Focus on the Family: Urge Bush to "restore the right to religious expression in the Air Force"
Yesterday's dispatch from Family News in Focus, Focus on the Family's political news service, was cautiously skeptical of new Air Force guidelines on the exercise of religion. The regulations "could silence Christians," said the headline, but those quoted in the story were somewhat optimistic.

"As I read between the lines here, I see the authors of the document trying in a good faith way to basically state what's been established practice all along," military analyst John Howland told Focus.

An update from Family News in Focus, however, takes off the gloves. While there's no direct quote from a Focus official, all those quoted are critical, and suggest the Air Force went too far.

Most critical is Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver, who calls the guidelines "outrageous."

"To say that you can only have prayer in extraordinary circumstances, I think is hypocritical and certainly not consistent with our founding fathers and George Washington — our first general and first president," Staver said. "We are a 'nation under God,' as our Pledge says, and once we forget that, we've forgotten our heritage. And once we do that, we're no longer America."

The latest Focus piece ends with a call to readers: "Please contact President Bush and urge him to restore the right to religious expression in the Air Force."

Also critical of the guidelines is U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who tells the Jewish newspaper Forward, "My concern is that it just seems like one assault after another on what I think are the Judeo-Christian values of America. I felt that the Air Force defended itself very well. But if they have made significant changes, then I think they are yielding to outside political pressure."

The Rocky Mountain News reports that U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., wrote a letter of caution to Air Force Legislative Liaison Director Maj. Gen. Scott Custer, warning the Air Force not to "turn commanders into sensitivity police."

"The notion of maintaining an environment of religious tolerance within the armed forces is an important goal," Tancredo wrote. "That being said, it is fundamentally important to ensure that the government does not seek to achieve that mission by creating an environment that is hostile to religious expression."

Neither Jones nor Tancredo seem to have responded to the content of the three-page document. (Note Jones's comment "if they have made significant changes"). One hopes that anyone heeding Focus's call to call Washington will take a minute or two to read them before doing so.

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More on the military:

  • Keep religion out of military | They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and that might or might not be true. But if there are, it's their business, not their commanding officer's (Lou Sessinger, The Intelligencer, Doylestown, Pa.)
  • Respecting religious diversity | We need a bipartisan presidential commission to fully explore how an appropriate balance can be reached in the military between the personal expression of faith and the constitutional separation of religion and state (Editorial, Forward)
  • Naval Academy retains prayer | The U.S. Naval Academy has no plans to banish the noon mealtime prayer for midshipmen, after the Air Force issued a policy this week that discourages prayers at some events but keeps the tradition at others (The Washington Times)


  • O.C. apologizes for ill-timed election | Special primary in the 48th Congressional District is Oct. 4, when the Jewish New Year is celebrated. Early voting will begin Sept. 25 (Los Angeles Times)
  • Romney urges '08 gay-marriage poll | Says public should have voice on issue (The Boston Globe)
  • Preying for votes: The governor's preachers | Perry and religious conservatives get together to bash gays (Austin Chronicle, Tex.)
  • Writers slam hatred law | The government's controversial plans to ban incitement to religious hatred are facing growing opposition from the arts world (The Guardian, London)
  • Christians draw swords on climate | A new UK organisation hopes to combat climate change through harnessing the political power of the church (BBC)

John Roberts:

  • Roberts to overturn Roe? Don't bet on it | The Supreme Court nominee appears to prefer stability over activism -- which could disappoint conservatives (Andrés Martinez, Los Angeles Times)
  • Studying John Roberts | It's a Catholic temperament (Dennis Coyle, National Review Online)


  • Prescription for injustice | Allowing pharmacists not to fill lawful prescriptions based on their own moral or religious beliefs is undemocratic (Florence A. Ruderman, The New York Times)
  • FDA official quits over delay on Plan B | Women's Health chief says commissioner's decision on contraceptive was political (The Washington Post)
  • FDA official quits over pill delay | Wood blames politics for refusal to approve morning-after drug (The Boston Globe)
  • Official quits on pill delay at the FDA | The director of the FDA's office of women's health resigned to protest a decision to further delay approving over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill (The New York Times)
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  • FDA official quits over Plan B pill delay | Assistant Commissioner Susan Wood charged that FDA's leader overruled his own scientists' determination that the morning-after pill could safely be sold without a prescription (Associated Press)
  • FDA official resigns over contraceptive delay | The top women's health official at the Food and Drug Administration resigns over the FDA's failure to approve over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive pill called Plan B (Morning Edition, NPR)

Life ethics:

  • Missouri's Medicaid shame: Feeding tubes optional | Feeding tubes and nutritional formula aren't optional for thousands of Missourians with severe brain damage or disabilities. Without them, people can't eat. But beginning tomorrow, Missouri Medicaid no longer will pay for them. Nor will it pay for breathing machines for people with respiratory failure; for canes, crutches and walkers; for cushions to prevent life-threatening bed sores; or for wheelchair batteries (Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Hanging: Action adjourned | Most opposition to the death penalty appears to come from committed Christians, as a basic tenet of their philosophical and religious beliefs (Editorial, The National, Papua New Guinea)
  • State laws on abortion | Activists on the abortion issue are focused on the upcoming Roberts hearings, but in the last year many states have passed laws restricting abortion access. A panel joins Diane to talk about new state laws relating to abortion and reproductive rights (The Diane Rehm Show, NPR)

Sexual ethics and church:

  • Church against same-sex relations | The Methodist Church has condemned homosexuality and lesbianism, saying that it diverts God's purpose for human beings, where they are to go forth and reproduce (Fiji Times)
  • No pre-marital sex: Church | The Methodist Church is calling on all its young members to refrain from pre-marital sex and help in the fight against the spread of AIDS by recommitting themselves to the Lord (Fiji Times)
  • Malawi Anglicans challenge choice of pro-gay bishop-elect | Conservative Anglicans in Malawi are trying to stop a liberal British vicar becoming a bishop there in the latest sign of a widening split in the worldwide Anglican communion over gay rights (The Mercury, South Africa)
  • Churches need to accept changes | Religious institutions need to adapt and evolve with the societies they serve (Editorial, The Star, South Africa)
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  • Vatican document on gay priests up in air | As the Vatican prepares to visit U.S. seminaries in September in response to the sex abuse scandal, the fate of a long-awaited Vatican document on whether homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood appears uncertain (Associated Press)
  • Pope meets controversial writer | Oriana Fallaci, the controversial Italian author who is awaiting trial on charges of vilifying Islam, has been granted a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI (The Guardian, London)
  • Pope tells Catholics to multiply | Pope Benedict XVI has told Catholics to have more babies "for the good of society," saying that some countries were being sapped of energy because of low birth rates (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
  • Solve the Church property dispute | It is high time Israel abided by its obligations to the Vatican (Andrew M. Rosemarine, The Jerusalem Post)

Church life:

  • United Methodist bishop resigns | Former leader of local conference was focus of complaint earlier this year (The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • Also: Retired Methodist bishop resigns amid unspecified complaint | Hae-Jong Kim, 70, the United Methodist Church's first Korean-American bishop, is resigning for personal reasons, effective Thursday, following an unspecified complaint, the church said (Associated Press)
  • Romanian Orthodox cleric dies at 78 | Archbishop Antonie Plamadeala, a Romanian orthodox cleric and former political prisoner who invited the Rev. Billy Graham to preach in Romania during the darkest years of Communism, has died at the age of 78 (Associated Press)
  • Former archbishop of Estonian church dies | Jaan Kiivit, a former archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church for more than a decade, died Wednesday at age 65, church officials said (Associated Press)
  • Westminster Abbey dean to step down | One of the Church of England's most senior and controversial clerics, Dr Wesley Carr, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, announced yesterday that he is to retire early in the new year (The Guardian, London)
  • Farewell, Church of England? | The Church of England is under assault—and the enemies are within. Peter Mullen, Chaplain to the Stock Exchange, tells us why the "whole institution is like a psychotic kindergarten," and what must be done about it (Peter Mullen, The New Criterion)
  • Pastor spent church money on Disneyland vacation, records show | A Scottsdale pastor took his family on a $6,000 Disneyland vacation paid for by church funds just a month before filing a $174,000 bankruptcy last year, according to church records (The Arizona Republic)
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  • Hudson pastor expands his duties | Founder of area church to lead U.S. headquarters of ministry based in India (Akron Beacon Journal, Oh.)

African churches:

  • Quiet jostling ahead of church polls | Two months from now, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa will vote on whether to name a new moderator or to retain Dr David Githii as head of the church (The Nation, Kenya)
  • One cleric who made a difference | The Rev David Githii was going to be a different leader from the very moment he was ordained as moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa on April 22, 2003 (The Nation, Kenya)
  • Methodist Church expels two pastors | The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church over the weekend summarily expelled two of its pastors for "disobedience to the doctrine and discipline" of the church (New Era, Namibia)

Kenya constitution:

  • Anglicans too won't take stand on new constitution | The Anglican Church has joined the Catholics in asking Kenyans to make individual decisions on the proposed constitution (The East African Standard, Kenya)
  • Referendum: It is all up to you, Anglican bishops tell their flock | The Anglican Church has joined the Catholics in urging their faithful to decide on their own which way to vote during the referendum (The Nation, Kenya)


  • Security stepped up after attacks | Thirty police officers have been involved in a security operation in County Antrim aimed at protecting property from sectarian attacks (BBC)
  • Pastor who stole $500,000 heads to sentencing backed by many in his church | It remains to be seen if a federal fraud prosecution will silence a defiant South Side preacher or crimp his high-flying lifestyle (Daily Southtown, Chicago)


  • Indonesian Ulema Council condemns action against Christian houses of worship | MUI head Umar Shihab said on Wednesday that all actions or efforts that disrupted religious activities were a form of violence, and as such could not be justified (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)
  • Most residents undisturbed by new church | Few residents protested (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)


  • Rare win for private college unions | NLRB rejects Carroll's argument that collective bargaining for professors would hurt institution's religious identity (Inside Higher Ed)
  • Calling off Ann Coulter | Harding U. cancels invitation to conservative commentator after alumni call her un-Christian (Inside Higher Ed)
  • Intelligent design efforts likely to fail | Orthodox Christians are wasting time asking for equal time for intelligent design in the public schools (E. Ray Moore Jr, The State, Columbia, S.C.)
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  • DTS President Mark Bailey claims newspaper accounts contained inaccuracies | School was lied to during re-admission process, he says during chapel (Jeff Wright, Pursuing Truth weblog)
  • Creationism and us | Evolution is just a scientific theory, not a way of seeing the universe that excludes Christianity (Editorial, Winfield Courier, Kan.)
  • LM zoning board nixes home school | With days to go to the start of a new school year, a Gladwyne home schooling group may be looking for a new home. The Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board voted Aug. 18 to deny the American Academy's requests for zoning relief to continue meeting at Gladwyne Methodist Church (Main Line Times, Ardmore, Pa.)

Pat Robertson:

  • Censoring Robertson? | Decisions about who should or should not be heard cannot be made on the basis of the presumed moral failings of a particular broadcaster (Editorial, The Capital Times, Madison, Wi.)
  • I have a theory about Pat | Perhaps those multimillionaire industrialists, known to conspiracy cultists variously as the "Military Industrial Complex", or the "Trilateral Commission", have persuaded Pat to make this proposal, something so radical that he won't be seen in the same light as the rest of 'em. (George Rice, Journal-Advocate, Sterling, Co.)
  • Pat Robertson—An honest man | Never mind Pat Robertson's lacking in P.R. skills like my-self. He is still a good Christian guy. He will continue to seek souls for the kingdom. One only hopes that some will at least seek to walk in line with God's Kingdom (Fr. Sean Major-Campbell, Cayman Net News)

Money & business:

  • Christian AC scores in the ratings — and not just in the Bible Belt | Approximately one of every four dollars of Salem's total broadcasting revenue stems from the company's 13 Contemporary Christian stations, but company officials are extremely cognizant that reduced inventory is just as critical in Christian AC as it is in any other format (Inside Radio)
  • Spiritual guidance … in the workplace? | Companies that hire workplace chaplains find that besides helping employees, they may help their bottom line, too (The Christian Science Monitor)

Other stories of interest:

  • Natarus pushes religious liberty at condo doorstep | Alderman seeks end to bans on symbols (Chicago Tribune)
  • Spiritual meditation 'may reduce pain' | Meditation makes people more relaxed and able to withstand pain if it has a spiritual basis, say scientists (The Telegraph, London)
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  • Uganda AIDS fight shuns condoms | Aid workers and foreign activists say Uganda is moving away from the highly successful "ABC" formula that won the country international recognition as Africa's leader in the fight against AIDS (The Washington Times)
  • Mormon church disputes Trib count | Newspaper stories didn't allow for members in transit, LDS cleric says (The Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Faithful line up for a sign from Yolanda Adams | By 6:30 Tuesday night, the line of those waiting to see contemporary gospel artist Yolanda Adams stretched so far outside the doors of Circuit City in Largo, folks could almost get some drive-through at the neighboring Chick-fil-A (The Washington Post)
  • A lifeline in an ocean of words | Adam Nicolson reviews Whose Bible Is It? by Jaroslav Pelikan (The Telegraph, London)
  • Wisdom's folly | In a competition between an atheist humanist and a religious believer to find the largest ego, it is not obvious who to back (Julian Baggini, The Guardian, London)
  • Churches start war on Crusci-fiction | An artwork that shows Star Wars characters nailed to crosses has sparked controversy before its public debut (Herald Sun, Victoria, Australia)

Related Elsewhere:

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