Top Religion News Stories of 2000

December 30, 2000

Source: The Washington Post

On December 30, 2000, The Washington Post reported on some of the biggest religion news stories of 2000.

The biggest one was "when Vice President Gore named Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his vice presidential running mate." Lieberman, thereby "the first Jewish candidate on a major party presidential ticket," called "for a greater role for religion in civic life." In this way, "the Democratic team...opened the door for Jewish Americans to play a more prominent...role in the nation's public life."

Meanwhile, "President-elect Bush, a self-described born-again Christian," was criticized "for speaking at Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist school where the pope is seen as the Antichrist and interracial dating was forbidden." Later Bush promised a "White House office for faith-based programs to allow 'Methodists or Mormons or Muslims' to deliver social services."

The Post reported that the greatest public policy accomplishment for the religious community was the October agreement between the White House and Congress "to help erase the foreign debts of the world's poorest countries."

In the Middle East "the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians appeared to collapse with new outbreaks of violence." Unpromising negotiations resumed in Washington, during which, however, Israeli leaders unexpectedly said they might "turn over control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem--known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary--to the Palestinians."

More locally, "Christian denominations were deeply divided internally by sex issues, [especially] the role of gay men and lesbians in church life." Even after months of protests and arrests during church meetings, assemblies of Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalian "largely upheld positions against same-sex unions and gay ordination." Delegates from the country's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, this year "voted to prohibit women from being pastors, making official a long-held practice....[Subsequently] former president Jimmy Carter, one of the nation's best-known Southern Baptists, cut his ties to the 'rigid' denomination." In March, "Reform rabbis voted to allow the blessing of same-sex unions."

Pope John Paul II "issued an unprecedented apology for the sins of the church," but he "stopped short of formally apologizing for what some see as the Vatican's all-too-quiet role during the Holocaust." In addition, the pope angered many Jews when he "beatified Pope Pius IX, a 19th-century Italian who took a young Jewish boy away from his family and raised him as a Catholic." The Vatican also "soured ecumenical relationships," especially with Protestant churches, when it declared "that only those 'in the church have the fullness of the means of salvation.'"

Many court battles took place over the display of the Ten Commandments. In addition, "the U.S. Supreme Court issued landmark rulings, saying that public schools must provide computer equipment and supplies to religious schools, [another] saying that student-led prayer at public school football games is unconstitutional," and a third saying "that the Boy Scouts have the right to prohibit gays from leadership posts and membership." After this last ruling, "a flood of individual churches and organizations ended their support for the Scouts." The Supreme Court also ruled "that a Nebraska ban on a late-term procedure labeled by opponents as 'partial-birth' abortion was unconstitutional." The Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion pill mifepristone.

Religious differences fueled violence around the world. "Muslims and Christians battled in Indonesia and Nigeria, leaving thousands dead. China continued its hard-line crackdown against spiritual movements, particularly Falun Gong, and was incensed when the Vatican canonized 120 Chinese Catholics martyred between 1648 and 1930." Civil wars in Sierra Leone and Sudan continued, as did Sudan's underground slave trade; and "Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem were canceled because of outbursts of violence." In addition, "one of the largest, most diverse groups of U.S. church leaders to visit the Middle East offered support for Palestinian Christians in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank" last month. Israelis accused Palestinians of using them as "'tools' to aid their cause for a Palestinian homeland."