Supreme Court will hear Operation Rescue case. Again.
Back in 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that prolife activists could be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law created to combat organized crime. Eight years later, the case is back at the Supreme Court as activists on both sides of the abortion debate argue over how RICO can be applied. Does RICO allow a court to grant an injunction, or does it just allow judges to award damages? And does the "right of access to abortion services" count as property, which activists would "steal" through their demonstrations?

"It is clear that a federal statute designed for drug dealers and organized crime has been misapplied and used as a powerful weapon to silence the prolife message," says American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow.

The court battle, which dates back to 1986, pits Operation Rescue and the Pro-Life Action League against the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a group of abortion clinics, but the issues involved have created strange bedfellows. Among those supporting the prolife activists are groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, both of which also engage in protest tactics like sit-ins and blockades. The ACLU is staying out of the Supreme Court battle, but in lower courts sided with the prolifers.

"From the burning or hanging of effigies in Colonial times to the civil rights and anti-war sit-ins of the 1960s and 1970s, demonstrations, even illegal ones, have been both an outlet for dissent and an instrument for social and legal change," says Sekulow's appeal.

NOW lawyer Fay Clayton says the prolife activists are wrong to describe themselves as descendents of those historical protests. "The folks who hate abortion and would stoop to any means to end them call what they do civil rights," she tells The Washington Times. "Protest should always be protected, but not when the tools are force, violence, or fear."

The Supreme Court will likely hear the case in the fall.

Deadly bombing in Philippines may have been work of Abu Sayyaf
Abu Muslim Ghazi says he's a spokesman for Abu Sayyaf, the Muslim terrorist group holding American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham. He also says the group is responsible for the Sunday bombings in the city of General Santos that left 14 people dead and 34 injured. And he says the bombings will continue. "We will not stop [if] the president does not stop in her program to get rid of Muslims in Mindanao," he said on Radio Mindanao Network yesterday. "We are claiming responsibility because the government is calling us terrorists. There is no problem with that. We are indeed terrorists."

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There are some questions, however, over whether the Abu Sayyaf was really responsible for the bombings. The two men arrested so far were originally thought to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another militant Muslim group in the Southern Philippines. But it turns out they're actually from the similarly named Moro National Liberation Front, and the police think that group may have joined forces with Abu Sayyaf.

Meanwhile, while we've heard much from Martin's parents, Paul and Oreta Burnham, we haven't heard much from Gracia's. Retired pastor Norvin Jones and his wife, Betty Jo, aren't talking much about the captivity, even when they speak to churches, reports The Examiner of Independence, Missouri. "Instead, the [Joneses] prefer to talk about their daughter and Martin as missionaries and parents." But while speaking at Independence's Pleasant Grove Bible Church, they did answer some questions about the hostage missionaries. "I don't think they will regret [going to the Philippines]," Norvin told the paper. "I think they will want to return to their mission. It has always been dangerous, but that cannot stop those who feel the call of the Lord to preach."

As for the two of them, Betty Jo says she's surprised at how they're holding up: "I thought we wouldn't be able to eat or sleep but God has been supporting us and we just thank the Lord for all the good Christian people who are praying for our children."

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  • Talk of religion provokes amens as well as anxiety | The Bush presidency has so far been defined by its fight against terrorism, but faith has become a central part of his administration as well. (The New York Times)

  • Simon aide may cause rift in GOP | Steve Frank is prolife activist, former lobbyist for the Church of Scientology (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • DeLay criticized for 'only Christianity' remarks | Christianity offers a reasonable answer to basic questions about the purpose of life, said House Majority Whip (The Washington Post)

  • Be careful which faiths you respect, Charles | No doubt it takes great religious faith to blow oneself to bits in order to kill lots of defenceless civilian infidels, even if one can expect a substantial heavenly reward thereafter, but it is surely not a faith that should receive the three feathers of the Prince of Wales. (Minette Marrin, The Times, London)
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Church & state:

  • Church plea on devil worship | Christians want Kenya's new constitution to outlaw devil worship and cults whose teachings are a threat to social order. (The Nation, Nairobi)

  • Prevent religious electioneering | If allowed to do endorse candidates, houses of worship would be the only institutions in the country that could directly promote political campaigns with tax-exempt money. (Editorial, St. Petersburg [Fla.] Times)

  • Labor debuts Bush's faith plan | The Department of Labor Wednesday became the first Cabinet agency to enact President Bush's faith-based initiative when it announced creation of a grant program designed to help ministry groups provide job training and counseling for the needy (The Washington Times)

  • Student sues community college over founding of Christian club | Suit claims man deprived of his constitutional rights by denial of club (The Ann Arbor [Mich.] News)

  • Nebraska high court: Church needn't own property to be a church | Majority sides with city, which had sought to deny liquor license to convenience store located within 150 feet of the House of Faith. (Associated Press)

  • Religious issues bubble up in the political hot pot | In recent weeks, issues with religious or moral undertones—such as requiring the Pledge of Allegiance and allowing prayer in public schools, questioning of the morality of a state lottery and the death penalty—are popping up in state and local government and then being rehashed on talk shows, in churches, synagogues and homes (The Tennessean)

  • Permits under fire | Because of candles, churches required to pay $25 fee (The Times Reporter, Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio)

Vatican summit:

  • Rome: Can we talk? | The Pope summons American cardinals to discuss the sex scandal bedeviling the Catholic Church (U.S. News & World Report)

  • Left, right, and center | There's a broad ideological spectrum among cardinals called to the Vatican (U.S. News & World Report)

  • A meeting of the minds | John Paul II calls the U.S. cardinals to Rome. Let the damage control begin (Newsweek)

  • 'There will be guidance' | Bishop Wilton Gregory on the Vatican summit, sex abuse and keeping kids safe (Newsweek)

  • John Paul II and his cardinals | This week's summit meeting at the Vatican has much at stake: not just the credibility of the American church, but to some extent the legacy of Pope John Paul II. (John L. Allen Jr, The New York Times)

  • 'Embarrassed' Vatican faces a tough week | Summit over U.S. priests scandal to push open doors closed till now (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Pedophilia and homosexuality:

  • Scandalexicon | How to pronounce pedophilia, its difference from ephebophilia, and other vocabulary issues (William Safire, The New York Times Magazine)

  • The gay question | Amid the Catholic Church's current scandals, an unignorable issue. (Rod Dreher, National Review)

  • Homosexuality in priesthood is under increasing scrutiny | With the Roman Catholic Church weathering one case after another of priests who sexually abused boys, the Catholic faithful are asking whether there is a closeted culture of homosexuality in the priesthood, and if so whether it is connected to the sexual abuse problem. (The New York Times)

  • Pedophilia | Why do some people want to touch kids? What can we do about it? What happens to the victims? Everything you always wanted to know about one of society's worst taboos--but were too angry to ask (Time)

  • The thin line between love and lust | Men who serve boys and men who abuse them have some things in common (Michael Kinsley, Time)

Abuse opinion:

  • Child abuse as mass tort? | How the Catholic Church's scandal may play out in court (Anthony J. Sebok,

  • The danger of false accusations | The laudable desire to redress serious wrongs may turn into a new witch-hunt. (Cathy Young, The Boston Globe)

  • Restoring the faith | Until every U.S. diocese adopts a zero-tolerance policy toward clergy involved in sexual abuse, the problem will continue to fester — and the reputation of Catholic priests will continue to suffer. (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Churches need to get outside of themselves | An inward focus can lead to a range of problems, from the perpetuation of esoteric worship services to the secretive handling of sexual abuse cases. And, most important, it overlooks the need to concentrate first on the concerns of the larger community (Henry G. Brinton, The Washington Post)
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More church abuse stories:

  • Protestant scandals | For the past few weeks, the Catholic Church has been struggling with allegations of sexual abuse. But people who study abuse by the clergy say that Protestant churches have just as big a problem. The details may be different, but often the ways the churches handle the cases have striking parallels. NPR's Barbara Bradley reports. (Morning Edition, National Public Radio)

  • Church rebuilding faith after pastor's disgrace | Since accusations, church members have taken turns in the pulpit, too hurt and mistrustful to accept a substitute pastor while cautiously looking for a permanent leader. (The Denton [Tex.] Record-Chronicle)

  • Key U.S. clerics plan to push for Law's removal | Several cardinals will press Vatican insiders about the beleaguered Boston archbishop, ahead of scheduled talks with the pope on sex abuse cases. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Cardinal Law concedes scandal undermining church | "The crisis of clergy sexual abuse of minors is not just a media driven or public perception. But it is a very serious issue undermining the mission of the church." (Reuters)

  • Bishop takes on a familiar role | For the 2nd time in a decade, a Chicago native tries to repair a crisis in the Catholic Church. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Church urged to do more | Cardinal George: Initiatives are not enough (Chicago Tribune)

  • Anger greets church picketers | Emotional standoff in Azusa continues for hours as some parishioners on their way to Mass shout insults. One is arrested and later released. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Media a watchdog in crisis | Church leaders are now under close scrutiny (Boston Herald)

  • Catholic scandal debate rages online | Net proves popular outlet for anger, angst (MSNBC)

  • Inspired by abuse victim, project now run by church | Project Aware educates clergy and laity about the signs and long-term effects of abuse, and help victims find support and counseling—whether molested by a priest, a friend or a family member. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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