Kansas House narrowly defeats state Religious Freedom Restoration Act
In something of a surprise move, the Kansas House rejected a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would ordered local governments to "not substantially burden a person's or group's exercise of religion." "The bill had been given preliminary approval Wednesday on a 65-58 vote," The Kansas City Star reports (the bill needed 63 to pass). "Within 24 hours, [the bill] had lost four votes. The final vote was 61-59."

"The arguments were the same this year as last year" when the bill passed, said Rep. Dan Williams, who sponsored the measure. The defeat, he told the Associated Press, "makes no sense."

The bill would have faced a tougher time in the Senate, where last year's bill languished and died. Twelve states have adopted similar measures since 1997, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal version of the bill.

Meanwhile, the Kansas House is considering another bill that would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to regulate abortion clinics' facilities, equipment, personnel, patient screening, abortion procedures and incident reporting.

Focus on the Family calls for boycott of Big Brothers-Big Sisters
Focus on the Family devoted its radio program yesterday to discussing mentoring (audio), and one of its main points was calling for a boycott of mentor program Big Brothers-Big Sisters for its mandating local chapters to allow homosexuals to work with children in the program.

"The national leadership of Big Brothers has received a landslide of criticism from parents, pro-family groups, members of Congress and even its own local directors," Focus Vice President Bill Maier said. "But they stubbornly refuse to reconsider this ill-advised policy, choosing instead to appease homosexual pressure groups at the expense of the well being of the children they serve."

"This sort of thing is going to hurt kids because without funding we have to let staff go and limit our number of mentors," Robin Rogers, executive director of Colorado Springs Big Brothers-Big Sisters, told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Noreen Shanfelter, a spokeswoman for the national office, said that Focus isn't right. "These are the same allegations—false allegations" that have been around for a while, she said. "We don't have any policy that requires agencies to match homosexuals with children. We have a nondiscrimination policy."

In fact, says Rogers, the organization gets parents' approval before assigning a gay mentor to their child.

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But Focus on the Family President James Dobson says it's the nondiscrimination policy that's troubling. "I have supported Big Brothers Big Sisters for years, but the well being of children is too important to ignore," he says. "It is unfortunate that such a reputable organization has resorted to playing political games with America's children caught in the crosshairs. I hope that even now Big Brothers-Big Sisters will reassess their dangerous policy."

The call has sparked reaction from Big Brothers-Big Sisters organizations around the country.

More articles

War and Iraq:

  • Seeking a 'sensible midpoint' | On rare occasions, the alternatives to war are worse than war (William R. Bouknight, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

  • 'The call to be peacemakers is not optional' | We cannot make the universe or our planet safer through violence (Barbara A. Holmes, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

  • 'War is such an intoxicating elixir' | War shifts food from the mouths of our children, education from their brains, and medicine from the veins of our elderly citizens (Frank A. Thomas, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

  • Atlantans of many faiths pack pews, pray for peace | Two hundred solemn faces—some seasoned with age, others fresh with youth—packed the pews at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday night as leaders from various faiths took to the pulpit to pray for peace (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Church Iraq statement 'welcomed' | Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has welcomed the statement on Iraq by leaders of the UK's Catholic and Anglican churches - despite their concerns about the moral case for war (BBC | video)

Faith-based initiative:

  • Secularists target prison charity | The Bush administration's faith-based charity initiative has reached another hurdle as its critics sue a religious program in Iowa prisons and a new welfare rule on religion receives its final public comments today (The Washington Times)

  • 'Armies of compassion' heed different calls | One of the possible effects of President Bush's faith-based initiative proposal is that organizations such as the Nashville Rescue Mission could receive federal funding without changing the religious focus of its counseling programs (The Tennessean)

  • Initiative needs more than faith | It makes sense to put faith-based organizations on equal footing for funds (The Indianapolis Star)

  • Clear ground rules quell worries on religious funding | There are better ways the government can encourage the good works of religious organizations without undermining constitutional values (Editorial, USA Today)

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Church and state:

  • Christian prayer our heritage | Many clergy, when asked to open the legislative sessions in prayer at our state Capitol, have ended their prayers in the name of Jesus Christ (H. Wayne Williams, Rapid City Journal)
  • School talk dispute didn't need to occur | Renting the building to the Pensacola Study Group, an affiliate of the Nation of Islam, does not mean that the School District endorses the group's beliefs, no more than renting it to a group of Baptists, gardeners, or environmentalists would mean an endorsement of their views (Editorial, Pensacola [Fla.] News Journal)
  • Christian group sues over facility-use fee | County charges church an hourly fee for using a public building that other community groups can use free (The Washington Times)

  • Prayer issue heating up in Temecula | In a move to restore sectarian prayer as a regular part of its twice-monthly meetings, the City Council plans on enlisting the services of Southwest County Assemblyman Ray Haynes, officials said Monday (North County Times, Escondido, Calif.)

  • Court orders some religious language stricken from graduation speech | A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed by the student, saying that the actions of school officials were correct because the "proselytizing" nature of portions of the speech amounted to forcing the audience at the commencement ceremony to take part in a religious exercise (UPI)

  • Secularists target prison charity | Two lawsuits say the prison used Iowa monies to teach Christianity, discriminated by hiring only workers of a particular religious view, and gave privileges to prisoners who joined. (The Washington Times)

  • Still searching for right mix | Keeping a proper constitutional distance between church and state when the state is supplying funds for church programs may be more difficult than Bush believes (Editorial, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Politics and law:

  • President hailed as prophet | The president for life of Turkmenistan, who has already had a month renamed after him and another for his late mother, was hailed as a prophet of God by his ministers yesterday to mark his 63rd birthday (The Daily Telegraph, London)

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Religious freedom:

Persecution and violence:

  • An emerging threat | The attack on the American missionary Joseph William Cooper and subsequent developments point to the increasing strains on the secular fabric of Kerala (Frontline, India)

  • Hong Kong's Catholic leader raps China | Bishop Joseph Zen fears a proposed law could be used against Hong Kong's Roman Catholic church because of its ties to underground Catholic churches in the mainland. (Associated Press)

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  • Wake up, Holy Father | If the Pope will not speak out against Kurds being gassed by Saddam, one would think that he would at least speak out against Christians being persecuted for practicing their faith (Shmuley Boteach, The Jerusalem Post)

  • Christian underground smuggles North Koreans to safety in South | In recent years, Christian advocacy groups—sponsored mainly by Koreans living in the United States, Japan and South Korea—have set up a chain of safe houses and orphanages to smuggle North Koreans into China. (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • State minister vows to curb religious violence in Georgia | The meeting with the religious minorities held in Evangelical Baptist church in Tbilisi, Georgian State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze "in the name of President Shevardnadze apologized" for violent attacks against the religious minorities (Civil Georgia)

President Bush's religious speech:

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  • President Bush's religious language may be heartfelt - but what if it's also exclusionary? | How to speak of the spirit to all of us (Jane Eisner, Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Is Bush too prone to moralizing speech? | Those who are bothered by any reference to religious faith in public life are perfectly justified in voting against Bush, but they shouldn't kid themselves: They're never going to find a candidate who avoids the sort of morally charged phrases they claim to detest, phrases that go "straight to the gut" and call people to a cause greater than themselves - especially at a time of war (Vincent Carroll, The Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

Missions and ministry:

Money and business:

  • Taking God to work | Religion, spirituality making way into daily workplace (Waterloo and Cedar Falls (Ia.) Courier)

  • This land is Costco's land | Cities steal property, and give it to Costco (Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online)

  • The root of all evil | Black churches bring in experts to teach congregations about money management (San Francisco Chronicle)

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Vatican releases Nazi papers:

  • First papers emerge from Vatican archives | Include a letter seeking papal intervention against the Nazis written by a famed Jewish convert to Catholicism, Edith Stein (Associated Press)

  • Glasnost at the Vatican | For decades, the issue of the papacy's silence in the face of Germany's murder of 6 million Jews has cast a heavy shadow over Catholic-Jewish relations (Editorial, The Jerusalem Post)

Pop culture:

  • Today's TV isn't Christians' reality | If God existed, would he allow TV programs like "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette"? (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)

  • Richer for the experience | Leigh Nash, lead vocalist for Sixpence None the Richer, has kept her sanity despite the craziness of the music industry. (The Washington Times)

  • If God loves us, why judge us at all? | Whatever you think of Left Behind prophecy, Tim LaHaye's new book is right about God's mercy (Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet)

Archaeology and historical sites:


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Wheaton College loosens restrictions:

Science and health:

  • Churches join fight against HIV/Aids | Religious organizations in Zimbabwe have joined the Government and non-governmental organizations in fighting the Aids scourge, which is decimating sections of the society (The Herald, Zimbabwe)

  • Sex may not be behind Africa's Aids problem | New research based on hundreds of studies suggests only about a third of HIV infections in Africa are sexually transmitted (Ananova)

  • Spiritual intelligence | If cognitive intelligence is about thinking and emotional intelligence is about feeling, then spiritual intelligence is about being (British Medical Journal)

  • Robertson doing well after surgery on prostate | Robertson's physician confirmed during the operation that the disease had not spread (The Virginian-Pilot)

  • A journey of science and faith | When Steve Wright learned he had cancer, he placed his confidence in his doctors and his trust in prayer. (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Faith-based medicine inappropriate for FDA | David Hager is a devout Christian obstetrician and gynecologist whose track record suggests he has no qualms about mixing his religious beliefs with his medical practices (Editorial, Honolulu Advertiser)
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Church life:

  • Church landmark exemption OK'd | City Council gives proposal slim preliminary approval (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Also: Historic designation bill gets OK | A narrow majority of City Council members preliminarily approved a controversial bill on Wednesday that would allow only the owners of religious buildings to nominate the structures for historic designation (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

  • Historic churches preservation promoted | Members of St. Innocent Cathedral and ROSSIA - Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska - created the Spirit in Snow display of eight snow churches to promote the preservation of the historic endangered churches (Anchorage Daily News)

  • 'Prophets' of doom challenge area clergy | A self-proclaimed prophet and others have interrupted church services and confronted clergy over the past several weeks are followers of the late "Brother" Julius Schacknow, whom they call "the Lord Julius Christ." (The Hartford [Conn.] Courant)

  • Standoff on Mount Athos | Greek monks defy patriarch in battle for soul of Orthodoxy (The Washington Post)

  • Kawaiaha's pastor investigation confidential | Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches says allegation did not allege a violation of any criminal laws (Honolulu Advertiser)

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American Christianity:

  • A nation bound by faith | Of all its national traits, America's religiosity is probably the most baffling—and infuriating—for the rest of the world. Where does it come from? Why do Americans think they're on the side of right? And why it will not go away (Newsweek International)

  • The Columbus myth | What took Spain to the New World was unbridled political power claiming God's favor and approbation, supported by evangelical Christians, armed with overwhelming technological superiority, and driven by an insatiable need for oro (Chet Raymo, The Boston Globe)

  • Faith and the front | Civil War was a time of religious revival, and both North and South felt God was on their side (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Quoting the Bible in public | It is increasingly rare to hear Scripture quoted in public, partly because of legal constraints, but largely because the Bible has become unfamiliar territory (David Yount, Scripps Howard News Service)


Interfaith relations:

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  • Christians, traditional healers clash over stone | The Christians recently sued the traditional healers for allegedly beating them when they found them praying at the stone (The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

  • Church's critics are wrong | To say that Jesus "fulfilled" the promises God made to Israel affirms something positive about Jesus, but does not, in itself, say anything negative about Judaism (Eugene J. Fisher, The Jerusalem Post)

  • 600 Ugandans struggle for recognition by Israel as Jews | After years of persecution for their beliefs, the Abayudaya now live in relative harmony with the surrounding Christians and Muslims. Their biggest challenge, it turns out, is with the Israelis (The New York Times)

  • 21 people reconvert to Hinduism in Orissa | The members of the two Hindu families had converted to Christianity some years ago and wanted to return to their original fold, police sources said (PTI)


Judge Roy Moore:

Archbishop Rowan Williams:

Sex and marriage:

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  • Welfare reform, marriage tied | A freshman Republican senator has introduced a welfare-reform bill that calls for $350 million for marriage promotion, signaling that neither welfare reform nor a push to promote two-parent families is going to languish in the Senate as it did last year (The Washington Times)

  • Government urges under-16s to experiment with oral sex | Family campaigners believe that the course, called A Pause, is having the reverse effect by exciting the sexual interest of children (The Times, London)

  • Also: Children told 'try oral sex' (The Evening Standard, London)

Clergy sex abuse:

Other stories of interest:

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