Still contentious after consensus

Gideons International wanted to distribute Bibles in schools in Brunswick County, North Carolina.. It looks like it'll happen: but it almost didn't. The school board voted 3-2 to draft a policy allowing "passive distribution" of "religious and non-religious materials." The fear among some board members and the board's lawyer was that if the school allows the Gideons to distribute Bibles, they'll have to allow other groups to distribute non-Christian or even anti-Christian literature. Actually, no. The threshold isn't crossed when you allow one form of religious literature—it's when you allow one form of extra-curricular literature. If you let the Boy Scouts to distribute a promotional leaflet, you have to allow the Gideons to distribute Bibles. Admittedly, there is some legal debate on this, but the principle has been reiterated by courts, the Department of Education, and groups across the political spectrum.

Most of these fights seem to be a case of educators uneducated in the law. But other unnecessary fights seem driven by something else. Take a look at the fight over at Karns Elementary School in Knox County, Tennessee, which has been going for nearly a year. Fifth-grader Luke Whitson and his parents say Principal Cathy Summa prevented him from reading his Bible at recess. Summa says the incident never happened, and launched a $3 million countersuit for libel and slander. Tuesday, the parties finally agreed to a agreement stating that the school "has not and will not have a policy or practice of banning students from reading religious texts at recess," according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The suits continue, however, and the judge in the case is disappointed.

"Counsel, I'm just really amazed. Something that apparently started as a misunderstanding has escalated into a lawsuit in federal court," he told the lawyers on both sides. If it goes forward, the case will tie "up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. That is plain senseless," he said.

(We're skipping the "Top Five" today, since it's a bit of a slow news day.)

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Education | Soulforce Equality Ride | Homosexuality | Adoption | Church and state | Religious freedom | Politics | Immigration | Dutch immigration film | Franklin Graham on Islam | Violent Christianity | Crime | Alabama church fires | Abuse | Life ethics | Abortion | Missions & ministry | Church life | Uganda church collapse | Meat on St. Patrick's Day | Catholicism | Da Vinci Code | Books | Entertainment and media | Ford boycott | Templeton Prize | Other stories of interest
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  1. Yes to Bible at school recess | Lawsuits of parents and principal at Karns Elementary remain unsettled (Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.)

  2. Distribution of religious materials debated | Tuesday's Brunswick County Board of Education meeting began with a request from a citizen to consider allowing groups to distribute Bibles in the schools and ended with the board voting 3-2 to direct staff to draft a policy allowing "passive distribution" of "religious and non-religious materials (The Brunswick Beacon, N.C.)

  3. Also: Battle over Bibles splits school board | A Christian group may soon get the go-ahead from the board of education to hand out scripture to middle school and high school students in Brunswick County (The State Port Pilot, Southport, NC)

  4. Board okays opt-in for sex ed | Some members want to push for abstinence-only education requirement (Lawrence Journal-World, Kan.)

  5. Rival science standards emerge in evolution debate | School districts looking for science standards now have a choice. They can turn to State Board of Education standards that criticize evolution, or the product of a science standards committee that adheres to mainstream science (Lawrence Journal-World, Kan.)

  6. Evangelical preaching at UNR sparks rally | A group of evangelical Christians preaching on the University of Nevada, Reno campus this week prompted a counterprotest Wednesday by several students claiming the group's anti-gay message violates the school's discrimination policy (Reno Gazette-Journal, Nev.)

  7. University of California to decide about Sudan investments | A vote is expected Thursday. If the huge system votes to divest, it could be a catalyst for other college movements (The Christian Science Monitor)

  8. Ministers late, but welcome, to school fight | That Manual is closing is no single group's fault, as I have already said. I'm not blaming the ministers. I'm wondering what would happen if this same alliance were instead to show up at any of a number of struggling schools in poor neighborhoods—before they close (Tina Griego, Rocky Mountain News)

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SoulforceEquality Ride:

  1. Bus tour promotes gay rights at schools | Stops include Lee, Union universities, which both have anti-gay policies (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  2. Union University response to "Equality Ride" visit (The Tennessean, PDF)

  3. Lee University response to "Equality Ride" visit (The Tennessean)

  4. Lee students react to gay right visitors | All is quiet on the Lee University campus as students hang out at the Conn Center. They say they're not afraid of the gay rights group, Soulforce, visiting their campus for the next two days (WDEF, Chattanooga, Tenn)

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  1. Speaking of rights, a school that tried to accommodate visitors has some, too | Regent University officials aren't required to serve as stooges for publicity-hungry groups that come to town with political agendas (Kerry Dougherty, The Virginian-Pilot)

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  1. Court lets Vista doctors use religious beliefs as defense | Two Vista doctors can argue to a jury that they did not violate an Oceanside lesbian's civil rights when they refused to artificially inseminate her, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday (North County Times, San Diego, Ca.)

  2. US Anglicans continue support for gay clergy | An interview with Tom Wright on issues in the Anglican Communion (The World Today, ABC, Australia)

  3. Gay rights group criticizes Christian conference for allowing 'ex-gay' speaker | "Giving a speaking opportunity to anyone from the ex-gay movement is wrong," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "It needs to be repudiated at every step, not given a pulpit" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  4. Mormon in legal gay marriage faces cutoff | A gay man who is a lifetime member of the Mormon church could be facing disciplinary action and excommunication after legally marrying his partner in Canada (Associated Press)

  5. Scout's dishonor | The Boy Scouts made the decision years ago to be free of public antidiscrimination constraints — which means accepting that a growing number of taxpayers will object to their policies and refuse to single out for public generosity an organization that singles out minorities for scorn (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

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  1. Mass. governor proposes gay-adoption bill | The Protecting Religious Freedom bill would exempt religious groups from a state anti-discrimination law that requires them to consider gay couples when placing children for adoption and foster care (Associated Press)

  2. Across the country, church agencies eye adoption practices | Decision to withdraw by Catholic Charities of Boston spurs review (The Boston Globe)

  3. Several states weigh ban on gay adoptions | Catholic Charities' move to stop adoption work focuses new attention on same-sex couples who adopt children (The Christian Science Monitor)

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Church and state:

  1. Parliament shuns talk of Church separation | The majority of MPs in Parliament yesterday avoided adopting a proposal which would effectively begin the separation of the Church from the state (Kathimerini, Athens, Greece)

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  1. Former cadet forms religious freedom foundation | The former Air Force Academy cadet and Reagan White House counsel suing to end all proselytizing and evangelizing by Air Force members while on duty has established a foundation to help keep church and state separate within the armed forces (Air Force Times)

  2. ACLU not ready to salute DAR's pledge to flag | Reference to God in proposed Tennessee pledge a problem (Associated Press)

  3. Christian fish plate bill delayed | Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville and the Senate sponsor of the bill, withdrew the measure from the consent calendar, which is usually reserved for items with broad support (Associated Press)

  4. Former activist owes $33,000 after losing bid to have home declared a church | One-time neighborhood activist Sonny Irons owes $33,000 in property taxes after a special magistrate ruled Wednesday that he failed to prove his $1.4 million waterside house in Fort Lauderdale is actually a church (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  5. Activists prepare for new church-state battles | As a liberal advocacy group tries to link prominent conservative Christian leaders to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Jewish activists at both ends of the political spectrum are organizing for the next round of battles in the fight over church-state separation (Forward, Jewish newspaper)

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Religious freedom:

  1. Congress members push for fewer travel restrictions to Cuba | Members of Congress opposed to the U.S. embargo of Cuba are meeting with administration officials in Washington today to discuss what they say are new restrictions on religious travel to Cuba, said Matthew Specht, a spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (The Miami Herald)

  2. Church joins fight against extortion | After campaigning against alcoholism and for HIV/AIDS prevention, the Church in Nagaland has decided to throw its weight behind consumer rights organisations that have launched a crusade against extortion in the name of "tax" (The Telegraph, Calcutta, India)

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  1. Blackwell courts votes of black ministers | Continuing his quest to court religious leaders, Republican gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell bought lunch for more than 70 black pastors in Cleveland yesterday, hoping to match his success with mostly white leaders of evangelical Christian churches (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

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  1. Also: Common ground despite differences | Why was Blackwell glad-handing and breaking bread with more than 100 black preachers in the fellowship hall of Antioch Baptist Church? (Sam Fulwood III, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  2. Cash crisis, layoffs looming for Christian Civic League | The Christian Civic League of Maine posted a plea for money on its Web site this week, saying that, without cash, the organization might have to lay off staff (Morning Sentinel, Me.)

  3. Scalia rails against the 'judge-moralist' | Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia railed against the era of the "judge-moralist," saying judges are no better qualified than "Joe Sixpack" to decide moral questions such as abortion and gay marriage (Associated Press)

  4. Letter by LDS leaders cheers Utah Democrats | Missive's new language underscores neutrality (Deseret Morning News, Ut.)

  5. Church group challenged over 'negative' ads | Members of religious group Exclusive Brethren have been criticised as the silent force behind campaigns attacking Greens gay policies (The Mercury, Tasmania, Australia)

  6. Also: Liberals deny Brethren links | Tasmania's Liberal Opposition has denied links to a conservative religious group, which financed advertisements campaigning against the Greens ahead of Saturday's state election (Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia)

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  1. Church hangs its stand on immigration from the roof | Religious leaders around the nation and in El Paso are taking a political lead in fighting what they see as a punitive and unfair approach to immigration reform (El Paso Times, Tex.)

  2. Religious leaders protest immigration bill | Dozens of Bay Area religious leaders - priests, nuns, rabbis, ministers and Buddhist monks - gathered on the steps of Mission Church at Santa Clara University Tuesday morning to denounce proposed federal legislation that they claim threatens to make felons of millions of illegal immigrants and the clergy who help them (The Mercury News, San Jose, Ca.)

  3. Immigration bill alarms activists who help poor | Social-service groups and churches are trying to head off a proposed federal law that would make it a crime for them to offer assistance to immigrants who are in the country illegally (The Orlando Sentinel)

  4. Immigrant legislation protests planned | Bill would penalize people, groups (Monterey Herald, Ca.)

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Dutch immigration film:

  1. A Dutch film warning: nudity and gay kisses ahead | For potential Dutch immigrants, an unusual homework assignment: watch an attractive woman sunbathing topless and try not to be shocked (The New York Times)

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  1. Dutch immigrants must watch racy film | The camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park. Later, a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks onto a crowded beach. For would-be immigrants to the Netherlands, this film is a test of their readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture (Associated Press)

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Franklin Graham on Islam:

  1. Franklin Graham's 'famous father' problem | Preacher finds controversy as he defines his own legacy (Nightline, ABC News)

  2. Video: Graham on Islam | Leading Christian evangelist stands by his statement that Islam is "wicked." (Nightline, ABC News)

  3. Franklin Graham reaffirms scorn for Islam (Associated Press)

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Violent Christianity:

  1. No religion has a monopoly on violence | Slobodan Milosevic, the Butcher of the Balkans, was a Christian who oversaw the slaughter of tens of thousands of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo (Mary Ellen Schoonmaker, The Record, N.J.)

  2. Christian history marked with violence, too | If those of us who come from the European and American Christian traditions are to be honest and consistent, we must acknowledge a history of pogroms against the Muslims during and after the Crusades, or of the Catholic Church purging sections of Europe of its Jews in the Middle Ages and into the Reformation (Lee Stagg, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

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  1. Ex-Bush aide hid embarrassing secret | Claude Allen was known for his faith (Associated Press)

  2. Churches weigh security, access | A dozen thefts in D.C. prompt struggle with conflicting needs (The Washington Post)

  3. New accusation | A Brandon man accused of torching two churches and vandalizing headstones in western Manitoba is facing new charges in Alberta (The Winnipeg Sun)

  4. Minister's ex-girlfriend tells Va. judge of protracted rape | Eugene A. Marriott Jr. is suspended from Ebenezer AME (The Washington Post)

  5. Couple, daughter indicted for arson bid in Nazareth church | An Israeli couple and their daughter were indicted Thursday for trying to set fire two weeks ago to the Basilica of the Annuciation in Nazareth, one of the holiest sites in Christendom (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

  6. Also: Nazareth church attackers indicted | An indictment was served to the Nazereth District Court on Thursday against the Habibi family who allegedly hurled objects and explosives in the Church of the Annunciation at the beginning of March (The Jerusalem Post)

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Alabama church fires:

  1. Judge sets $50,000 bond for Ala. suspects | Three college students accused of setting fire to a string of rural Alabama churches can be released from jail on $50,000 bond each, provided they stay away from alcohol, cars and home computers, a judge ruled Thursday (Associated Press)

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  1. Judge to rule on bond today | A judge will decide today whether three suspects in nine church fires will be released on bond with conditions after prosecutors argued Wednesday they are a danger to the community (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  2. Crowd keeps church member outside | Geraldine Sands traveled 70 miles from Boligee to learn if three suspects accused of burning her church would be released on bond. She left Birmingham disappointed (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

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  1. End to limits in abuse cases urged | Clock would not run if children involved (The Boston Globe)

  2. Archdiocese gives prosecutors data on accused priest | The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago complied this week with a request by Cook County prosecutors for records related to a priest charged with sexual abuse of minors, a lawyer for the archdiocese said (Chicago Tribune)

  3. Child protection watchdog to be unveiled | The appointment of an independent watchdog to ensure the Church is implementing its child protection policy will be announced within days (Ireland Online)

  4. Local pastor, teacher charged with sexual abuse of a minor | Gabriel E. Carlin, 32, is a pastor and teacher at East Harbor Christian Academy in Washington City. His alleged victim is an 11-year-old student of the academy (The Spectrum, St. George, Ut.)

  5. Panel backs sex-abuse bill | A sex-abuse bill stayed alive in the Senate on Tuesday, despite a sponsor's prediction it would likely die (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

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Life ethics:

  1. New poll results support option to allow life-ending medication | 70 percent of all adults indicate in favor of euthanasia (San Francisco Chronicle)

  2. Bush picks FDA chief, but vote is unlikely soon | A vote on Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach will almost certainly be delayed by a dispute over the "morning after" contraceptive pill (The New York Times)

  3. Also: 2 senators vow fight on FDA choice | They demand decision on `morning-after' pill (Chicago Tribune)

  4. Judge backs parents in refusing withdrawal of baby's life support | NHS doctors are refused request to stop ventilator (The Guardian, London)

  5. Also: Judge rules terminally-ill baby must be kept alive | Judge concluded in a 29-page judgment that it was not in the boy's best interests to withdraw life-saving ventilation (The Telegraph, London)

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  1. Born in defiance | A mother-to-be was advised by her doctor to "terminate that fetus". She refused and later gave birth to "a perfect little boy" (Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia)

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  1. Group abandons drive on abortion law | An out-of-state abortion rights group said Wednesday it would drop a petition drive that would have given voters a say on the state's new abortion ban (Associated Press)

  2. Abortion battle lines drawn in Mississippi | Politicians in the US state of Mississippi are pushing forward with plans to ban abortion (BBC)

  3. Abortion showdown in Sioux Falls | South Dakota's only clinic is front and center in national struggle (Chicago Tribune)

  4. Maybe you just don't know | I've had an abortion. Have you? (Emily L. Hauser, Chicago Tribune)

  5. Abortion on the horizon | Although it won't topple Roe v. Wade, Gonzales v. Carhart is this year's abortion case to watch (Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Adam White, The Weekly Standard)

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Missions & ministry:

  1. Southern Baptist mission to rebuild Big Easy houses | Southern Baptist volunteers plan to rebuild more than 1,000 houses in New Orleans that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina last August (The Washington Times)

  2. Also: Faith coalitions aid evacuees | Churches, mosques, and synagogues have stepped forward to provide Katrina evacuees the kind of assistance that government can't (The Christian Science Monitor)

  3. Can 5,000 evangelical teens be wrong? | "Acquire the Fire," the new vanguard of teen Christian revivals (Portland Mercury, Ore.)

  4. Churches try redeeming rap | Holy hip-hop injects Gospel into the dominant youth culture (The Oregonian)

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Church life:

  1. Church battle likely to go on | Both sides claim victory after All Saints ruling (The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.)

  2. Episcopalians win right to All Saints name | Judge upholds original 1745 deed; Anglicans may remain on property in Pawleys Island (Georgetown Times, S.C.)

  3. 99-foot cross stirs unease in Town and Country | Members of the West County Assembly of God say they want the cross to help with their religious mission to spread the message of Jesus. City residents say it could be a dangerous distraction - and just plain ugly (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  4. Embracing diversity was an act of faith | Lilburn First Baptist stayed put, thus making its mission global (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  5. For church, more room to grow | New facility for expanding First Baptist flock opens next month (The Dallas Morning News)

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  1. 2,000 attend churchman's funeral | Oliver Lyseight founded one of the largest black Christian churches in the UK. (BBC)

  2. Church is 'sorry' for Aids stigma | Kenya's Anglican Church has issued a public apology for previously shunning those with HIV/Aids (BBC)

  3. Archbishop: Church will return all grabbed land | The Anglican Church of Kenya will surrender all land mentioned in the Ndung'u report if found to have been issued irregularly (The East African Standard, Kenya)

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Uganda church collapse:

  1. Pastor seeks new church plan | Pastor Godfrey Luwagga (right), the proprietor of the ill-fated City of the Lord Church, has contracted Kampala city councillor Ronald Balimwezo to draw a new plan for the building (New Vision, Uganda)

  2. Takuba warns on rebuilding collapsed church | Kawempe division chairman–elect Nasser Takuba Kibirige has vowed to sue Pastor Godfrey Luwagga if he re-builds his church at Kalerwe without permission (New Vision, Uganda)

  3. Pastors in fundraising drive to reconstruct collapsed church | Pastors of Pentecostal churches have started soliciting funds to reconstruct the church which collapsed last week (The Monitor, Uganda)

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Meat on St. Patrick's Day:

  1. Thou shalt eat corned beef on Friday | Who sets the rules on Lent? (Slate)

  2. As luck would have it, bishops allow meat on St. Patrick's Day | Corned beef and cabbage will be on the menu tomorrow. Call it a gift from Saint Patrick (The Washington Post)

  3. Bishops bend rules for St. Patrick's Day | Many bishops offered the same deal the last time St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday during Lent — in 2000 (Associated Press)

  4. The dilemma | What's a good Irish Catholic to do? (The Denver Post)

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  1. Christians, Jews, Muslims must seek dialogue: Pope | Christians, Jews and Muslims must work together to promote peace and teach respect for religions and their symbols, Pope Benedict said on Thursday (Reuters)

  2. Book recounts John Paul II's final days | A new book by Pope John Paul II's longtime personal physician recounts the pontiff's final days and minutes, saying doctors realized on a few hours before his death that further medical intervention would have been fruitless (Associated Press)

  3. Catholic church plays down reports of second papal visit to Britain | "It is too soon to say either in what that visit might consist, or whether it would be feasible, given the Pope's commitments and the many invitations he has already received from across the world," The Roman Catholic church in England and Wales said (The Guardian, London)

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Da Vinci Code:

  1. Decoding 'The Da Vinci Code' | For millions, the phenomenal best seller is their introduction to the arcane and mysterious 'shadow history' of the early church. Herewith, an attempt to separate truth from fiction (Newsweek)

  2. Why we're all Jesus' children | Go back a few millenniums, and we've all got the same ancestors (Slate)

  3. Da Vinci Code case calls rival book as witness | The most striking witness in Court 61 yesterday was a disintegrating paperback book. Spine broken, its dogeared pages bristling with tape markers, underlinings and margin notes, it was Dan Brown's copy of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the book he is accused of plagiarising for The Da Vinci Code (The Guardian, London)

  4. Also: Da Vinci QC tries to unlock secrets of the green ink | A well-thumbed paperback copy of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, heavily marked and annotated in a variety of coloured inks, took centre stage at the High Court in London yesterday (The Times, London)

  5. Mary Magdalene, now she could spot four bestsellers when she saw them | St Mark was the first to write a gospel. It was then nicked, in quick succession, by Matthew, Luke, and John (Alan Coren, The Times, London)

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  1. Religious broadcaster gets rich contract for next book | Joel Osteen has signed a deal with Free Press that could bring the author more than $10 million, according to insiders (The New York Times)

  2. Still life in monastery: 'Little Hours' | The Carthusian monks are one of the most rigorous religious orders in the world, living silently solitary lives, almost unchanged since the eleventh century (Talk of the Nation, NPR)

  3. Finding God in unexpected places | A journalist queries celebrities about God. The answers are sometimes surprising (The Christian Science Monitor)

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Entertainment and media:

  1. Faith is only a mouse click away | Techvangelism '06, a daylong conference to be held Saturday at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, intends to show Christians how to spread their message online (The Mercury News, San Jose, Ca.)

  2. Also: 'God on the move' with prayer downloads | A "pray-as-you-go" service has been launched by the Roman Catholic Church to put people in touch with God via their iPods (The Telegraph, London)

  3. Spiritual songs shine at CMT nominations | Three songs with spiritual themes received multiple nominations (Associated Press)

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Ford boycott:

  1. Still advertising to gays, Ford under boycott again | The American Family Association has reinstated a boycott trying to force Ford to stop advertising in publications aimed at gay readers (The New York Times)

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  1. Ford vs. the religious Right, round 2 | Once again, conservative groups are boycotting the carmaker because it advertises in gay-related media. Ford says it isn't budging (Business Week)

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Templeton Prize:

  1. Math professor wins a coveted religion award | John D. Barrow, a British cosmologist whose work has explored the relationship between life and the laws of physics, was named the winner of the Templeton Prize (The New York Times)

  2. Scientist John Barrow wins religion prize | John D. Barrow, a British scientist and writer whose work explores fundamental questions about the universe and humanity's place in it, has won a religion award billed as the world's richest annual prize (Associated Press)

  3. British scientist wins religion prize | $1.4-million Templeton award goes to John Barrow, who has written on life and the universe (Los Angeles Times)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Hamstrung churches urge Monday marathon | With the Los Angeles Marathon just days away, area church leaders on Tuesday urged race organizers to hold next year's event on a day that does not conflict with any religious group's Sabbath (Los Angeles Times)

  2. Tribute to a saint | Downpatrick is the cradle of Irish Christianity and gave birth to the idea of St. Patrick's Day Tomorrow sees the annual parade from the site of his first church to his grave (The Toronto Star)

  3. Satellite may have found Noah's ark | Image may solve biblical mystery (Good Morning America, ABC News)

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