Campaign organizers for President Bush have sent a document to churches, asking for supporters to complete specific "duties" on behalf of the campaign. It isn't the campaign's first appeal to churchgoers, but this time, even evangelicals are questioning the tactics.
According to The Washington Post, supporters' duties include:
By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."
By Aug. 15, they are to "talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04" and "recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign."
By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to "finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church," "finish distributing Voter Guides in your church" and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs "about all Christian citizens needing to vote."
The potential alliance is drawing the ire of groups advocating the separation of church and state. According to Reuters, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, "Any coordination between the Bush campaign and church leaders would clearly be illegal." The Washington Post, who actually contacted the IRS to see if the activities would cause a church to lose its tax-exempt status, wrote that the IRS warned, "a preference for or against a certain candidate or party becomes a prohibited activity."
This story has been ongoing for some time now. Last month, Oregon pastors asked churchgoers to sign a petition asking for an amendment banning same-sex marriage. "The campaign has raised questions about how far churches can go to promote ballot measures without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status, which carries some limits on political activity," wrote The Oregonian. Also last month, the Bush campaign sent out a letter seeking to identify 1,600 "friendly congregations" in Pennsylvania.
In both instances, and in others, the cries of the Bush opposition camps warning about the separation of church and state and tax-exemption were loud. This time, however, even Bush-friendly evangelicals are resisting the campaign's outreach. According to Reuters, Richard Land said he was "appalled."
"First of all, I would not want my church directories being used that way,'' he told Reuters in an interview, predicting failure for the Bush plan.
The conservative [Southern Baptist] Protestant denomination, whose 16 million members strongly backed Bush in 2000, held regular drives that encouraged church-goers to "vote their values,'' said Land.
"But it's one thing for us to do that. It's a totally different thing for a partisan campaign to come in and try to organize a church. A lot of pastors are going to say: 'Wait a minute, bub','' he added.
New York Times's David D. Kirkpatrick, writes:
Richard J. Mouw, president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., one of the largest evangelical Protestant seminaries, said: "Theologically speaking, churches are really in a position to speak truth to power. But this smacks of too close an alliance of church and Caesar."
Mr. Mouw added that the Bush campaign should not take evangelical votes for granted.
"I find," he said, "that a lot of church people, including a lot of evangelicals, are increasingly nervous about the credibility of the Bush administration on issues that a year or two ago people were ready to trust them on, like foreign policy.
"Rather than just assuming that evangelical churches are ready to hand over their membership lists, they would do much better to spend some time trying to convince us that they really do have the interests of biblical Christians at heart."
Interestingly, even Bush supporters are questioning whether the administration is taking their views seriously enough. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, wrote in a recent Washington Update email,
a look at the full list of speakers [at the Republican National Convention] shows that the convention is lacking in speeches by prominent Republicans who can adequately address the social issues our nation is facingfrom protecting marriage to defending the sanctity of life.
In fact, many of the people who will have prominent roles at the convention have publicly contradicted the Bush Administration's policies on these very issues; not just Pataki and Giuliani, but also Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Understandably, the Bush campaign would like to portray the Republican Party as a "big tent" while the national spotlight is on, but surely there is some room in that tent for social conservatives. The Bush team admits it had trouble fully mobilizing Christian voters in 2000. Leaving real conservatives off the convention stage won't do much to correct that problem in 2004.
Perkins has also complained that not enough Christians are standing up for the Federal Marriage Amendment. In June, he told The Washington Post, "Standing on Capitol Hill listening, you don't hear anything." However, when it comes to same-sex marriage at the state level, church leaders are standing up. Weblog already noted that churches in Oregon worked to support a marriage amendment in that state. (Perkins also noted that on June 30 "the Defense of Marriage Coalition in Oregon turned in over 244,587 signatures supporting a state constitutional amendment protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.")
But in Kansas, where the legislature recently rejected such an amendment, churches, upset at the failure to pass the amendment, have banded together to support the causeand are receiving plenty of flak for it. Kansas City Star tells the story.
Upset at the Kansas Legislature for defeating a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the Rev. Jerry Johnston, pastor of First Family Church in Overland Park, invited area clergy members to a meeting this month. About 100 came, he said. Churches, he said, must get more involved in politics. "God calls a minister to speak on moral issues," Johnston said.
Many preachers don't know anything about politics; many don't know who their representatives and senators are," said Johnston, who added that he should have gotten more involved in the past.
Churches should encourage their members to act, he said. During July, he said, his church and others in Johnson County will hold forums for candidates, register voters, and educate people on the issues.
Johnson has been distributing educational materials about candidates as local elections approach. In response, a group called the Mainstream Coalition decided to send 100 volunteers to monitor church activities and sermons to make sure they do nothing illegal. The Star writes, "Johnston and other ministers should keep partisan politics out of the pulpit, said Caroline McKnight, coalition executive director. 'His job is to lead his flock by setting an example not by bringing the smoke-filled room into his sanctuary,' she said."
Upset about such threats, pastors are fighting back. "We are alarmed at such scare tactics," said Ad Hoc Pastors for Biblical Values, according to the Star. "These are the methods of coercive rulers. There is no place for this type of intimidation by 'secret police' in our land." The pastors also said, "We do not recognize the Mainstream Coalition as the self-appointed guardians of political and religious purity. Their members share a common social agenda and seek to impose that agenda across this county. Their patronizing attitude toward those whose views differ, and especially toward white, evangelical Christians, is distasteful."
All the "he said/she said" reporting can get confusing, though, and leave churchgoers, pastors, and the public ill-informed. In fact, as Weblog earlier noted, "Suggesting that churches are jeopardizing their tax-exempt status by allowing such an activity is an antidemocratic scare tactic. A canard. A lie."
In fact, Weblog has to wonder about media bias when it does not ask the same questions regarding Democrats who speak to churches, or pastors who openly support Democrat candidates. According to the Associated Press, during the primaries "Rev. Gregory G. Groover recognized [John Kerry] from the pulpit as "the next president of the United States." He continued, "We're thankful that there's going to be a revolution in this country," Groover said. "A new day has occurred, a new movement. And so we praise God for the president. And we say: God, bring him on."
If that's not an endorsement of a political candidate by a pastor from the pulpit, I don't know what is.
Also during the primaries, Kerry spoke from the lectern of a Mississippi church. According to the Boston Globe, "Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, predicted that 'a guy from Massachusetts' will beat Bush in the South in November." In the church, Kerry "read from the Book of James to suggest that Republicans did not back up "important words" with good works and social policy that aided Americans. Kerry said, "he had been 'anointed the next president of the United States' after Bishop Phillip Coleman laid hands on him."
Certainly, Kansas and Oregon pastors' activities regarding the same-sex marriage debate is no more of an entanglement of religion and government that a bishop anointing Kerry to be the next President.
According to the IRS, who applies tax-exempt rules to churches, the question is not whether churches or pastors can get involved in politics, but to what extent, and under what circumstances. The IRS has a handy pamphlet addressing the issue.
The pamphlet says,
Minister F is the minister of Church O. The Sunday before the November election, Minister F invited Senate Candidate X to preach to her congregation during worship services. During his remarks, Candidate X stated, "I am asking not only for your votes, but for your enthusiasm and dedication, for your willingness to go the extra mile to get a very large turnout on Tuesday." Minister F invited no other candidate to address her congregation during the Senatorial campaign. Because these activities took place during official church services, they are attributed to Church O. By selectively providing church facilities to allow Candidate X to speak in support of his campaign, Church O's actions constitute political campaign intervention.
Though churches cannot campaign for candidates or legislation, they can "involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, churches may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status."
The pamphlet is extremely helpful on this issue, and Weblog wishes more reporters would read it.
According to Reuters, "Afghanistan's Taliban guerrillas say they cut the throat of a Muslim cleric after they discovered him propagating Christianity and warned foreign aid workers they would face similar treatment if they did the same." The Taliban said, "We have enough evidence and local accounts to prove that he was involved in the conversion of Muslims to Christianity." And they warned that other aid groups spreading Christianity would face a similar "destiny."
And in Colorado, an appeals court threw out a judge's order that an adoptive mother, fighting for custody against her former lesbian partner, should not expose the child to anything "homophobic." The materials considered were from Focus on the Family. According to the AP, "The Colorado Court of Appeals sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether barring anti-homosexual religious instruction violates the woman's First Amendment rights." Lawyers contended that the ban "could even require Clark to black out parts of the Bible before her daughter reads it."
Religion & politics:
- Party appeal to churches for help raises doubts | The Bush-Cheney campaign has laid out a brisk schedule for legions of Christian supporters to help enlist "conservative churches" and their members, including sending church directories to the campaign, according to a Bush campaign document. The document, which was reported yesterday in The Washington Post and given to The New York Times by Americans Coming Together, a left-leaning group, underscores how heavily Mr. Bush is relying on conservative Christians. (New York Times)
- Another cross for Kerry to bear: white evangelical Protestants | More than 8 out of 10 white evangelical Protestants voted for George Bush in the 2000 presidential contest, according to one estimate. And it's possible, in the view of Geoff Layman, an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, that this year's turnout for the Republicans could prove even stronger. (Knoxville News Sentinel)
- Evangelical leaders warn against faith, party link | The bond between the Republican Party and white, conservative Christians is so strong that other Americans often think of them as synonymous. But a new document circulating among evangelicals warns that being too enmeshed in partisan politics could undermine Christians' moral agenda as they seek to become even more engaged in civic affairs. (Associated Press)
- Bush seeks to mobilize religious conservatives | President Bush, seeking to mobilize religious conservatives for his reelection campaign, has asked church-going volunteers to turn over church membership directories, campaign officials said on Thursday. (Reuters)
- This church mission is covert | About 100 volunteers will be attending services in Johnson County to look for overt election-year politicking from the pulpit, which could violate federal law. (Kansas City Star)
- Pastors decry 'scare tactics' | Plan to monitor sermons draws ire (The Kansas City Star)
- Catholicism plays new role in electionexperts | the church has discovered the power of politics and politics has discovered the power of the church, experts say. (New York Times)
- Kerry cited in Catholic heresy case | A Catholic lawyer has filed heresy charges against Sen. John Kerry with the Archdiocese of Boston, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of bringing "most serious scandal to the American public" by receiving Holy Communion as a pro-choice Catholic. (Washington Times)
- Supreme Court term bleak for conservatives | Justice Antonin Scalia called the court irresponsible in ruling that foreign terror suspects held in Cuba may challenge their treatment in U.S. courts. It was one in a line of decisions by the justices this year that found American courts open to lawsuits over such things as international human rights abuses, on-the-job sexual harassment, World War II-era disputes over looted property, claims that states aren't accommodating disabled citizens and allegations of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering in legislative boundary drawing. (Associated Press)
- 'Bad' Catholics | When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he took pains to assure voters he would not let the Pope influence American politics. Forty-four years later, another Catholic JFK is seeking the White House, but this time, his opponents are trying everything they can to get the church leadership involved. (Mother Jones)
- Laws emit hypocrites' messages of right, wrong | In black-and-white, the review highlighted the reality that we reside in a commonwealth whose legislature will concurrently expand the rights of alcoholics while stamping on the rights of citizens whose sexual orientation falls outside the norm. (Dave Addis, The Virginian-Pilot)
Church & state:
- Va. error reinstates blue law | Workers can insist on Sundays off (Washington Post)
- Religious organizations push state to restore funds for low-income children | A coalition of religious groups delivered 8,000 postcards from church members to Gov. Rick Perry's office Thursday calling for restoring budget cuts that trimmed the rolls of the Children's Health Insurance Program by 150,000. (Fort Worth Star Telegram)
- Army reverses stance on medal inscription | The Army has reversed itself and will continue to help a nonprofit group distribute honorary medallions that cite a Bible verse. (Associated Press)
- Downer dispels Christian myth | Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he had met with Indonesia's top Muslim leaders and scholars in Jakarta in an effort to ease some false perceptions of Australia. Mr Downer said there was in some parts of Indonesian society a misconception of Australia as a large Christian outpost on their southern doorstep. (The Age, Australia)
- Finding faith in the Oval Office | Tony Campolo challenged the most powerful man in the world - and then became his spiritual adviser. (The Age, Australia)
- Violence, food crisis in Sudan worsen as militias keep hold | Abu Shouk is as good as it gets for the displaced masses of Darfur, the violence-torn region of western Sudan that could be the site of the world's worst humanitarian disaster. And that's not very good at all. (USA Today)
- Next in Darfur | The greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Rwandan genocide is at last getting the attention it deserves. Over the past two days Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan have paid visits to Darfur, the western Sudanese province where more than 1 million people have been chased out of their homes by government-backed militia forces, and where the death count in unsanitary and undersupplied refugee camps is likely to exceed a third of a million. (Editorial, Washington Post)
- Crisis in Sudan A call for swift, bold action | Just having Secretary of State Colin Powell and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in Sudan marks a great improvement in the world's reaction to an African catastrophe. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Powell in Sudan | This week, Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Sudan, the site of a raging humanitarian crisis that has already taken 30,000 lives since early 2003. In the Darfur region of western Sudan, Arab-dominated militias are violently taking over land and water resources used by farmers. The Sudanese government in Khartoum has been complicit at worse and at best devastatingly negligent in the conflict. (Editorial, Washington Times)
- Sudan clears refugee camp before UN visit | Government moves about 4,000 people (Detroit Free Press)
- Why both Blair and the left have been silent on Sudan | The Iraq war has blunted the west's appetite for foreign interventions (The Guardian, London)
- Powell warns of Sudan genocide | Colin Powell stood at the epicentre of Africa's worst humanitarian disaster yesterday and said it was "moving towards a genocidal conclusion". (Daily Telegraph, UK)
- Powell and Annan see hints of disaster in Sudan | Sudan tried on Wednesday to play down the extent of the human disaster unfolding in its western Darfur region, but two high-powered visitors, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, received hints nonetheless of the dire state of affairs. (New York Times)
- Stop persecution of peasant tribes, US tells Sudan | Colin Powell said yesterday that the people in the Darfur region of Sudan were in danger of becoming victims of genocide and threatened the country's Government with international sanctions. (Times, London)
- UN's Annan heads for Sudan's war-torn Darfur region | UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) left here to visit Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur, which the United Nations (news - web sites) has described as the worst humanitarian situation in the world, a UN official said. (AFP)
- American dreams and nightmares in moving 'Lost Boys of Sudan' | Sudan is on the American radar again, as Secretary of State Colin Powell visited refugee camps in the western province of Darfur this week, calling attention to the 1 million people displaced by attacks by Arab militias. So the coincidental timing of "Lost Boys of Sudan," which looks at young Sudanese men trying to start life in the United States, just adds to the compelling nature of this low-key, yet moving, documentary. (The Salt Lake Tribune)
- Sudan camp is moved before U.N. visit | There were only donkeys milling around in a soggy, trash-strewn lot on Thursday afternoon when the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, and his entourage arrived at what was supposed to be a crowded squatter camp here in the troubled Darfur region of Sudan. (New York Times)
- Refugees moved before Annan visit | U.N. leader arrives to find Sudan camp emptied of residents (Washington Post)
- Obasanjo's reform agenda has a satanic face Senator Owie | But as far as this Olusegun Obasanjo administration is concerned, at least in the estimation of Owie, there is little cause for joy or celebration. He points to the very first acts of Obasanjo as being responsible for the wobbly democracy Nigeria is presently operating. According to Owie, he was one of those who insisted from the outset that Obasanjo would not do any good for the Nigerian people. (Vanguard, Nigeria)
War & terrorism:
- Rabbi accused of urging violence | A Jerusalem rabbi has been criticised for saying that Jews who give away any part of Biblical Israel to non-Jews could be killed under a religious law. (BBC)
- Bishops demand US inquiry into abuse of Iraqi prisoners | Leaders of the Church of England are expected to push for a US inquiry into the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American troops and to demand that those responsible are brought to book. (Times, London)
- US Muslims pray for hostage | The family of American Marine Wassef Ali Hassoun, held hostage in Iraq, has appealed for his release on the grounds that he is Muslim. (BBC)
- Islamic institute raided in Fairfax | U.S. agents target group accused of promoting extremism (Washington Post)
- 'Dissident' Azeri mosque raided | Police in Azerbaijan have raided a mosque in the capital, surrounding the building and expelling worshippers. (BBC)
- UN takes up turban issue with French govt | In a significant development, the United Nations has taken up the issue of banning turban by the Government of France, imposed on schoolchildren by enacting the school scarf ban law. (The Tribune, India)
- China returns cathedral | The former Anglican Cathedral in Shanghai has been handed back to the China Christian Council (CCC). At a ceremony early last month, attended by 100 people and the director of the state Bureau of Religious Affairs, the president of the CCC, the Revd Cao Shengjie, said it was the "realisation of a dream". (Church Times, UK)
- Our Saudi friends | Saudi royalty and American leaders have found nice things to say about one another. The survival, or at least the interests, of both depend on it, even though our values have about as much in common as our starkly different geographies. (Paul Greenberg, Washington Times)
- Scarf-wearing Muslim suffers new job setback | Court backs law banning teachers from wearing kerchief in class (Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany)
- Taliban say cut throat of Afghan Christian | Afghanistan's Taliban guerrillas say they cut the throat of a Muslim cleric after they discovered him propagating Christianity and warned foreign aid workers they would face similar treatment if they did the same. aliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi telephoned Reuters on Thursday to say that the guerrillas killed Maulawi Assadullah in the remote Awdand district of Ghazni province the previous day. (Reuters)
- CCC cleric still in hiding, 10 years after | More than 10 years after he escaped Moslem Fatwar (Death sentence) in Kano a Nigerian cleric, Evangelist Supo Faola, is still afraid to come out of hiding into which he was driven for fear of being killed. Supo who fled from Kano during the ethno-religious crisis that engulfed most parts of northern Nigeria in 1992, was until the crisis, an evangelist of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) who was known in most parts of the North. (Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria)
- Va. diocese has Mass for victims of abuse | Arlington bishop apologizes for pain (Washington Post)
- Mahony's testimony is sought | Lawyers ask a judge to force cardinal to comply in the case against a former Stockton priest. (Los Angles Times)
- Catholic Church asking court to void California's 2003 abuse law | An Iowa diocese seeks a ruling in San Diego. The L.A. Archdiocese plans to intervene in the case. (Los Angles Times)
- Couple accused of abuse | A little more than a year after Tom and Debbie Schmitz were profiled in news stories as religious, caring foster parents, 18 children have been removed from their home amid charges of abuse and neglect. (Associated Press)
- Ten convicted in France sex case | A court in northern France has convicted 10 members of a paedophile ring after a trial that gripped France. (BBC)
- Fears of Athens sex slave boom | Aid agencies and experts in Greece and the southern Balkans are warning there could be a big increase in the trafficking of women and children to Athens because of the Olympic Games being held in the city this August. (BBC)
Abuse in schools:
- Study: Sex abuse prevalent in schools | More than 4.5 million students endure sexual misconduct by employees at their schools, from inappropriate jokes all the way to forced sex, according to a report to Congress. (Associated Press)
- Millions of students see sex misconduct | More than 4.5 million students were victims of sexual misconduct by teachers and other school officials in the past decade, says a study released yesterday by the Education Department. (Washington Times)
- Reports of child abuse skyrocket; rise tied to greater public awareness | Child welfare centers nationwide handled a record 26,573 child abuse consultations in fiscal 2003, topping the previous year's figure by some 2,800, according to data released Tuesday by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. (Japan Times)
- Teacher sex abuse 'cover-up' | The former drama teacher John Owen was a serial sex abuser and an education official's failures in investigating him could amount to a criminal act, according to a report. (BBC)
- No - You should be taught all religion at school | If you come here and go to a faith school you are only going to follow the view of your elders and you are going to perpetuate the same beliefs. (icBirmingham, UK)
- Divinity school student sponsors $100,000 essay contest | When some Harvard students heard about Mel Gibson's most recent film, they joined the growing controversy surrounding it with heated words in House dining halls or over open e-mail lists. But Gibson's contentious The Passion of the Christ has inspired Elizabeth A. Goldhirsh, a 25 year-old student at the Divinity School, to put her money where the mouths were, offering $100,000 of her own trust fund as prize money in a new theological essay contest. (Harvard Crimson)
- Evangelicals can include fliers in school packets | An evangelical group's plan to distribute fliers to students in two Montgomery County, Md., elementary schools does not amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, a divided federal appeals court has ruled. (Associated Press)
- How plagiarism on the internet has become part of the campus culture | One in four students admits to cheating his or her way through degrees using material from friends or the internet, according to a survey of this year's university graduates. (Daily Telegraph, UK)
- Monumental church dedicated to controversial saint Padre Pio | Since his canonisation in 2002, he has been St Pius. But for his devotees - it is estimated there are 15 million worldwide - he will always be Padre Pio, an ill-educated Capuchin monk with supernatural powers who bore the marks of Christ's crucifixion. (The Guardian, UK)
- Christians make amends for persecution of sect | In the early 16th century, groups of European Christians started splitting from the Roman Catholic Church in what is now known as the Protestant Reformation. But while Protestants and Catholics were at odds, they held one thing in common: Anabaptism had to be eliminated. (Beliefnet)
- Area youth BUMP to Denver | Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church of Fergus Falls will send 16 youth and two adults on a short-term mission trip to Denver. The trip, sponsored by the Evangelical Free Church of America, is called BUMP Denver 2004. (Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Minn)
- Vernon church finds temporary home | After scrambling to find a new place to hold Sunday services, Cross-roads Community Church has found a temporary location to call home. Church officials have secured a new lease at the YMCA building known as Center 375. (Journal Inquirer, Conn)
- One preacher's journey: The Wesley tradition continues | In the tradition set by John Wesley and followed by Methodist ministers for generations, the United Methodist Conference in June marked new beginnings for many ministers and congregations within that conference. (Orangeburg Times Democrat, South Carolina)
- City hosts Christian event | Up to 3,000 people are expected to flock to Belfast over the next few days to attend the largest Christian festival in Ireland. (BBC)
Homosexuality & religion:
- Presbyterians worry about gay ordination | Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church warned that a vote in favor of gay ordination at the denomination's national assembly this week could cause the largest schism in the church since the Civil War. (Associated Press)
- Gay cleric installed at St Albans | The openly gay canon who felt compelled to withdraw his candidature as Bishop of Reading, is being installed as Dean of St Albans on Friday. (BBC)
- Gay priest to be installed as Dean | Openly gay priest Jeffrey John, whose nomination for bishop last year nearly caused a worldwide split in the Anglican church, is to be installed as a Dean today. (Reuters)
- I should be a bishop, insists the gay dean | Jeffrey John, the gay cleric who stepped down from promotion to Bishop of Reading in the face of fierce opposition from convervatives, becomes Dean of St Albans today and still firmly believes that he is worthy of an episcopal seat. (Times, London)
- Verger was denied cathedral job 'because of male live-in partner' | A homosexual cathedral verger is considering legal action against a well known Anglican cathedral in Wales after he claims a job offer was retracted when he told them he had a live-in partner. (Times, London)
- Gay priest installed as Dean | Gay clergyman Dr Jeffrey John is being installed as the new Dean of St Albans amid protests from conservatives within the Church of England. (ic Liverpool, UK)
- Churches divided on gay marriage | Both sides are citing the Bible to support their views on issue. (News-Leader, Springfield, Missouri)
- Issue of gay clergy called divisive | Official fears ordination could trigger another split in Presbyterian Church (Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch)
- Site of sacrifice and martyrdom, St Albans is to test the church faithful again with a gay dean | Shortly after 5pm today, another devout man, Dr Jeffrey John, will stand on the same spot where St Alban was martyred and declare his faith to a community similarly split over whether its latest spiritual leader represents the true faith, or the unacceptable face of liberal Christianity. (Independent, UK)
- Homophobia is as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid | A student once asked me if I could have one wish granted to reverse an injustice, what would it be? I had to ask for two. One is for world leaders to forgive the debts of developing nations which hold them in such thrall. The other is for the world to end the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation, which is every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid. (Desmond Tutu, Times, London)
- Colo. court tosses part of lesbian case | An appeals court threw out a judge's order Thursday that barred a woman who left a lesbian relationship from teaching her adopted daughter anything that might be considered ``homophobic.'' he Colorado Court of Appeals sent the case back to the lower court to determine whether barring anti-homosexual religious instruction violates the woman's First Amendment rights. (Associated Press)
- Court to reconsider ex-lesbian's parental rights | An appeals court threw out a judge's order Thursday that barred a woman who left a lesbian relationship from teaching her adopted daughter anything that might be considered "homophobic." (Associated Press)
- Action urged on morning-after pill | Abortion rights supporters urged House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran yesterday to allow debate on legislation to make the morning-after contraceptive pill more easily available, over fierce objections from Catholic Church leaders who say that the bill would force Catholic hospitals to violate the church's teachings on abortion. (Boston Globe)
- Vatican birth control policy spurned | The Vatican's conservative policies on birth control have received a blow from one of the Roman Catholic Church's most loyal regions after opinion polls showed overwhelming support in Latin America for measures of contraception. (The Guardian, London)
- EU faces fertility tourism threat | EU enlargement could encourage 'fertility tourists' to travel to Eastern Europe for cheap IVF, doctors have warned. (BBC)
- Britons fertility tourists 'go east' for cheaper IVF | British couples desperate for a child are becoming "fertility tourists" to take advantage of the low prices and high success rates of eastern European IVF clinics. (Times, London)
- The hidden dangers of IVF tourism in Europe | Fertility treatment is so cheap in parts of eastern Europe that British childless couples may be tempted to become "IVF tourists", doctors said yesterday. (Daily Telegraph)
- Care call for babies who survive abortion | Babies born alive after very late abortions should be given the same treatment and care as babies born prematurely, doctors said yesterday. (Daily Telegraph, UK)
- Rider says he's guided by God | When Jerry Boswell heard a call from God to take the message of love and Jesus Christ to people throughout the nation, he got his horses ready and hit the road. (Lancaster Eagle Gazette, Ohio)
- Russian Priest Dmitry Dudko dies | Russian Orthodox priest Dmitry Dudko, who fought against Soviet atheism and served time in a Stalin-era camp, has died in Moscow, the Moscow Patriarchate said Friday. (Associated Press)
- Gospel radio disc jockey Ray Edwards | Ray Edwards, 58, a flamboyant gospel artist and radio personality who captivated audiences with foot-stomping, inspirational gospel music and much more, died June 24 at George Washington University Hospital. He had cancer. (Washington Post)
- Getting a handle on what it takes to tithe | What is your view on tithing while saving and reducing debt? Specifically, when the church makes appeals for offerings while you are trying to manage your in-and-out cash flows. (Michelle Singletary, Washington Post)
- Vandal of Venice attacks religious statues | Visitors to Venice were asked to join police yesterday in the search for an "anti-Christian" vandal who has systematically mutilated holy statues over the past week. (Times, London)
- Muslim helps preserve Franciscan artifacts | A 15-year-old Muslim boy donated his $21 allowance to a drive Wednesday to raise money to help preserve centuries-old artifacts rotting in the damp basement of a Franciscan monastery damaged in the Bosnian war. The monastery, built in 1888 in Fojnica by priests who have lived in the central Bosnian town for 650 years, suffered substantial structural damage in Bosnia's 1992-95 war. (Associated Press)
- When faith clashes with corporate policy | For years, courts have refereed disputes over accommodating religion in the workplace. But what happens when an employee's religious beliefs collide with the company's secular vision? NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports in the conclusion to a three-part series on religion in the workplace. (Morning Edition, NPR)
- Christian retailers look for niche | Soaring sales have obviously meant greater profits for some, and publishers are keeping a sharp eye out for authors who have the potential to become the next best seller. But success has also meant greater competition for store owners, who can't match the deep discounts offered by big retailers that now stock some Christian books. (Associated Press)
- Sharing faith and workplace | Amid post-9/11 uncertainty, prayer groups find foothold in business world (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Film, music & theater:
- Gibson's Christ film resurrects a passion for Aramaic in Indian outpost | It lacks glitzy costumes, catchy Bollywood songs or elaborate dance routines. But Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, has sparked a new craze in the southern Indian state of Kerala: a rush to learn Aramaic, the ancient, fast-disappearing language of Biblical times. Within weeks of the film's release Kerala's institutes for the study of Aramaic were deluged by calls. (Times, London)
- Five inquiring youngsters, singing about writing to God | If there is such a place as hell on earth or at least purgatory it might consist of sitting through a musical adapted from the perennially popular book "Children's Letters to God." Instead, the experience turns out to be a mixed blessing. (New York Times)
- Saved! starts with an amusing, provocative premise | In the summer before Mary's senior year at a Christian high school in suburban Baltimore, her boyfriend Dean tells Mary, during a game of sharing secrets underwater, that he thinks he's gay. Stunned, Mary bonks her head on a pool ladder while swimming to the surface and begins to drown. (Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky)
- Jonny Lang's latest CD adds funk to bluesy rock | Jonny Lang, the guitarist who exploded onto the scene at age 15 with the bluesy 1996 CD, "Lie To Me," hadn't put out a CD in five years until "Long Time Coming" finally arrived in stores in October. (Everett Herald, WA)
- Questioning healing prayer | A reevaluation of a study threatens to tarnish the reputations of two prestigious institutions (Time)
- Westerners take to Indian weddings | Western couples are getting married in India in increasing numbers, believing the sacred rites will make their marriages last longer. (BBC)
- Mentally ill man blamed in Italy vandalism | A mentally ill man was behind a spate of vandalism last weekend against priceless religious statues in Venice, officials said Thursday. t least four acts of vandalism were carried out Sunday: three hammer attacks on the hands of centuries-old religious figures, and the destruction of a neighborhood Madonna statue without artistic value. (Associated Press)
- Patriarch, pope to seek dialogue with Muslims | Pope John Paul and Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, made a joint commitment yesterday to work for "real dialogue" with Islam and combat terrorism together. (Reuters)
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