Teacher who questioned evolution won't get his day in (Supreme) Court
In the 1998-99 school year, high school biology teacher Rodney LeVake questioned evolutionary theory and introduced students to Intelligent Design theory. The next year, he was reassigned. LeVake sued the school district, but the case was dismissed. A Minnesota appeals court upheld the dismissal. Now the Supreme Court is also turning the case away. "This court has never held that under the First Amendment, schools are the mere instruments of the advancement of the individual agendas of its teachers," says the school's lawyer. LeVake's lawyer, meanwhile, says his client "was silenced, not for anything he said in the classroom, but merely for holding a contrary viewpoint and expressing a desire to say certain things that the school district deemed out of step with its officially imposed orthodoxy."

Liberian President Charles Taylor: 'Jesus is not God'
Liberian dictator and warlord Charles Taylor was apparently trying to promote himself as a religious bulwark in a country of sinfulness when he appeared on a national radio and television program. "There is this major sin in this country. God has punished this country, and has continued to punish this country until Liberians turn to God," he said. Yes, Mr. Taylor, many people believe there is major sin in your country. And they believe you're leading it. Taylor, however, disagrees that he's to blame. In fact, he seems to have argued that he's all that's standing between his nation and divine obliteration. "I have an altar and a chapel. I pray and I believe in God," he said. "I put my total trust in God. I am a very tough believer, I'm so tough about my beliefs about God that I don't compromise God even with Jesus Christ, I don't compromise that." Um. Come again? You don't compromise God with Jesus? What does that mean? "There are beliefs that there is one God; that Jesus is not God, he's God's son. … I don't equate God with anyone, nothing. He's Supreme, and I give my life and my all to him, so I don't worry." Worry, Mr. Taylor. Worry a lot. The News of Monrovia (capital of Liberia) reports that Taylor's statements "shocked the Christian community, prompting reactions from Christian prelates." Taylor's crass attempt to capitalize on religion seriously backfired. And Jesus probably isn't too happy, either. (Pat Robertson, Charles Taylor's gold-mining business partner, isn't quoted in the article.)

Crescent moon rising?
"There is compelling anecdotal evidence of a surge in conversions to Islam since September 11, not just in Britain, but across Europe and America," The Times of London reported yesterday. "I know it sounds clichéd, but Allah came knocking at my heart," a white graduate student tells the paper. "That's really how it feels. In many ways it is beyond articulating, rather like falling in love." The Times says conversions to Islam also happened during the Gulf War and Bosnian conflict, and after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. "All those I spoke to agreed that Christianity claims to answer the same yearnings for meaning and guidance," writes Giles Whittell. "All had rejected it on intellectual grounds. Why grapple with mental puzzles such as the Holy Trinity and Original Sin, they asked, when the alternative, asserting neither, proved to them so much more satisfying?"

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  • Finding salvation in tourism | Benedictine monks and nuns complied, and have always welcomed strangers, but now the strangers are paying (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)
  • Women of God | Nuns are an endangered species. What, if anything, can replace the iconic figure of the nun in the popular imagination of Catholics and non-Catholics alike? (The Atlantic Monthly)
  • More than a place to pray | Many churches, particularly in eastern Germany, are in danger of decay after severe damage in World War II that left serious problems despite repairs, while scanty maintenance or neglect under the former East German regime also took its toll (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)
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