Days after rejecting Roy Moore case, Supremes say they'll rule in two Decalogue disputes

Days after rejecting Roy Moore case, Supremes say they'll rule in two Decalogue disputes
In what the Associated Press calls "a surprise announcement," the Supreme Court today said it will consider two cases focusing on public displays of the Ten Commandments.

Liberty Counsel, which represents three Kentucky counties in one of the two cases, calls it "the blockbuster church/state case of the year."

"The decision to review a case involving the display of the Ten Commandments is long overdue," Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver says in a press release. "The lower courts are hopelessly in confusion over the constitutionality of governmental displays of the Ten Commandments."

The Kentucky case focuses on county officials' posting the Decalogue in courthouses, and their adding other historical documents to the display after complaints. In December, a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the displays were religious in nature and therefore unconstitutional.

But last November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a similar display in Texas has "both a religious and secular message," and is therefore constitutional.

The Associated Press says the justices will consider the two cases separately. Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's appeal to be reinstated after he was removed from office for not removing a massive Commandments monument.

In the 1980 case Stone v. Graham, the Supreme Court ruled that it's unconstitutional to post the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. But that decision narrowly focused its decision on the nature of students as a "captive audience," so the question of other public displays is still unsettled.

We're still waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will consider Bass v. Madison, which challenges the constitutionality of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). As with the Commandments cases, decisions have split on the U.S. district court level. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that inmate Ira Madison does indeed have the right to a kosher diet under RLUIPA, which the court says does not unconstitutionally advance religion. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, said that the law does have "the primary effect of advancing religion," and said prisons may deny inmates access to religious literature and the opportunity to conduct religious services.

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The Commandments cases may indeed be a "blockbuster" in the sense of getting much public attention. But the question there is whether the state can honor religious statements, whereas the question in the RLUIPA cases is whether the state can at whim bar religious activity. To lose the former would be a travesty. To lose the latter would be tyranny.

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Church & state:

  • Judge allows crosses on markers at Loudoun school | A federal judge has ruled that Loudoun County school officials discriminated against some families by removing bricks engraved with crosses from a walkway in front of Potomac Falls High School (The Washington Post)
  • God has 4,000 loudspeakers; the state holds its ears | The Egyptian minister of religion decided that one official call to prayer would be broadcast live and carried by all of Cairo's mosques. Many of the faithful objected (The New York Times)
  • Prayer at Stamping Ground meeting may launch lawsuit | Mayor prayed in Jesus' name (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)
  • Beyond belief | When will secularism be allowed in the public square? (Cathy Young, Reason)

Religious freedom:

  • UK govt to introduce new laws against religious discrimination | The new laws to combat discrimination on the grounds of religion, which are to be introduced shortly, have been welcomed by all minority communities (Hindustan Times, India)
  • Also: Call to extend hate crime offence | Tough new laws are needed to tackle "hate crimes" towards gay, transgender or disabled people, Scottish experts have said (BBC)
  • Zimbabwe 'to curb' rights groups | Zimbabwe's government is tightening restrictions on human rights groups operating in the country, reports say (BBC)
  • Pontiff urges 'display of faith' | Pope John Paul II has invited believers to display signs and symbols of their faith with pride (BBC)
  • Exodus of Iraqi Christians in full flood as targeted killings grow | So far, 110 have been killed (The Independent, London)

Church & state in Africa:

  • Remove Christian nation nonsense | While no one would oppose the protection of our people's right to a religious faith or belief, a right to profess a religion of their choice, we feel it was madness to legislate faith and religion into the Republican Constitution (Editorial, The Post of Zambia)
  • Museveni showers scriptures | Quoting from the parable of the 10 lepers, whom Jesus healed, but only one returned to say thank you, and the Parable of talents, Museveni flanked by wife Janet, shocked worshipers by a display of his meticulous knowledge of the holy scriptures (New Vision, Uganda)
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  • Also: Museveni excites 'born agains' | Museveni challenged the born-again Christians to be an example to the rest of the people through good deeds (The Monitor, Uganda)

Religion & law:

  • Officer cleared of detaining minister | Milton police said an officer was justified when he handcuffed a black clergyman during an attempted car theft investigation this summer and have cleared the officer of wrongdoing (The Boston Globe)
  • Who has the right to make life? | The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of a man who has fathered seven children with five different women, but is $38,000 behind in child support payments (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)
  • Pastor in court on stun gun charge | John Miskelly, 37, is accused of possessing a prohibited weapon (The Belfast Telegraph)

Religion & politics:

  • On a mission to unite politics with faith | Former San Diego pastor works to mobilize evangelical Christians to believe in ballot (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Voters often look to faith | Devout people tend to let religion guide their vote -- often to Republican Party (Times Union, Albany, N.Y.)
  • Vatican buries the hatchet with Blair and Bush over Iraq | Senior Vatican officials have decided to put aside their differences with Tony Blair over the war in Iraq, calling for multinational troop reinforcements to secure the country's fledgling democracy (The Telegraph, London)
  • Muslims could prove crucial in election | With more than 1,200 Muslims and Arab-Americans taken into custody after the Sept. 11 attacks, and a U.S.-led war raging in Iraq, many Muslims oppose George Bush in the November presidential election. But their voting for John Kerry is not a slam-dunk, either (Associated Press)
  • Religion and political attitudes | Ever wonder where Bible-believing, church-attending evangelical Protestants stand on taxing the rich to help the poor? Or whether Latino Catholics have grown more or less favorable toward legal abortion over the last 12 years? Or what single religious group has grown more negative toward gay rights during that period? (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)
  • Evangelicals set political agenda | "Call to Civic Responsibility" urges both personal and institutional reform (The Denver Post)
  • Evangelicals sway policy in new era | Religious conservatives have the most political power in generations, but many remain convinced that the nation is headed for perdition (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)
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  • Everybody in this struggle thinks God is on his side | the interest of propaganda, political pandering, or just plain fear mongering, his name is used in vain in political debates, stump speeches, on bumper stickers and billboards, in campaign ads and newspaper columns (Tammy Paolino, Home News Tribune, East Brunswick, N.J.)

Religion & politics in Australia:

  • Family First's debut may hold some surprises | It has been widely assumed that the socially conservative, religious-based Family First party would back the Government on most issues. But there are signs they might not help the Government on several of its most contentious policies (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Howard begins fourth term in church | John Howard began the first day of his fourth term in office by going to church and no doubt giving thanks for his historic victory in the federal election (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Church & politics:

  • People of faith mount campaigns | Voter registration drives are taking place in congregations, on the Web and on the road (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Congregants' beliefs guide their votes | Religious groups get active in election efforts (The Arizona Republic)
  • Local pastor backing Bush | The Rev. William Turner voted for Bill Clinton twice and for Al Gore in 2000. But this year he is forming a coalition of African-American pastors in an effort to re-elect President Bush, who, he says, is "acting as the voice of God' by opposing same-sex marriage (Pasadena Star News, Ca.)
  • Bush campaign chides Kerry vote efforts | President Bush's campaign criticized a new Democratic effort to get out the religious vote for John Kerry on Friday, saying it could endanger churches' tax-exempt status by involving them in partisan political activity (Associated Press)
  • When churches head left | America's mainline Protestant churches are turning their political policymaking over to fringe leftists whose deepest instinct is to blame America and pummel Israel whenever possible (John Leo, U.S. News & World Report)
  • Politics and the pulpit | The church is a place for dialogue, not decree (Henry G. Brinton, The Washington Post)
  • In election season, IRS sits in judgment | Clergy withhold endorsements while touting free speech from pulpit (The Washington Post)
  • From the pulpit, a struggle for justice | The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr., the senior minister of Riverside Church, is determined to provide an alternative vision to the one offered by religious conservatives (The New York Times)

Catholic voters:

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  • Group of bishops using influence to oppose Kerry | A group of Catholic bishops is intent on throwing the weight of the church into the elections, identifying abortion and gay marriage as "non-negotiable issues" (The New York Times)
  • Clamor over Burke's words drowns out other voices of faith | Furthermore, he is merely a leader, not the collective conscience of Catholics (Katherine Hawker, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Catholics get chance to air policy views | Only the most devoted would volunteer to spend three days sitting in a church hall talking about diocesan policy. But that's what will happen next week when more than 400 members of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento - both clergy and laity - gather for a historic meeting (Sacramento Bee)
  • Voting our conscience, not our religion | If Catholic voters honestly examine the issues of consequence, they may find themselves returning to their Democratic roots. (Mark W. Roche, The New York Times)

Religion & John Kerry:

  • Kerry courts black voters at church stops | With just three Sundays left before Election Day, Sen. John Kerry is asking for all the help he can get from black voters and the Almighty (Associated Press)
  • Big punches for the closing rounds | In a last-minute bid for religious-minded voters, Kerry is planning a post-third-debate speech to discuss his faith and values and how both guide his political positions (The Washington Post, second item)
  • Flynn letter scolds Kerry on abortion | Raymond L. Flynn, the former mayor of Boston and US ambassador to the Vatican, injected himself into the presidential race yesterday with a pointed letter to John F. Kerry, his home-state senator and fellow Democrat (The Boston Globe)
  • Kerry seeks support in black churches | Talk of faith, politics well received (The Washington Post)
  • Kerry, Jackson tell blacks to ignore gay 'marriage' issue | Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson told black voters at a church here yesterday that President Bush's support for a constitutional amendment against homosexual "marriage" shouldn't be enough to earn their vote (The Washington Times)

Religion & George W. Bush:

  • Professors oppose Bush 'theology' | A group of Fuller Theological Seminary professors, saying they are responding to a "grave moral crisis' in America, are signing a statement opposing President Bush's alleged convergence of God, church and nation and what they call his "theology of war' (Pasadena Star News, Ca.)
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  • Bush's new way to sneak religion into government: Via health care | Morals are now mixing with medicine in the health plan cafeteria (Laura Berman, The Detroit News)
  • Ministers' role in close presidential race intensifies | Before stepping forward to say a prayer at a Bush-Cheney rally, Pastor Bob Huffaker had limited his political involvement to encouraging parishioners to vote their conscience. (Associated Press)


  • Abortion, stem cells mostly low-profile | Abortion and embryonic stem-cell research suddenly appeared on the election landscape last week, but both presidential candidates mostly have steered clear of the contentious issues, despite the fact that President Bush and Sen. John Kerry hold diametrically opposed views (The Washington Times)
  • Navigating abortion's gray zone | You could have knocked me over with a feather, but what was George W. Bush's best moment in the town hall debate on Friday? Why, his answer to the question on taxpayer funding of abortion, that's what (Tod Lindberg, The Washington Times)
  • Landmark ruling on abortion | A landmark judgment means fewer Northern Ireland women may have to travel to England for an abortion (BBC)
  • Late abortion furor erupts | A Melbourne hospital was ordered yesterday to release private medical records relating to a 32-week abortion. The decision was slammed yesterday by Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson, who said it could lead to backyard abortions (The Australian)

Stem cells:

  • For stem cell advocates, a death with resonance | For Senator John Kerry, whose aides have called embryonic stem cell research a "sleeper issue" in the presidential race, the death of Christopher Reeve puts a spotlight on the issue just as the senator has begun emphasizing it in the campaign (The New York Times)
  • Reeve's accident, intensity put spotlight on research | Paralyzed actor championed scientists' quest to find therapies for conditions like his that have defied cures (Chicago Tribune)
  • DNA pioneer defends stem cell research | Nobel laureate James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, on Monday defended stem cell research, saying researchers must be able to search for ways to improve quality of life despite the field's uncertainties (Associated Press)
  • Scientists split over stem cell measure | The debate over Prop. 71 does not break down into camps, such as the religious right versus the liberal left, or Republican versus Democrat. Some local scientists who otherwise back stem cell research say they have strong concerns about the measure (Marin Independent Journal, Ca.)
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Pharmacists & birth control:

  • Pharmacist refused to fill contraceptive | A former pharmacist said Monday he refused to fill a college student's prescription for birth control pills or transfer it to another pharmacy because he did not want to commit a sin (Associated Press)
  • Hearing held for pharmacist who denied birth control | Catholic protesters prayed in front of the offices of the state Department of Regulation and Licensing this morning before a disciplinary hearing began for a pharmacist who refused to provide birth control pills or transfer the prescription to another drug store (The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.)

British medical ethics:

  • Sick baby case could go to court | A hospital caring for a seriously-ill nine-month-old baby has said it may have to go to court for a decision over whether to keep on treating him (BBC)
  • Terminally ill patients fight for 'right to live' | New landmark court case could force doctors to prolong treatment even if it is medically futile (The Independent, London)

Animal-rights activists desecrate grave:

  • Prayers said at desecrated church | A Sunday service has gone ahead as usual at a church where animal rights activists have been blamed for digging up the body of an 82-year-old woman (BBC)
  • Earlier: Protest 'link' to desecrated grave | The grave of an 82-year-old woman whose family has been the target of animal rights protesters has been desecrated (BBC, Friday)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Marriage amendment defeat stirs questions | News that Louisiana's new constitutional marriage amendment had been overturned because it is too broad is reverberating in other states, where proposed amendments may be put to similar court tests (The Washington Times)
  • Supporters of gay marriage gather in D.C. | The U.S. Capitol at their backs, supporters of gay marriage pleaded, demanded and sang out for equal rights Monday, hoping they will succeed in the long term but mindful of the hostile political environment they face (Associated Press)

Same-sex marriage in California:

  • State argues on the right to marry | Lockyer defends laws upholding 'traditional understanding of marriage' while dismissing criticisms of same-sex unions (Los Angeles Times)
  • California official rules on gay marriage | Laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman do not run afoul of California's constitution, Attorney General Bill Lockyer declared Friday in a long-awaited legal opinion that sought to avoid offending either side in the gay marriage debate (Associated Press)
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Same-sex marriage in Canada:

  • Canadian Supreme Court hears arguments over gay marriages | Comments by several justices suggested that there was no stopping the steady expansion of equal marriage rights that began 16 months ago (The New York Times)
  • Gay marriages debated in Canada | Canada's Supreme Court is deliberating after two days of hearings on whether gay marriage is constitutional (BBC)
  • Charter must not be used to alter definition of marriage, court told | Province of Alberta, religious groups argue against same-sex legislation (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

Gene Robinson & Anglican Communion:

  • Gay N.H. bishop brings message of inclusion | In NW, Episcopal leader seeks to heal rifts created by selection (The Washington Post)
  • Gay bishop dismisses Anglican report | New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church's first openly homosexual prelate, predicted yesterday that an upcoming report judging the effect that his consecration has had on the world's 70 million Anglicans would not lead to a split (The Washington Times)
  • Episcopalian faith oath causes rift | Episcopalians who want to attend an upcoming conference will be asked to sign a faith oath before entering, a requirement that has split Episcopalians across south Georgia (Associated Press)
  • A bishop's battle | Jon Bruno has been fighting for gays and lesbians in his church for many years. Now he's fighting to hold the church together (The Advocate, gay magazine)

African Anglican reaction:

  • Kisekka rejects gay cash donation | The Anglican diocese has rejected an offer of $30,000 from a US diocese that supported the ordination of an American gay bishop (The Monitor, Uganda)
  • 'I didn't write the Bible' | Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, in an interview, also said he views the head of the Episcopal Church as an advocate for gays and lesbians and no longer trusts him (Daily News, South Africa)


  • Film depicts gay reorientation | A documentary entitled "I Do Exist" debuts this weekend, just in time for National Coming Out Day on Monday. The 48-minute film showcases the lives of five former homosexuals and raises the idea that change from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle is possible (The Washington Times)
  • At home in two worlds | These kids live with gay parents in a straight society. Now they're beginning to find their voices—and each other (Newsweek)

Anglicans & women:

  • Anglican traditionalists want to create male clergy enclave | Anglican traditionalists raised the stakes over women bishops yesterday by publishing a legal blueprint for splitting the Church of England into two parts, one with women clergy and one without (The Telegraph, London)
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  • Seal of approval for women bishops | Traditionalists in the Church of England are prepared to accept the ordination of women bishops, as long as they get their own "church within a church" in return (The Times, London, sub. req'd.)
  • Bishop hits at women's supporters | A traditionalist bishop from the Church of England heightened the rhetoric against making women bishops yesterday by accusing its supporters of being tyrannical extremists wishing to impose Stalinist thought-control on those in the pews (The Guardian, London)
  • The Church's ideas about women are from Noddy land | One might have thought that the Church of England, with its relatively short experience of democracy, would have been able to learn lessons from the experience of a much more mature legislature — but not a bit of it (Anthony Howard, The Times, London, sub. req'd.)
  • Toleration is key to the church's survival | When the bishops at the Council of Macon were asked in the fourth century AD to decide whether women had immortal souls, they decided - by one vote - that they did. In the 20th century it often seems the church is uncertain whether women are fully human (Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald)

Australian Anglicanism:

  • Church takes dim view of lay role | The Sydney diocese's covert practice of allowing lay people to consecrate and distribute the bread and wine of the Eucharist is likely to stay covert, with the Anglican Church parliament soundly refusing to condone the controversial practice yesterday (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • And the winner is … Sydney | Australia's Anglicans are fragmenting, but one "tribe" dominates (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
  • Church warned to reform or fail | Without radical reform, in 20 years the Anglican Church in Australia might be just a British experiment that failed, according to Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)


  • U.S. bishops reviewing sex abuse policy | The nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Friday they will spend the next nine months deciding whether to make any changes in the policy they enacted at the height of the clergy sex abuse crisis that includes permanently barring guilty priests from church work (Associated Press)
  • Nuns group hears abuse accounts | Officials of a Silver Spring-based organization that represents about 75,000 Catholic nuns have held a private meeting with four women and a man who allege that they were sexually abused by nuns (The Washington Post)
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  • Worcester Diocese establishes rules for working with children | The rules, among other things, prohibit any physical contact with a youth except for handshakes and ''high-fives'' and encourage church workers to avoid being alone with youths (Associated Press)
  • Calif. church abuse cases to accelerate | Hundreds of sexual abuse claims targeting the Roman Catholic Church in California have converged into one of the most complex civil litigation cases the state's judicial system has ever faced (Associated Press)

Closing Catholic parishes:

  • A church goes off campus, but will students follow? | Students at Northeastern University, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, and New England Conservatory are losing their house of worship but holding onto their community (The Boston Globe)
  • Parish on closing list takes appeal to higher authority | Calling the Boston Archdiocese's church closings ''a failed process," parishioners at St. Anselm in Sudbury are appealing to the Vatican to try to keep their parish alive (The Boston Globe)
  • For Cathedral High, independence is pricey | As church exits, fund-raising key (The Boston Globe)
  • A 'miracle' at final Mass | Parishioners see fallen statue as closure protest (The Boston Globe)
  • O'Malley revisits church closings | Seeks panel's advice to resolve disputes (The Boston Globe)

Losing religion:

  • 15% of Britons 'have no religion' | Seventy-two percent - or 41 million people - class themselves as Christian, according to the "Focus on Religion" statistics published on Monday (BBC)
  • Census shows the Christian faith is struggling in Scotland | Church leaders defended Scotland's level of faith yesterday after new census data appeared to show that Christianity has plummeted north of Hadrian's Wall (The Herald, Glasgow)

Church life:

  • Creativity is key to young church's growing appeal | Mosaic's services mix spirituality with visual and performing arts. It's getting the attention of other Christian leaders (Los Angeles Times)
  • Church lawyer: Dismiss lawsuit | Attorney for seceded St. James Church and two others says suit is not justified (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)
  • Preacher's pet | Old North Church celebrates first Blessing of the Animals (The Boston Globe)
  • Methodist bishop keeping the faith | Peter D. Weaver, the new bishop for the Lawrence-headquartered New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, is banking on PDFs -- public displays of faith, through vibrant congregations and their service to communities -- to help him open more churches (The Boston Globe)
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  • Warring Scots church groups in £10m lawsuit | Two warring factions of the Free Church of Scotland are to go to court today in a multi-million pound dispute over property (The Guardian, London)
  • Let's toast the Sabbath in a non-alcoholic way | It may seem a nuisance to run out of Scotch on Sunday morning and not be able to pick up a bottle immediately, but anyone who cannot make it to the next day without buying booze needs to be in rehab (Thomas W. Goodhue, Newsday)
  • Not your old-time religion | Some churches create alternative-format services to reach out to new worshippers (Corvallis Gazette-Times, Ore.)


  • One-time Satanist, arsonist becomes minister | Said devil made him set church fire (The Kentucky Post)
  • New CEO takes helm at Habitat for Humanity International | Millard Fuller to continue as founder president of house-building ministry (Press release)
  • Earlier: Habitat mulls its future without founder Fuller (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 27, 2004)
  • Earlier: How to Build Homes Without Putting Up Walls | Habitat for Humanity strives to keep its Christian identity—a tricky task, when everybody wants to join (Christianity Today, May 31, 2002)
  • Edward McAteer, who empowered Christian right, dies at 78 | Edward McAteer, who as the founder of the Religious Roundtable, a conservative Christian group, played a major role in establishing the Christian right's influence in American politics, died Wednesday after collapsing at his home in Memphis. He was 78 (The New York Times)
  • Manila's Cardinal Sin rushed to hospital | Sin, who retired as Archbishop of Manila last November due to poor health, reportedly suffered a heart attack (Reuters)
  • Also: Cardinal Sin 'stable' in hospital (BBC)
  • Recognizing his calling, he fulfills his service mission | It's not often you run across a guy who wields a chain saw, a PDA and a Bible with equal aplomb (The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.)
  • Local archbishop a man of drive and mystery | While the rest of the country was reeling from war protests in the 1960s, Alex Brunett was a young academic dean stirring up his own protest at a Roman Catholic seminary in Michigan (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Jacques Derrida dies:

  • Jacques Derrida dies at 74 | Controversial French philosopher whose theory of deconstruction gave us new insights into the meaning of language and aesthetic values (The Guardian, UK)
  • The meaninglessness of meaning | Jacques Derrida is dead, but his baneful ideas live on (Roger Kimball, The Wall Street Journal)

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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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