John Leo

America's mainline protestant churches are in trouble. One sign is shrinking membership. Another is turning their political policymaking over to fringe leftists whose deepest instinct is to blame America and pummel Israel whenever possible. The latest disgrace is the Presbyterian Church's plan for selective divestment in Israel--ending the church's investment in multinational companies that the church believes bear particular responsibility for the sufferings of the Palestinian people. For example, the Presbyterians say they may divest themselves of Caterpillar stock, because bulldozers made by that company are used to level Palestinian homes in Israel's antiterrorism campaign. Of course, these bulldozers can also be used to move debris after Palestinian suicide bombers have finished blowing up another round of women, children, and other civilian bystanders in Israel.

 How do the Presbyterians go about adopting stances like this? Apparently they cast a stern moral glance around the world, look for possible abuses in China, North Korea, and Iran, and seeing nothing disturbing there, decide to focus once again on Israel. The conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) released a measured and devastating report on the human-rights efforts of mainline churches and groups--the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), plus the reliably leftist National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. The report, covering the years 2000 to 2003, found that of 197 human-rights criticisms by mainline churches and groups, 37 percent were aimed at Israel and 32 percent at the United States. Only 19 percent of these criticisms were directed at nations listed as "unfree" in Freedom House's respected annual listing of free, partly free, and unfree nations. So Israel was twice as likely to be hammered by the mainliners as all the unfree authoritarian nations put together. The fixation on Israel left little time and inclination for these churches to notice the most dangerous violations of human rights around the world. Not one nation bordering Israel was criticized by a single mainline church or group, the IRD report says. No criticisms at all were leveled at China, Libya, Syria, or North Korea.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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