Inside the "originalist" Gonzales opinion that has pro-lifers so upset
When Sandra Day O'Connor announced her resignation from the Supreme Court, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson issued a press release through his more political Focus on the Family Action organization. "Focus Action Calls for Strict Constructionist," said the headline.
"The rulings by the Court this June, particularly the schizophrenic decisions on the Ten Commandments cases, have once again demonstrated the desperate need for justices who will interpret the Constitution as it was written, not as the latest fads of legal theorists dictate," Dobson said. "President Bush must nominate someone whose judicial philosophy is crystal clear."
Dobson's press release makes no mention of abortion or Roe v. Wade, nor does a Focus on the Family CitizenLink article about conservatives' criticism of Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general who is widely seen as Bush's leading candidate to replace O'Connor.
That criticismwhich includes Focus on the Family's announcement that it would publicly oppose Gonzaleshas been loud enough that Bush said publicly, "Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine. When a friend gets attacked, I don't like it."
But why are conservatives upset about Gonzales? Some, National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru notes, are upset that "he weakened the administration's brief to the Supreme Court in the University of Michigan racial-preference cases. Solicitor General Ted Olson wanted the administration to say that the use of racial preferences to achieve diversity is constitutionally impermissible. Gonzales overruled him."
But the big one for religious conservatives is Gonzales's "record" on abortion.
As a judge, Gonzales has one big strike against him: allowing a Texas minor to receive an abortion without parental notification.
Gonzales begins his opinion by denying that it reflects his views on abortion. "It has been suggested that the Court's decisions are motivated by personal ideology," he complains.
To the contrary, every member of this Court agrees that the duty of a judge is to follow the law as written by the Legislature. This case is no different. The Court's decision is based on the language of the Parental Notification Act as written by the Legislature and on established rules of construction. Any suggestion that something else is going on is simply wrong.
Legislative intent is the polestar of statutory construction. Our role as judges requires that we put aside our own personal views of what we might like to see enacted, and instead do our best to discern what the Legislature actually intended. We take the words of the statute as the surest guide to legislative intent. Once we discern the Legislature's intent we must put it into effect, even if we ourselves might have made different policy choices.
The Texas parental notification law, Gonzales wrote, contained significant exceptions. All a girl has to do to avoid telling her parents of her abortion is to show that she's "mature and sufficiently well informed to make the decision," that telling her parents "would not be in [her] best interest, or that such notification might lead to abuse of some kind."
If minors take advantage of those exceptions, it's the legislature's job to close the loopholes, not the court's, Gonzales wrote. "To construe the Parental Notification Act so narrowly as to eliminate bypasses, or to create hurdles that simply are not to be found in the words of the statute, would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism. As a judge, I hold the rights of parents to protect and guide the education, safety, health, and development of their children as one of the most important rights in our society. But I cannot rewrite the statute to make parental rights absolute, or virtually absolute, particularly when, as here, the Legislature has elected not to do so."
(Note, by the way, that the phrase "unconscionable act of judicial activism" does not refer to fellow Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, recently confirmed to the 5th District US Court of Appeals, or to her dissent, as some have claimed.)
This case, No. 00-0224 In Re Jane Doe, was messy. And certainly Owen's dissentwhich did not challenge Roe v. Wadewas principled and focused on "strictly a legal issue," rather than personal biases.
But what can be said about Gonzales? That he's a judicial activist akin to O'Connor or David Souter? That he's soft on abortion? That he, as one right-wing online publisher wrote, "would be a disaster. Might as well let the American Civil Liberties Union name the next justice"?
No: What can be said is that he's really into the separation of powers and eager to interpret the law as it was written, not as the latest fads of legal theorists dictate.
"There are no litmus tests for judicial candidates," Gonzales told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. "My own personal feelings about [abortion] don't matter. The question is, what is the law, what is the precedent, what is binding in rendering your decision. Sometimes, interpreting a statute, you may have to uphold a statute that you may find personally offensive. But as a judge, that's your job."
Now, there are many pro-life activists who say he's wrong. Among them is American Life League president Judie Brown, who says life takes precedence over the rule of law. "Gonzales's position is clear: The personhood of the pre-born human being is secondary to technical points of law, and that is a deadly perspective for anyone to take," she wrote to supporters. By supporting Gonzales, Brown said, Bush is "betraying the babies."
But Dobson and others have taken a very different tack than Brown. They have not made abortion the issue. They have made originalism vs. judicial activism the issue. Which puts them in a bind.
'Judgments in conformity with the laws'
The Jane Doe case isn't the only item making pro-lifers nervous about Gonzales. There's also this reported 2004 exchange with anti-abortion activist C.J. Willkie:
Q: Judge Gonzales, we're hearing conflicting reports about your position on abortion. Can you tell us where you stand?
A: As a judge, I have to make judgments in conformity with the laws of our nation.
Q: Would you say that, regarding Roe v. Wade, stare decisis would be governing here?
A: Yes. As a judge, I have to make judgments in conformity with the laws of our nation.
Q: Judge Gonzales, it's well known that the Clinton administration had a very clear and consistent litmus test in regard to judicial nominations. If that person was not pro-abortion, they were not nominated. In light of this, do you ask your nominees what their position is on abortion?
A: No, we do not. We judge them on a very broad basis of conservatism and constitutional construction.
Q: Many of us feel that the Constitution does not speak to permissive abortion. Would you comment?
A: The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.
Now, some claim that that final sentence (if Gonzales said it and said it as bluntly as that) is evidence that he is a judicial activist. That's utterly irreconcilable with his judicial writings, such as the Jane Doe case. In any case, the comments are open to interpretation and do not mean that Gonzales would vote to uphold Roe v. Wade.
In fact, Gonzales says, he stands on this point precisely where his predecessor, John Ashcroft, didas current Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution, Roe v. Wade should be enforced as law.
"You need to be careful about disregarding precedent," he told The Washington Post in Saturday's edition. "There are dangers in doing that. There are subtle expectations that arise, as a result of years of precedent, that I think should only be ignored under exceptional circumstances. And I am willing to concede that there are exceptional circumstances. But I think we have to be very careful."
A way out
Religious conservatives have to be very careful, too. Opposing Gonzales merely because his views on abortion are unknown could seem capricious or hypocritical, especially if you've been critical of "judicial activists" making decisions on personal bias. (The judicial campaign of Family Research Council, which opposes a Gonzales nomination, is so far centered on making sure a Supreme Court nominee doesn't have to declare his or her views on abortion.)
But National Review's Edward Whelan suggests another reason Gonzales would be bad for conservativeshe would have to recuse himself from several cases, probably including the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act. (A Gonzales recusal in that case would almost certainly ensure an invalidation of the ban, Whelan notes.) He may even have to recuse himself "from virtually all the cases of greatest importance to the administration." That would include the Patriot Act, too, something Bush probably cares more about than the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. (And something on which Christians are quite divided, by the way.)
This gives pro-lifers an opening without compromising their commitments. They don't have to fight Bush on Gonzales on the abortion front; they can claim to protect Bush from Gonzales, or at least from the legal implications of appointing any attorney general to the bench. Such a shift from ideology to strategy would shift the nomination debate significantly.
Opposing Gonzales for what he "might" do, making wild guesses about what he really believes, or falsely claiming that he's a judicial activist in waiting is neither honest nor fair. It would also make religious conservative groups look foolish to oppose a judge who so vociferously argued for the very originalist principles they're ostensibly fighting for.
But it is both honest and fair to point out the limitations of a Gonzales judgeship. The Family Research Council has already walked this line, saying it wholeheartedly supports Gonzales as attorney general ."I think we need to give him time in that office," said FRC president Tony Perkins.
But for now it's all just speculation anyway. For today, at least, Gonzales is still just attorney general.
More on Supreme Court:
- How much sway interest groups will hold over court selection | They can have an effect. But despite the fury, their influence is only indirect (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Ready, set legal activists await Bush's go | Groups on the right and the left are researching every name rumored as a high court nominee, eager to storm the 24-hour news cycle (Los Angeles Times)
- Bush caught in GOP riptide over high court | Choosing a nominee, or two, who will satisfy competing interests may prove to be a struggle (Los Angeles Times)
- The supreme sales team | As rumors fly about the possibility of more resignations, the White House eyes its right flank (Newsweek)
- Liberals, don't make her an icon | O'Connor has been the master of self-referential, "I know it when I see it" standards for interpreting the Constitution (Edward Lazarus, The Washington Post)
- Who do conservatives want for the high court? | So, religious and social conservatives don't like Alberto Gonzales. That begs the question of who, exactly, would make them happy. The answer isn't as easy as it might seem (Legal Times)
- Philosophy for a judge | O'Connors idea of jurisprudence was to decide whether legislation produced social "systems" that either worked or did not. But that, of course, is the job of the elected branches of government (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)
- Label litter | On judicial nominees, especially to the Supreme Court, you might think the only thing that matters -- that trumps all other considerations -- is whether the nominee is for or against legalized abortions (Thomas Sowell, The Washington Times)
- Rulings don't resolve church, state dispute | There needs to be an Eleventh Commandment for the U.S. Supreme Court: Thou shalt not confuse the public (Editorial, News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)
- Bush's judges already making their mark | One level down, dozens of conservative appeals court judges appointed by Bush already are helping to shape the law in ways that ultimately could have as much, and in some ways even more, impact than the nine justices of the nation's highest court (The Washington Post)
- A court at the crossroads | A pivotal abortion case for the post-O'Connor Court (Terry Eastland, The Weekly Standard)
- Abortion law may not change soon | Activists are engaged in an all-out war, even though the president has yet to name a nominee and even though O'Connor's replacement alone is unlikely to lead to a reversal of Roe v. Wade (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
- Virginia delegate tests waters on abortion ban | A conservative Virginia state delegate is testing support for reinstating a ban on abortion that dates back to 1847, in hope that the U.S. Supreme Court eventually will allow states to decide the issue (The Washington Times)
- Abortion in the crossfire | Is Roe really in danger? (Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post)
- Confronting abortion anew | Both sides in the fight see a test case in their struggle to recruit a generation that has come of age after 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling (Los Angeles Times)
- Unborn children deserve the same love, recognition | Godly and lawfully, the right of life and protection offered to born children should be the very same offered to the unborn (Hilda V. Martin, Daily Press, Hampton Roads, Va.)
- Expectant moms receive faith-based support | Arches New Hope: Led by Moab-area church members, center offers alternatives to abortion (Salt Lake Tribune)
- O'Connor's exit energizes Va. abortion debate | Virginia's candidates for governor are bracing for abortion to emerge as a volatile and perhaps decisive issue (The Washington Post)
- Privacy at stake | Abortion isn't the only reproductive right at stake in the fight over who will replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. There's also birth control (Editorial, The Boston Globe)
- Abortion rulings difficult to gauge | Cases don't turn on right to privacy (The Boston Globe)
- In new court, Roe may stand, so foes look to limit its scope | Cases that are likely to reach the court in the next few years may give a new set of justices the opportunity to restrict abortion (The New York Times)
Partial-birth abortion bill unconstitutional:
- Appeals court voids ban on 'partial birth' abortions | A federal appeals court yesterday upheld a ruling by a lower court judge striking down the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which bars a method of abortion generally used after the first trimester (The New York Times)
- Neb. court upholds partial birth decision | A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling that the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is unconstitutional (Associated Press)
- Geneva woman says pharmacist judged her, refused to give her pill | A state investigation was opened Friday into reports a pharmacist at a St. Charles drugstore refused to fill a birth control and emergency contraception prescription for a woman, officials said (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
- Church leaders' attack on voluntary euthanasia Bill | A massive Church of England Synod vote against a bill that would legalize voluntary euthanasia was not necessarily a "rational response", it was claimed last night (Daily Post, Liverpool)
- Spain to allow therapeutic cloning, minister says | In an interview in newspaper El Mundo, Health Minister Elena Salgado said the legislation could be effective by next year (Reuters)
- Jack's death, his choice | President Bush is fighting to overturn the Oregon Death With Dignity law, which gives people like Jack Newbold the option of hastening their deaths (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)
- Revolutionary fetus sex test raises eugenics fears | Is it a girl or a boy? It's the first question every new mother asks. And the answer can now be given almost from the moment a woman finds out that she is pregnant (The Telegraph, London)
- Euthanasia stance affirmed in Mexico | Bishops seek law to protect life (Reuters)
- Stem cell legislation is at risk | Backers say promise of new techniques threatens Senate bill's passage (The Washington Post)
- Euthanasia for babies? | Dutch doctors have proposed a procedure for infant mercy killing. Is this humane or barbaric? (Jim Holt, The New York Times Magazine)
- Survey dismisses morning-after pill fears | Unsafe sex has not increased since the morning-after pill was made available over the counter, researchers said (The Telegraph, London)
- Morning-after pill 'did not fuel a sex explosion' (The Observer, London)
- Scholarship is named for Terri Schiavo | Ave Maria University in Naples sets up the annual award to `assist future priests and laypersons.' (Orlando Sentinel)
- Gov. Jeb Bush ends Schiavo inquiry | Gov. Jeb Bush has declared an end to the state's inquiry into Terri Schiavo's collapse 15 years ago, after Florida's state attorney said there was no evidence that criminal activity was involved (Associated Press)
- 'Judicial murder' and Terri Schiavo | This is the seminal case for whether euthanasia for the seriously disabled becomes embedded in the American way of death (Nat Hentoff, The Washington Times)
- Ave Maria gets high sign from ABA | Ave Maria School of Law, which opened five years ago with the mission of incorporating Roman Catholicism fully and fundamentally into legal teachings and has been closely watched as a result, is poised to earn the ultimate stamp of approval from its peers: full accreditation from the American Bar Association (Inside Higher Ed)
- Dover official to leave | The man who championed the fight to bring intelligent design into Dover's biology classroom cited health as reason (York Daily Record, Pa.)
- Keeping the faith | Parents of parochial students shouldn't pay school taxes (Erin Harrington, The New York Times)
- NEA bolsters gays on policy, practices | The National Education Association ended its four-day convention here with a big victory for members promoting homosexual advocacy, but debate by conservatives seeking resolutions condemning adult-minor sexual contact and supporting respect for "all living things" was cut off (The Washington Times)
- Abortion protesters sue School of Mines | School policies that require demonstrators to get approval to distribute literature violate the First Amendment, according to a lawsuit filed Friday against the Colorado School of Mines in Golden by anti-abortion activists (Associated Press)
- What do we find in a label? | From a Reformed faith perspective, a liberal emphasizes intellectual liberty while at the same time pursuing an in-depth understanding of the spiritual and ethical context of Christianity with both reason and faith (Ken Rogers, News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)
Evolution & creation:
- Evolving coverage | On the 80th anniversary of the Scopes monkey trial, we look back on the original trial of the century - a case that pitted Darwin against Adam, and redefined the media's role in the courtroom (On the Media, NPR, audio)
- Scientists hesitant to debate Intelligent Design | Over the years the scientific community has largely decided not to take part in public debates over creationism v. evolution. Now they're being careful about how they take on Darwin's latest critics -- advocates of "Intelligent Design," the argument that life is too complex to have evolved without help (Morning Edition, NPR)
- Majority in poll see God as direct Creator of man | Most Americans believe it all starts in heaven: 64 percent of us agree that "human beings were created directly by God," according to a Harris poll released yesterday (The Washington Times)
- Despite Scopes, evolution still on trial | As Dayton prepares for its annual re-enactment of the trial here eight decades later, debate over teaching evolution lives on (Associated Press)
- Leading cardinal redefines church's view on evolution | Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has suggested that Darwinian evolution might be incompatible with Catholic faith (The New York Times)
- Creationism special: A battle for science's soul | 80 years after Scopes, creationist ideas have a powerful hold in the US, and science is still under attack (New Scientist)
- Creationism against Darwinism? No contest | It is an unhappy time to be a Darwinist in the US, but it will take more than the thinly-disguised creationism, "intelligent design", to defeat evolutionary biology (Editorial, New Scientist)
Tulsa zoo nixes creation display:
- Board nixes creationism show at Okla. zoo | In a 3-1 vote, a city board reversed direction on Thursday and rejected plans to add a creationist exhibit to the Tulsa Zoo (Associated Press)
- It's all happening at the Tulsa Zoo | Christian creationists won too much of a victory for their own good in Tulsa, where the local zoo was ordered to exhibit a display extolling Genesis's account of creation (Editorial, The New York Times)
Church & state:
- N.C. judge forbids Quran in witness swearing in | A judge in North Carolina is refusing to allow Muslim witnesses to be sworn in with a Quran. North Carolina law states that an oath must be taken with a hand on the "Holy Scriptures." At the heart of the debate is whether "Holy Scriptures" can be interpreted to include other religious texts (Weekend Edition, NPR)
- AF Academy needs manners along with religious expression | I read the official Air Force report and possibly saw bad manners or even poor judgment and that cadets could talk about anything academic, but leave the person of Jesus Christ out of the public forum (Chip Harper, San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)
- Academy steps on rights of non-evangelicals | They say it couldn't happen here. America would never permit a military branch of the government to endorse a specific religious theology. Nor would this country allow the institution to degrade women and wink at rape. Sadly, the Air Force Academy does both (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post, Fla.)
- Judge: No gov't money for Boy Scout trip | A federal judge has ruled that the Boy Scout's oath to God means the Pentagon can no longer spend millions in government money to ready a Virginia military base for a national scouting event typically held every four years (Associated Press)
- Onward 'Christian' soldiers? | U.S. military and its institutions should be free from proselytizing (Moustafa Bayoumi, Knight Ridder/Tribune)
Religion & politics:
- Bush splits from religious right | The only problem with the religious right's quid pro quo of bartering faith for political influence is that the evangelicals' God-ordained man in the White House is not playing the faith card anymore (Cynthia Hall Clements, The Lufkin Daily News, Tex.)
- The real question before the court | Should the United States should aim to be a ''good" country -- that is, one that strives to be the living embodiment of virtue -- or aspire to be a ''great" one: that is, one with a powerful and effective national government capable of building a strong and just society at home and extending America's responsibilities abroad? (Alan Wolfe, The Boston Globe)
- A grass-roots star rises on the right | For a man who was content two years ago to run a house-painting business, care for his family and tithe to Bay Leaf Baptist Church, Steve Noble has made a quick ascent into the conservative elite (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)
- Many Christians seek middle ground | We don't all fit neatly into the 'secularist' or 'religious right' camps (Mike MacDonald, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)
- Our religious culture | Kevin "Seamus" Hasson of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty thinks the notion that religion should be expressed only in private -- and never in the context of government -- is a serious misreading of human nature (William Raspberry, The Washington Post)
- NAACP chair renews attack on conservatives | Earlier Sunday, civil rights advocates and other NAACP officials said blurring the lines between religious groups and politics threatens equal opportunity (Associated Press)
- Ruling on property seizure rallies Christian groups | Conservative Christian groups seeking to galvanize support for a battle over a Supreme Court nomination are rallying around the issue of eminent domain (The New York Times)
- Focus' family tree sows seeds | Political activism sprouts out of personal ties (The Denver Post)
- Evangelical Christians seeking power | They are playing the game by the rules of politics and not by the insights and convictions of religious faith. Instead of speaking truth to power, they are trying to take power (Anthony B. Robinson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- Tony Perkins' Family Research Council | Battling against same-sex marriage and activist judges, and raising hell over Terri Schiavo, Perkins has come a long way since his David Duke mail list-buying caper in Louisiana (Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange.com)
- Which power? | Increasingly these days many religious people - and especially some well-known conservative Christian leaders- confuse their own temporal power and influence with the spread of God's kingdom. (Editorial, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal)
Religion & politics in Australia:
- A different hymn sheet | Hillsong's youthful staff seem remarkably like Howard Dean's (Andrew West, The Australian)
- Fading religion fanning fundamentalism, author finds | Fading religious belief and the sidelining of churches from public debate has left Australia with little defence against fundamentalist politics, an academic has warned (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Philippine Catholic bishops refuse to join calls for Arroyo's ouster:
- 2 church groups back due process for Arroyo | Bishop Efraim Tendero of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches said Constitutional processes should be resorted to instead of making calls or forcing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign due to alleged electoral fraud (Philippine Sun Star)
- Philippine church refuses to join calls for Arroyo's ouster | The Philippines' influential Catholic church handed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a reprieve Sunday when the country's bishops announced they would not join mounting calls for her to step down over corruption and vote-rigging charges (The Washington Post)
- Bishops give battling Arroyo big reprieve | No single option regarding Arroyo could claim to be morally correct, said Fernando Capalla, outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, reading from a statement (Reuters)
- Philippines church leaders support Arroyo | The Philippines' Roman Catholic bishops, who have played a major role in toppling two presidents, gave lukewarm support Sunday to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as she faced calls to resign over an election scandal (Associated Press)
- Philippine bishops give Arroyo a reprieve | Leaders of the Philippines' influential Roman Catholic Church said Sunday they would not join calls for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down over corruption and vote-rigging charges (The Washington Post)
- Bishops seen reluctant to demand Arroyo quit | Catholic bishops appeared to be retreating on Saturday from joining the chorus calling on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign, giving the embattled Philippine president at least a temporary respite (Reuters)
- British religious groups offer prayers, pledge solidarity | In London, churches across the city held memorial services for victims of Thursday's terrorist attacks. Senior Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics also gathered and issued a joint statement calling for unity and dialogue between faiths in the aftermath (Weekend Edition, NPR)
- Mosques warned of Muslim backlash | Muslim leaders are writing to hundreds of mosques appealing for help in finding the London bombers (BBC)
- UK faith leaders condemn attacks | Leaders of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths each read out parts of the statement (BBC, video)
- Religious leaders unite to condemn 'evil' | Leaders of five of the main faith groups in Britain yesterday issued a joint statement of condemnation of the terrorist bombings in London (The Guardian, London)
- Also: Religious leaders unite to defy terror (The Independent, London)
- 'Call them criminals, terrorists but don't call them Muslims' | The sermon at St Pancras (The Guardian, London)
- Show of resolve as religious leaders try to cool tensions | Britain's religious leaders held a meeting to help thwart any violence against Muslims following Thursday's terrorist attacks (The New York Times)
- Crowds pack London churches to mourn | Londoners packed churches across the capital Sunday to mourn the victims of last week's terror attacks, begin healing and pray for calm as Britain's top religious leaders cautioned against retaliating against Muslims (Associated Press)
- Episcopal, Muslim clerics condemn attacks | Shiite cleric Ibrahim Kazerooni and the Very Rev. Peter Eaton, dean of St. John's Episcopal Cathedral, are collaborating to help Jews, Christians and Muslims coexist (The Denver Post)
- Prayer said key to terror suspect case | A young man charged with lying about attending an al-Qaida-linked terrorist camp was carrying an Arabic prayer in his wallet that federal prosecutors say is significant to their case (Associated Press)
- Muslims pray for London bombing victims | Muslim clerics around the world used Friday prayers to condemn the London bombings and the suspected links to Islamic terrorists, but many layered their messages with outcry against perceived Western injustices that feed Muslim anger (Associated Press)
- Pottering round old churches | Contemplating rural architecture might seem an irrelevant response to the terrorist outrage in London, but there is a particularly good reason why, in this case, that is not so (Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, London)
War & terrorism:
- The label of Catholic terror was never used about the IRA | Fundamentalism is often a form of nationalism in religious disguise (Karen Armstrong, The Guardian, London)
- Evil targets God's chosen | too many dismiss anti-Semitism as the Jews' problem or even the Jews' fault, when in fact it is the most accurate predictor of an evil that humanity will have to fight (Dennis Prager, Los Angeles Times)
- Why the West gets religion wrong | Religion is not and cannot be relativist. No genuine belief in God is just a matter of personal taste or subjective opinion. True religion has always been public and political because it is about forming communities around shared values and the practices that embody them (Phillip Blond and Adrian Pabst, International Herald Tribune)
- Chinese spy infilrates Auckland church | A Chinese spy known as "agent 180" has infiltrated a church group in Auckland and is sending information back to China, claims a former Chinese secret policeman seeking asylum in Australia (Manawatu Standard, N.Z.)
Missionary assassination attempt:
- Missionary from Iowa shot in Brazil | An Iowa Baptist missionary was clinging to life in Des Moines, where he was flown Saturday, after alleged assassins shot him several times July 3 outside the Brazil church he founded (Des Moines Register, Ia.)
- Missionary recovers after attack | John Leonard regains consciousness after being shot near his church in Brazil (Des Moines Register, Ia.)
- Palestinians feel like underdogs against King David | An Israeli plan to build a park on land that holds the remains of the City of King David would displace more than 1,000 Palestinians (The New York Times)
- Greece's involvement in patriarchate concerns Israel | Israeli government officials are troubled by the apparent deepening of Greece's involvement in the affair of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)
- Bono, Geldof welcome G8 aid deal for Africa | "Six hundred thousand people will be alive to remember this G8 in Gleneagles who would have lost their lives to a mosquito bite," Bono said, referring to the difference he thought the extra aid would make to fighting malaria (Reuters)
- Debt relief unnecessaryOkogie | Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie has described the debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club of creditors as unnecessary, adding that proceeds arising from the relief will enrich those at the helm of affairs in the country (Daily Champion, Nigeria)
- Resolute G-8 leaders unveil African aid | Vowing not to be sidetracked by the deadly London bombings, world leaders unveiled a $50 billion package Friday to help lift Africa from poverty and proposed up to $9 billion to help the Palestinians achieve peace with Israel (Associated Press)
- G-8 leaders unveil $50B in African aid | Vowing not to be sidetracked by the deadly London bombings, world leaders unveiled a $50 billion package Friday to help lift Africa from poverty and proposed up to $9 billion to help the Palestinians achieve peace with Israel (Associated Press)
- So many are standing together to end poverty | We have the means to eliminate extreme poverty. What we have lacked is the moral will to make that happen (Peter Rogness, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
Africa AIDS funding:
- Bush gives global AIDS fighters ultimatum | They must pledge opposition to sex trafficking and prostitution or do without federal funds (Associated Press)
- Moral ties attached to US Aids cash | American aid agencies expressed concern yesterday over new rules imposed by the Bush administration making funding for the fight against Aids dependent on a pledge to combat prostitution (The Guardian, London)
- Pope endorses Zim criticism | Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday endorsed the stance taken by Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe in condemning the state-sponsored "clean-up" operation and government's human rights record (Zimbabwe Independent)
- SA clergy probe Zimbabwe raids | A delegation of South African churchmen has arrived in Zimbabwe to assess the consequences of a recent crackdown on shack dwellers and traders (BBC)
- Zimbabwe's split opposition | Movements to oust Mugabe are divided, demoralized and cash-strapped. Some fear frustration could lead to violence (Los Angeles Times)
- U.N. envoy meets Zimbabwe president | A United Nations envoy met Friday with President Robert Mugabe and promised to work with the government to help the tens of thousands displaced in a so-called urban renewal campaign that has prompted an international outcry (Associated Press)
- Church leaders planning Harare 'inspection' | A delegation of senior church leaders will travel to Zimbabwe on Sunday to meet various organisations about Operation Restore Order, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) said on Thursday (Independent, South Africa)
- Onetime enemies join forces to lead Sudan on rocky road to peace | Sudan elevated a former rebel leader to the vice presidency of the government he had long tried to overthrow, a merging of onetime combatants into a single leadership (The New York Times)
- Sudan rebel leader turns from war to government | John Garang fought without compromise. Now, it might be his most potent weapon (Los Angeles Times)
- Ex-rebel sworn in as Sudan vice president | Although Islamic law remains the rule, the constitution says it will not be applied in the mainly Christian and animist south and removes a requirement that the president be Muslim (Associated Press)
Arson at black churches in Tenn.:
- Tenn. police nab suspect in church fires | Police on Saturday arrested a suspect believed to have set fires that burned two black churches in Tennessee, but investigators said they had no reason to believe the blazes were a hate crime (Associated Press)
- Two black churches burn in Tennessee arson | Seven arson fires broke out Friday in a neighborhood in this small Tennessee town, inflicting heavy damage on two black churches and burning five vacant houses, authorities said (Associated Press)
- No racial motives seen in church arsons | Authorities said there was no evidence that racism was behind seven arson fires that inflicted heavy damage on two black churches but they were not ruling anything out (Associated Press)
- A hate crime that wasn't | The grievance-mongers' continued failure to act responsibly and with due skepticism when these cases arise is expected. But the mainstream media's failure to control its America-bashing reflexes is intolerable (Michelle Malkin, The Washington Times)
- Witchcraft torture three jailed | The Old Bailey trial heard the girl was beaten, cut with a knife and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes at a flat in Hackney, east London, in 2003 (BBC)
- BTK killer blames 'demon' for murders | "I just know it's a dark side of me. It kind of controls me. I personally think it's a and I know it is not very Christian but I actually think it's a demon that's within me. At some point and time it entered me when I was very young," said Dennis Rader, who was once president of his Lutheran church (Associated Press)
- Anti-abortion extremist gets 19 years | A man who once claimed to be on a mission from God to kill abortion providers was sentenced Thursday to 19 years in federal prison for mailing hundreds of letters with fake anthrax to women's clinics (Associated Press)
Billy Graham's daughter facing domestic violence charges:
- Evangelist's daughter jailed in New Smyrna | The daughter of the world's most influential evangelist was arrested a week ago in the parking lot of a discount store, accused of domestic battery against her husband (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Rev. Billy Graham's daughter facing domestic violence charges | The Billy Graham Evangelical Association did release the following statement: "They regret the recent report of an alleged altercation involving Victoria Unfortunately at this time we do not have details which would enable us to comment further." (WFTV, Fla.)
- Bible basher | Billy Graham's daughter charged with choking her husband in roadside row (Daily Record, Scotland)
- Billy Graham's daughter spends night in jail after 'throttling' her husband | The daughter of the evangelist Billy Graham, herself a public speaker and author of religious books, has been arrested and charged with domestic violence after choking her husband in a car park (The Independent, London)
- The Vatican removes 6 priests in New York accused or convicted of sexual abuse | Defrocking is the harshest penalty the Roman Catholic Church can impose on a priest (The New York Times)
- Mater dei, ex-teacher sued in alleged abuse | Former student at the Catholic high school in Santa Ana says she was molested for two years (Los Angeles Times)
- Group seeks tougher laws against priests | The Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful approved a draft resolution Sunday calling for tougher laws against abusive priests and the bishops who have protected them (Associated Press)
- Earlier: Voice of the Faithful: Church abuse scandal may cost $3B | Speaking at the first national meeting of the group in three years, David Castaldi urged leaders of local affiliates to press their bishops for better financial reporting as individual dioceses post large payouts to abuse victims, lawyers and others (Associated Press)
- Calif. diocese to settle sex abuse suits | The Archdiocese of San Francisco has agreed to pay more than $16 million to settle a dozen lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a once-popular priest (Associated Press)
- Open door lets hope slide in | Members maintain vigil at parish week after its closing (The Toledo Blade)
- Catholic church workers battle for right to unionize | Unionized workers at five Catholic parishes in Texas say church leaders are guilty of union-busting. The employees are believed to be the first Catholic church workers to reach a collective-bargaining agreement. A panel of canon lawyers is looking into whether the contracts are legal, according to church law (Weekend Edition, NPR)
- The changing face of a shrinking priesthood | Fewer young Americans becoming Catholic clergy (The Day, New London, Ct.)
- Opus Dei shuns Da Vinci Code image | Founded in Madrid in 1928, Opus Dei -- Latin for "God's Work" -- is one of Catholicism's most dynamic and controversial groups (Reuters)
- John Paul II set to be saint within weeks | Pope John Paul II's closest aide said yesterday that he hoped the late pontiff would be made a saint during World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany next month (The Independent, London)
- Outrage helps sustain vigil | You would never know that St. Frances has been closed for nearly nine months (The Boston Globe)
- Catholic group asks openness of church | Leaders of Voice of the Faithful, the national lay Catholic reform organization founded in a Wellesley church basement three years ago, gathered for the first time outside the Northeast yesterday and vowed to intensify their push for greater financial disclosure by the church and increased lay involvement in the administration of the nation's largest religious denomination (The Boston Globe)
- Sell art, and keep parishes open | Closing schools and parishes and selling off the real estate to the highest bidder so that we can have more high-priced condominiums is doubly offensive (David D'Alessandro, The Boston Globe)
- Catholic reform group seeks new relevance | The Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful is holding a national meeting to create a lasting strategy for involvement in the church, three years after the clergy sex abuse scandal fueled the group's calls for change (Associated Press)
- Woman loses her sanctuary | Parish to end role as shelter (The Boston Globe)
- Fathers, husbands, and rebels | Acting outside the Catholic Church, many married priests are attracting a following (Los Angeles Times)
- Church brings religion to Valley via big screen | Can a church download salvation from a satellite? (The Arizona Republic)
- A Bible and a backpack | Under the bridge, only four people have shown up for church, but for the pastor it is enough of a congregation (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Residents cling to faith in storm | Each Sunday, the Rev. Dan Morris delivers sermons to uplift and help people. On Sunday, with the threat of Hurricane Dennis looming, his sermon about parishioners protecting themselves hit close to home. (Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.)
- NH's charismatic Christians seek miracles, healing | More than 100 believers gathered inside Derryfield School auditorium Friday night for a moment of prayer (Union Leader, N.H.)
- Franchising faith via satellite | Oklahoma church hopes its business model, message will fill seats in E. Valley 'campuses' (The Arizona Republic)
- Carving out a sacred space | The New Altar at a Potomac Church Hearkens to Ancient and Far-Flung Traditions (The Washington Post)
- A carnival of Christianity | The dominant trend of contemporary Christian theology might be called ecclesiastical fundamentalism (Theo Hobson, The Guardian, London)
- Church has 1 million bees, honey in walls | One could say that St. Mark United Church of Christ is bee-deviled (Associated Press)
- S.C. churches plan service to atone for 1916 lynching | Local churches will hold a reconciliation service next week to apologize for not trying to stop racial strife decades ago, including the 1916 lynching of a wealthy black farmer (Associated Press)
- Tricky diplomacy awaits ambassador | In his new job, R. William Franklin will have to practice careful spiritual diplomacy. Not only will he seek unity between Roman Catholics and Anglicans, he must help suture a potentially lethal wound in his Anglican Communion (The Boston Globe)
- 'Breakout' author saw similar focus in churches | Church consultant and author Thom Rainer said his 14th book, "Breakout Churches," is a product of his own frustration with the slow growth of churches in recent years (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Breaking out of the mold, gathering in the fold | Middleburg Heights church thrives on reaching out (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Bishops split on new Anglican leader | Clergy and laity voted strongly for Phillip Aspinall, but his peers were almost evenly divided (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
- I'll fight for workers - Anglican head | The new leader of Australia's 4million Anglicans has quickly stamped his progressive credentials on the post, declaring his personal support for women bishops and warning the churches would not be silenced on industrial relations changes (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Church of England debates women bishops:
- Say a prayer for the Church of England today | The Church must confront its evangelical bigots and embrace women bishops (Cristina Odone, The Times, London)
- Clergy warn against women bishops | A Church of England bishop has warned that hundreds of traditionalist clergy may leave for the Roman Catholic Church if women are ordained as bishops (BBC)
- Churchmen on brink of exodus over women bishops | On the eve of a critical vote on the creation of women bishops in the Church of England, a senior figure has warned he and hundreds of priests will quit if the move is approved (The Times, London)
- Anglicans vote on women bishops | The Church of England's general synod is due to vote on whether to move towards ordaining women bishops (BBC, video)
- Hundreds of clergy 'will leave church over women bishops' | Nearly a quarter of the Church of England's bishops, including several of its most senior, are likely to oppose moves to consecrate women as bishops at the General Synod in York today (The Telegraph, London)
Religion & homosexuality:
- Mom ties church "untruths" to lesbian daughter's death | The mother of a 29-year-old lesbian who committed suicide nearly a decade ago told a gathering of gays and their friends and family members yesterday that her daughter died because of the "untruths taught by the church" (The Seattle Times)
- Congregationalists grapple with vote backing gay marriage | In 1972, the denomination became the first major Christian body to ordain an openly gay minister (The Providence Journal, R.I.)
- Church clarifies stance on gay marriage | Statements made to the press indicating that the United Church of Christ is not true to the teaching of Jesus are simply irresponsible and wrong (Diane Prosser, Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.)
- Making the case for full inclusion of homosexuals | A Pasadena priest and lesbian explains her position to the leader of the Anglican church (Los Angeles Times)
- United Church of Christ sees new interest | Daniel Hazard, the church's webmaster, said that about 22,000 people have clicked on the "find a church" link on its two Web sites, ucc.org and stillspeaking.com. That is about 10 times the normal three-day traffic (UPI)
- Religions not likely to accept gay rule | Some might have wondered if UCC vote was like the "shot heard 'round the world" (Religion News Service)
- Church conference embraces gays | Rally today a response to Focus on Family event (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
- Does love matter? | The big Christian question about homosexuality is not sodomy but whether these people, too, can experience that love in intimate personal relationships (David O'Brien, The Boston Globe)
- Singling out homosexuality reveals selective reasoning | None of us follows every single teaching, law, precept or passage found in the Bible (Rich Aronson, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Va. candidate backs allowing gay adoption | Independent Russ Potts voiced unequivocal support Thursday for allowing cohabiting same-sex couples to adopt children, a stance that sharply distinguishes him from his two party rivals in this year's governor's race (Associated Press)
- US seeks to clamp 'don't ask' court foes | Says Congress sets military policy (The Boston Globe)
- Judge urged to dismiss gay military case | A federal prosecutor urged a judge Friday to dismiss a legal challenge to the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay service members, arguing that only Congress can change it (Associated Press)
- Push endures for gay marriage in N.J. | Members of New Jersey's gay and lesbian community gathered for a town hall meeting to mark the one-year anniversary of the state's passage of a domestic partnership law (Associated Press)
- State Senate approves civil unions bill | However, there's little chance of passage in the House, where Republican leaders said the bill won't reach the floor for a vote this session (The Oregonian, Portland)
- Oregon Senate passes civil union bill | The state Senate approved a bill Friday that would give same-sex couples most of the legal benefits of marriage, but the civil union legislation appeared doomed in the Republican-run state House (Associated Press)
Marriage & family:
- Big fall in number of families headed by a married couple | The number of families headed by a married couple has fallen by half a million in less than a decade, according to Government statistics (The Telegraph, London)
- Turns out, I can't help being right | Dear Parents: Finally, your secret is out (Catherine Getches, The Washington Post)
- Working women more likely to divorce | Women working full-time are 29 per cent more likely to get divorced than those who stay at home and raise children (The Telegraph, London)
- Among the believers | As an atheist's child, I went to Bible camp looking for answers (Tayari Jones, The New York Times)
- 'Closing' necessary to sell goods, not God | "Closing the sale" is a tenet of American capitalism, not Scripture (Mary A. Jacobs, The Dallas Morning News)
- Airport chaplain | The Rev. David C. Southall lives on a wing and a prayer (The Washington Times)
- Time of terror, time of trust | Many Christians, I suspect, also have a distorted image of God. I know this because I did, also (Don Miller, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Ca.)
- Unitarian Universalists debate God's place in church | God is a controversial word in the Unitarian Universalists Association (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)
- Staying true to religion in the commercial age | Lay the T-shirts and the slogans behind and delve into the depth and richness of your faith (Garry Koch, Asbury Park Press, N.J.)
- Medical student founds a religionUniversism | Ford Vox and followers claim faith has no absolute truths (Religion News Service)
Money & business:
- Riches beyond beliefs? | Evangelicals are divided on the value of affluence (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Religion helps businesses get word out | Stores find symbols, expressions of faith can be good marketing tools (The Greenville News, S.C.)
- Good books: Churches' finances must be scrupulous | Financial shenanigans and skulduggery by Christian leaders have done more in the modern era to discredit the church than any other sin (Michael Barrick, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Amana complies with laws of Koran | Fund's religious restrictions become benefit as it outperforms stock market (The Washington Post)
- Benny Hinn: Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria suspends Lagos president | Controversy has been rocking PFN over an alleged financial mismanagement by organisers of the April 29-May I, crusade held by renowned United States of America preacher, Pastor Benny Hinn in Lagos (Daily Champion, Nigeria)
- Shark-attack victim's tale inspires others | Book and movie deals, a fragrance line and a popular Web site were the last things on Bethany Hamilton's mind the moment she lost her left arm to a tiger shark in Kauai, Hawaii (Chicago Sun-Times)
- Acquitted by courts but rebuffed by his neighbors | Ex-HealthSouth CEO gets cold reception upon his return from trial (Bloomberg News)
- Gods and monsters | Prominent Ohio Christian right leader surprisingly open about his disdain for Muslims (Cleveland Free Times, via The Athens News)
- The Joel Osteen phenomenon | Popular preacher is connecting with TV and book fans (The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.)
- Arena of faith | Rockets' old home to house Osteen's megachurch (The Dallas Morning News)
- Church's new home opens door to a new era | 'Sky is the limit' once mega-size Lakewood moves to Compaq this week, pastor says (Houston Chronicle)
- Christian network asks court for KOCE-TV | Daystar says its offer for Channel 50 was highest. Judges ruled that O.C. college had botched the sale and must seek new bids or keep the station (Los Angeles Times)
- Courtroom drama ahead for KOCE? | After judges strike down the PBS station's sale, confusion abounds over how to unravel the deal. Worse, the potential for lawsuits seems endless (Los Angeles Times)
- Keeping the faith in public television | I've never watched the Daystar Television Network, but I can confidently say its programmers aren't interested in the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling saga. Probably a little too much punching for a Christian broadcasting station (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)
Film & theater:
- For 'Doubt,' a certain magic | Broadway drama seems to have that rarest of attributes: legs (The Washington Post)
- Rosslyn 'debased by filming of Da Vinci Code' | A descendant of the family that founded Rosslyn Chapel has condemned the trustees of the medieval church for allowing it to be used in the film of The Da Vinci Code (The Times, London)
- An almighty market | God is a big business in the publishing world, as long as writers steer clear of any forbidden territory (The Denver Post)
- Textual healing | Paula Fredriksen reviews James J. O'Donnell's Augustine: A New Biography (The New Republic)
- Find the holy in words | There really is something holy about good writing (Bill Tammeus, The Kansas City Star)
- Bestselling author Philip Yancey signs contract with Zondervan for next major book release | Fall 2006 book on prayer will be his 18th with the company (Press release)
- Back to Narnia | Harry Potter's mother country (John J. Miller, National Review Online)
- Up, up, and a way | Comic-book heroes exemplify living with a higher purpose (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)
- American spirit | E. J. Dionne reviews Noah Feldman's Divided by God (The Washington Post)
- It's the deity, dude | Hanna Rosin reviews Naomi Schaefer Riley's God on the Quad and Christian Smith's Soul Searching (The Washington Post)
- Very rich hours | Caroline Langston reviews Phyllis Tickle's Prayer is a Place (The Washington Post)
- Latter-day biker | Rachel Hartigan Shea reviews Jana Richman's Riding in the Shadows of Saints (The Washington Post)
- Snake oil | Chris Lehmann reviews Steve Salerno's Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (The Washington Post)
- Selling rapture | The rise of the Christian right in American politics has added impetus to an already huge and growing market in evangelical fiction (Douglas Kennedy, The Guardian, London)
- The Bible's brave women, the standards they lived by | Corinna Lothar reviews Naomi Harris Rosenblatt's After the Apple (The Washington Times)
- Mosaic inspired image of England's favorite saint | The earliest known template for the image of St George slaying the dragon has been found in Syria, archaeologists believe (The Times, London)
- In Maine, restoring history long hidden | Preservationists believe that a derelict building in Portland, Me., is the nation's third-oldest surviving structure built as a black meetinghouse (The New York Times)
- Important Saxon find in car park | Mr Watson, from the Museum of London Archaeology Service, coordinating the dig, said: "This is a tremendously important find - an opportunity to re-write the early history of Christianity." (BBC)
- Saxon rotunda found beneath car park | Archaeologists have discovered an enormous Saxon rotunda in Herefordshire dating from the 10th or 11th century that is likely to be listed as a monument of international importance. (The Times, London)
- Fest rocks Christian music stereotypes | Lifest aims to show attendees that Christian music isn't about being 'stuffy' it encompasses genre (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Gallagher slams 'boring' Bono's religious talks | Oasis rocker Liam Gallagher has slammed U2 star Bono's "boring" attempts to convert him to Christianity - insisting he is his own God (Contact Music)
Missions & ministry:
- Ministry says Jesus loves porn stars, too | Two friends start Web site to help those addicted to or damaged by sex imagery (Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)
- Got faith? | Church helps bail out dairy (The Plainview Daily Herald, Tex.)
- Minister to host 'exorcism' summit | The children's minister, Beverley Hughes, is holding a summit with child protection experts and African church leaders next week in a bid to combat the abuse of children through ritual exorcisms, it emerged today (The Guardian, London)
- Men flock to Breslin to hear Promise Keepers' message | First day of event draws 4,700 for worship, music (Lansing State Journal, Mi.)
- Missionary targets home front | He grew up on an African mission; now, he's working the mission fields in his back yard (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- The emerging church | A growing movement is rethinking what Christianity and the church should look like in a contemporary culture (Religion & Ethics Newsweekly)
- Missionary takes on tough test in darkest Telford | Shropshire town is among most secular in Britain (The Guardian, London)
More articles of interest:
- Scientology minder prompts Katie Holmes through first big interview | In her first big interview since her betrothal to Cruise, who turned 43 last week, the actress, 26, responded to every question with gushing platitudes as her Scientologist "minder" looked on approvingly (The Telegraph, London)
- Driving course based on Bible | 'If you're Christian, act like it on the road,' instructor says (Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- Black churches oppose hatred bill | Church spokeswoman Katei Kirby said they believed the bill could hinder their freedom to preach (BBC)
- RSS rescues Christian priests | Believe it or not! RSS activists recently rescued 80 Christian priests trapped in an accident in the dense forests of Orissa's Sambalpur district and even donated blood to save their lives (PTI, India)
- The missing Madonna | The story behind the Met's most expensive acquisition (Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker)
- Holy cow! Christians go kosher | Author encourages believers to follow the dietary laws set forth in Old Testament (Chicago Tribune)
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