Five killed in church bus crash
Yesterday morning, a bus chartered by Metro Church of Garland, Texas, on its way to a youth camp crashed into an I-20 bridge support. The bus driver and four youths—ages 12, 13, 14, and 16—were killed. Thirty-six others aboard were injured.

"I thought it was a movie," 16-year-old Kristan Grubbs told The Dallas Morning News. "I was talking to my friends, and I turned around and I saw this big pillar … coming toward us."

Exactly how the crash happened is a mystery.

The church, which calls itself "Southern Baptist charismatic," has been in the news before: it used to be the home church of Operation Rescue's Flip Benham.

Bologna church targeted by Muslim militants, says Italian paper
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera says Muslims planned to destroy the San Petronio Basilica in Bologna. Paramilitary police, the paper said, intercepted phone conversations among Tunisians and Moroccans tied to the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat; leader Hassan Hattab had ordered the church's destruction.

It's not just any church. San Petronio has a 600-year-old fresco depicting Muhammad being devoured by demons in Hell. Muslims have long protested the artwork, reports the Associated Press.

Gracia Burnham continues her recovery
Rescued but widowed, missionary Gracia Burnham continues to heal physically and emotionally, The Wichita Eagle reports today. "Sometimes at night, Gracia Burnham's children sleep on blankets spread on the floor of her bedroom," says the Eagle's Alex Branch. Gracia Burnham isn't giving any media interviews, speaking engagements "or anything that would take her from her family," says her mother-in-law and fellow missionary Oreta Burnham. She and her three children are, however, heading to Arkansas this weekend for an annual family reunion.

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Church & State:

  • What's Jefferson's 'wall' made of? | Did he mean an impenetrable wall so high that neither could ever see the other? A picket fence that would allow roses growing on one side to entwine with ivy on the other? A Lego wall whose bricks can be rearranged according to public will? (Linda P. Campbell, The Miami Herald)

  • The gospel of abstinence | The problem with the abstinence-only classes isn't just that the groups receiving the dollars read like a Who's Who of the Religious Right. It's that programs preaching - excuse me, teaching - this are spreading fear, misinformation, and disinformation. (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

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Religious liberty:

  • Christians defend rights in court | Convinced traditional civil-rights groups are antagonistic to Christians, activists increasingly are turning to a secular institution—the courts—to protect the right to noisily declare one's faith. (The Detroit News)

  • Student 'preaching' | The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, not freedom from being annoyed (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  • Why Jehovah's Witnesses' victory is a win for all of us | However, Supreme Court frames proselytizing group's right to go door-to-door as free-speech issue, neglecting to mention free exercise of religion (Charles Haynes, Freedom Forum)

  • Florida college, students settle free-speech suit | Students filed a complaint against the school in 1999 after they were detained and threatened with arrest for distributing religious literature without approval (Associated Press)

  • Religious impulses, good and bad | The atheists attack the cross, the CFR folks attack soft money, and Jesse Ventura folds like a cheap tent. (David Brooks, The Weekly Standard)

  • Religion more of an issue for human resource managers | The federal government's religious discrimination lawsuit against Sykes Enterprises Inc. reflects issues human resource managers face in balancing employees' faith and work requirements (The Tampa Bay [Fla.] Business Journal)

Church life:

  • Presbyterians cover many bases | Meeting in marathon sessions, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) addressed problems from the most personal to the most political, recommending a plan for peace in the Middle East, defining when late-term abortions are acceptable and calling for a boycott of Taco Bell. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Black church in state of flux | More involvement key focus of event (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Clergy abuse scandals:

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