Church discipline: Bishops will weigh in on proabortion politicians months early
America's Catholic bishops are expected to release a statement today on the subject of Communion and Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion. That's a significant shift from earlier plans not to say anything until after the November elections.

The Rocky Mountain News of Denver quotes St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke as saying there's "a difference of opinion" between the bishops, which is stating the obvious. "You can imagine there's been a lot of discussion about it."

Burke himself says that whatever the statement says, he'll maintain his position that pro-abortion politicians must be refused Communion. "I have to do what I know to be right," he told the News: "If the statement says that it's the responsibility of each bishop (to act) with regard to the legislators in his pastoral care, that's fine. I've said that repeatedly."

We'll look forward to reading the statement, because in the meantime there have been many unclear reports about another important statement on the subject—this one from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Everyone agrees that Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Roman Catholic Church's top enforcer of doctrine, sent a letter to the bishops. But there's a lot of spin about what the word from the Vatican really is.

The San Antonio Express-News quotes local Archbishop Patrick Flores as saying Vatican officials "told us that our job is to teach the faith, but that we're not to use Communion as a weapon against people."

Church discipline: Bible church sued for Matthew 18 details
But church discipline—which, everyone should be reminded, is all about Christian discipleship, not red-toothed heresy hunting—is in the news in the Protestant world too. This is pretty significant, given how infrequently church discipline is discussed in the church these days. There are almost no books on the subject from Christian publishers, and the standard-bearing book, Marlin Jeschke's Discipling the Brother (later Discipling in the Church) went out of print a couple of years ago due to near-nonexistent sales.

Pity, since someone like Pastor Buddy Westbrook of Crossland Community Bible Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, could really use a book like Jeschke's right now.

Crossland member Peggy Penley and her husband, Benjamin Stone, were getting marital counseling from Westbrook, but she decided to get a divorce. Westbrook reportedly confronted her, saying she didn't have biblical grounds for it.

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When she went ahead, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports, Westbrook met with church elders and later sent a letter to the congregation, explaining that Penley had become involved with another man (that's as far as he described the relationship), and that she "had declined to 'listen' in a way that would lead to 'repentance.'"

"We must break intentional/casual fellowship with her until the time of repentance and restoration," Westbrook wrote. "We must be careful to not gossip or judge. … In this day and age, this would be called 'tough love.' Indeed, this is what this is — a deep and mutually painful commitment of love."

Westbrook's actions seem to be in line with Jesus' commands in Matthew 18, but here's where it gets really messy. Penley actually resigned her membership from the church when she decided to get the divorce—and before Westbrook sent around the letter.

Penley sued Westbrook in 2001 for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and negligence. The suit got tossed out in 2002, and now the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth has reinstated it—albeit with a different nature. The earlier suit named the church and the elders; the new suit only names Westbrook, and charges him only with professional negligence.

Here's where the case gets even messier: Westbrook is also a licensed professional counselor, so Penley is suing under the Texas Licensed Professional Counselor Act. She says Westbrook's license obliges him to keep information revealed in counseling secret. Appeals Court Judge Anne Gardner apparently agreed. Westbrook, she wrote,

argues that to the extent the regulations and statutes applicable to licensed professional counselors apply to Westbrook in his "pastoral capacity," they impose an impermissible and unconstitutional burden on his First Amendment rights. This argument fails because Penley is not arguing that Westbrook committed clergy malpractice or that he was otherwise negligent while providing pastoral counseling. Rather, Penley alleges that Westbrook provided negligent secular counseling to and for Penley and that his counseling services fell below the reasonable and prudent standards of care applicable to any licensed professional counselor under the same or similar circumstances.

This one may be much tougher to adjudicate than whether a Roman Catholic politician "obstinately persisting in grave sin" by supporting abortion should be denied Communion.

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In any case, can we Protestants please start talking about church discipline again? And perhaps on more issues than marital affairs?

More articles


  • Message in AIDS program faulted | Botswana's success in providing the latest medicine to treat AIDS patients in villages of dirt-floor huts hides a darker reality — the deadly disease continues to spread at alarming rates (The Washington Times)
  • AIDS money spent on bingo | A D.C.-based AIDS charity spent thousands of dollars of federal grant money on cigarettes, movie tickets and bingo games, an audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development disclosed (The Washington Times)
  • Stricter rules for AIDS funds written | Proposed changes to the guidelines for giving federal money to AIDS-prevention programs would require approval of educational materials before they are posted on the Internet (The Washington Times)

Gay marriage rite developed in Vt.:

  • Liturgy for gay marriages developed in Vt. | Vermont's Episcopal Diocese has become the first in the country to develop a liturgy — a script for a religious service — in response to a state law making same-sex unions legal (Associated Press)
  • New rites for Vt. civil unions | Episcopal bishop sees three-year trial period (The Boston Globe)
  • Two rectors to continue blessing unions | The rectors of Episcopal parishes in Milton and Arlington, barred by the Episcopal Church from solemnizing same-sex marriages, say they have stopped signing all marriage licenses, but will continue blessing homosexual and heterosexual couples in religious wedding ceremonies (The Boston Globe)

Archbishop twice agreed to appoint gay bishop:

  • Canon fodder | The decision to appoint Canon Jeffrey John as its first gay bishop last year split the Church of England. In a revealing new book, the Guardian's religious correspondent Stephen Bates lays bare the politics, maneuvering and hypocrisy behind one of the most ignoble episodes in the Church's history (The Guardian, London)
  • Williams twice agreed to appoint gay bishop | Gay bishop row (The Guardian, London)
  • Williams agreed to appoint gay bishop | The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, twice verbally approved the appointment of the gay cleric Dr Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading, it was revealed last night (The Independent, London)
  • Vt. Episcopalians to test same-sex unions liturgy | Vermont's Episcopal Diocese today will announce a trial use of special religious services to bless the civil unions of same-sex couples (Rutland Herald, Vt.)
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Gay marriage:

  • Church gives pre-election scorecard | Gay marriage votes identified in mailings (The Boston Globe)
  • Religion today: Petitioning the churches | Organizers in Oregon and four other states — Arkansas, Michigan, Montana and Ohio — are turning to churches for support of their efforts to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman, a move that political analysts call savvy (Associated Press)
  • Deputy mayor continues gay marriages | The deputy mayor and a trustee of New Paltz, New York, presided over the marriages of four same-sex couples, emboldened by the dismissal of criminal charges against the mayor for performing gay and lesbian weddings (Associated Press)
  • Couples launch gay union lawsuit | The long-anticipated legal battle to extend gay marriage to couples who live beyond Massachusetts borders begins today, as two suits challenging a law barring those couples from marriage are filed in Suffolk Superior Court (The Boston Globe)
  • Suit to challenge 1913 Mass. marriage law | Eight same-sex couples and at least 13 municipalities said Thursday they will mount a legal challenge to the 1913 law used to block out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts (Associated Press)

Sad church deaths:

  • Chicago church shaken by 4 drownings in Ft. Worth | Victims were among 125 members of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church visiting the city as part of the annual National Baptist Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress, which drew some 15,000 people (Chicago Tribune)
  • Hero dad died trying to save kids | four were members of Chicago's Antioch Missionary Baptist Church attending a conference in Fort Worth this week. All three kids were on the church's drill team and were going to perform at the conference, family members said (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Man and 3 children drown, and a church family mourns | A father, his two children and another little girl, all on a trip with a Chicago church group, drowned Wednesday in a Texas water garden (The New York Times)
  • Texas pool may have pulled 4 victims down | With their hotel pool closed for cleaning and the Texas heat reaching nearly 90 degrees, Myron Dukes took his two children and another child to check out the fountains and pools at the park across the street. Within minutes, all four drowned in a swirling, decorative pool posted with no-swimming signs (Associated Press)

EU Constitution:

  • EU leaders struggle with constitution | A handful of countries, led by Poland and Italy, oppose the current preamble of the constitution which mentions the importance of religion in European culture but does not specifically mention God or Christianity (Associated Press)
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  • EU leaders push for deal on Constitution | Some still fighting for reference to God in the preamble (Associated Press)
  • Constitution remains God-less | The European Constitution will remain without a reference to Christianity, under new proposals by the Irish EU Presidency. (EU Observer)


  • Pope to stay with ailing on August Lourdes trip | Pope John Paul will stay overnight at a special residence for ailing pilgrims when he visits the French pilgrimage shrine of Lourdes on August 14-15, according to French Catholic officials (Reuters)
  • Little comfort | I take great comfort in the idea that the Pope will decide our policy on stem cell research, not to mention abortion and gay marriage. The Vatican is never wrong on scientific questions (Molly Ivins)
  • Pope 'is not the anti-christ' | Presbyterians are not required by Church doctrine to regard the Pope as an " anti-Christ", according to the new Moderator, the Rev Dr Ken Newell (Belfast Telegraph)
  • Microchips keep Vatican library tidy | Custodians of the Vatican library, fed up with having to spend a month a year putting wayward items from their collection of 1.6m volumes and manuscripts back where they belong, are tagging them with microchips (The Guardian, London)
  • Church faithful raise voices over closings, seek reprieve | A roundup of protests at various parishes (The Boston Globe)
  • Religion in the News: Teching the Vatican Library | Officials have started implanting computer chips in the 1.6 million books in the Vatican's collection. The chips communicate via radio wave with hand-held monitors, so librarians can tell if a book is missing (Associated Press)
  • RICO may not apply to Archdiocese | Federal prosecutors are unlikely to seek the first-in-the nation racketeering indictment against a church based on allegations that the Boston Archdiocese withheld information from federal officials when transferring a local priest to a California veterans hospital, legal specialists said yesterday (The Boston Globe)
  • Massachusetts Catholic Church may fire gay spouses | The Roman Catholic Church in Massachusetts is considering firing gay employees who marry their same-sex partners in the only American state where such unions are legal, a church official said on Thursday (Reuters)

The Pledge:

  • 'Under God' | Michael Newdow is right. Atheists are outsiders in America (Samuel P. Huntington, The Wall Street Journal)
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  • Why the Pledge matters | "Under God" is the firm link to U.S. security (Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal)
  • One nation under God | The Supreme Court should have sustained the Pledge as a declaration of a self-evident historical truth: namely, that the nation was born "under God," and continues to believe in a Supreme Being (Bruce Fein, The Washington Times)
  • Students support pledge as is | Surf City reacts to the Supreme Court's decision to throw out a lawsuit that wanted the phrase 'under God' out of Pledge of Allegiance (The Independent, Huntington Beach, Ca.)

Church & state:

  • Court affirms ban on school Bible classes | A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that argued weekly Bible classes are unconstitutional in the public schools of Rhea County, the same county where the "Scopes Monkey Trial" pitted creationists against evolutionists 79 years ago (Associated Press)
  • Bush defends religion's role in his politics | Responding to veiled criticism from former President Reagan's son, President Bush on Tuesday defended his respect for separation of church and state (Houston Chronicle)
  • Debate over crosses on city seals hits a nerve | After two California jurisdictions decided to scrap such images when threatened with ACLU lawsuits, the miniature crosses have spurred an intense debate over religion's place in public life that seems unlikely to fade anytime soon (Los Angeles Times)
  • Should religious iconography be on government seals? | Is having a cross on an official seal a tacit government endorsement of one or any religion or are religious symbols part of America's heritage that must be preserved? Religious leaders respond (Los Angeles Times)
  • Thomas' take on the law rooted in 18th century | The justice's historical perspective challenges many widely held beliefs about the Constitution (Los Angeles Times)

Church crime:

  • Doors of troubled Harvest Missionary church closed to flock | Dale Edwards, the owner of a gospel radio station who also holds the deed to the church, locked and boarded the sanctuary (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
  • Also: Owner locks doors of troubled church | Pastor resigned last month (WEWS, Cleveland)
  • Earlier: Pastor quits amid financial questions | Minister sued by congregants quits (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
  • Popular evangelist elected to head Foursquare Church | Jack Hayford replaces the Rev. Paul Risser, who resigned in the wake of an investment scam that could cost the Pentecostal denomination as much as $15 million (San Francisco Chronicle)
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  • Should houses of worship disclose all their finances to members? | Readers respond (The Washington Post)
  • Former Globetrotter sentenced for fraud | Clyde "the Glide" Austin is an ordained minister who promoted fraudulent investment schemes at churches and seminars around the country (Associated Press)
  • Boston church allows scrutiny of finances | The Swedenborgian Church in Beacon Hill, a wealthy church that was sued after a self-described former con man allegedly tried to take control of its finances, has agreed to let the state scrutinize its spending (Associated Press)
  • The amazing Minkow makeover | Paroled swindler Barry Minkow got caught, got convicted and got religion. Do you believe? (Los Angeles Times)


  • Churches want faith-healer's claims tested | Faith-healer or spiritual charlatan, American evangelist Benny Hinn still manages to pack in the crowds (The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia)
  • Nigerians divided by TV miracle ban | Nigerian church goes to court to show its powers on TV (BBC)

Life ethics:

  • Human embryo research plan is first of its kind | Members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority met yesterday to consider the first application to clone human embryos (The Guardian, London)
  • Death with dignity | We may be grateful to medicine for extending life, but we must place securely in our own hands how we end it (George Bachrach, The Boston Globe)

Stem cells:

  • Clinic in US isolates 50 lines of stem cells | A private Chicago fertility clinic is set to announce this week that its scientists have isolated 50 new lines of human embryonic stem cells, part of an ambitious effort to create specialized colonies of cells that could help uncover cures for muscular dystrophy and other genetic diseases (The Boston Globe)
  • Bush defends limits on stem cell research | President Bush on Tuesday defended his policy of strictly limiting stem cell research, despite pressure to reconsider after former President Ronald Reagan died of complications from Alzheimer's disease (Reuters)
  • Kerry, on radio, hails stem cell research | John Kerry endorsed Nancy Reagan's efforts to help find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and challenged the Bush administration Saturday to relax restrictions on stem cell research to pursue potential cures for that and other illnesses (Associated Press)
  • Bush rejects calls on stem-cell research | The White House rejected calls Monday from Ronald Reagan's family and others to relax President Bush's restrictions on stem-cell research in pursuit of potential cures for illnesses (Associated Press)
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Nancy Reagan and stem cells:

  • Nancy's next campaign | The former First Lady's passion for stem-cell research has fueled a political battle. Where does the science stand? (MSNBC)
  • Of stem cells and fairy tales | Scientists who have been telling Nancy Reagan that embryonic stem cell research could cure Alzheimer's now admit that it isn't true. (The Weekly Standard)


  • Reagan's demise can spark new assault on Alzheimer's | These tiny cells hold the gigantic potential to cure devastating illnesses (Editorial, USA Today)
  • Bush policy is appropriate | Embryonic stem-cell research requires the deliberate destruction of human embryos. These embryos may be small — but size does not define a person's humanity (Eric Cohen, USA Today)

Morning-after pill:

  • AMA opposes feds on morning-after pill | The American Medical Association voiced its support for over-the-counter sales of morning-after birth control, saying the Food and Drug Administration was wrong to reject such sales and urging doctors to write advance prescriptions (Associated Press)
  • Bill would facilitate morning after pill | Women who have been raped or had unprotected sex would have an easier time obtaining emergency contraception pills under a bill approved by the state Senate yesterday (The Boston Globe)
  • Staff scientists reject FDA's Plan B reasoning | Just days before the Food and Drug Administration rejected an application to make the emergency contraceptive Plan B available without a prescription, top agency scientists dismissed the reasoning that was used to justify the rejection as unfounded, internal agency documents reveal (The Washington Post)

Begun, the Clone War has:

  • Clone wars flare in state legislatures | If comprehensive ban passes, Louisiana will join Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan and the Dakotas as the only states with such broad restrictions (Associated Press)
  • Human embryo cloning considered | The first request by British scientists to clone human embryos is being considered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on Wednesday (BBC)
  • Watchdog urged to block cloning team | Research watchdogs are under pressure not to give a team of scientists permission to clone human embryos (PA. U.K.)
  • UK to clone human cells | Scientists are set to be given approval this week to create the first cloned human embryo in Britain. The move is being hailed as a milestone in biological research by doctors, but has sparked fury among religious and anti-abortion groups (The Guardian, London)
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  • Scientists await green light to clone human embryos | British researchers have made the first application in Europe to clone human embryos to develop a new diabetes treatment (The Telegraph, London)
  • Could the cure for all diseases be banned? | As the human fertilisation and embryology authority considers granting Britain's first licence for therapeutic cloning, fears of a U.N. ban on all clothing research are growing (The Times, London, sub. req'd.)


  • Muzzling abortion | The attempt to deny conference platforms to groups that oppose the administration's view is inimical both to free speech and to scientific inquiry (Editorial, The Washington Post)
  • Alcohol blamed for child abortions | Alcohol is being blamed as one reason for a doubling in the number of abortions carried out on girls as young as 11 (The Dominion Post, New Zealand)
  • Abortion rate still rising | There were 1130 more abortions in New Zealand last year than in 2002 and one in three of the women who had them had already had an abortion previously (The New Zealand Herald)
  • A parent's prerogative | When it comes to a daughter's abortion, parents have a right to be involved (Pia de Solenni, National Review Online)
  • Also: More insurance plans covering contraceptives | Changes attributed to laws and Viagra (The Boston Globe)

Missions & ministry:

  • Promise Keepers make joyful noise at arena | Thousands of men raise voices in praise of family at start of tour (The Times Union, Albany, N.Y.)
  • Bible study leader stirs controversy | Views on Catholicism, women prompt furor (San Diego Union Tribune)
  • Out of fire, ties that bind | Amid the ashes of homes and church, residents of a hamlet who prized privacy and self-reliance learn what community means (Los Angeles Times)
  • Don't take it on faith | Allowing religious organizations to bring their ideas to prison, welfare and homeless programs could give new meaning to serving society. In exchange, there should be a visible bottom line so taxpayers can see what they're getting for the money (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
  • Metro churches reach out to singles population | Groups offer spiritual help, comfortable place to meet (The Detroit News)
  • To those thirsting, a drink | Members of Victorious Life Church won't be preaching the gospel as they distribute 30,000 bottles of cold water across the Tampa Bay area Saturday (The Tampa Tribune, Fla.)
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  • Faith groups target poverty | Plan to lobby DNC delegates (The Boston Globe)
  • Fire shuts part of wing at college | East wing of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center closed for at least two months (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
  • Summer school starts at churches | Vacation bible school offers children place to study Scripture and play games while on break (News-Press, Glendale, Ca.)
  • Bishop's role to break with tradition | Anglican Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn, George Browning, said that rather than be tied to a particular region of the diocese, Bishop-elect Edwards would be a specialist in evangelism and establishing new parishes across the whole diocese (The Canberra Times, Australia)

Church life:

  • Church calls for ban on smacking | Church leaders are spearheading efforts to ban smacking by introducing a law that would allow parents to use 'reasonable force' only in an emergency to prevent children hurting themselves (The Observer, London)
  • Lord Carey faces complaint over Royal revelations | Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is to be the subject of a formal complaint to the Church of England for revealing confidential details of conversations with members of the Royal family (The Telegraph, London)
  • Woman can sue pastor for negligence, court says | When Peggy Penley went to her pastor for help to save her marriage, she thought their talks would remain private. Instead, intimate details from her marriage counseling sessions were revealed to church elders by the Rev. C.L. "Buddy" Westbrook and then distributed to the entire congregation in an open letter to the church (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)
  • Church apologizes for turning away blacks | A church that shunned blacks in 1964 apologized for the racist acts and honored two women who were turned away as children (Associated Press)
  • Bishops may lose jobs to cut costs | The Church of England is scrutinising the role of bishops and other senior posts in a review which could result in swingeing cuts (The Telegraph, London)


  • Religion parliament must tackle issues | Is this just mushy, naïve, feel-good, Rodney King-like foolishness, or does it represent humanity's best instincts? (Bill Tammeus, The Kansas City Star)
  • Denominations gather in a spirit of unity | At annual service in Middleburg, 'the great sin is drawing lines -- them, us' (The Washington Post)


  • Religion news in brief | Episcopal Diocese of Albany joins conservative network, Woman sues after pastor reveals details of counseling session, and other stories (Associated Press)
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  • Religion news in brief | Canadian bishops denounce new policy, Liberal Catholic theologian says pope is center of 'personality cult,' Largest UCC church in New England votes to become independent, Louisville archbishop focuses on healing after abuse settlement Mahony protests removal of cross from LA County seal, and Wisconsin fairs work with churches to boost attendance (Associated Press)

Reaching out:

  • Clergy in danger of being left behind | More religious leaders should engage in their sermons and classes these media expressions of religion (Gerald L. Zelizer, USA Today)
  • Late for church? Try online | Web site has worldwide congregation - and a few little devils (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Church buildings:

  • Peruvian cathedral restoration finished | After 9,000 gallons of paint, more than 600 new lights and hundreds of hours of painstaking cleaning and rebuilding, Lima's 400-year-old Roman Catholic cathedral celebrated its restoration Thursday (Associated Press)
  • Traffic fears threaten Cottonwood agreement | After months of negotiations culminating in what appeared to be a workable compromise, Cypress announced Tuesday that it had reached an impasse with neighboring Los Alamitos on an agreement to move a church and build its first superstore (Los Angeles Times)
  • Latvia cathedral in danger of collapse | Officials closed Riga's Dome Cathedral, which dates to the 13th century, after authorities discovered the tourist attraction was in danger of collapsing, the Culture Ministry said Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Unbelieving Danish pastor suspended:

  • New ban on doubting Danish priest | A Danish Lutheran priest who caused controversy last year by saying he did not believe in God has been suspended for a second time and may be dismissed (BBC)
  • Danish Lutheran minister suspended again | The Lutheran minister who proclaimed last year that there was no God or afterlife was suspended for a second time Thursday for ignoring church orders not to repeat those beliefs from the pulpit (Associated Press)

Latter-Day Saints:

  • Manhattan's Mormon temple: Sacred space in a bustling city | Renovations to existing meetinghouse provide place for baptisms, other rituals (The Washington Post)
  • Some dubious figures acquire 'hero' status in Mormon faith | Orrin PorterRockwell is perhaps the most controversial of revered Mormon legends--though he isn't unanimously honored by the LDS faithful (KUTV, Salt Lake City)
  • Mormon singles get own congregation | Hales Corners stake is testament to growth of Utah-based church (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
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Religious freedom:

  • Saudi Persecution: Christian's plight should stir consciences | For the past six months, Brian Savio O'Connor, a citizen of India and a Roman Catholic working in Saudi Arabia, has been held in prison by the Saudi religious police, the mutaween. The charges? Preaching Christianity and selling drugs, both of which carry the death penalty in the kingdom of the Wahhabis (Editorial, The Dallas Morning News)
  • 'Blasphemy' trial held in Moscow | A prominent human rights activist has gone on trial in Moscow accused of inciting religious hatred by exhibiting allegedly blasphemous artworks (BBC)
  • Religion in the news: Chiapas's children | Thousands of children have been forced to leave their schools as a new form of segregation takes root in rebellion-wracked southern Mexico, with conflicts in Indian communities pitting Catholics against Protestants, and traditionalists against the political opposition (Associated Press)
  • Religion Today: India's minority Prime Minister | Sikh's position is more than trivia; it marks a potential turning point for India, a nation where massacres of thousands of people because of their religious faith have occurred (Associated Press)

River baptisms allowed:

  • Va. Park Officials Back Off Baptism Ban | Park officials who tried to ban churchgoers from performing baptisms in the Rappahannock River are backing away from their stance after a civil liberties group threatened to sue (Associated Press)
  • Park officials relent, allow river baptisms | The Fredericksburg-Stafford Park Authority, bowing to pressure from religious rights groups, has reversed a policy that banned baptisms in the Falmouth Waterfront Park's section of the Rappahannock River (The Washington Times)

Banning Muslim clothing:

  • Man charged with threats to Islamic center | A man charged with leaving threatening messages at an Islamic center said Wednesday he made the calls in anger after learning last month that Islamic terrorists beheaded an American in Iraq. (Associated Press)
  • Muslim appeals Fla. veil ban in photos | A state appeals court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of a Muslim woman who, citing her religious beliefs, wants to wear a veil for her driver's license photo. (Associated Press)
  • Omaha, Neb., sued over Muslim woman's garb | The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the city of Omaha on behalf of a Muslim woman who says she was barred from accompanying her children to a city swimming pool because she was fully clothed. (Associated Press)
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  • Where the land is a tinderbox, the killing is a frenzy | Many conflicts across the broad midsection of Africa may look like tribal or religious wars, but the very core is often a contest over land (The New York Times)
  • Nigerian state imposes new curfew | The central Nigerian state of Adamawa has declared a curfew in the capital Yola, following clashes between Muslims and Christians in a nearby town (BBC)
  • Time for action on Sudan | Both Washington and the United Nations need to convince Khartoum that they will not settle for a peace agreement that permits terror and starvation (Editorial, The New York Times)
  • 'Massive abuses' in DR Congo | The humanitarian situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has worsened drastically since fighting erupted in Bukavu earlier this month. (BBC)

Nigeria riots:

  • At least 37 killed in Nigeria religious clashes | At least 37 people were killed in clashes between suspected Christians and Muslims in the northeast Nigerian state of Adamawa, the Red Cross said on Thursday (Reuters)
  • Obasanjo jets out to U.S., makes peace with Plateau CAN | The President is said to have apologized to Plateau State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Yakubu Pam, for insulting him during a recent working visit to the state in the wake of the bloody crisis in the area (Daily Champion, Nigeria)
  • Nine killed in riot over Nigeria mosque | Christians battled Muslims in a Nigerian city Wednesday, burning homes and places of worship in a dispute over construction of a mosque near a Christian tribal leader's palace. Police confirmed nine deaths and witnesses put the toll at more than 50. (Associated Press)

Abu Ghraib and Iraq:

  • Forgive me, I was wrong on Iraq | Bishop Tom Frame supported the invasion. Now he seeks God's forgiveness (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
  • US Christian ad stands by Iraqis | A Christian organisation in the US has prepared an advertisement for Arab TV condemning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail (BBC)
  • American torture, American porn | Abu Ghraib and "The Passion of the Christ" are connected in a dark basement of the American psyche (Alessandro Camon,
  • U.S. religious figures offer abuse apology on Arab TV | In the ad, a Presbyterian, a Muslim, a Catholic and a Jew read a statement as written Arabic translations appear (The New York Times)
  • Religious group to condemn abuse in TV ad | Religious leaders will condemn the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers in a new television commercial set to begin running on Arab networks next Tuesday (Associated Press)
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  • TV ad by religious leaders apologizes to Arab world for abuses at Abu Ghraib | An interfaith group that includes a top bishop in President Bush's own church announced Tuesday that it will run television ads in the Arab world apologizing for the U.S. government's "sinful and systemic'' abuse of Iraqi prisoners (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Religious group to voice sorrow over treatment | A religious advocacy group said yesterday it is raising money over the Internet to pay for advertising spots on Arabic-language television networks in which American religious leaders express sorrow over the "sinful" abuses committed by U.S. forces in Iraqi prisons (The Washington Post)

Sexual ethics:

  • Stern warning on sex with minors | Pregnancies spur Va. campaign aimed at men (The Washington Post)
  • Ulster teens for chastity roadshow | More than 100 Northern Ireland teenagers have signed up to attend a roadshow organised by a US evangelical group which encourages sexual abstinence, it can be revealed today (The Belfast Telegraph)
  • The fidelity fix | As public-health officials try to stop the spread of H.I.V. in southern Africa, they're beginning to focus on a highly charged issue: infidelity (The New York Times Magazine)


  • Report: Cardinal Law testified in court | Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard F. Law made a rare appearance before a grand jury, testifying about a priest who was transferred despite accusations of sexual misconduct, according to a report published Thursday (Associated Press)
  • Rape charges filed against Lost Boy | More than 3,000 Lost Boys have been resettled in the United States, most of them orphaned by fighting between the Islamic fundamentalist government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (Associated Press)
  • English choirmaster convicted of assaults | A former choirmaster at a royal chapel was convicted Tuesday of a series of indecent assaults on children, one as young as 9 (Associated Press)
  • Attempts to settle suits fail | Diocese of Orange and alleged victims of abuse by priests still hope for out-of-court resolution (Los Angeles Times)
  • Australian archbishop resigns | A report issued last month concluded that Adelaide archbishop Ian George had repeatedly ignored or undermined victims' complaints (BBC)


  • Alabama court hears ex-Klansman's appeal | An attorney for a former Klansman said Tuesday that his client was unfairly convicted in a deadly 1963 church bombing because key witnesses died in the decades before the 2002 trial (Associated Press)
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  • Religion credited in Nichols jury's choice | Prison conversion helped spare Oklahoma City conspirator, lawyers say (The Washington Post)
  • Court finds photo of fetus inadmissible | Ruling may affect killer's sentencing (Houston Chronicle)

Religion & politics:

  • Worshipers at the secular altar | What we are observing here is not what it may appear to be — a struggle of religion against no religion. It is instead a battle pitting one religion, broadly speaking, against another (David Klinghoffer, Los Angeles Times)
  • Revealed: Blair's link to schools that take the Creation literally | Critics voice serious doubts over Christian academies run by millionaire car dealer and backed by PM (The Independent, London)
  • Group promotes secession from U.S. | Plan calls for conservative Christians to form government in S.C. (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
  • A Godless continent? | Being tolerant means accepting any misdeeds and not mentioning God in any circumstances, as this may offend those who do not believe in him (Lukaz Rozynski, The Washington Times)
  • A nation divided? Who says? | Some scholars say the notion of a polarized nation is largely a myth created by people inside the Beltway shouting at each other (The New York Times)
  • John Danforth, churchman for a state occasion | As an ordained Episcopal priest and a three-term senator, John Danforth has evolved into homilist to the mighty, shepherding Washington society over to the other side (The Washington Post)
  • Tension of the Times | It's a sign of the times when even the people who bankroll Washington's leading conservative newspaper are said to be uneasy with Bush administration foreign policy (David Ignatius, The Washington Post)
  • Religious left seeks center of political debate | Conferees call for stronger voice (Washington Post)

Ronald Reagan:

  • Reagan's religious views create ambiguity | Ronald Reagan (news - web sites) had a religious faith "deeper than most people knew," evangelist Billy Graham observed soon after news broke of the former president's death. But what was the shape and substance of that faith? (Associated Press)
  • Prayerful farewell | Ronald Reagan's glorious send-off. (Michael Novak, National Review Online)

Elections & religion:

  • Church leaders won't back Barry | Church leaders in Southeast Washington refused to endorse Marion Barry's campaign for D.C. Council, because they don't think the former D.C. mayor will fulfill his campaign promises if elected (The Washington Times)
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  • Christians a factor in GOP runoff | Beasley might have edge over DeMint (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
  • Kerry advisers tell hopeful to 'keep cool' on religion | Sen. John Kerry's advisers are telling the presidential candidate to steer clear of talking about religion after running afoul of several Catholic bishops and after the campaign's new director of religious outreach was criticized this week for espousing left-wing causes (The Washington Times)

God gap:

  • Sunday division has a new equation | Regular churchgoers tend to lean Republican, while the more secular vote Democratic. But the Iraq war is making some of the faithful uneasy (Los Angeles Times)
  • Partisan gap seen in and out of church | The differences between religious and secularist voters have been affecting races since 1972, a study says. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Who will bless the Democrats? | What self-respecting Catholic pastor or evangelical preacher can appear to bless the party of partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage? (David O'Brien, The Boston Globe)
  • Wis. group sues over faith-based aid | Freedom from Religion Foundation brought a lawsuit Thursday against the Bush administration over the president's faith-based initiative, alleging the program illegally favors religious organizations for federal contracts (Associated Press)

Bush & religion:

  • Bush allies till fertile soil, among Baptists, for votes | President Bush's campaign urged Southern Baptist pastors to do everything short of risking their churches' tax-exempt status to support the president's re-election (The New York Times)
  • Bush's faithful balancing act | There is little doubt that Mr Bush, who has described Jesus as his favourite philosopher, has overseen one of the most religious presidencies in living memory, both in style and substance (BBC)
  • Christian soldiers for the Bush campaign | Bush is not just engaged in a religious crusade in Iraq. He is also dividing America along religious fault lines. (Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

Texas Republican platform:

  • Christian platform ripped as offensive | President Bush and the Republican Party in his home state of Texas are being criticized by Democrats on the touchy issue of whether America is a Christian nation (The Washington Times)
  • AJC urges Texas Republican Party to retract platform | The American Jewish Committee has sent a letter to Tina Benkiser, chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party, expressing its concern about the party's recent adoption of a platform plank in which the United States is declared to be a "Christian nation" and that refers to the "myth of the separation of church and state" (Press release)
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  • The covert kingdom | Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Texas (Joe Bageant, CounterPunch)

Churches & politics:

  • Congress toys with forgiveness | The House proposal mocks honest clergy as much as the tax code (Editorial, The New York Times)
  • Corporate tax bill clears House panel | Includes a provision to allow religious leaders to voice political opinions without fear of losing church tax exemptions (Reuters)

Bishops, communion, & politics:

  • In and out of Communion | A sacramental moment in politics (Michael Novak, National Review Online)
  • Bishop's position represents old values of conservative right | The newly appointed archbishop views homosexuality as a sin and also sees women in the episcopacy as a no-go (Rob McKay, The New Zealand Herald)
  • Protestant Bush's papal plea is an act of desperation | When President Bush complains to Vatican officials that "not all the American bishops are with me" and urges them to push the bishops toward greater "activism," just what do you think he's getting at? (Josh Marshall, The Hill)
  • Cardinal may guide debate on dissenting politicians | Ratzinger's letter comes as bishops meeting in Denver tackle how to deal with Catholics who reject church doctrine (The Denver Post)
  • Bishops are likely to decide key issue | Policy looming on Eucharist, politics (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
  • Bishops hear stem cell report | The nation's Catholic bishops are being urged to combat the drumbeat of support for embryonic stem cell research (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
  • The abortion issue has little, if any, effect on the Catholic vote | Few are swayed by a candidate's pro-choice policy (Andrew Greeley, Los Angeles Times)
  • Bishops and ballots | America's Catholic bishops began a week-long conference in Colorado Monday to discuss, among other issues, whether to withhold Communion based on parishioners' political beliefs. Following a look at how the debate developed in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, correspondent Jeffrey Brown talks to two prominent Catholics about the issue (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS)


  • D.C. school vouchers outnumber applicants | The D.C. voucher program did not receive enough applicants from public schools to fill all the slots available, and some of the children who will receive the federally funded tuition grants already attend private school, officials said yesterday (The Washington Post)
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  • Court's door open for more voucher cases | The Supreme Court says federal courts can review a state tax plan benefiting parochial schools (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • Southern Baptists reject private schooling initiative | A proposal that would have encouraged the mass exodus of Southern Baptist children from the public school system was killed at this year's annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, supporters say because leadership felt it was too radical for the organization (Fox News)
  • Find faith in diversity | Religion and education don't mix. Denominational schools are simply indoctrinating kids (David Aaronovitch, The Observer, London)
  • Scientology link to public schools | As early as the third grade, students in S.F. and elsewhere are subtly introduced to church's concepts via anti-drug teachings (San Francisco Chronicle)


  • Disney draws on 'Passion' to promote 'Heart & Soul' | The studio is emulating Mel Gibson's tactic of screening an upcoming film to targeted groups (Los Angeles Times)
  • Clinton: I was 'enemy' of conservatives | "The Hunting of the President," portrays what filmmakers say was a collaboration between conservatives and the religious right to find evidence to discredit Clinton (Associated Press)
  • A wedding without a church | Abigail Honor's documentary "Saints and Sinners," which opens today in New York, is the story of devout Roman Catholics who want to be married in a Catholic church. But the happy couple consists of men (The New York Times)


  • Clergy's got soul, even in mosh pit | What is your favorite music band/performer? What is your favorite or least favorite kind of music and why? And, how does music play into your life and into your ministry? (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach , Ca.)
  • REM singer is finding his religion | Mine is "a good faith," Michael Stipe says. "It's my own. I consider myself a person of belief. As someone living in the world I think faith is important" (Evelyn McDonnell, The Miami Herald)
  • Crash of symbols, and then nothing | Millions of resident soloists see no value in playing together (D.J. Waldie, Los Angeles Times)


  • American Idol Christian version to debut | The management company that represents Britney Spears and 'N Sync is searching for a divine voice (Associated Press)
  • TV networks seek ratings in higher power | Inspired by the runaway success of religion-themed novels like the "Left Behind" series and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," broadcasters are devoting more of their prime-time schedules to shows dealing with God, faith and the afterlife (Reuters)
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  • Devout not showing passion for 'Saved!' | Evangelical churches that ferried thousands of people to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ aren't renting buses for Saved!, the new teen faith flick (USA Today)
  • 'Saved!': Fast times at Christian high | UMBC grad Brian Dannelly's first film aims to poke gentle fun at religious intolerance (The Baltimore Sun)
  • Lost about 'Saved' | A movie makes fun of Evangelical Christians. This took courage? (Jonathan V. Last, The Wall Street Journal)
  • 'Saved!' brings down wrath of some Christians | Jesus is back at the multiplex. Following the 50-foot wave left behind by Mel Gibson's dark and somber "The Passion of the Christ" comes "Saved!," a frothy teen comedy set at an evangelical high school. The film is stirring up Christian audiences and commentators, who seem torn. (Washington Post)

Mel Gibson:

  • Forbes names Mel Gibson most powerful celebrity | Mel Gibson, whose controversial film "The Passion of the Christ" paid off big at the box office, is the year's most powerful celebrity, according to Forbes magazine's Celebrity 100 power rankings (Reuters)
  • Also: The Celebrity 100 (Forbes)
  • Gibson's Icon sues Regal over 'Passion' box office | Actor/director Mel Gibson's Icon Distribution Inc. has sued No. 1 movie theater chain Regal Entertainment Group for more than $40 million, claiming Regal failed to pay Icon its fair share of box office receipts for "The Passion of the Christ." (Reuters)

Madonna now Esther:

  • A Jewish Madonna? Is that a mystery? | Madonna's flirtation with things Jewish causes mixed reactions among Jewish professors and rabbis (The New York Times)
  • Madonna chooses 'Esther' as new name | Call her Esther: That's the Hebrew name Madonna has chosen for herself as a follower of Kabbalah. (Associated Press)


  • In the Father's footsteps | An interview with Bradford Wilcox. author of the new book Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands (The Washington Times)
  • Do evangelical Protestant fathers really know best? | Religious men, especially evangelical Protestants, are more involved and attentive husbands and fathers than men who are not religious, new research shows (USA Today)
  • A liberal with new emphasis on old values | In his new book, David Callahan, a liberal, argues that America has lost its moral compass (The New York Times)
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Bible & Jesus

  • Bible 'leads to Israeli oil bonanza' | The Bible has inspired many to have faith in heavenly joy, but now an Israeli company believes it has helped it find wealth on earth (The Observer, London)
  • Differing 'Visions of Jesus' | Panel at Claremont Graduate University featuring representatives from many religions will discuss Jesus' life, death (Claremont-Upland Voice, Ca.)

Art & artifacts:

  • Exhibit Shows How Artist Altered Works | To the human eye, brilliant colors and thick black lines mark much of the work by French artist Georges Rouault, considered among the greatest of recent religious painters. It took a high-tech examination by two American researchers to reveal a deeper mystery: copies of his own black-and-white prints underneath (Associated Press)
  • El Greco masterpieces reunited | Three masterpieces painted by El Greco for the same chapel but separated for nearly 400 years have gone on display together for the first time in Spain at Madrid's Prado Museum. (Reuters)
  • Byzantine artifact stolen in Israel | A priceless 1,500-year-old Byzantine era artifact was stolen early Wednesday from an archaeological park near Tel Aviv, police said. (Associated Press)

More articles:

  • In the shadow of Babylon | "The collapse of the Tower of Babel is perhaps the central urban myth" (Neil MacGregor, The Guardian, London)
  • Drawing a bead for God, country | Jennifer Nichols, among America's Top archers, prepares for Olympics on own terms (The Washington Post)
  • Debate over faith's role in healing grows strong | In the past decade or so, attempts to measure scientifically the effect of prayer on medical outcomes have become increasingly common, with attendant controversy (The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.)

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What is Weblog?

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

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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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