TIME Kentucky

Judge Orders Kentucky Clerk to Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Kim Davis Roger Gannam rowan county
Timothy D. Easley—AP Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, listens as her attorney Roger Gannam addresses the media on the steps of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington, Ky. on July 20, 2015.

Kim Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for religious reasons

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — A federal judge has ordered a Kentucky county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same sex-couples.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was one of a handful of local elected officials across the country that stopped issuing marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in June. She said issuing a marriage license to a gay couple would violate her Christian beliefs and argued the U.S. Constitution protected her religious freedoms.

Two gay couples and two straight couples in Rowan County sued her, asking a federal judge to order her to issue marriage licenses. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled Wednesday the couples should not be forced to travel to another county to get a marriage licenses. He said Davis should perform her assigned duties.

TIME Religion

The Power of Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Sorry’

David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Contrition is the mark of a strong character, not a weak one

Political life and religious life often present contrasts, but none is more pointed than the question of repentance.

Donald Trump has been making the rounds of talk shows, insisting that he has nothing to apologize for, including the string of ugly epithets he applied to women. He says that his objectors are at fault for being hostile or politically correct. Apparently, no fault inheres for bullying or boorishness. At the same time, his critics are offering few apologies for dismissing him repeatedly when it’s clear that he’s touching something deep in the national psyche. Accusations fly, and regrets are sparse.

It’s characteristic of people to have trouble saying “I’m sorry,” but it seems there is an epidemic of unapologetics in the world of politics.

When apologies are offered in public life, they tend to be the sort that subtly shifts the blame: “I apologize if anyone was offended.” This is, of course, another way of saying, “I’m sorry you are so sensitive.” No one was ever mollified by such an apology, but somehow it remains in use.

So you get politicians who blame “a poor choice of words” or say they “regret that my words were misinterpreted.” In such cases, “I’m very sorry” is the right choice, but it’s blocked by ego.

In religious life, apology is encouraged, essential, and even praised. Contrition is seen as the mark of a strong character, not a weak one. The rule of Yom Kippur in the Jewish tradition is that the offender must offer sincere forgiveness three times as part of the obligation to seek forgiveness. Wounding another without apology is redoubling the offense, adding the sin of callousness to that of cruelty.

To admit fault seems to many an invitation to be attacked. But most of the time it disarms, rather than encourages, one’s critics. What can one say when anger is met with,”You are right, and I’m truly, deeply sorry?” It’s a gesture of self-humbling, a willingness to be less powerful and give the other space for grievance. Moments of genuine apology are blessed moments.

Even when the apology can do no real good, the gesture can be genuinely healing. In 1970, German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeled in front of the monument for the Warsaw ghetto uprising and atoned for something that his nation, not he, had done. The effect was electric: His sincerity and the power of the gesture captured worldwide attention.

If I were a political consultant and had to offer a candidate advice, I would say: “From my experience as a Rabbi, I know a technique that demonstrates ego strength, draws other people closer, shows your deep sensitivity and costs you nothing. Try it. It requires only sincerity and three words: ‘I’m really sorry.'”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


These Are the Least Religious Cities in the U.S.

251st Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade
Paul Zimmerman—Getty Images Saint Patrick's Cathedral at the 251st annual St. Patrick's Day parade on the March 17, 2012 in New York, United States.

A new survey finds that Americans who reject organized religion tend to concentrate in urban areas

A new survey of religious beliefs across the nation’s biggest metropolitan areas finds that “religiously unaffiliated” residents match or exceed all other religious dominations in 10 major U.S. cities.

The survey results, released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Wednesday, reveal that Americans who do no identify with any organized religion tend to flock to urban areas, with some of the largest shares cropping up in Portland (42%), San Francisco (33%) and Seattle (33%).

Catholic communities dominate in 15 U.S. cities, while evangelical Protestants hold sway over another 6 cities. The results are derived from the institute’s American Values Atlas, which rolls up survey results from 50,000 Americans each year.

TIME politics

John Kasich Could Be the GOP’s Pope Francis Candidate

His inclusive language during the debate stood in stark contrast to that of many of his rivals

At times during the first GOP debate on Thursday night, it was hard to tell who was talking: Pope Francis or Ohio Governor John Kasich.

“We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect, and let them share in this great American dream that we have,” the second-term governor, an Anglican, said. “God gives me unconditional love. I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

Recent polling suggests that practicing and preaching Pope Francis politics works. Kasich apparently got the memo. His inclusive and conciliatory language Thursday night stood in stark contrast to that of many of his rivals, most notably, Donald Trump. Pope Francis has called for us to build bridges to make a home for immigrants and the excluded, yet Trump communicated a different idea: “We need to build a wall, and it has to be built quickly.”

It isn’t just Kasich’s words that connected him with the 78-year-old Bishop of Rome. Kasich’s policy decisions during the past five years have reflected the pope’s plea that politicians be “genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.” Most noteworthy was the governor’s courageous decision to break with his Republican colleagues and support Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio. When conservatives pushed back on his decision, Kasich asked his fellow Republicans to understand that poverty is real. “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

Pope Francis would most certainly agree. He has derided trickle-down economic systems that cut social programs as having a “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power,” and has lamented that “the excluded are still waiting.”

Kasich’s performance Thursday night was reminiscent of the George W. Bush era of “compassionate conservatism.” Bush defined this governing philosophy in simple terms: “It is compassionate to actively help our citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on accountability and results.” The philosophy proved successful for Bush. But can Kasich follow suit?

Kasich’s campaign got off to a rocky start. One of President Barack Obama’s former senior advisors called his long-winded announcement that he was running for president “a great advertisement for speechwriters and Teleprompters.” Some, including John McCain, have also complained about Kasich’s temper. These are all valid concerns. But Kasich’s performance last night might be able jumpstart his underdog primary campaign.

In an interview earlier this year, Kasich revealed that he really does understand Francis:

The Pope’s not saying, ‘Let’s just abandon everything up until now.’ He’s saying, ‘But wait a minute! Before we get to the rules, let’s look at the good stuff. Let’s have the dessert first!’ Look, there’s so much we have to do to clean ourselves up. Me: deeply flawed! There’s so much that we have to do. So instead of getting into the judgment, why don’t we get into the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely?”

If this is the message Kasich takes into 2016, he might be back in Cleveland again next summer for the convention as the GOP nominee for president.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis: Church Should Welcome Divorced, Remarried Catholics

Vatican Pope
Gregorio Borgia—AP Pope Francis wears a red scarf as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the Vatican after an audience with Altar boys and girls Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

"They always belong to the church," he said

The Catholic church should be more welcoming to Catholics who divorce and remarry, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

Catholics who do so are not allowed to receive Communion and are considered by the church’s teachings to be living in sin, the Associated Press reports. (Besides being widowed, Catholics who want to remarry in a church-sanctioned fashion must first receive an annulment.) While the Pope has not yet called for the ban to be lifted, he did tell churches not to treat remarried Catholics as if they were “excommunicated.”

“People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way,” Francis said during his first general audience following his summer break. “They always belong to the church.”

Francis also acknowledged the children of divorce, asking pastors “not to add additional weight beyond what the children in this situation have to bear.” How can these children practice faith, Francis wondered, “if we keep [the parents] far from the community as if they were excommunicated?”



TIME Religion

Mormon Church Releases Photos of ‘Seer Stone’ Used by Founder

Mormon History Gold Plates
Rick Bowmer—AP A picture of a smooth, brown, egg-sized rock is shown in the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon following a news conference at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library, in Salt Lake City, Aug. 4, 2015

The origins of Mormonism have come under greater scrutiny and put pressure on the church to prove their stories

(SALT LAKE CITY) — The Mormon church’s push toward transparency about its roots and beliefs took another step forward Tuesday with the first published pictures of a small sacred stone it believes founder Joseph Smith used to help translate a story that became the basis of the religion.

The pictures of the smooth, brown, egg-sized rock are part of a new book that also contains photos of the first printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled the photos at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

The religion’s drive in recent years to open its vaults and clarify sensitive beliefs is aimed at filling a void on the Internet for accurate information as curiosity and scrutiny increased as church membership tripled over the last three decades, Mormon scholars said.

Church historian Steven E. Snow acknowledged that dynamic, saying: “The Internet brings both challenge and opportunities. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share much of collection through the use of the Internet.”

The church’s campaign seems aimed at preventing current members from leaving and showing non-Mormons that they aren’t hiding anything, said Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion and the James Bostwick chair of English at the University of Richmond.

As an American-born religion much younger than most world religions, the origins of Mormonism have come under greater scrutiny and put pressure on the church to prove their stories, Givens said.

“The other churches’ origins are concealed by the mist of history,” Givens said. “Mormonism is the first world religion in which the origins were exposed to public view, to documentation, to journalists and newspaper reporting.”

The pictures in the new book show different angles of a stone that is dark brown with lighter brown swirls. The photos also show a weathered leather pouch where the stone was stored that is believed to be made by one of Joseph Smith’s wives, Emma Smith.

The church has always possessed the stone, which was transported across the country during Mormon pioneers’ trek from Illinois to Utah in the mid-1800s, but it decided to publish the photos now to allow people who prefer visuals to words to better understand the religion’s roots, said Richard Turley, assistant church historian. The stone will remain in the vault.

“The picture brings a kind of tangibility to something that has been previously been talked about just in words,” Turley said. “That helps people connect with the past. We’ve discovered that artifacts and historical sites are a way to give a sense of reality to things that are otherwise somewhat ethereal.”

Mormons believe that 185 years ago, Smith found gold plates engraved with writing in ancient Egyptian in upstate New York. They say that God helped him translate the text using the stone and other tools, which became known as the Book of Mormon.

The manuscript in the new book actually belongs to the Community of Christ, a faith that was created by early Mormons who stayed behind when most of the religion moved out West to Utah. A Community of Christ leader joined LDS officials at the press event Tuesday in what both said demonstrated the two faiths have moved on from past squabbles.

The publication of the pictures of the stone are important because some speculated the stones were buried in the archives and never to be seen, said Richard Bushman, a Mormon historian and emeritus professor at Columbia University. They probably won’t persuade non-believers who don’t buy the story, but they offer another indication the church is moving toward opening up, he said.

The church has been releasing books containing historical documents that shed light on how Smith formed the church. The religion also has issued a series of in-depth articles that explain or clarify some of the more sensitive parts of its history that it once sidestepped, such as the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy and its early history of polygamy.

The church paid a price for its past decisions to stay silent on topics or keep key artifacts in the vault, Bushman said.

“Their faithful members would stumble on information on the Internet. Not having heard about them, they were shocked and disillusioned,” Bushman said. “They felt they had been lied to and got pretty angry.”

Today the church is taking a new approach, by saying, “We can face up to the facts. We don’t have to make the picture prettier than it is,” Bushman said.

TIME world affairs

Israel Must Remember That Moral Health Begins in Self-Examination

David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

'They are worse' is not an excuse for complacency

We are all very skilled at identifying the sins of others. There are people whose repertoire of grievance is extensive and masterful. They can recount every slight and insult they have ever endured. Such individuals are generally not so good at recalling the ways in which they have hurt others.

But for both individuals and nations, moral health begins in self-examination. Over the years Israel has rightly cried out about the terrorism repeatedly and savagely practiced in its midst by a range of pro-Palestinian groups. But Israeli society is becoming aware yet again of the toxin of terrorism inside Israel, perpetrated by Jews.

In recent days, an arson attack left a Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabshe dead, and his parents escaped with their four year old, all of them badly burned. The murderers spray-painted “Revenge” and a Star of David on the walls of the Dawabsha home. As the Jerusalem Post points out, this is not an isolated incident. Also this week, a knifing at a gay pride parade wounded five and resulted in the death of Shira Banki, a 16 year old.

These despicable crimes were religiously and ideologically motivated. There exists an ugly strain of racism and xenophobia in Israeli society that expresses itself in the continued reverence shown by extremist elements for Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Muslims at prayer and wounded over 100. Every society will have fanatics, of course, but for Israel, which has suffered at the hands of hatred and lives in such a volatile reason, self-examination takes on a special urgency. Extremism attracts a certain temprament; its brutal glow draws them to what they mistake for light.

Inside of Israel there are many voices that call for Heshbon Nefesh, an accounting of soul. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued a statement in both Hebrew and Arabic saying that Israel had not done enough to combat Jewish terrorism. The result? The President had to call in the police because of Jewish terrorist threats calling him a “traitor” and a “terrorist.” Israelis remember very well that such talk about Yitzchak Rabin preceded his assassination at the hands of a Jewish terrorist who still sits in prison for the crime.

Israeli society is a cauldron of competing views and they often sit uneasily with one another. The religious establishment (which was uniform in its condemnation of both crimes) promotes one strain of Jewish life and acknowledges one kind of rabbinic authority to the exclusion of others. The majority of Israelis are not religious, but there are still competing passions over the prospects for peace, the way to get there, and all the threats internal and external that swirl about in this land that seems too full of history for such a tiny place.

The battle against terrorism has to be fought by the entire society. Here there is no equivalence between Israel and its neighbors. As Jonathan Tobin writes: “Unlike the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Israeli government does not applaud terrorists; it seeks to prosecute them. There will be no parks or sports teams named after those who killed a child in Duma as there are for Palestinians who kill Jews. Nor will there be programs on Israeli television and radio extolling the deeds of the killers.”

For a free society however, as Tobin recognizes, “they are worse” is not an excuse for complacency. This is not about the depredations of others. Rather it is about the kind of society Israel claims to be and aspires to be. To wound or kill in faith’s name is a kind of homicidal idolatry — you worship your own passions more than the God you claim to serve. As its leaders have said, all Israel must join hands against hate, without and within.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Has Used Birth Control—’And Not Just the Rhythm Method’

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and candidate in the Republicans' presidential candidates race, talks with a voter at The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.
CJ Gunther—EPA Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and candidate in the Republicans' presidential candidates race, talks with a voter at The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.

The governor doesn't think using birth control makes him "an awful Catholic"

Gov. Chris Christie announced he has used birth control at a town hall meeting Tuesday morning, and he made sure to leave little room for ambiguity.

“I’m a Catholic, but I’ve used birth control—and not just the rhythm method, ok?” the Republican presidential candidate admitted to a crowd at a Manchester, N.H. restaurant.

Christie made it clear that he has struggled with his faith’s doctrine on sex and family, which holds that contraceptives “work against the natural gift of fertility.”

“My church has a teaching against birth control,” said the governor. “Does that make me an awful Catholic, because I believe and practiced that function during part of my life? I don’t think so.”

Watch the full video below.

TIME Religion

Mormons To Shed Light on Church’s Origins in Document Release

To match Special Report MORMONCHURCH/
Jim Urquhart—Reuters The LDS Church's Mormon Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, on Jan. 27, 2012.

The volume being released is a printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church is taking another step in its push to be more transparent, and is releasing more historical documents that shed light on how Joseph Smith formed the religion.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the volume being released at a news conference Tuesday in Salt Lake City is a printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

Mormons believe that 185 years ago, God helped Smith translate a story that was written in ancient Egyptian and engraved on gold plates. It became known as the Book of Mormon.

The religion counts 15 million followers worldwide after experiencing a tripling of membership in the past three decades. Some outsiders have criticized it as being secretive about its practices and beliefs.

This is the church’s latest step toward making available documents or clarifying some of the more sensitive parts of its doctrine or history.

TIME Religion

How Pope Francis Celebrates Harry Potter’s Birthday

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Harry Potter celebrates his birthday today, while Pope Francis celebrates the founder and patron of his 500-year-old religious order

Here’s a pop quiz for you: what is one thing that Harry Potter, the young wizard of Hogwarts, and Pope Francis, the 78-year-old leader of the Catholic Church, have in common?

Answer? July 31st.

Harry Potter celebrates his birthday today, while Pope Francis celebrates the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder and patron of his 500-year-old religious order, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). While both Harry and Francis have taken the world by storm, it’s Francis’s relationship with his favorite saint that will have the biggest global effect on society and culture in the years to come.

So how does Francis’s Jesuit identity and devotion to St. Ignatius of Loyola affect his ministry as the universal leader of the Catholic Church? I would offer three ways.

Pope Francis seeks and finds God in all things.

This mission of finding God in all things is the trademark of Jesuit spirituality and at the heart of the pope’s worldview. The God of Jesus is intimately caught up in the details of human life. This God is especially close to his children when they are oppressed, when they are excluded, or when they suffer in any way.

Ignatius wanted his men to walk with people—particularly in the most difficult moments of their lives. One of Ignatius’s earliest companions Jerónimo Nadal said it well “We [Jesuits] are not monks! The world is our cloister! The world is our house!”

As a young Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio participated in a thirty-day silent retreat, where he prayed St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, which train people to carefully discern the quiet presence of God in all the gritty details of daily life in order to follow Jesus more closely.

Pope Francis makes good decisions—most the time.

In the Jesuit worldview, God is a friend and a teacher who guides us during life’s journey. This God is a colleague who wants to help us in the everyday decisions of life. So how does Francis build this type of a relationship with God? Through the act of discernment. Christian discernment asks us to takes a step back from life and sees where God is active in it. Saint Ignatius suggests that we can do this by asking three questions each day: where was God today? How did I respond? And where is God leading me tomorrow?

Francis does this (mostly) faithfully every night before bed. Through such discernment, Francis is better able to see the small things of life within the biggest horizons. In other words, for Francis, there are no small things.

Pope Francis loves mercy.

The prophet Micah says that God requires three things of his people: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. If that’s the case, Francis is passing the test. Mercy—in particular—is at the heart of the first-ever Jesuit pope’s pastoral ministry. “The Lord never tires of forgiving us!” Francis said during his first Sunday papal address to St. Peter’s Square. “It is we who grow tired of asking.”

Francis had a profound experience of God’s mercy on September 21, 1953. Here’s how he described it:

“I was almost 17. It was Students’ Day, for us the first day of spring, for you the first day of autumn. Before going to the celebration I passed through the parish I normally attended, I found a priest that I did not know and I felt the need to go to confession. For me this was an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened, I can’t remember, I do not know why that particular priest was there whom I did not know, or why I felt this desire to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest.”

Francis’s hero St. Ignatius too experienced the power of mercy. It was this grace that changed his life from a disaster full of sex, money, and ego problems to a life of service to God, the Church, and the excluded.

In Francis’s mind however, mercy isn’t just a gift received, but an action to be performed. He even created a new verb mercy-ing to express his desire for people to encounter each other and the world in a new way. We are called to be like God and Jesus, who Francis says, is pure mercy.

In the final analysis, it is the person of Jesus who can best explain Francis’s Jesuit identity. The Society of Jesus points and foremost the holy man of Nazareth who to the poor proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to those in sorrow, joy.

The Catholic Church teaches that the pope is—in fact—the Vicar of Jesus Christ. In other words, he acts in the name and person of Jesus. After 30 months with the Jesuit named Francis, it’s hard to disagree.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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