Today's Top Five

1. Graham siblings at odds over how best to honor their father and mother
"Billy and Ruth Bell Graham have spent decades carefully cultivating a media image that rarely allows any inkling of family discord," says the Grahams' hometown paper, The Asheville Citizen-Times. Laura Sessions Stepp's front-page Washington Post article Wednesday has dramatically changed that, but the signs suggest that it was the children (though clearly not Franklin Graham) who decided to make the latest battle—over where to bury Billy and Ruth—public. The Charlotte Observer notes that after the Post's publication, the feud escalated as the evangelist's two most famous offspring, Anne Graham Lotz and Franklin Graham, issued opposing "barbed statements."

2. Left Behind game criticized
"Don't mock Left Behind: Eternal Forces because it's a Christian game," says a review at Gamespot. "Mock it because it's a very bad game." Well, mockery or not, the video game is facing widespread criticism this week, mainly for the game's violent aspects. You're not encouraged to shoot your Antichrist-loving opponents, but you do have to train an anti-government paramilitary force and sometimes have to kill in self-defense (you lose "spirit points" by doing so, but can build them back up by pressing the "pray" button). We'll be watching Left Behind Games to see whether they apply the game's "don't shoot first, but do shoot back" approach to their publicity. A reviewer at Focus on the Family liked the game, but commentary at Prison Fellowship / BreakPoint has been as harsh as any.

3. Jay Bakker goes on TV
It's the Sundance Channel, not TBN, and it's a documentary, not a ministry. Bakker says he has no interest in televangelism.

4. The real Christmas tree ban
That Seattle airport story was a red herring. Yes, Virginia, there is a real Christmas tree ban—but it's in Canada. Toronto judge Marion Cohen has ordered the Ontario Court of Justice to remove its Christmas tree from the lobby. "I do not think it appropriate that when the clients of our court enter our courthouse, the first thing they see is a Christian symbol," she explained. "The message to the many non-Christians, who attend our court and are confronted with this symbol, is that they are not part of this institution. It does not belong to them." Cohen actually didn't ban it altogether—she ordered it moved to a less conspicuous location. But Canadians, including court employees, are outraged.

America has been short of good "Christmas wars" stories this year. But occasional anecdotes are dramatic enough to keep people entertained. The Rubidoux High School Madrigals were told by a Riverside, California, official not to sing "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" at a local event starring Sasha Cohen (this one, not this one) because Cohen is half-Jewish. The Madrigals had already started singing when the demand was made, so they had to stop mid-song. Cohen was apparently oblivious to the entire flap. What would have made the story all the better is if the official had castigated Cohen when she wished the crowd "Merry Christmas." Anyway, like almost all these flaps, everyone now agrees that the wrong choice was made, and it's hard to see any real harm done.

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5. Australia's Catch the Fire ministers win "vilification" appeal
In 2004, a judge found pastors Daniel Nalliah and Daniel Scot guilty of breaking the religious hatred law in Victoria, Australia, for statements they made criticizing Islam. The pastors were ordered to refrain from repeating the remarks and to buy newspaper advertisements to apologize for them. This week, the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling and ordered the case to be reheard under a different judge. Nalliah called the decision "a great day for free speech. We are humble in victory, and we thank God for the ability to stand up and say the truth. We are not restricted any more; we can speak freely."

Quote of the day
"We're pleased that today's decision helps ensure that a student's constitutional right to freely express her religious views is protected."

—ACLU attorney Jennifer Klear, on news of U.S. District Court Judge Freda L. Wolfson's ruling that Frenchtown (N.J.) Elementary School was wrong to ban a second-grader from singing "Awesome God" at a voluntary, after-school talent show. The ACLU of New Jersey had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the student.

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Graham family | Money and business | Jay Bakker documentary | Television | Entertainment and media | Left Behind video game | Art | Haggard accuser to write book | Sexual ethics | Anglicanism | Catholicism | Catholic-Orthodox relations | Church building disputes | Church life | Abuse | Crime | Life ethics | Malaria | War and peace | Military | Church and state | Religious freedom | Religious vilification case in Australia | O Tannen-ban | Halt the herald | More Christmas | Hanukkah | Jingle bells | "Awesome God" okay | Education | Higher education | Politics | Immigration | Atheism | Spirituality | Top religion stories of 2006 | Other stories of interest
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Graham family:

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Money and business:

  • Faith's purchasing power | Christian consumption has gone far beyond the book as millions use their buying power to reinforce their faith and show commitment to the Christian community (USA Today)

  • IRS outlines new rules on deductions | Gave to church? Prove it. (Associated Press)

  • Minimum wage: Churches divided on how to help poor | If it wasn't for churches and religious charities, a lot of folks would go hungry in the United States this winter. But while most churches believe in helping the poor, they take different views on how to go about it (Reuters)

  • Union-backed group enlists preachers | A new television ad by the union-backed group features a pastor asking, "Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart? Should you?" (Associated Press)

  • Who gives, who doesn't | Conservatives can refrain from reading mean-spiritedness into liberalism on the basis of Mr. Brooks' findings if liberals will simply stop trying to impute cold-heartedness to conservative ideas they don't like. (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Small loans help lift millions out of poverty | You can support microlending in several ways (Rhonda Abrams, USA Today)

  • It's pope vs. pop star on Africa, Weigel says | In a recent Rome lecture in which he addressed Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus caritas est, Weigel contrasted the approach to Africa associated with the rock star Bono—which, Weigel said, draws a flawed distinction between charity and justice—with the pope's insistence that no program of state-sponsored assistance or massive philanthropic endeavor can ever replace individual acts of compassion (John L. Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter)

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Jay Bakker documentary:

  • A preacher, like his dad, but his congregation prefers bar stools over pews | Jay Bakker is an earnest, troubled and unevenly shaven Christian at center stage in "One Punk Under God," a documentary series that started Wednesday on the Sundance Channel (The New York Times)

  • 'One Punk Under God': Homily from the preachers' son | Given his clerical, sometimes comical, pedigree, Bakker the Younger would seem to be a promising reality-show subject. But the mopey minister is angst-ridden as he tries to balance family and faith, so "One Punk" plods where it should provoke (The Washington Post)

  • This Bakker preaches revolutionary change | 2006 is eventful for Jay Bakker -- far more than he imagined when "One Punk Under God" began filming in February (The Boston Globe)

  • Bakker, Brown: What the hell happened to Christianity? | What the hell happened? Where did we go wrong? How was Christianity co-opted by a political party? Why are Christians supporting laws that force others to live by their standards? The answers to these questions are integral to the survival of Christianity (Jay Bakker and Marc Brown, CNN)

  • Jay Bakker says one TV show enough for now | The latest member of the Bakker clan to have a television show says it's a one-off miniseries and that he has no interest in following in the footsteps of his televangelist parents, Jim and Tammy Faye (Reuters)

  • One punk under God | Interview: The son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker says that Jesus loves you, tattoos and all (Mother Jones)

  • Son of a televangelist | Jay Bakker in One Punk Under God (Slate)

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Entertainment and media:

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Left Behind video game:

  • Critics: Video game glorifies violence | Critics say "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" glorifies religious violence against non-Christians. Some liberal groups have been urging a boycott, and on Tuesday they urged Wal-Mart to withdraw the game from its shelves (Associated Press)

  • Christian video game stokes controversy (Reuters)

  • New video game is first to star Rabbi? | While Christian games like the newly released "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" gain mainstream attention, Manifesto Games in New York City is billing "The Shivah" as the first to star the leader of a Jewish congregation (Reuters)

  • Groups urge chain to drop Christian game | A coalition of liberal groups has launched an effort to persuade Wal-Mart to stop selling "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," a Christian video game in which players can kill unbelievers (The Boston Globe)

  • Critics: 'Left Behind' game glorifies violence | Talk about warfare. A Christmas season turf war is underway over whether a new computer game, laced with violent virtual battles and spiritual messages stressing the urgent need for salvation, is authentically Christian (USA Today)

  • Christian video game draws anger | A new Christian video game has sparked calls for a boycott from groups who say it is "training for religious warfare" (BBC)

  • Maker of Christian games launches social-networking site | Left Behind Games, an evangelical Christian software corporation spun off the best-selling book series, has launched a social-networking site that it promotes as a safe and profanity-free alternative to services like that have largely unregulated content (CNet)

  • Kill. Repent. Repeat. Happy holidays | What better way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace than with a computer game that allows you to slaughter non-believers, convert them or abandon them to the cold pit of hell? (John Kass, Chicago Tribune)

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  • Ho, ho, horrible | The line has really been crossed (Faith Brobst, The Point, Prison Fellowship/Breakpoint)

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  • An anonymous donor helps make a church whole | The St. Joan of Arc Corpus of Christ, created by a sculptor in West Palm Beach, Fla., is 12 feet tall and weighs 1,400 pounds and was donated by a mysterious benefactor (The New York Times)

  • Divine and devotee meet across hinges | "Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych" at the National Gallery of Art brings art historians and art conservators together in a project that is part salvage mission and part detective story (The New York Times)

  • Photo exhibit puts focus on religious similarities | Daily life in varied faiths is depicted to stir discussion (The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)

  • The greatest story never told | A virgin birth, great parts for everyone and a happy ending … so why aren't there more good plays about Jesus? (The Guardian, London)

  • Worth a pilgrimage | The sacred meets Indiana Jones in the Sackler Gallery's exhibit "In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000." (Rebecca Cusey, National Review Online)

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Haggard accuser to write book:

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Sexual ethics:

  • Pastors' disclosures may stir empathy, some evangelicals say | Confessions by two evangelical Christian ministers to having same-sex relationships could lead evangelicals to feel greater compassion toward gay men and lesbians, some evangelical leaders said (The New York Times)

  • Also: Repentance lost | The New York Times grants evangelicals some leeway on biblical interpretation (Paul Chesser, The American Spectator)

  • Same-sex marriage foes sue lawmakers | Lawyers from a group opposing gay marriage filed a $5 million federal lawsuit against 109 state lawmakers yesterday accusing them of violating the US Constitution when they refused to decide whether to put a ban on gay marriage on the 2008 ballot (The Boston Globe)

  • Southern bellwether | Evangelical churches join the gay rights vanguard (Daniel Redman, The New Republic)

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  • Legislators vote for gay unions in New Jersey | The vote fulfilled a court mandate to provide equal rights to gays and lesbians but frustrated people on both sides of the issue (The New York Times)

  • Also: N.J. civil unions bill goes to governor (Associated Press)

  • Romney again says he's anti-gay marriage | "Like the vast majority of Americans, I've opposed same-sex marriage, but I've also opposed unjust discrimination against anyone, for racial or religious reasons, or for sexual preference," Romney said in an interview with the National Review magazine published online Thursday (Associated Press)

  • Gay rights regulations challenged | A group representing 15,000 Christians is taking the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to court to try to block new gay rights legislation (BBC)

  • Ireland rejects lesbian marriage | Ireland's High Court has rejected a lesbian couple's attempt to have their marriage legally recognized (BBC)

  • Man whose sex drive rose after injury claims £3.5m | A Christian newly-wed has filed a £3.5 million compensation claim against his employers, saying that his marriage was ruined because his sex drive spiraled out of control after he injured his head at work (The Times, London)

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  • Williams warned of Church anarchy | The Church of England was plunged into a fresh crisis yesterday after evangelical leaders representing 2,000 churches told the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow them to bypass liberal bishops or face widespread anarchy (The Telegraph, London)

  • Action by Tanzanian bishops risks new gay priests row | A group of African bishops has issued a new challenge to the splintering worldwide Anglican communion by saying they will refuse to recognise any church which allows gay people to be priests or deacons, or any bishops who ordain gay people or license them to officiate (The Guardian, London)

  • J'lem bishop accused of corruption | The chief pastor of the Anglican community in Israel, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, is facing mushrooming allegations of nepotism and graft which have clouded the end of his tenure in office, church officials said Wednesday (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Church divided over bishop | Despite assurance from Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi that the Rev. Benjamin Ojwang is the right bishop of Kitgum Diocese, a group calling its self Concerned Christians, which is opposed to Bishop Ojwang has continued to use local radios and some churches to ask Christians to reject Ojwang (The Monitor, Uganda)

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  • Avoiding disease in church | If the church is willing to suspend a portion of the Mass in the interest of preventing the spread of serious disease, consider what condoning the use of condoms would do toward the same end (Steven Slosberg, The Day, New London, Ct.)

  • Henrietta man's holy vows stir unease | Ordination invalid because it's outside church, diocese contends (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, N.Y.)

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Catholic-Orthodox relations:

  • Pope meets with head of Greece Church | Archbishop Christodoulos' visit reciprocates John Paul's trip to Athens in 2001 (Associated Press)

  • Landmark Catholic-Orthodox talks | It was the first official meeting at the Vatican between Greece's most senior cleric and the leader of the world's Roman Catholics (BBC)

  • Greek bishop asks Pope to return piece of Parthenon | According to spokesmen for Christodoulos, the Pope was a bit perplexed by the request, perhaps not knowing that the vast museums he technically owns as sovereign of Vatican City have a fragment of the 5th century BC structure (Reuters)

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Church building disputes:

  • Approval to build church is nullified | A state judge has overturned a decision by the Planning Board to permit the construction of a Syrian Orthodox Church in the borough, saying the house of worship was approved by the wrong municipal body (

  • Council decides church gets no break in fees | The city council denied a church's request for a variance on capital recovery fees that had more than doubled since the church first applied for building permits (Galveston County Daily News, Tex.)

  • Vicar's anger over 'silly' rules | A Lincoln clergyman has called for common sense to be used after part of his church was closed to meet health and safety regulations (BBC)

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Church life:

  • Russian churches to reconcile | Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which split from its Moscow-based parent after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, have voted to fully reconcile with the Russian church next May, a spokesman said (Associated Press)

  • Churches vote to leave UCC | More churches are sure to follow (The Kutztown Area Patriot, Pa.)

  • Lyons again wants to lead | The once-disgraced minister will seek the presidency of a state Baptist convention (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

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  • Pope's preacher calls for abuse penance | Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher asked the pontiff Friday to declare a day of fasting and penance to publicly declare repentance and express solidarity with the victims of clerical sex abuse (Associated Press)

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  • Sex offender foiled by church volunteer | The woman confronted the sex offender as he tried to pass himself off as a volunteer for the children's program at Community Christian Church Sunday. She then notified a church pastor, and the offender never got a chance to be alone with any children (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Victims group targets gifts to church | Two men who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests asked local Catholics on Wednesday to donate money to agencies that help kids, rather than to the church (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex)

  • Diocese reveals another abuser | FW officials say review turns up priest on duty until this month (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Priest ousted for past abuse of a minor | Bishop Kevin Vann of the Fort Worth Catholic Diocese removed a Wichita Falls priest from active ministry on Thursday because of the priest's admission of sexual abuse of a minor in the early 1970s (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Blanco monks, church settle sex abuse case | About $500,000 will be paid to man who said he was assaulted repeatedly at monastery (Austin American-Statesman, Tex.)

  • Child sex-abuse cases rock Ozarks religious group | In southwest Missouri, police are investigating allegations of child sexual abuse involving church leaders and church members. Prosecutors in two counties say there are multiple victims and similar patterns of abuse (All Things Considered, NPR)

  • Lawsuit accuses ex-priest of abuse | The cleric allegedly molested a 12-year-old boy during a trip in 1978 (The Kansas City Star)

  • Shifflett pleads guilty to charges | The 55-year-old pastor of First Baptist Church of Culpeper was scheduled for a series of four trials, beginning Jan. 17, on seven felony charges of physical and sexual abuse against children (Culpepper Star Exponent, Va.)

  • Also: Victims: Shifflett guilty plea bittersweet | While Shifflett will carry the designation of a convicted felon for the rest of his life, the victims wish a harsher sentence had been imposed (Culpepper Star Exponent, Va.)

  • Also: Former Norwich pastor found guilty of sexual assault | Charles Johnson Jr was accused of inappropriately touching the girl at his home when she was 9 or 10. At the time, he was pastor at Norwich Assembly of God (Norwich Bulletin, Ct.)

  • Earlier: Mother found journal about molestation | Trial of former pastor continues (The Day, New London, Ct.)

  • $800,000 bail set for pastor | Amount is for 4 latest abuse charges (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

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  • More charges brought against North Charleston pastor | At first members of Full Word Ministries were saying they didn't believe the charges against their pastor and that they stood being him 100%. Now, a source close to the investigation says several of the church's pastors and ministers have resigned (WCIV, Charleston, S.C.)

  • It's suit vs. suit in priest case | Accusers counter cleric's legal move (Chicago Tribune)

  • Ex-priest to face more charges, prosecutor says | The molestation accusations against Michael Baker involve a second alleged victim (Los Angeles Times)

  • Former church camp leader faces child pornography charges | A former Baptist camp leader was charged Tuesday with three counts of child pornography and one count of indecent solicitation of a child for incidents that occurred in April and May (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mo.)

  • Insurers call for church records | With 57 claimants awaiting the outcome, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield faced off against seven of its insurance carriers yesterday over the disclosure of 7,500 pages of church documents (The Republican, Springfield, Mass.)

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  • Orthodox Church 'stunned' by extent of financial abuse | Leaders of the Orthodox Church in America, who had long resisted calls for an investigation, have acknowledged a history of financial abuse at church headquarters in Syosset, N.Y. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Wade hands over report to federal authorities | The executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas has turned over a report on misuse of church-planting funds to federal prosecutors (Associated Press)

  • Ex-treasurer of Camden church pleads in theft case | The former treasurer of a Camden church, who was accused of stealing church funds for his own use, pleaded guilty yesterday to theft and tax evasion (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Man admits bilking church and friends in Hayfield | The local insurance man seemed like a pretty regular guy. But over the years Dale Schlichting fooled his neighbors, pals and congregants in fraud schemes worth close to $2 million (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Some church leaders accused of corruption | Some of the leading members of the Presbyterian Church in Korea are accused of misappropriating donations for those suffering from disasters and of selling Church real estate for a cheap price, causing financial damage to the church (The Korea Times)

  • Also: Police raid Seoul Presbyterian Church | It was revealed that police received an accusation containing suspicions about the executives of the general assembly of the Korean Presbyterian Church, and confiscated and searched the church headquarters in Suyu-dong, Seoul and related facilities. As police investigations into religious organizations are unusual, the backgrounds of the case are gathering interest (Don-A Ilbo, Seoul)

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  • Slain pastor praised by his flock | 'Mighty warrior' worked with the homeless in Suitland (The Washington Post)

  • Nourished by his faith | A preacher fasts and prays for justice after the murder of a gang peacemaker (The Boston Globe)

  • London nabs controversial Kenya pastor | Deya has claimed to help infertile couples conceive "through the power of prayer and the Lord Jesus" but DNA tests have showed that 20 of his "miracle babies" had no genetic connection to their supposed mothers (Associated Press)

  • Also: Kenyan 'miracle baby' pastor held | A police spokesman said Gilbert Deya had been detained under an arrest warrant issued by Kenyan authorities, who charged him with child trafficking (BBC)

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Life ethics:

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War and peace:

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  • "These people should be court-martialed" | Former Air Force officer Mikey Weinstein says evangelicals are trying to turn his beloved military into a "frickin' faith-based initiative" (

  • Onward Christian soldiers | Mikey Weinstein's complaint (Slate)

  • Watching appearances | One popular line is that the Constitution provides freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. But in truth, it also guarantees the latter. (Editorial, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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Church and state:

  • They shalt debate display | Patrick A. Wurtzel thinks he knows a way to deal with the troubles that plague Saginaw County -- and the rest of the world. His plan: install limestone tablets of the Ten Commandments in the lobby of the Saginaw County Governmental Center, 111 S. Michigan (The Saginaw News, Mi.)

  • Senate bans pastor after he condemns same-sex marriage | "The Holy Spirit took over, and I had to pray what he said," says Vincent Fields (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

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  • Earlier: Pastor at Senate invocation curses 'spirit' of gay marriage | "We curse the spirit that would come to bring about same-sex marriage," the Rev. Vincent Fields, pastor of Greater Works Ministries in Absecon, prayed as lawmakers listened, heads bowed. "We ask you to just look over this place today, cause them to be shaken in their very heart in uprightness, Lord, to do that is right before you." (The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.)

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Religious freedom:

  • Morocco's Christian converts irk the world of Islam | They might have Islamic names like Mohammed or Ali, but every Sunday these Moroccan converts to Christianity go discreetly to "church" -- to the ire of Islamic militants and under the suspicious eye of police (AFP)

  • Two Christian men sentenced to ten years in prison for "blasphemy" | Despite the lack of evidence a court in Faisalabad condemns two Catholic men for burning some pages of the Qur'an. For their attorney the verdict was influenced by Muslim extremists (

  • China Christians to stand trial | Eight Chinese Christians will stand trial on December 22, accused of inciting violent resistance to the law after they protested the government's destruction of a church, a Chinese dissident and a court official said on Friday (Reuters)

  • 'Taleban law' blocked in Pakistan | Pakistan's Supreme Court has blocked a fresh attempt to enact a Taleban-style law to enforce Islamic morality in North West Frontier Province (BBC)

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Religious vilification case in Australia:

  • Pastors will keep 'telling truth' on Muslims | Two Christian pastors found to have vilified Muslims stood on the steps of the Court of Appeal yesterday after the ruling was overturned and vowed to keep telling "the truth" about Islam (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Court orders vilification retrial | Two Christian pastors found to have vilified Muslims under Victoria's religious hatred law won their appeal and hailed the decision as a victory for free speech (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Free speech win for Islam critics | A tribunal decision seen as gagging critics of Islam has been torn up in a decisive victory for two fundamentalist preachers facing jail (Herald Sun, Australia)

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Halt the herald:

  • Carolers told to stop singing at event | After Sasha Cohen ice skates, a city staff member has a choir halted midsong (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)

  • Choir told to not 'God Rest Ye' (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ca.)

  • 'Oy to the World' | The mayor said he was "troubled." Of course he was! The Braintrust never saw this coming. Short of sending in madrigal-muzzling police, there was no Jewish Contingency Plan! (Dan Bernstein, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)

  • Olympic skater Sasha Cohen "stunned" by Xmas flap | Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen was "stunned" to learn that a U.S. high school choir had been ordered to stop singing Christmas carols at a holiday show because she is half-Jewish, her mother said on Thursday (Reuters)

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More Christmas:

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  • Church's holiday banner allowed | 'Keep Christ in Christmas' doesn't doesn't violate the city's sign ordinance, say Fredericksburg officials (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • A very ecumenical Christmas | Why conservatives despise the phrase happy holidays (David Greenberg, Slate)

  • Nativity scene investigators | 'Multicultural' interpretations of Christmas may cause complaints today, but the roots of the story suggest they are part of the tradition (John Palmer, The Guardian, London)

  • War on Christmas - how about a truce? | It has been the pleasure in recent years of a certain stripe of American Christians to thrill themselves with the notion -- and I'm not making this up -- that Christians are the most discriminated-against people in the country (Tom Teepen, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Is Jesus still a Palestinian? | If you believe in Christmas, Bethlehem may be no place for you. The Little Town, since antiquity an emotional world capital of Christianity, is steadily becoming a town without Christians. A city that was 80 percent Christian in 1948, is now 85 percent Muslim (Bradley Burston, Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

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Jingle bells:

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"Awesome God" okay:

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Higher education:

  • Harvard panel sets aside plan on religion | Professors designing a new curriculum for undergraduates at Harvard University have rescinded their proposal that all students take a class dealing with religion (The Boston Globe)

  • Also: Harvard loses its edge | Nixing a religion requirement will hurt the university (John Schmalzbauer, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Battle between UW-Superior and Christian group may be over | A legal battle between University of Wisconsin-Superior and a Christian student group may be over, since the Board of Regents agreed to change the wording of a policy (Wisconsin Public Radio)

  • Liberty Counsel challenges removal of cross | Liberty Counsel, a Lynchburg-based Christian legal advocacy group, has challenged the removal of a cross from the Wren Chapel altar at the College of William & Mary (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

  • Church and state | A controversy at Virginia's College of William & Mary offers an important warning for North Carolina officials who want to bring N.C. Wesleyan College into the state university system (Editorial, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.)

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  • Clinton hires faith guru | Burns Strider, one of the Democratic Party's leading strategists on winning over evangelicals and other values-driven voters, will join Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as she prepares to launch her 2008 presidential campaign (The Hill, D.C.)

  • Ed Koch calls for ouster of 'bigot' on Holocaust board | Edward Koch, the former mayor of New York and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, plans to ask the advisory board to remove columnist and talk radio host Dennis Prager from its membership (The Washington Post)

  • Group looks to churches to help fight against council change | A group opposed to changing the structure of the Fayetteville City Council says churches will be an important part of its grassroots effort (The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.)

  • Leader puts Christianity out in front | Kevin Rudd says Australia is a predominantly Christian country with a "Catholic-Protestant" tradition that places the Christian churches ahead of other religions in relations between church and state (The Australian)

  • Secular humanists to the rescue! | A new Washington think tank promises to save America from the religious Right (Thomas Berg, National Review Online)

  • The Religious Left's rebuttal | Harry Reid asks Jim Wallis to speak for the Democrats (Mark D. Tooley, The Weekly Standard)

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  • Atheists' bleak alternative | From the land that produced "A Christmas Carol" and Handel's "Messiah," more evidence that Christianity is fading in Western Europe: Nearly 99 percent of Christmas cards sold in Great Britain contain no religious message or imagery (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)

  • The godless fundamentalist | In The Root of All Evil, biologist Richard Dawkins reveals his own lust for certainty (Lakshmi Chaudhry, In These Times)

  • The celestial teapot | An atheist's critique of popular atheism (James Wood, The New Republic)

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  • What is a Christian? | No other question, except perhaps what is an American, has figured so highly in so many debates that effect us all (Anderson Cooper 360, CNN)

  • Believing is seeing | The faithful have spotted holy images in the ordinary: chocolate, tortillas and even a grilled cheese sandwich. Humans are hard-wired for such perceptions, some scientists say (Los Angeles Times)

  • Ugandans flock to concrete cross | Rumours that minor ailments and bad habits can be cured after kissing a giant cross atop a high hill in eastern Uganda has Catholic pilgrims flocking to the area (BBC)

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Top religion stories of 2006:

  • Top 10 religion stories of the year | Religion reporters vote (Religion Newswriters Association)

  • Amish outreach tops Beliefnet vote | The most "inspiring person" this year, in the eyes of 50,000 voters and the staff of multi-faith spirituality website, was ultimately a community — the Amish of tiny Nickel Mines, Pa., where five schoolgirls were murdered this fall (USA Today)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Group urged to protest Holocaust denials | Israel's prime minister asked Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday to urge Christians to protest Holocaust denials, Israeli government officials said (Associated Press)

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December 8 | 6 | 1
November 21 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 13
November 6 | 3 | 2
October 11 | 6 | 5 | 4
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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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