Church wins key zoning case
The town of Evanston, Illinois, violated a Vineyard church's rights to free speech, assembly, and equal protection of the laws when it banned the church from using its newly purchased office building for worship services, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

"Vineyard's congregants may permissibly stage … a production of the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof,' which includes a scene depicting a traditional Jewish wedding. Vineyard may not, however, host an actual religious wedding," U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled. "Evanston's claim that it has zoned purely for land use purposes and not on the basis of religion is not supported by the facts."

The city had argued—as many do in fights against churches—that allowing the building to be used for worship would hurt the town financially, with traffic, parking, and the loss of tax revenues. But Pallmeyer said it had no evidence to suggest that.

"The city argues that even tax-exempt cultural organizations are preferable to religious institutions because they tend to draw more people into Evanston who will dine in the city's restaurants and visit the city's shops. Evanston offered no evidence, however, that people attending church services do not eat in city restaurants or shop in Evanston stores. … Nothing in this record suggests that Evanston is better off financially because [the church property] is operated solely as a cultural, rather than a religious, facility."

The ruling is an important one for church zoning, but Pallmeyer avoided the church's claims that the city had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits cities from putting "a substantial burden" on religion unless they have "a compelling interest." Evanston, Pallmeyer ruled, didn't put a substantial burden on the church. The Vineyard congregation "has undoubtedly suffered serious hardships," she wrote, but it was, after all, able to meet in a nearby school.

Vineyard's attorney, Mark R. Sargis, called the ruling a "great day for the First Amendment and a great victory for the church."

 "We're glad this is over," executive pastor William Hanawalt told the Chicago Tribune. "It was regrettable for us to take this to the courts. It is not the posture we want to have toward our city, but we felt their inflexibility left us no alternative."

But the long dispute might not be over, says Evanston's attorney, Jack Siegel "We're not opposed to religion, but I think it's the wrong place for a church," he told the Tribune. He says (and the church admits) that the congregation knew of the zoning difficulties when they bought the office space. "The hardship was self-created. They came and thumbed their noses at the City Council," he said.

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Will the city appeal? There may be a problem. Pallmeyer declined to award any compensation to the church, suggesting that the two sides come to an agreement outside the court. "She has held that we violated a couple of the counts and ruled in our favor on other counts," Siegel told the Evanston Review. "Until there is some determination of what the relief might be, I'm not sure we can appeal."

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Christian aid for Iraq questioned:

War in Iraq:

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Spirituality in wartime:

  • Out of the ashes | In a burned-out tent, a U.S. Army chaplain in Kuwait finds a reminder of God's protection (Barbara K. Sherer, Beliefnet)

  • Lynch household clung to hope, faith | "We felt it really brought the Lord in closer and Jessie could feel, definitely feel, that she was being prayed for," Mr. Lynch said (The Washington Times)

  • Also: 'Prayer and our boys brought Jessica to safety' (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Local pastor sends church word from Kuwait | It's not exactly the comfortable confines of New Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church. But pastor George Yates isn't letting sandstorms and artillery fire stop him from preaching the gospel (New Castle [Penn.] News)

  • Religion in a time of war | More than any crisis in modern memory, the War on Terror—including the current U.S. military presence in Iraq—is being debated in religious, usually Christian, terms (Speaking of Faith, Minnesota Public Radio)

  • Churches to gather for prayer | Tonight's vigil inspired by soldier who is MIA (The Beacon Journal, Akron, Oh.)

  • A sign of caring for Iraqi people | Wooster woman makes comforters for Mennonite collection of relief aid (The Beacon Journal, Akron, Oh.)

Protests and condemnation of war:

  • Catholics can part with bishops on Iraq | The answer hinges on two factors: the authority of the bishops to teach on public issues and the strength of the arguments they have offered (Robert G. Kennedy, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Dissent OK, anti-war Chaput says | Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, responding to Catholics who disagree with the church's condemnation of the Iraq war, reiterated his opposition to the conflict Wednesday but emphasized that Catholic teaching allows room for dissent (The Denver Post)

  • Profs urge preaching against war | Five Princeton professors and 17 other theologians, ethicists and ministers from across the country and published in the current issue of Sojourners, a Christian-interest magazine (The Star-Ledger, N.J.)

  • Nuns say they wanted to protect Iraqi children | Three Catholic nuns wanted to protect the children of Iraq with a "symbolic disarmament" when they trespassed on a missile silo in northern Colorado last year, one of the sisters told a court on Tuesday (Reuters)

Other religions and interfaith relations:

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  • A clash of faiths | The harmony among people of all beliefs is disappearing amid fear and uncertainty about the U.S. wars against Iraq and terrorism (The Buffalo [N.Y.] News)

Bush's faith and war:

  • Wonder-working power | George W. Bush, armed with the sharp sword of Christian fundamentalism, wades into battle (James Heflin, Valley Advocate, Easthampton, MA)

  • Bush mix of God and war grates on many Europeans | No less than the German president, French prime minister and Belgian foreign minister have joined religious leaders in expressing concern about Bush's beliefs and the place of religion in U.S. politics (Reuters)

Israel and the Middle East:

Persecution and violence:

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Church and state:

Politics and law:

  • The special relationship between Blair and God | The Prime Minister's religious faith is acknowledged, but it masks a remarkable doctrinal elasticity (Peter Oborne, The Spectator, U.K.)

  • Vouchers gain early foothold in Colorado | A pilot voucher measure—which cleared Colorado's legislature last week and which Republican Gov. Bill Owens says he'll sign—would be the first approved since the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision declaring Cleveland's voucher program constitutional, despite its support for religious schools (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Pundits dissect Springs election | Electoral process aided conservatives (The Denver Post)

  • Speaker says flag pledge has dark side | Richard Ellis said motivation for creating the Pledge was to help "Americanize" immigrants (The State Hornet, California State University, Sacramento)

  • Judicial nominee distances herself from past positions | Carolyn B. Kuhl, President Bush's nominee to a federal appeals court, told the committee that she was wrong to have argued vigorously as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department that the administration reverse a longstanding policy and provide tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, despite its racial discrimination (The New York Times)
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Faith-based initiative:

  • Faith charity bill held up in Senate | Sen. Rick Santorum said the Democrats have not given the unanimous consent that is needed to allow a vote on the measure, even though Republicans have agreed to remove the language Democrats had concerns with (The Washington Times)

  • Senate to act on faith-based measure | Republicans Seek Other Vehicles for Sidelined Bush Proposals (The Washington Post)

  • Earlier: Faith-based bills will be scaled down more | Senate Republicans said last week that they will remove protections for faith-based charities from a scaled-down version of President Bush's faith-based initiative to give the bill a better chance of becoming law this year (The Washington Times)

  • Earlier: Senators set deal on religion-based initiative | Sponsors agree to strip the measure of a provision that would have helped religious groups compete for government grants (The New York Times)

  • Faith-based help for parolees upheld | Plaintiff promises to keep fighting use of government funds (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Life ethics:


Prayer and worship:

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Church life:

  • Beyond the big city | An African Methodist Episcopal church in the suburbs (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Minister turned from evil | Gerrit Wolfaardt used to roam the streets of Cape Town, South Africa, with his thug friends (Colorado Springs Gazette)

  • No church activities during working hours | The Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mr Maxwell Kofi Jumah, has advised ministers of religion against organizing church activities during working hours, to the detriment of national productivity (GhanaWeb)

  • Christian group sues township | Great Lakes Society accuses Georgetown Township of blocking new church (Associated Press)

  • Helping clergy help their parishioners | A seminar educates pastors so they can give accurate information on legal matters such as divorce and drugs (Los Angeles Times)

  • Homily just a click away for clergy |, Bob Austin's website, offers homilies for all occasions, each a listener friendly 10 minutes long, allegedly free of fundamentalist ranting and trendy liberalism (The Guardian, London)

  • Nurses aid Guatemalan mission | Trinity Evangelical Free Church of Eustis has maintained a presence in Comitancillo for nearly two decades (The Orlando Sentinel)

Sexual ethics:

  • Diocese may appoint homosexual bishop | An Anglican clergyman who left his wife for a male lover emerged yesterday as the favorite to become the next bishop of the liberal American diocese of New Hampshire, becoming the first openly homosexual bishop (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Church group against event | A local hotel owner and the Edmond Police Department are preparing for possible public demonstrations this weekend when an alternative lifestyle organization converges in Edmond for a three-day convention (Edmond [Okla.] Sun)

  • Foes of benefits for partners stir  | Durham County considering plan (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Groups funding parent fight | The battle is over a bid by a lesbian couple to be legally recognized as 'mothers' of a boy (The London Free Press, Canada)

  • Anglican bishop issues warning to rebel clergy | The clergy of seven Vancouver-area Anglican parishes face expulsion from the pulpit after refusing to pledge obedience to the local bishop who has taken a stance in favour of blessing same-sex unions (Vancouver Sun)

  • Also: Punishing Yukon bishop 'foolishness': cleric (CBC-North)


  • Cohabitation and the church | Should the Church ease its stance on the key issue of sex before marriage? And what does the Bible have to say on the subject? (The Times, London)

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  • Audio Adrenaline pumped up for Wayfest | The band has performed enough to know all the kinks and rough spots are worked out, yet it's still fresh and exciting for the band members (The Tennessean)

  • All praise to Bob Dylan | Top gospel artists record folk-rocker's sacred music (The Toledo [Oh.] Blade)

  • Singing God's songs | Top draw Bill Gaither, other Christian music stars often toil in obscurity (The Denver Post)

  • All stops out to find players of mightiest instrument | But organist Mark Quarmby warns that young music students' unfamiliarity with the instrument may turn what is considered the finest 19th-century Romantic concert organ in the world into a silent antique within a generation (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Movies and TV:

  • Easter fare that doesn't star Charlton Heston | Many of the new shows are taking a livelier approach to ancient history, complete with reenactments and eager historians trying to breathe new life into some of Christianity's most familiar figures (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • "Last Temptation" reaches Chile at last | Fifteen years after its release, Chile has finally had its premier public showing of Martin Scorsese's controversial film "The Last Temptation of Christ." (Reuters)


  • Briton 'admits' Vietnam murder | A Briton could be shot by a firing squad after reportedly admitting cutting a UK priest's throat in Vietnam (BBC)

  • 'Ministry' detailed at McAnlis' tax trial | It was called the Universal Life Church, and it was used by golf architect and accused tax scofflaw Theodore McAnlis to get a property tax exemption during the 1980s, an IRS agent testified at his trial on Thursday (Palm Beach Post)

Clergy sex abuse:

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Other stories of interest:

  • Thomas Nelson Publishers takes top share in survey | Thomas Nelson Publishers scored the largest marketshare among industry publishers with 19.8 percent of revenue and 17.3 percent of units sold, a survey of sales trends in the Christian retail market shows (Nashville Business Journal)

  • Religion news in brief | United Methodists will debate homosexual conduct again, Canada's Anglicans are debating it now, Catholic-Episcopal talks continue, and other stories (Associated Press)

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