in gay marriage, Gay marriage in New York, Middle East, Middle East peace, Uncategorizedwith 134 Comments →

Two Christian groups oppose no-fault divorce06.17.10

I was kind of stunned the other day to learn that New York is the only state without a no-fault divorce law.

I guess I would have expected a few states in more traditional parts of the country to be sticklers when it comes to “preserving” marriage.

Two days ago, the NY state Senate voted 32-29 to allow “no-fault” divorce after a marriage has “irretrievably” broken down for at least six months. The Assembly is expected to go along.

Right now, one spouse must allege abandonment, adultery or one of a few other reasons in order to seek a divorce.

The only religious group that I have heard react to the Senate passage is the NYS Catholic Conference, which is predictably opposed to any changes that would make divorce more common.

Executive Director Richard Barnes released this statement:


The Bishops of New York State are disappointed with the Senate action today. Increasingly, society has come to view marriage as disposable and temporary. However, empirical evidence shows that children of divorce tend to suffer many negative consequences throughout their lives, from lower educational achievement rates to higher rates of substance abuse, criminal behavior and imprisonment.

Clearly, not every marriage can be permanent. But when serious reasons exist, such as abuse, adultery or abandonment, the law provides for quick divorces. In cases where no such grounds are present, so-called “no fault” cases, a couple may divorce following a one-year legal separation. The state has a legitimate interest in such a waiting period, where reconciliation is still a feasible possibility, because of the important place of marriage in society, particularly as it relates to the stable rearing of children.

New York State has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. While we see that as a cause for state pride, some sadly may see it as a problem to be corrected. We urge the state Assembly to reject this proposal and, failing that, we call on Gov. Paterson to veto it.


New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical lobbying group in Albany, has not released a statement on the Senate vote (that I have been able to find).

But the group does have a position on no-fault divorce, which is basically that we’re better off without it. Their position includes this statement about divorce:


Any divorce, regardless if it occurred under fault or no-fault laws, is one of life’s most painful experiences. It signifies the failure of a dream—a dream of intimacy, of family, of security, of meaning. The consequences of divorce can therefore be severe, not only economically, but particularly physically, emotionally and psychologically.

It would seem logical, therefore, that with the massive increases in divorce rates, the rate of children involved in divorce, and the social consequences of the divorce epidemic, that the Legislature would be looking for ways to strengthen marriages not make divorces easier to obtain.


I have not been able to find any statements in favor of no-fault divorce from religious groups.

I checked the website of Interfaith IMPACT of New York, a coalition of leaders from liberal religious traditions, but did not come across any mention of divorce.

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Divorce, New York state, No-fault divorce, Religious positionswith 123 Comments →

Church and state03.10.10

Archbishop Dolan was all over Albany this week, making all kinds of news.

He spent a lot of time answering questions about the mess that is Albany:


tjndc5-5thtx71xcat13tk8sm8o_layoutSomebody asked me yesterday, ‘What do you say to your people who seem dissatisfied, or scandalized by the political problems in the state of New York?’ And I said maybe it’s teaching us — what we would feel is the fundamental issue in life — that government is not our savior. Government is not the messiah. Only God is. And so we should put our ultimate trust in God alone, and everyone else, we cut some slack.


On his blog, Dolan has written about meeting with our embattled gov:


One of the highlights of Monday was joining with my brother bishops of the state for a meeting with Governor David Paterson.  Many reporters stopped me during the day to ask for my thoughts on the difficulties currently facing the Governor; I was pleased to be able to tell the Governor at the very beginning of our meeting that while we bishops were there to discuss some very serious public policy issues, we were, first and foremost, pastors, and wanted him to know of our prayers for him.  He seemed genuinely grateful.


Dolan spent a lot of time calling for the state to pay Catholic schools for services that the state mandates they must provide.

The NYS Catholic Conference recently explained it: “Continuing a trend begun in 2008, the governor is once again ignoring the statutory requirement to reimburse our schools for 100 percent of mandated services (that is, services that the state requires of our schools, such as standardized tests) or for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy (a safety and anti-truancy measure which requires schools to take and report attendance every time children move from one class to another).”

Finally, Mary DeTurris Poust of Our Sunday Visitor (a Pearl River native) summarizes Dolan’s six pillars of Catholic social teaching, as he explained them in Albany.

And here they are:


1. God comes first. “His ways, His law have dominion.”

2. The innate dignity of every individual human person. Every man and woman is made in the image and likeness of God and has an “eternal destiny” and a “divine character.”

3. The common good is always normative. “We are never in it just for myself but for ourselves.”

4. Solidarity. “We are members of a family, and we have a special duty to the poor among us.”

5. Subsidiarity. “One of the geniuses of Catholic social teaching is the closer you are to the grassroots, the better you are.”

6. Supreme duty to bring values, God’s truth and our principles into the public square. There can be no “cleavage” between what we believe and how we act.


New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical Christian lobbying group in Albany, will hold its lobbying day next Tuesday.

Among their concerns is a so-called “bathroom bill” recently passed by the Assembly.

According to the group: “The “Bathroom Bill” or the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), would open all public accommodations, including restrooms and high school locker rooms, to both biological genders, if an individual chooses to identify his or herself as the opposite sex (i.e. cross-dressers or transvestites).”

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in "Bathroom bill", Albany, Archbishop Dolan, Catholic social teachings, Gov. Paterson, Lobbyin, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Theologian Bill Hamiltonwith 5 Comments →