Pakistan seizes alleged organizer of deadly attacks against Christians
According to Pakistani officials, Abdul Jabbar planned the March 12, 2002, attack on the Protestant International Church in Islamabad, the August 5 attack on Murree Christian School, and the August 9 attack on the Christian Hospital in Taxila. Fifteen Christians were killed in the three attacks, and more than 70 were wounded.

Yesterday, intelligence officials said, the Pakistani military seized Jabbar near a bus stand during a raid on the small town of Midhranjha, near Sargodha.

Did Bush say God told him to strike Iraq?
Buried at the end of an article in the Tel Aviv daily newspaper Ha'aretz Sunday was a very, very interesting quote from Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who has been talking with President George Bush about peace in the region.

At the June 4 summit meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, between Bush, Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Abbas said that Bush privately promised to pressure Sharon. Then he immediately added, "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

At a White House press conference Tuesday (video | audio), spokesman Ari Fleischer was first asked about the last part of the quote: Was Bush getting ready to focus on the elections? "I never heard the President say it," Fleisher said. "He certainly didn't say it in the trilateral meeting that I attended, and I'm not aware of any other conversation in which he said it."

"Prime Minister Abbas suggested the President said that God spoke to him about al Qaeda and spoke to him about Saddam," another reporter asked. "Is that a stretch? Is there anything to that? How would you characterize that part of the … "

"It's beyond a stretch," Fleischer interrupted. "It's an invention. It was not said."

Bush says Federal Marriage Amendment may not be necessary
Okay, so let's move on to something that we know the president did say. Yesterday, he was asked if he supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

"I don't know if it's necessary yet," Bush said (video | audio). "Let's let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing. What I do support is the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman."

During a news briefing a few hours later (video | audio), Fleischer reiterated the president's position. "The Supreme Court just made its ruling in the Texas case," he said. "This is a matter for lawyers to assess, and I don't know that there is any clear assessment that anybody has at this point about the legal ramifications of a just-made decision that was ruled on a basis that may or may not be analogous to a situation involving DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act." (DOMA was passed in 1996 and signed by President Clinton, but opponents of same-sex marriage worry that it will be invalidated by the courts and are thus pushing for the constitutional amendment.)

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"The president does not want to go back to the culture wars of the 1980s and early 1990s," an unnamed Republican strategist told The Washington Post. Another unnamed "longtime Bush friend" told the paper, "This is just not an issue we want to talk about. It plays to a negative stereotype of Republicans as sex-obsessed and narrow-minded."

There seems to be some difference of opinion from the Family Research Council on Bush's comments. FRC President Ken Connor told The Washington Post that Bush's comments were "prudential," but Genevieve Wood, vice president of media relations, told The Washington Times, "We'd like to see him take it up a notch. The country needs leadership on this. … We would like to see him get in front of the issue more forcefully in the future and not always just be responding to the courts — to be more proactive."

More on sexual ethics and marriage:

  • We need the Marriage Amendment | Every American has a stake in how marriage is defined, and the decision should not be left either to a tiny minority of the population or to unelected judges (Al Knight, The Denver Post)

  • A civil tradition | Data show same-sex unions in Vt. draw a privileged group (The Boston Globe)

  • Boy Scouts under fire; ban on gays is at issue | The question of whether gay men are appropriate role models as scout leaders remains a painful, tangled and divisive issue for the Boy Scouts (The New York Times)

  • Viva las virgins! | Elvis does the abstinence convention, at least from the waist up (The Washington Post)

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Happy Independence Day, Americans
Weblog, along with other new postings at the Christianity Today website, will return Monday after a long Independence Day weekend. If you're a reader from outside the United States and tomorrow isn't a holiday, then happy day to you.

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Ten Commandments:

  • Committed to civil liberties | Student at center of dispute about religious monument (The Washington Post)

  • Moore says ruling unconstitutional | "Federal courts are simply wrong to conclude that we cannot recognize the sovereignty of God," Alabama's chief justice said during a news conference (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • Commandments ruling doesn't budge area displays (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • Time for Moore to accept law | This isn't a left-right issue, but an issue of constitutionality, of whether the protections outlined in the Constitution are meaningful or meaningless (Editorial, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.)

  • Moore should drop Commandments case | Should Justice Moore appeal, the Supreme Court might use his egregious violation of the "separation of church and state" clause, and his poorly reasoned arguments, to further restrict displays of religious art and messages in government buildings (Editorial, Mobile Register, Ala.)

  • Above the law | Moore must show respect for federal court rulings (Editorial, The Birmingham News, Ala.)

Life ethics:

  • Playing God | Eggs from fetuses, artificial wombs, dead men's sperm - it's not only the religious right who object to such 'advances' (Hilary and Steven Rose, The Guardian, London)

  • Laci Peterson's mom urges law recognizing unborn in attacks | Republicans have been pushing to bring the bill, named "Laci and Conner's law" at the family's request, to the Senate floor (The Washington Times)

Supreme Court's porn filter ruling:

  • A sensible ruling | In a victory for parents seeking to protect their children from pornography, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 last week to uphold a law requiring that public libraries install anti-porn Internet filters as a condition of receiving federal funds (Editorial, The Washington Times)

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Politics and law:

Church life:

  • BBC tells churches to liven up broadcasts | The BBC devotes 112 hours a year to televised religious broadcasting and 400 hours on network radio (The Guardian, London)

  • Vicar wants Saturday stand-in to do weddings | Lisa Battye seeking a priest willing to take Saturday nuptials off her hands and ease the burden on a working mother (The Guardian, London)

  • 'Lunatic' kills Catholic prayer leader | Tragedy struck at Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Abakaliki, penultimate Sunday when a man, who was believed to be mad, was brought in for prayers and deliverance and while the prayer session was going on, he grabbed the leader of the praying team, smashed his head on a wall and left him dead (This Day, Lagos, Nigeria)

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  • Playing God | It can be a long, hard road to Hollywood stardom - even if you're the big guy (or girl) upstairs (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Matrix Reloaded entwines strands from many faiths | A number of film critics, however, have felt that Reloaded does not live up to the intellectual promise of the first film (Chicago Tribune)

Missions and ministries:

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  • Commitment to hard work transcends faith | Mennonites from all over the United States and Canada have made a long-term commitment, possibly up to three years, to help rebuild local homes the May 4 tornadoes devastated (Jackson Sun, Tenn.)

  • A Christian camp unlike the others | Soul Survivor rejects the moralistic approach in trying to lead teens to God (The Orange County Register, Calif.)

  • Healing body, spirit | The Fredericksburg Christian Health Center caters to the body and spirit (The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • A spiritual hunger | Evangelist Perry Stone senses need in Toledo (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

  • Adventure worship | Outdoor services bring hikers closer to God (The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.)

  • A pilgrim, but a tourist, too | Following the footsteps of the devout to Sanitago de Compostela in northern Spain, hikers can enjoy the sights along the way (The New York Times)

Interfaith relations and other religions:

  • Christian convert discusses Islam | Oklahoma pastor shares his experiences in both religions with groups while traveling in area (Beacon Journal, Akron, Oh.)

  • Finding common ground on prayer | The issue is not the Lord's Prayer itself, but its use in the public venue (Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Fla.)

  • Christians help Israelis in West Bank | There's no estimate of how much money going to Jewish settlers comes from Christians because contributions don't filter through a central body (Associated Press)

  • Wiccan group halts plans after Hoopeston meeting | Citing an atmosphere of intolerance, and fear for their safety, Wiccan leaders said they are abandoning their dream of opening a school that teaches the alternative religion in Hoopeston (The News-Gazette, Champaign, Ill.)

Money and business:

  • Jesus on the job | More businesses are bringing worship into the workplace (Religion News Service)

  • Shopping is not sacred | In the malls of modern Britain, Mammon rules by default. But our correspondent, recently returned from California, detects a spiritual longing too (Catherine Lucas, The Times, London)

  • For tourism, it's 'Christmas in July' | 30,000 black church members visit city to pray -- and spend (The Baltimore Sun)


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Racist graffiti at Bethel College:


  • Sojourners editor wants to inspire people to improve the world | The biggest conflict facing people of faith today is not between belief and secularism, says Jim Wallis. It's between hope and cynicism. (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Faith in journalism | Americans are among the most religious people on earth, but several studies over the past two decades have shown a remarkable lack of thoughtful media coverage of religion (Julia Duin, The Washington Times)

Other stories of interest:

  • Pursuing happiness in our time | With all due respect to life and liberty, it is this third battleground — characterized not as a fixed goal but a constant chase — that both animates Americans' daily lives and ties them in knots (John Leland, The New York Times)

  • Raided Lost Ark returns home | A replica of the Biblical Ark of the covenant, or tabot, has been taken back to Ethiopia and an Irish doctor was responsible (BBC)

  • Finding that today's students are bright, eager and willing to cheat | Students acknowledged a willingness to compromise their values and to cut corners ethically and professionally to advance their careers. They said they knew right from wrong and intended to follow a strict code of values after they gained power and authority (The New York Times)

  • God doesn't bless only Americans | I have always wondered why, during times of war, politicians end speeches with the intonation "God Bless America." (Tom Wharton, Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Expectations are high, problems are vast, for new archbishop | After more than a year of mounting anger and disillusionment, Boston's Roman Catholics appear to be swept off their feet by their new archbishop, Sean P. O'Malley (The New York Times)

  • Is Google God? | Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything (Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times)

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