Today's Top Five
1. Global Fund graft in Uganda
On our site today, we have a Religion News Service article about the criticism that James Dobson and some others have leveled against the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. (The organization Friends of the Global Fight has put together a response, but so far it's not posted on its website.) Now comes more PR trouble: The Christian Science Monitor reports:
The phrase "Global Fund" has become synonymous with graft in Uganda. A government inquiry recently revealed that tens of millions of dollars of the country's Global Fund grants have gone missing, much of it plundered by high-ranking public officials. Through months of hearings, which began in September and concluded just a few weeks ago, a disgusted Ugandan public heard how monies meant for lifesaving AIDS drugs were spent on personal phone bills, lavish "Christmas packages," and fancy four-wheel drive vehicles. Problems with Global Fund monies have surfaced recently in other countries as well.
In a large sense, this is old news: The Global Fund suspended its grants to Uganda last August after an audit revealed "evidence of serious mismanagement by the Project Management Unit in the Ministry of Health." After Uganda restructured management of the grants, the Global Fund lifted the suspensions in November.
What's new is the Ugandan government report, which the Global Fund says is evidence of improvement, not of new problems. "The openness and thoroughness with which President Yoweri Museweni addressed the Global Fund's concerns about the management of the grants it finances in Uganda has set an example for how allegations of corruption should be dealt with," executive director Richard Feachem says in a press release.
Ugandans, meanwhile, note that the those involved in the graft have not faced any legal consequences. (The report recommends a criminal investigation.) Ugandan Health Minister Jim "Muhwezi should have been in Luzira Prison as we speak," Ugandan MP Charles Angiro tells The Monitor. "He is as dangerous as [Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph] Kony. Kony kills by the sword but he has killed by denying HIV positive Ugandans' health services."
The bottom line: When talking about fighting AIDS in Africa, the question of how much money goes to corruption vs. how much of it goes to actual aid is a much, much bigger issue than the question of how much gets spent on condoms vs. how much goes to promoting chastity.
2. Louisiana bans abortion, but not yet
A bill passed by the Louisiana House is the latest "trigger" ban on abortion, meaning it will go into effect only if the federal constitution is amended to allow states to ban abortion or if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The bill, which would only except abortions where the woman's life or permanent health is in danger, will now go back to the state senate, which passed a similar bill (without the "permanent health" exception) in April.
3. Study: Religious Right more sectarian than Religious Left
John Evans, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, says Religious Right groups are more likely to be at odds with each other than Religious Left groups, which are more likely to "build cooperative political partnerships with those of similar ideological views." Sectarianism, he says, "has receded for the Religious Left."
Not so for religious conservatives. "What may be holding back the religious right from achieving its full potential is that, compared to the groups that comprise the religious left, participants in conservative religious groups do not want the other religious right groups to influence public opinion," Evans says in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. "It is particularly clear that conservative Protestants are wary of the influence of Catholics."
Weblog doesn't have access to the full study (which costs $40.85!), but one wonders about the effect of size: The Religious Right, at least as an organized force, is much larger than the Religious Left, so there may be more groups to disagree with. Another question is the effect of the current political climate: The Religious Right is seen as having significant political influence now, so they'll be arguing over which agenda items they should push for. The Religious Left can agree on a central agenda point for now: Get influence, and reduce the influence of the Religious Right.
4. The estrogen-driven church
More details on something that almost all churchgoers know already: Adult men don't tend to go to church, even if their kids do. Seven out of ten Hispanic men do not attend church with their children, compared with 64 percent of whites and 54 percent of blacks, says a report on fatherhood from the National Center for Health Statistics, as reported by The Washington Times. In related news, Promise Keepers is apparently tweaking its message a bit. The aim is still "spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity," but right now the focus seems to be on Promise Five of its seven promises: "A Promise Keeper is committed to supporting the mission of his church by honoring and praying for his pastor, and by actively giving his time and resources." In other works, Promise Keepers is trying to get men back to church.
5. VeggieTales to launch another feature film
The cost of the first VeggieTales movie, Jonah, contributed to Big Idea's declaring bankruptcy in 2003. Now owned by Classic Media, VeggieTales is taking another run at the big screen. Universal Pictures will release The Pirates Who Don't Do AnythingA VeggieTales Movie in early 2008. VeggieTales co-creator Mike Nawrocki (voice of Larry the Cucumber) will direct the film. The script is by Phil Vischer, who still works with VeggieTales as he runs the entertainment group Jellyfish.
Quote of the day:
"I wore jean shorts to the beach when I was a teenager. I was an insecure teenager and a born-again Christian hanging out with a group of kids that made me feel bad about showing my body. But I learned I shouldn't be ashamed of what God gave me."
actress Jessica Alba, explaining to USA Today why she prefers bikinis to one-piece bathing suits.
The stories below are from Thursday. We'll be posting Friday stories soon.
AIDS | Persecution | Church and state | Abortion | Research | Taylor crash | Crime | Abuse | Church life | Missions & ministry | People | Books | Da Vinci Code | Entertainment | Same-sex marriage | More on sexual ethics and family | Other stories of interest
- African graft stings donors | A recent inquiry revealed gross misuse of AIDS donations in Uganda (The Christian Science Monitor)
- A flagging commitment on AIDS | The AIDS epidemic turns 25 this week, and while new infections are declining in a few countries, the number of infected is still growing, especially among young women (Editorial, The New York Times)
- Public health vs religion | Uganda was a beacon of hope in Africa's struggle against HIV, but the Christian right's grip on US policy is undermining this effort with fatal consequences (Oliver Duff, The Belfast Telegraph)
- Taming the Tigers | Again and again, they have tried to provoke a civil war between the island's different religious groups. Christians have been assassinated in church during Christmas mass. Good Friday this year was marred by violence (Mahinda Rajapaksa, The Wall Street Journal)
- Deportation of 9-year-old deaf boy is put on hold | Family will get a chance to make an unusual claim: that an entire family be granted asylum on the basis of a child's persecution (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Communist priest informers scandal continues | Father Tadeusz Isakowicz has decided not to publish information on priests who he says collaborated with the communist secret services, after being warned of the move by his bishop (Polonia, Poland)
- Federal religious discrimination lawyer criticized | In 2003, The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division created a position called the Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination. Eric Treene, who has held the job since it was created, identifies religious discrimination cases and brings lawsuits. But some critics say Treene has gone beyond fighting discrimination into advocating religion in the public sphere. One way Treene finds discrimination cases is through religious nonprofit organizations (All Things Considered, NPR)
- Group aims to unveil Ten Commandments | Tablets under wraps near Supreme Court (The Washington Post)
- Removal of cross looms over ceremony honoring veterans | While the Memorial Day service was dedicated solely to the veterans, the controversial cross was the subtext of speeches and the draw for many who attended (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- House endorses abortion bill | Near-total ban makes exception only in mother's health (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)
- Also: Louisiana House okays ban on most abortions | The Louisiana House approved a ban on most abortions, a largely symbolic bill that could go into effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 decision is overturned (Associated Press)
- Claim Abbott made threat | The federal Minister for Health, Tony Abbott, has denied a claim by a pharmaceutical industry insider that he threatened drug companies against marketing abortion pill RU486 (AAP, Australia)
- China: crackdown on abortion of girls | Chinese authorities closed 201 medical clinics in northern Hebei Province and fined several hundred others because they helped detect and abort female fetuses, the New China News Agency said (The New York Times)
- The case against compromise | Ramesh Ponnuru draws a bright line on abortiontoo bright (Peter Berkowitz, The Wall Street Journal)
- Sectarianism is problem for religious right political partnerships | Members of groups that comprise the "religious right" exhibit negative attitudes toward other religious groups on the right, making the building of political coalitions more difficult (Press release, University of California, San Diego)
- Study: Cooperative Coalitions on the Religious Right and Left: Considering the Resilience of Sectarianism (Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion)
- 25pc 'success' rate in power of prayer study | A new Dutch study has established 91 percent of the country's orthodox Christians believe God can heal illness. But only 25 percent of those who took part reported feeling better after appeals to the Deity (Expatica, Netherlands)
- Wrong girl declared dead in Taylor crash | Asked her name, survivor of April van crash wrote 'Whitney Cerak' (The Indianapolis Star)
- Joy, sorrow grip girls' hometown | Residents of the small community of Caledonia, Michigan, are asking the same question today: How could it possibly be? (The Indianapolis Star)
- Crash ID mistake causes new grief | Families learn mix-up of dead, injured students month after wreck (The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)
- How could this happen? | Families spend weeks mistaken about who survived (Chicago Tribune)
- Security tight for "Satanist" date | All across Norway precautions are being mounted to prevent churches being torched on June 6, 2006 - 06.06.06 (Aftenposten, Oslo)
- Gun buybacks a shot in the dark | Research shows little drop in violence or shootings as a result of politically popular gun-buyback programs. More cities are relaunching them anyway (Joan Vennochi, The Boston Globe)
- Child victims must sue by age 20 | Ruling could wipe out scores of suits against priests (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
- Also: Deadline still valid for suing Ohio clergy | Adults who accuse priests of abusing them when they were children must follow time limits for filing lawsuits despite the trauma of sexual abuse possibly causing delays in reporting the event, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday (Associated Press)
- Catholic priest convicted of raping girl | During the six-day Ireland trial, the victim, whose identity was not make public, testified that Rev. Daniel Doherty raped her in a church sacristy twice in 1985 (Associated Press)
- Ad campaign for church grabs attention with swear words (CBC, video)
- Bishop stranded in Africa blames the devil | Speaking about the difficulties for the first time this afternoon, Bishop Gladwin, 64, a former evangelical who has moved to the liberal wing of the Church and is chairman of Christian Aid, described events in Kenya as they unfolded (The Times, London)
- Religion today: Making reparations | The Episcopal Church is poised to apologize for failing to oppose slavery, but making up for its 19th century inaction won't come without 21st century controversy (Associated Press)
- Lord, give me strength | Local gym owner responds to growing trend for Christian-infused workouts that combine religious music and less revealing clothes (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)
- Operation blessings | The Operation Blessing agency Pat Robertson founded continues helping the needy around the world, and will keep doing such humanitarian work long after Mr. Robertson's more, well, colorful statements are long forgotten (Editorial, Daily News-Record, Harrisonburg, Va.)
- Jessica Alba plans a fantastic summer | "Bikinis are more flattering on my body. I wore jean shorts to the beach when I was a teenager. I was an insecure teenager and a born-again Christian hanging out with a group of kids that made me feel bad about showing my body. But I learned I shouldn't be ashamed of what God gave me." (USA Today)
- Never too late to learn | Temple Hills priest, 92, earns associate's degree at PGCC (The Washington Post)
- Woman OK after bolt in her own kitchen | Daphne's Clara Brown says room 'was engulfed in a huge ball of fire' as she prayed (Press-Register, Mobile, Ala.)
- Religion from the outside | Freeman J. Dyson reviews Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett (New York Review of Books)
- Tattoos, piercings, and prayers | Author Andrew Beaujon discusses his year-long journey into the heart of that most forbidding of all musical genres -- Christian rock (Alternet)
- Excerpt: 'Body Piercing Saved My Life' | A brief foray into the not-so-seedy underbelly of the Christian rock scene (Alternet)
- Tamil Nadu refuses to decode The Da Vinci | Tamil Nadu has banned cinema screenings of the The Da Vinci Code, the second state to do so after protests by minority Christians (Reuters)
- The Da Vinci sequel | Lord help us (Kim Masters, Slate)
- Universal to release VeggieTales movie in 2008 | The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything - A VeggieTales Movie will be directed by Mike Nawrocki and is based on a script written by Phil Vischer, who will serve as executive producer through his production company, Jellyfish Labs. David Pitts of Franklin-based Big Idea will produce the film (Nashville Business Journal)
- Rockies: Hey, we aren't the angels | 'Christian-based code of conduct' disputed (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- Also: Team takes issue with portrayal | Christian clubhouse story "over the top" (The Denver Post)
- Highest court in New York confronts gay marriage | The issue of gay marriage finally reached New York State's highest court and the judges had some tough questions for both sides (The New York Times)
- Gay marriage looms as 'battle of our times' | As the Senate prepares to debate a constitutional amendment, those on both sides are digging in. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Anti-gay nuptials ad targets Salazar | The Colorado senator is one of 16 U.S. lawmakers that Focus on the Family Action aims for in several newspapers (The Denver Post)
- Just say 'I don't' | Apparently, issues such as immigration, corruption, gas prices, the budget deficit, the war in Iraq and the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons aren't substantial enough to occupy members of Congress (Editorial, USA Today)
- Protect traditional marriage | Respect for the democratic process compels this Congress to protect traditional marriage in the face of a coordinated effort to redefine marriage through the courts. (Wayne Allard, USA Today)
- Same-sex marriage: Hijacking the civil rights legacy | The indiscriminate promotion of various social groups' desires and preferences as "rights" has drained the moral authority from the civil rights industry (Eugene F. Rivers & Kenneth D. Johnson, The Weekly Standard)
- U.S. men place high value on being dads | Seven out of 10 Hispanic men do not attend church with their children, compared with 64 percent of whites and 54 percent of blacks (The Washington Times)
- As new tour begins, national ministry for men is redefined | Promise Keepers, the national evangelical group, aims to bring more men back into the church and alter their behavior. (The Miami Herald)
- Archbishop rallies Christians for gay fight | Sydney's Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, has urged conservative Christians to fight to keep practicing homosexuals out of the ministry (The Australian)
- Cohousing with Christ | Our Worst Enemy™ goes ex-gay for real estate (The Stranger, Seattle)
- The flaming heart | Why should gays be denied the pleasures of Catholic guilt? (Jimmy Fowler, Ft. Worth Weekly)
- Ancient scroll may yield religious secrets | A collection of charred scraps kept in a Greek museum's storerooms are all that remains of what archaeologists say is Europe's oldest surviving book which may hold a key to understanding early monotheistic beliefs (Associated Press)
- Science's tiny, big unknown | Nanotechnology may revolutionize our lives. The first generation of engineered products has reached consumers, and with them come hard questions about safety (Los Angeles Times)
- Religion news in brief | Nebraska's United Methodist bishop blesses help for same-sex couples seeking unions; Watchdog group criticizes Maryland's grant for big Baptist conference; Greek government seeks end of Orthodox influence on other faiths' places of worship; and other stories (Associated Press)
- Godless Europeans turn to cultural Christianity | Fear of Islam is prompting a search for a common identity in the West (Michael Burleigh, The Australian)
- The great fundamentalist hoax | Christianity as it exists among fundamentalists isn't about behaving like Jesus. It's all about faith--about believing the story. The underlying message seems to be: you can behave any way you want as long as you believe the story and say you're sorry before you die. Following the teachings of Jesus is much too demanding, whereas with the Christianity of fundamentalists all you have to do is shut your mind off (Philip Slater, Huffington Post)
- Send in the mercenaries | Darfur needs someone to stop the bloodshed, not more empty U.N. promises (Max Boot, The Weekly Standard)
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