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Higher Ground: Palin and baptism

- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2014

An online Christian community action group has launched a petition against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for her recent comments jokingly referring to waterboarding as a "baptism" for terrorists.

The petition, signed by nearly 60,000 people, asks media outlets reporting on her comments to also include "how sincere Christians of all theological and political persuasions are appalled."

"Sarah Palin is blasphemously twisting our faith into a weapon of hatred and violence," the petition states. "Let's show just how many Christians are appalled by Palin's twisted misrepresentation of our faith."

The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee made her comments during the April 26 kickoff of the NRA's "Stand and Fight Rally" in Indianapolis. During her speech, she criticized the Obama administration for coddling enemies, "enemies who would utterly annihilate America."

"If I were in charge," she said, "they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists."

The petition joins a growing backlash against Ms. Palin's comments. She took to her Facebook page to respond to critics, saying "Darn right I'd do whatever it takes to foil their murderous jihadist plots — including waterboarding. If some overly sensitive wusses took offense, remember the First Amendment doesn't give you a right not to be offended."

The petition is available at FaithfulAmerica.org

CARDINAL SIN?

Pope Francis might have been dubbed the "slum pope," but one of the Vatican's cardinals is earning a reputation as a high-roller.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a longtime servant to former Pope Benedict XVI, shrugged off rumors out of Rome this week that Francis was angry that he had chosen to move into a luxurious apartment in Vatican City.

The Associated Press reported that Cardinal Bertone posted an online statement explaining that Francis had called him "express his solidarity and disappointment over the attacks on me about the apartment, which he was told about from the day it was assigned to me."

Cardinal Bertone said the renovated apartment was "spacious, ... [as] residences of the Vatican's ancient palazzo normally are."

The Italian paper La Repubblica had published an article a week earlier claiming Cardinal Bertone was moving into a 6,500-square-foot residence, which he said was not an accurate measurement.

"I may temporarily use and after me it will benefit someone else," the cardinal stated in his letter. "In the words of the Pope Saint John XXIII, 'I do not stop to pick up the stones that are thrown at me.'"

The interest in the luxury apartment's new resident stems from a growing trend under Francis' papacy to embrace a more simple way of living. An Atlanta archbishop recently felt a similar pressure when he moved into a $2 million mansion. He moved out months later after a wave of criticism.

SIKH PROTEST

Members of the Sikh faith protested this week outside a Northern California courthouse after a man was turned away from jury duty because a symbolic dagger he was wearing violated the courthouse's ban on weapons.

Gursant Singh was joined by dozens of Sikh men and women Tuesday, asking for an accommodation to permit him to wear his kirpan.

"We're not talking about a big sword," Mr. Singh told this columnist in an interview. "It's a four-inch blade. There's much more accessible things inside [the courthouse], like a big pair of scissors."

In the Sikh faith, a kirpan is one of five articles of faith worn by followers at all times. Sikh men also wear their beards long and a turban to cover their heads.

Mr. Singh said Friday he had not yet received a response from the court to his appeals for an exemption from the ban. Sutter County Jury Commissioner Mary Beth Todd told a local television station, "It's extremely important that we be sensitive to this, and we're trying to be sensitive to it, and we're trying to find a solution that will work for both sides."

Mr. Singh said he was remaining optimistic the situation can be resolved.

"It's really something they can make an accommodation on," he said. "It's just a matter of time before they do."

More information about Mr. Singh and his protest can be found at Facebook.com/events/635878046462145/?ref=52&source=1.

FAITH VS. REASON

The National Day of Prayer and the National Day of Reason were both celebrated on Thursday.

The National Day of Prayer, organizers said, "exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America's leaders and its families."

President Obama, in his official declaration, called prayer "an essential act of worship and a daily discipline."

"Today and every day, prayers will be said for comfort for those who mourn, healing for those who are sick, protection for those who are in harm's way, and strength for those who lead," he said. "Today and every day, forgiveness and reconciliation will be sought through prayer. Across our country, Americans give thanks for our many blessings, including the freedom to pray as our consciences dictate."

In a bit of creative counter-programming, organizers said the National Day of Reason was created to "celebrate reason — a concept all Americans can support — and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship."

The American Humanist Association and the Washington Area Secular Humanists sponsor the National Day of Reason, which started in 2003. The National Day of Prayer is a tradition dating back to the early 1950s during the Truman administration, held annually on the first Thursday in May.

Nebraska and Rhode Island declared national days of reason, while Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting congressional representative, asked the National Day of Reason to be recognized this week on the House floor, saying reason and religious belief need not be in conflict.

"This day provides an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the positive impacts on humanity of reason, critical thought and the scientific method, which have always been acknowledged to be consistent with religious faith, and to reaffirm that the line between religion and government must remain indelible."

Meredith Somers covers issues of faith and religion. She can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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