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This Week in God

As "This Week in God" settles in on Saturday mornings, the God Machine has plenty to offer again this week.

First up is a church-state case out of San Diego, where a 29-foot-high cross sits on a 14-foot pedestal on public land. The property was owned by the city, but Congress bought the space and declared it a war memorial a few years ago. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the display violates the separation of church and state, but this week, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.

The federal government is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case on the future of the Mount Soledad cross in La Jolla. In a petition filed Monday with the high court, Justice Department lawyers said that a decision last year by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the landmark was unconstitutional because it signified government support of a religion on public land, has to be reviewed. The government argued the appeals court decision improperly nullified an official act of Congress and conflicts with recent Supreme Court decisions on the display of religious symbols on public property.

What strikes me as interesting about this is the larger political context: it's the Obama administration siding in support of religious activism, at a time when Republicans argue the Obama administration is waging a "war" on faith. Indeed, Steve Chapman recently explained that, GOP rhetoric notwithstanding, religious people "found Barack Obama and his Justice Department to be staunch allies."

As Chapman put it, "The president's detractors may continue to portray him as a secular fanatic with, as Rick Santorum claims, an 'overt hostility to faith in America.' Before they do, though, they might want to remember the Ten Commandments -- especially the one about bearing false witness."

Also from the God Machine this week:

* A Pennsylvania atheist group is under fire for racially-charged billboards in Harrisburg.

* The Catholic Church in Sacramento cut off funding for a homeless-services agency because its new director's supports Planned Parenthood and gay marriage. The agency, Francis House, is now relying on private donations, which have been generous in the wake of the church's decision (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).

* In the week's most cringe-worthy religion story, radical TV preacher Pat Robertson shared his thoughts on whether oral sex within marriage is a sin. If you watch the clip, prepare to be uncomfortable.