Century Marks

Century Marks

Keep it local

The Baptist Union of Great Britain issued a statement saying that decisions related to same-sex marriage fall under the purview of the local church, not the denomination. A secular news story claiming that the Baptist Union is allowing gay marriage ceremonies prompted a statement from the union that “no decision has been made that same-sex ceremonies can take place in BUGB churches” and that the issue “rests with the local church and not the union as a whole” (ABP).

Don’t ask, don’t tell

Neither the Obama administration nor the Senate Intelligence Committee want the American people to know how many people are being killed by American drones or the circumstances under which drones are used. A bill in the Senate called for an annual report from the administration on the number of combatants and noncombatant civilians killed or injured each year. It was dropped by the committee after it was assured by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, that the administration was looking for its own way of providing more transparency. “How many people have to die for Congress to take even a small step toward transparency?” asked Zeke Johnson, the director of Amnesty International’s security and human rights program (Guardian, April 28).

Death sentence

A Sudanese court has sentenced Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, to death for converting to Christianity. She had also been charged with adultery for marrying a Christian man. When the judge asked Ibrahim whether she would return to Islam, she said, “I am a Christian.” A government spokesman said the ruling could be appealed in a higher court (Reuters).

Throw away the key

The incarceration rate in the United States jumped 222 percent between 1980 and 2012, according to the Brookings Institution. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the increase in the number of for-profit prisons, and overpolicing in poor and minority neighborhoods have contributed to the exponential growth. The goals of the penal system have shifted toward incapacitation, deterrence, and retribution, rather than rehabilitation. “When you take rehabilitation out of the mix, then that de-incentivizes the system from having shorter sentences because there’s no longer an affirmative goal of reintegrating people meaningfully back into the community,” says Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard law professor (Harvard Gazette, May 13).

Critical mass

A Harvard student club called off a satanic “black mass” after it was condemned by the archdiocese of Boston and by Harvard’s president. Although the history behind the black mass is murky, Catholics claim it is designed to mock their rituals and beliefs. The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, sponsor of the black mass, said the purpose wasn’t to mock the Catholic mass “but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.” The group said it plans to host a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibit, and a presentation on Buddhist meditation (CNN, May 12).