First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of South Florida, in which a mayoral candidate claimed an unusual political endorsement, which did not turn out especially well.
I've reported on developments at the intersection of religion and politics for a good chunk of my career, but I don't recall ever seeing a politician claim to have been literally endorsed by Jesus Christ. That is, before Anna Pierre, a registered nurse, made the claim in advance of this week's North Miami mayoral race.
"Yes, Jesus endorsed me!" Pierre said during a stop at the Gwen Margolis Community Center Tuesday morning as the polls opened. "I'm not nuts, if I'm a freak and nuts for Jesus, let it be! Let the world know that Jesus is it and when you have Jesus on your side you can go on." Pierre previously claimed she was being intimidated with voodoo tactics.
The Jesus claim was made on a campaign flyer posted to Pierre's Facebook page that reads "Anna Pierre, RN, is endorsed by Jesus Christ" and features a photo of the savior.
Pierre said the endorsement came to her in a revelation while on the campaign trail as she's been competing against six other candidates.
For some reason, local voters were not persuaded -- Pierre came in seventh out of seven candidates, getting slightly less than one percent of the vote.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The AP reported this week that a prominent American priest of the Legion of Christ religious order has decided to leave the priesthood after admitting he fathered a child years ago. The Rev. Thomas Williams, who had worked as an MSNBC religion analyst, is now eager to care for his son and the mother (thanks to my colleague Vanessa Silverton Peel for the heads-up).
* Remember Harold Camping, who gained notoriety a couple of years ago after predicting the end of the world? This California-based Family Radio ministry has apparently fallen on hard times and begun selling off assets while laying off staffers (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* The town of Muldrow, Okla., is in "turmoil" after the Freedom From Religion Foundation reminded the local public high school that it cannot promote and endorse the Ten Commandments. Many locals have organized large protests, but attorneys representing the school have said the religious displays will have to be removed.
* In Georgia this week, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) this week ordered the state Department of Natural Resources to put Bibles in cabins and lodge rooms at state parks. In a statement, Deal said, "These Bibles are donated by outside groups, not paid for by the state," adding that "any group is free to donate literature" for park cabins and lodges. I'll look forward to seeing which other groups take the governor up on the offer.
* And in Bangladesh, bloggers criticizing the abuse of religion by politicians have been labeled "atheists," and are now facing arrest and death threats.