Today's Top Five

1. Deadly riots continue in Nigeria
Mobs of Christian youths, armed with clubs, machetes, and gas cans, beat several Muslims to death in the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha and set fire to two mosques. The rioting, which began yesterday and continued today, has left at least 20 people dead, Reuters reports. At least 39 people were taken to the hospital. A Red Cross official told Reuters, "Thousands of people who have been displaced from their homes are now sheltered at the police and army barracks." The violence comes as Muslim attacks, largely tied to outrage over the Muhammad caricatures, have left at least 50 people dead in Nigeria's northern cities. The attacks come a day after a dark statement from Church of Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola, in which he told "our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation" and that groups such as the Christian Association of Nigeria (which he leads) "may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue." It will be interested to see whether that message is seen as prescient or provocative, insightful or inciting.

2. Supreme Court to consider partial birth abortion ban
In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Nebraska's partial-birth abortion ban. When a federal version of the ban was written in 2003, lawmakers specifically addressed the Court's concerns in that case. However, three federal appeals courts have struck down the 2003 law, saying that it does not have ample protections for the mother's health (the issue at the heart of the 2000 decision). Yesterday, the Supreme Court said it will hear the case, Gonzales v . Carhart (05-380), in its next term, which starts in October.

3. Supreme Court unanimously favors religious freedom in tea case
Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal (04-1084) wasn't just about whether the U.S. could prohibit a Brazilian sect from using a hallucinogenic herbal tea. It was seen as a major religious liberty test case, and groups including the Christian Legal Society and the National Association of Evangelicals filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the sect and the law it invoked: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2003. "The government's argument echoes the classic rejoinder of bureaucrats throughout history: If I make an exception for you, I'll have to make one for everybody, so no exceptions," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "But RFRA operates by mandating consideration, under the compelling interest test, of exceptions to 'rule[s] of general applicability.'" The government didn't prove its "compelling interest" in putting drug laws above religious freedom, Roberts said. Religious liberty organizations are jubilant, but the story seems to be overshadowed by the abortion news.

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4. A second gay bishop for the Episcopal Church?
It's by no means certain that the new bishop for the Episcopal diocese of California will be someone who openly has sex outside of biblical marriage. But consider this: Two of the five candidates are currently in same-sex partnerships, Chicago's Bonnie Perry and Seattle's Robert Taylor. And then consider that the diocese doesn't really cover all of California: Its territory is more or less the San Francisco Bay area. And it's one of the most liberal dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

5. Private equity firm buys Thomas Nelson
Thomas Nelson, publishers of business books, political books, gardening books, humor books, and also some Christian books, was a publicly traded company. No more. A private equity firm bought it yesterday for $473 million. Every few years, it seems, there's a run on Christian publishing companies, and the season has come around again. Last week, Simon & Schuster bought Howard Publishing, and two weeks ago, Time Warner announced that it was selling Warner Faith, along with the rest of its book lines, to Lagardère, the French media-and-weapons company.

Quote of the day:
"We are seeking individuals who are converting religions—including those who are joining a religion for the first time."

—from the participation FAQ for the upcoming television show Conversion, from the producers of God or the Girl, an A&E reality series which showed candidates for Roman Catholic priesthood being tempted with love and lust. The producers, Idea Factory, insist that Conversion is "not a reality show—it is a documentary series. We will document your journey through your conversion."

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Cartoon controversy | Persecution | Church and state | Tea case | Partial-birth abortion ban | Life ethics | Plan B | Sexual ethics | Politics | Global warming | Evolution | World Council of Churches meeting | Church life | Pastor admits to church shooting | Crime | RadioShack CEO | Business and money | Entertainment | History | Spirituality | Other stories of interest

Cartoon controversy:

  1. Wednesday: Death toll rises in Nigerian violence | Several local newspapers reported between 30 and 35 dead in Onitsha violence (Associated Press)

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  1. Tuesday: Anti-Muslim riot in Nigeria turns deadly | Christian mobs rampaged through a southern Nigerian city Tuesday, burning mosques and killing several people in an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence that followed deadly protests against caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad over the weekend (Associated Press)

  2. Nigeria riots reach southern city | At least 20 people are reported killed in clashes in the mainly Christian city of Onitsha in southern Nigeria (BBC)

  3. Nigerian Christians kill Muslims in reprisal riots | Christian rioters killed at least one Muslim and torched mosques in the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha on Tuesday in retaliation for anti-Christian violence that killed dozens in the north, witnesses said (Reuters)

  4. Deadly cartoon protests in north spark reprisals in south (Reuters/IRIN)

  5. Cartoon: Mayhem spreads to Bauchi, Gombe | The mayhem that erupted in Maiduguri last Saturday, which claimed many lives and property over the publication in Denmark of a cartoon on Prophet Mohammed has spread to Bauchi and Gombe States (Vanguard, Nigeria)

  6. The media-religion connection | There is no equivalent Muslim tradition of having public "conversations through pictures." In our media context, where Christianity is still the dominant religion, the readiness of Christians to think about their faith through pictures, paintings, films and other images means that we are used to seeing these things in the media (Stewart M. Hoover, The Denver Post)

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  1. Violent clashes between Egypt's Muslims and Christians leave eight injured | Violent clashes in Egypt between Muslims and Coptic Christians on Monday left eight Egyptians injured in the village of Al Ayat, south of Cairo. Egyptian security sources reported that the violence erupted over the construction of a community center by the area's Christian minority amidst Muslim claims that it would be converted into a church (Al Bawaba, Jordan)

  2. Pak Christian singer forced to recite Kalima | Prominent Pakistani singer of Christian origin, A Nayyar was recently robbed and beaten and then forced to recite the Kalima, and if that isnt surprising enough, well, it happened very near the Punjab Chief Ministers house, if report are to go by (ANI, India)

  3. In Vietnam, Christianity gains quietly | Roman Catholicism takes hold, especially among the young and urban. (The Christian Science Monitor)

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Church and state:

  1. State's prayer feud takes national stage | Bill would bar judges from having a say in how lawmakers pray (The Indianapolis Star)

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  1. School tax credit plan welcomed | Ontario Tories promise balance (The Hamilton Spectator)

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Tea case:

  1. Court allows church's hallucinogenic tea | The court broadly interpreted the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, intended to protect people from U.S. laws that appear to be neutral but can impinge on sacramental practices (USA Today)

  2. Congregation is allowed its tea | The Supreme Court rules against the Bush administration and permits a sect to use a hallucinogen ritually (Los Angeles Times)

  3. Ruling protects sect's use of hallucinogenic tea | The Supreme Court decided unanimously yesterday that the government cannot prohibit a small religious sect in New Mexico from using a hallucinogenic tea as part of its rites (The Washington Post)

  4. Sect allowed to import its hallucinogenic tea | The Supreme Court decision gave a small religious sect the right to keep importing a hallucinogenic tea, used in ritual observances (The New York Times)

  5. Court allows church's hallucinogenic tea | In its first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said the government cannot hinder religious practices without proof of a "compelling" need to do so (Associated Press)

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Supreme Court to hear partial-birth abortion ban case:

  1. Abortion case to test new justices | Court will review 'partial birth' ban (The Washington Post)

  2. Justices to review federal ban on disputed abortion method | The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is constitutional (The New York Times)

  3. Justices to weigh late-term abortion ban | The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a new-look court already in a state of flux over privacy rights (Associated Press)

  4. Reshaped U.S. high court takes abortion case | The justices agreed to review a U.S. appeals court ruling that declared unconstitutional the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act because it lacks an exception to protect the health of a pregnant woman (Reuters)

  5. Supreme Court to consider law banning 'late-term' abortions | The "partial-birth abortion" ban, enacted in 2003, has been invalidated by three different federal appeals courts (The Washington Post)

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Life ethics:

  1. Vote due on South Dakota Bill banning nearly all abortions | Abortion foes are hopeful that a likely court fight over the ban, if it becomes law, could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade (The New York Times)

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  1. Stem cells may be key to cancer | A far more pressing reason to study stem cells is the fact that they are the source of at least some, and perhaps all, cancers (The New York Times)

  2. Execution of killer-rapist is postponed after doctors walk out | Court-ordered anesthesiologists refuse to participate in the process, citing ethical concerns (Los Angeles Times)

  3. No bullies on church abortion line: Pell | Catholic counsellors will not bully or pressure a woman who seeks proposed taxpayer-funded counselling on abortion, the Archbishop of Sydney says (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  4. And now, Terri Schiavo kin and others tell all | Next month, in a prelude to the March 31 anniversary of Schiavo's death, look for dueling accounts by the principals in what has been called the most litigated end-of-life case in history (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  5. "That thing in a petri dish" | Arguing about embryos (Gilbert Meilaender & Robert P. George, National Review Online)

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Plan B:

  1. Spitzer backs the 'morning after' pill law | Gubernatorial candidate supports bill allowing contraceptive to be dispensed without prescription (Associated Press)

  2. Catholics ready to fight 'Plan B' | The General Assembly's Public Health Committee is drafting a bill that would require all Connecticut hospitals, including Roman Catholic hospitals, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims (New Haven Register, Ct.)

  3. Also: Contraception bill draws opposition from church | Some state lawmakers are on a collision course with Connecticut Roman Catholics over the so-called "morning after pill." (Associated Press)

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Sexual ethics:

  1. Majority of births will soon be out of wedlock | Half of all babies will be born to unmarried mothers by 2012 if present trends continue, says new research that suggests the rapid erosion of moral and religious taboos (The Telegraph, London)

  2. Also: Marriage works, despite politicians' best efforts | The policy of the past two decades has been to encourage lifestyles that no amount of state cash can render as safe as the married state (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

  3. Drives to ban gay adoption heat up in 16 states | Efforts to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children are emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex marriage (USA Today)

  4. Ballot wording on same-sex marriage is expanded | The House of Delegates unanimously agreed to amend a bill that will place a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage on the November ballot, changing the wording so voters see the full text of the amendment and not just a synopsis (The Washington Post)

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  1. Marital blitz | This November, anti–gay-marriage bills will be back on ballots with a vengeance. But this time around, the gay and lesbian activist network is ready to play hardball (The American Prospect)

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  1. Tancredo urges religious groups to support immigration crackdowns | Rep. Tom Tancredo has accused leaders of some of the country's biggest religious denominations of being out-of-step with their own parishioners on the issue of illegal immigration (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  2. S.D. morality bills evoke reactions from both sides | Legislative supporters say those issues reflect the core values of most South Dakotans. Others, dismayed by the many morality measures, call them outlandish and extreme (Associated Press)

  3. Bethel prepares for Bush's arrival | Some students who volunteer will be able to see president speak (South Bend Tribune, Ind.)

  4. Casey strikes out | That Casey is pro-life is one thing. More troubling was the news that Casey opposes embryonic stem-cell research. But then, Casey said in late January that he favored the confirmation of Samuel Alito as Supreme Court justice (Editorial, The American Prospect)

  5. Me, God … and Gordon Brown | Young people turning up in droves to listen to a middle-aged American evangelical sounds remarkable, but it's no surprise to Jim Wallis (The Scotsman)

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Global warming:

  1. Bush plan suggests shift on global warming | Energy proposals advocate steps that would curb greenhouse gases (The Baltimore Sun)

  2. Some evangelicals call for climate change action | They cite Christian duty to care for the earth (San Jose Mercury News, Ca.)

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  1. Few biologists but many evangelicals sign anti-evolution petition | Of the 128 biologists who signed the petition, few conduct research that would directly address the question of what shaped the history of life (The New York Times)

  2. Dover ID bill: $1M | The Dover Area school board voted Tuesday night to pay $1 million in legal fees to the attorneys that successfully sued the district over its intelligent-design policy. (York Daily Record, Pa.)

  3. Academics fight rise of creationism at universities | More students believe Darwin got it wrong (The Guardian, London)

  4. Inspired reinforcements | Scientists plan to work with clergy to fight back against attacks on evolution (Inside Higher Ed)

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World Council of Churches meeting:

  1. Orthodox ties to Catholics seen as vital | Growing divide with liberals may prompt Orthodox churches to consider a tactical alliance with Roman Catholicism to defend traditional Christian values, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev said in an interview on the sidelines of the global assembly here of the mostly Protestant World Council of Churches (Reuters)

  2. Megachurches 'shallow in theology' | So says WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia (Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia)

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Church life:

  1. Seattle cleric a finalist for California post | If elected, Robert Taylor would become the second openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion to which it belongs (The Seattle Times)

  2. Pastors lead moral way but aren't spotless | With allegations of child molestation to church burning and stealing church money in the news, Lowcountry worshippers are facing that deepest of disappointments when a man ordained to a ministry is accused of betraying a high trust (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  3. A congregation finds healing | Seven months after priest's removal, many return home to Bristol church (Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  4. Kirk is asked to give green light for same sex 'weddings' | The Church of Scotland's highest court is to be asked to allow ministers and deacons to conduct church services marking civil partnerships free from fear of punishment (The Herald, Glasgow)

  5. Also: No censure risk for 'gay marriage' ministers | Ministers who give religious blessing to civil partnership ceremonies will not be at risk from disciplinary action under proposals to be put forward at the Church of Scotland's General Assembly (The Scotsman)

  6. Anglicans face big wait for a leader | Melbourne Anglicans could be without an archbishop for a long time after a deadlocked election was abandoned on Monday night (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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Pastor admits to church shooting:

  1. Pastor put on leave after being implicated in church shooting | Sheriff's investigators requested that the district attorney's office charge Reynolds with filing a false police report in connection with the Jan. 19 shooting (The Lompoc Record, Ca.)

  2. Earlier: Church pastor admits to shooting | A Lompoc church pastor loses both his paid job and his volunteer position after a shooting in January (KSBY, Ca.)

  3. Earlier: Police Have Suspect in Church Shooting | A pastor at a local church is under investigation for a shooting that took place there. Pastor Richard Reynolds, of Saint Mary's Episcopal Church in Lompoc, is on disability leave with the L.A. diocese. It's alleged he shot his 22-calibur gun inside the church last month (KEYT, Santa Barbara, Ca., video)

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  1. Two arrested in Ala. church arson | Two teenagers were arrested in connection with a weekend church fire, but police say it doesn't appear to be part of the string of arsons that damaged or destroyed 10 other rural Alabama churches (Associated Press)

  2. Catholics oppose confessional bill | New Hampshire lawmakers will debate Wednesday whether religious leaders should be required to report instances or suspicions of child abuse revealed in confidence, such as in a confessional (Associated Press)

  3. American citizen arrested over illegal guns | Documents found on him indicate that Waldron is also an advisor to the President of Rocky Mountain Technology Group, Contact America Group Inc and Founder of City of Faith Ministries in Kampala (Daily Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

  4. Also: Uganda arrests US man with assault rifles | Police displayed two business cards identifying Waldron as the founder of City of Faith Ministries, an evangelical group, and an advisor to the president of a U.S. company working with Uganda's government on IT healthcare projects (Reuters)

  5. A letter from Bishop Benjamin Kwashi in Jos, Nigeria | The security agencies are working very hard to unravel the mystery of who wants me dead and why (via Titus One Nine)

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RadioShack CEO:

  1. RadioShack CEO quits | No. 2 exec named interim chief (Ft. Worth Star-Ledger, Tex.)

  2. Pastor can't verify RadioShack CEO's account on diploma | The pastor who RadioShack Chief Executive Dave Edmondson said supervised him as he completed his college degree through correspondence courses said Tuesday that he does not remember Edmondson working toward his diploma (Ft. Worth Star-Ledger, Tex.)

  3. School trains students for careers in ministry (Ft. Worth Star-Ledger, Tex.)

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Business and money:

  1. Thomas Nelson sold to private investors | Buyout of Nashville-based book publisher worth $473 million (The Tennessean)

  2. Thomas Nelson to become private company | Thomas Nelson Inc., among the world's largest producers of Christian books, study guides and other materials, said Tuesday it agreed to be taken private in a $473 million buyout deal with a group of investors (Associated Press)

  3. Also: Private equity firm buying Thomas Nelson | InterMedia Partners is led by Leo Hindery Jr., the former chairman of The YES Network, a sports TV channel that broadcasts New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets games as well as other sports in the Northeast (Nashville Business Journal)

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  1. Record crowds at DFW Christian convention | Dallas Christian Broadcasters and Ministers are front and center at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention which ends a very successful five-day run in Grapevine this week (WFAA, Dallas)

  2. Your beliefs and your dollar don't mix | Sure, you can invest in funds that cater to your conscience. But you won't make much money, unless you're a Muslim (Timothy Middleton, MSN Money)

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  1. Forthcoming reality show: Conversion | "We are seeking individuals who are converting religions—including those who are joining a religion for the first time." (The Idea Factory)

  2. A crooner's love is all around | ''I'd like to take this opportunity to honor God's presence in my life," Kem said midway through the performance. ''People take issue with me bringing church into this," he added, cheered along by the audience. ''Too bad." (The Boston Globe)

  3. Flying on faith | Skier taps spirituality and sets world record with 255-foot cliff jump (The Denver Post)

  4. Big air time | Andy Finch says he has been religious his whole life, but it wasn't until a devastating knee injury in January 2000 that he truly embraced Christianity. "I just know He's at work here. Angels got my board "(The Fresno Bee, Ca.)

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  1. Bombed church gets landmark designation | Relatives of the four black girls who were killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963 gathered at the church where they died to mark its designation as a national landmark (Associated Press)

  2. Christian lessons from black history | Sunday service finds message in old slavery story (Asbury Park Press, N.J.)

  3. Merton papers donated to Bellarmine University | Robert Giroux said he was sorting through his New Jersey apartment last year when he discovered more than 3,000 pages of documents from the Roman Catholic monk and poet who died in 1968 (Associated Press)

  4. Divining W | Inside Washington's God. An interview with Michael and Jana Novak (National Review Online)

  5. What would Bryan do? | The Democratic Party could do worse than return to the Social Gospel of William Jennings Bryan (Michael Kazin, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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  1. Has the race to faith passed you by? | Forget speedy 'born again' lightning. There are small steps that move you toward inner peace (Chicago Tribune)

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  1. Bird flu impels Christians to turn religiously vegetarian | The bird flu scare is impelling Christians to religiously observe the 50-day Lent, a period of frugality beginning Feb 27 leading up to Easter, by becoming pure vegetarians, according to several members of the community (IANS, India)

  2. Religious imagery more than skin-deep | Religious imagery within the tattoo world has endured through such trends as mermaids on World War II sailors and tribal designs on rock stars. And as body art continues to gain popularity, an increasing number of people are inking their bodies with such sacred images as crucifixes, angels and praying hands (The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Jesus loves strippers | Lori Albee of JC's Girls Girls Girls wants to help spread the message of God's love to those in the sex industry (Beliefnet)

  2. Conservative rabbis embrace non-Jews | 'Intermarrieds' are courted to stem declining membership (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  3. American pastor wades through landslide, helping rescuers | Gerry Brown, a corpulent, bearded pastor from the U-Turn for Christ evangelical church based in Perris, California, wades through waist-deep mud on central Leyte Island. His Filipino followers have set up a counseling center for rescue workers trying to find survivors of the landslide that buried the village of Guinsaugon (The Philippine Inquirer)

  4. Vatican banker Archbishop Marcinkus dies at age 84 | Retired Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, a close confidant of popes whose long tenure as head of the Vatican Bank was marked by major financial scandal, mysterious deaths and a criminal probe, has died at the age of 84, Catholic Church officials said on Tuesday (Reuters)

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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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