Boston's Congregationalists play a little joke on the public
The American Congregational Association's elegant building on 14 Beacon Street in downtown Boston gets a lot of visitors. But not all of them enter looking for the 225,000-title, 125-year-old Congregational Library or other offices. Many are looking for Ally McBeal, the TV character. In the show, 14 Beacon Street houses the characters' law firm on the seventh floor and a hip bar on the ground floor. "It couldn't be more unlike a wacky law office with a trendy bar downstairs," says Larry Meehan of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. (If people want a TV bar, Cheers is just down the street, at 84 Beacon.) But even though Ally McBeal is fictional, the American Congregational Association decided to put her name on the building directory. "Christians do have a sense of humor," notes The Salt Lake Tribune. Neither The Boston Globe nor Religion News Service (where The Salt Lake Tribune got the story) note that there are lawyers on the seventh floor—one of the tenants there is the National Lesbian & Gay Law Association.
Priest abducted, killed in India
Two youths abducted Jacob Chittinapilly, a Roman Catholic priest, in the Thoubal district of Manipur, India, and shot him to death Saturday night. (See more coverage from the BBC.) Meanwhile, the trial of Dara Singh and others accused of murdering Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons has been delayed until next year.
Despite action from churches and House of Lords, Britain lowers gay age of consent to 16
Britain's House of Commons lowered the age of sexual consent for homosexuals from 18 to 16—the same age as it is for heterosexuals. The House of Commons had earlier passed the bill overwhelmingly, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pushing for the bill since he came to office, but the House of Lords rejected it three times—most recently in November. Still, the House of Commons used the rarely invoked Parliament Act to toss out the Lords' actions. Shortly before the vote, Britain's religious leaders—including the head of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the Muslim Council of Britain—sent a letter to The Telegraph newspaper urging Parliament to reconsider. "There are strong moral and health objections to what is proposed, which also goes against the beliefs of many religious people - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs," the letter said. The religious leaders also urged the House of Commons to consider a House of Lords amendment that would keep the age of consent for sodomy at 18 for both heterosexuals and homosexuals, but lower the age of consent for other sex acts to 16. Some gay-rights activists are pushing for Parliament to reduce the age of consent even lower—to 14. (See more coverage by The Telegraph, The Guardian, ITN, and Associated Press.)
Christmas in Bethlehem after all—just a quiet, religious one
As papers around the world buzz with the news that the Bethlehem Municipality had cancelled all Christmas celebrations, churches in the little town are saying they'll go ahead with the religious services and ceremonies.
Loud church music doesn't disturb peace, court rules
Juan DeLeon-Menendez, pastor of Iglesia Jesus El Buen in Lexington, Nebraska, was ticketed for disturbing the peace when the music from his church could be heard half a block away. The Assemblies of God church uses electric guitars and drums, but defense attorney Derek Mitchell said the music should be treated the same as a more traditional church ringing its bells before a service. The judge agreed, avoiding issues of freedom of religious expression in his ruling and deciding more narrowly that the church simply wasn't disturbing the peace. Meanwhile, DeLeon-Menendez says he'll try to quiet things down.
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