First up from the God Machine this week is a look at an ad promoting tourism to the United States, which may not seem especially noteworthy at first blush, but which has outraged some in the religious right.
Seems pretty harmless, right? The video, obviously intended for an international audience, was crafted to highlight the way in which the United States celebrates diversity. But if you pause the video 33 seconds in, you might notice a man with his arm around another man. And that's apparently a problem.
The ad promoting tourism to the US seemed innocuous enough, but Family Research Council president Tony Perkins warns that the advertising campaign is being used to "highlight same-sex attractions."
The Discover America ad highlights diversity in the US, including a song by Rosanne Cash and images of an interracial couple, two Muslim women in a city and people celebrating the Hindu festival Holi. But Perkins is peeved by its attempt "to celebrate homosexuality" by featuring a man with his arm around his partner on a bus for almost two seconds. Perkins claimed that the ad depicts "a country of radical values and backwards priorities."
Perkins went on to blame President Obama for this, calling the ad part of Obama's "push to 'rebrand' America." In the event of a Romney presidency, presumably Perkins will have the influence to make sure ads like these never air anywhere.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The issue of state-sponsored prayer in public schools has largely faded away, but Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) apparently wants to bring it back.
* Don't mess with nuns: "In a spirited retort to the Vatican, a group of Roman Catholic nuns is planning a bus trip across nine states this month, stopping at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools and health care facilities run by nuns to highlight their work with the nation's poor and disenfranchised" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* Speaking of the Vatican, there's a major controversy brewing around the butler to Pope Benedict XVI who stands accused of leaking confidential memos to the Italian media.
* And David Barton, the religious right's pseudo historian, believes welfare recipients would be better off financially if only they'd read the Bible.