Rabbi leader en­cour­ages po­lit­i­cal neu­tral­ity

The Covington News - - Religion -

CINCIN­NATI — Amer­i­can rab­bis should ex­er­cise moral lead­er­ship this elec­tion year by spot­light­ing is­sues such as the Iraq War, the need for uni­ver­sal health care and the grow­ing prob­lem of anti-Semitism around the world, a Jewish leader urged an as­sem­bly here.

Rabbi Peter Kno­bel, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Con­fer­ence of Amer­i­can Rab­bis, is­sued the call at the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s con­ven­tion but cau­tioned that rab­bis should re­main “po­lit­i­cally neu­tral.”

The con­fer­ence is com­prised of an es­ti­mated 1,800 rab­bis of Re­form Ju­daism, the largest branch of the faith in the U.S.

Kno­bel, the spir­i­tual leader of Beth Emeth Con­gre­ga­tion in Evanston, Ill., also high­lighted bring­ing peace to the Mid­dle East and bridg­ing di­vides sep­a­rat­ing whites and blacks.

“Of­ten re­li­gion is de­cried as ir­rel­e­vant,” Kno­bel said. “Quite the con­trary. Our moral voices should be heard by all.”

Kno­bel de­cried the Iraq War “as killing and maim­ing thou­sands, alien­at­ing the Mus­lim world and wast­ing re­sources which would make for a safer, more se­cure and just world.”

The road to Mid­dle East peace, he said, is “paved with com­pro­mise, courage and dan­ger.”

New Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir di­rec­tor named

SALT LAKE CITY — A com­poser, ar­ranger, guest con­duc­tor and for­mer Brigham Young Univer­sity mu­sic pro­fes­sor has been named the new mu­sic di­rec­tor of the Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir.

Mack­Wil­berg re­places Craig Jes­sop, who abruptly re­signed last month from one of the most trea­sured in­sti­tu­tions of the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints, or the Mor­mon Church.

Wil­berg was the as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor un­der Jes­sop and served as in­terim di­rec­tor af­ter Jes­sop stepped down af­ter eight years in the po­si­tion. He said he wanted to teach and spend more time with his fam­ily.

“It’s a bit of a pres­sure cooker, but the best kind,” Wil­berg said of di­rect­ing the choir.

As mu­sic di­rec­tor, Wil­berg will over­see mu­si­cal and creative as­pects of the choir, the Orches­tra at Tem­ple Square, the Tem­ple Square Cho­rale and the Bells on Tem­ple Square, in­clud­ing se­lect­ing reper­toire for con­certs, record­ings and tours. He will also over­see the creative di­rec­tion for the church’s weekly “Mu­sic and the Spo­ken Word” broad­cast.

Jes­sop con­ducted the choir and Utah Sym­phony at the 2002 Win­ter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, work­ing with world-renowned artists Sting and Yo-Yo Ma.

Un­der Jes­sop, the choir launched a private record la­bel in 2003 and re­leased more than 10 al­bums. Sev­eral of those topped Bill­board’s Classical Mu­sic chart.

Mac Christensen, pres­i­dent of the choir, said that be­fore Jes­sop be­came di­rec­tor in 1999, choir tours didn’t draw huge crowds. Now, he said, they can “fill an NBA arena with more than 14,000 peo­ple. Last year alone we had a mil­lion re­quest for tick­ets to the Christ­mas con­cert.”

School dis­trict sued over re­li­gious draw­ing

MADI­SON, Wis. — A high school stu­dent has filed a fed­eral law­suit al­leg­ing his art teacher cen­sored his draw­ing be­cause it fea­tured a cross and a bib­li­cal ref­er­ence.

The law­suit al­leges other Tomah High School stu­dents were al­lowed to draw “de­monic” images and asks a judge to de­clare a class pol­icy pro­hibit­ing re­li­gion in art un­con­sti­tu­tional.

“We hear so much to­day about tol­er­ance,” said David Cort­man, an at­tor­ney with the Al­liance De­fense Fund, a Chris­tian le­gal ad­vo­cacy group rep­re­sent­ing the stu­dent. “But where is the tol­er­ance for re­li­gious be­liefs?”

Tomah School Dis­trict Busi­ness Man­ager Greg Gaarder said the dis­trict hadn’t seen the law­suit and de­clined to com­ment.

The stu­dent, a se­nior iden­ti­fied in the law­suit by the ini­tials A.P., drew a cross and the words “John 3:16 A sign of peace” in his draw­ing of a land­scape, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

His teacher asked him to re­move the ref­er­ence to the Bi­ble, say­ing stu­dents were mak­ing re­marks about it, the suit said. He re­fused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

The teacher showed the stu­dent a pol­icy for the class that pro­hib­ited any vi­o­lence, blood, sex­ual con­no­ta­tions or re­li­gious be­liefs in art­work. The boy tore the pol­icy up, was kicked out of class, and later re­ceived two de­ten­tions for his ac­tions, the law­suit states.

The law­suit also al­leges school of­fi­cials al­low other re­li­gious items and art­work to be dis­played on cam­pus. A.P. suf­fered un­equal treat­ment be­cause of his re­li­gion even though stu­dent ex­pres­sion is pro­tected by the First Amend­ment, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

Judge stops Ten Com­mand­ments dis­play

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A fed­eral judge has per­ma­nently barred a Ken­tucky county from us­ing the Ten Com­mand­ments as part of a “Foun­da­tions of Amer­i­can Law and Gov­ern­ment” dis­play.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Joseph H. McKin­ley said the Grayson County dis­play has the “ef­fect of en­dors­ing re­li­gion.” McKin­ley’s rul­ing up­holds a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion is­sued in 2002 that re­sulted in county of­fi­cials tak­ing down the Ten Com­mand­ments, but leav­ing the frame on dis­play.

No pub­lic money was used to set up the dis­play in the county court­house in Leitch­field, about 75 miles south­west of Louisville.

The Rev. Ch­ester Shartzer put up the dis­play, with­out a pub­lic cer­e­mony or pub­lic prayer. Two Grayson County res­i­dents and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union sued in 2001.

The dis­play orig­i­nally in­cluded the full text of the Mayflower Com­pact, the full text of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, the Ten Com­mand­ments, the full text of the Magna Carta, the Star Span­gled Ban­ner, the Na­tional Motto to­gether with the Pre­am­ble to the Ken­tucky Con­sti­tu­tion, the Bill of Rights, a pic­ture of Lady Jus­tice to­gether with an ex­pla­na­tion of the sig­nif­i­cance of each of the doc­u­ments.

McKin­ley found that the in­tent of the dis­play was re­li­gious, not ed­u­ca­tional, in part be­cause it came af­ter the county failed to put up only a Ten Com­mand­ments dis­play and Grayson County Fis­cal Court mem­bers dis­cussed what to put with the Ten Com­mand­ments to avoid ob­jec­tions from the ACLU.

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