Daniel Jenky, the bishop for the Roman Catholic diocese of Peoria, Illinois
First up from the God Machine this week is a look at Daniel Jenky, the bishop for the Roman Catholic diocese of Peoria, Illinois, who seems a little too eager to intervene in the 2012 presidential election.
We were first introduced to Jenky back in April when the Catholic bishop likened President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, adding that contraception access might lead the federal government to shut down all Catholic institutions nationwide. Jenky has been less publicly hysterical since, but he has very clear plans for this weekend.
[This week, Jenky] came within a hair of ordering every priest under his supervision to campaign for Mitt Romney.
In a letter, Jenky told the priests in his diocese "[b]y virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4." The letter leaves little doubt that Jenky wants Obama out of the White House.
The letter sidesteps the concerns raised by other bishops over the punitive Romney/Ryan budget plan, and focuses solely on reproductive rights and contraception access. Jenky's mandatory voting instructions tells Roman Catholics in his diocese "to vote," while remaining "faithful" to his beliefs.
For the record, there's ample polling evidence that most American Catholics support contraception access -- and aren't especially fond of their church giving them voting instructions.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Predictably, there were some far-right religious figures arguing that this week's deadly superstorm was a divine creation, intended to punish us for our sinful ways. Among these figures was John McTernan, founder of Defend and Proclaim the Faith Ministries and an amateur "end times" Bible analyst.
* Religious diversity on Capitol Hill tends to grow very slowly, but it appears Hawaii is poised to elect the nation's first-ever Hindu American member of Congress (thanks to R.P. for the tip).
* Following up on an ongoing story out of Oklahoma, a former employee of a Tulsa megachurch accused of raping a 13-year-old girl pleaded guilty this week. The question of whether officials at the Victory Christian Center tried to cover up the attack is still under investigation.
* And NPR had an interesting report this week on research that shows that Americans "significantly over-report their church attendance." Roughly 45% of American adherents say they attend church services every week, but in reality, there's reason to believe "only about half" that number actually do.