Federal judge in Nebraska: "No reasonable person" could support Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act
Their ultimate judgment was the same—the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is unconstitutional because it doesn't have a "health of the mother" clause—but the tone is radically different between today's federal court decision and last month's similar decision by a judge in New York. In the latter, U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey made his decision with dragging feet, calling partial-birth abortion "a gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized medical procedure" and many of the arguments against it "theoretical or false."

Today's decision from U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf, however, slams Congress for saying that the procedure is never necessary.

"According to responsible medical opinion, there are times when the banned procedure is medically necessary to preserve the health of a woman and a respectful reading of the congressional record proves that point," he wrote. "No reasonable and unbiased person could come to a different conclusion. … The long and short of it is that Congress arbitrarily relied upon the opinions of doctors who claimed to have no (or very little) recent and relevant experience with surgical abortions, and disregarded the views of doctors who had significant and relevant experience with those procedures. It is unreasonable to ignore the voices of the most experienced doctors and pretend that they do not exist."

Don't bother reading the 474-page decision, however. (Kopf begins his opinion with an apology for its length, saying, "I pity the poor appellate judge who has to slog through this thing.") Ultimately, while it's disappointing that three out of three federal judges ruled the ban unconstitutional, this is just one more stepping stone on the way to the Supreme Court.

"No one expected the constitutionality of the ban on partial-birth abortion to be decided at the federal district court level," American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow says in a press release. "The stage is now set for a lengthy and critical legal battle that ultimately will end up at the Supreme Court of the United States."

Sekulow, who called the decision "disappointing but not surprising," says it's wrong for the court to reject testimony on abortion from anyone but an abortionist. "In the opinion, the court refused to consider the expert testimony of well-recognized and highly respected medical experts simply because they had not performed abortions. This conclusion is not only legally flawed but shows the hostility the court exhibits to medical experts who have respect for human life."

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More press releases from pro-life groups will be posted at Word of Mouth's website. (Yeah, the site is overly political in this season, posting even Bush radio addresses on job creation and the like, but it's the only place Weblog knows about that compiles press releases from religious conservative groups. If you know another places, let me know.)

More on abortion:

  • The forgotten women | Why do "choice" advocates tolerate forced abortion? (Steven Ertelt, National Review Online)

  • 'Cosmetic abortion' fears over ability to identify defects earlier | Doctor who revealed foetuses 'walking' in the womb uses new technology to spot cleft palates (Sunday Herald, Glasgow, Scotland)

  • Donations by nuns to Emily's List questioned | The Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, the blue-robed nuns who have educated legions of Catholic children in southeastern Michigan, donated $200 to Emily's List, which raises money for Democratic female candidates who support the right to have abortions (Detroit Free Press)

  • Barred abortion ship runs low on fuel | The crew of a Dutch abortion ship say they will continue their efforts to enter Portuguese territorial waters despite a week-long stand-off with two naval vessels dispatched by Lisbon (The Observer, London)

  • Dutch abortion ship heads to Spain | A Dutch abortion ship, barred from Portuguese waters since last Saturday, is heading to Spain to resupply, Lusa news agency reported on Friday (Reuters)

  • Leigh's 'Vera Drake' poses abortion dilemma | Is the abortionist and mother who is the heroine of the new movie "Vera Drake" helping young girls or putting their lives in danger? (Reuters)

  • Abortion film opens at Venice | Film director Mike Leigh has premiered his most controversial project to date - an "overtly political" film about abortion - at the Venice Film Festival (BBC)

Glenn Wagner resigns, admits sermon plagiarism
Sad news out of North Carolina over the weekend: E. Glenn Wagner, the former Promise Keepers vice president who pastored Charlotte's massive Calvary Church, resigned over ongoing depression and sermon plagiarism.

In a letter to the church, Wagner (a contributor to Christianity Today sister publication Leadership Journal) talked of

a downward spiral, emotionally and mentally, which left me very tired and discouraged and fighting a losing battle with depression. … On a number of occasions, when I felt literally empty and devoid of any creative ability, I used material from the sermons of some of my brother preachers, in part or in whole, for my sermons, and did not give them credit. This was wrong. It is difficult to admit this failure, but now I ask for your forgiveness. Never before in my almost 30 years of ministry have I done anything like this. … . I believe that God continues to call me to ministry for the gospel. And I am hopeful that after we pass through these deep waters our ministry will, by God's grace, be stronger, and very honest.
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An editorial in today's Charlotte Observer shows grace—neither letting Wagner off the hook for plagiarizing nor attacking a fallen leader. Wagner's confession, the paper says,

is only the latest reminder that preachers aren't immune to the pressures and temptations that afflict the rest of us. … When preachers cheat, it's often because they don't do what they tell their congregation to do. Acknowledge your struggles. Admit you're a flawed vessel -- after all, God already knows it, and your congregation probably does, too. Do your best and trust God -- and the congregation -- to say that's enough. The preacher and congregation share the responsibility for building that honest relationship.

The New York Times gets on the religious schools beat
The New York Times has published two excellent articles on Christian higher education this week. The first, a Times Magazine profile of Biola University, is a slice-of-life-ish examination of how the neoevangelical rejection of fundamentalist isolationism—something that saw its largest battles in Billy Graham era following World War II—is playing itself out today. The cover kicker gets it wrong: "Fast Times at Fundamentalist U." But inside, writer Samantha Shapiro gets credit for using the F-word in its proper historical context.

Not even Bob Jones uses the term fundamentalist any more, but there has been a 50-year struggle going on in conservative Protestantism between this group and neoevangelicals—now just called evangelicals. The battle hasn't been over theology proper, but over cultural engagement vs. cultural withdrawal. Here's Shapiro:

Over the last 50 years, evangelical Christianity in the United States has moved away from fundamentalism, which is still dedicated to the idea of separation from an ungodly world. Evangelicals believe that the way to change culture is to participate in it, albeit with caution. Particularly in the last decade, as the movement has matured, intellectual institutions -- journals, scholarly presses and advanced academic work -- have quietly budded within evangelical circles. Biola's evolution from a Bible college to an accredited liberal-arts university offering advanced degrees is just one manifestation of this change.
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Sure, there are things one imagines Biola marketers wish were different about the article. (A little less about the gay students and a little more about the philosophy department, for example.) But for the rest of us, it's a true look at sometimes awkward life on Christian college campuses. (There's a notable difference, however, in the way that Biola students are portrayed here and the way Wheaton students were portrayed in Alan Wolfe's 2000 Atlantic Monthly piece. Is the difference accurate? The result of perspective? The result of Wolfe's sitting in on an upper-level political science class vs. Shapiro's visit to "Intro to Mass Media"?)

Today, the Times hits what's probably the biggest news story in Christian higher education right now: the Battle for Baylor. And again, the paper avoids caricaturing the debate as one of fundamentalists vs. progressives. Instead, it's pretty straightforward. Christianity Today readers won't get much news here, but they'll appreciate the approach:

Baylor is trying to buck the conventional wisdom, which states that when a religious college tries to raise its academic standing, its religious mission inevitably takes a backseat to other concerns, like recruiting big-name professors or adding to its endowment.

The paper also notes that "among Protestant schools that are serious about their religious identity, Baylor is rare in its willingness to hire Catholics and Jews — as long as they, too, can explain how their faiths impact their teaching and research."

Somewhat surprisingly, those quoted as raising eyebrows at Baylor's effort to be a top-tier evangelical research institution are dyed-in-the-wool leading evangelical thinkers—Alvin Plantinga (who puts Baylor's chances at "less than half" but applauds the effort) and Calvin College president Gaylen Byker (who says the historically Baptist school "cannot succeed as a generically Christian university. … Christianity-in-general is a way-station on the road to secularity").

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Education | Tariq Ramadan | Islam | War & terrorism | Ministry to Beslan victims | Crime | Abuse | Religious freedom | Headscarves | India | Church & state | Sudan | Life ethics | Politics | Homosexuality | Marriage & the family | Anglican Communion | Church life | Catholicism | Hurricane Frances | Missions & ministry | Spirituality | Theology | History | Books | Music | Television | Hollywood Hellhouse | Beyers Naude | People | More articles

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Tariq Ramadan and Notre Dame:

  • Tariq Ramadan | The making of a dangerous man (Fouad Ajami, The Wall Street Journal)

  • A visa revoked | Why was Tariq Ramadan forced from the U.S.? Like many other visa decisions that the State Department hands out every day, we don't know the answers (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Mole or savior? | Tariq Ramadan is radioactive (Arnaud de Borchgrave, The Washington Times)

  • Ramadan's US ban is ill-conceived | This decision sends the wrong message to reform-minded Arabs in Europe and the Muslim world about American commitment to the democratic principles of open debate and exchange of ideas that it seeks to export (Jonathan Laurence, The Daily Star, Lebanon)

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  • Cummins & company | We can no longer ignore Islamophobia, or the racism that fuels it (Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, London)

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  • Anti-Islamic bigotry is a blight on the West | The French government's ban on headscarves in schools is another symptom of an increasing discrimination against Muslims in Europe (Sunday Herald, Glasgow, Scotland)

  • Jihadists failing to win Muslim minds | Three years on, this ideology has not achieved its goal. Although Al Qaeda has resisted Cold War-inspired U.S. military strategy and directed a succession of bloody terrorist attacks from Bali to Madrid , jihad activists have not seized power anywhere (Gilles Kepel, Los Angeles Times)

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War & terrorism:

  • Police battle Turk nationalists at Istanbul church | Police used pepper gas and batons against up to 1,000 Turkish ultra-nationalists on Sunday protesting against Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based head of the world's Orthodox Christians (Reuters)

  • Churches to honor emergency workers at 9/11 memorial service | People of all faiths will join under one roof Thursday to memorialize the victims of 9/11 and pay tribute to the emergency service personnel who risk their lives for the safety of others (Evening Sun, Hanover, Pa.)

  • A lasting gift, from a terrific club that nobody wanted to join | One place where people sought refuge after 9/11 was the lovely old Trinity Episcopal Church on Washington Street (The New York Times)

  • War, not sex, is the issue | Most churches turn blind eye to nation's real moral crisis (Richard B. Hays, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)

  • Pro-Bush booth angers many U.S. Muslims | At the largest annual convention of American Muslims, a pro-Bush booth has stirred anger among attendees who believe the president's actions since Sept. 11, 2001, have hurt more innocent Muslims than terrorists (Associated Press)

  • I despair at the 9/11 naivety of Rowan Williams | The Archbishop of Canterbury dislikes our Western way of life and romanticizes the Islamic world as much as Marxists used to romanticize the USSR. This wouldn't matter much in normal times, but these days we live on the edge of destruction (Peter Mullen, The Times, London)

  • Terror's toll on Islam | More Islamic voices need to awaken to--and condemn--terrorism. Until then, peaceful Muslims will unfairly shoulder blame and, at times, worse (Chicago Tribune)

  • Voiceless & indifferent | What is a little disturbing is to see the effort put in by the pro-hijab lobby to mobilize public opinion on the subject while remaining virtually indifferent to more fundamental issues, such as the cruel hostage-taking and killing of hundreds of schoolchildren in Beslan, Russia (Editorial, Dawn, Pakistan)

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Ministry to Beslan victims:

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Catholic pub attacked in Ireland:

  • Belfast extremists ram Catholic pub | Protestant extremists crashed a forklift truck into a Belfast pub packed with Catholics early Friday and tossed gasoline bombs into the building on a road on the front line of tensions between the two communities (Associated Press)

  • Bar attacked with mechanical digger | A mechanical digger was smashed into a Catholic bar in a flashpoint district of Belfast on Friday in an attack local politicians blamed on Protestants (Reuters)


  • Family, friends remember slain couple | Investigators still have no suspects in the deaths of two Christian camp counselors killed on a California beach (Associated Press)

  • Parole board splits on murderer's freedom | A convicted murderer, hoping some unusual support from his victim's family would help him gain freedom from prison, now must wait another five years before he can try again for parole (The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.)

  • Pastor-suspect denied bail | Wife's slaying unsettles congregation of Sanford church (Associated Press)

  • Also: Murder charge divides church | Two weeks after Pastor Melvin Bynum was charged with killing his wife, his congregation is still reeling (The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.)

Romero murder:

  • El Salvador church wants Romero murder case reopened | Maria Julia Hernandez, chief legal officer for the San Salvador Archdiocese, told a news conference that in light of the court hearing in California at the weekend, El Salvador should "reopen the case so it can be investigated" (Reuters)

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  • Cloak of silence covered the sin | The little Eglon Community Church that found a viper in its midst still isn't quite ready to completely cast him out (The Sun, Bremerton, Wash.)

  • 104 new claims hit Anglicans | The Anglican Church has again been tainted by claims of abuse, with 104 new disclosures of sexual assault, bullying and harassment involving 75 members of the Anglican Church in Melbourne in the past 15 months (The Australian)

  • Also: Anglican Church in damage control again | The Anglican Church is again in damage control, after receiving around seventy complaints of sexual assault, bullying and harassment over the last fifteen months (AM, Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

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  • Austin priest resigns amid sex scandal | Longtime community activist from St. Julia's Church can no longer function as a priest (Austin American-Statesman, Tex.)

  • Suspected abductor had previous arrest | Mesquite pastor is believed to have abducted 12-year-old stepdaughter; Amber Alert issued (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Fugitive friar is sent to Missouri | The Franciscan order moves the suspect in a Canadian molestation case out of the Santa Barbara Mission after a public outcry (Los Angeles Times)

  • Minister at Salvation Army arrested in child sex assaults | Salvation Army Capt. Walter Madrigal was described as a friendly, capable and outgoing pastor, but police suspect he molested two girls. (The Denver Post)

  • Orange diocese settles molestation suit; priest still in post | The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange quietly paid $500,000 late last year to settle a molestation lawsuit against a high-ranking priest who, nine months after the payout, remains the official pastor of a Newport Beach parish (Los Angeles Times)

  • Judge says lawyers can question cardinal | A California judge ruled on Friday that Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, the leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, can be questioned by lawyers in a clergy sexual abuse case under way in Oakland (The New York Times)

  • Judge throws out some clergy abuse cases | Judge Ronald Sabraw said plaintiffs' attorneys had not presented any direct evidence the church "knew or had reason to know, or were otherwise on notice, of any unlawful sexual conduct" by the priest, who is now dead (Associated Press)

  • Judge declares church abuse case mistrial | The trial of a former Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in the 1970s ended in a mistrial Friday after the jury deadlocked (Associated Press)

  • Group asks for censure of bishop | Supporters of alleged victims of clergy abuse say Orange County Catholic leader has mishandled charges. (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

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Religious freedom:

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  • Vietnamese Protestants condemn new religious law | The Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship, an organization of about 30 unregistered church organizations representing hundreds of house churches, called on the government to allow freedom to worship (Radio Australia)

  • Also: Vietnam — still | Fighting for the same freedoms, 30 years on (Paul Marshall, National Review Online)

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Veils & headscarves:

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  • Church wields growing political clout in Kerala | Christians in Kerala, perhaps the most influential community in the coastal state, are trying to grab a greater share of the political pie (Indo-Asian News Service, India)

  • Also: Muslim growth rate up by 1.5 pc | The Christian growth rate has, however, gone up by 1.1%, from 21.5% to 22.6% (The Times of India)

  • Also: Conversions on the rise: VHP | The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has alleged that conversion of Hindus to Christianity has been on the rise ever since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government took over (The Hindu, India)

  • Also: India's Hindu nationalists rile at rise of Muslim, Christian populations | The leader of India's Hindu-nationalist opposition on Tuesday criticized an increased growth rate among minority Muslims and Christians, urging them to practice family planning to stem a threat to the "unity and integrity" of the nation (Associated Press)

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  • Update: BJP backtracks from religious census remarks | The BJP on Wednesday appeared to backtrack from its remarks that a rise in growth rate of Muslims and Christians compared to a dip among Hindus would upset the country's demographic profile (IANS, India)

  • Hindu nationalist leader released after 13 days' detention | Uma Bharti, a senior leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, was freed after a court ordered all charges against her dropped. The court gave no explanation for its ruling (Associated Press)

  • Also: Indian politician freed from jail | Uma Bharti, a former nun, was sentenced over charges that she incited Hindu-Muslim violence 10 years ago (BBC)

  • Kolkata bishop's effigy burnt | A large number of members of the Church of North India on Tuesday burnt effigies of the Bishop of Kolkata and demonstrated before his official residence here, to mount pressure on him to resign following allegations of corruption against him (PTI, India)

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Church & state:

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  • Thousands flee new Darfur clashes | More than 3,000 people have fled renewed violence in Sudan's troubled Darfur province in the past few days, the United Nations says (BBC, video)

  • Witness to genocide | We all know that genocide is taking place, in the Darfur region of western Sudan, and you did not hear it discussed during eight nights of rousing oratory at two conventions (Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post)

  • Annan says he 'not satisfied' with Sudan on Darfur | U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday Sudan needed to do much more to protect civilians in Darfur and accept a larger monitoring force from the 53-member African Union (Reuters)

  • Annan not satisfied with Sudan's security | Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he is not satisfied with Sudan's efforts to provide security in the conflict-ridden western Darfur region and called on Khartoum to redouble its efforts to protect the population (Associated Press)

  • Cleric accuses aid agencies of proselytizing in Darfur | A prominent Egyptian cleric last week accused international aid agencies operating in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region of using relief distribution to convert the region's Muslim population to Christianity (AFP)

  • U.S. report finds Sudan promoted killings | Use of term 'genocide' debated ahead of Powell testimony on Darfur atrocities (The Washington Post)

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Life ethics:

  • One-child policy 'too successful' | Shanghai has stopped rewarding childless couples, reflecting concern at the success of China's birth control policies, which limit urban couples to one child (The Guardian, London)

  • Go ahead for 'designer baby' | A County Down couple have been given the go-ahead to begin controversial embryo screening treatment which could save the life of their son (BBC, audio)

  • Driven to take morning-after pills | Health workers are routinely arranging for Scottish schoolgirls to receive emergency contraception despite a vow by First Minister Jack McConnell that the morning-after pill will not be handed out in schools (The Scotsman)

  • Jewish group endorses stem cell research | There's a new kid on the block in the political debate about embryonic stem cell research, and her name is Hadassah (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • George Shultz endorses stem cell issue | Former Secretary of State George Shultz on Tuesday became the most prominent Republican to endorse a $3 billion California ballot measure (Associated Press)

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Catholicism & politics:

  • Catholic voters given leeway on abortion rights issue | Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's arbiter of doctrinal orthodoxy, has given Roman Catholic voters leeway under certain circumstances to vote for politicians who support abortion rights, U.S. Catholic officials said yesterday (The Washington Post)

  • Catholic bishops discuss integrity, permissible election activities | Faith and politics are at issue in separate documents issued by the Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Giuliani honor draws anti-abortion fire | In the view of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, politicians who belong to the church but depart from its teachings on abortion should be denied honors from a Catholic institution. Unless, some would say, you happen to be a national hero of Sept. 11 who has raised a lot of money for a church-affiliated hospital. (The New York Times)

  • Catholics told to look to their souls, not their wallets | The Bishop of Parramatta has called on Catholics to stand up "for moral and ethical values", not self-interest, when voting (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Politics in church:

James Dobson:

Democrats & religion:

Republicans & religion:

  • Christian conservatives leave convention in great spirits | They may have been pushed mostly out of the prime-time spotlight, but Christian conservatives left the Republican National Convention on Friday inspired by one of the most socially conservative party platforms in years and determined to reelect a president they viewed as an ideological soul mate (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Bush agenda in hands of religious right | What some religious people want to do to the Constitution is radical and dangerous (Linda Valdez, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • GOP's phone line to God | The Republicans talk as if they have DSL while the Democrats are still on dial-up (Derrick Z. Jackson, The Boston Globe)

  • Black hat trick | The Bush campaign's secret obsession with Orthodox Jews (Noam Scheiber, The New Republic)

Religion & politics:

  • Group decries mixing religion and politics | A growing number of theologians, ministers and citizens are taking issue with statements made by evangelical Christian leaders suggesting that God has chosen sides in the presidential election (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Delivering the religious vote | Here's a roster of political movers and shakers who help candidates appeal to members of America's diverse religious faiths (The Wall Street Journal, via Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

  • The blurring of Christianity | Has religious right hijacked American flag and Jesus? (Barrie Hartman, The Denver Post)

  • For Fla. GOP, morning after the night before | A political storm is roiling Florida's U.S. Senate race, fueled by hard-hitting accusations that Republican nominee Mel Martinez leveled against his chief rival in the closing days of this past Tuesday's GOP primary (The Washington Post)

  • Pastors urge new citizens to vote | Interfaith drive stresses need for immigrants to register and participate (The Sacramento Bee, Ca.)

  • Bush vs. Kerry: Whose side is God on? | From Catholic debate over John Kerry's Catholic faith to fight over partisan appeals in houses of worship, issues involving religion, politics are shaping public opinion in unpredictable ways (Charles C. Haynes, First Amendment Center)

  • Undivine double standard | God is O.K. on the left, but not the right (Paul Kengor, National Review Online)

  • Also: Voters of faith | While Bush's faith is not unusual, the same can't be said for John F. Kerry (Paul Kengor, The American Spectator)

Alan Keyes:

  • Jesus wouldn't vote for Obama, Keyes says | Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes declared Tuesday that Jesus, if he were able to vote in Illinois this year, would oppose Democrat Barack Obama because of votes Obama has cast in the state Senate against anti-abortion legislation (Chicago Tribune)

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  • Keyes puts his faith in politics | Alan Keyes' biting attacks on homosexuals and abortion rights advocates have disturbed many in the Republican U.S. Senate candidate's own party, but the stridency of his sentiments is very much in keeping with a long-established strain of political thinking embraced by the Christian Right (Chicago Tribune)

  • Alan Keyes becomes GOP's burden | Keyes is by no means nuts. His campaign makes perfect sense, not as a traditional campaign but as a politically charged evangelical crusade, spreading his gospel through media that he probably sees as captivated by a conspiracy of little red liberal demons with pitchforks (Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune)

  • Conservative leaders cooling toward Keyes | They winced at his "Israeli uzi" comment. They questioned his position on reparations. But the "selfish hedonist" remark did damage (The Illinois Leader)

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  • Welcome to the Rainbow State | Long before the world heard Gov. James E. McGreevey declare himself a "gay American," New Jersey was quietly building itself a reputation as one of the most hospitable places in America for gays and lesbians (The New York Times)

  • The foe the archbishop, Larry Clark, and John McCain have in common | Kentucky has said "no" to the gay community since 1998, when Rep. Larry Clark joined 83 other members of the state House of Representatives to pass the same-sex marriage ban that's still on the books. You wouldn't know that, if you just looked at what Clark's opponent, Trace Chesser, has put on the Internet (David Hawpe, The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Mugabe fuels 'Reformation' against gays | The African Anglican church is taking its cue from the unlikeliest champion of family values, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who in 1993 flamboyantly but infamously branded gay people as "worse than dogs and pigs" (Trevor Grundy, The Scotsman)

  • Buy, gay, straight | Consumers are satiated by choice, so sexual orientation has become another product (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Same-sex marriage raises emotional response | A gay Billings couple who celebrated 15 years together this summer wanted to mark the occasion in a special way. So the two men approached their pastor, the Rev. John Shuck, and the people of First Presbyterian Church (Billings Gazette, Mont.)

  • Same-sex marriage court fight takes shape | San Francisco and couples' lawyers outline strategies. Lockyer is mum on defense plan (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Republicans unruffled by silence on 'marriage' | Republicans and others who seek to ban same-sex "marriage" say they're satisfied with the limited attention that speakers paid to the issue at the Republican National Convention last week (The Washington Times)

  • Amendment skirmishes continue | Legal battles regarding state marriage amendments are over in Louisiana — and possibly in Michigan — but three other states still are involved in the fight to put the issue to a statewide vote (The Washington Times)

  • Pope denounces gay marriage in Canada | Pope John Paul II kept up his campaign against gay marriage Saturday, telling the ambassador from Canada — where some provinces allow same-sex couples to wed — that such unions create a "false understanding" of marriage (Associated Press)

  • Update: Ottawa says gay marriage up to parliament, not pope | Canada will take note of Pope John Paul's opposition to gay marriage, but its legality will be decided by Parliament, the government said on Tuesday (Reuters)

  • Gay activists in the G.O.P. withhold endorsement | The board of the Log Cabin Republicans voted overwhelming on Tuesday night against endorsing President Bush because of his support for an amendment banning gay marriage (The New York Times)

Same-sex marriage ban struck (again) in Washington:

  • Second judge rules against state's gay marriage ban | Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks says it doesn't serve a valid purpose and may instead weaken families who are trying to make stable homes for children (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Gays are a protected class, state judge rules | In what legal experts say is a bold finding that gays and lesbians are part of a protected, minority class, a Superior Court judge yesterday declared the laws that bar them from marriage unconstitutional (The Seattle Times)

  • Washington's gay-marriage ban struck down | Judge says state constitution broadly guarantees equality (Associated Press)

  • Wash. State court says gay marriage is legal | A second Washington state judge ruled on Tuesday that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, saying that the administration cannot limit the legal benefits of marriage to heterosexual couples (Reuters)

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Marriage & the family:

  • Utah high court rejects polygamy appeal | The Utah Supreme Court on Friday denied an appeal from a man convicted of having five wives who argued that anti-bigamy laws violated his First Amendment right to religious freedom (Associated Press)

  • Of lust and the law | Ten states, including Virginia, have anti-fornication statutes as well, prohibiting sex before marriage (Jonathan Turley, The Washington Post)

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Sexual ethics:

  • Ignorance will not stop teen pregnancy | What the Catholic Church has to do with sexual education, I've no idea. It's pretty obvious that branch of religion isn't remotely interested in sex. They've made their mother figure into a virgin, no one in charge has ever had sex (apart from unfortunate altar boy incidents). (Carmed Reid, Scotland on Sunday)

  • The church has a role in the sex education debate | Learning to respect the dignity of others while maintaining one's own identity is a vital skill for children (Alison Elliot, Sunday Herald, Glasgow, Scotland)

  • Kirk rebels back cardinal | More than 80% of Church of Scotland ministers have defied kirk leaders and expressed support for a campaign of opposition to sex education by Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the Scottish Catholic leader (The Times, London)

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Anglican Communion breakup:

  • US bishops fly in for 'sanctions' talks | A delegation of American bishops flew into London yesterday for talks with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, following reports that they are to be severely disciplined by the worldwide Anglican Church (The Telegraph, London)

  • Anglican leaders seek to heal gay bishops rift | Anglican leaders, buffeted by a bitter row over gay bishops, put the finishing touches on Monday to a crucial report seeking to heal deep divisions in the church (Reuters)

  • Diocese sues breakaway parishes | Episcopalians lay claim to property in North Hollywood, Long Beach and Newport Beach (Los Angeles Times)

  • Diocese files suit against church | Episcopal bishop says property belongs to the national church. Local leaders hold steadfast in their secession stand. (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach , Ca.)

  • Push to be inclusive creates a divide | By reaching out to homosexuals, L.A. Bishop J. Jon Bruno alienated three parishes. He's no stranger to crisis.(Los Angeles Times)

  • L.A. bishop fires leaders of churches | Head of Episcopal diocese informs pastors, vestries of three breakaway churches, including Newport Beach church, that new priests, directors to take over in their communities (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Gay bishop ordination still rocking Episcopal Church | Three more parishes have broken away from the group because of the ordination of an openly gay bishop last year. Now, the parishes may be sued by their former bishop (Day to Day, NPR)

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  • Bishop asserts control | L.A.'s Episcopal prelate assigns assistant bishops to take over three breakaway parishes (Los Angeles Times)

  • St. James receives a Texas-size boost | Maurice Benitez, former bishop of the Diocese of Texas, encourages nondenominational path (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • A prelate of evangelical intensity | Ugandan berates the American church and says it's departed from historic teachings (Los Angeles Times)

  • Priest steers O.C. parish through rough waters | Leader of a church that left Episcopal diocese has had a long journey to the center of schism (Los Angeles Times)

  • Church practicing what they preach | St. James Church in Newport Beach has a right, with its refractory stance toward the Episcopal church, to break from it (Editorial, Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Reconciling denomination versus church doctrine | What leeway should individual churches have when their views deviate from that of their denomination? And, by extension, should that church have the right to break away from its denomination? Religious leaders respond (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Ex-archbishop of Canterbury to preside at confirmation | Several hundred Virginia Episcopalians are so unhappy with their bishop's support for homosexuality that they are bringing in the retired archbishop of Canterbury to preside over a confirmation ceremony later this month (The Washington Times)

Anglican Communion:

  • Bell-ringers 'sacked for being too traditional' | A team of bell-ringers has been sacked in a row between Anglican traditionalists and modernisers at an 11th century church (The Telegraph, London)

  • Women priests take ordination lead over men | The Church of England will ordain more women than men to the priesthood next year for the first time in its history (The Times, London)

  • Church counts its blessings | In publishing its attendance figures for 2002, the Church of England averaged out the figures for the whole of October, instead of counting the numbers on a particular Sunday. That allowed the church to claim a dramatic rise in attendance figures for services (The Guardian, London)

  • The trouble with George | The spectacle of George Carey in his post-archiepiscopal retirement has not been an edifying one (Hywel Williams, The Guardian, London)

  • End of the world is nigh, says Williams | Because of an impending environmental crisis, he says (The Times, London)

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Church life:

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Southern Baptists leader preaches across U.S.:

United Methodist bishops:

  • Willimon settles in to lead Methodists | New United Methodist Bishop William Willimon has often needled his denomination for being boring and irrelevant and having a bulky bureaucracy (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • Bishop answers her 'call' | The new leader of Minnesota's United Methodists recently sat down with the Pioneer Press for a Q&A session (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  • Methodists get new bishop in surprise change | Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar replaces Bishop Alfred Johnson who surprised Methodists by announcing in an open letter July 26 that he would seek early retirement due to "lingering stress from marital discord which finally culminated in a divorce in January" and because of a complaint recently made against him to the Methodists' College of Bishops (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

Church buildings:

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  • Envisioning a hub for the ages | It's not about the politics of building expansion for Dave Rockness. At least that's not the impression he gives (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Superstore construction set to start next week | Escrow closed last week on the complicated real estate deal in which Cypress obtained the Costco site from the Los Alamitos-based Cottonwood Christian Center (Los Angeles Times)

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Minimalist monastery:

  • Chants would be a fine thing | John Pawson is famous for his elegantly austere Calvin Klein store in New York. Now he has turned his minimalist genius to a Cistercian monastery in the Czech Republic. The monks had second thoughts about designer robes (The Observer, London)

  • Cloistered chic of the minimalist monastery | On Thursday, for the first and almost certainly the last time, the public was allowed to see inside a £5 million building that is destined to exist in perpetual isolation and silence (The Telegraph, London)

Closing Catholic churches:


  • Pope travels to Adriatic shrine | Pope John Paul was greeted by tens of thousands of pilgrims as he arrived at a shrine on Italy's Adriatic coast to beatify three future saints (BBC, video)

  • Also: Pope celebrates Mass near hilltop shrine | A frail Pope John Paul II put three more Roman Catholics on the road to sainthood during a visit to a hilltop shrine Sunday, struggling at times but cheered on by 200,000 pilgrims (Associated Press)

  • Also: Pope prays for Beslan school dead at Italy Mass | Pope John Paul prayed for the victims of the "inhumane violence" of Russia's Beslan school tragedy as he said Mass on Sunday before 200,000 people in central Italy (Associated Press)

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Hurricane Frances:

  • Hurricane-damaged churches hold services | Church attendance was down, but not everyone heeded emergency officials' pleas that they stay home or in shelters (Associated Press)

  • Worshippers count blessings | The front door of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church was wide open to the street and the balmy breeze Monday night when 60 or so parishioners gathered for post-Frances worship (The Orlando Sentinel)

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Missions & ministry:

  • One by one: Faithful step up to fight AIDS | As AIDS kills more than 8,000 every day, faithful individuals step forward to fight the disease (The Dallas Morning)

  • Twists of faith | Entering a 10th season out of football, former CU coach Bill McCartney still believes in the road he chose despite the ups and downs the program has endured (Rocky Mountain News)

  • Religion on a roll | Skate park is outreach (Daily Press, Hampton Roads, Va.)

  • Voice mail offers hope for homeless | Seattle-based national program that provides free voice mail to the homeless and other ``phoneless'' people, offering them a connection to potential employers, social service agencies and relatives (Associated Press)

  • Skin color a plus for non-white missionaries overseas | Today, as many as 10,000 long-term U.S. missionaries are minorities (Baltimore Sun, via Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette)

  • Words and deeds | Evangelists preach, run social programs (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)

  • Stuck at the border | Missions group waiting for money (Salisbury Post, N.C.)

  • Muslim peril in a new faith | Christians from across the country traveled to Falls Church this weekend to attend the first Muslim Background Believers Convention, a cross-cultural conference aimed at improving understanding and relations between born-again Christians from Muslim backgrounds and born-again Christians from Protestant or Catholic backgrounds (The Washington Times)

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  • Under this tent, a tuneup for the soul | Setting up a tent revival on a patch of sidewalk next to an auto shop by the West Side Highway doesn't exactly seem like a formula for success (The New York Times)

  • Revelations | Bible study at Hooters, Dead Sea Scrolls debate, and other stories (The Washington Post)

  • Responding to prayers | A teenager who barely survived an accident returns from Britain to thank the police officer who started a prayer circle for her (Los Angeles Times)

  • The saint of Gainesville | Founder of homeless ministry plans for succession (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Preaching God's word | Pastor Rafael Cordero helps lead people to Christian faith (Dodge City Daily Globe, Kan.)

  • In God we trust … to not commit a misdemeanor | Some Christians spend more time worrying about Jesus' return than they do in carrying out his mission (Canton Repository, Oh.)

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  • The big tent of religion | Beyond the theological essentials -- Jesus' identity as God's Son, the status of baptism and communion as sacraments, the Bible as God's word -- there is an awful lot of room in the pews for ideological diversity (Gustav Niebuhr, The Boston Globe)

  • Private prayer in a public place | Saying grace before meals at home is a prevalent practice but some people are embracing it during meals eaten in public (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Nothing doing | Churches throw weight behind movement to get Americans to slow down, look inward (The Boston Globe)

  • Evangelicals are strict, not stupid | There are, no doubt, many things wrong with evangelicals. But if one thing can be said in their favour, it is that they remain consistent in their allegiance to Christian tradition (Colin Sedgwick, The Guardian, London)

  • Broken leg leads to a spiritual journey | While hiking in Israel, Donna Bangma experienced kindness, prayers of others (The Holland Sentinel, Mich.)

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  • Exhibit shows Bibles as signs of the changing times | The Huntington Library collection spans 1,000 years, chronicling the book's evolution from a tome for the elite to a worldwide bestseller (Los Angeles Times)

  • 'The End of Faith': Against toleration | It's not often that I see my florid strain of atheism expressed in any document this side of the Seine, but ''The End of Faith'' articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood (Natalie Angier, The New York Times Book Review)

  • Godspells | Dean Hamer's The God Gene would be much better if the author did not try to present a personal mistrust of religion as settled fact (Mark Oppenheimer, The Washington Post)

  • New books put women's stories in the forefront | This summer and fall, four new books on women and religion aim to subvert the sense of the ordinary and assert their place in the growing market for popular religion books (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Da Vinci Code readers savor Last Supper | Many visitors nowadays admit the sensational tale of scheming priests, secret societies and pagan symbols was the main reason for their visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie church, on an otherwise quiet street in Italy's business capital (Reuters)

  • A quest to shed light on chapel's secrets | Thousands of avid fans who have read The Da Vinci Code now harbour some suspicion that the Holy Grail is, indeed, somehow linked to Midlothian's Rosslyn Chapel (Evening News, Scotland)

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  • Gospel singer wins 'Indonesian Idol' title | A 24-year-old woman who sings in a Christian church is the first "Indonesian Idol," winning the hit reality television show in the world's most populous Muslim country (Reuters)

  • 4HIM's Chrisman preps solo debut | Andy Chrisman, a member of Dove Award-winning Christian group 4HIM, is launching a new label and prepping the release of a solo project (Reuters)

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  • Silver Ring special features pop diva | The Silver Ring Thing has a date with pop star Christina Aguilera as part of MTV's push to get out the vote (Pittsburg Tribune-Review)

  • Thou shalt rock | Val Kilmer brings a musical Moses onstage, his third time in the Red Sea part (Los Angeles Times)

  • Crossing over | Songs with religion and spiritual themes are making their move up mainstream charts (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, alt. site)

  • Songs of praise | Its singers were recruited in the township churches of South Africa. Now the Soweto Gospel Choir is selling out shows on almost every continent (The Guardian, London)

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Television & sex:

  • Racy content on TV may encourage teen sex | Teenagers who watch a lot of television with sexual content are twice as likely to engage in intercourse than those who watch few such programs, according to a study published yesterday (The Washington Post)

  • TV might rush teens into sex | A steady diet of sex-saturated television might encourage teens to start sex earlier, a national survey of 1,762 kids suggests today (USA Today)

  • Crackdown urged on sexual imagery | The majority of Britons believe that there should be tougher restrictions on sexual images on children's television and magazines to discourage under-age sex, a survey has revealed (The Telegraph, London)

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Hollywood Hellhouse:

  • 'Hellhouse!' pokes fun at fundamentalists' horror shows | Gruesome scenes in real hell houses are intended to shock adolescents into believing that Jesus is their only escape from the fiery wages of sin. The folks in Hollywood say they're using the drama to scoff at a literal hell and at ministers who try to scare the hell out of children (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Haunted Hollywood | Bill Maher goes to hell (Catherine Seipp, The Wall Street Journal)

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Beyers Naude obituaries:

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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