Bethlehem prepares itself for another gloomy Christmas. The town, usually buzzing with pre-Christmas activity, is now dead. An Associated Press story gives the picture: "George Juha sat in his empty Manger Square restaurant, flipping through a picture album, reminiscing about the good old days when hundreds of tourists, diplomats, and famous personalities lunched there. 'We've been closed most of the year. There are no tourists, so business is very slow,'' said Juha, 44, looking at 5-year-old pictures of U.S. congressmen enjoying a traditional Middle Eastern meal at his restaurant.

Bethlehem's mayor announced this week that Christmas celebrations would be limited to religious ceremonies. "I know that Bethlehem has a special place in the Christians' hearts, being the cradle of Jesus Christ, and for that I encourage all our Christian brethren to show their love for Bethlehem this Christmas by taking serious steps to save the city and its people, as it's in dire need for help preserve its prestigious place and its importance as a pilgrimage destination and a city of peace," the mayor said.

In addition, Israel barred Yasser Arafat from attending any celebrations in the city after a Christian delegation invited him. Arafat typically attends the Christmas ceremonies, but hasn't for three years while he has been confined to his Ramallah compound.

Christians have been fleeing the city at a rate of 1,000 per year, Reuters reports. "If this continues, our churches will be more like museums than living houses of prayer," said Father Amjad Sabbara, a senior Roman Catholic cleric, after celebrating mass before a sparse congregation of mostly gray-haired worshipers." Christians number only 50,000 in the West Bank and Gaza, less than half of the 110,000 Christians who lived there in 1948.

The town has lost the historic harmony it once had between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Reuters says,

Town manager Jamal Salman said Christians are being hardest hit as Israel seizes land on Bethlehem's outskirts for a vast metal-and-concrete barrier it is building in the West Bank.
But Christians complain they are also being squeezed by Muslim neighbors who in some cases have taken advantage of growing lawlessness to grab farmland and other property.

Reuters writes this Christmas Ihab Mousselem, whose family has lived in Bethlehem for generations, got what he wished for: a visa to Europe. Mousselem is "joining a growing exodus of Palestinian Christians squeezed by Israel's crippling military blockade of the West Bank and the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. … 'We were here before the Greeks, Romans and Turks. It hurts to leave but it's more painful to stay,' " he said.

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For a personal glimpse at the situation, read Rev. Alex Awad's letter to Ariel Sharon. Awad is dean of students of a Christian college in Bethlehem and the pastor of a Church in Jerusalem. He describes the "great social, economic, educational, medical and religious nightmares to the Christian citizens of Bethlehem."

Also check out CT editor David Neff's interview with Joshua Hammer, author of A Season in Bethlehem. Hammer describes the difficult situation of Christians in the town of Jesus' birth. Also online is information from the publisher, including an excerpt, a Newsweek excerpt, Hammer's discussion of the book on NPR's Fresh Air, and PBS's Frontline coverage of the Church of the Nativity standoff in Bethlehem.

More articles:

Christians and Israel:

  • Bush warned: Don't push Israel | Leading Christian and Jewish conservatives warned the Bush administration this week not to use the dramatic capture of Saddam Hussein as the launch pad for new U.S. initiatives on the Israeli-Palestinian front. (New York Jewish Week)

  • Zionists plan emergency congress in Jerusalem | Zionist leaders from both the Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities are being invited to the capital in February, amid reports that an increasing number of key right-wing Israeli government officials are surrendering to the "inevitability" of Palestine. (Jerusalem Newswire)

Christianity and Judaism:

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  • The lost Jews of Mizoram | "I was born a Christian, but since 1976 I was more inclined to Judaism," Tlau said. In predominantly Christian Mizoram, where about 95 percent of the nearly 900,000 people are Christians, talking about Judaism is not taken very lightly. (New Kerala, India)

  • Hanukkah's meaning shines | Judaism's spirit radiates through 8-day festival (Toledo Blade, Ohio)

  • Light the way | Through the darkness of the winter nights, candles can be seen flickering in the windows of Jewish homes for the celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)


  • Churches condemn anti-Semitism | Jewish leaders have welcomed a groundbreaking statement by the leaders of Canada's largest Christian churches, who have joined to strenuously condemn anti-Semitism and to invite all Canadians to fight it. (Canadian Jewish News)

  • Community rallies around woman whose Hanukkah flag was burned | At 71, Victoria Monina remembers a childhood spent hiding from Nazi soldiers bent on sending to their deaths all the Jews they could find. Before a small crowd in her driveway, Monina mounted a stepladder and hung a new Hanukkah banner. (Los Angles Times)

  • Minneapolis man accused of vadalizing synagogues, charged with hate crime | A Minneapolis man is charged with a hate crime, accused of vandalizing two Twin Cities synagogues. Daniel Coleman told police God told him to do it. (KSTP, Minnesota)

Religious hate:

  • Rise in racism in parts of county | The latest figures that showed there were 176 reports of racism across the county between April and October—one more on the same period last year. A total of 67 people said they had repeatedly been the victims of racial attacks, with Christians and Muslims the most targeted religions. (East Anglian Daily Times, UK)

  • Red-green anti-semitism | The recent outburst of anti-Semitism in Europe has little to do with the sad history of European prejudice. Recent anti-Semitic acts have been proven to be of Muslim-Arab origin and have more to do with the Islamization of Europe. (Tech Central Station)

Religious freedom:

  • International Religious Freedom Report Issued | The International Religious Freedom Report for 2003 is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to Congress each year "an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom." This Annual Report includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. (Department of State)

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  • U.S. critical of religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia, Israel | A State Department report released Thursday said Saudi Arabia continues to impose strict limitations on religious freedoms. It also criticized Israel and several European allies for varying degrees of religious intolerance. (Wilkes Barre Weekender, Pennsylvania)

  • Iran, Saudi worst religious freedom violators in Mideast | US reports reveals Iranian, Saudi governments implement policies designed to intimidate certain groups. (MidEast Online)

  • PC prof chronicles Czech persecution | The Rev. Ken Gumbert's journey to the former Czechoslovakia began with a chance remark over lunch, took a detour through Cuba, and ended with a documentary about maintaining faith in the face of persecution. (Providence Journal, Rode Island)

  • Criticism over child's cross leads to a lesson in tolerance | This year, Indiana started first grade and again wore her cross with pride. And there were more comments from fellow students at the school, where the majority of students are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Prayer ban riles Landmark Christian | Headmaster Matt Skinner was riled by a letter that had just been handed to him from the Georgia High School Association, advising him not to pray over the public address system, "to avoid the appearance that the GHSA is endorsing a religion." The GHSA owns rights to playoff games; local schools handle regular-season games. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Christians in the Cross Hairs | Christmas may be anything but merry for Egypt's Christians. They are increasingly facing a harder time living under anti-conversion laws and legal discrimination. Not until Dec. 3, for instance, did police release the last of a group of 22 converts who had been arrested in late October, their only crime being an attempt to convert to Christianity from Islam, the Britain-based Barnabas Fund reported. Mariam Girgis Makar, the last detainee, was released on bail for 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($162). (Zenit)

Vietnam religious freedom:

  • Vietnamese organize hunger strike for religious freedoms | Braving the bitter cold and frost after the East Coast's first major snowstorm, two dozen Vietnamese Americans staged a hunger strike in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York last week to demand an end to religious persecution in Vietnam, reports Vietnamese-language weekly CaliToday in San Jose. (Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California)

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  • Also: Church marks 20 years | Priest ministers to area Vietnamese (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)


  • Return Cong, Ngamthang tells Sadar Hills public | Coming down heavily on the BJP and its stand to ban cow slaughter, the minister stated that the proposed ban is a heavy blow to the Christians specially to those in the North East. The people should be ready to challenge the anti-Christian attitude of BJP he said and Congressmen should take a leading role in safeguarding the interest of the people, he said. (The Imphal Free Press, India)

  • Govt non-committal over reservations for Muslim Dalits | The government today remained non-committal over granting reservations to Dalits who have converted to Islam and Christianity after several Opposition members called for parity for them in benefits enjoyed by Hindu backward classes. (Deepika, India)

  • Stratification among Christians may spark controversy: Govt | Government on Thursday said in Lok Sabha that any attempt to go for stratification among Christians on the basis of caste could become a matter of international controversy if they were included in the list of Scheduled Castes for reservation benefit to them. (Hindustan Times, India)

  • 900 illegal shrines demolished in Mumbai | Despite pressures from politicians of different hues, authorities have demolished more than 900 illegal roadside shrines here in India's financial capital over the past several weeks. A total of 1,430 illegal shrines exist all over the city. These include temples, Buddhist prayer halls, mosques or simply crosses erected by Christians. (New Kerala, India)

Sri Lanka:

  • Religious conversions by undue means not approved | Christian Affairs Minister John Emmanuel Amaratunga said that religious conversions by force or by undue means were not approved by the State or by the Catholic Church. Minister was expressing his views on recent incidents against the Catholics and Christians in the country. (Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka)

  • Buddhist monks attack six churches in Sri Lanka. | The Christian population is under constant attacks of Buddhist majority community in different provinces of Sri Lanka, where churches have been desecrated, Holy Bibles burnt and clergy attacked by the processions led by the Buddhist monks. (Pakistan Christian Post)

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Chinese Christian arrested:

  • Cyber dissident arrested | A Paris-based rights group called on China on Wednesday to release a 23-year old religious dissident arrested for using the internet to support unauthorised Christian activities. (News24, South Africa)

  • China seizes web writer who backed church | An Internet writer who posted articles online supporting China's unofficial Christian church has been arrested amid a widening police crackdown on unregistered religious activities, a U.S.-based monitoring group said Tuesday. (Associated Press)

  • China arrests cyberdissident | A Paris-based rights group called on China to release a 23-year old religious dissident arrested for using the internet to support unauthorised Christian activities. (Australian IT)

Russian Christians in Minnesota:

  • Russian families changing and being changed by life in Twin Cities' suburbs | Each Sunday, as many as 800 people pack the pews and aisles of the recently enlarged church, the largest Russian-language house of worship in the Twin Cities area. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

  • Russian evangelicals: Christian with a difference | This most recent wave of Christian Russians began arriving in the United States after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, in the face of increasing intolerance for non-Orthodox Christian churches. The Russians who came to Minnesota during the previous two decades had been predominantly Jewish. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)


  • 15 year Christian boy kidnapped, beaten and forced to become Muslim. | A 15-year-old Christian boy from the province of Sindh has been kidnapped and taken to an Islamic religious school where he was beaten and forced to become a Muslim. (Pakistan Christian Post)

  • Christian teen forced to become Muslim | Boy abducted, taken to strict Islamic school where beaten, prepared for jihad (WorldNetDaily)

  • A bold, brave face gains currency | Naveen seemed a part of the emerging new face of Pakistan. She had not studied abroad, came from a village near the town of Khanewal and was not part of the small Pakistani elite. She spoke English like any convent-educated woman in Delhi and lived in a working women's hostel. "I am a Christian. Christianity is important to me, even though I don't go to church regularly. It is a part of my identity and what happens to the community also affects me," she said. (Calcutta Telegraph, India)

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  • Town council fails to pay Christian staff | Sources revealed that the November salaries of the Muslim staff were released before Eidul Fitr and those of the sanitary staff, mainly Christians, were withheld on the grounds that it was not their religious festival and they would be paid after Eid. Sources said that the sanitary staff had still not received its salary and unrest was growing with Christmas just a few days ahead. (Daily Times Pakistan)

Saudi Arabia:

  • Cherie Blair: Saudi image 'appalling' | Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has said that Saudi Arabia has an "appalling" world image that needs to be corrected. Cherie, a Roman Catholic, vowed to change the "perception of Islam being backward-looking, oppressive - somehow not as good as western Christianity". (Aljazeera)



  • Religious groups to support Philippine President | President Arroyo's high moral values and work ethics are two major factors that will prompt religious groups to endorse her candidacy in the 2004 presidential election. (The Manila Times, Philippines)


  • Iraqi bishops: Saddam's arrest joyce for all | Saddam Hussein's capture was a joy for all the Iraqi people, and for we bishops too." Rabban al Qas, Amadiyah's bishop is enthusiast: the head of the snake was finally crashed - he said to Asia News of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission - now the country can be rebuilt in peace, with the help of the soldier, who are saviours to us, and not occupiers. (Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, English Version)

  • Radical Muslims spark fear in Iraqi Christians | November was a dangerous month for Christians in Iraq. A key Christian judge was killed in Mosul, bombs were found at two Christian schools, and many Christian students and families received notes to convert to Islam, or else. (Christian Broadcasting Network)

  • Doctor who fled Iraq wants justice for Saddam | As Assyrian Christians, Kankakee physician Ron Michael's family was singled out for special persecution in Iraq. He knows the U.S. will have to interrogate Saddam but hopes that, ultimately, Saddam will be tried by the Iraqi people themselves. (WBBM, Chicago)

  • Iraqis living in U.S. share news, joy | Hussein's capture galvanized Chicago's community of Iraqi emigres as the news spread early Sunday—via telephone, television and word-of-mouth among parishioners at Assyrian churches—that the ex-dictator's day of reckoning finally had arrived. They hoisted American flags and gathered at coffeehouses and community centers to share the good news. The Christian Assyrians of Iraq were persecuted by Hussein, a Sunni. (Chicago Tribune)

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  • Elation mixed with quiet hope for peace in Iraq | Jubilation swept across Macomb County's large Chaldean community Sunday as word spread of the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. (Macomb Daily, Michigan)

  • Saddam 'should be put in a zoo'—Valley Iraqis jubilant | Sam Darmo, one of about 8,000 Assyrian Christians from Iraq living in Phoenix, said that even after Saddam went into hiding, many Iraqis continued to fear that he could somehow return to power. But now that he has been captured, Iraqis will be more willing to cooperate with the United States against hostile forces. (The Arizona Republic)

  • Worshippers hope for peace | The discovery and capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was not on the agenda Sunday night during a young adult service at the First Assembly of God on McPherson Street. But the fate of the people Saddam governed was. (Mansfield News Journal, Ohio)

  • Area religious leaders reflect on Iraq events | The first place some Tallahasseeans heard of Saddam Hussein's capture was at Sunday morning church services. In fact, several of the city's spiritual leaders mentioned it in their sermons. They also said they hoped that the former dictator's being in custody would finally bring some measure of peace to Iraq. (Tallahassee Democrat)

  • Locals react to Saddam's capture | An Iraqi refugee couple living in North Knoxville says Saddam's capture means that they can finally visit their homeland. Milad and Cinderella Agoubi are Christian evangelists. The pair converted and trained Muslim pastors to preach the Bible in their homeland, and that lead to their arrest nearly two years ago. (WVLT, Tennessee)

  • Local churchgoers ponder meaning of capture | News of the capture of Saddam Hussein spread through Sunday church services across the city, often by word of mouth, as those who arrived early were informed by others who had turned on radios and televisions before heading to church. (Houston Chronicle)

  • War on Iraq condemned | The US-led war on Iraq was wrong, a world Christian leader declared in Bahrain yesterday. The Iraqi aggression was an "unchristian" act, said the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church and the Patriarch of Antioch & All the East, His Holiness Moron Mor Ignatius Zakka I. (Gulf Daily News, Bahrain)

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Terrorism and war:

  • Terrorism warning has Radnor Twp. on the alert | Officials in Radnor Township were still on alert yesterday after the FBI warned that there was a "credible threat" of terrorist activity against a downtown Wayne site, even though the target organization reportedly moved out six months ago. A Lancaster Avenue merchant familiar with the target group said it was called SAT-7, an international organization that describes itself as "a satellite television service for Christians of the Middle East." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Demographic time bombs: Israel, Northern Ireland need compromises … | There's a lesson in Lebanon's history. It had a narrow Christian majority in the 1920s when France carved it out of Greater Syria, and Christians held most power. But the demographic balance tilted over the next few decades. Muslims overtook Christians and demanded a bigger share of power. A civil war erupted in the mid-1970s in which more than 50,000 Lebanese died. Today, only 30 percent of Lebanese are Christian, and Muslims have much more influence in the Middle Eastern country's affairs. Similar demographic time bombs are ticking in Northern Ireland and Israel. (Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

  • Community places its soldiers in God's hands | "Bless them, Lord, we place them in Your hands," the Rev. Gerry Sharp of the Marysville United Methodist Church said in a prayer for the safety of soldiers at Monday evening's community Service for Soldiers Deployed Into War Zone Duty. (Marysville Advocate, Kansas)

  • Our enemies at home | During Eric Rudolph's five years in the wilderness, he was often viewed by the public and press as a lone fugitive. But law enforcement officials have linked him to two national movements: the Army of God, a biblically inspired underground network of anti-abortion extremists; and the Christian Identity movement, whose members believe that Jews are the literal children of Satan, nonwhites are sub-human, and that Anglo-Saxon Christians are the true descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. (Daniel Levitas, New York Times)

  • A Rabbi's faith in peace | Forum with Muslims offers hope for unity (Newsday)

  • Wayne seeks normalcy after terror threat | Last Friday, the FBI informed Radnor Township Police that a "credible threat" of terrorist activity existed. The threat has been made against a Christian satellite television service known as SAT-7. (Ardmore Main Line Life, Pennsylvania)

  • Italy tightens security at churches for Christmas | Italy is beefing up security around churches ahead of Christmas, although no specific threats have been reported, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. (Reuters)

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  • Iraqis' security worries growing | Hussein's arrest is reassuring, but they point to riots, bombs. Nashuan Amir Ishalk Isaac, a Christian from eastern Baghdad, said bands of Sunnis—some carrying assault rifles—have begun threatening Shiites in his neighborhood. Others entered his church recently and warned Christians to leave. (Dallas Morning News)

  • Scrapbook: Tyrant is one of God's creatures | Before any other words we use to describe Hussein, he is first and foremost a human being, and as such is worthy of our respect. (The Australian)

  • Checkpoints or legalized torture | We could all see the "other" roads where settlers and soldiers could travel freely on highways unobstructed by checkpoint or walls or fences. These were the roads off limit to Palestinian Christians and Muslims and open to cars carrying the Israeli yellow license plates. It was a poignant and living example of the increasingly violent apartheid system being implemented in the colonized areas. (Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ramallah Online)

  • Increased security around Vatican City | The main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square is being closed at nights as part of increased security around the Vatican. The measure - introduced from Monday night - has been taken following reports that Italy received a warning of an attack on Christian sites from Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. (Associated Press)

  • Mosul smoldered before igniting | Like other Iraqi cities, Mosul has been the scene of suicide bombings, which locals attribute to foreign Islamic radicals as well as Iraqis. "In the past, we Christians had a very normal life. Now we receive daily threats. A hand grenade was thrown at our house," complained Pivan Yousef, a clergyman who blamed the attack on "outsiders." (Los Angles Times)

Christianity and Islam:

  • Commandment the First | Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? (Slate)

  • Islam religion of Peace, says newly converted Canadian woman | A newly Christian turned Muslim Canadian woman Cindy May Falloon has termed all the allegations against the religion of Islam as baseless and has said that this is the only religion which gives the message of peace and harmony. (PakTribune, Pakistan)

  • Muslim party at Christmas ban library | A library that banned the display of posters promoting Christmas services for fear of offending other religions hosted a party to celebrate a Muslim festival only days earlier. (Telegraph, UK)

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  • Also:Council bans carol service posters | A Tory council has banned posters for a carol service at a church over fears that non-Christians could be offended. (Evening Standard, London)

  • The tide is turning and we are unprepared | Islam has taken root in what for the best part of 1,500 years was the evangelical heart and administrative home of Christianity. (Telegraph, UK)

  • Changing shadows | Between 1898 and 1976, the Jame-e-masjid mosque on the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane was the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. Before that, it was occupied by the Methodists, who had inherited it from the displaced Huguenots—Calvinists fleeing persecution in France—who had built it in 1743. (The Economist, UK)

  • Protest on Abida Parveen,s show in church sanctuary | Mr. Obaid chowdry, a leader of the Canadian Christian association has strongly protested on the show of Abida Parveen in the church. Parveen is famous for her Muslim religious songs and folk music in Pakistan and honored with President Medal on her out standing performance in Islamic music. She is on tour to Canada now a days when one church invited her to perform for the Christmas celebrations of Indo- Pak Christian congregation. (Pakistan Christian Post)

France to ban Islamic headscarves:

  • French plan to curb symbols challenged | A senior State Department official yesterday sharply questioned French President Jacques Chirac's call for a law that would ban Muslim head scarves and other conspicuous religious symbols from French public schools. (Washington Post)

  • Religious freedom sacrificed on the altar of the state | Following the recommendation of a committee of French MPs, French President Jacques Chirac yesterday called for a new law banning conspicuous forms of religious dress in public schools. Not surprisingly, this has met an angry response from French religious leaders; the implications for their congregations are obvious. (Waleed Aly , The Australian)

  • US Voices Misgivings on Chirac's Headscarves Stand | The State Department voiced misgivings on Thursday about French President Jacques Chirac's plan to bar the wearing of Islamic headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses in state schools. (Reuters)

  • France split on headscarf ban | President Jacques Chirac's pledge to back a ban on the Islamic headscarf in schools drew a mixed reaction Thursday, some applauding the reassertion of France's "secular" principles but others calling the proposed law counter-productive and discriminatory. (Agence France-Presse)

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  • Chirac's headscarf ban pledge gets mixed reaction in France | President Jacques Chirac's pledge to back a ban on the Islamic headscarf in schools drew a mixed reaction on Thursday, some applauding the reassertion of France's "secular" principles but others calling the proposed law counter-productive and discriminatory. (Agence France-Presse)

  • Polls back Chirac's stance on religious signs | President Jacques Chirac has met strong criticism from leaders of France's 6 million Muslims for a proposal to ban the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious signs from state schools. (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Chirac's veil ban gets mixed reaction in France | Some hail reassertion of France's 'secular' principles, others call proposed law counter-productive, discriminatory. (Middle East Online, UK)

  • Chirac Urges Ban On Head Scarves in Schools | Constitutional law professor Jamin Raskin was online Thursday, Dec. 18, at noon ET from Paris to discuss Chirac's decision and how the push to ban Muslim headscarves is playing throughout France. (Washington Post)

  • Secularists turn pro-choice into "no choice" | Americans hear a lot about "the separation of church and state." Now we can look at the French to see how the secularists' mantra is really a rallying cry to crush freedom of religion. (Kenneth E. Lamb, Gulf1, Florida)

  • Sen. Santorum Blasts France On Religious Symbol Ban | A leading Republican senator is blasting the French government for its efforts to impose a ban on the wearing of religious symbols or garments in public schools. (Forward, New York)

  • Chirac backs head scarf ban | Defends France's 'crucial' secularism. Law to prohibit skullcaps, big crosses (Toronto Star, Canada)

Religion and politics:

  • Key religious voting blocs shifting allegiances | World events and domestic policies tear at traditional faith-based patterns among Muslims, Jews and evangelical Christians in the United States (Chicago Tribune)

  • Biblical taxation | Sociologists of religion have long considered Alabama one of the most Christian states in the nation. Policy wonks, meanwhile, have repeatedly ranked Alabama's tax structure as one of the nation's most regressive. But no one had ever bothered to highlight the apparent incongruity of these two attributes until Susan Pace Hamill (New York Times)

  • Fiery Sharpton sparks Democrats' campaign | After church on Sundays, little Alfred Sharpton Jr. had a routine. He would slip into his mother's bathrobe, line his sister's dolls along the edge of a bed and preach to them. Forty years later, decked out in a tailored suit, gold links setting off monogrammed French cuffs, Sharpton is counting on style and contrast as he vies for the presidency. By his own admission, he is part showman, part statesman. (Scripps Howard News Service)

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  • State and religion education in Turkey: A dilemma | there are many professional groups and civil society organizations which are questioning whether the State needed to reach this deep further into religion education in Turkey. No one so far has raised the question that barred a similar involvement in the United States: can the State use taxpayers' monies to support only a given religion in a secular democracy? (Turkish Press, Turkey)

  • PAC formed by Moore supporters aims to elect Christians | Supporters of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore now have a political action committee raising money for Christian candidates for the Alabama Supreme Court in next year's elections. (WTVM, Georgia)

  • Most officials Christians now | The newly formed League of Christian Voters has established a political action committee to raise money in support of Christian candidates for the Alabama Supreme Court next year. It is certainly entitled to do so, but Alabama voters might well question what the organization really hopes to accomplish. (Editorial, Montgomery Advertiser)

  • Potential church-state landmark case before the Supreme Court | "The implications of this case are breathtaking." So said Justice Stephen G. Breyer recently during oral arguments in a church-state case before the Supreme Court. The case, Locke v. Davey, deals with the stripping of Joshua Davey's Washington Promise Scholarship because he wanted to use it to major in pastoral ministries. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

  • EU constitution plans on ice—what froze the EU summit | An issue generating a lot of emotion, especially in Catholic countries, which want a specific reference to Christianity in the constitution's preamble, as does the Vatican. (EU Business, UK)

  • Americans bring their faith to the voting booth | Gallup Poll shows two-thirds of registered voters say their religious beliefs will be an important factor in presidential race (Religion News Service)

  • The Anti-democrat | Washington elites are terrified that Dean will disrupt their power base. Cultural issues have animated our politics for the last forty years. A new book by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, "The Two Americas," points out that 17 percent of the electorate—almost one in five voters—are white Evangelicals. (Newsweek)

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  • Religious heads question interfaith group's intentions | Christian and Jewish leaders call speakers for the Islam for Humanity meeting extremists, not mainstream unifiers as organizers proclaim. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Members of Lovejoy group have many faiths, one goal | Lovejoy Caregivers Interfaith Ministry, started in the late 1990s and one of a number of food pantries under the auspices of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, is among many area organizations distributing food through The Buffalo News Neediest Fund, a drive to help impoverished families in want enjoy a season of good cheer, so kids won't have to wear socks as mittens. (Buffalo News, NY)

  • One God? Many beliefs | President Bush's recent statement has reignited an age-old debate regarding the diversity of divinity (Fort Worth Star Telegram)

  • Interfaith forum addresses religious intolerance | The solution to global religious intolerance seemed simple to the panelists at a forum addressing questions of faith Sunday afternoon at the Lompoc Valley Community Center. It's a matter of faith, the six panelists representing the Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Baha'i faiths eventually agreed. All it takes, they said, is for each religion's leaders to acknowledge that each faith is built on a foundation of peace. (Lompoc Record, California)

  • Interfaith conference | For the first time ever, some 40 religious leaders from around the world are meeting to try to unite the world's major religions in responding to modern life and its challenges. The meeting, sponsored by the Elijah Interfaith Academy, is taking place this week in Seville, Spain. (Arutz Sheva, Israel)

  • Leaders ponder role of religion in conflicts | Many of the world's conflicts are centred on religion, but the theme of a unique meeting that opens today in Seville is that religion has an important role in solving those conflicts. (Montreal Gazette)

  • Religious leaders seek a common path | While world media continued to report on conflict ranging from the Middle East to Chechnya, more than 40 religious leaders from around the globe met quietly in the southern Spanish city of Seville in an attempt to resolve the religious dimension of violence on Monday. (Hi Pakistan)

  • Silsilah: a journey of hope towards peace | 80 participants who have committed themselves in pursuing peace in Mindanao through the inter-faith dialogue between Muslims and Christians, are gathering in the midst of armed conflicts and fear. They are Muslims, Christians, tribal people and people of different cultures and religions who share the common hope of peace in the region, despite outside and inward forces which try to disrupt it. (Minda News, Philippines)

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  • Pope says interreligious dialogue crucial in war against terror | Pope John Paul II has said mutual respect for religious freedom is crucial to the health of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and will help ensure joint efforts to eliminate the causes of terrorism. (Catholic News, Australia)

  • "Iran ready to extradite some of 130 al-Qaeda" | Launching an urgent appeal for dialogue between Islam and Christianity, Khatami told an audience at the World Council of Churches (WCC) that Iran's dominant Islamic faith ruled out the use of nuclear weapons. (IranMania News, Iran)

  • Dalai Lama, Tutu top list for Vancouver gathering | The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, two Nobel Peace Prize winners, will be among four major spiritual leaders visiting Vancouver for a round of events beginning April 17, 2004. (Vancouver Sun)

  • Kosovo: Young Muslims join in Christmas mass | Traditionally, Christians in the West celebrate the Christmas holiday on 25 December—decorating their homes, exchanging gifts, and attending midnight church services. In Kosovo this year, thousands of Muslim Kosovar Albanians will again be attending midnight Mass along with their Christian neighbors. (Radio Free Europe)

Social justice:

  • Evangelical liberationists | More than 185 evangelical leaders from 50 countries met in Queretaro, Mexico, in September to examine the impact of the globalized economy on the poor. Conference participants examined how scripture instructs mission in an increasingly globalized world in which the poor, while promised more, find themselves economically and socially marginalized and culturally impoverished. (Sojourners Magazine)



  • O'Malley calls for transformation of holiday celebration | Presenting his carefully crafted message in measured tones, Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley explained that early church fathers had chosen December 25 to mark the birth of Jesus because it had previously been celebrated as a pagan holiday. (Hamilton Wenham Chronicle, Massachusetts)

  • Boston Archdiocese to Close Underused Parishes | The leader of Boston's Catholic Archdiocese on Tuesday outlined plans to close underutilized parishes, the latest in a series of attempts by the church to overcome financial troubles exacerbated by revelations of sexual abuse by its priests. (Washington Post)

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  • Priest changes with changing Catholic Church | A lack of clergy, declining revenue, dwindling Mass attendance and a shortage of parish volunteers have forced churches and the archdiocese to take a long, hard look at the future — and how to best consolidate and reconfigure parishes. (Brockton Enterprise, Massachusetts)

  • Museum exhibit showcases building of St. Peter's Basilica | For Roman Catholics around the world, Christmas Eve means midnight Mass celebrated by the pope in St. Peter's Basilica, the home of the church and a jewel of Renaissance architecture. (Associated Press)

  • Faith amid growing Masses | Collin sees Baptist stronghold fade as wave of Catholics migrates to area (Dallas Morning News)

  • Who will be the next pope? | When John Paul II's long ponficate ends, the next pope may come from the Third World (The Boston Globe)

  • Parishes wait for word from Archdiocese | Father John Murray is waiting for word from Archbishop Sean O'Malley about whether the Archdiocese will close some Catholic churches to consolidate resources. (Concord Journal, Massachusetts)

  • Catholics honor Virgin Mary with prayerful protesting | Pausing between the rumbling sound of BART trains passing above, about 40 Catholics recited Hail Marys and readings in a prayerful protest Friday in front of a Mowry Avenue abortion clinic. (Oakland Tribune)

Da Vinci Code:

  • Oh, to lie, fabricate, spin, distort, twist . . . | After reading the immensely popular book "The Da Vinci Code," I have decided that its author, Dan Brown, does not exist. Why? If someone, like the alleged Brown, can distort, fabricate or even wipe out a couple thousand years of political and religious history for the sake of an exciting adventure mystery, then why can't I deny the existence of a single individual for the sake of a good column? (Chicago Tribune)


Episcopal alternative network:

  • Episcopalians back away from break | One day after a council of conservative Episcopalians announced that 13 Episcopal dioceses had formed a new network opposed to their church's stance on homosexuality, three bishops sought to distance their dioceses from the network and said the announcement had been premature. (New York Times)

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  • Episcopal bishops group sets plan for rival ''network'' to protest gay decision | Thirteen bishops have agreed to form a network of dioceses and congregations that disapprove of the Episcopal Church's consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. (Associated Press)

  • Illinois Episcopal diocese part of rival 'network' | The Episcopal bishop for the diocese covering the Metro East is one among 13 who agreed to form a network of dioceses and congregations disapproving of that church's consecration of an openly gay bishop. (Associated Press)

  • The schism begins | Fallout from the gay Episcopal bishop: warring parishes, legal challenges, and angry threats. (Beliefnet)

  • 13 dioceses ally in fight over bishop | The Fort Worth Episcopal Diocese has joined an alliance of 13 dioceses opposed to the ordination of an openly gay bishop, a move some priests and theologians see as a step toward a split in the denomination. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Episcopal church:

  • Consecration of gay bishop affecting town | The turmoil surrounding the consecration of the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop hasn't subsided in town, and could lead to problems on presidential primary day. With the Oyster River High School gym under construction, Durham officials say no other place is large enough and available on all voting days. As a lesbian in this community, I don't feel welcome in that venue," Moorhead said. "I urge the town not to force me and others like me into going there." (Associated Press)

  • Episcopal Church faces turmoil over gay clergy issue | In the weeks since becoming the first Christian denomination to consecrate an openly gay bishop, the Episcopal Church has been gripped by unprecedented tumult. Episcopal parishioners are pitted against each other. Conservative parishes and priests are at odds with their liberal bishops—and vice versa. (Provo Daily Herald, Utah)

Anglican church:

  • Bishops unite in anger over BBC cuts | Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops have united in challenging the BBC's decision to cut the amount of religious broadcasting in the Midlands. (The Church of England Newspaper)

  • Archbishop to visit Middle East | The Archbishop of Canterbury is to visit the Middle East next month, his office has announced. (BBC)

Gay marriage:

  • Gays struggle with gay marriage | There are people who are just uncomfortable with the notion of gay marriage. Some of them are gay. (The Providence Journal posted on Beliefnet)

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  • Bush may support gay marriage ban | President Bush said for the first time yesterday that he could support a constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage, but he drew criticism from some conservatives for leaving the door open to state recognition of civil unions. (Washington Post)

  • Annals of homosexuality: From Greek to grim to gay | Mr. Crompton argues that Christianity created the most radical change in attitudes toward homosexuality. "The debt owed by civilization to Christianity is enormous," he writes; but so, he believes, have been Christianity's sins. In Japan, for example, before the mid-19th-century Western influence, homosexuality was "an honored way of life among the country's religious and military leaders so that its acceptance paralleled, and in some respects even surpassed, ancient Athens." (New York Times)

  • Marriage an issue in earlier times | Massachusetts lawmakers are reported to be puzzling over an appropriate response to what the Supreme Judicial Court called the ''marriage ban'' in its recent decision on same-sex marriage. (Bruce Laurie, Hampshire Gazette, Massachusetts)

  • Gay bishop looks to marriage as next milestone | The first gay bishop in the US Anglican Church is set to aggravate his critics further this week, after comments suggesting he is keen to marry his partner of 14 years. (, UK)


Sexual ethics:

  • Italian debate on fertility bill raises issue of church influence | Earlier this month, in the hopes of persuading parents to reproduce more, the government introduced a 1,000-euro payment for every child after the first-born delivered before the end of 2004. But the new legislation blocks many routes toward pregnancy. (New York Times)

  • Get wife's permission for harem, Ugandan men told | Men in Uganda who want to acquire that traditional status symbol, a second wife, might in future have to ask their existing wife's permission before popping the question again. But the reforms could alienate men in rural areas, where polygamy is widely practised by Christians and followers of traditional beliefs as well as Muslims. (Mail & Guardian, South Africa)


  • NV Multi plans more products, extends services to Christians | Bereavement care services provider NV Multi Corp Bhd expects to provide more innovative products and services to the various communities in the country while expanding its operations in the region. Group chief executive officer Tan Tiam Chai said the company, which provides bereavement care services mainly to the Chinese community, was extending its services to include the Christians. (The Star, Malaysia)

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  • Hindus for Jesus | Who'll be singing carols and reading the Nativity story on Christmas Eve this year? Many American Hindus. (Beliefnet)

  • Substituting symbols of celebration | Christmas decorations in Tanzania are multi-functional. They serve to mark many festivals, not just Christmas, but the New Year, Easter, the start of Ramadhan, the end of Ramadhan, Independence Day, Peasants Day, and Miscellaneous high days and holidays as well. They have accidentally become a part of the year-round interior decor of tiny dark stationery shops and spice kiosks. (Telegraph, UK)

  • Embassy people gear up for holidays | Different countries celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in various ways, which is a testament to the diversity of the holiday. Other holidays matter more to some countries. (Korea Times, South Korea)

  • Children's views differ on holiday celebrations | Religous and ethnic symbols used to commemorate the celebrations of December holidays cannot be displayed, hung or mentioned lately without debate. (Liberal Southwest Daily Times, Kansas)

  • Cultures add to yuletide tradition | Some cultures re-create the story in children's pageants, featuring colorful costumes, wood-en mangers, hay and farm animals and the shepherds and three kings who witnessed Jesus' birth. But other cultures color the story with unique traditions of their own. (The Argus, Fremont, California)

  • LDS Hispanics celebrate Navidad | Jorge Becerra remembers a time when he attended the only Hispanic Latter-day Saint congregation in Salt Lake. Now a Draper stake president, Becerra can think of 28 Hispanic congregations in a similar area. And that's just another sign of the rapid growth of the Hispanic population both in Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Deseret News, Utah)

  • Mary, Joseph's journey for shelter reenacted | Mary and Joseph wandered through the streets of Moline and Rock Island on Sunday night during Las Posadas procession, searching in vain for shelter from the snow and slush. Las Posadas is a traditional Mexican celebration during Advent and a visible remembrance of the journey Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem. (Quad City Times, Iowa)

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  • What really happened in Bethlehem | We know the Christmas story so well that we can almost repeat it in our sleep. But is that the way it really happened? No, it's not—at least according to some New Testament experts. (The Banner)

  • This is Santa's big scene | Who, really, is this all-knowing, all-seeing fat guy in red with a suspicious list that he checks not once but twice before entering our homes in the dark of night? Behind the red and white glare, some say, is a tool of consumerism-gone-mad, a childhood fantasy with a fundamental flaw. He is not Saint Nicholas, the Christian figure known for bearing gifts and advocating for the poor, but more aptly, some say, the Patron Saint of Capitalism. (Greenville News, South Carolina)

  • Holidays' festive focus helps families avoid stress | Many Christians worry that children know more about Santa than Jesus. Meanwhile, parents are exhausted and broke instead of being spiritually nourished during one of Christianity's holiest seasons. (The Seattle Times)

  • Candy canes | Some Christians say that the traditional candy-cane colors have spiritual meaning, with the white referring to the Holy Spirit and the red referring to the blood shed by Christ. (Tulare Advance Register, California)

  • Christmas not only holiday celebrated this season | December is a season for tradition, family, and remembrance, not only for Christians, but other faiths as well. (Indiana Statesman)

  • 33% Dutch don't know what Christmas is about: Survey | Almost a third of Dutch nationals do not know why Christmas is celebrated. A survey of 750 Dutch adults made public late on Wednesday showed that 26 per cent of respondents did not know which Biblical story was commemorated at Christmas. Six per cent named an event other that the birth of Jesus Christ. (Agence France-Presse)

  • 'Happy Holidays' not a slam against Christmas | Season of giving evolved in the 1800s with link to Christ's birth (The Edmonton Journal, Canada)

  • 'Anti-religious' fervour makes for a muted celebration | Take the Christ out of Christmas and what's left? A feast of political correctness that satisfies no one. But opinion is turning. (Barney Zwartz The Age, Australia)

  • Many Americans still wonder about nature of Jesus | Americans, for the most part, believe in the historical reality of the itinerate Jewish rabbi who nearly 2,000 years ago proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God to his friends and neighbors in Judean towns along the Sea of Galilee. But what Americans accept about Jesus is much more complex. (Scripps Howard News Service)

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  • Live nativity not deterred by inclement weather | Not even a snowstorm could prevent the Virgin Mary from making her grand entrance into Lexington. (Lexington Minuteman, Massachusetts)

  • New tradition begins at St. Margaret Mary Church | Catholics began a new holiday tradition last weekend in Slidell, publicly honoring the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a native Mexican almost 500 years ago. (Times Picayune, Louisiana)

  • Celebrating a season of hope | Said the night wind to the little lamb, Do you hear what I hear? (Westport Minuteman, Connecticut)

  • Christmas is still an official government sanctioned holiday | We can't post the 10 commandments in courtrooms; we can't lead prayer in school; we can't put Christmas decorations on the square any more because that is public property. Some now insist we should no longer say Merry Christmas, but it is okay to say Happy Holidays. (Access North Georgia)

  • Cultural censorship is ruining Christmas carols | The season's nights may as well be silent (Paula Simons, The Edmonton Journal, Canada)

  • Christmas: The beginning and the end | Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I remember well the hustle and bustle of shopping in the Pennsylvania snow while Christmas music was playing in the streets. (GOPUSA)

  • An Okie in exile | It's the same thing every year at church. You would think that they believe that we are stupid or something. They always decorate with the same colors. They always read the same scripture, year after year, Christmas after Christmas. (Bobby Winters, Pittsburg Morning Sun, Kansas)

  • Church pageant tells story of Christmas | The Christ Church, United Methodist brought the reason for Christmas to vivid and inspirational life Saturday night with their seventh annual Outdoor Nativity Pageant, bringing out hundreds of spectators to watch their live reenactment of the Christmas story. (Oneida Dispatch, New York)

  • Families Join For Christmas Magic | Music has always been part of the activities Chuck and Kristi Stibral of Yankton and Joel and Linda Finck of Tabor incorporated into the learning activities for their home-schooled children. But neither of the families envisioned the hour-long Christmas program they have been presenting in Yankton and some surrounding communities this year with the Stibral's family of 11 and the Finck's family of six. (Yankton Daily Press, South Dakota)

  • Whatever your beliefs, holiday season is one of love | In December, if you listen, you hear plenty about the true meaning of Christmas. That probably falls on deaf ears for most of you because you hear so much of it. (Evansville Courier & Press)

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  • Despite the season, compassion seems in short supply |The question "What would Jesus do?" is a good one to ask during a season when too many folks who consider themselves practicing Christians show anything but good will to others. (Tom Wharton, Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Room at his table | Christ's birth set the stage for God's all-encompassing embrace (Scott Colglazier, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

  • How to tell children about the wonders of faith | Religious traditions often evolve around miracles that are key to a particular faith. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, with its story of the small flask of oil that lit the temple for eight days. Christians have the story of the virgin birth and the story of Christ's resurrection. Muslims consider the Quran a miraculous work in itself, and have the story of the prophet Mohammed's ascension into heaven. (The Ledger, Florida)

  • True joy arises out of sadness | As hard as it can sometimes be to believe, true joy blooms from sadness. That's the message of this season and of seasons yet to come, though many people miss it or misunderstand it. (Tom Schaefer, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

  • Jesus came to end our exile | Sometimes, it is enough to know that someone else has suffered. I don't have to understand it firsthand. The words "I know what you mean" might be merely a way to distance myself. (Tom Ehrich, Indianapolis Star)

  • Service keeps sounds of season alive | Scripture readings, musical performances part of presentation (The Advertiser, Lafayette Louisiana)

  • Diverse heritages season holidays | Mixed-culture families build traditions with a homeland touch (Huntington Herald Dispatch, West Virginia)

  • 'Simbang Gabi' ushers in RP Christmas season | Christmas hymns filled the crisp December air against the pealing of church bells calling thousands of Filipino families to rise before the break of dawn to gather in Catholic churches in keeping with the nation's tradition of "Simbang Gabi" yesterday, the first day of the nine-day dawn masses. (Manila Bulletin, Philippines)


  • A time to sing of … | In many churches - despite what anyone in the culture might think - it's not Christmas time, but Advent. It's a time for hymns expressing hope for a Messiah, not ones already celebrating his birth. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

  • Essays on faith | Christians should remember Advent (Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail, West Virginia)

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Christmas shopping:

  • Thais go on Christmas spending spree | Thai consumers flush with cash after a year of strong economic growth are splashing out in an unprecedented Christmas and New Year shopping spree, a research group says. The overwhelmingly Buddhist nation has firmly embraced the holiday spending spirit. (Business Day, South Africa)

  • Generous servings at local eatery | Johal and his wife, Jasbir Kaur Johal, practice the Sikh religion, native to India and founded by Guru Nanak about 500 years ago. The religion doesn't celebrate Christmas as Christians do, but Sikhs believe in one God and in sharing the fruits of one's labor before considering oneself. (The Seattle Times)

  • A big helping of Christmas guilt | Retailers have made a science of manipulating consumers during the Christmas season to part with their financial resources for products they would not likely purchase other times of the year. Seems various nonprofit organizations resort to similar tactics to pull off financial transactions not quite as reciprocal in nature. (

  • Home-based wreath-makers continue their tradition | In Hancock County Basements and Barns, Nimble Fingers Twist and Braid (Ellsworth American, Maine)

Christmas displays:

  • Mobile city council wants "Christmas" name restored for parade | The council voted 5-0 Tuesday in favor of a resolution to restore the word "Christmas" to the annual parade through downtown on Saturday. Mobile Christmas Parade Inc., which puts on the parade, recently renamed it Mobile's Jolly Holiday Parade to reflect a larger number of religious and cultural traditions. (Associated Press)

  • Council enters parade debate | The Mobile City Council inserted itself Tuesday into a debate over taking the word "Christmas" out of Saturday's annual downtown holiday parade. (Mobile Register)

  • Nativity's baby Jesus missing | Maumee church files police report (Toledo Blade)

  • Over the line | County wise to avoid religious symbol (Editorial, Tallahassee Democrat)

  • Lower Paxton Twp. church festival featuring 350 creches touches hearts | The three-day festival, which ended yesterday, featured about 350 creches from private collectors and area churches. Pat Greenawald, festival coordinator, said creches touch a chord in people's hearts. (The Patriot-News, Pennsylvania)

  • No escaping holiday madness in Birmingham's public square | All I seek is a spot of secular ground. In Birmingham — the north suburbs' central square — the public square known as Shain Park is practically vibrating with religiosity. (Laura Berman, The Detroit News)

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  • Speakout: ADL pushing an extremist agenda | The truth is that when the ADL attempts to censor speech at charter schools and root beer stands, it is pushing its radical vision of an America in which the last vestiges of our religious heritage have been scoured away, and its appeals to the Constitution are merely a cloak for its extremist political agenda. (Barry Arrington, Rocky Mountain News)

  • Principal kicks Nativity scene out of school | Parents Want To Speak With School Officials (NBC, Pennsylvania)

  • Majority OK with public nativity scenes | The latest FOX News poll finds that fully 87 percent of Americans say nativity scenes should be allowed on public property and only nine percent disagree. (Fox News)

In Palm Beach:

  • Judge enters nativity dispute | The federal judge overseeing the lawsuit filed Monday against the town of Palm Beach for not allowing two residents to put a nativity scene next to the town's two Menorah displays wants to know why town officials have ignored the request. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Judge seeks fast action on Nativity issue | U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley has ordered the Town of Palm Beach to explain why he should not force it to rule upon two residents' request to display Nativity scenes on town property. (Palm Beach Daily News)

  • Town's Nativity snub an example of today's bias against Christianity | Two Palm Beach residents are suing that posh city in federal court, because the town put up a Christmas tree and a Menorah as holiday decorations. The women claim, correctly, that the Menorah is a religious symbol associated with the recapture and purification of the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Christmas tree is largely a secular symbol devoid of religious connotations. But the town is balking. (Joe Crankshaw, Stuart News, Florida)

  • Earlier:Lawsuit demands Palm Beach allow nativity scene in holiday display | Claiming Christmas has been stripped of Christ, a public-interest law firm sued the Town of Palm Beach for religious discrimination Monday after town officials did not approve a nativity scene for the same public spaces where menorahs and Christmas trees are displayed. (Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel)

  • Lawsuit: Allow Nativity scenes | Palm Beachers, law center file federal suit again town, seeking the right to erect Nativity scenes near Menorah displays on Royal Poinciana Way, Worth Avenue. (Palm Beach Daily News)

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Christmas ministry:

  • Vancleave family gets Habitat home | Christmas has taken on a new look for the Alfred and Dorothy Fairley family of Gautier. Habitat for Humanity Jackson County handed them the keys to the three-bedroom house during dedication ceremonies Saturday. The house was contributed to HFHJC by Christians United earlier this year and needed some repair work and touch-ups done. (Pascagoula Mississippi Press)

  • Adopt-an-Angel program a success, local Salvation Army official says | The citizens of Jackson County have opened their hearts to more than 3,000 children by participating in the Salvation Army's Adopt-An-Angel program. (Pascagoula Mississippi Press)

  • Food for the Hungry depends on those behind the scenes | Shumaker, who was born in 1933 in a red brick schoolhouse near Mount Vernon, volunteers out of a sense of duty to his Christian ethics and as a result of personal experience. After his Army service ended in 1955, he spent nine years as a self-described "bum." (Mount Vernon News, Ohio)

  • Party caters to needy youths | The main attraction was Santa Claus for the 110 children of low-income and migrant families who were invited to the 14th annual Children's Christmas Party at the Salem Evangelical Church. (Salem Statesman Journal, Oregon)

  • Canadians deliver joy in shoeboxes | Afghan children delight in gifts of a holiday they have never celebrated (CanWest News Service)

  • What would Jesus give this year? | World Vision is an evangelical Christian organization. I don't happen to share its religious views, but I'm more than happy to use the services of this idealistic group to accomplish the goals that that tireless champion of the poor, Jesus of Nazareth, so nobly expressed. (Denver Post)

  • Canadians help ailing Cubans | This season, an important, if unusual Christmas gift will travel from Canada to a country officially at odds with Christianity. Communist Cuba is the destination of $2.9 million worth of the desperately needed chemotherapy anti-nausea drug Zolfran, courtesy of the Christian-based Health Partners International Canada (Vancouver Sun, Canada)


  • White clergy responds to I-185 tragedy | Tuesday, Weise was one of the few white clergy present at the funeral for Kenneth B Walker, killed a week ago by a sheriff's deputy. A sister of Cheryl Walker, Kenneth's widow, is the secretary at one of Weise's two churches. (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Georgia)

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  • An ox or 10 ducks for Christmas | Catalogs: Charities put out glossy publications to encourage philanthropy during the holidays. (Baltimore Sun)

  • Mansfield museum draws faithful into Bible's teaching | This is only the beginning of the Life of Christ exhibit in the Biblewalk attraction in Mansfield that has grown into a complex of four museums serving 50,000 people a year. In 2000, Biblewalk opened a Museum of Christian Martyrs, and this spring it added a Heart of the Reformation exhibit providing insight into the major Christian historical movement. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

  • Mission trips provide new perspective for professionals | Mission trips overseas can provide a new perspective for those who provide medical necessities or help impoverished people with other needs while spreading their religious faith, missionaries say. (Hattiesburg American, Mississippi)

  • Eccentric homeless advocate, 89 | They called him "Skid Row Bill," but William Banks Stapleton was never a homeless man. He got the nickname for helping the homeless in the Inland Empire, feeding them, publishing a newsletter with snippets of homeless life and taking a few downtrodden souls to church in a white Cadillac limousine he bought from an Elvis impersonator. (The Press-Enterprise, California)

  • Sun-doh! school — Teachers use pop culture to appeal to masses | Look closely at the Simpsons, says Debbie Buese, and you'll see a family that can illuminate life's profound questions. Buese, who attends St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, is one of several Utah Sunday school teachers who have used the Simpsons as the jumping-off point for discussions about theological and moral questions. (Deseret Morning News, Utah)

Christian business:

  • 'Seeking Ye First' store features unique Christian-motif accessories | A purple door is the gateway to Seeking Ye First, a new, Christian-based company in Tullahoma specializing in custom-designed and decorated women's accessories. (The Tullahoma News, Tennessee)

  • C12's guiding light | The philosophical underpinnings of C12 are described in A Light Shines Bright in Babylon, a 57-page handbook written by founder Lester "Buck" Jacobs. In Jacobs' metaphor, "Babylon" is the business marketplace, and Christian companies are the "light" that shines on it. (St. Petersburg Times, Florida)

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  • Christian video games | Programmers focus on morals in small but growing industry (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

  • Morality infiltrates graphic gaming | It was plain old disgust that drove the 26-year-old from his cushy video-game programming job in Texas to the uncertain path of a Christian game developer in Tallmadge, Ohio. It was the virtual violence and sexually explicit characters. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

  • Christian bookstore and gift shop opens | Oliver and Mary Johnson have opened a new business in downtown Towanda: Kingdom's Glory Christian Books & Gifts. (Towanda Daily Review, Pennsylvania)

  • What in the Name of God? | Kingdom Ventures, which started off making Bible-character teddy bears a few years ago before branching out into such diverse markets as laptop computers, candles, book publishing and Web site construction, is as dicey an investing proposition as a game of Vegas craps. (

Abercrombie and Fitch boycott:

  • Bill O'Reilly: Another win for the folks | Abercrombie and Fitch has raised the white T-shirt and surrendered. It is pulling its soft-core porn clothing catalog because the outcry has hurt the only thing that matters to A&F: the bottom line. (Naples Daily News, Florida)

Church life:

  • West Boynton church builds congregation with 'no ties, no lies' | SonFest Chapel, a re-emerging evangelical church affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, began conducting Sunday services at the Boynton Cinema west of Boynton Beach three years ago. The church's style is as unorthodox as its meeting place, but leaders and members couldn't care less: They're focused on boosting their congregation before building a house of worship. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Church introduces mandatory HIV testing for pastors | The Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe, a grouping of 150 Pentecostal and evangelical churches, has embarked on a historic mandatory HIV testing for all its pastors, marriage officers, and couples. (New

  • One door closes, another opens | Vibrant new church fills empty pews of congregation that disbanded (Erie Times)

  • Universal-salvation theory stirs up fiery debate | fuming church elders didn't find it funny that Gulley espoused the doctrine of universal salvation, which says all people, be they Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians or none of the above are saved by God's grace. When Gulley refused to back down, they gave him his walking papers. (Fort Worth Star Telegram)

  • Arguments begin in Maui church lawsuit | A federal judge yesterday heard several groups' arguments in a closely watched, complex case concerning whether the Maui Planning Commission has a right to stop Hale O Kaula Church from building a chapel. No ruling is expected until after Christmas. (Honolulu Advertiser)

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  • Pastor to begin religious education in Afghanistan | Greg Roth, pastor of Centerville Presbyterian Church, will spend time in Afghanistan this summer—one stop on a 12-week sabbatical leave being paid for with a $44,932 grant he received from the Lilly Endowment's National Clergy Renewal Program. (Tri-Valley Herald, California)

  • Rejuvenating a dwindling congregation | An aging Baptist church has embraced a pastor 'filled with this fire' (Richmond Times Dispatch)

  • When God's flock settles nearby | Rolling Meadows-based Harvest Bible Chapel hopes to develop a 615-acre property just north of Grand Rapids for its roughly 10,000 members to enjoy "family-reinforcing vacation," according to the church's formal proposal. (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Also: Van Kampen name linked to church | Harvest Bible Chapel's newest property may be in Michigan, but it's linked to one of the suburbs' wealthiest families. Judith Van Kampen, widow of Robert Van Kampen, sold the 615 acres to the church for $3.75 million in May. (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

Christ on campus:

  • Religious upsurge brings culture clash to college campuses | Religion on campus - particularly evangelical groups - is thriving these days, but it doesn't always find an easy home in the intellectual, secular world of higher education. For instance, Campus Crusade for Christ, which sponsors the Thursday gatherings, has butted heads with the administration here over a questionnaire on religious interest that the group gives to freshmen. Other schools are dropping the college chaplaincy, seeing it as an outdated tradition. (Christian Science Monitor)

  • God on the quad | New England's liberal college campuses have become fertile ground for the evangelical movement, which is attracting students in record numbers. But after they graduate, will they keep the faith? (The Boston Globe)


  • Onward (un)Christian soldiers | Evangelism is naturally expansive. Atheism is defensive. That is why they are growing, and we're sitting around like idiots watching as pious troglodytes occupy the White House and send us hurtling hundreds of years back in time, to the age of the Crusades. (New York Press)


  • 'Greek Gods, Human Lives': The advantages of polytheism | Mary Lefkowitz's thought-provoking new book, ''Greek Gods, Human Lives,'' is precisely an attempt to write the gods back into Greek myths. She maintains that modern accounts concentrate on the human dimension of these extraordinarily resilient tales, with a distorting playing down of the divine. (New York Times)

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  • A surge in popularity in Jewish mysticism | t became official when Britney Spears appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in November, wearing little but a white bustier, a pouty look and a red string around her wrist: Kabbalah has entered the realm of pop culture. This can hardly be the fate that the Kabbalah's creators could have imagined for their teachings, which were intended to reveal the inner meaning of the Torah. (New York Times)

  • Touched by a banker | Della Reese, who played a down-to-earth heavenly being on "Touched by an Angel," isn't acting as she stands in front of a congregation on Sundays in West Hollywood. She preaches prosperity, and the "divinity of man" is celebrated. She calls the church Christian, but Jesus is described not as the Savior, but as the Way-Shower, pointing to unabashedly abundant living and material success. (Newsday)

  • Belief and faith are human attributes | I climbed the steps of the synagogue slowly, with the disconcerting feeling that, as a Muslim, I was not supposed to go in there. I had visited other places of worship, but this was my first visit to a synagogue. Most Jews or Christians do not visit masjids, or mosques; most Muslims do not visit churches or synagogues. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

  • Beyond serenity | Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer has been taken up by everyone from Alcoholics Anonymous to Hallmark to the rapper 50 Cent. But the true legacy of one of 20th-century America's greatest religious thinkers has been all but forgotten. (The Boston Globe)

  • One man's spiritual journey | Sjogren, a Farmington resident of more than 30 years and long-time employee of Dakota Electric, married his sweetheart, Carolyn, and started raising his four children. He was still resistant to embracing God and he was an alcoholic. Then one day he obliged a co-worker and went to a Bible study session (Eagan Sun Current, Minnesota)

  • You can be His instrument of grace, through the Spirit | Called by God to show His love, we are to extend His grace to all. We are to live and love in such a way as to draw others. We must somehow be changed from our natural, ego-driven inclinations to the point that we are actually winsome, pleasing and engaging to those who do not know God. (Kevan Breitinger, Philadelphia Daily News)

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  • Don't stay discouraged | Christians are not discouraged because of lack of faith, David said, and he mentioned some heroes of faith described in the Bible as experiencing bouts of discouragement. Job lost everything he had even though he had faithfully served God. (Times Daily, Alabama)

  • The economy as religion: The dynamics of consumer culture | Today traditional transcendental religions (post-Vedic Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) face a serious challenge from alternative forms of religiosity that are at once uniquely contemporary in form and function while also being incredibly ancient in foundational structure. These alternative forms of religious expression are not only completely unrelated to traditional religions, they are the antithesis of such religions. Where traditional/normative religions are transcendental (in their focus of the divine) and anthropological (in their focus of human meaning and value), the alternative religions recognized by Ellul and Voegelin are cosmological (in their focus of the divine) and sociological (in their focus of human meaning and value). (The Civic Arts Review)


  • Splendor in candlelight | An innovative exhibit on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art through Sept. 26, 2004, curated by Louise Mackie, CMA curator of textiles and Islamic art, demonstrates to an amazing degree the extent to which we've lost the know-how, magic and understanding of one of the most basic art forms known to man. The show, Draped in Splendor: Renaissance Textiles and the Church, features a selection of the museum's European religious textiles and paintings from the early 1300s to the late 1400s. (Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio)


  • Activism against the "Luther" film | Martin Luther hated Jews and dreamt of "a fiery end" for all of them. He despised women. He wanted all "handicapped" people "drowned in the gutter". He fantasised about murdering revolutionary farmers. He says all of this in his own writings, claims an activist group based in Giessen, which is agitating against the Hollywood film "Luther" largely funded by American and German Lutheran organisations. (, Germany)

  • The year of Nemo | Hollywood appears finally to be catching on to what research has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt: R-rated flicks tend to lose money, while family fare tends to be profitable. Indeed, 2003 should have been called "Year of Nemo," since the G-rated fish story was the most successful movie of them all by far. (World)

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  • Ammi: Christian band, open mind | My friend Nate Gass and his band Ammi recently performed at the Beat Kitchen on West Belmont. They are a Christian band but they are "loving Christians." I know this to be true because when I came out to Nate as a lesbian he was very open and told me that he still loved me. He has been there for me and he listens as a friend would when I talk to him about my gay lifestyle. (Windy City Media)

  • Swiss judge clears Manson over stage act | A Swiss judge decided not to press charges against US shock rocker Marilyn Manson following complaints by a religious group over his controversial stage act. (AFP)

  • Swiss Authorities Manson Inquiry | Swiss authorities have dropped a criminal inquiry of U.S. shock rocker Marilyn Manson, launched after the Swiss-based group Christians For Truth had lodged a complaint about the singer. (Associated Press)

  • Manson off the hook | Swiss authorities have dropped a criminal inquiry of US shock rocker Marilyn Manson, launched after a religious group complained about his stage act. (Associated Press)

  • P.O.D. album banned by Christians | The cover for Payable On Death, by religious artist Daniel Martin Diaz, depicts a naked woman with butterfly wings, her arms crossed over her breasts and a banner with the word "Sanctus" across her body. (Net Music Countdown)

  • Righteous radio | Disc jockey spreads lessons of faith over the air waves (Harlingen Valley Morning Star, Texas)

  • Today's Praise: 'Skillet' confronts rough issues with religious rock | In a world where terrorism, war or more personal threats loom just over the horizon, it's easy to fall prey to anxiety. Amid this, the band Skillet offers an answer — a very loud one. The band's latest CD, "Collide," is packed with songs that squarely confront today's hardest issues and offer a positive response. (Pacific Stars and Stripes, Japan)

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  • Cook defends kingdom's overthrow in new book | A Kauai author's research into the history of a missionary family has resulted in a controversial new book that defends the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.Evelyn E. Cook, who wrote "100 Years of Healing," said the facts surrounding the 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani are a 180 - degree departure from the current politically correct version that missionaries stole land from the Hawaiians. (West Hawaii Today, Hawaii)

  • Girls gone wild? | Who says religious girls are uptight? A new book mines the underground world of teenage Chasidic girls. What the author found out may surprise you. (Jewsweek)

  • A scary book award | The year's most telling event in the world of books came when the distinguished, high-brow National Book Foundation awarded the 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to … a new Hemingway? a new Faulkner? a new Hawthorne, Melville, or Twain? No. To the author of bestselling horror novels, Stephen King. (World)

  • Anne Lamott talks about rest, laughter and Christianity | Through her writing, the best-selling author has revealed her pain, struggle and loss. Millions of readers have learned about her alcoholism and single motherhood ("Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year"), her born-again Christianity ("Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith") and her insecurities as a writer ("Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life"). (Associated Press)

  • The season of the soul | Religion and spirituality have spawned a host of new titles on such diverse topics as Anglican doctrine, ancient wisdom and the '60s (Vancouver Sun)

  • Holy themes may fill void on gift lists | With Christmas and Hanukkah so close at hand, gift-givers or list-makers might want to consider books that address religious topics. (Toledo Blade, Ohio)

  • Writing a second calling | Area pastors write more than sermons—they write books, too (Mansfield News Journal, Ohio)

Archeology and history:

  • Dead Sea Scrolls bring Qumran to the capital | In the week leading up to the Dec. 4 opening of an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawans were immersed in lectures, films and programs about the famous artifacts. (Canadian Jewish News)

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  • Grave discovery | Absalom's conical cornice has earned it various names over the centuries, including the Arabic version of 'Pharaoh's Hat' When a visiting art student glanced up at the side of an ancient tomb in the Kidron Valley and noticed the faint outline of an inscription high up on a wall, she didn't know she had made an archeological discovery that would help clarify a 1,500-year-old mystery. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Living history: Missions get new life | Advocates for California's crumbling missions are poised to receive a generous gift from federal lawmakers early next year under legislation that allocates $10 million over five years to restore the state landmarks. (Marin Independent Journal, California)

  • Talmud confirms an early Gospel of Matthew | An ancient Jewish parody that quotes the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew may refute a major argument by biblical scholars who challenge the credibility of the Bible. (Toronto Star, Canada)

  • Digging back toward Jesus | Biblical Archaeology Uncovering Evidence About Places and People's Lives in Gospel Times (Washington Post)

Senator Paul Simon:

  • Bureau County and the 'bow tie guy' | There aren't many people left who remember how Paul Simon helped change history to preserve history in Bureau County. (Kewanee Star Courier, Illinois)


  • Preacher found guilty of preaching loud | A man who calls himself a street preacher has been found guilty of disorderly conduct for repeatedly yelling at a crowd of people watching a Halloween parade. (Associated Press)

  • A place for creationism | Creationism could never survive long in the jungles of real science. But I have a compromise to suggest to the education committees. Teach creationism in science classes. But the science in which to teach it is not biology. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

  • Onward Christian soldiers | I'm fed up with lazy writers and uninspired advertising executives poking fun at his faith. It's time to stop turning the other cheek (Clive Hibbert, The Guardian, London)

  • Century in, century out - it's crusade time | The Crusader spirit is still there; it's still about bringing civilization and salvation of a backward people (James P. Pinkerton, Newsday)

  • Proxy names stir up lively debate | LDS Church leaders reply, call allegations absurd (Deseret Morning News, Utah)

  • Fallen giants | Journalists like Robert Bartley and Carl Henry aren't easy to replace (World)

  • Civil Wars | Doctors. Teachers. Coaches. Ministers. They all share a common fear: being sued on the job. The Rev. Ron Singleton's door is always open. That way, when the Methodist minister of a small congregation in Inman, S.C., is counseling a parishioner, his secretary across the hall is a witness in case Singleton is accused of inappropriate behavior. (When his secretary is not around, the reverend does his counseling at the local Burger King.) (Newsweek)

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