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A Coke and a smile

Religion | Reports that Mormons may not consume caffeine have been exaggerated

Issue: "Reassessing the genome," Oct. 6, 2012

Mormon officials recently clarified the Latter-Day Saints' (LDS) disputed policy on consuming caffeinated drinks. The church's Doctrine and Covenants (1835) states that the use of "hot drinks is proscribed," but Mormons have never agreed about whether this represents a prohibition only of coffee and tea, or of caffeinated beverages generally. In an Aug. 29 post at the church's website, LDS officials noted that the Doctrine and Covenants "does not mention the use of caffeine," implying that the restriction does not extend to soft drinks or other caffeinated products.

Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy has precipitated a surge of media coverage of Mormonism, and news reports often state that Mormons may not consume caffeine. Some LDS leaders have occasionally suggested that Mormons should avoid caffeine, too.

Patrick Mason, the Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, told me that "the debate over whether it's acceptable for faithful Mormons to drink caffeine has been raging for quite a long time." He says that while some Mormons frown upon caffeinated soft drinks, caffeine consumption has never kept Mormons out of good standing with the church. "Members who drink five Cokes a day always could get a temple recommend [a pass to enter a Mormon temple], whereas someone who drinks one cup of coffee a month could not," Mason notes.

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Still wanted

Jewish and Evangelical groups protesting the law at a rally in Berlin
Florian Schuh/EPA/Landov
Jewish and Evangelical groups protesting the law at a rally in Berlin

In Germany, the Berlin senate affirmed the right of parents to have their infant sons circumcised for religious reasons, but only under tightly controlled conditions. The decision followed months of controversy after a Cologne court banned religious circumcisions. (The ritual laws of Judaism and Islam require male circumcision.) The Berlin policy applies only to that state's jurisdiction, and the German national parliament plans to craft a law regulating the practice.

German Jews, Muslims, and Christians have spoken out against the Cologne decision, seeing it as an extraordinary assault on religious freedom. Restrictions on Jewish rituals carry particular significance in a country still haunted by the memory of the Nazi Holocaust. The circumcision ban prompted German Jewish leader Charlotte Knobloch to ask "if this country still wants us," meaning its roughly 120,000 Jews. —T.K.

Megabucks

A new report from the Leadership Network finds that megachurch pastor salaries are increasing, but only by 2 percent a year since 2010. The report did not reveal the average salary of a megachurch pastor, but the organization's 2010 survey placed it at $147,000. The highest salaries tend to be at churches in the South; the lowest in the Midwest.

Seventy-seven percent of the churches surveyed were growing, but church growth did not necessarily correlate to increased salaries for pastors. Many megachurches (defined as those averaging more than 2,000 in attendance) are also multisite churches, but the survey found that multisite churches did not pay their pastor more on average than single site congregations.

The Leadership Network report focuses on attendance as the gauge of a church's size, but a separate study from Grey Matter Research indicates that church attendance often does not translate into membership. This trend affects not just megachurches, but congregations of all sizes. The Grey Matter report contends that among Americans who attend services at least occasionally, there is "widespread confusion and ignorance regarding official membership in churches."

A third of Grey Matter's respondents thought that membership was not offered at their congregation, while 19 percent were unsure. —T.K.

Thomas Kidd
Thomas Kidd

Thomas is a professor of history at Baylor University and a senior fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. His most recent book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasSKidd.

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