In a landmark ruling, The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Melbourne, Australia, has ruled that Catch the Fire Ministries violated the state's recent Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

While the law allows "genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific" discussion of religious beliefs, Judge Michael Higgins ruled that pastor Danny Nalliah and speaker Daniel Scot's post-9/11 messages on Islam went beyond such discussion.

"Pastor Scot, throughout the seminar, made fun of Muslim beliefs and conduct," Higgins wrote. "It was done not in the context of a serious discussion of Muslims' religious beliefs; it was presented in a way which is essentially hostile, demeaning and derogatory of all Muslim people, their god, Allah, the prophet Mohammed, and in general Muslim beliefs and practices."

The problem, Higgins said, was that Scot argued that Wahhabist Islam is the true Islam, and that more moderate, Western forms are compromises of what the Qur'an really teaches.

"I find that Pastor Scot failed to differentiate between Muslims throughout the world, that he preached a literal translation of the Qur'an and of Muslims' religious practices which was not mainstream but was more representative of a small group in the Gulf states."

Higgins also noted that Scot's credibility was severely undermined by his misrepresentation of how many books he has published.

Still, evangelicals and Pentecostals have decried the trial as a violation of free speech. Catholics and mainline churches have supported the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and the criminal charges against Nalliah and Scot.

Since this is one of the first cases of a Western, non-Islamic government essentially banning statements against Islam and Mohammed, it's well worth keeping an eye on. Nalliah has promised to appeal. Sentencing won't be until next month.

The wonderful Sydney Anglican site has a message board thread on the topic.

More articles

Religion & politics | Religious freedom & free speech | South Korea fights for North Korean pastor's release | Sudan | Muslims oppose Uganda VP entering shrine | Signs of evil at African church | War & terrorism | Christmas | Bethlehem | Nativities | December dilemma | Censoring Christmas | Parents sue school for banning Christmas | Parents sue to keep ID out of curriculum | Education & religion | Education: | Sex ed. | School cancels Christian rock concert | Sports | Church & state | Ala. Judge wears Ten Commandments | Church life | Cathedrals | UCC ad | Church pays outstanding parking fines | Catholicism | Closing Catholic parishes | Abuse | Crime & fraud | Nativity vandalism | Murder | Conductor kills himself in Crystal Cathedral | People | Missions & ministry | Marriage & family | Same-sex marriage | Religion & homosexuality | Life ethics | Living wills | Life ethics in China | Abortion | Science | Business | Books | Television | Theater & film | Music | Spirituality | Other religions | More articles of interest
Article continues below

Religion & politics:

  • In praise of 'Jesusland' | Whatever their faults, America's Christian fundamentalists are a lot smarter than Eutopian secularists (Mark Steyn, The Spectator, U.K.)

  • It's a spirited season in the Legislature | State Rep. Al Ott, a low-key Republican, forwarded a lengthy e-mail - it runs to 20 pages when printed out - loaded with evangelical Christian poems, proverbs and sermons encouraging people to put Jesus first in their lives (Cary Spivak & Dan Bice, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • Nothing new about politics, moral values | Carter fell out with evangelicals who considered him one of their own (Stephanie Salter, Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.)

  • Gard's cuts: Scrooge or Jesus? | Democratic Rep. Marlin Schneider was not pleased to have recently received an e-mail titled "Time for God" from his Republican colleague, Rep. Alvin Ott (Doug Moe, The Capital Times, Madison, Wi.)

  • Newsview: Poll wording debate continues | It was a simple, multiple choice question. The reaction to the answers has been anything but (Associated Press)

  • Jesus wore Birks | Pro-life, pro-Federal Marriage Amendment—and pro-Kyoto (Alexander Zaitchik, New York Press)

  • The culture wars still rage | Moral issues will prove to be dicey territory for Republicans as well as Democrats (Albert R. Hunt, The Wall Street Journal)

  • A priest, a rabbi and an imam … | For too long, political correctness has been blind in one eye (Peter Mullen, The Wall Street Journal Europe)

  • A hot line to heaven | Is George Bush too religious? Here is a closer look at what a much-misquoted president actually says and how it compares with his predecessors (The Economist, U.K.)

  • A bully pulpit indeed | White House scribe Michael Gerson's telephone rang with a vengeance after the 2003 State of the Union address and its claim that there is "power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people." (Terry Mattingly, Scripps Howard News Service)

  • What they believe | The religious dimensions to Ukraine's protests and passions (Adrian Karatnycky, The Wall Street Journal)

Article continues below
  • Christmas in Cuba | It is one thing to respect atheists and to protect their rights, as America's Constitution and tradition do. It is another to found one's ideology in opposition to the idea of God, as communism does (Editorial, New York Sun)

  • Polish minister slammed for church remarks | The PAP news agency said Gender Equality Minister Magdalena Sroda had been reprimanded by Prime Minister Marek Belka for suggesting the patriarchal teachings of the Catholic Church were part of the problem of domestic violence against women in Poland (UPI)

Religious freedom& free speech:

South Korea fightsfor North Korean pastor's release:

  • Seoul vows effort to free activist pastor | Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon promised yesterday that South Korea would take steps to secure the freedom of a Protestant minister who is believed to have been abducted in 2000 to North Korea (JoongAng Daily, South Korea)

  • Seoul to persuade NK for pastor's release | Seoul will make all possible efforts to persuade Pyongyang to return kidnapped South Korean citizens, including pastor Kim Dong-shik, while seeking diplomatic cooperation from China, South Korea's top diplomat said Wednesday (The Korea Times)

Article continues below
  • Man held over S Korean 'kidnap' | A man has reportedly been arrested in South Korea, charged with abducting a prominent Christian leader in 2000 (BBC)

  • Man in custody for kidnapping cleric to North | An alleged North Korean agent has confessed to having played a role in the kidnapping four years ago of a South Korean religious leader in China, prosecutors announced yesterday (JoongAng Daily, South Korea)

  • Earlier: Government urged to press for release of kidnapped pastor | The opposition Grand National Party (GNP) on Tuesday urged the government to press Pyongyang for the release of South Korean pastor Kim Dong-shik, who was abducted by North Korean agents in China more than four years ago (The Korea Times)


  • U.N. envoy urges nations to help in Sudan | The top U.N. envoy to Sudan urged the world's most powerful nations to use their political clout to ensure that the Sudanese government and southern rebels end their 21-year civil war as promised by Dec. 31 (Associated Press)

  • More African troops go to Darfur | Germany has despatched three military transport aircraft to Africa to help deploy more African Union troops to Darfur in western Sudan (BBC)

Muslims oppose UgandaVP entering shrine:

  • Muslims protest against Hajji Katale's shrine | Masaka Muslim leaders have vowed to take action against Hajji Bruhan Katale for taking the Vice-President into his shrine. (New Vision, Kampala)

  • The VP's going to a shrine no big deal | The storm-in-a-teacup coverage of the Vice President?s tour of Upland Rice fields in Masaka concentrated on the now-sensational visit to Hajji Bull Katale?s residence and created an unfortunate impression that I must correct (Simon Kaheru, The Monitor, Kampala)

Signs of evilat African church:

  • Church leaders wrangle whether the destruction should continue | "A Maasai spear still stands on top of the original church, denoting an old Maasai custom of placing a spear at the home of an agemate when committing adultery with his wife," says a report on allegedly offensive images in the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Worshippers vow to guard 'signs of evil' | The Presbyterian Church East Africa is headed for a major split after worshippers in one of its oldest churches vowed to protect symbols allegedly linked to Freemasonry from destruction. (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

Article continues below
  • Row rages over PCEA artefacts | The Presbyterian Church of East Africa has not formed a demolition squad but the alleged demonic artefacts will be pulled down eventually (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Police visit church as storm over relics rages | Yesterday, former attorney-general Charles Njonjo described any removal of artefacts from Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) sanctuaries as meaningless (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

War & terrorism:

  • Tariq Aziz wins 'unofficial support' from Vatican | Saddam Hussein's former foreign minister and right-hand man has persuaded sympathisers in the Vatican to arrange free legal advice for his defence against war crimes (The Telegraph, London)

  • Turkey will not apologies for Armenian genocide | Turkey has reacted angrily to a demand by France that it accept responsibility for a "genocide" against Armenians nearly 80 years ago (The Times, London)

  • Talk of conversion is in the air in Iran | The queries he receives from Iranian Muslims about converting to Judaism say less about the lure of the Jewish faith, Menashe Amir believes, than about the abysmal situation in the land of the ayatollahs (The Washington Times)


  • Christmas lights spark legal row | A council has pulled the plug on a woman's efforts to raise cash for charity by showing off her array of Christmas lights (BBC)

  • So this is Christmas? | Among the problems of trying to have it both ways — Christmas and "holidays" — is having it neither way (Cal Thomas)

  • Winter games | The conservative effort to reassert Christmas is both nutty and understandable (Michelle Cottle, The New Republic)

  • Baby Jesus had hypothermia | Lying naked in a manger in a Northern Hemisphere winter meant baby Jesus would have certainly suffered from hypothermia, say Australian researchers (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

  • Blinkered by the 'Christian' in Christmas? | The idea that there is something exclusive about saying "Merry Christmas," is, of course, nonsense (Rondi Adamson, The Christian Science Monitor)

  • The gospel truth about some readers | Many people say Christians are under siege this Christmas from godless types who want to give us a black eye. I don't buy it for one simple reason: No one knows how to give us Christians a bigger black eye than the people who call themselves Christians (Nick Coleman, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Article continues below
  • Same old song at Christmas: Do carols discriminate? | The controversy over holiday music in Maplewood echoes a larger debate over what types of public religious expressions or displays are acceptable during the Christmas season, a December rite that has become as familiar as long lines at the mall (Associated Press)

  • Christ still faces tough critics | The true meaning of Christmas always gets scrooged this time each year (Bill Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

  • Christian Right should lighten up | The stores in question are not advertising "bah humbug," but rather "Happy Holidays," and other nonChristian greetings to reach the largest audience possible which, apparently, infuriates these arbiters of what's "right" and what's right of center (Daily Oakland Press, Mi.)

  • Santa knows script but can also talk religion | Tom Uebersetzig, 64, who says he is "a Christian Santa" who was born again in 1996 (Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wi.)

  • Hymns' appeal is undimmed by mall abuse | The relentless blare of Christmas jingles in shopping malls dulls our senses to the glorious heritage of genuine carols (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

  • Atheists find own reason for season | For those who don't believe in God but still want to celebrate something, solstice has become a popular alternative to Christmas or Hanukkah (Chicago Tribune)

  • The country that killed Christmas | Political correctness has strangled the festive spirit in Britain (The Advertiser, Adelaide, Australia)

  • Puritans disdained holiday | There wasn't any Christmas in Exeter (Exeter News-Letter, Pa.)

  • Are live trees a part of Christmas past? | The traditional tree of today was not a live tree when the tradition came overseas to the United States (Mount Vernon News, Oh.)

  • Merry Christmas | A grocery runs "out of stamps" (Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly)

  • 10 great places to hear the Christmas gospel | Follow tradition or create one this year with America's power pastors, many of whom offer spectacular Christmas Eve services, says Ted Olsen, online managing editor of Christianity Today (USA Today)

  • Separate Christmas, government | In a world that seems to have forgotten the meaning of Christmas, why would anyone look to government to help us find meaning? (Cindy Rodríguez, The Denver Post)

  • People can sign card for Jesus | Church hopes online project sends a message (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Carols at midnight? Neighbors want silent night | A noise-control officer told Robin Adams the carols coming from her decorations were too loud and asked her to turn off the lights, the New Zealand Press Association reported (Reuters)

Article continues below
  • It's beginning to look a lot like Chrismukkah | Chrismukkah: a mitzvah to some, a sacrilege to others (The Boston Globe)

  • Christmas in hell | The Sheffield Family Life Center's annual pageant is a heartwarming little tale starring machine guns and the Antichrist (The Pitch, Kansas City)

  • Invoking the Santa clause | Once upon a time it was commercialism that was invoked as the great enemy of the spirit of Christmas. Now it is multiculturalism (Editorial, The Australian)

  • Merry Christmas everyone -- or else | When did corporate America be come responsible for my Christmas cheer? (Connie Schultz, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)


  • Bethlehem's Paradise Hotel opens doors | The luxury hotel is open for business for the first time since the latest Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 (Associated Press)

  • Bethlehem bound again | Many Christian prayers address God as "Almighty", which many would think a misnomer. Despite concerted pleas to end wars, heal people or achieve worthy ambitions, it is the experience of many that there is nobody there (James Murray, The Australian)


  • Is display a joyous scene or a grave mistake? | Relocating nativity scene to graveyard violates the spirit of Christ, some believers say (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

  • Despite fire, nativity scenes go on | Heat lamp suspected in barn blaze that killed animals (The Washington Post)

  • Nativity scenes shaped by customs | The University of Dayton has assembled a collection of 1,200 nativity scenes from 45 countries, and one thing stands out immediately: Creches reveal what's important to a culture (Associated Press)

  • Nativity scenes say a lot about us | Christmas nativity scenes reveal a surprising amount about American attitudes concerning the relationship between faith and public life, between church and state (Stephen V. Sundborg, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

December dilemma:

Article continues below
  • Judge: Town must let woman display Christmas decorations | Resident wants nativity scene along with Jewish display (WTVJ, Miramar, Fla.)

  • Have a merry little Chrismukkah | The newest faux holiday that companies are using to make a buck this season is "Chrismukkah," a mishmash of Christmas and Hanukkah (USA Today)

  • 'Happy Holidays' protesters overlooking the real problem | Christian groups do themselves a disservice taking on canards that make them look like sanctimonious ninnies (Tracey O'Shaughnessy, The Republican-American, Waterbury, Conn.)

  • 'Frosty' vs. 'All Ye faithful' | The December dilemma needn't be quite so contentious (Editorial, USA Today)

  • Twice the annoyance, but a tradition emerges | As "The O.C." celebrates Chrismukkah, the show skillfully addresses the various ways people groan at the potentially insidious concept (The New York Times)

  • The Grinch who saved Christmas | Battling the homosexuals, liberals and Jews, Bill O'Reilly and friends are making America safe for Christmas (

  • In schools and cities, battles over 'Christ' in Christmas | Across the country, a battle for the soul of the public square is being waged this holiday season (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Christmas war of words in US | The religious right, encouraged by the re-election of President George Bush, has launched a new offensive against secularism during this holiday season, with a campaign to put the Christ back into Christmas (The Guardian, London)

  • Ban on creche mobilizes neighborhood | Residents work to return display to school lawn (The Boston Globe)

  • Nativity scene awaits judge | Bay Harbor Islands continues to await a decision by a federal judge to determine if it will have to adjust its public holiday decorations (The Miami Herald)

  • Legal bah humbug | "Christmas" is now deemed offensive to some and the defenders of our liberties are hard at work seeking to limit its use (David Davenport, Scripps Howard News Service)

  • Santa, yes; nativity scene, no | So the question shouldn't be, Is Christianity being officially erased from public view? Rather, it ought to be, Is the Christmas spirit part of everyone's holiday season, or just Christians'? (Gregg Dobbs, Scripps Howard News Service)

Censoring Christmas:

Article continues below
  • Denver's religious outrage | The outrage that Christians felt when Mayor John Hickenlooper suggested taking "Merry Christmas" off the City and County Building and replacing it with "Happy Holidays" reveals the fundamental problem with posting religious statements on public structures (Reggie Rivers, The Denver Post)

  • Liberals out to crush Christian, Jewish icons | Every year, there are overtures against God and every year, they get louder (Hector Ayala, Tucson Citizen, Az.)

  • Just leave Christmas alone | The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)

  • No Christmas trees in some Fla. buildings | Pasco County officials have banned Christmas trees from public buildings after their county attorney decided they were religious symbols (Associated Press)

  • Hark! Song ban heralds misguided policy | Students should hear "Silent Night" for the same reason they should learn about the Festival of Lights, the principles behind Kwanzaa and Ramadan and Winter Solstice rituals (David Hinckley, New York Daily News)

  • It's policy, not poetry | Democrats puzzle over how to "manipulate symbols." Why not start by taking a stand for Christmas? (Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal)

  • It's beginning to sound a lot like yesteryear | A school district in New Jersey has sparked controversy by deciding to ban Christmas music from its winter concerts (The New York Times)

  • Christians aiming to boost religion | Emboldened by their Election Day successes, some Christian conservatives around the country are trying to put more Christ into Christmas this season (Associated Press)

  • Okla. voters show fury at nativity removal | Voters incensed over a superintendent's decision to remove a Nativity scene from an elementary school Christmas program took out their anger at the ballot box, helping to defeat bond measures worth nearly $11 million (Associated Press)

Parents sue schoolfor banning Christmas:

Article continues below

Parents sue to keep IDout of curriculum:

  • School board sued on mandate for alternative to evolution | The school board of Dover, Pa., was accused of violating the religious rights of several parents and students by requiring the teaching of an alternative theory to evolution (The New York Times)

  • Pennsylvania schools sued over creationism plan | Civil rights groups sued a Pennsylvania school district on Tuesday to block teaching of "intelligent design," an alternative to evolution that contends nature was created by an all-powerful being (Reuters)

  • Parents defend lawsuit | Suit is the first one in the nation challenging the teaching of intelligent design in the public schools (York Daily Record, Pa.)

  • She hopes for change | Board member Angie Yingling said she will try one more time to avoid a lawsuit (York Daily Record, Pa.)

  • Darwin v. 'Design' in Dover | 11 parents, ACLU sue, alleging religion in curriculum (The York Dispatch, Pa.)

  • Creationism, evolution and the courts | Scopes trial and other cases have shaped issue (The York Dispatch, Pa.)

  • Claims made in the federal lawsuit (The York Dispatch, Pa.)

  • ACLU, 11 residents file suit to block 'intelligent' theory | Lawsuit claims the district's policy and use of a textbook promoting the theory violates the U.S. Constitution by "subjecting their children to an unwelcome governmental endorsement of religion." (The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.)

  • Dover dispute | Who would have thought that Dover's push to become the first school district in the nation to actively teach intelligent design would be called "misguided" by the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture? The Seattle-based center describes itself as the "leading intelligent design think tank" (Editorial, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.)

  • Also: Evolution sticker shock | This is not just a shot across the bow of modern scientific thought; it's a body blow right smack in the middle of our double helix (Huntington F. Willard, The Seattle Times)

Education & religion:

  • School religion faces axe | Compulsory religious studies would be dropped in favour of lessons on human society and the environment under a plan being considered by school authorities (The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia)

  • The role of 'God-talk' | There is indeed a line that presidents and public school teachers must walk when referring to religion, but it is not as fine as many would like to think (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Schools 'ignoring' Nativity play | One in four teachers say their schools are not putting on Christmas carol services, according to a survey (BBC)

Article continues below


Article continues below

Sex ed.:

  • Waxman demeans abstinence | The growing problem of liberal moral sterility (James Bowman, The American Spectator)

  • Morality initiative criticized at forum | Many say plan limits teachers (The Washington Post)

  • Montgomery set on pilot sex-ed class | A group of Montgomery County parents yesterday asked the school board to delay implementation of a pilot sex-education program this spring that teaches homosexuality is genetically predetermined and that same-sex couples are one type of family (The Washington Times)

School cancels Christianrock concert:


  • Innocents afield | High school sports have become an epidemic of win-at-all-costs in too many places (Buzz Bissinger, The New York Times)

Article continues below
  • Jocks seek divine fan | Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a place offering each something to turn to for perspective and personal inventory in a high school climate that's more subject to life's pressures than ever before (Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.)

Church & state:

  • Can state, church meet on pre-K? | Nothing in the Bible requires pre-K classes to have religious content. The state constitution, on the other hand, forbids it (Jac Wilder VerSteeg, Palm Beach Post)

  • EU warned against excluding non-Christians | Turkey believes the European Union would be making a mistake if it limits its identity to Christians, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said in an open letter to German newspaper readers (Reuters)

  • A grubby little witch hunt | The battle over revisionist Christian history in Cupertino bodes ill for the nation (Andrew Gumbel, City Beat, Los Angeles)

Ala. Judge wearsTen Commandments:

Church life:

Article continues below
  • So a rabbi, a priest, and a minister … now tell lots of jokes | Somber services where smiles are frowned upon have in many churches gone the way of sky-high pulpits and knuckle-rapping ushers. In its place is an effort to tap the nation's culture of humor to promote spiritual gain (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Protest, piety, and produce | Why churches are boycotting a Greenwich Village grocery store (Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Religion news in brief | Vatican inspection of seminaries will begin in fall, Anglicans set Lambeth meeting for Canterbury, and other stories (Associated Press)


  • English cathedrals 'raise £150m' | England's cathedrals brought £150m to local economies last year and received nine million visitors, a report claims (BBC)

  • Cathedrals' £150m tribute to Mammon | Once, cathedrals focused on the greater glory of God. But according to figures to be released today by English Heritage, now their worth can also be measured by their contribution to the local economy (The Guardian, London)

UCC ad:

Church pays outstanding parking fines:


Article continues below

Closing Catholic parishes:

  • Boston archdiocese reverses church closing | After months of resistance and round-the-clock vigils at several churches, archdiocese officials Tuesday reversed a decision to close one parish, and will re-evaluate four others to determine if one should close (Associated Press)

  • O'Malley will keep open two parishes set for closing | Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, facing intense opposition in multiple communities to his efforts to close more than one-fifth of the parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, has decided to reverse his decisions to shutter parishes in West Newton and West Plymouth and has met privately with those leading round-the-clock occupations of closed churches in Sudbury and Weymouth (The Boston Globe)

  • Decision to close parish is canceled | Boston archdiocese to review 4 others (Associated Press)

  • Panel backs O'Malley on majority of closings | The committee reassessing parish closings by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has concluded that the vast majority of closing decisions made by the archdiocese were appropriate and necessary, one of the committee's chairmen said in an interview yesterday (The Boston Globe)

  • Reconsideration sparks confusion in Newton | But in Plymouth, a joyful surprise (The Boston Globe)

  • Catholics put faith in dissent | Sit-ins are staged in Everett, Salem (The Boston Globe)

  • O'Malley's openings | Archbishop Sean O'Malley is listening to the Catholics of the Boston Archdiocese, a development that holds out hope for a resolution to the crisis over parish closings (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  • Newton parish, despite reprieve, votes to keep vigil | In a surprising move, parishioners at St. Bernard Parish in West Newton voted last night to continue their 24-hour vigil, even though the Archdiocese of Boston has granted the church a reprieve (The Boston Globe)


  • Illinois priest waives extradition | A Roman Catholic priest already removed from public ministry and charged in Wisconsin with sexual abuse of a child more than 20 years ago waived extradition Monday from Illinois, where he has been held without bail since last week (Associated Press)

  • Priest sex abuse compensation delayed | Cincinnati archdiocese says it received more claims than expected (Associated Press)

Article continues below
  • Cardinal untruths | Mahony's testimony in sex scandal clashes with earlier statements and reality (LA Weekly, Los Angeles)

  • Pa. college president retires amid charges | William Garvey, president of the Roman Catholic Mercyhurst College, has been under a cloud since October when the Erie Times-News reported allegations from six men who say Garvey had improper sexual contact with them as minors (Associated Press)

  • Pope defrocks 2 convicted Irish priests | Pope John Paul  II has defrocked two priests convicted of sexually abusing children in Ireland, an unprecedented move in this predominantly Catholic nation, church officials confirmed Thursday (Associated Press)

  • Priest gets probation in assault | A 36-year-old Roman Catholic priest from India has admitted to improperly touching the chest of a 16-year-old girl while living and working at Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Brighton, officials said yesterday (The Boston Globe)

Crime & fraud:

  • Jesus statue thefts mystify authorities | At least four baby Jesus statues were stolen from residential Nativity scenes last week (Northwest Herald, Chicago surbubs)

  • Dead thief's family returns church bell | The family of a man who died in a car crash a few years after stealing the bell of an Orthodox church in southern Albania has returned the bell saying the theft doomed the robber (Reuters)

  • Nigerian scam adds Christian variation | Lebanon woman loses $60,000 in online scheme (The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.)

  • Baptist 'walks' into stolen keyboard | Shortly after Nathan Robinson arrived at a music store to buy a new electronic piano and a soundboard, in walked a young man carrying the church's stolen Yamaha keyboard hoping to sell it to the store (Associated Press)

  • Woman who stole checks in church gets 18 months | A 42-year-old woman who stole checks from a purse in a church and took a credit card from a wallet in a day-care center has been sentenced to 18 months in prison (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

  • Salvation Army vehicle vandalized | Who would steal from the bell- ringers? (Pasadena Star-News, Ca.)

  • Dad sentenced for trying to circumcise son | A judge gives Edwin Baxter three years in prison, saying Baxter's beliefs do not come before his family's safety (The Oregonian)

  • Finding sanctuary | Last year, questions were raised about spending at Mike Murdock's ministry. Now, he has started a church, and the law allows him to keep his financial records behind closed doors (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

Article continues below

Nativity vandalism:

  • Methodist manger is vandalized | Church pastor says missing pieces of nativity scene represent significant loss to children who made them (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Sculptor wins contest to replace nativity damaged by rugby fans | When marauding rugby fans celebrating England's World Cup victory last year trampled the venerable Christmas crib that had stood outside St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square every December for 40 years, the church decided to turn its small disaster into an opportunity and organise a competition for a replacement (The Guardian, London)

  • Mangers are turning up empty | Nativity scenes see a big jump in thefts and vandalism this holiday (Chicago Tribune)


Conductor kills himselfin Crystal Cathedral:


Article continues below
  • Billy James Hargis, televangelist | He was America's original sinning televangelist, but he had an original explanation for his sins (The Economist, U.K.)

  • Diamonds from the dead | LifeGem, a three-year-old company based in suburban Chicago, says it has crafted close to 1,000 of the diamonds for about 500 families in a business that is steadily growing (Associated Press)

  • Stern: Serious doings on and off the air | With all this talk about how the country is into religion and morality, Stern, 50, figures it was time to read The Good Book (USA Today)

Missions & ministry:

  • Blue states lag behind red for charitable giving | Mass. ranks 49th of all states (WCVB, Boston)

  • Churches go green | The South Africa Council of Churches intends setting up an ecumenical environmental institute to help faith communities meet the increasingly serious environmental challenges facing humanity, the SACC said on Thursday (SAPA, South Africa)

  • Making poverty history | 2005 could be a big year in the fight against poverty (The Economist, U.K.)

  • Givers try top find best charities | As Christmas approaches, many families get buried under a blizzard of solicitations from charities seeking money for everything from community activities to needy villages overseas (Associated Press)

  • Faith-based groups get food-stamp grants | USDA Secretary Ann Veneman said the grants, to test outreach strategies to underserved individuals and families, would "provide another opportunity to improve access for low-income Americans to a nutritious diet" (Associated Press)

  • World racked by political, social 'evil'—Pope | Social and political evil is spreading through the world, causing war, injustice, violence and desperation, Pope John Paul said in his annual peace message on Thursday (Reuters)

  • 'My story is a story of restoration' | Jericho City of Praise was packed with more than 6,000 women last month as evangelist Paula White talked about growing up poor in a Mount Airy trailer park and the trauma of being an abused foster child unable to cope with her father's suicide (The Washington Post)

  • Methodist pastor embarks on mission to raise opposition to war | The Rev. Wayne Lavender, pastor of the New Milford United Methodist Church, plans to launch a four-month peace mission on Jan. 1 that he hopes will include visiting Iraq and meeting President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who are both fellow Methodists (Associated Press)

  • Bishop warns laity against homosexuality | Christians must not accept aid if it is linked to foreign negative habits, the Church of Uganda has said (New Vision, Kampala, Uganda)

Article continues below
  • The new Pacific Garden Mission | Renowned Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman has reimagined the Pacific Garden Mission, which is moving from its decades-long home in Chicago's South Loop to make room for the expansion of Jones College Preparatory High School (WBEZ, Chicago)

Marriage & family:

  • Study says it's healthy to be married | Confirming what many couples already knew, a government study concludes it's healthy to be married (Associated Press)

  • Marriage: Good news and bad | You'll be healthier, but not necessarily happier (Ed Corson, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.)

  • Rise in births outside marriage | More than half the children born in Wales last year were outside marriage, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday in a report suggesting the passing of a long-standing moral and religious taboo (The Guardian, London)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Must gay rights wait for our 'comfort'? | If we waited for comfort levels to rise, would we still have laws against interracial marriage? Would we still be waiting for Alabama to get comfortable with integration? (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

  • Same-sex marriage isn't a religious issue | The rhetoric during the past election would have us believe that the issue of same-sex marriage is as inflexible as abortion (Hillel Levin, The Jewish Week, New York)

  • Civic officials won't be forced to perform gay marriages | Civic officials cannot be forced to perform gay marriages if doing so offends their religious beliefs, says federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler (Canadian Press)

Religion & homosexuality:

  • The Bible and the h-word still need to be discussed | Theologian: some of the well-worn Biblical phrases in use today to condemn homosexuals hadn't yet been coined in Biblical times (Houston Voice, gay newspaper)

  • Gay church group assails Archbishop | Gay clergy and laity in the Church of England have sent the Archbishop of Canterbury a severely critical Christmas message, saying that he has suffered the loss of goodwill and support of many who welcomed his appointment (The Times, London)

  • Oh come, all ye faithful | More and more area churches welcome gay worshippers at Christmas (New York Blade, gay newspaper)

  • My Christianity respects the rights of others | I am a person who is not supposed to exist: a church-going, Bible-reading, creed-affirming Christian who accepts the Supreme Court's judgment that gay marriage is a valid option within the Constitution (Reginald Stackhouse, The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

Article continues below

Life ethics:

  • US alleges flaws in birth control pill research | Federal officials yesterday backed away from the findings of two major studies on birth control pills, saying the research was flawed and that a new analysis shows there is no evidence that oral contraceptives cut the risk of heart disease (The Boston Globe)

  • The stem cell chair to the highest bidder? | As the media, elected officials and even supporters of Proposition 71 — the stem cell initiative — are now recognizing, we Californians have just passed a highly flawed law (Francine Coeytaux and Susan Berke Fogel, Los Angeles Times)

  • Stem cells 'to treat liver harm' | UK researchers are pioneering tests of the use of adult stem cells which could reverse cirrhosis of the liver (BBC)

  • Divisive issues on state agendas | Use of stem cells is one of many (USA Today)

  • Stem cells from fat used to repair skull | Surgeons have used stem cells from fat to help repair skull damage in a 7-year-old girl in Germany, in what's apparently the first time such fat-derived cells have been exploited to grow bone in a human (Associated Press)

  • Stem cell agency cuts its inaugural agenda | The board will vote only on leadership posts after concerns were raised about violating open meetings law (Los Angeles Times)

  • Euthanasia seeker dies in India | A terminally-ill Indian chess champion who has been the focus of a euthanasia debate, has died in hospital (BBC)

  • Blair pledge on 'euthanasia' bill | Changes to a bill which critics claim would allow "back door" euthanasia will not allow deliberate killing, Tony Blair has told MPs (BBC)

Living wills:

  • Chaos as 'living will' law passed | A last-minute climbdown over the right of doctors to refuse treatment, including food and water, to elderly and severely incapacitated patients helped the Government defeat a backbench rebellion over giving legal force to "living wills" (The Telegraph, London)

  • Last-minute deal with Catholics averts rebellion on living wills | Tony Blair personally intervened yesterday to save the government's mental capacity bill, striking a last-minute deal with the Catholic church by promising that the bill will not allow euthanasia by the back door (The Guardian, London)

  • Life and death | The need for sensitivity in implementing living wills (Editorial, The Times, London)

  • This terrible final choice | The living will merely enshrines a cruel dilemma for the dying and their loved ones (Alice Miles, The Times, London)

Article continues below

Life ethics in China:

  • China's controversial 'miracle' doctor | A Chinese neurosurgeon in Beijing has aroused controversy for his use of cells from aborted foetuses to help "cure" patients affected by spinal and brain damage (BBC)

  • China's one-child policy | A quarter of a century after China began urging its citizens to have only one child—and severely punishing the over-progenitive—calls are growing for a change of policy (The Economist, U.K., sub. req'd)

  • U.S.: One-child abuses rampant in China | Despite some changes, China's one-child family planning program remains a source of coercion, forced abortions, infanticide and perilously imbalanced boy-girl ratios, State Department officials said Tuesday (Associated Press)


  • A pro-life mistake | Strategize wisely. It's a life or death decision (Clarke D. Forsythe, National Review Online)

  • Doctors rebel on abortion changes | Doctors have forced the Health Department to dump a secret plan to tighten the guidelines for women seeking a taxpayer-funded abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy (The Australian)

  • Abortion foe is target of pranksters | Pranksters have targeted Bozeman state Rep. Roger Koopman with phony pizza delivery orders and harassing telephone calls after the lawmaker publicly spoke about abortion legislation he intends to introduce, Koopman said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Abortion debate in need of some ultra-sound advice | Pro-choicers in the abortion debate courageously revived by Tony Abbott misfire with the argument: "Been there. Done that. Let's not revisit twice-trodden ground" (Frank Devine, The Australian)

  • China moves to ban late abortions | One of the world's least controlled abortion regimes will be tightened next month, when the Chinese city of Guiyang introduces a pilot program aimed at halting the widespread termination of female fetuses (The Guardian, London)

  • Somebody found some moxie | It's long past time for the Democratic Party to realize that they continue to lose voters who aren't one-issue abortion voters but who feel unwelcome in the party because of their beliefs (Amy Sullivan, Washington Monthly)

  • Dean of abortion | Howie now says his party is not the party of abortion -- yet who worked harder to make it that? (George Neumayr, The American Spectator)

  • Evangelicals back pro-choice: survey | Sociologist's analysis reveals some surprising attitudes to a woman's right to choose an abortion (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Article continues below
  • Support for abortion rights up | Australians overwhelmingly support abortion rights, with new research showing that 81 per cent believe "a woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion". Only 9 per cent disagreed (The Sydney Morning Herald)



  • A push to restrict sales of video games | Illinois governor seeks to prevent minors from purchasing 'adult material' (The Washington Post)

  • Jesus on the job | For an increasing number of Christians, the workplace is becoming an opportunity for spiritual growth and ministry (Style Weekly, Richmond, Va.)


  • NZ author suing over Da Vinci bestseller | Authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail say Dan Brown lifted large tracts of their research without permission (The New Zealand Herald)

  • Losing my religion | If Dan Brown or Paolo Coelho or James Redfield ever tested MY faith, I'd have to ask myself if it was a faith worth having in the first place (Chuck Dy, The Philippine Inquirer)


Article continues below

Theater & film:

  • An unshakable 'Doubt' | New work puts faith in the church to the test (The Washington Post)

  • Hollywood is a town without a clue | This past weekend, the Golden Globe nominations for best picture, best actor, and best director were announced. The omission of "The Passion of the Christ," Jim Caviezel, and Mel Gibson from any of these categories makes it obvious that the message of the importance of faith that more than 60 million Americans delivered on Nov. 2 has yet to reach Hollywood (Jessie Bonner, The Lufkin Daily News, Tex.)

  • 2004: The year of 'The Passion' | Television news gives the Mel Gibson wing of Christianity more say than other Christian voices and usually ignores minority religions altogether (Frank Rich, The New York Times)



  • Many happy returns | The belief that our spirit is reborn after death has been held for thousands of years but still fascinates and divides experts in equal measure. Have scientists at the "home" of reincarnation research in the US managed to prove its existence? (BBC)

  • A brief history | Why do end-of-time beliefs endure? (The Economist, U.K.)

  • When not thinking is fundamental | Must one choose between believing and reason? (Keith A. Owens, Metro Times, Detroit)

  • Explaining the hold of religion | Religion is "the expression of real distress and a real protest against it" (Alan Maass, Socialist Worker)

  • 2004: When religion glowed red hot | From the red-state heartland that re-elected President Bush to Mel Gibson's blood-splattered "The Passion of the Christ," 2004 was very red indeed (Religion News Service)

Other religions:

  • Religion Today: The coming Joseph Smith wars | As Smith's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepares to celebrate the bicentennial year of his birth, the occasion will certainly renew debates over one of America's most important — and wooliest — religious careers (Associated Press)

Article continues below
  • Eye on Eurasia: Russia fears growing sects | The Russian government and leaders of Russia's four "traditional" religions -- Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism -- are combining forces to combat the growing influence of sectarian creeds. But their plans may not have the results that either side of this bargain hopes for (UPI)

  • A crack in the theory | Will a couple of renegade archeologists make us rethink everything we know about Qumran? (The Jerusalem Post)

More articlesof interest:

Related Elsewhere:

Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to

What is Weblog?

Check out Books & Culture's weekly weblog, Content & Context.

See our past Weblog updates:

December 14b | 14a
December 10 | 9 | 7 | 6
December 3 | 2 | 1
November 24 | 23 | 22
November 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
November 12 | 11 | 10
November 5 | 3b | 3a | 2 | 1

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.
Previous Weblog Columns: