Skip to main content

tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  WHUT  October 9, 2013 8:30am-9:00am EDT

8:30 am
the plaintiffs' case has been taken over by americans united for separation of church and state, whose staff attorney, ayesha khan, will argue on their behalf in the supreme court. >> greece is opening its meetings with a presentation that is uniquely christian, in an environment where people have come to petition the government. from the time the prayer practice started in 1999, up until the end of 2007 -- an eight year time period, they had nobody but christian clergy. >> reporter: but what about tom lynch of the bahai faith, who delivered the prayer when we were there with our cameras last august? >> well, actually, this was my second time. >> reporter: when was the first time? >> in 2008. >> reporter: five years ago? >> yeah. >> reporter: you were here in 2008 when this case first came up? >> right. >> reporter: and then they invite you back now when it's before the u.s. supreme court? >> right. >> reporter: coincidence? >> maybe. >> reporter: do you think the litigation has anything to do with your appearance here? >> indirectly, it does. it was because i heard about the
8:31 am
litigation, i checked with the town clerk to see if they were still doing this, and they invited me back. >> reporter: the lower court found that of more than 130 prayers offered, only four had been offered by non-christians. the impact of all this is unclear, given that hardly anyone ever shows up at these board meetings. the number of spectators rarely exceeds the number of board members. the most consistent spectator may be susan galloway, who for years has shown up with her video camera to document the proceedings. attorney khan took the unusual step of including links to galloway's video in the electronic version of the brief she filed with the court, allowing the justices to instantly view what the lower court found to be an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. >> father alex bradshaw from our mother of sorrows church will say our prayer for this evening. father bradshaw. >> reporter: father alex bradshaw is typical. >> we acknowledge the saving
8:32 am
sacrifice of jesus christ on the cross. we draw strength, vitality and confidence from his resurrection at easter. jesus christ, who took away the sins of the world, destroyed our debt, through his dyingnd in his rising, he has restored our life. blessed are you who has raised up the lord jesus. >> reporter: that the message is predominantly christian should be of no concern, says supervisor auberger, because anyone can give the prayer and say whatever they please. >> if anyone at any time during my 15 and a half years as supervisor were to come and want to be able to offer the prayer, then we would have definitely obliged them. >> reporter: you don't censor or control anything that they say? >> no, absolutely not. >> reporter: what if somebody were to come in and say, "believe in jesus or you're going to burn in hell forever?"
8:33 am
>> well, we believe in again diversity to be able to pray, to say the prayer in a manner that that individual decides. >> reporter: so if they were to say that, you would not object? >> no, we could not object because our purpose is to allow prayer, to allow that diversity, and to allow a freedom of expression in their prayer. >> reporter: the obama administration is siding with the town of greece in the case, telling the court legislative prayer is permissible, even with religious content, so long as "it does not proselytize or advance any one, or disparage any other, faith or belief." the administration relies heavily on a 1983 supreme court ruling allowing state legislatures to hire chaplains to offer invocations at the start of their legislative sessions. both the u.s. senate and the house routinely begin their sessions with prayer. the attorney for the plaintiffs will not challenge that in the supreme court but will insist if there is to be prayer, it must be more neutral than what occurs in greece.
8:34 am
>> what we are saying is that when a religious message is presented to an audience, the government needs to be very careful to present only the most ceremonial and inclusive and ecumenical message. >> reporter: over the years, no single issue has divided the justices more sharply than questions of church and state and this case is not likely to be any exception. and as is often the case here, it may not be who wins or who loses that matters most, but rather what sort of compromise the justices reach. some form of legislative prayer is certain to be allowed, but how much religion is too much? some endorsement of religion may be unavoidable. when does it become unacceptable? the justices takes up the question next month with no decision likely before spring. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," i'm tim o'brien at the supreme court.
8:35 am
in other news, it was a busy week for pope francis. on friday, which was the feast day of saint francis, the pope traveled to assisi, his namesake's hometown. he met with young people, celebrated mass, and visited several of the sites where the 13th century francis lived and worked. earlier in the week, pope francis held several days of closed-door meetings with a council of cardinals helping him develop a plan to reform the vatican curia, the bureaucracy. the meetings came as another candid interview with francis was published in an italian newspaper. in it, the pope denounced a vatican-centric mindset, saying he wants a church that is "not just top-down, but also horizontal." he criticized the narcissism of many church leaders. and he called for people of
8:36 am
different views to listen to each other, saying "proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense." parts of the interview drew criticism from some conservatives. but for the most part, the words and, even more, the deeds of pope francis continue to draw enthusiastic public approval. president obama this week told cnbc he is "hugely impressed" with francis. strong support was also evident at a special event at georgetown university in washington. it's title, the francis factor. >> reporter: an overflow crowd turned out to hear assessments of the impact pope francis is having on catholics and others, including washington officials. the moderator was longtime catholic leader john carr. >> who would have thought that in the fall of 2013 washington
8:37 am
would be a place of paralyzing polarization, complete dysfunction and stalemate, and the roman catholic church would be a place of renewal and vitality? >> reporter: the panelists included pbs newshour regular mark shields, kim daniels, a spokeswoman for the catholic bishops, alexia kelley, representing catholic philanthropists, and columnist david brooks of the new york times and the newshour. >> what it looks like is less about abortion, less about gay marriage, and more about a counterculture, a comprehensive counterculture. that francis just looks like a christian. and so with francis it looks more like to confront the forces of the world he has adopted the powers of christ. >> he's really talking about love in action and living that out, and what i find so striking about the symbols and the actions that pope francis is witnessing through is how often they really mirror jesus christ. so it's the crowds, letting the crowds come to him, right, and
8:38 am
they can touch him and they are coming right up to him, or it's particularly the children and the handicapped we see pope francis reaching out to and kissing and touching. it's just a wonderful example of mirroring the gospel, and in this day of so much chatter the only way we can break through that chatter is through these powerful images. he is really bringing jesus to the world. >> and i think especially for young people that sense of integrity and authenticity in the action and the word is very powerful. >> i cannot think of a single public figure-secular, religious, or any other kind who has inspired, provoked the level of civil discourse and discussion and animated exchanges that this man has. >> reporter: but could all the adulation of francis be too much? >> one of my more cynical friends, someone skeptical about
8:39 am
all this, said "this is just a big vatican pr campaign." and i said, "name the last successful vatican pr campaign." >> reporter: alongside francis's popularity, brooks saw a danger. he called it "mushiness." >> francis's core message is the person of francis. the risk therein, it see to me, is the church is not only a feel-good institution about a humble guy. it is a doctrine and a creed, and it is a specific set of beliefs and convictions, and they are beliefs that are reasonably tough-minded, and if you lose contact with the doctrine, the stuff that actually makes outsiders a little uncomfortable, with a charming guy who washes people's feet, then you are losing something elemental to the church. >> reporter: but as a flag moved behind him, shields had a different emphasis. >> he answers the question, or asks the question that all of us
8:40 am
have to answer. not are you better off than you were, but are we better off? are the strong among us more just, are they more humane, are they more engaged? are the weak among us more secure, more comforted, and more valued? and to me that is a message that we need desperately in this country and in this world. >> reporter: after the discussion, i asked john carr what he thinks washington officials think of the pope. >> i think they don't know what to make of him. this is a humble man who has a powerful position, who won an election that no one expected him to win. he was 41st in the betting line, and he has decided that his belief in jesus christ means that he will speak for the poor, for the vulnerable, for the immigrants in a way that i think touches hearts, even the hearts of washington.
8:41 am
new numbers this week about american jewish identity. according to a wide-ranging survey by the pew research center's religion and public policy project, one-in five u.s. jews -- 22% -- now describe themselves as having no religion. 62% say being jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while just 15% say it's mainly a matter of religion. when asked what an essential part of being jewish means, 73% said remembering the holocaust and 69% said leading an ethical life. caring about israel came in fifth at 43%, followed closely by having a good sense of humor. for the last two decades a majority of jews who married, married non-jews, and more than
8:42 am
a third of all intermarried couples say they are not raising their children jewish at all. the united nations security council this week expressed alarm at the "rapid deterioration" of the humanitarian situation in syria. it urged the assad regime and rebel groups to allow immediate access to aid. the council agreed on a non-binding statement which calls for cross-border aid deliveries and pauses in fighting so aid can get in. un officials estimate that 5 million syrians have been internally displaced by the conflict. around the world, only three countries have not yet eliminated the scourge of polio. one of them is pakistan, and as fred de sam lazaro reports many of the vaccination campaigns there have been stalled or shut down by suspicions that immunization is a u.s. plot, or
8:43 am
is forbidden by islam. >> reporter: slums like this one in pakistan's commercial capital, karachi, are the home stretch of one of history's most extensive disease eradication campaigns. polio cases, tens of thousands a decade ago, number just a few dozen today. but in pakistan, one of just three countries where the virus remains endemic, the campaign has stalled if not gone backwards. it's especially frustrating since neighbor india, with similar urban slums and crowded unsanitary conditions that expose children to the paralyzing virus, india was declared polio-free in 2012. >> the fact that they've done it is what makes me think that we can do it. if you can put enough boots on the ground and do high-quality campaigns. because if india can do it, pakistan can do it. >> reporter: dr. anita zaidi says it hasn't because of a perfect storm epic floods,
8:44 am
political turmoil, and religious extremists who've fought the campaign with guns and rumors. and there was one more setback, the hunt here in pakistan for osama bin laden, in which the u.s. central intelligence agency ran a fake vaccine campaign to gather dna samples. >> which has hugely damaged public health programs, not only in pakistan but in many, many countries, because people ask all kinds of questions. they now think that the vaccine programs might actually be spy operations. >> reporter: the perceived violation of pakistani sovereignty in bin laden's capture, the continuing drone attacks targeting militants have made the u.s. deeply unpopular here. and it's helped extremists, who've long fueled a rumor that the polio campaign is a plot against muslims. businessman aziz memon is with rotary international, which has spent $1.2 billion over the past two decades and led the global polio effort. he says taliban militants have stepped up their anti-vaccination efforts.
8:45 am
>> they issued a ban on polio immunization, which is today also existing. these are the same people who at one time were rejecting it on the basis that it is going to make that child infertile. >> reporter: the polio eradication campaign enlisted prominent mainline religious leaders. >> the council of islamic ideology now has a very active program, and there is a declaration that the council of ulemas has made that says that the polio vaccine is effective, that it's not harmful, and it is allowed by islam and that muslim children can have it. >> reporter: muhammad hanif tayyab helped author the document, which is being distributed to mosques across
8:46 am
pakistan. >> they will go and explain to the people, "look, in the rest of the muslim world, in iran, in saudi arabia, this crippling curse has been eradicated. why is it that we cannot eradicate it from our country?" >> reporter: the declaration or fatwa by top leaders has enabled local imams like bilal ahmed to tell his congregants, most of them not literate, that receiving the vaccine is not haram, or sinful. >> people come to me and ask if it is haram, and i say you've been taking english medicines all your life, and none of them are haram. so why would this one be? >> reporter: that may increase public acceptance of the vaccine. but it hasn't made life any safer for vaccinators. at least 22 have been gunned down in the past year or so. >> polio workers, they love to target them not just because of polio, but because touching a polio worker makes news. they know that.
8:47 am
i'll give you one example. >> reporter: you mean they're after the publicity? >> yes. yes, sir, they're after the publicity. >> reporter: who exactly is after the publicity? >> these taliban groups so you know this becomes quite an international news also. >> reporter: in karachi, workers we spoke to, paid about $5 a day, said they were undeterred. >> the security situation is tough all over the country, but this is something we have to do for the children. >> this disease cripples children, not just for a day but for their entire lives, and it affects the whole family. >> this is important. as women health workers, it is our job to help kids. polio teams are being attacked, but this is something we have to do. >> reporter: they fanned out across city neighborhoods, sometimes accompanied by armed policemen, which has not
8:48 am
prevented some attacks. difficult as it is for vaccinators twork in the cities, it's becoming virtually impossible in the north and northwest of this country, near the afghan border. extremist militant leaders there have declared the polio campaign off limits. for now the polio eradication campaign has targeted children on buses to and from the no-go regions. dr. zaidi says this will, at best, contain polio, not wipe it out. to do that, she says pakistan's military will need to take on the militants to allow vaccinators safe access. >> if you look at the number one problem of pakistan right now is terrorism. i mean polio is just a byproduct of this issue right now. the central issue is fighting terrorism, and if you address the security situation, the polio problem will automatically be addressed. >> reporter: but there's yet one more complication that we saw workers encounter in the karachi slum, public ambivalence.
8:49 am
even as they urged parents to bring children out to get the vaccine drops, even as people in this community introduced us to polio victims who live here, it's not clear if all of the children were immunized. vaccinators say they got a little bit of resistance to the polio campaign, but they mostly got complaints. it's about to rain, and their shelters are flimsy. there's no clean drinking water, no sanitation, no schools. for millions of pakistanis who live in conditions like these, polio is hardly the most pressing concern. some health professionals and political leaders also feel pakistan has more pressing problems. after all, education, clean water, and sanitation would remove conditions that spread the polio virus. but those are long term solutions. polio campaigners say a comprehensive strategy to simply get drops to all children could wipe out the scourge much sooner. it would also remove the stigma pakistan endures internationally as an exporter of the virus. dr. zaidi says it's outside ure, and a religious imperative, that
8:50 am
could finally propel pakistan to act. >> i think the main source of external pressure is going to come from saudi arabia, because they are going to be very concerned about the hajj acting as a magnifier and multiplier of polio cases all over the world. if we don't get our act together, they may easily say no pakistanis for hajj and umrah. and it might just come to that. >> reporter: for now, among the millions who travel to mecca for the annual hajj and umrah pilgrimages, pakistanis must prove they've been vaccinated for polio. and even if they have, they must take yet one more dose on arrival in saudi arabia. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," this is fred de sam lazaro in karachi, pakistan. finally, on our calendar, hindus are celebrating navaratri. the nine-day festival marks the triumph of good over evil and honors god in the popular form
8:51 am
of universal mother, commonly referred to as durga or shakti. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us anytime on the pbs app for iphones and ipads. and visit our website, where there is always much more, and where you can listen to or watch each of our programs. join us at as we leave you, more scenes from the pope's trip to assisi.
8:52 am
8:53 am
8:54 am
8:55 am
8:56 am
♪ yeah, uh-huh, you know what it is ♪ ♪ black and yellow, black and yellow ♪ ♪ black and yellow, black and yellow ♪ ♪ yeah, uh-huh rachel: we're all feeling the love. how 'bout you out there? woo! tyler: that's good. so we got some good stuff lined up for you guys, including a special performance by ra the mc! give it up for her, that's right, that's right! but first, let's get serious for a moment, guys. how many people know someone who has dropped out of school? because i know that no one here is dropping out, right? audience: right. tyler: right, right, right. well, that brings us to today's show topic-- the drop out show. rachel: that's right. in 2007, a nationwide survey found that 30% of people who start high school don't finish! so what's up with that? why do people drop out? sierra: let's see what our peers have to say about that. student 1: i dropped out in 9th grade. student 2: oh, what, you-- you dropped out 9th grade?
8:57 am
student 1: yes, i dropped out 9th... student 2: you boney-faced... student 1: son, you want to jones, son, i'm dead serious. it happened when i went to potomac high school. and, like, for real, son, them teachers didn't give a... about me, i'm, like, real. they didn't care. then, i listen to the counselor, and she was like, "all you got to do is come to school, you don't have to do no work. you could just get smack ds." i really don't want that. you know they ain't having me... get a job, but they wanted my recent report card. and i had my 8th grade report card. i tried to lie and say i was in the 8th. and so, when they looked at the result, i ain't get the job. like, you really can't drop out of high school and drop into a good job. it really don't work like that. rachel: i can't imagine what it would feel like to have a counselor tell you that you could just go to class and get straight ds. like, why would that be ok? tyler: i think it really reflects on choice making. you know, if you decide to drop out in the 8th or 9th grade, i mean, you're just, you're cutting off half of your potential, at least, in life, you know.
8:58 am
sierra: it also shows the important role that teachers have in our life. if he would have had more support from his teachers and counselors, he might have stayed in school. tyler: it's amazing how little support he got from the school community when his family's getting kicked out, and he was looking for employment. just goes to show, though, you can't get a good job unless you stay in school. rachel: yeah, that's true. so, we're going to open it up to the audience and take a poll. get out your phones and check out the question on the screen-- have you ever seriously thought about dropping out? or do you know someone who did? if yes, text "dropped" to 22333, and if no, text "notdropped" to 22333.
8:59 am
arbie: hey, i'm arbie, and today i'm gonna be showing you where to go on the web to learn more about staying in school. for some really good advice, you should check out double the numbers dc. it's designed for students just like you. there's a search engine that will help you look through more than 300 scholarships that you can apply for. you put in your interests and other information, and it shows you the money. there's a ton of money out there to help you get through college. double the numbers even has a youtube channel with videos where you can hear other dc teens, like you, talk about what they want to do with their lives. they give their own advice about how you can get ahead in school and in your career. remember,, double the numbers. plus, you can even take a quiz that will help you figure out what kind of lifestyle you want to live, and how much you'll have to make to afford that lifestyle. you might have dreams of living large, but you've got to have the right job to back it up. so, remember, hmm, maybe i'm going to drive a lexus