Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Flame-outs," May 8, 2010

Sin no more

Delegates at a UN climate convention in Bonn last month got an unexpected opportunity: to purchase an indulgence absolving them of "climate sins." The list of wrongs "hereby forgiven" by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) included: "flying when you choose; machine-washed clothes; driving your vehicle; and eating meat." The prank was the work of well-known climate skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton and CFACT's Christina Wilson.

Prayer for Day of Prayer

When a federal judge struck down the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional, Lou Engle was shocked. The president of the Call to Conscience and Day of Prayer leader didn't even know the case was under review. "It slipped under the radar of the prayer movement," he said, adding that evangelical leaders would have prayed had they known. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said the 1952 federal statute establishing a day of prayer "serves no purpose but to encourage a religious exercise, making it difficult for a reasonable observer to see the statute as anything other than a religious endorsement." She compared a statute supporting prayer to a statute encouraging citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue, or practice rune magic. The American Center for Law and Justice will file a brief challenging the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The Justice Department, one of the defendants in the case, has not yet said whether it will appeal.

Speakers bureau

No surprise: Democratic leaders hit the commencement speech trail this month and next. President Barack Obama will speak at the University of Michigan, at Virginia's Hampton University, and at West Point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will do Cornell and California's Mills College, while First Lady Michelle Obama will speak at George Washington University and also at the Pine Bluff campus of the University of Arkansas.

Other Democrats are active at their old stomping grounds: Former President Bill Clinton will speak at Yale, former Vice President Al Gore at the University of Tennessee, and Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer at William and Mary.

Republicans and Republican appointees are rarely to be seen this year. With Chief Justice John Roberts' niece graduating from Butler, students led a drive to invite the Supreme Court's Chief Justice, but faculty members said no. Conservative pitcher Curt Schilling, though, is speaking at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Lisa Kudrow, an Emmy winner with the television show Friends, graduated from Vassar with a degree in biology 25 years ago and will rightfully be that school's big draw. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, one of television's openly gay news anchors, will speak to students at Smith College. TV newscasters-Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley, Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper-seem in particular demand by the class of 2010.

One vote down

Early returns from Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years brought deflating but predictable results: victory for incumbent President Omar el-Bashir -and charges of election fraud from the international community. But citizens in South Sudan found at least one bright spot. They hope that the relatively peaceful contests on April 11 become an important step toward what many in the region most want: a vote on Southern secession next year. That referendum dominates concerns in the South, where citizens largely favor secession. As Salva Kiir, president of the semi-autonomous South, approached a ballot box on April 11, he told a crowd: "I have never voted in my life." But he also told the crowd he viewed the contests as "the final lap of our journey toward the referendum."

Prayer's remorse

A New Jersey teachers union came under fire for calling for the death of Gov. Chris Christie, in the form of a prayer, following the governor's demand for education cuts. The incident prompted Wall Street Journal commentator James Taranto to retell a 1986 story about R.L. Hymers, pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles, who prayed for the death of Justice William Brennan over his role in the Roe v. Wade decision. Taranto reported April 20 that he received a letter from Hymers, "an old-fashioned one, printed on paper," who still pastors the L.A. church. It read: "As I have said many times, I regret that I led this imprecatory prayer to God to remove the Supreme Court justice in 1986. I wish I had not done that and I would never do it again. I believe that Christian leaders should stand up for the right to life, but my prayer was wrong-headed. It might have led to violence, and it was not according to the teachings of Jesus."

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