It's a slow news day in the Christian world. Almost everything today is debates and statements, with little actual news. Not that Weblog's complaining; it's nice to have a break.

The top story today is Morris Cerullo's federal grand-jury indictment on three counts of filing false income tax returns. The indictment claims that the television evangelist failed to report more than $550,000 in income over three years, beginning in 1998.

It's not the first time Cerullo has had legal troubles over income; he was sued twice in 2000 by employees who said they were punished for raising questions about fundraising. The more prominent of these came from John Paul Warren, who said he was fired for confronting Cerullo about "unethical and fraudulent fund raising techniques."

A California appeals court in December 2001 said that the courts could not get involved in the case since it involved employment at a religious organization, and that state involvement would violate both the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. (The Supreme Court in 2002 decided not to hear an appeal.)

Cerullo, a leader in the word-faith movement, is certainly an interesting figure. He says he converted to Christianity by a woman who worked at the New Jersey orphanage where he grew up. The twist: it was an Orthodox Jewish orphanage, and the woman was fired for giving him a New Testament. Cerullo says he ran away from the home at 14, sought the woman out, was given a home with her brother, and became a healing evangelist at 25. (This from Randy Balmer's Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism.)

Though he has largely conducted his healing revivals in South America, Cerullo has in recent years turned his eye to the Middle East, preaching in Qatar, Bahrain, and other Arab nations. His meetings in Saudi Arabia, attended by more than 1,000 people, were followed by government raids on local churches. "In 1992, authorities in India ordered Cerullo to leave the country after he was nearly lynched by an angry mob," reports the Associated Press.

He's had trouble in the West, too: In 1999, Britain's Independent Television Commission fined the Christian Channel £20,000 for a broadcast it found in violation of broadcast standards.

But Cerullo has had more success with television in the U.S. After a failed attempt to purchase all of Jim Bakker's PTL empire, including Heritage USA, Cerullo settled for ownership of the PTL television network. Now renamed the Inspiration Network and headed by Cerullo's son David, INSP is on more than 2,000 cable systems around the country.

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If convicted, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune, Cerullo he faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine. (The AP notes that this is for each of the three counts the evangelist faces, not the total.)

"Dr. Cerullo looks forward to an opportunity to respond to the allegations in a court of law," his lawyer said. "And he is pleased that after three years of investigation by the IRS, nothing was found to be inappropriate in the operation of the ministry."

The news comes one week after The Dallas Morning News reported that the IRS is investigating Benny Hinn Ministries.

Untested and speculative
Those in D.C. who aren't talking about Valerie Plame and Karl Rove are talking about Congress' stem-cell debate. "Leading Congressional Republicans have drafted a bill that promotes new, unproven methods of obtaining stem cells without destroying embryos," The New York Times reports.

The Washington Post picks up the theme in an editorial (emphasis added):

These techniques are, at this stage, nascent and uncertain and have not yet successfully yielded cell lines. They therefore cannot now support the research that is so urgently needed. Federal support for research into their viability is at best a complement to—not a substitute for—funding the full range of study possible now on embryonic lines. Such hypothetical alternatives should not be permitted to derail an important change in policy.

Funny thing: Pro-lifers have been noting that embryonic stem-cell research itself is nascent, uncertain, unproven, not yet successful, and merely hypothetical at this stage. That bill the papers are talking about would actually fund more research on non-embryonic stem cells, which has had far greater real-world, human successes than research on embryonic stem cells has.

Sen. Arlen Specter isn't too pleased about the bill, since he thinks it'll detract from his own efforts at increasing federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Maybe he should listen to what someone told The New York Times: "If it's very speculative, and we have a bird in hand, let us not avoid going forward with what we know will work." The speaker? Arlen Specter.

More on Stem cells:

  • Governor slips stem-cell grant by lawmakers | Illinois joins states opposing Bush stand (Chicago Tribune)
  • Illinois to pay for cell research | Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed an executive order on Tuesday making Illinois the fourth state to devote public money to embryonic stem cell research (The New York Times)
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  • Senators urge change in stem cell rules | Senators who want the public to pay for human embryonic stem cell studies said Tuesday that Congress must first pass legislation to lift President Bush's restrictions on such research before paying for unproven alternative methods favored by conservatives (Associated Press)
  • Contentious hearing focuses on stem cells | Senators debate merits of different bills (The Washington Post)
  • Stem cell bills have multiplied | Fearing the Senate will pass legislation easing research curbs, the White House is backing up to five alternatives, trying to dilute support (Los Angeles Times)

More articles

Irineos fails in attempt to seize Jerusalem church:

  • Brawl erupts at J'lem church | A brawl broke out between opponents and supporters of the beleaguered Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon after the church leader returned to his Old City office. (The Jerusalem Post)
  • Irineos fails in attempt to seize J'lem church | The embattled Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem tried to seize the Jerusalem church compound with a group of guards, but was stopped by Israeli police, rebel clergymen said (Associated Press)

Papal comments:

  • Pope criticizes Harry Potter | Pope Benedict XVI has condemned the Harry Potter books as "subtle seductions," capable of corrupting young Christians, in two letters which have now been published online (The Times, London)
  • Also: Pope opposes Harry Potter novels | Signed letters from Cardinal Ratzinger now online (
  • Pope's condolence telegram causes flap | Shake in Vatican's communications operation may be coming (National Catholic Reporter)


  • Questions for pope on evolution stance | Three scientists have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the church's position in light of recent statements by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (The New York Times)
  • What Catholics think of evolution | They don't not believe in it (Keelin McDonell, Slate)
  • Signs of intelligence? | What the neo-Darwinists don't understand about theories of Intelligent Design (Isaac Constantine, The Weekly Standard)


  • Priest publicly protests transfer | A popular priest who is being forced out as pastor of a Georgetown parish by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, has groused publicly about his ouster, and his congregation is rallying to his defense (The Washington Times)
  • Dress code for Mumbai churchgoers | Miniskirts, tight outfits and plunging necklines are inappropriate for Sunday Mass, the Catholic Church in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) says (BBC)
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  • Diocese Ch. 11 plan gets okay | Bankruptcy judge: Criteria have been met (Arizona Daily Star)
  • Bill would give voters voice on church closings | Hub voters would be asked if the Archdiocese of Boston "has failed" in its handling of church closings in neighborhoods under a nonbinding ballot question to be proposed by a trio of city councilors today (Boston Herald)
  • Conservative Catholics question past donations by bishops' lobbyist | He gave to politicians at odds with church (The Boston Globe)
  • Dioceses' new rep gave $$ to pols with anti-church stands | The Quincy attorney appointed to represent the four Catholic dioceses of Massachusetts on Beacon Hill has contributed to the campaigns of at least four state politicians whose positions on issues ranging from abortion laws to gay marriage often contradict church teaching (Boston Herald)


  • Judge seals deal on former priest's file | The accord concerns a former cleric who faces sexual-abuse charges (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)
  • Woman says priest sexually abused her | The allegations concern a minister who has been named in 4 other lawsuits (Des Moines Register, Ia.)


  • Churches to attend ritual abuse summit | Representatives of African churches in the UK are to meet ministers and police and social services chiefs at a government summit to tackle ritualistic faith-related child abuse (The Guardian, London)
  • Police detain Brazilian congressman with suitcases of cash | Joao Batista Ramos da Silva is also an ordained minister in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and said the money was from tithes collected during religious services (Associated Press)
  • Church copes with accusations | Pastor released on bail in child porn investigation (The Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla.)
  • Earlier: Pastor collected child porn, police say | He was arrested after suspicious Fort Caroline United Methodist Church officials tipped off police (The Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla.)
  • Fire at vandalized church was arson, federal investigators say | Federal investigators concluded that a fire at a church vandalized with anti-homosexual graffiti was set (The Washington Times)

Tenn. arson:

  • Sparta arson suspect had attended burned church in childhood (Associated Press)
  • Police still searching for Sparta church fire suspects (The Tennessean)
  • Earlier: Man held in Sparta church fires | Residents vow to rebuild: 'This is the saddest thing I've ever seen' (The Tennessean, Nashville)
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Whites confess, unite with Blacks during church service:

  • White church leaders confess sins of ancestors | Abbeville service focuses on lynchings (Index-Journal, Greenwood, S.C.)
  • Whites, blacks bury past | Service of conciliation brings races together (The State, Columbia, S.C.)
  • Black, Whites unite during church service | Friendship Worship Center, organized the special service in response to the U.S. Senate's official apology for failing to support anti-lynching legislation between 1880 and 1952 (Anderson Independent-Mail, S.C.)

UK religious hate bill:

  • Hatred Bill goes ahead despite Church protests | The Government pressed ahead last night with plans to outlaw incitement to religious hatred despite warnings from Christians that the move would worsen relations between different faiths (The Telegraph, London)
  • Curb offered on abuse of religious hatred law | The government moved to reassure opponents of its controversial bill against inciting religious hatred last night by ensuring that faith groups will not be able to place their critics under citizen's arrest (The Guardian, London)
  • Religious hate law clears Commons | Government attempts to clamp down on expressions of religious hatred have cleared the Commons, but are set for a rocky ride in the House of Lords (BBC)

War & terrorism:

  • Muslim clerics condemn London attack, but are radicals listening? | Hard-core jihadis may be past persuasion by moderate imams, analysts worry (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • The Christianist conspiracy | Rudolph's dark devolution from "pro-lifer" to mass murderer owes far more to progressive thought structures than to any traditionalism, Christian or otherwise (Maggie Gallagher)
  • I shall fear no evil | How the wisdom of Psalm 23 can help us keep faith after the London bombings (Marc Gellman, Newsweek)


  • Church leaders paint bleak picture of Zimbabwe | The deliberate destruction of the informal economy in Zimbabwe is unparalleled in modern-day Africa, church leaders said in a report released on Tuesday. (Mail & Guardian, South Africa)
  • Church outrage at Zimbabwe raids | South African church leaders have accused Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe of "trampling on humanity" with the recent destruction of houses (BBC)


  • Probe NGOs, youth body urges ACC | A youth Christian organization has urged the Anti-Corruption Commission to launch a probe into operations of various non-governmental organizations in Zambia (The Times of Zambia)
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  • Respect our differences, says the Christian ATKV | An Afrikaans body which accepts only Christians as members yesterday called for "justifiable differences" in society to be respected (Pretoria News)

Church & state:

  • Gaur targets collectors on conversion | Babulal Gaur is planning to amend a state law to make religious conversions more difficult after a controversial report said they were responsible for violence on Christians in tribal areas. (The Telegraph, Calcutta, India)
  • ACLU pushes state on Quran oaths | The ACLU of North Carolina on Monday accused state court officials of not responding quickly enough to a controversy involving the use of the Quran for courtroom oaths (The News-Record, Greensboro, N.C.)
  • A bid to restore cross to seal | Supporters of restoring the cross that was removed from Los Angeles County's official government seal announced on Monday a third attempt to put the matter to a countywide vote (Los Angeles Times)
  • Jesus is my wingman | Who better to save somebody than the Air Force Academy? (Art Buchwald, The Washington Post)
  • 'Christian Exodus' sees Upstate as promised land | Group plans national gathering here, hopes thousands move in to reshape state based on its religious values (The Greenville News, S.C.)
  • Court limits accommodation of religion | The problem of how far we can accommodate the accommodation doctrine has not been settled once and for all. Far from it. (Leo Sandon, The Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.)
  • Is a holy book really necessary in court? | What's wrong with just asking the witness to hold up his hand and pledge that he isn't a fibber? (Editorial, The Daily Dispatch, Henderson, N.C.)
  • Onward Christian soldiers | "First we get the military, then we get the nation" (Jim Walsh, City Pages, Minneapolis)
  • God's (re)calling | Mayor Louise Schilling and Mayor Pro Tem Robin Beltramini are being targeted for ouster because they twice voted against allowing the Troy National Day of Prayer Task Force to hold a Christians-only service outside City Hall in May (Metro Times, Detroit)

Religion & politics:

  • In sanctum Santorum | ''When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this [clergy sex abuse] scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm," said the senator (Brian McGrory, The Boston Globe)
  • Christian conservatives take on tobacco | A key figure in the national movement turns out to be an activist often associated with liberal causes, Vincent DeMarco (U.S. News & World Report)
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  • Labor, party of the true believers | As a representative of the Labor Party, I'm perfectly relaxed about the mixing of religion and politics (Wayne Swan, The Age, Melbourne)

Supreme Court:

  • The wages of intolerance | A self-described "conservative Christian Republican" explains why Bush can't choose a new Supreme Court justice based on religious criteria (Marci Hamilton, AlterNet)
  • Also: Read Hamilton's other columns here (
  • What might two Supreme Court vacancies mean for reproductive rights? | While the federal "partial birth" abortion ban has been held invalid, the composition of the court is about to change (Joanna Grossman,
  • Abortion and the court | The right to abortion is in no immediate danger, regardless of whom Bush selects. And even if the court were to reverse itself, abortion would undoubtedly remain widely legal in this country (Editorial, Chicago Tribune)
  • Abortion rights advocate only choice for senators | New Jersey's two U.S. Senators, both Democrats, said Monday they would endorse only an abortion rights supporter to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (Gloucester County Times, N.J.)

Ten Commandments:

  • High court on Ten Commandments: messy but wise decisions | Justices' messages on displays involving government property is: It depends. And that may be exactly what we need (Charles C. Haynes, First Amendment Center)
  • County to keep the Commandments | Northampton judges unanimously agree plaque displayed in courthouse promotes history instead of religion (The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.)
  • Judges decide commandments plaque may stay | Exhibit to remain in Northampton County courthouse after ruling (The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.)

Life ethics:

  • Legislators drop suicide bill for now | Law that would let the terminally ill get lethal drugs lacks majority support in Assembly. Backers say they'll resubmit it next year (Los Angeles Times)
  • WHO puts abortifacients on its essential drug list | The World Health Organization has put two abortifacient drugs on its list of essential medicines to offer an alternative to surgical methods that are often used in developing countries. (British Medical Journal)


  • Bush faces test on abortion | The constitutional experts call it ''settled law," and it was applied late Friday to as contentious an abortion-related issue as has arisen over the last 10 years (Thomas Oliphant, The Boston Globe)
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  • Portugal acquits 'abortion women' | A Portuguese court has acquitted two women accused of having illegal abortions after a year-long trial (BBC)
  • Late abortion 'a hard decision' | Women who undergo a late abortion do not take the decision to do so lightly, a charity has said (BBC)
  • 24-week limit for abortions 'must stay' | Most women seeking a "late" abortion are not aware they are pregnant until the final stages, says a report today which supports the retention of the 24-week limit for terminations (The Telegraph, London)
  • Abortion limit 'does not affect demand' | Campaigners launched a fightback against political and religious demands for a cut in the abortion time limit, publishing evidence of the pressures on women undergoing a late termination (The Guardian, London)


  • 'Just say no' shouldn't be the only sex policy | Abstinence-only sex education for teenagers took another hit in the US last week when a prominent group of pediatricians came out in support of giving them access to birth control (The Jerusalem Post)
  • Group changes tack on teen abstinence | A leading pediatricians group is drawing fire for "diluting" its previous position on teen sexual abstinence and urging doctors to "help ensure" that all teens have access to contraception, including emergency contraception (The Washington Times)
  • Vatican urges jail for kerb crawlers | The Vatican has for the first time backed the jailing of prostitutes' clients as a way of ending what it calls "a form of modern slavery" (The Guardian, London)
  • Vatican: Punish clients of prostitution | The Vatican's office for migrants and itinerants also urged the church and community at large to provide alternatives to women who are trafficked or otherwise forced into prostitution (Associated Press)
  • Access to contraceptive did not alter practices, study says | Making emergency contraception available without a prescription in Britain did not lead women there to rely on it rather than other birth control methods or to an increase in unprotected sex, a new study has found (The Washington Post)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Nebraska gay-marriage ruling vastly expands rights | Federal district judge's reasoning that restricting same-sex marriage violates First Amendment association, petition rights of those who would lobby for it, however, may not withstand almost-certain appeal (Douglas Lee, First Amendment Center)
  • Charges dropped against mayor who performed gay weddings | A trial against New Paltz Mayor Jason West would be needless and divisive, says judge (The New York Times)
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  • Most gays, psychologists reject conversion | Support groups, professionals coordinate to counter Christian activism (MSNBC)
  • Christian groups put on the spot over gay row | National Council of Churches of Kenya, Presbyterian Church of East Africa, and St Paul's United Theological College will either have to cut financial and doctrinal links with the United Church of Christ and forego crucial funding or risk backlash from the dominant fiercely conservative Christians (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)
  • Update: National Council of Churches of Kenya opposes same sex marriages | NCCK Secretary-General Mutava Musyimi said the group would not fulfill certain conditions to receive aid (The East African Standard, Nairobi)
  • Literal interpretation | A quick study of the Bible reveals the hypocrisy of conservative Christians, who claim to follow the good book word for word (Charles Hammer, The Advocate, gay magazine)
  • Gays and the United Church of Christ | Not even the Puritans stayed prudes forever (Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune)

Church life:

  • Anglicans and Methodists edge closer towards unity | The Church of England inched closer to the Methodists yesterday when the General Synod in York welcomed a report designed to resolve many of their differences (The Telegraph, London)
  • Houses of worship open doors for tours | It's known as the Summer Church Tours, but the popular event that begins Tuesday has expanded over the years into a multifaith event with visits to a Muslim mosque, a Hindu temple, and Jewish synagogues (The Toledo Blade)
  • $40 million church 'office' coming to Buckhead | The Rev. Andy Stanley believes if you're going to build a church in Buckhead, it ought to look like an office building (The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionld)

Church of England votes for women bishops:

  • Women bishops come a step closer | The Church of England's ruling body has voted to remove the legal blocks stopping women from becoming bishops (BBC)
  • Barriers to women bishops removed | Synod vote raises prospect of female episcopacy by 2015 (The Guardian, London)
  • Church of England votes to back women bishops | A synod meeting in the city of York voted to "remove legal obstacles" in Church law to women bishops, a process Church officials say could take about four years to complete (Reuters)
  • Church faces women bishops split | For such a momentous event the vote approving in principle the ordination of women bishops was a muted affair (BBC)
  • Why men should head the Church | Former deacon Caroline Sandon puts the case against female bishops (The Times, London)
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  • English church advances bid for women as bishops | In a move that could further divide the global Anglican Church, the leaders of the Church of England voted Monday to begin the legal moves toward ordaining women as bishops (The New York Times)
  • Church votes to prepare way for women bishops | Women in the Church of England finally broke through the stained-glass ceiling yesterday when the General Synod voted to begin the legal process that will enable them to become bishops. (Times, London)

Australian Anglicans support, oppose women bishops:

  • Church split over women bishops widens | A split between the Sydney Anglican diocese and the rest of Anglican Australia has intensified after the primate, Dr Phillip Aspinall, supported the Church of England's moves to clear the way for the consecration of women bishops (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Aspinall backs path for women bishops | The Church of England's decision to move towards ordaining women bishops is consistent with momentum in the Anglican Church of Australia, its new leader says (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
  • Jensen opposes female bishops | The Church of England's decision to move towards ordaining women bishops would be a divisive issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen said today (The Australian)
  • Anglican primate backs women priests | The new head of the Anglican Church of Australia has welcomed the Church of England's decision to move towards ordaining women bishops (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Missions & ministry:

  • Evangelicals are a growing force in the military chaplain corps | The rising number of chaplains from evangelical and Pentecostal churches increases tension over their role in the armed services (The New York Times)
  • Holy Land exempt from property tax | The religious-themed park wins the break given churches and museums, a judge rules (The Orlando Sentinel)
  • I ride for Him | Christian motorcycle ministries spread the gospel on two wheels (Metro Times, Detroit)


  • LU's goal: $1 billion fund | As school year 2005-2006 approaches, Liberty University is embarking on a $1 billion endowment drive and will be providing its students with about $50 million in institutional aid (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)
  • Also: Rev. Falwell university aims to raise $1B (Associated Press)
  • Mayor opposes plan to allow voucher use outside D.C. | Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday that he is against letting District students use federal vouchers at private high schools outside the city, arguing that no major changes should be made in the program until a five-year trial period is over (The Washington Post)
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Money & business:

  • Retailers competing for devout dollars | Christian trade show attendees focus on fight for market share (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
  • Baptists address economics | Black merchants listed for visitors (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)

Television and film:

  • Gospel according to Homer | Bible studies draw lessons from 'Simpsons' (The Pasadena Star-News, Ca.)
  • Christian network aims again at KOCE-TV | Dallas-based Daystar Television files with an appeals court to award it sale of the college PBS station (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)
  • Religion: use it to justify anything, even Big Brother | It's salvation in the loungeroom (Tim Wallace, The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Bollywood item number, film made by church! | Treading uncharted territory, the social service wing of the Delhi Catholic Church is producing a full-fledged Hindi feature film, with all the ingredients of a typical Bollywood blockbuster, including a very hot item number (PTI, India)


  • Light won't shine at site of vision | East Chicago officials say safety is their concern (The Times, Munster, Ind.)
  • Also: Chicago officials turn off 'Jesus' light (Associated Press)
  • Don't equate God with the natural world | By equating God with the "structure and function" of the material world, Christians play a losing game (Margaret Wertheim, The Providence Journal, R.I.)

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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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