Marriage amendment changed
With changes to a proposed amendment to the constitution banning same-sex marriage, it's now more clear that state legislatures can recognize civil unions if it passes.

"This new language makes the intent of the legislation even clearer: to protect marriage in this country as the union between a man and a woman, and to reinforce the authority of state legislatures to determine benefits issues related to civil unions or domestic partnerships," Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) told reporters.

Here's the new text (with additions in red): "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said that the revision "actually brings it closer to the president's principles." But politically conservative religious and profamily groups who are members of the Arlington Group are likely to balk at the changes. As Weblog writes, there's no word from member groups like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family. Leading the charge against the change, at least for now, seems to be Concerned Women for America.

Robert Knight, director of the CWA's Culture and Family Institute, complains in a press release that the amendment "still allows for the erosion of marriage by allowing states to create civil unions. Whether you call other relationships 'Quasi Marital Schemes' or 'Civil Unions,' when they're recognized in law no differently from marriage, all you've protected is the name." Though the Arlington Group has been pushing for an amendment that would explicitly ban same-sex civil unions, Knight says even the first sentence of the revised amendment "is better standing alone. We could support that language because it would 'do no harm.'"

Knight makes a similar argument in his comments to the The New York Times as CWA chief counsel Jan LaRue makes the same case to The Washington Times.

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council seems to support the new language in an online article criticizing a rival amendment from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.). "FRC, along with 95 percent of pro-family organizations, not to mention the White House, are in support of the Allard/Musgrave amendment, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman," FRC president Tony Perkins wrote in his Washington Update. However, the update is dated yesterday, and may not be an implicit comment supporting the new language. Perkins may comment on it directly today.

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Time profiles purposeful preacher
Time magazine's current issue contains a profile of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. (CT profiled Warren in our December issue.) While it's written by Sonja Steptoe and not Time's religion writer, David Van Biema, it's well worth the read and demonstrates good reporting.

It's a sign of Warren's broad appeal in the Christian community that Time really had to stretch to find any detractors. The main critic is Dennis Costella, pastor of the Fundamental Bible Church in Los Osos, Calif. "The Purpose-Driven ministry is a marketing strategy," he complains. "We believe the Bible tells us to present the word of God without packaging it for a contemporary cultural context." Suffice it to say that Time doesn't regularly quote small-town, self-described fundamentalist preachers as experts.

The other critic, Spiritual Marketplace author Wade Clark Roof, is refuted by Warren—and Steptoe. " We're told that [his philosophy] not only does something for you in the sense of giving your life meaning but it also makes you happy materially, religiously," Roof complains (erroneously). "What Rick is marketing is a kind of American religious ideology that conflates growth with salvation."

A few paragraphs later, Steptoe writes, "All Saddleback members must abide by strict covenants to tithe regularly, do mission work locally or abroad and live by Christian doctrines. 'You can't just be a consumer here,' Warren says. 'You have to participate and contribute.'"

Christian Coalition reportedly not paying its bills
Not to conflate growth with salvation, but it's no secret that the Christian Coalition of America has seen bigger and better days. Still, things may be even worse for the organization than thought, as it now appears it isn't paying its bills. A Virginia Beach law firm says the Christian Coalition owes it $75,000 in unpaid legal costs, and spokesman Drew McKissick seems to agree that the money hasn't been paid.

"Our accountants have been working with the firm to work this out, and hopefully it will be worked out soon," McKissick told The Virginian-Pilot, saying (in the Pilot's words) that the garnishment order may be more of a glitch than an indication of severe financial distress.

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Maybe, but McKissick blames the organizations financial woes on its low membership, which he blames on Bush's election. The Pilot paraphrases him saying that "people became complacent, and it seemed that since a conservative Christian was president, there were no battles left to fight."

If a conservative Christian political organization believes that its constituency can't be mobilized right now, it has bigger problems than how much is in its coffers.

More articles

More on the federal marriage amendment:

  • Gay-marriage foes duck polygamy issue | A proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was tweaked Monday to give states the right to recognize same-sex civil unions, but sponsors shied away from including language that could squelch legal challenges in Utah to the constitutionality of prohibiting polygamy (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Hiding behind the Constitution | Instead of asking what kind of society we want, both Democrats nor Republicans argue about what our structure of government can permit (William B. Rubenstein, The New York Times)

  • Curbing courts on matrimony | The greatest problem with the president's solution is that it does not go to the root of the problem. The underlying problem has been brewing since the 1960s — and that is judicial activism or, more properly, judicial legislating, contrary to Article I of the Constitution (Donald Devine , The Washington Times)

Gay marriage (news):

  • Quebec court paves way for gay marriages | It's the third Canadian province to allow same-sex marriage (Associated Press)

  • Also: Gays win right to wed in Quebec | Gays and lesbians won the right to marry in Quebec, when the province's Court of Appeal rejected a bid by religious groups to have marriage declared solely a union between men and women (AFP)

  • Benton stops all marriage licensing | Pressured by the attorney general to wait for a court ruling on gay marriages, county officials decide to treat "everybody equally" (The Oregonian)

  • Also: Ore. county delays gay marriage licenses | Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, an Oregon county that had been poised to become the state's second to issue gay marriage licenses has now backed off until courts intervene (Associated Press)

  • Gay marriage ban vote urged | Both sides in Georgia's rancorous debate over same-sex marriage turned up the heat Monday, as the issue heads for a final showdown in the state Legislature, possibly this week (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Black clergy rally against gay marriage | More than two dozen black pastors added their voice to the critics of same-sex marriage, attempting to distance the civil rights struggle from the gay rights movement and defending marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Associated Press)

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  • 25 new gay marriages conducted in N.Y. | Six ministers of the Unitarian Universalist Church performed marriage ceremonies for 25 same-sex couples Saturday, defying prosecutors who view the practice as illegal (Associated Press)

  • Ministers who officiated at same-sex marriages go to court | A solemn crowd of more than 150 Unitarian congregants and gay rights advocates gathered on the steps of the New Paltz courthouse on Monday afternoon to support two ministers facing charges for officiating at same-sex marriages (The New York Times)

  • Transsexual charged in marriage violation | A transsexual who had planned to be married was charged with providing false information for her marriage license in Kansas, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Associated Press)

  • Polls: Young back same-sex weddings more | While the majority of Americans oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, people younger than 30 have consistently been more supportive of it than their elders (Associated Press)

  • Gay weddings on increase in U.K. as 1,000 couples 'tie the knot' | While marriage has been in decline for the past three decades, an Independent on Sunday survey has found that nearly 1,000 gay and lesbian couples have now "tied the knot" since partnership ceremonies were introduced two and a half years ago (The Independent, London)

Gay marriage (analysis):

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Gay marriage (opinion):

  • Strange bedfellows | Looking at marriage as all or nothing (Stanley Kurtz, National Review Online)

  • Marriage is a misstep for gay rights | Gay marriage is a step back in the march toward freedom (Alexander Cockburn, Los Angeles Times)

  • Justice, morality, the American way and gay marriage | Marriage belongs in church, not in the courthouse or the legislature (Daniel J.H. Greenwood, The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • What's the problem? | What the now-stalled San Francisco marriages movingly illustrate is not any deficit of state power to rein in rogue local officials but the existence of a large group of people in committed relationships who want to solemnize those relationships with state recognition (Editorial, The Washington Post)

More on homosexuality and religion:

  • YMCA 'discriminatory policy' challenged | Durham, N.C., official wants YMCA to give discount to same-sex couples (The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C., alt.)

  • Vatican joins Muslims to fight homosexual partnerships | The fierce battle over same-sex unions, which has split American public opinion during the past month, has now pitched the Vatican into an unlikely alliance with Islamic countries against officials of the United Nations (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Gays' 'protected-class' status doubted | The Office of Special Counsel, which protects government employees from workplace discrimination, has suspended enforcement of harassment claims based on sexual orientation, pending an analysis of whether federal law covers homosexuals (The Washington Times)


  • Church may end up as sect, warns bishop | The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, said that the established Church is in danger of completely disappearing (The Guardian, London)

  • Episcopal same-sex rite will be developed | The Episcopal bishop of Washington has named two priests — the former national chairman of the church's homosexual caucus and a divorced mother of two sons — to head a new diocesan task force on same-sex blessings (The Washington Times)

  • Episcopal group may form church | Episcopalians upset with the recent confirmation of an openly gay bishop are considering forming their own church in Raleigh (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Conservative network comes under attack | As a network for conservative Episcopalians opposed to gay clergy was winning support from overseas bishops, its leader came under new attack at home (The Indianapolis Star)

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  • Also: Group seeks middle ground | Episcopalians push for unity (The News-Press, Ft. Myers, Fla.)

  • Also: Group meeting to help preserve Episcopal unity | Conservative Episcopalians opposed to their denomination's acceptance of an openly gay bishop have dominated the news, but another group is forming to take them on (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • 'Sex-change' vicar quits parish | A Northumberland vicar of 10 years has quit his parish post to undergo a sex-change operation (BBC)

  • Bishop gives warning on equality law | A Church of England bishop has stepped out of line with his colleagues by warning religious organizations not to campaign too vociferously for exemptions from equality legislation to avoid having to employ gay or transgender people (The Guardian, London)

Church life:


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  • Slain Salvadoran archbishop's legacy lives on | Oscar Romero's assassination made him an instant martyr and provided a worldwide audience for his message of peace and justice (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Stop abuse before it starts | Punishment for the abuser and treatment for the victim are necessary, but they aren't enough (Fran Henry and Mark L. Rosenberg, The Washington Post)

Missions & ministry:

  • Amid spring-break carousing, a little evangelism | South Padre Island has long been considered one of the most popular spring-break destinations in the country, and every year it is overrun with college students out for a good time (The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Missionary welcomed in Turkey | With American troops in battle in an adjacent country and with a population that is 99 percent Muslim, Stefan Wolters wasn't expecting a warm welcome when she began her Christian missionary trip to Turkey (The Jackson Citizen-Patriot, Mich.)

  • Missionary shares details of ordeal | Gracia Burnham was held hostage by Philippine militants (The Kansas City Star)

  • Gracia Burnham espouses prayer and love | The Christian world must figure out how to deal with militant Islamic groups, but the solutions remain elusive, former hostage Gracia Burnham told the Overland Park Mayor's Prayer Breakfast today (The Kansas City Star)


  • A minefield for missionaries | Faithful weigh risks of delivering Christianity, compassion to postwar Iraq (The Denver Post)

  • Christianity in a crucible | Missionaries from the United States, determined to spread evangelical Christianity in Iraq, are opening new churches in Baghdad, building congregations drawn from Iraq's ethnic Christian community and in some cases preparing to take the Gospel directly to Muslims themselves (The Washington Times)

  • Iraqi Christians open author's eyes to how precious is freedom to believe | Sara Horn is the author of A Greater Freedom: Stories of Faith from Operation Iraqi Freedom (The Tennessean, Nashville)

Church-state partnerships:

  • Faith-based groups prosper under Bush rules | Faith-based organizations received more grant money from key government agencies in 2003 than in the previous year, according to numbers recently released by the White House (The Washington Times)

  • Drug courts get help from faith-based organizations | A statewide effort is underway to curb substance abuse problems by including faith organizations in the drug court process (News8Austin, Tex.)

  • A mission truely gone awry | Regrettably, the Bush administration has finally found an issue it can embrace that separates funding between church and state (Editorial, The San Francisco Examiner)

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Politics and law:

  • Progress lags despite new legislation to stop prison rape | A lobbying effort supported by conservatives and liberals led to passage last year of a law that ordered formation of a commission, a first-every study of the problem and national guidelines to stop prison rape. Yet seven months later, vacancies remain on the Prison Rape Reduction Commission (The Kansas City Star)

  • Ten Commandments stay in City Hall | Fairbanks Mayor Steve Thompson said a copy of the Ten Commandments will remain displayed in City Hall despite a protest from the American Civil Liberties Union (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Ak.)

  • Religion survey sparks political squabble | Town politicians are engaged in a heated debate over the role of faith in local government (The Miami Herald)

  • Religion emerging as possible campaign issue | John Zogby contends that religion has become a major divisive force in American politics (The Toledo Blade)

  • Pray to play | John Kerry goes to church (The American Spectator)

  • Running with religion in 2004 | To get its groove back, the religious left needs to come up with some new ideas and a new vision for curing persistent social ills (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune)

International politics:

  • When liberating ideas enslave | Aristide an example of misuse of theology to achieve power (Bill Tammeus, The Kansas City Star, Mo.)

  • Police disperse demo over Kadhi's courts | Christian demonstrators protesting the entrenchment of the Kadhi's courts in the draft constitution were violently dispersed by police in Mombasa Monday (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Moderator accuses France of religious intolerance | One of Scotland's leading churchmen has accused the French government of "persecuting" its own citizens with new laws banning the wearing of religious head-gear in schools and their regulation in the workplace (Scotland on Sunday)


  • Pastor sent to prison | Craig Stephen White, a preacher known for inciting controversy at area universities, was sentenced to four to 10 years in state prison, followed by five years probation for trying to lure a 14-year-old West Chester boy into his van for oral sex (The Daily Local, West Chester, Pa.)

  • Ariz. bishop apologizes to victim's family | Bishop Thomas O'Brien apologized in court Friday to the family of the pedestrian he killed in a hit-and-run last year, saying: "I know there is no one to blame for this but me" (Associated Press)

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  • Also: Arizona bishop apologizes for hit-and-run accident | The former head of the Catholic Church in Phoenix, convicted last month of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, apologized to the victim's family on Friday and asked a judge to spare him from prison (Reuters)

Sabbath in Northern Ireland:

Pledge of Allegiance case:

  • One nation, enriched by biblical wisdom | Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean is not proselytizing; it's citizenship (David Brooks, The New York Times)

  • Court to decide Pledge of Allegiance case | The historic challenge to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance might never have reached the Supreme Court if not for a collision of faith between two parents — one an atheist, the other a born-again Christian (Associated Press)

  • One crucial issue in Pledge case: What does 'under God' mean? | The Supreme Court justices must decide whether the words "one nation under God" render the pledge unconstitutional (The New York Times)

  • 'Under God' key phrase for court this week | The Supreme Court plunges back into the nation's culture wars this week, exploring anew the role that religion can play in public life as the justices examine the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance (The Boston Globe)

  • Groups divided on 'under God' | High court to consider Pledge of Allegiance (Associated Press)

  • 'Under God' under fire | Supreme Court scheduled to decide if words stay in Pledge of Allegiance (Courier & Press, Evansville, Ind.)

  • 'Outsiders' weigh in against Pledge's 'under God' | Atheists and a range of religious minorities also are holding their collective breath (Religion News Service)

  • The battle over the Pledge | I'm only an amateur of constitutional history and the Pledge controversy, but you don't have to be an expert to notice how language gets misused in Grove Unified School District v. Michael A. Newdow (Elisabeth Sifton, The Nation)

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  • A preamble instead of a Pledge | The best solution—one that respects both the community's desire to instill patriotism and the conscience of religious dissenters—is to end recitation not just of the words "under God" but of the entire Pledge of Allegiance (Linda R. Monk, The Washington Post)

  • Affirm religious liberty | Restore 1892-1954 Pledge of Allegiance (Editorial, The Sacramento Bee, Ca.)

Michael Newdow:

  • They pray for judicial restraint | Advisors to a volatile atheist hope he is up to the delicate task of arguing his Pledge of Allegiance case before the Supreme Court (Los Angeles Times)

  • Father arguing case says law is on his side | By the time Michael Newdow rises to make his case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, he will have gone through 11 practice sessions (The Boston Globe)

  • Atheist dad ready for date at top court | California man to argue against 'under God' in pledge (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Atheist takes pledge to court | Moot point?: A father argues this week before the Supreme Court against "under God." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Father doesn't know best | Not when he doesn't have custody and the mother wants their daughter to continue reciting the Pledge (Harold Johnson, The American Spectator)

  • America's atheist | Michael Newdow wants to leave God out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Soon, he'll get his day in court (The American Prospect)

The Passion of The Christ:

  • God in the hands of angry sinners | Garry Wills reviews The Passion of the Christ with Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II (The New York Review of Books)

  • Gibson to film Jewish 'Western' | Mel Gibson looks set to provoke further antipathy among the Jewish community with plans to make a film about the story behind the festival of Hanukkah (BBC)

  • After The Passion, Hollywood asks: what about the sequel? | The blockbusting success of Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of the Christ has prompted a scramble in Hollywood to develop more "films of faith" and cash in on a new genre (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Gibson's 'Passion' remains a concern over portrayal of Jews | Nearly a month after its release, The Passion of the Christ has made hundreds of millions of dollars for producer-director Mel Gibson but remains a focus of concern among scholars over its portrayal of Jews (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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Other controversial religion film makers on The Passion:

Jesus film:

  • 'Jesus' is packaged for mass market | The Jesus Film is being aimed at mainstream America, in a newly released "25th Anniversary Deluxe Commemorative Edition," packaged as a pair of DVDs with The Story of Jesus for Children (The Dallas Morning News)

  • A quieter passion | Decades before Mel Gibson's box-office giant, Campus Crusade developed a small film called Jesus. It's still reaching out, in hundreds of languages (The Orlando Sentinel)


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  • Making the Gospels rock | Religious-themed theater sees popularity explosion (The Express-Times, Bethlehem, Pa.)

  • The reason why I sing: Divining a music's roots | "Great Men of Gospel," at the Henry Street Settlement, is a pleasant enough survey of gospel music, but it would be a better show if it were truer to its title (The New York Times)

  • For God's sake, it's a comedy | Sexing up God. It sounds like the title of a comedy about religion—and it is. But the real punchline is its stars are real-life Anglican priests (The Australian)




  • Virginity vows: back to the '50s | The virginity pledge, a written promise made by young people to stay chaste until married, which has been pushed by every evangelical preacher and home schooler with a pulse, is a campaign littered with broken vows (Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Some unhappy with Girl Scouts form group | American Heritage Girls was founded in 1995 by a Cincinnati-area woman and her friends who were unhappy that the Girl Scouts accepted lesbians as troop leaders, banned prayer at meetings and allowed girls to substitute the word "God" in the oath (Associated Press)

Other articles of interest:

  • Kits seen as affront to Jesus | Trendy retailer Urban Outfitters Inc. canceled an order last week for 3,500 "magnetic dress up kits" that let users place a devil's costume, a tutu and other unusual outfits on an image of Jesus hanging on the cross, according to the New York artist who created the product (The Washington Times)

  • Orthodox Christians icon venerated in Fridley | Known as the Kursk Root Icon of Our Lady of the Sign, the platter-size illustration is considered one of the holiest icons of the Russian Orthodox Church and is a significant piece of Russian history (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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  • Who knows Jack? | For years Jack Kelley was a star at USA Today, filing amazingly vivid, detail-laden reports on virtually every major international story. His career imploded after he lied to editors looking into the veracity of his work (American Journalism Review)

  • Fasting is a ritual to strengthen the spirit—and to send a message | Believers of every variety are going without food for longer and longer periods of time and for every conceivable reason: to enhance mental, physical and spiritual discipline, to purge the body and soul of impurities, to become humble, to empathize with the poor, to achieve clarity, to see God (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • US firms try to block cheap Aids drugs | The US, under pressure from its giant pharmaceutical companies, is trying to undermine the use in poor countries of cheap, copycat Aids drugs, made by "pirate", generic companies but validated by the World Health Organization, campaigners claim (The Guardian, London)

  • Folk piety links politics, 'Code' and 'Passion' | Imagine for one moment a country so suffused with religious sentiment that its bestselling novel and most widely seen film are constructed from popular pieties, a place where even politicians have to reckon constantly with the sensitivities of entrenched and influential theological traditionalists (Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times)

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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.
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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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