Rowlett Atheists Want to Give City Council Invocation; Mayor Says No "Spaghetti God"

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City of Rowlett
Mayor Todd Gottel is defending a Rowlett policy that says invocation leaders must be religious, but he may soon have to let Metroplex Atheists in on the fun.

Metroplex Atheists, with the legal aid of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) delivered a letter last week to the Rowlett City Council requesting that they be added to the list of invocation leaders. It's not the first time the group has sought recognition with the City Council, but this latest move may be the closest they get to victory.

In 2010, Metroplex Atheists first requested that the invocation be eliminated altogether. After Metroplex Atheists were denied, the City Council re-evaluated the invocation policy, and began reaching out to local religious institutions to expand the diversity of the invocation list. City policy currently dictates that invocation be led by a religious leader, and that their institution be located in Rowlett.

Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel is defending the policy, saying the city offers invocation slots to every religious institution in Rowlett. Because there are no synagogues, mosques, temples or other non-Christian religious place of worship in the city, that means a Christian generally delivers the invocation.

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Glenn Beck Spoke at a Christian College, and Evangelicals Are Mad Because He's a Mormon

Categories: Religion

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Via.
There are several thousand reasons one might credibly object to Westlake resident Glenn Beck delivering a university commencement address. One is that he represents the antithesis of facts and learning and reasoned debate, i.e. pretty much everything an institution of higher learning holds dear. Another is that he's a fearmonger who's built a media empire by playing on the most vile racist/xenophobic/Islamophobic/partisan impulses of his audience.

Beck's appearance late last month at ultra-Christian Liberty University in Virginia has become controversial for an entirely different reason: because he's a Mormon.

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With Dallas City Council's Opening Prayers, It's Jesus 96, Allah 0

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Daquella manera
At the beginning of every Dallas City Council meeting, long before most spectators (and many council members) are fully awake, a religious leader of some stripe stands at the podium and offers a brief prayer. A few months ago, we wondered whether the U.S. Supreme Court might declare such displays unconstitutional, but we needn't have. In its decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a five-justice majority declared that inviting clergy to pray at city meetings does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. So if a city wants to open every single meeting with a Baptist preacher praising Jesus, that's OK basically so long as government officials aren't performing forced baptisms.

Some commentators complained that the decision could make life uncomfortable for religious minorities participating in city government, but Slate editor David Plotz questioned the significance of the decision on last Friday's episode of the Slate Political Gabfest. More than anything, he said, it's a symptom of the national divide between towns (small and homogeneous) and cities (large and diverse).

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Dallas Pastor Facing Discipline Over Gay Wedding Gets Defenders He Doesn't Want

Categories: Religion

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Bill McElvaney
Faithful America -- think Change.org for progressive Christians -- has spent the past several days promoting a petition on the site that calls on the United Methodist Church to go easy on the Reverend Bill McElvaney.

McElvaney, 85, a retired pastor and professor emeritus at SMU, last month presided over the wedding of octogenarians Jack Evans and George Harris, two of his former congregants at Northaven United Methodist Church who decided to finally tie the knot after 53 years together. The denomination, which bars its clergy from performing same-sex weddings, suspended McElvaney and could have him defrocked.

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The Black Hebrew Israelites Do Downtown Dallas

Categories: Religion

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In 1997, back when major metropolitan dailies apparently had enough cash lying around to send staff writers to Israel, The Dallas Morning News profiled the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group of expat African-Americans claiming to be descendents of the tribe of Judah and, therefore, Jews.

It was an unexpected mashup of '60's black nationalism and Old Testament literalism, a tiny but close-knit community stubbornly clinging to the fringes of Israeli society and mainstream religion.

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Dallas Pilgrims Are Trekking from a Harry Hines Strip Club to Plano, Because Easter

Categories: Religion

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Justin Bass
Easter makes Christians do crazy things. Like giving up beer or chalking enormous Jesus faces on parking lots.

Right now, Easter is making 30 or so cross-bearing Christians march down Harry Hines Boulevard en route to Plano.

"We started at Pandora's strip club," says Justin Bass, pastor of 1042 Church in The Colony and the leader of the pilgrimage.

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In Grapevine, a Record-Setting Chalk Portrait of Jesus' Face

Categories: Religion

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Fellowship Church
Two thousand years ago, give or take, the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross and left him to die. Since then, he has become the centerpiece of one of the world's dominant religions, revered by billions, inspiring wars and reconciliations and serving as a muse for innumerable works, both quotidian and profound.

Somehow, during all that time, no one ever thought to chalk the Son of God's face across a 17,000-square-foot expanse of parking lot. Lucky for humanity that Ed Young, the sex-loving, attention-seeking pastor of Grapevine's Fellowship Church, noticed the oversight and took steps to address it.

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Despite Neighbors' Pleas, Collin County Judge Rules Living-room Synagogue Can Stay Open

Categories: Religion

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Welcome to your friendly neighborhood synagogue.
A synagogue operating out of a Far North Dallas home has won a preliminary victory over neighbors who want it shut down.

Collin County District Judge Jill Willis this morning denied the Highlands of McKamy homeowners association's request for a temporary injunction against Congregation Toras Chaim, which operates out of a single-family home in the neighborhood.

Liberty Institute spokesman Gregg Wooding says the ruling comes just in time to ensure that Rabbi Yaakov Rich and his congregants can celebrate Passover in their place of worship.

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Craig James, Fired From Sports, Becomes Fulltime Mouthpiece for the Religious Right

Categories: Religion

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Craig James, the former SMU football star and Senate candidate whose retrograde views on homosexuality, litigiousness and overall mediocrity have made him unemployable as a football analyst, has fallen into a new career as a mouthpiece for the religious right.

The Family Research Council, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group, has hired James as an assistant to president Tony Perkins.

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The IRS Says Daystar, the Bedford-Based Televangelism Empire, Is Actually a Church

Categories: Media, Religion

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Daystar
Daystar founders Marcus and Joni Lamb
Daystar is that low-budget religious channel that you flip past when you're searching for something watchable on TV. You might have lingered for a few seconds once or twice, momentarily transfixed by Joel Osteen's hair, but only as long as it takes for your brain to kick back into gear.

Don't be fooled by appearances, though. The sprawling global television network, which is based in Bedford and boasts $233 million in assets, is not actually a television network. It's a church.

Never mind that it has none of the trappings traditionally associated with a place of worship. It has no members, at least none that are physically present on a regular basis. There's no Sunday sermon, unless you count those delivered by the televangelists who pay Daystar for airtime. The closest thing to a sanctuary is the gauche TV studio network founders Marcus and Joni Lamb broadcast from.

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