tv Religion Ethics Newsweekly WHUT May 23, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
coming up, religious voices on arizona's tough new immigration law. >> legal things are important. political things are important. but people's basic human rights are the most important thing. >> also, hurtful and anonymous online gossip, especially on college campuses. >> i went over, checked it out, and just saw terrible, terrible things written. major funding for "religion & ethics" news weekly is provided by an indiana-based private family foundation dedicated to its founders' interest in religion, community development, and education. additional funding by mutual of america, designed and customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company dotcom.
alsoly the henry luce foundation and the corporation for public broadcasting. welcome. i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. concerns continued to mount over the environmental and economic impact of the bp oil spill along the gulf coast. faith-based groups are among those trying to aid people in the fishing industry whose livelihoods have been severely threatened. this week, bp america donated $1 million to catholic charities and the second harvest food bank in new orleans to help families affected by the spill. clergy across the region are holding special prayer services. the u.s. supreme court ruled this past week that juvenile offenders -- those under 18 when their crime was committed -- may no longer be sentenced to life in prison without parole, except when the crime was murder. tim o'brien has the story. kenneth young, now 24, is
serving a life sentence in florida for a series of hotel robberies in the tampa area in june of 2000. he had just turned 15 and was acting at the direction of an older accomplice, a crack dealer, to whom his mother owed money. >> he was going to hurt my mama. >> what did he say he'd do? >> kill her. >> if you didn't go along? >> yes, sir. >> although young never held a gun, he was still sentenced to four consecutive life terms. florida had abolished all parole five years earlier, which meant young, notwithstanding his youth and the fact that he never physically hurt anyone, would spend the rest of his life in prison. this week, the u.s. supreme court found that to be in principle unconstitutional, a violation of the eighth amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment. the categorical rejection is welcome news for about 130 youthful offenders who, like kenneth young, had been serving life without parole for crimes in which no one died.
it is also a stunning victory for young's attorney, who runs the children and prison project at florida state university. he had been crusading in state legislatures for ye$z to allow parole for all juvenile offenders no matter how serious their crimes. >> well, absolutely. and i think we're immoral ultimately as a nation. this is no different from slavery or other major moral issues. placing children in adult prisons for life is a death sentence for children. do we want to do that as a society? >> in its decision, the court relied heavily on research by anino showing that while 37 states allowed sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole for nonhomicides, such sentences in reality are quite rare. justice anthony kennedy went even further, writing the practice has been rejected the world over. the united states is the only nation that imposes it.
the court also heard from a coalition of 20 religious groups who wrote that life without parole for juvenile offenders is contrary to the central values of their faiths -- mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. the court's decision does not guarantee that kenneth young or any other juvenile offenders will ever be released, but it does guarantee they now are at least entitled to a chance. for "religion & ethics" news weekly, i'm tim o'brien in washington. in other news, shock and dismay in the evangelical community over the resignation of indiana republican congressman mark souder, who admitted to adultery. souder had been outspoken about his evangelical faith and was a fromme innocent supporter of conservative social policy. he confessed to an extramarital affair with a staffer. the state department called for the release of an american relief worker kidnapped in
sudan's troubled darfur region. the california woman and two sudanese men were abducted at gunpoint this week. all three work for samaritan's purse, an aid organization founded by evangelical leader franklin graham. >> controversy this week over a contest on the central networking site facebook that encouraged users to post cartoon images of the prophet mohammed. muslims in pakistan took to the streets to object. the pakistani government blocked access to facebook and also to the popular video-sharing site youtube for hosting what officials called sacrilegious content. many muslims believe that their faith forbids images of the prophet mohammed. an american church worker is back in the u.s. after being imprisoned in haiti since late
january. laura silsby and nine other baptists were arrested as they tried to take more tan 30 haitian children out of the country after the quake. they said they were trying to arrange adoptions for the children. silsby was convicted of arranging illegal travel and sentenced to time already served. in rome, nearly 150,000 people rallied in st. peter's square in support of pope benedict xvi and his handling of the clergy's sex abuse scandal. some carried banners that read "together with the pope." addressing the crowd, benedict again spoke of the need to purify the church. but the crisis continues. this week the vatican sought to remove itself from a lawsuit filed by american victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal. in a motion to dismiss the kentucky case, the vatican argued it is not liable for the actions of bishops because it said bishops are not employees
meanwhile, the vatican said it would not reopen ten boston parishes closed in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandal. there have been round-the-clock vigils by former parishioners since the archdiocese shuttered the churches in 2004 due to decreased attendance, a shortage of priests, and financial problems. the new immigration law in arizona has provoked strong but not unanimous opposition from the state's religious leaders. around the country, 350 clergy from 36 states and 20 faith traditions this week urged arizona to repeal the statute. as amended, the law says if arizona law enforcement officials are investigating some other offense and develop a reasonable suspicion that their suspect is undocumented, they must check his or her papers. we have a report from lucky severson.
>> the reaction for and against the law has reverberated from main street through the halls of government to the sanctuaries of churches. this is bishop kirk stevan smith of the arizona episcopal diocese. >> along with many other religious leaders, i think it's a terrible law. legal things are important, political things are important, but people's basic human rights are the most important thing, and that's where the churches have an obligation, in my way of thinking, to stand up. >> but even among the clergy there is a divide. religious leaders like the reverend tim smith of scottsdale, arizona, support the law. smith was a nondenominational pastor for 30 years, now a spiritual advisor. >> i think it's a cry for help from the legislature, from the governor. >> arizona has become ground zero for illegal immigration. it's estimated that there are nearly 500,000 illegal residents living in arizona and more streaming in every day. the federal government has dramatically increased the
number of border agents but not enough to stem the flow. congress has yet to agree on a comprehensive solution. reverend smith says that the arizona law only supports what was already on the books. >> essentially, as i read the law and its amendments, it's an attempt to enforce what has been a federal law since the days of, i think, fdr. >> illegal immigration has long been a federal crime. the arizona law makes it a state crime and instructs local police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop for an infraction and they reasonably suspect is undocumented or illegal. if citizens don't think the police are being vigilant enough, they can sue them in court. supporters say there are enough safeguards to prevent profiling. critics say the law makes it almost impossible not to profile. arizona police come down on both sides. some say they don't have the manpower to enforce the law. another major issue is what is "reasonable suspicion"?
>> the wife of one of our priests who is of mexican descent, she was just driving through the neighborhood and was pulled over by a sheriff's officer, asked to see her identification, which she had. she is an american citizen and has been an american citizen for 20 years, and the sheriff said to her, "if you didn't have these papers, you'd be taking a quick trip back to mexico." >> supporters of senate bill 1070 say its purpose is to crack down on crime, like that experienced by rancher robert krentz. he was interviewed in 1999. >> you know, we personally been broke in once, and they took about $700 worth of stuff, and, you know, if they come in and ask for water i'll still give them water. you know, that's just my nature. >> in march, krentz was murdered. his killing spurred passage of the new law because it was suspected that he was killed by an illegal. now there is evidence that the killer was not an immigrant. overall, the violent crime rate
in arizona is down, and so is property crime, and census data shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than legal residents. >> the legislature would say that this law is intended to stop home invasions, drugs coming across the border, guns being smuggled is absurd. in no way does this law even begin to address those issues. >> father raul trevizo pastors a catholic parish in tucson, near the border, of about 4,000 families, many of them undocumented. >> all this law does is put fear in people who are here as economic refugees trying to eke out a living and help themselves and their family back home. >> if it seems that many, if not most religious leaders are opposed to the law, mark tooley, a self-proclaimed conservative watchdog, says it's because they have been the most vocal and, in his view, the most misleading. >> they are speaking very dogmatically to a political
issue for which there is not direct guidance from the scriptures or christian tradition, and it really is a political issue that christians across the spectrum can disagree about. >> but religious opponents of the law say they are simply following the scriptures. >> i believe the fundamental principle of the old testament is that we are under full obligation to follow god's law. jesus summarized god's law in the great commandment "love your neighbor as yourself." >> united methodist bishop minerva carcano has been a vocal opponent of the law, lobbying anyone in congress who will listen. >> scripture is full of references about the immigrant, and the message is consistent and clear. the message is we are to care for the immigrant. leviticus says that we are to receive them and treat them as if they were native-born, as if they were citizens, and it also says that we are never to oppress them, and so that's our
job as religious leaders, to hold up our faith values. >> then of course jesus' passage at the end of matthew, where he reminds us in the way that we treat the least among us, the way that we treat the hungry person or the thirsty person or the person in prison, is the way that we treat him. >> so you think that obeying the law would take precedence over taking care of the least amongst you? >> well, obeying the law is foundational to our society, and one of the reasons why the united states has been a haven for people across the years, that there has been a rule of law here, and that through that rule of law we can sort out these problems that we have. >> mark tooley says scriptures that are often cited don't really apply to illegal immigration and that religious opponents are not representing the views of their congregants. >> there is a perception that
the religious world is for liberalized immigration because those on the more liberal side of the religious world are the most outspoken. so i don't think that most of these church officials genuinely speak for the constituencies they claim to speak for. >> i find that totally, totally wrong. i mean, these are our parishioners. i have a parishioner who's undocumented, whose son who is 7 years old said to her this week, "mommy, what am i going to do when they take you away?" those are my parishioners. i can't see how somebody can say you're out of touch with those people. those are the people that i serve, and those are the people that i care about. >> bishop carcano says many in her congregation oppose the law, but some are very upset with her position. have you had people leave or threaten to leave the church over this issue? >> we have. we have. they've left. some of them are people who leave for a season and then return. others, we will have lost them,
and we pray for them. >> many in the religious opposition say they can't back away from their moral obligation even if it means harboring an illegal immigrant, even if it means breaking the law. >> we know that there are moments in history when we are under laws that are not just, that are not moral, that are not right. we're called to challenge those. slavery, it used to be a law to have slaves and to treat them in a certain way. if religious leaders had sat back and said that's all right, we would have been stuck. we would have been at a very different place over the years and today. there are moments when we must challenge the laws of society. >> the state has taken a huge hit economically since the bill passed. phoenix officials estimate the city has lost at least $100 million just in convention cancellations, and more keep coming in. bishop smith thinks the law will eventually be defeated but not because of moral or ethical concerns.
>> but i suspect that it will ultimately be defeated because people say, you know, this just doesn't make sense economically. everybody is going to lose. this is a lose-lose for everybody. our pocketbooks are going to lose, and our souls are going to lose. >> unless court challenges prevent it, the arizona law is scheduled to take effect after july 28. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm lucky severson in phoenix, arizona. religious and ethical traditions clearly condemn gossip. however juicy gossip may be, it is forbidden because it can be so hurtful. now, there is a whole new dimension to hurtful gossip -- online, especially on college campuses. a person can be viciously maligned by a completely anonymous accuser, and there is hardly anything the victim can do about it. you can't find out who posted the accusations, and you can't force the website to take them
down. betty rollin has our report. >> it's called cyberabuse, and it looks like this. this is the sort of message that erin roy and her sorority sisters found themselves confronted with in erin's junior year of college. erin is now a senior at marist college in poughkeepsie, new york, a small college with a catholic heritage. >> one day i came home from class, walked in my house, and my housemates were huddled around the computer, and they said that they had heard of and found this website. so i went over, checked it out, and just saw terrible, terrible things written. initially, it definitely affected a lot of girls i know. i think they were just devastated, embarrassed, upset. marist is a very small school. so one person hears something and it spreads like wildfire even if it holds no truth.op
>> the website that was spreading the malicious gossip at marist and 500 other colleges and universities was called juicycampus. incredibly, the students had no way to stop it since the messages were all anonymously written and the web site was under no legal obligation to remove it. >> some of them definitely, probably were written by men who maybe left off on the wrong foot with a girl. maybe something happened, and he didn't think of her in the highest regards, and for girls, jealousy. they know this site is anonymous, so they are just so willing to jump on their computer and write comments about people because they know they will never be caught. >> erik zeyher, who graduated from marist last year, was class president. a fellow student's email alerted him to the problem. >> two of my roommates have suffered eating disorders and have been getting help from the school. because of this site they have been up with panic attacks most of the night.
>> the site became like a campus virus, affecting everyone. there was a particular fear that potential employers would see the comments. given that there was no legal way to stop postings, the question was, how do you stop them? student leaders and administrators first considered banning the site, then decided to launch a campaign. >> we actually found a program that princeton was using, they came up with, called "own what you think," which is a way for students to basically voice their opinions in a constructive, respectful, and in a way that isn't anonymous, so you could find out exactly who was saying what about each other. >> and what were the opinions? >> "hey julie, you are the best roommate ever" to "brandon, thanks for helping me out with my homework. you are a great person and a grate great friend. >> in addition, they flooded juicycampus with messages of love. >> so all of this together seems to have worked. >> it actually did. students really bought into the idea of social change and that we won't stand for this, and as a community we really made a difference.
>> although juicycampus ran out of money and eventually shut down, other sites are alive and well. and the targets are not only on campuses. michael fertik, who lives in northern california, is in the business of trying to protect adults and companies from online attacks. >> our customers tell us that their lives have been ruined, that their livelihoods have been ruined, that their sense of dignity has been ruined, that their kids' mental health has been ruined. your education, your training, they are all tied up with your name, and your livelihood is tied up with what people see about you when they look up your name online. our job, where there's a problem and where we want to remediate the problem by repairing the google result, is to make sure that the most recent, truthful, and good stuff shows up on the top of google, and the nasty attacks descend so that they are harder and harder to find. >> this is manhattan high school for girls on east 70th street in
new york city, where they consider the act of gossip to be a sin, a huge sin. the orthodox jewish girls who attend this school are made aware every day of the danger of gossip, which they call lashon hara. lashon hara is speaking ill of someone or even listening to such speech. even though constructive criticism in conversation can be allowed, harsh criticism is forbidden. >> human beings which are created in the image of god deserve to be protected. their dignity should be protected, that even if they do something wrong they should not suffer embarrassment. they should not be degraded by other people. >> this morning the subject of lashon hara is part of rabbi prager's lecture. but what if someone seems to deserve criticism? >> once we established that the person did something wrong, we are still obligated to try to find, to minimize the wrong.
maybe the person didn't understand, doesn't know. >> and what about gossip that is intimate but not critical? >> there is a prohibition of spilling the beans. spilling the beans. spilling the beans. spilling the beans. if the person -- if something was told to you in privacy, the person does not want it to get out. you have no right to tell it to anyone. >> did you sele ta? >> yes. and i'm going to tell you what she said about you. >> the students regularly do skits about the evils of lashon hara. >> she told me everything you said about me. we're not friends anymore. >> but avoiding nasty comments isn't always easy. >> i think i've been in a few situations where i had a really juicy story to tell to people, and it really wasn't so nice about somebody else, and i stopped and just thought about these laws. learning the laws every night, it really helped me bring about an awareness that i stopped to think about before i said the story, that maybe i really shouldn't say this. >> every single day you are talking with your friends, and there's always new conversations and new pieces of gossip to talk
about. like, it does get easier, because you first have to learn the laws. you have to first want to do it, and then you have to push yourself and control yourself. >> i'm really, really sorry. >> it turned me into a more positive person, because if i am not saying bad things about other people it affects the way i think. >> there are times when jewish law allows, even condones lashon hara -- when giving factual information in a court of law, for example, or to protect a person from imminent harm. and outside jewish law, defenders of gossip say that often it's just a way that friends bond. >> the girls at manhattan high school are largely unaffected by the biggest conveyor of gossip, namely, the internet. for the most part, this orthodox community prohibits use of the internet. but many people, especially young people, virtually live on the internet, where it's open season and there is no law to protect them. >> the law today is set up in
such a way that the website where you publish that content is absolutely immune from liability. so even if you do defame someone, absolutely defame someone, the website where you published the content never has to take it down. >> in spite of a victory at marist college, many other colleges are dealing with the problem of online gossip sites and which, given their growth, will continue to be a problem for some and a temptation for others. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm betty rollin in poughkeepsie, new york. on our calendar, may 23rd is pentecost, when christians celebrate god's gift of the holy spirit to the church. according to the new testament, the holy spirit came to jesus' followers in the form of tongues of fire. some eastern orthodox christians also call it trinity day. may 23rd is also the declaration of the bab, when baha'is mark
the day in 1844 when a spiritual leader known as the bab announced that he had been sent to prepare the way for god's universal messenger. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. we'd like to hear from you. you can follow us on our facebook page. we also have much more on our website. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at pbs.org. as we leave you, music from the special service last week when the episcopal diocese of los angeles consecrated two new bishops, one of them the church's first openly lesbian bishop. ♪
major funding for "religion & ethics newsweekly" is provided by the lily endowment, an indianapolis-based foundation dedicated to community development and education. additional funding by mutual of america, designing individual and group retirement products. that's why we're rain shower retirement company dotcom. also by the henry luce foundation and the corporation for public broadcasting.