Mark Hemingway

Do Christians, Muslims, Jews all worship the same God? Is it a public school's role to say?

Do Christians, Muslims, Jews all worship the same God? Is it a public school's role to say?

"The same God? That's for a school to say?"

That comment atop a Facebook post by my friend Jim Davis, a former GetReligion contributor, caught my attention.

Davis linked to a story from The Courier-News, an Elgin, Ill., hometown newspaper that is a part of the Chicago Tribune family. The story concerned a protest by some Christians over an assignment at a local public school.

The lede:

Dozens of people spoke out Monday against a homework assignment made at an Elgin-area U46 school in which it was asserted Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths all believe in the same God.
One month after the assignment was criticized by U46 school board member Jeanette Ward, people who identified themselves as part of the Christian community attended the school board meeting Monday to add their opposition.
Several people attacked the assignment, quoting Bible and Quran verses to support their argument that Christians do not follow the same God as Muslims. Some of those who spoke live outside the U46 boundaries, including one person who came from Florida.
"To say that Allah of the Quran and the God of the Bible are the same is simply absurd," said Art Ellingsen, a church pastor from Arlington Heights.

Last month, the same school board heard from religious leaders with a different perspective, as the newspaper noted then:

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Playing the same-sex marriage card

Over the weekend, the better half stirred up quite a hornet’s nest for a post noting that some in the media aren’t the slightest bit interested in covering the same-sex marriage debate with any degree of impartiality or nuance. The verdict she reached is damning, and that conclusion can be reached simply by accurately quoting journalists about why they don’t bother quoting gay marriage opponents.

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Media, Mormonism and meaning

I think it’s fair to say that while Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy has forced the media to do more and better coverage of Mormonism, the religion is still treated as a cultural and theological oddity. Much of the coverage is still sensational — as I type this, The Daily Beast is hyping an interview with “a direct descendant of Brigham Young, Sue Emmett [who] left the church because of the very values she says would make Romney a frightening president.” I hate to break it to The Daily Beast, but Brigham Young had 55 wives and 57 children. A gathering of his third generation descendents would look like Calcutta on Free Malaria Shot Day. Finding one of them who would disavow Mitt Romney and their great-great grandfather’s legacy is a matter of simple probability, and it’s neither novel or illuminating.

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A Mormon thumbsucker

A while back, one of my colleagues — who, as it happens, has written some pretty terrific things on the subject of religion — asked me if I was familiar with the writer Walter Kirn. Knowing that we were both ex-Mormons and Kirn often wrote about religious themes, he wondered what I thought of Kirn’s work. I spent a lot of time in the creative writing department as an undergrad in the mid-late 90s just as Kirn’s career as a novelist was taking off, and he’d been recommended to me several times though I’d never gotten around to exploring any of his books. (More recently, you might be aware that his book Up in the Air had been made into the eponymous and rather acclaimed movie.)

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BYU Gets Better?

So there’s this college in Provo, Utah, that’s run by a socially conservative church. All of the students who choose to attend the school agree to adhere to a pretty strict honor code that governs the way they dress, forbids them from drinking alcohol, and explicitly bans students from having sex. I am, of course, talking about Brigham Young University and it shouldn’t exactly be news that the place exists or that students there are held to pretty strict moral standards.

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Bibi vs. The New York Times

Unbeknown to me, George was working on something for GetReligion that was a big picture look about how the New York Times handles the Arab-Israeli conflict. He did an admirable job and I heartily recommend reading that piece.

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About that new Mormon PR blitz...

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, either because you haven’t paid close attention or don’t live in one of the areas currently being bombarded with ads, but the Mormon church has launched a flashy new public relations campaign. The Mormon church running ads is not new, but an article by The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein explains why this campaign is different:

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