Federal appeals court says RLUIPA is unconstitutional
The battle over the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 continues, this time with a major setback to the law. Last Friday, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law is "unconstitutional because it has the primary effect of advancing religion."
Four Ohio prisoners—a white supremacist, a Norse pagan, a Wiccan, and a Satanist—had sued the state under RLUIPA, alleging that they were denied religious literature and an opportunity to conduct religious services. The state said that the prisoners were simply gang members using the law "to claim religious status in order to insulate their illicit activities from scrutiny."
The court ruled that such a shield "giv[es] religious prisoners a preferred status in the prison community," and that it unconstitutionally grants "greater protection to religious rights than to other constitutionally protected rights."
While the 6th Circuit's decision is limited to the "institutionalized persons" sections of the law, the score is now 2-1: the 9th Circuit and 7th Circuit courts of appeal have upheld RLUIPA. Another case is pending in the 4th Circuit, appealing a negative ruling from a U.S. District Court judge.
All this means that there's a good chance that the Supreme Court will have to hear one of these RLUIPA cases to get everyone on the same page.
If you're really interested in the battle over this law, which also has huge implications for church battles against city zoning, among other issues, check out the Becket Fund's site wholly devoted to the subject.
The missing piece
The Religion Newswriters Association recently announced that Jeff Sheler would serve as its new president. Yes, the same Jeff Sheler known for his excellent religion reporting over at U.S. News & World Report. But no longer. Though he was responsible for several of the magazine's best-selling issues ever, the magazine included him in a recent round of layoffs.
That means that staffing for religion writers at top newsweeklies has fallen to its lowest levels in more than 50 years, the RNA's Debra L. Mason noted. The only full-time religion reporter is Time's David Van Biema—but the RNA says that his job is only "primarily" on faith.
U.S. News's Sara Sklaroff told the RNA not to worry: some "incredible generalists" on staff will maintain its level of religion news. But an incident this week shows the magazine could use a full-timer. The publication just released the bookazine Mysteries of Faith, a collection of its religion articles. Among the inclusions was a 2000 cover story, "The Mormon Way," retitled "In John Smith's Steps." Uh, might they be referring to Mormonism founder Joseph Smith? Oops. Then there's this new caption on a photo: "A statue of Joseph Smith flanks the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City."
"The caption manages to contain two errors in 13 words," notes the Deseret Morning News (that's actually Brigham Young in front of the Mormon Temple). "At least they got the city right. Heck, the temple might have suddenly been moved to Denver."
Then there's some religion called "Catholism" in the table of contents.
"Somebody took a snooze at the keyboard," magazine spokesman Richard Folkers explained. "Yeah, there are all the excuses about having a small staff that's overworked and all that, but the bottom line is we're paid not to have this happen."
Of course, the truly sad story about this reduction in staffing won't be in the typos the magazine makes, but the important stories that it misses by not having a religion reporter constantly pounding the pavement on the religion beat.
Politics and law:
- Republicans reject faith-based bill with tax break | Nearly 30 House Republicans are threatening to vote against legislation that represents the remaining pieces of President Bush's faith-based initiative if it contains a tax break favoring environmental groups (The Washington Times)
- Navy to investigate claim by chaplain | David Wilder says high-ranking officer tried last year to have criminal charges brought against him after he discussed a religious discrimination lawsuit on Fox News Channel (Associated Press)
- City adopts Christian proclamation | Document has been source of contention (Gainesville Sun, Fla.)
- Prayer rally to address Christians' concerns | We want to let people know that there's a lot of legislation coming down that's not pro-family," said Rev. James Roberts, pastor of Sunny Point Baptist Church in Canton (Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)
- The Right declares victory | It finally admits it won the culture wars (Timothy Noah, Slate)
- Federal judge: Group can receive public funds for prayer event | Court overturns Tucson, Ariz., policy that barred religious organizers from receiving fee waivers granted to other groups (Associated Press)
- Bishops may punish politicians | Proabortion position of Catholic lawmakers a source of frustration (The Boston Globe)
- Also: Catholic bishops tackle politicians | Sanctions for lawmakers are studied (Chicago Tribune)
- The delicate balance of politics and piety | On a host of issues, Americans are grappling with the delicate balance of faith and politics. Often, the scales tip too far and the two end up colliding (A. James Rudin, Newsweek)
- Faith-based lawsuit settled | A gay woman fired for her sexual orientation and a Jewish man rejected for a job based on his religion settle their lawsuit against a Methodist children's home and the state of Georgia (Morning Edition, National Public Radio)
- Also: Georgia settlement addresses 'faith-based' employment rights (Associated Baptist Press)
10 Commandments, Roy Moore:
- Ethics trial of Alabama judge to begin | It would take a unanimous vote of the Court of the Judiciary to remove Moore, who is halfway into his six-year term (Associated Press)
- Ala. attorney general wants Moore out | Bill Pryor said chief justice should be removed because he "intentionally and publicly engaged in misconduct, and because he remains unrepentant for his behavior" (Associated Press)
- Are we a Christian nation? | Justice Moore's actions can be interpreted as telling us that, as a Judge, he believes we are a Christian Nation. As an individual, he has the right to make such a declaration. As a Judge, he is clearly running "afoul" of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land (Stuart F. James, The Chattanoogan, Tenn.)
- Eaten missionary's family head for Fiji | The residents of a Fiji village are preparing to apologize to the family of a Christian missionary who was eaten by tribes people 136 years ago (BBC)
- Also: Cannibal victim's relatives to visit Fiji | The Australian descendants of a Christian missionary eaten by cannibals 136 years ago will travel to Fiji this week, hoping to help lift a curse on the village where he was killed (Associated Press)
- Fiery Pentecostal spirit spreads into mainstream Christianity | Buoyed by its commitment to worship, Pentecostalism is the world's fastest-growing Christian movement (St. Petersburg Times)
- Veteran missionaries facing new challenges | Christianity in Africa has spread rapidly during the three decades that Jerry and Sherry Daniels have been working in Kenya (The Miami Herald)
- Martial arts get a Christian attitude | The Ten Commandments are posted in the window at the Academy of Christian Martial Arts, below a sign that advertises "jujitsu, grappling and knife fighting'' (Roger Mullen, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.)
- Bibles written in Arabic to Iraq | Northeast Ohio volunteers will distribute Bibles in evangelical 10-day trip to deadly war zone (Akron Beacon Journal)
- Phoenix missionary to preach in Cuba | Phoenix resident Dana Pankey makes his fourth trip to Cuba on Sunday, where he plans to work with Christian churches across the Communist-ruled island through Nov. 19 (The Arizona Republic)
- Presbyterians take flak over messianic Jewish congregation | Move over, Southern Baptists. The stately and politically correct Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is under fire for helping fund a new "messianic" Jewish congregation in suburban Philadelphia (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)
- Sue Jews for Jesus | The Catholic Church successfully sued for copyright infringement. Why can't we? (Bradford R. Pilcher, Jewsweek)
- Slouching toward messianism | Judaism is belief in God—not anyone else (Avi Shafran, Jewsweek)
- Walkout divides N.H. church | Protesters back gay bishop's critic (The Boston Globe)
- Gay Episcopal bishop begins his ministry | Robinson says he wants the church to seek out the disenfranchised and speak out on moral issues (Associated Press)
- Anglican head seeks 'middle way' | Issue of gay bishop is test for Williams (The Washington Post)
- Pittsburgh Episcopalians seek autonomy | One of the most conservative Episcopal dioceses in America passed an amendment Saturday aimed at allowing the diocese to ignore some of the national church's policies (Associated Press)
- Diocese bars gay bishop's allies | Fort Worth Episcopal Bishop Jack Iker said Saturday that he will not allow the Episcopal Church's highest-ranking official to minister in the Fort Worth diocese because of that official's role in helping consecrate an openly gay bishop (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)
- Gay bishop says maybe time has come for Episcopal split | "Maybe it is time that we took a look at that and, I hope it won't be true but it might be, that we might ought not to try to hold together if indeed we go about this Christian endeavor so differently," Robinson said in an interview with the PBS television show "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly." (Religion News Service)
- California bishops split on anointed gay peer | Angry words over whose church is the real church (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Schisms are nothing new, but this one could be profound | Policy changes such as this can be forever (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Lambeth's options are severely limited | The move by many Anglican leaders across the globe to sever links with Robinson is justifiable. However, the rush with which they did it exposed their own folly of ignoring a veritable problem that has haunted the church for over three decades now (Francis Ayieko, The Nation, Nairobi)
- Addressing rift over gay bishop, church leader sees 'possibility' in pain | On a weekend that found the Episcopal Church in a widening split over its first openly gay bishop, the church's chief pastor yesterday counseled Seattle-area parishioners to seek common ground with fellow believers (The Seattle Times)
- Episcopal leader vies for peace on sexual battlefield | He also challenged Bush's encouraging U.S-style democracy in the Middle East. "We can look at our own democracy and ask: Is it really a democracy?" Griswold said. "It is so managed and controlled." (Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- Priest outs himself before sermon | Gay Anglican cleric set to stir up debate among his congregation (Sunday Times, Johannesburg, South Africa)
- Gay bishop: How much more can Africa take? | Next, the white world will ask us to accept people who have sex with animals and child molesters! (Pini Jason , Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria)
- Archbishop's stance draws Nigerian approval | Homosexuals cling tightly to the closet in deeply religious territory, (Festus Eriye, Sunday Times, Johannesburg, South Africa)
- Gay Episcopal ordination smacks of arrogance to world | Commentators have paid so much attention to Robinson's ordination as a milestone in the culture war over homosexuality that they have tended to underplay its significance as a milestone in another culture war—namely, the role of America in international affairs (David C. Steinmetz, The Orlando Sentinel)
- Roman Catholic bishops to meet in D.C. | They're discussing the restoration of trust, measures on proper religious observance, and church thinking on war and peace (Associated Press)
- Bishops to debate same-sex unions | The nation's Roman Catholic bishops will debate a document today that opposes same-sex unions and exhorts state governments to recognize only marriages between men and women (The Washington Times)
- Also: Bishops asked to oppose same-sex unions | The document would reinforce church teaching that gay sex is a sin (Associated Press)
- Vatican ponders morality of biotech foods | Two Jesuits told a Vatican biotech conference Tuesday that tinkering with God's creation by making new plant species went against church teaching, adding a moral voice to a debate dominated by scientific, political and economic interests (Associated Press)
- Pope condemns stem cell research | He denounced as "morally contradictory" any medical treatment based on stem cells taken from embryo tissue (Associated Press)
- Orchestra to make Vatican history | The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is to become the first US orchestra to play for a Pope in the Vatican, it has been announced (BBC)
- Pope puts five more on path toward sainthood | In his homily, John Paul praised efforts to lend dignity to work (Associated Press)
- Father Dolan censured over arrest fracas | Nairobi Catholic archbishop Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki yesterday criticised Fr Gabriel Dolan's conduct but in the same breath condemned police brutality against him last week (The Nation, Nairobi)
- Bishop says church has 'turned corner' on sex abuse crisis | But Gregory says the process of restoring trust will take years (The Boston Globe)
- Bishops gain approval, poll says | Nearly half of US Roman Catholics who regularly attend Mass believe bishops are doing a good job responding to the sex abuse crisis (The Boston Globe)
- Despite sex abuse scandal, Catholics give more to church | '02 donations up, directed mostly to local parishes (The Baltimore Sun)
- Bishops 'turned the corner' on scandal, leader says | Victims Group Lists 13 More Alleged Abusers (The Washington Post)
- Bishop warns of 'painful' study on abuse | A leading Roman Catholic bishop warns that an unprecedented study the church commissioned on 50 years of clergy sex abuse cases will "add to our own sorrow" about predatory priests (Associated Press)
- Dioceses lag on responses to abuse survey | Nearly one-fifth of Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States have failed to respond to a survey on the extent of the sexual molestation of minors by priests (The New York Times)
- Bishops slowly facing up to sex abuse scandal | The nation's Catholic bishops are reluctantly but slowly "coming on board" in facing their long-standing clergy-abuse scandal, a leading member of the National Lay Review Board said (The Washington Times)
- Bishops discuss sexual abuse | They also were asked for advice on dealing with dissident Catholics, especially those holding public office (The Washington Times)
- Abuse data on agenda for bishops | Celibacy issue won't be tackled (Chicago Tribune)
- Leader praises Catholic bishops | But Gregory says they still must reconcile with abuse victims (The Washington Post)
- Boston bishop to meet dissident lay group | Archbishop Sean O'Malley has agreed to meet next week with the leaders of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group formed out of the sex abuse scandal that has been barred from church property (Associated Press)
Science and religion:
- Can science prove the existence of God? | What is for some the ultimate question — Does God exist? — has become a matter of how much further the domain of the unknown will continue to contract, and if it will ultimately evaporate ?(The New York Times)
- Is evolution truly random? | To many scientists, it would seem impossible to re-evolve anything like life on earth today, given how life has been shaped by accidents large and small. But 12 flasks of bacteria in East Lansing, Mich., are beginning to challenge such notions (The New York Times)
- How did life begin? | Researchers are a long way from reconstructing any plausible path for the origin of life (The New York Times)
- Richard Dawkins attacks religion again | "If we come back in a thousand years, we would have our minds blown away by what science has discovered in the meantime, whereas religion or spirituality or mysticism will have discovered nothing more. They never have discovered anything." (Seed, via The New York Times, last item)
- Doctor mixes faith with medicine | Lawry puts his beliefs in practice (Iowa City Press-Citizen)
- Bono records with Christian artists | Sparrow Records will release "In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa" on Jan. 27 (Religion News Service, third item)
- Christian music fights segregation | Toby McKeehan and Kirk Frankin say their I Have a Dream tour is the first time a black gospel artist and a white Christian artist have ever toured together (The Denver Post)
- Rookie choir wins award | Students were making their Gospelfest debut after starting a group at Lynwood High (Los Angeles Times)
- Earlier: Eager young choir finds itself an amazing place | The Chosen Generation, formed less than a year ago, is a finalist in the annual Gospelfest (Los Angeles Times)
- Rock opera sends Christian message | Artistically, Jesus has appeared in many guises during the past 2000 years. Still, there has been nothing quite like Hero (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Johnny Cash tribute honors music, legend | The Rev. Billy Graham was among several people to send recorded messages of love, saying he expects to join Cash and June Carter Cash in heaven soon (Associated Press)
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