An opportunity this weekend to stand with your neighbors

An opportunity this weekend to stand with your neighbors

Gazette Blog
Area residents should meet at noon on May's Island Four teenage boys — Moussa, Abbas, Yousef and Ali Habhab — arrived in Cedar Rapids in the 1880s. They were the first of many Muslims to settle in the community, many following Christians known from their homeland into Iowa. Like so many immigrants, they found pride and promise in their new home and wanted to fold their own traditions into the existing culture. On a cold February in 1934, the community opened its first official house of worship — a small mosque, which would also serve as a community center. It is now the oldest standing building originally built as a mosque in our nation. The community grew. They fell in love, married and worked hard. They bore children, choosing to…
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Trump, UKIP and other body blows to compromise

Trump, UKIP and other body blows to compromise

Gazette Column
Maybe instead of merely reacting to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump “crazy talk,” it’s time to start understanding its appeal. Almost a year ago, I wrote about the correlations I’ve seen between the views of people who no longer fit neatly into either of the two dominant political parties and members of the United Kingdom Independence Party, commonly known as UKIP. An excerpt from the previous column: “Those who identify as UKIP feel they’ve been left behind economically and are adrift politically. They are incredibly anxious about the direction of their nation. Sound familiar? “While this British ideology that began in 1993 — the first to win a nationwide election in nearly 100 years — has been painted as a predominantly conservative movement, the survey shows its members hold liberal…
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Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Political training added to Iowa Renewal Project

Gazette Blog
Three 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls scheduled to appear If a national movement coming to Des Moines as part of the Iowa Renewal Project is successful, Iowans may see many more conservative pastors and church leaders on their 2016 ballots. The movement — the Men and Women of Issachar — is the brainchild of David Lane, a politically-connected religious conservative, and was named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel — specifically the tribe that sent 200 men with the ability or vision to decipher the signs of the times and direct the actions of David’s army at Hebron. “Nobody is confused that politicians are going to save America,” Lane said in January when he announced the movement, which hopes to encourage and train at least 1,000 church leaders and…
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Too bad Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim

Too bad Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim

Gazette Column
The first U.S. visit by Pope Francis made clear that most Americans have finally sat aside anti-Catholic prejudice, a process that began decades ago. John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, knew what he was getting into when he began his 1960 presidential bid. Before him, only one Catholic, former New York Gov. Al Smith, had been a presidential nominee for a major U.S. political party. Smith’s 1928 campaign fractured under rumors that he’d construct a tunnel connecting the Vatican to the White House or that he’d amend the Constitution to make Catholicism the national religion. That year Iowa’s own Herbert Hoover, raised a Quaker, was elevated above Smith and into the White House. It was due to this history, I believe, that Kennedy chose to take his candidacy to the…
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Larger issues hidden in Chauncey’s shadow

Larger issues hidden in Chauncey’s shadow

Gazette Column
When a city or region grows, change is inevitable ­— and often painful. Iowa City’s growing pains have most recently been displayed as part of discussions on development of the northeast corner of College and Gilbert streets. On Tuesday night, I listened as a final set of residents sounded off on a proposal to rezone the property — the latest speed bump on the path to construction of the Chauncey, a 15-story, mixed-use high-rise. Nothing new emerged. Those opposed to the Chauncey development remain concerned about traffic, parking, use of taxpayer funds, affordable housing and, of course, the shadows cast by another lofty building. Proponents wrapped their comments around praise for past projects by developer Marc Moen and the need for a “vibrant downtown.” It was another opportunity for residents…
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The Duggar children will remember

The Duggar children will remember

Gazette Column
Another day, another cringe-worthy scandal courtesy of reality television. Based on redacted police reports and a public statement by Josh Duggar, the oldest son in the “19 Kids & Counting!” cable television show, the systematic cover-up of multiple, incestuous child molestations has come to light. Duggar has resigned as head of the religious conservative Family’s Research Council’s lobbying arm. Because of the timeline of abuse, we now know his professional path for political advocacy began in 2006, the year he simultaneously launched the consulting firm Strategic Political Services and became the subject of the first serious investigation by law enforcement of reports of sexual contact with a child more than three years earlier. Duggar’s parents, former Arkansas state representative Jim Bob and home-school teacher Michelle, as well as local church…
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And how will they know us?

And how will they know us?

Gazette Column
This column was filed late. You see, I’d planned to begin it with a prayer for the harm of another person. Seriously. I considered being a copycat and praying for physical harm of a person. After writing the prayer and making sure readers knew it was offered from a place of love, I planned to include some little jokes to soften it. After all, everyone appreciates light reading on a Saturday. But as I sat down and placed fingertips to keyboard, the prayer wouldn’t come. I couldn’t bring myself expend the energy necessary to actively pray for someone’s harm. I spent some time thinking about that, about why I couldn’t do what I planned. Obviously, like most humans, I’m capable of anger, and there have been moments I’ve wanted to…
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Indiana is just the beginning

Indiana is just the beginning

Gazette Column
When the U.S. Supreme Court returned its decision in the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case, I argued the set stage would be of little benefit to women or religion. I’m saddened to see that in Indiana, my predictions, largely drawn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, have come to fruition. “Religious organizations exist,” she wrote, “to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith.” In contrast, businesses and corporations exist to create profits, and do not draw the workers or customers who sustain them from any singular religious community. I wrote that if the “ruling could somehow be limited only to medications or contraception, it would be bad enough, but there are much broader implications at stake.” Humans pray. Humans gather with like-minded others to express their faith.…
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Reynolds special guest at ‘Pastors Policy Briefing’

Reynolds special guest at ‘Pastors Policy Briefing’

Gazette Column
Iowa Renewal Project event offered free to Iowa's faithful An invitation, stamped with the return address of a West Des Moines UPS Store mailbox, went out this week to Iowa’s faithful. Those who received the call will have an opportunity to hear privately from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and various other conservative leaders at a two-day, all-expenses-paid Pastors Policy Briefing scheduled for March 9 and 10 in Des Moines. “Meals and lodging are complimentary and will be provided by the Iowa Renewal Project,” reads the invitation. It is hardly the first time a Pastors Policy Briefing has been held in Iowa or other states key to the presidential nomination process. The closed-door meetings have been a shadowy part of the…
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Helping kids is an obligation

Helping kids is an obligation

Gazette Column
I am not sure how people of faith, especially those who say their faith guides them in matters of public policy, are able to reconcile not first reacting with compassion to the plight of Central American children. While we may not like or appreciate how the children arrived on our doorstep, and even while we may debate federal immigration law and procedures, spiritual teachings are clear. We should care for and protect children. Pope Francis recently noted the mandate. “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected,” he said as part of a message sent to a global conference in Mexico on July 15. Closer to home, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin voiced similar concerns during a Congressional hearing this week. “I have a…
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