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June 7, 2012

This week in power: Romney, Gay marriage, Texas crosses, Poland soccer

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/this_week_in_power_romney_gay_marriage_texas_crosses_poland_soccer_20120605/

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Romney’s religion
Should candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon beliefs matter in the election? asked a Washington Post piece over the weekend. If Romney were, say, Jewish, would that be different? It prompted a range of reactions. “Why do we, as a country, continually conflate the roles of religion and civics in our public discourse? Even those who have the ‘right’ idea tend to fall prey to what is apparently an irresistible urge to pepper our politics with religion,” said HyperVocal’s Scott Mackey. “The reality is that the more you talk about the details of somebody’s religion,” former VP candidate Joe Lieberman said, “the more you encourage voters to vote on the religion rather than on the person and his policies.” That seems to capture Romney’s political calculus, which drives the press strategy to beat back theology stories. The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen weighed in: “Is Mitt Romney’s Mormonism fair game? Only if it’s held to the same standards and undergoes the same scrutiny as any other religion. Otherwise, this is a very slippery slope.”

Conservative Movement’s approval
“Delightful news from God’s Chosen People: leaders of the Jewish Conservative Movement have unanimously approved marriage equality,” declared Benji Douglas at Queerty.On May 31, Conservative leaders revised ritual guidelines to include gay weddings, as well as gay divorce. The changes passed unanimously in the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, with one rabbi abstaining. For many Jews, this was a long time coming and an important step forward. For others, it was a total reversal of thousands of years of law. “Expanding the understanding of marriage to include same-sex unions struck me, an outsider to Judaism, as a shatteringly radical departure from Jewish tradition,” said Rod Dreher at The American Conservative. For better or for worse.

Security selection
Some people are up in arms over news that Israeli security agents are asking select Arab-looking travelers to log into their email accounts so that security can take a look, according to reports. The Shin Bet security agency stood by its practices as necessary. It’s unclear how long these security checks have gone on or how many people have been screened in such a way. “The account details highly abusive treatment of Americans by a country that still receives billions in aid from the United States. That money comes from all of our citizens, including those with Arab backgrounds. If this account is true, there should be a public demand for answers from the State Department, but there has been total silence from the Obama Administration. The silence is as disturbing as the allegation, in my view,” said legal scholar Jonathan Turley on his blog.

A job lost over crosses?
Texas A&M Professor Sissy Bradford wondered why her classes had to bear crosses nearby entrance. Months later, she was informed that her services were no longer needed. Bradford believes there is a connection. “I think I’m the only instructor these students ever had who required them to know passages from the Bible,” said Bradford, who is Jewish. This case is a bit complicated, and Inside Higher Ed sheds some light on the details: “The crosses were put there by a developer, not the university, but Bradford maintained that they were inappropriate for the entrance to a public university campus. Americans United for Separation of Church and State backed her—and after that organization sent a series of letters to San Antonio and university officials, the developer removed the crosses. That was in November.” Since then, things got heated over email and contentious overall. “What could have been a simple conversation about the separation of church and state has turned into something hopelessly unrelated,” said an Austinist writer.

Soccer sparks old resentment
The entire German national soccer team was supposed to visit the site where the Auschwitz concentration camp stood, but only three players went. “If the whole national team had come, one could have reached hundreds of thousands of young people — more than a thousand memorial speeches” could reach, said a Jewish leader there. Security concerns are already an issue on people’s minds ahead of the UEFA Euro 2012, set to begin in Poland and Ukraine on June 8, “It is a fact as sad as a paradox of history: Celtic crosses, Nazi symbols and White Power banners proudly wave over soccer stadiums in Poland where the Nazis murdered two million Poles and half a million Ukrainians,” said Max Kolonko at The Huffington Post. “It all comes down to how much you buy the idea that sports is fundamentally about role models, bringing people together, shining a light into darkness, that sort of thing. And sports can be about that,” said Heather Horn at The Atlantic. One can only hope.

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