1. Were Baptist church attacks really "just a joke"?
You've probably already heard that police arrested three college students for the arsons of nine Baptist churches in Alabama. And you've probably heard that they did it just "as a joke" without any religious or racial motives. You may have heard Alabama Gov. Bob Riley say, "We don't think there is any kind of organized conspiracy against religion or against the Baptists. … The faith-based community can rest a little easier."

That's very good news. But is it really true? Details in some Birmingham News reports raise some questions:

Friends said [suspects Russell DeBusk] and Ben Moseley were Satanists, which DeBusk told friends was "not about worshipping the devil, but about the pursuit of knowledge," according to [DeBusk's college roommate, Jeremy] Burgess. …
Burgess said he and DeBusk discussed religion loosely, debating whether pets go to heaven and what heaven looks like. "He told me I was one of the more intelligent Christians he's talked to," Burgess said. "Coming from a Satanist, I didn't know quite how to interpret that."
Ian Cunningham, a sophomore who lived in the same dorm as DeBusk, recalled returning from the campus chapel recently to snide remarks about being saved from DeBusk and Moseley. "He would constantly mock me," Cunningham said of DeBusk.

Another News article looks at suspect Matthew Cloyd:

After he got a speeding ticket—85 mph in a 70 zone—his Web site musings grew cryptically violent. In a posting to Moseley last summer as the two planned a road trip, he wrote, "Let us defy the very morals of society instilled upon us by our parents, our relatives and of course Jesus."

The only other paper, it seems, to have picked up on this theme is USA Today:

Burgess said DeBusk told him last summer that he had found a new religious interest.
"He wasn't raised as a Christian, and he had never found any kind of religion to settle down with," Burgess said. "He thought he'd found something that worked for him. It's not worshipping the devil. It's nothing ritualistic. It's about the pursuit of knowledge. He explained to me that there can be Satanic Christians. It gave him the peacefulness and serenity of Buddhism. It was a real peaceful thing."
Burgess said DeBusk invited him on a "demon-hunting" trip last summer.
"Nothing happened," Burgess said. "Some friends of ours and the two of us were in the middle of the woods, playing guitar. They had some beer. There were no rituals, no weird séance.
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"There was nothing that would lead me to believe he would burn down a church," Burgess said. "Russ was always very respectful of my religion. We discussed it openly, the way many people discuss politics."

There is no smoking match here to indicate that religion was the motive behind the arsons, but it's pretty surprising how accepting almost all media outlets seem to be about the claim that religion wasn't the motive. Some paranoid activists will certainly try to use this as evidence of a "War on Christians." The story doesn't yet warrant anything like that. But Weblog wonders: What if these had been students at a Baptist college who had targeted theaters? Might religion be a bigger part of media coverage then? Or what if abortion clinics had been burned while other medical facilities had been untouched? Might reporters be asking more questions? Would we be so accepting of assurances that "this was just a joke that got out of hand"?

2. Church of England's divestment called off
Remember that story last month about the Church of England's decision to divest "from companies profiting from the illegal occupation" of Palestinian territory? It didn't get much play here (where the divestment story is more about the Presbyterian Church USA), but it was big news in the U.K. and Israel. Anyway: Never mind. The church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group unanimously rejected the Synod's vote, saying it "could find no compelling evidence that Caterpillar is or has been complicit in human rights abuses."

3. Church wall collapses in Uganda, leaving 26 dead and about 100 injured
An evangelical church in Kampala, Uganda's capital city, was still under construction. But to hold services during construction, the church had set up a wood-and-tin building inside the unfinished brick building. Amid heavy rains during Wednesday night services, some of the brick walls collapsed, killing and trapping worshipers (photos). The death toll varies in media accounts, but Kampala's New Vision paper, which has the most recent report, says 26 died. Also worth noting in the New Vision account: "Survivors blamed the incident on rival pastors, saying they cast an evil spell on the church." The Ugandan government suspects poor construction.

4. Christian ministry will donate to atheist group in exchange for church attendance
The Wall Street Journal's front-page report Thursday on atheist Hemant Mehta's eBay auction, where he sold willingness to attend church services, is getting a fair bit of attention. The $504 winner was Jim Henderson of the evangelistic ministry Off the Map. But "I'm not trying to convert you," Henderson told Mehta when they met. Instead, he was hiring Mehta to visit and write about 10 to 15 church services. "You're going there almost like a critic," Henderson said. "If you happen to get converted, that's off the clock." The $504 went to Mehta's Secular Student Alliance. The Journal goes into some detail about Henderson's motives, but you'll probably also want to read a brief article on Henderson from our sister publication, Building Church Leaders. The article describes Henderson's approach as shifting evangelism "from sales to service."

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"In evangelism, you want to give people something rather than ask them for something," Henderson said. "But what do people want? Attention. People want attention. So I give them that. I call those times 'free attention giveaways.'" Henderson's attention giveaway is now seeing quite a return on investment.

5. Lefty group overplays its hand
A group calling itself the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DefCon)—made up of former NARAL Pro-Choice America head Kate Michelman, Nation writer Max Blumenthal, and other prominent liberals—took out a page in The New York Times yesterday criticizing Ralph Reed, James Dobson, and Louis Sheldon for being "base hypocrites knee-deep in the Jack Abramoff scandal." The group claims that Dobson appeared "on radio commercials paid for by Jack Abramoff's Indian casino clients. These casinos gave millions to Jack Abramoff to limit competition." The group is also running television ads along the same lines in Colorado Springs and elsewhere.

"What we're really emphasizing is that it's hypocritical for a moral leader like James Dobson to be producing these ads when the money, whether he knew it or not, came from gambling interests," campaign spokeswoman Sarah Belanger told The Denver Post.

As it turns out, it's the Campaign to Defend the Constitution that has a gambling problem. It's holding horrible cards, and Focus has rightly called its bluff. On its site, Focus explains that it "did oppose gambling expansion in Alabama and Louisiana in the years indicated, but our involvement came in response to requests from our trusted allies—in Louisiana, then state legislator Tony Perkins (now president of the Family Research Council) and Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum; and, in Alabama, Gary Palmer of the Alabama Policy Institute. It is important to note, again, that we funded these efforts ourselves; we received no money from Mr. Abramoff or any other lobbying interest." There are other refutations as well. (Focus on the Family's Friday broadcast is about the ads, but Weblog hasn't listened to it yet.)

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So what's the Campaign holding in its hand? "There is no proof and I doubt there will ever be any proof that Dobson consciously colluded with Abramoff." That's from Max Blumenthal himself, one of the DefCon guys behind the ads.

So why run the ads? "The purpose of the ads is to educate people about the critical importance of separation of church and state," said Duke University professor Erwin Chemerinsky, another DefCon board member. Separation of church and state? The ad complains that Dobson, Sheldon, and Reed "must have been betting they wouldn't get caught taking their thirty pieces of silver and selling out the millions who believed in them." If your definition of separation of church and state extends to include that, it's just a meaningless phrase that means "something I don't like." Lima beans violate the separation of church and state!

Here's the biggest reason why DefCon's move is completely idiotic: Focus on the Family was already being criticized on this story—from its Right flank. World magazine has been running a series of articles asking "what did he know and when did he know it" on Dobson-Reed-Abramoff connections. A liberal group like DefCon only stands to benefit from World criticizing Focus on the Family (and kudos to World for not letting that political consideration stand in the way of its reporting). What could have been a time of introspection in religious conservative circles is now certainly a time or circling the wagons. DefCon has now made sure that any further questions about Abramoff memos will be seen as a liberal attack on religious conservatives. DefCon isn't going to get any Dobson supporter upset about "selling out." Instead, they'll be outraged over this dishonest attack—and that will only cause them to support Reed, Dobson, and Sheldon all the more.

In other words, Defcon went all-in on these ads and lost, and Dobson took the pot.

Quote of the day:
"The student will demonstrate an understanding of biological evolution and the diversity of life by using data from a variety of scientific sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

A high school biology educational standard passed by the South Carolina Board of Education's Education Oversight Committee but rejected Wednesday by the full board. Critics said that that asking students to "critically analyze" evolutionary theory is "a ploy to confuse the issue of evolution so that ultimately evolution won't be taught." Supporters said critical analysis of any theory is what separates science from dogma. The standard will instead read, "The student will demonstrate an understanding of biological evolution and the diversity of life."

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More articles

Alabama church fires | Arson suspects | Uganda church collapse | Church life | Grahams in New Orleans | Missions & ministry | Gay clergy | Scotland says Catholic schools must hire atheists | Evolution | Australia textbook | Education | Politics | Abramoff scandal | Christians and Islam | Faith-based initiative | Abortion | Life ethics | Money & business | Entertainment and media | Abuse | Miracles | Other stories of interest

Alabama church fires:

  1. Pastors of burned churches relieved, sad | Leaders of churches destroyed by arson responded with relief at the arrest of three people Wednesday, but also with sympathy for the suspects and their families (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  2. 3 set church fires as joke, agents say | College students arrested, being held without bond (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  3. Drinking may have fueled Ala. church fires | Three college students suspected of a string of Alabama church fires may have been out drinking when they began their spree, authorities said (Associated Press)

  4. Tire tracks led to trio in church arson case | Law enforcement officials shifted their focus late Wednesday from arresting suspects in a string of rural church fires in Alabama to helping federal prosecutors build a case against them (Montgomery Advertiser)

  5. Officers' hunches bolstered fire probe | A game warden's theory and the sheriff's actions to protect evidence in the hours after a church arson in rural Bibb County were key in leading investigators to three church fire suspects (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  6. Birmingham-Southern confronts arson aftermath | College has long prided itself on the actions of students who have gone all over the world to perform good deeds as part of the college's social service emphasis (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  7. 3 students held in church fires set in Alabama | Officials said the college students, who are accused of setting nine fires as a "joke" that spun out of control, had no racial motive (The New York Times)

  8. 3 students charged in Ala. church fires | For weeks, church congregants in rural Alabama were on high alert, eager to find out who was burning down their churches. The answer, authorities now say, was three college students who took a prank too far (Associated Press)

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  1. 3 students held in arsons at churches | Suspected of setting nine fires, the Alabama men started the spree as a 'joke,' investigators say (Los Angeles Times)

  2. 3 students charged in Ala. church fires | Undergraduates from 2 Birmingham colleges arrested in nationally publicized crimes (Inside Higher Ed)

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Suspect profiles:

  1. Arson suspects were stars at school | The arrests of three college students in a series of deliberately set fires at nine churches in rural Alabama derailed promising futures, according to some of their friends (USA Today)

  2. A busy actor, DeBusk known as peacemaker | Russell DeBusk was funny and animated, and few people took him too seriously (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  3. Moseley noted for his acting ability, wild side | The leading man in several Birmingham-Southern College productions, he drew rave reviews, especially from the cute college women who were frequent posters to Moseley's page on the Facebook Web site (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  4. A high school scholar, Cloyd fixated on hunting | By all accounts, Matthew Lee Cloyd was a scholar - an intelligent boy with a bright future in medicine, just like his father (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  5. Classmates: Arson suspects goofy, not evil | Nobody at Birmingham-Southern College would have linked them to a string of rural church fires in Alabama (Montgomery Advertiser)

  6. A mix of acting, academics, anger | Ben. Matt. Russ. Their names match their profiles (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  7. Not the usual suspects in church burnings | Alabama arson wave turnes out to be a college-kids' prank (Time)

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Uganda church collapse:

  1. Uganda church crushes worshippers | The flouting of building regulations is a common problem, say reporters (BBC)

  2. Survivors tell story | Church tragedy death toll hits 26; state orders probe (New Vision, Uganda)

  3. 23 dead in church wall collapse in Uganda | Uganda's government opened a criminal investigation into the collapse of a church wall that killed 23 people and injured nearly 100 during a thunderstorm, the state minister for health said Thursday (Associated Press)

  4. 24 die as Kampala church collapses | The victims were attending a conference of born-again pastors at Pastor Godfrey's Luwagga's City of the Lord Church, located in Lower Nsooba Zone on Gayaza Road (Daily Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

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Church life:

  1. Anglican advisors reject divestment | Divestment activists in the UK were handed a defeat today after the Church of England's financial advisors voted unanimously to reject the Church's call to divest from Caterpillar Inc (The Jerusalem Post)

  2. Minister told to pay £75 'advert' charge for a wooden cross | A minister has been told he needs to pay £75 to put a wooden cross up outside his church because it constitutes an advertisement (The Telegraph, London)

  3. Also: Church told to get planning permission for cross | A church has been told it will need planning permission to put up a cross in its grounds as the symbol constitutes an advertisement (The Guardian, London)

  4. Appeal dropped in church feud | The bitter schism which split the Free Church of Scotland took another turn yesterday as one faction offered the other an olive branch by dropping its legal action (The Herald, Glasgow)

  5. Trinity Church struggles for credibility after excommunications | The Trinity Church in Melbourne has long been a pillar of Presbyterianism and, indeed, society in Australia, boasting among its clergy down the years the Reverend Patrick Murdoch, grandfather of Rupert. But now the church is battling to retain its credibility after the excommunication of 15 of its elders, said to be the ringleaders of a secretive and manipulative cult within the congregation (7:30 Report, ABC, Australia)

  6. The limits of conscience and the authority of the Word of God | The Spahr trial and the larger controversy point to the most basic issues that have created such an explosive crisis within liberal Protestantism and the denominations commonly known as "mainline" Protestantism (Al Mohler)

  7. Can't fool the IRS with a wink and a nod | Clergy and congregations that violate the tax code put at risk their tax-exempt status. They also put at risk the wall or line that separates democracy from theocracy (David Waters, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

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Grahams in New Orleans:

  1. Billy Graham's son takes the pulpit, his own way | "Don't back down" could be his second-favorite phrase after "Jesus saves" (USA Today)

  2. Billy Graham, son tour St. Bernard, 9th Ward | N.O. needs 'moral, spiritual strength' (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)

  3. Graham speechless after New Orleans tour | Evangelist Billy Graham, whose ministry has taken him to some of the world's least-developed countries, said Thursday that the scope of devastation he saw as he toured hurricane-ravaged New Orleans this week left him speechless (Associated Press)

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Missions & ministry:

  1. Atheist gives eBay bidders a chance to save his soul | Who won and what he wants (The Wall Street Journal, via Arizona Republic)

  2. Morocco's covert crusaders | Into this highly volatile atmosphere charge the West's covert crusaders—evangelicals who see it as their life's work to bring the word of their God to Moroccans, even though it is against the law to proselytize (Foreign Correspondent, ABC, Australia)

  3. Christian radio station drives home false gospel say campaigners | Green Christians have rebuked a Christian radio station for a stunt designed to 'spread the gospel' (Ekklesia, U.K.)

  4. Olympic champion Joey Cheek sees glory in giving | Olympic champion speedskater Joey Cheek inspired several other athletes when he donated the money he won from the United States Olympic Committee to help refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. Cheek says donating the money makes a greater impact on the world than his victories in speedskating (All Things Considered, NPR)

  5. Troubled soldiers turn to chaplains for help | For perhaps thousands of American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, chaplains are a source of strength in days of vulnerability (The Christian Science Monitor)

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Gay clergy:

  1. Anglican leader rules out gay debate | Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has ruled out a new debate on the church's teaching that gay sex is "incompatible with Scripture" (Associated Press)

  2. Ugandan bishop angers Americans | A Ugandan Anglican Bishop currently on a visit to the United States has sparked off an uproar after declaring that he is there "to rescue Anglicans" from gay influences (The Monitor, Uganda)

  3. Jewish panel delays a vote on gay issues | Experts who set policy for Conservative Judaism decided to wait until December to vote on lifting the movement's ban on gay rabbis and same-sex union ceremonies (The New York Times)

  4. Also: Jewish law experts postpone gay-issue vote | A panel that interprets religious law for Conservative Jews on Wednesday put off a vote on whether the movement should ordain gays and conduct union ceremonies for same-sex couples (Associated Press)

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Scotland says Catholic schools must hire atheists:

  1. Atheist wins discrimination case | A teacher who lost out on promotion at a Roman Catholic school because he was an atheist has won his claim for religious discrimination (The Herald, Glasgow)

  2. Atheist teacher wins job tribunal | David McNab, a maths teacher at St. Paul's Roman Catholic High School in Glasgow was told he needed Catholic church approval to apply for the post (BBC)

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  1. Teacher rejected for post because he is not Catholic gets £2,000 | Denominational schools have been warned not to reserve key posts for Catholic teachers after a landmark legal ruling (The Scotsman)

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  1. State board stands by evolution-only rule | Education panel rejects calls for softening biology teaching standard (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

  2. S.C. schools won't 'analyze' evolution | Science teachers had complained that although critical analysis is part of all science, the wording was really a backdoor attempt to force educators to teach religious-based alternatives. In a 10-6 vote, board members agreed (Associated Press)

  3. Field Museums's leader says Bible isn't science | The president of the Field Museum warned on Tuesday that efforts to add the religion-driven "intelligent design'' theory to school science classes threaten America's position as a technological leader (Chicago Sun-Times)

  4. The belief trap | The evolutionary explanation of religion gets stuck (Judith Shulevitz, Slate)

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Australia textbook:

  1. Crusades equal to 9/11: textbook | A textbook widely used in Victorian high schools describes the Crusaders who fought in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages as terrorists, akin to those responsible for the September 11 attacks (The Australian)

  2. Textbook aims to 'provoke debate' | The comparison between the Crusades and the September 11 terrorists in a Victorian textbook was deliberately provocative and designed to spark debate, teachers said yesterday (The Australian)

  3. 'Rubbish' to compare Crusades with 9/11 | A textbook that asks school students to compare the Crusaders to the September 11 terrorists was "rubbish" and had no legitimacy as a learning tool, a historian said yesterday (The Australian)

  4. Teaching bin Laden | One man's crusader is not another man's terrorist (Editorial, The Australian, second item)

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  1. Jesus painting causes concern | A concerned parent is questioning the painting of Jesus Christ hanging next to the front office of Bridgeport High School in Harrison County (WBOY, Clarksburg, WV)

  2. Panel approves textbook changes | Hindu groups satisfied with corrections to Vedas, Aryan invasion wording (The Argus, Fremont. Ca.)

  3. Parents sue for school's actions | On behalf of two students, a lawsuit claims discrimination and invasion of privacy (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)

  4. Bible study bill clears House committee | Public high schools may offer state-funded courses on the Bible under a bill that passed a House committee Tuesday, despite objections that the measure favors Christianity over other religions (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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  1. Cardinal backs Quran lessons in public schools | Vatican agrees with Italian group's proposal for Muslim students (Reuters)

  2. Unlikely alliance takes on school conflict | As public schools cope with conflicts over homosexuality, they can now get some tips from an unlikely pair: conservative Christians and gay advocates (Associated Press)

  3. Also: 1st consensus guidelines offered for schools on sexual orientation | First Amendment framework suggested to help educators, parents, students find 'common ground' (First Amendment Center)

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  1. The Wilberforce Republican | Sam Brownback is redefining the Christian right (The Economist)

  2. Do Christian conservatives have a lock on America's politics? | Concerns abound over whether the country is headed toward a theocracy and whether the doctrines and messages of other religions will be confused with those of Christian conservatives, or overlooked altogether, as a result of their dominant voice (Herald News, New Jersey)

  3. Also: Challenging 'Christocracy' | Rabbi James Rudin's book sounds an alarm about the religious right and politics (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla.)

  4. Non-believer's intervention is divine | God has abandoned Mr Blair (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

  5. Also: God: I've lost faith in Blair | All the signs are that the Almighty is unhappy about efforts to implicate Him in the attack on Iraq (Terry Jones, The Guardian, London)

  6. When would Jesus bolt? | Meet Randy Brinson, the advance guard of evangelicals leaving the GOP (Amy Sullivan, Washington Monthly)

  7. Of 'Father Bud,' Cardinal Mahony and a '96 sanctuary | In the United States, it's been the tradition to regard the church or temple as a sanctuary for all but violent felons, a criminal class that does not usually include undocumented workers (Logan Jenkins, San Diego Union-Tribune)

  8. Left/right extremes drive Iowa political landscape | Passions on the right-hand side of the spectrum in Iowa are

  9. running strong, just as they are on the left. (David Yepsen, Des Moines Register, Ia.)

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Abramoff scandal:

  1. Group targets Focus founder | Television, print ads accuse Dobson of ties to lobbyist Abramoff (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  2. Liberal group targets Dobson | Focus on Family chief denies Abramoff ties (The Denver Post)

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  1. Liberal activist ads attack conservatives | A liberal activist group bought newspaper and television ads to accuse three conservative leaders of hypocrisy for promoting Christian values while amassing money and political power. The targets of the spots said the accusations were lies (Associated Press)

  2. Opponents try to tie Dobson to Abramoff | But backers of the smear campaign say they have no proof (Family News in Focus, Focus on the Family)

  3. Focus on the Family's response to Abramoff matter | Straightforward answers to allegations by DefCon, a left-wing special-interest group (Focus on the Family)

  4. Politicians try to duck facts with excuses | Casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff knew what he was getting when he hired his pal Ralph Reed as a political consultant. He knew Reed's tactics; he knew how Reed worked (Jay Bookman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Christians and Islam:

  1. Negative perception of Islam increasing | Poll numbers in U.S. higher than in 2001 (The Washington Post)

  2. Religious crisis: 'Attackers of Xtians are terrorists' | Leaders of both the Christian and Islamic religious faiths in the country yesterday described the recent religious killings that broke out in some parts of the country, as a terrorist act and an action by misguided elements (This Day, Lagos, Nigeria)

  3. Christian numbers on decline in the Middle East | The number of Christians who live in the area where their religion began is in decline. Join Neal Conan and guests for a discussion about why Christians are leaving the Middle East and what that means for the future of their faith and the politics from the lands they leave behind (Talk of the Nation, NPR)

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Faith-based initiative:

  1. Bush orders DHS to create center for faith-based aid | President Bush ordered the Department of Homeland Security yesterday to create a center for faith-based and community initiatives within 45 days to eliminate regulatory, contracting and programmatic barriers to providing federal funds to religious groups to deliver social services, the White House announced last night (The Washington Post)

  2. Bush orders faith-based office | A day before returning to the ravaged Gulf Coast region, President Bush created an office for faith-based initiatives within the Department of Homeland Security to improve disaster recovery efforts (The Washington Times)

  3. Religious charities get more federal money | In the budget year that ended Sept. 30, religious charities received $2.15 billion in federal grants to administer a range of social service programs for the needy (Associated Press)

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  1. Bush wants foundations to okay faith groups | President Bush on Thursday urged corporate foundations not to exclude religious organizations from money they distribute to help America's needy (Associated Press)

  2. Illinois' portion of federal faith dollars increases | The government gave $127.4 million to groups in Illinois last year, a 13 percent increase over 2004, according to the White House (Chicago Tribune)

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  1. Study: Law lowered abortion rate in Texas | Abortion rates declined significantly among Texas girls — though some got riskier abortions later in pregnancy — after the state enacted a parental notification law, researchers say (Associated Press)

  2. Also: How consent laws affect abortions | A new study shows that parental notification laws have reduced the abortion rate among teens in Texas (Time)

  3. Abortion settlement awarded in Mexico | The case involving a 13-year-old rape victim is a major victory, women's groups say (Los Angeles Times)

  4. The abortion row in the US is not about babies | It's about power-mad grown-ups who despise each other (Lionel Shriver, The Guardian, London)

  5. A revived debate on abortion in Europe | Conservatism evident in Slovakia's proposed 'freedom of conscience' deal with Vatican (Chicago Tribune)

  6. Start-of-life advisory in abortion bill | Measure, in committee, again would require doctors to tell women life begins at conception (The Indianapolis Star)

  7. Unrealistic hopes for an abortion ban | South Dakota ban is a misguided strategy doomed to backfire against opponents of abortion (Editorial, The Indianapolis Star)

  8. Abortion issue moves to states | A showdown over abortion rights is heading to the states as some governors and legislators prepare challenges to Roe v. Wade (The Wall Street Journal)

  9. World abortion trend the opposite of U.S. | Over the past 10 years, more than a dozen countries have made it easier to get abortions, and women from Mexico to Ireland have mounted court challenges to get access to the procedure (Associated Press)

  10. Tenn. Senate backs anti-abortion step | The state Senate on Thursday passed a proposal to amend the Tennessee Constitution so that it doesn't guarantee a woman's right to an abortion (Associated Press)

  11. My secret burden | The abortion-rights movement grapples with repression (William Saletan, Slate)

  12. Where choice is illegal abortion still allowed—if rape is especially brutal | South Dakota is so rarely found on the leading edge of the far out, the wiggy, the California-esque. But it has now staked its claim: First to Outlaw Abortion This Century (Molly Ivins, Hartford Courant, Ct.)

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Life ethics:

  1. 'Embryo' out of legislation | Democratic lawmakers in the Maryland Senate have changed the word "embryo" to "material" in a bill for embryonic stem-cell research to secure the votes of Catholic senators who did not want to be viewed as supporting abortion-related legislation (The Washington Times)

  2. Md. stem cell bill heads for vote | Compromise adds limitations but ends Senate filibuster (The Washington Post)

  3. Wednesday: Stem cell bill could face filibuster | Two Democrats may hold key to outcome of debate in Md. Senate (The Washington Post)

  4. Let God decide, on our son, say right-to-life case parents | The parents of the child, who is known for legal reasons as MB, are fighting a hospital trust which wants to withdraw ventilation from their son, who has been in a high dependency unit or intensive care since he was seven weeks old (The Guardian, London)

  5. I didn't clone Dolly the sheep, says prof | Prof Ian Wilmut told a tribunal hearing in Edinburgh that he had a supervisory, although "not trivial", role in the project. However, he did not develop the technology or carry out the experiments that led to the first clone of an adult animal from a single cell (The Telegraph, London)

  6. Harm done | Codifying the decline of the medical profession (Wesley J. Smith, National Review Online)

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Money & business:

  1. Kinkade defends self but says 'sorry' | In a letter to gallery owners, the artist acknowledges that he may have behaved badly (Los Angeles Times)

  2. Religion Today: Firing God? | Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar companies from holding mandatory employee meetings where religious or political ideas are discussed. Backers say the legislation could restrict companies' use of corporate chaplains as part of employee support programs (Associated Press)

  3. Mixing work, faith is not a good idea | Prayer, proselytizing should be segregated from business (Editorial, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  4. Your doctor may be more spiritual than you think | 76% of the doctors believe in God and 59% believe in some sort of afterlife (Newsday)

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Entertainment and media:

  1. Heavenly Hollywood | The 168 Hour Film Festival gives a new generation of Christian filmmakers a big screen to play with (Pasadena Weekly, Ca.)

  2. The God factor | Sun-Times religion reporter Cathleen Falsani finds God in unlikely places (Wednesday Journal, Oak Park, Ill.)

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  1. German rock under fire for God song | Europe's Mohammed cartoon controversy has claimed a German rock band as its latest victim. Germany's top music awards show cancelled a performance of the church-critical song "God is a Popstar," by the band Oomph! (Deutsche Welle, Germany)

  2. 'Godcasts' spread word on 'Net | Churches use technology for outreach (Tennessean, Nashville)

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  1. Top U.S. bishop accused of sex abuse | Bishop William Skylstad issued a statement Wednesday categorically denying the accusation, saying he has not violated the vow of celibacy he took 47 years ago (Associated Press)

  2. 102 Dublin priests eyed for child abuse | The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, rocked for a decade by sex scandals, on Wednesday made its biggest admission yet: 102 of its Dublin priests past and present, or 3.6 percent of the total, are suspected of abusing children (Associated Press)

  3. Attorneys work on accord in seminary abuse cases | Lawyers say 23 men could receive $1 million each in their suit against church and Franciscans (Los Angeles Times)

  4. Ministry leader accused of raping woman | Fort Washington church suspends member over charges in Fairfax City (The Washington Post)

  5. Priests urge bishop to use mediator | It worked for New York City transit workers, so why not for Long Island Catholics? (Newsday)

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  1. Lourdes moots "miracle lite" for sudden healings | The Roman Catholic pilgrimage shrine at Lourdes may introduce a kind of "miracle lite" category for sudden unexplained recoveries because modern medicine increasingly refuses to declare any disease incurable (Reuters)

  2. Lourdes introduces miracle-lite | Exasperated at the refusal of modern medicine to declare any disease incurable, the Roman Catholic pilgrimage shrine at Lourdes plans to introduce a kind of "miracle lite" category for sudden unexplained recoveries (The Scotsman)

  3. Lourdes finds cure for lack of miracles: a less strict definition | Miracles, like much else in the Catholic church, aren't what they used to be (The Guardian, London)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Very little 'versus' yet in Roberts' high court | Unanimous decisions were those on such normally contentious issues as abortion protests, religious liberty, the death penalty and antitrust law (Los Angeles Times)

  2. French kings drawn into Da Vinci clash | Copyright claimant wilts in the witness box as the books are subjected to a line-by-line comparison (The Times, London)

  3. Pope asks kidnappers to free boy | Pope Benedict XVI has pleaded for the immediate release of a 17-month-old epileptic Italian boy kidnapped from his home near Parma last Thursday (BBC)

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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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