This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a misguided crusade against sharia law, which appears to be spreading.

Oklahomans recently passed a very silly ballot measure barring judges from considering Islamic or international law in Oklahoma state courts. A federal judge seems to consider the law an unconstitutional mess, and blocked it from taking effect.

More troubling, though, is the fact that it’s not just Sooners trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Although Oklahoma’s law is the first to come under court scrutiny, legislators in at least seven states, including Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, have proposed similar laws, the National Conference of State Legislatures says. Tennessee and Louisiana have enacted versions of the law banning use of foreign law under certain circumstances.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House, is pushing for a federal law that “clearly and unequivocally states that we’re not going to tolerate any imported law.”

The notion that U.S. courts would follow sharia is itself foolish, given that we already have a First Amendment. For that matter, if states are inclined to follow Oklahoma’s lead, it’s worth noting that the state’s law undermines Native-American faiths, and appears to have accidentally undermined state businesses that rely on “international treaties to uphold contracts.”

As my friend the Rev. Barry W. Lynn explained, “It’s just fear mongering tinged with anti-Islamic sentiment.”

While that’s clearly true, the right sees political value in creating targets to hate and having a riled up activist base, so we should expect this nonsense to continue.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* While the vast majority of U.S. servicemen and women are comfortable with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” military chaplains, many of whom are evangelical Christians, are not on board. (thanks to R.P.)

* The Roman Catholic Church’s scandal involving the sexual abuse of children continues to get worse. This week, the church was confronted with “a new set of damaging allegations in the Netherlands.” Peter Nissen, a professor of the history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said of the growing abuse scandal, “The Roman Catholic Church has not faced a crisis like this since the French Revolution.” (thanks to D.J.)

* A jeweler in Duluth, Minn., is running television advertisements, letting folks know about a storewide sale in advance of the second coming of Jesus, which the store’s owner believes should come fairly soon. (thanks to B.G. for the tip)

* And congressional Republicans’ creativity when it comes to raising money took an interesting turn this week, when incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced he would host a “Festivus” reception, in honor of the Seinfeld-created holiday. Tickets cost $500 per person — a steep price that was no doubt mentioned during the airing of grievances.