Tamil Nadu's anti-conversion ordinance becomes permanent law
As expected, the legislative assembly in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu created a law prohibiting religious conversion by "force, allurement, or fraudulent means." The state government had earlier issued the conversion ban as a decree, but yesterday's 140-73 vote makes it law.

Under the law, anyone found "inducing" people to convert may be imprisoned for three years and heavily fined. Religiously motivated aid and relief workers say this puts their work at tremendous risk. Also, anyone coverting to another religion must have it approved by a district magistrate.

The Hindu, a national Indian newspaper that's not as partisan in this controversy as its name might suggest, is quick to dismiss reports that the law is just about forced conversions. The chief minister's "arguments in the course of the three-hour debate were against conversion itself. … Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, [Chief Minister J] Jayalalithaa sought to justify a ban on all conversions." the paper says. It quotes her saying, "Conversions create resentment among several sections and also inflame religious passions, leading to communal clashes."

The paper says that although the bill was overwhelmingly passed, yesterday saw "one of the fiercest and lengthiest debates in the Assembly yet."

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the nation's coalition government, is pushing for all other Indian states to pass similar laws.

Interfaith Alliance, National Council of Churches: Falwell, Robertson, and Graham shouldn't be killed, but …
The Washington Times says that the Interfaith Alliance (which exists to counter the Religious Right) and the National Council of Churches are holding their noses and defending Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, and Pat Robertson against death threats. Of course, Falwell, Graham, and Robertson won't exactly take it as a defense. "To call for the killing of persons whose comments about other religions have been historically wrong and patently offensive [contradicts the] highest values" shared by faiths, Interfaith Alliance executive director C. Welton Gaddy said. (The Washington Times reports that Gaddy issued a statement, but it's not on the alliance website.)

NCC executive director Bob Edgar is only quoted as saying "We need to speak out against violence" in a Sunday broadcast to Lebanon. Weblog couldn't find anything on the NCC website defending the three men against against death threats—only items saying that Jerry Falwell's recent comments "are dangerous to the national security of every nation where Christians and Muslims are seeking a peaceful relationship … create ideal conditions for breeding terrorism … [and] put at increased risk the lives of thousands of Christian missionaries and humanitarian aid workers."

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The Times article doesn't note whether Muslim leaders are repudiating the death threats.

More articles

Sex abuse scandals:

Child discipline and abuse:


  • Neb. couple fined for forced prayer | Assembly of God pastor Dwight Sandoz of Minatare. Nebraska, and his wife, Nadine, were found guilty of false imprisonment of a minor and fined $100 each (Associated Press)

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  • Priest: I have $inned | An embezzling priest, accused of lavishing stolen funds on a gay lover, walked out of a Queens courtroom yesterday with five years' probation, forced restitution and a sermon from the judge (New York Post)

  • Also: Light penance for ripoff rev | Must pay back stolen 100G, but gets no jail time (New York Daily News)

  • Church shooting kills Greenville man | Investigators arrest 16-year-old, looking for other suspects. (WYFF, South Carolina)

Religious freedom:

Talisman Energy pulls out of Sudan:

Politics and law:

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Church zoning fights:



  • Even if USA won't say it, terrorists want religious war | Now that the battle has been joined, Bush must understand how consuming it is likely to become for the U.S. military and how dangerous the emerging Islamic holy war is to the world (DeWayne Wickham, USA Today)

  • Islam's 'idealistic version of itself' not quite the reality | An interview with historian Bat Ye'or (The Washington Times)

  • Great leaps of utter nonsense | Daniel Pipes has done well over the last few years, hammering away at the dangers of militant Islam. But his column on the sniper suspect just demonstrates the wisdom of an old expression: When the only tool you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail (Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune)

Other religions:

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Sexual ethics:

  • Top B.C. Anglican joins same-sex debate | Dismisses possibility of a permanent split within the Diocese of New Westminster over the issue of same-sex blessings (CBC)

  • Anglicans' gay union debate postponed for all but one | B.C. cleric may continue to give blessing; bishops will readdress issue in 2004 (Canadian Press)

  • Church is braced for election of gay bishop | Canon Gene Robinson, who left his wife and children to move in with his male lover, is almost certain to stand for election as the next Bishop of New Hampshire (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Police chaplain stays | City officials stopped short Monday of firing the police department's volunteer chaplain for saying homosexuality is a sin, but condemned his remarks and ordered the police chief to bring in more chaplains to represent a wider religious viewpoint (The Daily Tribune, Royal Oak, Mich.)

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Pop culture:


  • Faithful unfazed by artifact | Trust in God should not hinge on discoveries such as the recently found stone, they say. (The Stuart [Fla.] News)

  • Ancient box opens lid on theological debate | Was Jesus an only child? Was Mary forever a virgin? The discovery of a Jewish ossuary bearing some familiar scriptural names is turning into a Pandora's box for scholars, clergy and laity. (St. Petersburg Times)

  • Vatican to make public pre-WWII archives | Documents from 1922 to 1939, before the reign of Pope Pius XII, will be opened. Move aims to counter criticism of the papacy's wartime role. (Los Angeles Times)


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  • School district stops handouts on church-based party | The church, an Assemblies of God congregation, placed 3,000 fliers in Willingboro's seven public elementary schools advertising its annual Harvest Fun Fair (Burlington County [Pa.] Times)

  • Publishers alter texts to try to make grade | Texas Freedom Network, a group that monitors the religious right, said publishers have deleted passages that describe Islam positively and made changes to promote Christianity (Houston Chronicle)

Missions and ministry:

Church life:

  • Reinventing church | Young pastors explore new forms of worship in search of an 'authentic' Christian experience (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Church bus runs over teenager | Investigators say it was horrible accident. (WDIV, Detroit)

  • Spiritual corridor keeps growing | Van Dyke United Methodist Church is the latest to expand with a new worship center that will include a 1,100-seat sanctuary, a 100-seat chapel and landscaping improvements (St. Petersburg Times)

  • Houses of worship aiding organ donation | The initiative is meant in part to dispel the perception that some religions forbid organ donation (Newsday)

Church of England:

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  • Fans lobby for Catholic TV network | Some area residents have joined a campaign to pressure AT&T Broadband into reversing its decision to reduce programming time for a EWTN (The Boston Globe)

  • Second Vatican Council reaffirmed papal rule | A Catholic cardinal said yesterday that the reformist Second Vatican Council upheld the authority of the papacy, hierarchy and Rome as the "true church," rather than liberalizing those beliefs, as commonly believed (The Washington Times)

  • Mahony's top chiefs all resign | Budget cuts at the L.A. Archdiocese as well as personal factors appear to push the five managers to step down in joint announcement (Los Angeles Times)

Other stories of interest:

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