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A Win for Wicca

Plus: The benefits of blue laws, the latest Presbyterian and Episcopal battles, reaction to the Pope's anti-jihad comments, and other stories from online sources around the world.

Today's Top Five

1. A soldier gets his star
A year after his death in Afghanistan, Sgt. Patrick Stewart's memorial plaque will be inscribed with a Wiccan pentacle (a five-point star inside a circle). His widow had lobbied for the emblem, but was turned down by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA allows for more than 30 symbols for other religions and denominations, but has no approved Wiccan symbol. The VA has not backed down, but Nevada officials say they'll grant the symbol in a state veteran's cemetery.

"The VA still has not determined yet if a Wiccan symbol can go on the headstone," Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, told the Associated Press. "But we have determined we control the state cemetery and that we therefore have the ability to recognize him for his service to his country."

In a June op-ed for Christianity Today Online, John Whitehead had argued that "by refusing to place the Wiccan symbol on Sgt. Stewart's memorial plaque, while permitting symbols of other religions and non-religions, the government is clearly engaging in viewpoint discrimination."

2. Did repealing blue laws encourage sinfulness?
The Washington Post's Richard Morin today highlights a National Bureau of Economic Research study that suggests that the people who argued against Sunday shopping may have been right. MIT's Jonathan Gruber and Notre Dame's Daniel M. Hungerman looked at states that repealed its blue laws and found that it really did seem to lead to less church attendance and greater wickedness. Morin writes:

Before the shopping ban was lifted, about 37 percent of people in a state on average attended religious services at least weekly, Hungerman said. "After the laws are repealed it falls ...
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Weblog
Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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