California Supreme Court: San Francisco mayor broke the law

California Supreme Court: San Francisco mayor broke the law
Yesterday, as you've undoubtedly heard by now, the California Supreme Court ruled that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom broke state law by issuing 3,995 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling is absurdly long, but it doesn't solve much. Chief Justice Ronald George explicitly wrote that the decision doesn't address "the substantive legal rights of same sex couples"—it just says that the marriages done earlier this year were invalid because Newsom didn't have the authority to grant them. A bunch of lawsuits filed yesterday aim to solve the question about whether Newsom's rationale for gay marriage—that California's constitutional prohibitions against discrimination trump the 1977 state law defining marriage as a union between a man and woman.

For now, it's a basic junior high social studies lesson: the legislative branch makes laws, the judicial branch interprets laws, and the executive branch implements and enforces the laws. These days, of course, the judicial branch makes the laws, the legislative branch tells them what laws they can't interpret, and the executive branch gets all the attention without actually doing much. Seriously, when the debate over abortion law focuses on the presidential election because of what judges he'll appoint, isn't something a bit amiss?

Oh yeah, we were talking about the California Supreme Court decision. Lots of opinion from the usual conservative Christian groups here. Here are the main news links:

  • California Supreme Court rules gay unions have no standing | The court said that the mayor of San Francisco overstepped his authority by issuing gay couples marriage licenses (The New York Times)
  • High court in Calif. nullifies gay marriages | San Francisco rites rejected; ban's constitutionality pending (The Washington Post)
  • Gay rights activists weigh tactics of marriage push | Supporters say licenses for same-sex couples served broader purpose; others say they were a mistake (The Washington Post)
  • State's high court voids S.F. same-sex marriages | The justices say the mayor overstepped in granting licenses to lesbian and gay couples. Constitutionality issue awaits further rulings (Los Angeles Times)
  • Couples vow to fight for 'little piece of paper' | Though not a surprise, the ruling is a blow to many who considered themselves married. Some worry about the financial implications (Los Angeles Times)
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  • Calif. court voids gay marriages | San Francisco mayor faulted (The Boston Globe)
  • California court voids same-sex 'marriages' | The California Supreme Court yesterday voided nearly 4,000 "marriages" granted to same-sex couples in San Francisco this year, ruling that city officials broke a state law and a voter-approved measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman (The Washington Times)
  • A mayor overruled | Newsom found to violate California law by issuing same-sex licenses (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Newsom, unbowed by decision, says he is 'more resolved' | S.F. mayor reacts: Suit against state ban will continue (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Reaction of religious to marriage ruling is a mix of regret and relief | Bible used to support opposing views (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • A setback, not an end | For long days last February, thousands of gay and lesbian couples stood happily in the rain and cold outside City Hall, waiting to be married. When this city welcomed the unions, the couples came by foot, bus and limo, carrying flowers and bringing along parents and children to mark the day (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • California's supreme court declares gay marriages void | Ruling pushes issue to front of presidential campaign (Gary Younge, The Guardian, London)

A bit from James E. McGreevey

A bit from James E. McGreevey
The resignation of the New Jersey governor is getting, oh, a fair bit of press elsewhere. But is it a religion story? Beliefnet thinks it is—it's currently the lead story on the site, with a standard AP story rounding up the basic facts.

But there really is a religion story here, and that's in the religious references in James McGreevey's resignation speech:

… At my most reflective, maybe even spiritual level, there were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me. Were there realities from which I was running? Which master was I trying to serve?
I do not believe that God tortures any person simply for its own sake. I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good. And this, the 47th year of my life, is arguably too late to have this discussion. But it is here, and it is now.
At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.

McGreevey didn't say anything that those fighting cultural acceptance of homosexuality would argue with. Frankly, it sounds like the beginning of a number of testimonies Weblog has heard. You often have to acknowledge your demons before you can surrender them. Just pray that McGreevey isn't confusing demons with angels.

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Oh, and maybe there's another religious angle: McGreevey thinks that breaking your marriage vows to have a homosexual relationship is cause for resigning a governmental post. The Episcopal Church USA apparently believes it's no barrier to becoming a bishop.

Communion controversies

Communion controversies
The controversy over whether prochoice Roman Catholic politicians should be barred from receiving the elements is the most prominent Communion controversy, but another tiff over the Lord's Table is making headlines and could become big.

Haley Waldman, age 8, received her First Communion in May. But because she has celiac sprue disease, and could have life-threatening reactions if she ingests even the smallest amount of wheat or gluten, her priest gave her a wafer made from rice, not wheat.

That was inappropriate, says John Smith, bishop of the Diocese of Trenton. The Host must be made at least partly from wheat, so Waldman's Communion was invalid. She didn't receive the Body of Christ after all.

Don't get mad at Smith—he's just following explicit teachings from two Vatican offices: the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote to American bishops about a year ago. Those who suffer from gluten intolerance can have a small part of the wafer, can use a low-gluten host, or can take only wine. But they can't have a rice wafer.

"I don't know that the divinity of Christ depended on wheat," Haley's mother, Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. She also suffers from celiac sprue disease, and has asked the Vatican to change its theology. "I'm not doing this to attack my church," she said. "I want to raise awareness for celiac."

Weblog is sensitive to Waldman's plight: Weblog's wife is also on a strict wheat-free, gluten-free diet for medical reasons (though she takes wheat Communion wafers in an Anglican church). But Weblog is a bit put off by Pelly-Waldman's own inflexibility. She says her daughter can't receive the Blood of Christ because "she does not believe in giving children alcohol." At some point there needs to be a recognition that theology—especially when you're' talking about something as central as Holy Communion—isn't a matter of personal preference. There really are reasons that the bread and wine are bread and wine and not chips and grape soda.

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Actually, some Protestants have tried to do Communion with chips and grape soda. And you don't have to be a sacramentalist to be put off by that. Still, it would be a mistake to see the Communion battles as purely a Roman Catholic thing. There's a gathering storm Down Under in the Anglican Communion. The Diocese of Sydney, one of the most conservative in Western Anglicanism, wants to allow laity to preside over Communion services—something that's pretty radical in that Christian stream. Now Church Times reports that the diocese is moving forward, but attempting to shield church leaders from discipline over the issue. "Instead of attempting to legalize lay presidency, [a proposed motion to go before the Sydney synod] simply proposes that 'no disciplinary or other action' should be taken against any person who permits a deacon or lay person to 'administer the Lord's Supper,' or who is involved in such a service," the Church Times says. This, the newspaper suggests, would equate to "turning a blind eye" to the issue. Expect more on this in the coming weeks.

Someone to put on the anathema list

Chuck Carlson has gained a little bit of positive mainstream and alternative media attention (mainly in Arizona) for his "Christian" demonstrations against the Iraq war. But it's time to add this guy to the same list as Fred Phelps and John Shelby Spong. Better, yet, your list that includes Matt Hale and Attallah Hana. Like Hana, he loves Palestinian suicide bombers, and now he's claiming that Christians and Israelis, not Muslims, were behind the August 1 church bombings in Iraq.

"We don't know who planted the bombs but we do know that American evangelical celebrities facilitated and enabled the act," he said. "Without the Enablers constant condemnation of Islam, there would have been no reason for the propaganda bombing of five churches, because there would be no market for the propaganda that is being distributed through the evangelicals in the USA."

Muslims couldn't have bombed the churches, he says, because "most Muslims who we know fear God, they do not hate Him, and would be correctly afraid to bomb a church--afraid of God, not of men. And Muslims, unlike the Israelis, believe Jesus was on very good terms with the one God, whom they call Allah. They do not challenge Allah; they fear Him as righteous."

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Uh, what's that about Israelis? "Israelis would not think twice of bombing churches because they have already done it," Carlson says. "They are used to this kind of assassination, and they know how to keep quiet."

Carlson loves protests. So, if you're interested, here's where you can let him know your opinions, especially if you're near his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. And he's also a big fan of protesting churches. According to Phoenix New Times, an alternative paper, he's a member here, though the church's teachings directly contradict Carlson's.

More articles


  • Chaplains promise to behave at Olympics | The 45 Anglican and Protestant chaplains ministering in the Olympic village in Athens have signed an agreement saying that they will not proselytize (Church Times)
  • Greek Church warily awaits Olympic opening | Orthodox leaders hope a show on ancient Greece will present the gods as mythology, not religion (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Hutterites find kindred spirit in Native American speaker | Olympic gold medalist at international educators conference (Aberdeen American News, S.D.)

Amish in the City:

  • Hollywood fantasy | Fresh evidence that the Amish are wise to avoid watching TV (Donald B. Kraybill, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Sect in the city | It only took "Amish in the City" housemate Mose one morning in midtown Manhattan to size up the lay of the land (New York Post)


  • 'Passion' film confessor pleads guilty to murder | A man who said Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of The Christ" led him to confess that he murdered his girlfriend pleaded guilty to the crime in a Texas court on Wednesday (Reuters)
  • Jakes' gritty, realistic film emulates 'Passion' | 'Woman' will offer hope to people suffering today (Religion News Service)


  • 'Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust' | Author explores spirituality in popular Disney movies (The Express-Times, Bethlehem, Pa.)
  • Publisher launches 'youth Bible' — a tale of sex and masturbation | The Contemporary English Version Youth Bible, which talks frankly about pornography and lust has been condemned by traditionalists for "dumbing down the message of salvation" (The Telegraph, London)

Health & diet:

  • Pentecostal bishop linking faith, medicine | Rev. Horace Smith, also a hematologist and oncologist, is trying to help his community gain better health care (Chicago Tribune)
  • Woman says she lost job for eating bacon | A no-pork policy was discrimination, a lawsuit claims. Her ex-boss says she was insubordinate (The Orlando Sentinel)
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  • As the AIDS bureaucracy cashes in, the prospect of a cure dims | Absent any short-term hope for a cure, the activists seem determined to make the band play on — that is, to preserve maximum sexual freedom for all, no matter what the cost. In Bangkok, all discussions on abstinence were dismissed; out in front of the convention center was a giant condom, described as a "victory monument" (James P. Pinkerton, Los Angeles Times)
  • Global AIDS and the 'theology of a few' | The religious roots of this disease must be examined to determine how the theological thinking of some has caused widespread harm to many (Donald E. Messer, San Francisco Chronicle)

Miracle babies scam:

  • Archbishop's 'miracle babies' raise child trafficking fears | A disturbing world in which a religious guru convinces British women they are pregnant by God with a "miracle baby" was exposed today in a radio investigation (PA, U.K.)
  • Pregnant by Jesus? | They're called "miracle babies" and for some childless couples in Britain, they're a dream come true. But doctors and Church of England officials are worried the babies aren't miracles at all, but either a shortcut adoption process or a baby-trafficking scheme (BBC)
  • Pastor faces police probe over 'miracle pregnancies' | Gilbert Deya, head of Gilbert Deya Ministries, a worldwide evangelical movement with 36,000 British members, claims to exorcise demons from women unable to conceive (Evening Standard, London)
  • Commentary: Jesus Healed a Woman with Three Breasts | … and other odd things about the guy behind the "miracle babies" (Bartholomew's Notes on Religion)

Weeping Mary hoax, but not fraud:

  • 'No fraud' in weeping Virgin Mary hoax | A suburban Brisbane community centre did not commit fraud or gain financially from a weeping Virgin Mary statue hoax, the Catholic Church has found (AAP, Australia)
  • 'Miracle' hoaxers to remain mystery | Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby yesterday said he had closed the file on the man-made phenomena after a financial probe cleared Vietnamese church leaders of fraud (The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia)
  • Man-made weeping Virgin collected $40,000 | Brisbane's Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby has apologised to people who feel defrauded (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
  • Faith and the vision thing | Weeping statues, icons producing streams of oil, blood from Christ's wounds and wooden fences offering esoteric images of the Blessed Virgin Mary are becoming more commonplace. If they are meant to enhance religious devotion, they probably turn more people off than they attract (James Murray, The Australian)
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Stem cells:

  • Stem cell debate is getting personal | Proposition 71 backers say the public supports expanded stem cell research (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)
  • 2 GOP senators defend Bush on stem cell research | Two Republican senators rose to President Bush's defense yesterday on the emotional issue of stem cell research, although both said they are pushing the White House to embrace an expansion of the policy advocated by Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry (The Washington Post)
  • Getting to the root of the stem-cell debate | It is, in this column's view, better to err on the side of research and discovery. But the debate itself is worth having. We do not need to leave questions of morality and ethics only to our scientists and we need not trust the downplaying of the potential cures to those who speak for ethical issues (Collin Levey, The Seattle Times)


  • Anti-abortion ads will be illegal | The anti-abortion group Wisconsin Right to Life is airing a TV spot and radio ads about blocked judicial nominees aimed at Wisconsin Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold and Herbert Kohl. But come this weekend, the ad campaign will be illegal because of whom it's targeting (Fox News)
  • Voters to face abortion notification issue on election day | Voters will be asked if they want to change the state constitution to limit the privacy rights of girls under age 18. That's a necessary prelude to any future state law requiring that parents be told when their minor daughters seek abortions (Associated Press)
  • Physician's license suspended in Ala. | Doctor at Miss. abortion clinic under investigation (The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.)

Episcopal church & homosexuality:

  • Episcopal policy on gays expected | Colorado bishop weighs statement (The Denver Post)
  • Episcopal churches undergo new start | New, old parishes deal with schism (Chicago Tribune)


  • Vatican shuts Austria seminary under cloud | The seminary in Austria had been accused of housing widespread sexual misconduct, including the distribution of child pornography (The New York Times)
  • Also: Austrian seminary closed amid porn probe | A papal emissary investigating suspected homosexuality and child pornography among student priests shut down the seminary at the center of the scandal Thursday, acknowledging his probe had bared "very painful" revelations of sexual misconduct (Associated Press)
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  • Detroit Catholic diocese to handle 26 priest sex cases | Vatican directs how to proceed with 13 priests; other 13 outcomes still uncertain (The Detroit News)
  • Also: Archdiocese of Detroit orders church trials in sex-abuse cases | Four Catholic priests are facing trial in closed-door church courts in a major new effort by the Archdiocese of Detroit to resolve 26 cases in which clergy are accused of sexually abusing minors (Detroit Free Press)


  • Plan for Catholic cathedral in Santa Ana is criticized | Despite financial problems and the looming possibility of a large settlement with sexual-abuse victims, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange is moving forward with plans to build a 2,650-seat cathedral in Santa Ana, angering activists critical of the church's treatment of people allegedly molested by priests (Los Angeles Times)
  • Terror alert for Pope's pilgrimage to Lourdes | Security and medical experts on standby for symbolic visit (The Guardian, London)


  • Student group refuses to sign policy | UNC has declined to officially recognize a Christian student organization because the group has refused to sign a nondiscrimination policy (The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.)
  • Also: Religion again issue at UNC-CH | Civil liberties group questions school's action against Christian fraternity (The News-Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
  • Schools may pass out religious flyers to students | A Van Wert County school district is allowed to resume distributing flyers promoting religious events to students, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday (Toledo Blade, Oh.)
  • Also: Grounding the fliers | Responding to The Washington Post editorial "Schools and Faith" (The Washington Post)
  • Sex and the American schoolhouse | Do you know what's being taught in your child's sex-education class? (Deborah Simmons, The Washington Times)

Religion & politics:

  • The one invitation that counts | Snub has offended religious leaders (The Washington Post)
  • Byrd builds on evangelical conservative bedrock | In six years of elective office, Byrd leaped from obscure newcomer to the second- most powerful man in state politics after the governor: Florida's House speaker, ideological leader of a legislative chamber that has left its controversial mark in many places. (The Tampa Tribune)
  • Targeting Democrats raises profile of Catholic League | Bill Donohue, the bombastic head of the Catholic League, has never met Mara Vanderslice or Brenda Bartella Peterson, but he knows enough about them to know that he doesn't like either one (Religion News Service)
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  • Closing the 'religion gap' | Bringing more churchgoers into the fold poses a complex challenge for Democrats (The Nation)
  • Church, state and politics | If a minister insists on delivering partisan sermons, shouldn't that be his congregants' problem, God help 'em, and not the government's? Leave him to Heaven, not the Internal Revenue Service (Paul Greenberg, The Washington Times)

African crises:

  • Mugabe plans to starve voters into submission, says rights group | Malnutrition deaths disprove boasts of bumper crops (The Guardian, London)
  • The other African crisis | Who is to blame for the largest humanitarian catastrophe of our times? I am referring not to Darfur, a terrible tragedy in its own right, but to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 4 million people have died in a conflict that has been going on for eight years (Jason Stearns, The Washington Post)
  • African corruption is a crime against humanity | As long as corruption exists at its current levels in Africa, and as long as donors continue to look the other way, foreign aid will simply serve to keep African kleptocrats in power (Susan Dicklitch, The Christian Science Monitor)
  • Washington split on Sudan | Sudan has two-and-a-half weeks to prove to the United Nations Security Council it is taking real steps to stop the suffering of the people of the western state of Darfur or face sanctions. The Sudanese government isn't making believers out of Washington (Fox News)
  • A grievous loss, an unexpected letter, and a family found | When the killing began in 1994, Jean Bosco Gakirage was on his way home to Rwanda to be ordained in his childhood church. At a stopover in Rome, he got a message from his parish priest: Do not come home. Your parents, and the whole congregation, have been murdered in the sanctuary (The Christian Science Monitor)

Iraqi Christians:

  • Christians receive death threats | An Iraqi auxiliary bishop visiting London was summoned back to Baghdad this week, as the situation for Christians in Iraq continued to deteriorate. Several prominent clergy have received death threats over the last few days (Church Times)
  • Area Chaldeans fear for families in Iraq | U.S. aid is sought to help Christian minority under siege (The Detroit News)

Missions & ministry:

  • For some, seventh day really is meant for rest | It's a position that is unusual in a sports world that has transformed the day of rest into a day of entertainment and commerce (The Grand Rapids Press)
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  • Wheaton refugees find learning haven | At this school, Somali Bantu children mix with Sudanese, Liberian, Bosnian and Rwandan children. Some spent their earliest years in refugee camps (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
  • Religion in the News: Bible study at Hooters | Some Bible study members initially resisted holding meetings at the restaurant known for its scantily clad waitresses (Associated Press)
  • Religion news in brief | Bill McCartney's messianic outreach, White House faith-based director vows to fight restrictive local government, New Southern Baptist president wants 1 million baptisms a year, and other stories (Associated Press)
  • Lack of good faith at the ballpark | Let me begin by saying how disappointed I am in Spiritual Outdoor Adventures, which clearly has missed a trick in terms of getting to the action early, conversion-wise (Mark Kreidler,
  • 'Creation Fest' settles in Springfield township | Jeff Goodling camped out at Creation Fest in Mount Union for the last eight years, and he and other members of his church got to thinking in June, "Why don't we do the same thing here?" (York Daily Record, Pa.)
  • Earthly creators find the divine in their details | The contributors to '100 Artists See God' take a mostly humble approach at the Laguna Art Museum (Los Angeles Times, sub. req'd.)

More articles:

  • A mini baby boom | Laurel couple's high-risk pregnancy gamble pays off—and then some (The Washington Post)
  • Priest refuses to bless dreadlocked man's wedding | The priest ordered the groom to remove his dreadlocks, telling the couple: "Rastafarianism and Christianity are totally different" (
  • Apology not enough for man handcuffed by Milton officer | Despite apologies from Police Chief Kevin Mearn, Episcopalian priest Henderson L. Brome says he remains livid over how he was treated last month by Milton police (The Boston Globe)
  • Looking toward a reincarnation | Bay's dwindling harvest has Smith Island mulling a tourist-driven future (The Washington Post)
  • Military casts Wicca in the shadows | As members serve their country, they also battle the military to accept their faith (Contra Costa Times, Ca.)
  • Divine inspiration | Contemporary Christian music comes into its own with sold-out concerts and pop-friendly stars (Florida Today)
  • Senate passes gay marriage ban | Prime Minister John Howard has won his fight to ban gay marriage, but faces a possible High Court challenge to the laws (The Australian)
  • Basilan court sentences to death 17 Abu Sayyaf members in Dos Palmas kidnapping | It was the first mass conviction of members of the Abu Sayyaf who have been kidnapping and killing Christians and foreigners in Mindanao for a decade (ABS-CBN, Philippines)
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  • Leeds police order man off cross | Leeds police forced a hairstylist who dressed up as Jesus and drenched himself in fake blood to come down off a 14-foot-tall cross he set up in front of his hair salon on Monday (The Birmingham News, Ala.)
  • Cats, dogs give Christianity fun focus | Sam Talbert took a humorous approach to looking at Christianity through some familiar animals—cats and dogs (Modesto Bee, Ca.)
  • Mistresses of their own destiny | Male adultery is an age-old theme in France, but infidelity for both sexes is now being flagged as the greatest of freedoms (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
  • Zao courts hardcore controversy | "The Funeral of God," which hit the streets last month, imagines what would happen if God decided that humanity had rejected him so completely that he chose to "go to sleep forever," leaving humans to fend for themselves (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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