Roy Moore criticizes Commandments display
You would think that suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore would be happy about his governor's new display of the Ten Commandments, which was installed Tuesday in the old Supreme Court library room in the Capitol. But he's not. Actually, it's the posting of the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, and the Declaration of Independence along with the Ten Commandments that Moore is upset about.

"To put things around the Ten Commandments and secularize it is to deny the greatness of God," Moore told supporters at a banquet to raise money for his legal defense.

Still, if Moore's main point was that Alabama law is based upon the principles in the Ten Commandments, isn't it also based on those other documents as well? That's the idea, says Gov. Bob Riley. "Just as the Ten Commandments are exhibited in similar displays in the U.S. Supreme Court and in our nation's Capitol building, I feel it is important to display them in our Capitol, as well," he said. "Visitors to Montgomery can now read and learn about those historical documents upon which our system of laws rests."

In related news, Arkansas judge David Pake has changed the Ten Commandments display on his courtroom law, adding the Declaration of Independence, selections from the codes of Hammurabi and Justinian, and quotes from British legal scholar Sir William Blackstone. Polk County, Florida, yesterday installed a 7-foot granite monument that includes the Ten Commandments, along with 11 other documents. That monument is being unveiled today. Other commandments controversies around the country keep rolling along, too.

California forestry service drops firefighter chaplains
Faced with a lawsuit from six state firefighters, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has dropped its chaplain program. The complaining officers objected to the two-year-old program, saying chaplains should not be allowed to wear religious pins on their uniforms and should not be allowed to conduct Christian prayers at fire sites and graduation ceremonies.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection now agrees, and says firefighters may only conduct moments of silence. Religion must be left off duty, and firefighters cannot use their uniforms during any ministry activity. The department will also pay the six plaintiffs $45,500 to cover legal fees.

"We believe this is the way to go: to separate any appearance of sponsorship of religion in the department," department spokeswoman Karen Terrill told the Los Angeles Times. "We stress that we will not prevent religious discussions or exchanges, but it will not be done on CDF time."

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Passionrhetoric heats up
The New Yorker isn't offering online Peter J. Boyer's article "The Jesus War," but some quotes from Mel Gibson in defense of his Passion film are making the rounds. The chief line is his defense of Anne Catherine Emmerich, the early 18th-century stigmatic and ecstatic nun whose The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ has apparently been so influential to the film.

"Why are they calling her a Nazi? Because modern secular Judaism wants to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church. And it's revisionism. And they've been working on that one for a while."

"To me, this [comment] is classic anti-Semitism," Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman, one of the chief Jewish critics of the film, told the New York Daily News. "I think [Gibson] is on the fringes of anti-Semitism." (Is that better or worse than being in the mainstream of anti-Semitism? Does it make him an extreme anti-Semite? What's Foxman saying?)

That's exactly the kind of overstatement that Gibson says he's so upset about. There are "big realms that are warring and battling," he said. "You stick your head up and you get knocked. … I didn't realize [criticism] would be so vicious. The acts against this film started early. There is vehement anti-Christian sentiment out there and they don't want it."

Still, he says, "All the problems and the conflicts and stuff - this is some of the best marketing and publicity I have ever seen."

Of interest as well are Gibson's comments about why he left out that line from Matthew: "His blood be on us and on our children!"

"I wanted it in," Gibson told Boyer. "My brother said I was wimping out if I didn't include it. But, man, if I included that in there, they'd be coming after me at my house. They'd come to kill me."

Since that verse appears in Matthew, The Gospel of John, another new Jesus movie, won't have to deal with it. But as a word-for-word portrayal of the biblical text, the film still had to deal with some of the Jewish-Christian issues. A Canadian Press article explains a bit more how it works. First, it uses the American Bible Society's Good News translation, which refers to "Jewish authorities" rather than the more literal translation, "the Jews." Second, it kept the crowd yelling "Crucify him!" small and contained.

It also contains a disclaimer in the beginning of the film, noting that crucifixion was a Roman punishment not sanctioned by Jewish law, that Jesus and all his early followers were Jewish, and that the gospel was written "two generations after the Crucifixion," during a time of increasing conflict between early Christians and Jews, er, Jewish leaders.

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Christian higher education is still booming
During a live chat, Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews received this question:

There seems to be two different types of schools, those run by beer swilling Greek systems, and those run by the last extreme Marxists who, if they noticed the Berlin wall falling, would blame it on the ghost of Joe McCarthy and bad dental hygiene. I would really prefer to send my daughter and my dollars to a school where the faculty doesn't hate the United States and the student body doesn't think huddling over the toilet, saying 'Coming right up, two beers,' passes for a civil engineering course. … Other than BYU, or Notre Dame, where can a socially conservative family send their children without supporting either Marxist dinosaurs or power puking muscle heads? I turn to you in our hour of need.

"The questioner was exaggerating the problem, of course, perhaps just to wake me up," Mathews wrote in Tuesday's Post. "But it is true, given the nature of American youth culture, that most colleges seem a bit too leftist and liquorish to parents like me. I thought the Carlsbad parent deserved a better answer than I could come up with that morning."

Mathews recommends the Princeton Review's The Best 351 Colleges, and a few other college guides, but he in addition to these he should have turned to the other newspaper in town. The Washington Times just finished an excellent three-part series on Christian colleges. The hook is the not-so-new fact that enrollments at such schools are booming, but there are many good insights and stories here. Those interested in higher ed—especially Christian higher ed—will want to take a look:

Part 1: A higher grounding | Today, Christian colleges are outfitted with gleaming glass buildings, modern science departments and, often, a more worldly joie de vivre (The Washington Times)
Part 2: Answer to a prayer | Increasing numbers of parents among the nation's 63 million Catholics are turning their backs on the traditional powerhouse Catholic universities (The Washington Times)
Part 3: Graduating in faith | There's an enrollment boom among evangelical Protestant and conservative Roman Catholic colleges as more baby boomers opt for a Christian education for their children (The Washington Times)
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Other articles

More on education and schools:

Harvey Milk School opens:

Same-sex marriage:

  • Bishops back amendment to define marriage | Leaders of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops Wednesday gave "general support" to amending the U.S. Constitution in order to define marriage as a union of a man and woman. They also condemned legalized same-sex unions. (Associated Press)

  • Also: Catholic bishops support bid to outlaw same-sex marriage | Leading Catholic bishops Wednesday endorsed the idea of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, adding momentum to a national campaign seeking to deny legal sanction for same-sex unions. (Chicago Tribune)

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More sexual ethics stories:

  • Egypt religious leader fights gay 'plague' | Egypt's religious leader has committed himself to fighting the "plague" of gay visibility. Additionally, Pope Shenouda III, of the Coptic Orthodox Church, has called for other leaders of different religions to help in his campaign. ( U.K.)

  • Emphasis on sex harming life—bishops | Bishops in the Church of Ireland claim society is experiencing the breakdown of national, community and inter-personal relationships on a scale never before experienced (The News Letter, Belfast)

  • Just say no to abstinence | Abstinence is a very American phenomenon and it always makes news over here (Zoe Williams, The Guardian, London)

  • Ministers in gay rights opt-out | Scottish ministers have decided not to introduce new legal rights for same-sex couples, choosing instead to pass the decision to colleagues at Westminster (BBC)

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  • Earlier: Gay rights decision awaited | Scottish ministers appear ready to hand a much-awaited decision on gay rights to Westminster (BBC)

  • No sex please, you're American | The Bush administration is pouring millions of dollars into programs that persuade teenagers to hold on to their virginity. And it's working (The Guardian, London)

Politics and law:

  • Cuban church challenges Castro | Bishops call for more freedom (NBC News)

  • D.C. vouchers face Senate test | Opponents of the D.C. school-voucher program said yesterday they will combine efforts to kill the initiative in the Senate (The Washington Times)

  • Earlier: D.C. funding retains vouchers | By a one-vote margin (The Washington Times)

  • Faith-based items advance | A key House committee yesterday approved a scaled-down version of the president's faith-based initiative, consisting largely of tax incentives to encourage charitable donations (The Washington Times)

  • God in the US constitution 'no problem' | German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Wednesday he had "no problem" over including a mention of God in a future European Union constitution (DPA)

  • Dutch PM champions 'Christian' norms and values | Fresh from sharing his views on the issue with fellow Christian and US President George W. Bush, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is to attend a conference about "norms and values" on 11 September (Expatica News)

  • Straight talk on judicial nominees | Charging discrimination may score political points, but the confirmation of federal judges is too important to be treated so cynically (Editorial, The New York Times)

Business and money:

Church life:

  • Small churches said to draw 41% of worshipers | Despite the attention to the nation's largest churches, 41% of churchgoing adults worship at churches with 100 or fewer adults in attendance on an average weekend, a Barna Research Group survey shows. In comparison, only 12% of churchgoing adults are found on the average weekend in churches where there are 1,000 or more adults attending. (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Pastor finds truth in search for proof | Engineer, wife switch careers, found church (Ventura County Star)

  • Pastor reaches beyond church walls | Pastor Ed Moore of Newark Community Church does quite a bit (The Argus, Fremont, Calif.)

  • Village, clergy fight to save cemeteries from O'Hare | Bensenville religious and village leaders, angry over the threat of losing two of the oldest cemeteries in Bensenville, have banded together to try to save them from being replaced by new runways at O'Hare International Airport (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Church youth service gets a touch of magic | Sanderstead United Reformed Church is the venue for an afternoon of bewitching games and activities as well as special youth service illustrating the message of Jesus through Harry Potter on Sunday, September 14 (Croydon Guardian, England)



  • Artist Damien Hirst opens religion show | The show, Romance in the Age of Uncertainty at London's White Cube Gallery, is reportedly based on the life of Jesus and his disciples (BBC)

  • Sister Gertrude's revelations | The American Folk Art Museum will give her a solo show, "Tools of Her Ministry: The Art of Sister Gertrude Morgan," starting on Feb. 24, and it is almost certain to be wonderful (The New York Times)


  • Catholic faith losing its appeal in Italy -report | While 87 percent of people said they were Catholic only 29.3 percent regularly attended Mass (Reuters)

  • Catholics urge bishops against dissenters | Conservative lay Roman Catholics urged U.S. bishops Monday to refrain from putting dissenters to the church's teachings on boards and in other high-profile positions (Associated Press)

  • Catholics denounce dissenter 'rewards' | Roman Catholic leaders should stop rewarding dissenting Catholics with choice committee positions and be more forthcoming about homosexual priests, 39 conservative Catholics told five bishops at a closed-door summit (The Washington Times)

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  • Frail Pope faces busy Autumn | After a restful summer, an increasingly frail Pope John Paul II is preparing for a busy autumn, starting with a trip to Slovakia next week and culminating in October with celebrations of the 25th anniversary of his papacy and the beatification of Mother Teresa (Religion News Service)

  • Potent popery | False confessions about the "New Anti-Catholicism" (Tim Cavanaugh, Reason)

  • Unheavenly days for the Catholic Church | Scott Appleby reviews A People Adrift by Peter Steinfels (The New York Times Book Review)

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