Cherry found guilty of 1963 church bombing
A jury yesterday found Bobby Frank Cherry guilty of murdering four girls by bombing Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963. After the verdict was read, Cherry turned, called a prosecutor a punk, and said, "This whole bunch lied all the way through this thing. I told the truth. I don't know why I'm going to jail for nothing." At Sixteenth Street Baptist, meanwhile, the congregation danced in the aisles. "Birmingham of yesterday is no more," the Rev. Fred D. Shuttlesworth said at the service. "Backwards never. Forwards ever." The Birmingham News shares the sentiment. "Justice has been too long delayed and too long denied; now justice, finally, is done," the paper editorialized today. But it added a caution to putting too much behind us. "While this case is over, the church bombing and the racial hatred that led to it must never be forgotten. Nor should we forget the cost, in lost and damaged lives and to this city's image, of that hatred," the paper said. "While the case may have ended, the grief of the four little girls' families and friends never will. May this verdict somehow ease that pain. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them."

One of those family members, Eunice Davis (sister of 14-year-old victim Cynthia Wesley), told the Los Angeles Times, "Cynthia is not in my life and that's what hurts. There will never be closure on this for me, but I trusted the jury to do justice. It wouldn't have mattered if they were black or white." She also told The Washington Post, "My mother used to always tell me you've got to learn to love and to forget, and the hardest part is going to be to forget."

Diane McWhorter, whose book on Birmingham won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, made a similar point in yesterday's USA Today: "A nagging question undercuts these noble undertakings, however: What if they had an atonement and nobody came? Rarely in these rites of penitence does anyone repent, either the specific perpetrator of the crime or the society whose segregationist values it grotesquely dramatized. … It might be that a hung jury would be a more accurate reflection of the unresolved American dilemma, impervious to the cheap grace of 'closure.'"

Cherry and three others were all named as suspects shortly after the bombing, but it took years for justice to come. The first conviction came in 1977, against Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, thought to be the leader of the group. Thomas Blanton Jr. was convicted last year. Herman Frank Cash died in 1994 without ever being charged.

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Ban on women priests violates sexual discrimination law, says federal suit
Susan Rockwell says she wants to be a Roman Catholic priest, but can't simply because she's a woman. That's illegal sexual discrimination, she says, and it violates her rights to free expression and religion. She's suing the church, and demanding that it lose its tax-exempt status. "It is well established in federal case law that religious entities who discriminate against the civil rights of individuals must forfeit their preferential tax status, even when the discriminatory practice is based on 'sincerely held religious belief' if it violates civil rights, public policy, the social norm, and the community conscience," Rockwell says in her suit (she's a lawyer representing herself in the case).

She may, in the old adage, have a fool for a client, but the lawsuit itself may not be that crazy. She cites as precedent the 1983 Supreme Court decision against Bob Jones University, which said the school couldn't be tax exempt and ban interracial dating. This is certainly a case worth watching.

Latino evangelicals using Catholic abuse scandal, says New York Times
"Most evangelical Christians would say they have no interest in capitalizing on Catholicism's woe," reports The New York Times's Daniel J. Wakin. "But when asked, they do not hesitate to find the scandal's roots in Catholic dogma, and some go even further. In a few cases, priests say, the scandal is being thrown in Catholic faces by proselytizing neighbors. And others who study the evangelical world suggest that the scandal will be used as a wedge in the long struggle between Catholics and evangelicals for Latino souls."

Gordon-Conwell Seminary professor Eldin Villafañe tells the paper that Latino evangelical pastors are sad about the scandal but feel vindicated, pointing to Catholicism's "hierarchical structure and mandatory celibacy" as proven problematic.

Catholics are becoming increasingly aware of and irritated by the comments, Wakin reports. At a recent parish meeting, says New York priest John Grange, "one of the things that surfaced was annoyance at evangelical Protestants' kind of rubbing Catholic people's noses in it."

Unfortuantely, the article is unclear about where this nose-rubbing is coming from. Evangelical Latino pastors? Evangelical Latino laity? The general evangelical laity? Weblog doesn't see it coming from white evangelical leaders; if anything, they're saying that evangelical churches have sexual ethics problems of their own.

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More articles

Crime and justice:



  • Jealous Scots to blame for witch hunt | New research finds that the hysteria that led to the burning of 1,500 Scottish women between the 16th and 18th centuries was sparked by a failed businessman, driven mad by his sister-in-law's success. (The Sunday Times, London)

  • Saint who took the hard road to holiness | When it came to treating yourself badly in the name of holiness, St Simeon Stylites had no rival (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Peace of the action | Quakers aren't the sort to make a fuss of a 350th anniversary. Instead, they will get on with their work—quietly struggling to defeat the forces of violence and extremism. (The Guardian, London)


  • Big changes in Christian publishing | As denominational labels mean less and less for today's Christians, it spells trouble for the once-proud denominational publishing houses which have seen their financial statements tumble into the red. (Religion News Service)

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