Today's Top Five
1. U.S. and British troops free three Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages
Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden and Briton Norman Kember, three of the four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) taken hostage in Iraq November 26 were found today by American and British troops. American Tom Fox, the fourth CPT worker taken hostage by the Swords of Righteousness Brigades, was found dead March 10. "Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration," CPT said in a written statement.
The statement's consistent description of the CPT workers as "released" rather than "freed" is causing some critics to call the group ungrateful and theologically problematic. But there is some wiggle room in what to call the moment of freedom. After all, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the press, "There were no kidnappers in the areas" when the troops launched their operation. But Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch says that's probably because the kidnappers knew they were coming: a member of the "kidnapping cell" had been captured and interrogated Wednesday night.
In the next few days, expect a lot of questions and opinions about how CPT membersespecially the former hostagesfeel about being freed by a western military operation.
2. U.S. appeals court says belief, not knowledge of doctrine, key to religious asylum cases
When Indonesian Yose Rizal applied for religious asylum in the U.S., explaining that he had been beaten, fired, and threatened with death because of his Christian faith, and that his church had been burned by local Muslims, U.S. immigration lawyers asked him where Jesus had been crucified. "Bethlehem," Rizal answered.
What disciples wrote the New Testament, they asked. He did not remember.
"Do you know who denied knowing Jesus after the crucifixion?" the lawyer pressed.
"Like whenever it comes to the details of the Bible stories, I cannot really recall everything in detail because basically what I learned was what's good and what's evil," Rizal answered.
"Sir, are you trying to tell me you don't know the answer to the question I asked you?" the lawyer said.
"I swear, I just learned about this story from the Bible but I don't really remember everything in detail because what I really remember was the teaching of what's good and what's evil, like you may not kill, you may not hurt people, and I just enjoy going to church to listen to the preachers."
"Give him something a little easier," the immigration judge told the government lawyer.
The lawyer went to the Old Testament: "Who was Moses?"
"Moses was born by Miriam," Rizal said, incorrectly identifying Moses' older sister.
"And who prepared the Ten Commandments?"
"You got that backwards," the lawyer said.
Rizal protested, describing his baptism. "[T]hey have some kind of wording, some kind of words before then, whether we really have the intention of being a Christian, whether we were ready or not and then after that, the preacher spread some holy water and then prayed, we prayed together."
"Do you have any other questions?" the judge finally said. "Because I think I've heard enough."
The government lawyer said that, yes, he had more questions, because Rizal "hasn't testified at all today regarding any of the [events] of persecution."
"Well, if I don't find he's a Christian, I don't even think it's necessary," the judge replied. Indeed in his decision denying Rizal asylum, the immigration judge ruled that the Indonesian "provided no evidence to corroborate his purported identity as a Christian. [He] also failed to persuade the Court of the genuineness of his professed Christian faith based on his inability to demonstrate basic knowledge of Christianity. For example, he identified Jesus as the preparer of the Ten Commandments and he identified Moses as the son of Mary."
Actually, he identified him as the son of Miriam, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a Tuesday decision. And that's not the only point the appeals court corrected the immigration judge on. The immigration judge "appears to have erroneously viewed Rizal's lack of detailed doctrinal knowledge about Christianity as automatically rendering incredible his claim of religious persecution, without assessing the genuineness of Rizal's asserted Christian self-identification and his claim that others perceived him as a Christian and had persecuted him on that basis," Judge Robert Katzmann wrote for the court. Doctrinal knowledge isn't a prerequisite for persecution, the court said, so it shouldn't be a prerequisite for asylum. "Both history and common sense make amply clear that people can identify with a certain religion, notwithstanding their lack of detailed knowledge about that religion's doctrinal tenets, and that those same people can be persecuted for their religious affiliation. Such individuals are just as eligible for asylum on religious persecution grounds as are those with more detailed doctrinal knowledge." The appeals court ordered the lower immigration courts to reconsider the asylum case. Rizal's lawyer notes that the Indonesian may be able to stay in the country a lot longer than earlier thought: Over the course of the appeals process, he married an American. An Associated Press story ends with a nice touch: "The pair met at church."
3. Abdul Rahman "crazy" for converting?
Almost every western nation is calling for the freedom of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faces the death penalty for doing so. At the same time, Afghan clerics are threatening revolt and murder if the Afghan court does not execute him. Is there any way out? Prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari thinks there might be: Rahman, he said, seems crazy. "We think he could be mad," he told the Associated Press. "He is not a normal person. He doesn't talk like a normal person." Freeing Rahman on grounds of insanity would probably mean he would be killed by local Muslims. The Associated Press reports that local imams aren't buying the craziness excuse. Abdull Raoulf, who is a member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council, agreed. "The government is playing games," said Abdul Raoulf. "The people will not be fooled. Cut off his head! We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left." The Associated Press identified Raoulf as a "moderate."
4. St. Paul City Hall evicts Easter Bunny
Tyrone Terrill, human rights director for the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, told the city council to remove its bunny, Easter eggs, and "Happy Easter" sign because they were too Christian and a violation of church-state separation. The worst part of the story isn't the government's confusion between pagan symbols and Christianity. It's that Weblog's e-mail inbox is now going to be crammed with press releases from activist groups decrying the "War on Easter." I'm still cleaning out the "War on Christmas" stuff.
5. Speaking of the war
Oh, it's not just a war on Christian holidays, you know. It's a war on Christians. That's the title of a conference next week from the group Vision America. It's attracting a surprising array of both conservative activists and congressional leaders, including John Cornyn, Tom DeLay, Todd Akin, and Sam Brownback. Each day brings a new interesting e-mail from Vision America promoting the conference. Today's equates the trial of Abdul Rahman with Hollywood's "war on Christians" as evidenced by the universally panned movie V for Vendetta, which Vision America says has "a strong anti-Christian message." Maybe so, but, um, does Vision America know that the Rahman trial isn't just a movie? It's interesting that what the church has for nearly two millennia considered persecution and martyrdom is now being considered "war." An awful lot of implications there, don't you think?
Quote of the day:
"It is hard to believe that a Republican leadership that is constantly talking about values and about faith would put forth such a mean-spirited piece of legislation. It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself."
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on an immigration bill passed by House Republicans. An editorial in National Review says critics of the bill are "bearing false witness" by claiming the bill would ban charitable organizations from providing help to illegal immigrants.
Christian Peacemaker Teams workers rescued | Religious freedom | Christians and Islam | Abdul Rahman (news) | Abdul Rahman (opinion) | Sudan | India | Church and state | Faith-based crimefighting | Immigration | Missions and ministry | Politics | Life ethics | Evolution | Education | Books | Entertainment and media | History | Monasticism | Catholicism | Abuse | Church life | Gay marriage | Other stories of interest
- 3 western aid workers in Iraq rescued in military operation | The peace workers, who were being held hostage, were freed by multinational forces after four months in captivity (The New York Times)
- U.S., British troops rescue Iraq hostages | U.S. and British troops Thursday freed three Christian peace activists in rural Iraq without firing a shot, ending a four-month hostage drama in which an American among the group was shot to death and dumped on a Baghdad street (Associated Press)
- Canadian, British peace activists freed in Iraq | Three Christian peace activists kidnapped last year in Iraq were freed Thursday in an early-morning military operation, the British Embassy in Iraq announced (The Washington Post)
- Special forces free Iraq hostages, including Briton | The three Christian activists were freed in an SAS-led raid on a house in western Baghdad early this morning. It appears that their captors had already fled (The Times, London)
- Indonesian Christian gets asylum chance | A court has given an Indonesian citizen a new chance at asylum after his claim of religious persecution was rejected because his grasp of Christianity seemed shaky (Associated Press)
- Ruling: Rizal vs Gonzales (03-40750) (United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit)
- Controversy over Christ movie in Egypt | An intended attempt to produce a movie on the life of Jesus Christ (peace and blessings be upon him) has stirred a hot debate between Al-Azhar scholars who vehemently oppose the depiction of any Prophet and Christian activists who considered the rejection an interference in their private affairs (Islam Online)
- CAN's mourning protest | Protest is a legitimate part of the participation of citizens in a democracy. The civilized manner in which CAN has chosen to register the protest of Christians is demonstrative of high social responsibility (Editorial, Daily Sun, Nigeria)
- Crossing over | The plight of Iraqi Christians (Lawrence F. Kaplan, The New Republic)
- Editor of Welsh church magazine quits over cartoon of Muhammad | Archbishop recalls all copies of publication (The Guardian, London)
- Americans view Muslims favorably | Most Americans hold favorable views of American Muslims, and almost half say Islam doesn't encourage violence more than other religions, according to a study released yesterday at an international interfaith conference (The Washington Times)
- Afghan clerics demand convert be killed | Senior Muslim clerics demanded Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity be executed, warning that if the government caves in to Western pressure and frees him, they will incite people to "pull him into pieces." (Associated Press)
- Afghan convert may be unfit for trial | An Afghan man facing a possible death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity may be mentally unfit to stand trial, a state prosecutor said Wednesday (Associated Press)
- Afghanistan says court to decide fate of convert | Under mounting international pressure over the case of a man facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity, Afghanistan said on Wednesday that its judiciary alone would decide the case (Reuters)
- Fears over Afghan convert trial | The US and three Nato allies have expressed concern over reports that a Muslim convert to Christianity could face the death penalty in Afghanistan (BBC)
- Steinmeier 'concerned' about Afghan Christian | Afghan Economics Minister Amin Farhang on Wednesday accused the West of overreacting to the trial of an Afghan man facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity (Expatica, Netherlands)
- 'Judges to rule' on Kabul convert | The Afghan government says it is up to the judiciary to decide the fate of a man who could face death for converting to Christianity (BBC)
- Canadian church groups furious over Afghan's trial for converting | Canadian church groups and key players in the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan demanded yesterday that the Afghan government prevent the execution of a man arrested for converting to Christianity, but there were only cautious expressions of concern from Ottawa (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)
- In quotes: Afghan convert case | Reactions from government officials around the world (BBC)
- Germany and Italy defend Afghan Christian convert | Italy and Germany, NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan, have expressed urgent concern to the Kabul government about reports that an Afghan convert to Christianity faced the death penalty there (Deutsche Welle, Germany)
- Bush troubled by Afghan convert's case | President Bush said Wednesday that he is "deeply troubled" that an Afghan man is being tried for converting to Christianity. (Associated Press)
- Allies troubled by Afghan threat to Christian convert from Islam | In Afghanistan, some judges still hold radical interpretations of Shariah, or Islamic law, which says those who leave Islam must die (The New York Times)
- Bush, Rice express concern for Afghan | President Bush called on Afghanistan on Wednesday to respect the religious freedom of an Afghan citizen on trial for his life for converting from Islam to Christianity (Associated Press)
- Afghan convert controversy mirrors cartoons row | There have been no riots or sackings of Afghan embassies, unlike the violence that marked the uproar in Muslim countries after the Danish cartoons were published, but the shock and mutual incomprehension expressed in both cases are similar. (Reuters)
- Afghan judiciary says won't bow to convert pressure | Afghanistan's judiciary will not bow to outside pressure over the fate of a man who faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity, a judge dealing with the case said on Thursday (Reuters)
- Karzai says rights will be upheld in convert case | Afghan President Hamid Karzai assured Canada on Wednesday that respect for human and religious rights would "be fully upheld" in the case of a man facing execution for converting to Christianity, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said (Reuters)
- For Afghans, allies, a clash of values | Case against Christian convert puts pressure on Karzai -- and on Bush (The Washington Post)
- Afghan trial of Christian 'troubles' Bush | President Bush yesterday said he was "deeply" troubled by the trial in Afghanistan of a Christian who could face execution for converting from Islam and vowed to pressure the Afghan government on the matter (The Washington Times)
- Outrage in Afghanistan | What's the point of the United States' propping up the government of Afghanistan if it's not even going to pretend to respect basic human rights? (Editorial, The New York Times)
- A religious right | America and its allies should exert as much quiet pressure to defuse this case, behind the scenes, as possible (Editorial, The Baltimore Sun)
- Free Abdul Rahman | The case of Abdul Rahman, who faces execution in Afghanistan for having become a Christian 15 years ago, is about as clear-cut as it could be (Editorial, The Washington Times)
- An affront to civilization | The judicial murder of a Christian convert by a government that exists only on the basis of American power and good will would be intolerable (Editorial, National Review)
- The way it is | Afghanistan's sharia problem and ours (Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review Online)
- Being Christian in Afghanistan | A man is charged with converting to the wrong religion, but the U.S. can do little about it (Tony Karon, Time)
- Darfur attacks overwhelm peace force, U.N. reports | A U.N. envoy said that lack of progress in the south jeopardized a peace agreement that ended a separate conflict there (The New York Times)
- Fears over renewed Sudan violence | Violence in Sudan is on the rise as frustration grows in the south about the lack of reconstruction taking place, the UN's Sudan envoy has said (BBC)
- Christians revert to Hinduism | More than two hundred Christians, in village Tharachitara near here, reverted back to Hindu religion Tuesday (Chronicle, India).
- Nuns win battle to practice law | The high court in the southern Indian state of Kerala has upheld the right of nuns and priests in the state to practice law (BBC)
- Silent march against anti-Christian violence in Rajasthan | Thousands of peopleChristians, Muslims and leftwing leadersmarch in state capital to protest violence against Christians. We are Christians and we love our land, but we won't give up our right to defend the life God gave us, says bishop of Jaipur (AsiaNews, Catholic News Service)
- City Hall evicts Easter Bunny | St. Paul civil rights chief says non-Christians might find the holiday decoration offensive (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
- Court debates inmates filing federal suits | Supreme Court justices debated Wednesday when prisoners should be able to file federal lawsuits, taking up the case of a California inmate who sued after he was punished for alleged inappropriate activity with volunteer priests (Associated Press)
- Navy rule on prayer ignites a debate | A new Navy policy that encourages chaplains to use only "nonsectarian" language outside of divine services has prompted criticism that regulating prayer services violates the chaplains' First Amendment rights (The Washington Times)
- Wiccans fight for military recognition | Veterans buried in military cemeteries can't have Wicca's religious symbol, the pentangle, on memorials unless government policy changes (Associated Press)
- Grants flow to Bush allies on social issues | Federal programs direct at least $157 million (The Washington Post)
- Secular boundaries for public prayers | The problem isn't that Susan Clarke Schaar asked a guest clergyman to drop part of his invocation. It's that she shouldn't have to ask at all (Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot)
- Fish tags would roil the waters | A Tennessee legislator wants to put a fish on a plate (David Waters, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- Faith-based groups urged to help N.Va. youths avoid gangs | Drive-by shootings. Machete attacks. Drug deals gone bad. Big-city gang problems for big-city law enforcement? Not if you ask some in Loudoun County (The Washington Post)
- Pastor joins police on the beat | Police are to team up with religious leaders to go on the beat in Liverpool to try to build confidence in the force and to encourage people to report more crimes (Daily Post, Liverpool, England)
- Spiritual sums | Hampton sheriff needs to tighten up on payments to Christian group (Editorial, Daily Press, Hampton Roads, Va.)
- Mrs. Clinton says G.O.P.'s immigration plan is at odds with the Bible | Offering aid to illegal immigrants would be a crime under the bill, which Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton called mean-spirited (The New York Times)
- Religious leaders outraged by plan to punish those who help immigrants | Church leaders say the measure exploits anti-immigrant fears that flared after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
- Called by God to help | The Roman Catholic Church couldn't obey a law barring aid to immigrants (Roger Mahony, The New York Times)
- Cardinal errors | If the House Republicans had proposed such a bill, they would deserve to be opposed. But they have not, and Cardinal Mahony is at least uncharitable in claiming that they have (Editorial, National Review)
- Uganda at the forefront of Africa's boom in evangelical Christianity | Nearly two hundred years after the first wave of missionaries arrived in Africa, Christianity is growing faster here than anywhere else in the world (Knight Ridder)
- Christian truckers seek salvation and rest | The billboards out the window in this part of central Missouri advertise rock-bottom prices on adult videos and getaways to the Ozark Mountains. But at the truck stop just off Interstate 70, Chaplain Bob Holt is making another kind of promise to weary truckers: salvation (Associated Press)
- Faith-based group gets $250,000 | Supervisors award money to build low-cost houses (The Washington Post)
- Priest involved in Eta peace move | Belfast priest Fr Alex Reid was involved in getting Basque separatist group Eta to call a permanent ceasefire, it has been confirmed (BBC)
- 2 women's groups endorse Casey opponent | Alan Sandals trails in the major polls and has yet to report receiving more than $25,000 from sources other than himself in his quixotic U.S. Senate bid. But two women's rights groups endorsed him yesterday in Washington, highlighting discontent among abortion-rights advocates with Democratic leaders in Congress who were reluctant to reject President Bush's Supreme Court nominees and recruited Bob Casey Jr. to challenge Sen. Rick Santorum (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Christian activists | British Christians are cautiously using American-style political muscle (The Economist)
- Former Ala. justice says he won't bolt GOP | The former Alabama Supreme Court justice who was ousted for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from court property denied rumors Tuesday that he would switch parties in his race for governor (Associated Press)
- Religious conservatives look to legislature for more victories | Connecticut's religious conservatives are hoping for more victories in this year's legislative session, following the death of a bill this week that would have required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims (Associated Press)
- Reed campaign survives Abramoff ties | The Jack Abramoff scandal has not dealt the fatal blow to Ralph Reed's electoral ambitions that some predicted, a new poll of Georgia Republican primary voters indicates (The Washington Times)
- Hot topic gets warm support | Global warming is getting hotter both politically and climatically. Key skeptics of global warming among American evangelical Christians have made a 180-degree turn (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Indentured families | Social conservatives and the GOP: Can this marriage be saved? (Allan Carlson, The Weekly Standard)
- Apocalyptic president | Even some Republicans are now horrified by the influence Bush has given to the evangelical right (Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian, London)
- "War on Christians"? | Later this month, Rich Scarborough's Vision America will host 'The War Against Christians and the Values Voter 2006' Conference in Washington D.C. (Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency Center)
- Group to keep up Plan B pressure | About 50 supporters of the Family Institute of Connecticut rallied on the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday, vowing to keep the pressure on state legislators to protect religious liberty (The Hartford Courant, Ct.)
- 'Right to life is being legally disregarded' | Close to half a million abortions have been performed in South Africa since the legalization of abortion by the government in February 1997 (Daily News, South Africa)
- Romney opts against proclamation honoring 1972 birth control case |Gov. Mitt Romney is declining to issue a proclamation recognizing a landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing birth control for unmarried people -- the first time in 10 years a Massachusetts governor has taken a pass on the proclamation (Associated Press)
- The obligation of unwanted fatherhood | Matt Dubay wants more than the freedom to be sexually reckless - he wants that freedom to be constitutionally guaranteed (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)
- Anglican leader says the schools shouldn't teach creationism | The Archbishop of Canterbury opposes teaching creationism in school and believes that portraying the Bible as just another theory devalues it (The New York Times)
- Clarke opposes creation teaching | Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, stepped into the controversy over creationism yesterday by declaring that he was "totally opposed" to the concept (The Telegraph, London)
- Scots church leader joins row over teaching of creationism in schools | The leader of the Scottish Episcopal Church said yesterday that creationism should not be taught in schools and that a "false battleground" was pitting science against faith (The Scotsman)
- New challenge to evolution | The policy at the Lancaster School District in Southern California states that "students should learn that science never commits itself irrevocably to any fact," and that evolution is to be "taught as theory, as opposed to unalterable fact" (The New York Times, first item)
- Dover area accepts donations to aid debt | The district has received a small amount to help cover legal costs for the intelligent design trial (York Daily Record, Pa.)
- The Pianist scribe penning Dover pic | Paramount Pictures has set The Pianist screenwriter Ronald Harwood to write a feature about last fall's Dover, Pa., courtroom decision in which a federal judge denied a school board the right to force educators to teach intelligent design instead of evolution (Variety)
- Intelligent by design | Let us not reduce the mystery of existence to arguments over time - which, as Einstein showed, is a mutable thing. We can see eternity in an hour; might not 10 billion years be a single week in the life of God? (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)
- A battle that is all of their own creation | The row over whether creationism should be taught in schools has raged in the US for some time, and has now moved to Britain, with creationism being taught in two city academies (Ron Fergurson, The Herald, Glasgow)
- Professors to leave Patrick Henry | A public debate at Patrick Henry College about whether the Bible is the only source of truth preceded the decisions by three professors and an instructor last week to tell school administration they would not return for another year (Leesburg Today, Va.)
- Legal issues lead to cancellation of Diversity Day at Viroqua High | Scheduled speakers included Hmong, Jewish, Muslim, American Indian, African American, Latino, Buddhist, gay, physically disadvantaged and economically disadvantaged people. It was canceled when a legal group wanted an ex-gay Christian to speak (La Crosse Tribune)
- Judson board set to write final chapter on sci-fi book | Judson Superintendent Ed Lyman has pulled the critically acclaimed novel "The Handmaid's Tale" from the district's Advanced Placement English curriculum after a parent complained she found it sexually explicit and offensive to Christians (San Antonio Express-News)
- Muslim girl loses Lords fight over jilbab | The House of Lords yesterday overturned an appeal court ruling that a Muslim teenager's human rights were violated when she was banned from wearing a head-to-toe Islamic dress to school (The Guardian, London)
- Also: Britain upholds school ban on a Muslim gown | The issue of what sort of religious dress, if any, is appropriate in state-run schools has become increasingly divisive in Europe (The New York Times)
- Sex-ed course criticism mounts | The course is being taught this month in Woonsocket High School and was suspended last spring in Pawtucket after complaints (The Providence Journal, R.I.)
- Religion's presence already felt in Georgia classrooms | Throughout the state and nation, public school students are offered religion electives and units on the Bible in English or social studies classes (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Murderers, video, and academic freedom | Are killers rampant in college classrooms? Are student views being squelched? Depends if you ask Pat Robertson or legislative analysts (Inside Higher Ed)
- Legislature should spurn Kern bill | Kern calls her drivel the "Academic Freedom Act," though it reads more like a sneaky way to introduce the religious beliefs of her and her minister husband into the classroom (Editorial, Tahlequah Daily Press, Ok.)
- Bush's sex fantasy | The White House is pouring money into programs that tell teens to just say no to sex. Most experts say the programs don't work -- except to enrich the religious right (Michelle Goldberg, Salon)
- Survival of the moralist | Can Darwinian evolution provide a better basis for human rights than the Bible? Many conservatives now are arguing for an evolutionary understanding of politics, an argument that Carson Holloway examines in his book "The Right Darwin: Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy." (The Washington Times)
- A meditation for Lent | A long, dry period for public theology in the United States followed the death of Reinhold Niebuhr - a period that has seen the rise of forms of fundamentalism in every religion there is. Fortunately Garry Wills has been offering tall glasses of water for thirsty readers interested in religion, whether believers or skeptics (Bruce Chilton, The New York Sun)
- Monk's death linked to Da Vinci Code | A monk may have leapt to his death from a monastery after reading The Da Vinci Code, it emerged yesterday (The Telegraph, London)
- The Dan Brown Code | In a court filing, the best-selling author of The Da Vinci Code reveals all the secrets of a pulp novelist (Bryan Curtis, Slate)
- Christians ready to refute 'Da Vinci Code' movie | Rather than organize protests or boycotts, Evangelicals and Catholics are mobilizing 'truth squads.' (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Out of thin air | An FCC giveaway helped Clark Parrish turn $38 into a national Christian radio network. Is he an entrepreneur or an opportunist? (Columbia Journalism Review)
- Media 'influence' adolescent sex | Children and teenagers who are exposed to sex through the media are more likely to engage in sexual activity than those who are not, according to new research (The Guardian, London)
- Scientologists not given to turning other cheek | If you really, truly, absolutely believe -- why do you care if someone else doesn't believe in your beliefs? (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times)
- Biblical exhibit encore to Tut | The collection of artifacts, which date from the time of Jesus to the Seventh Century, includes one of the Dead Sea Scrolls; a burial ossuary of Caiaphas the High Priest, who according to the New Testament delivered Jesus to the Romans for trial and crucifixion; and a commemorative plaque inscribed with the name Pontius Pilate (The Miami Herald)
- Was Judas not a Judas? | Even if Iscariot's betrayal was God's will, his name will always be invoked as the ultimate traitor (David McKie, The Guardian, London)
- Monkish | What the increase of monastic vocations in Italy could mean for European secularism (Christopher Levenick, The Weekly Standard)
- Converting the spirit | At monastery, monks chant the liturgy, focus on worship (South Bend Tribune, Ind.)
- Cardinals convene to give Pope advice | Pope Benedict XVI convened the College of Cardinals on Thursday for the first time since his election, asking for advice on relations with Islam and reconciling with an ultraconservative group whose bishops were excommunicated nearly 20 years ago (Associated Press)
- Vatican explains omission of papal title | The Vatican took the unusual step Wednesday of explaining its decision to renounce a title popes have used for nearly 1,500 years, saying the omission of "patriarch of the West" should benefit relations with the Orthodox Church, not hinder them (Associated Press)
- Aid workers rally to side of a New Orleans parish | A nonviolent sit-in at historic St. Augustine Church entered its third day Wednesday, with relief workers from across the country occupying the church rectory and demanding that the Archdiocese of New Orleans reopen the parish and reinstate the church's longtime priest (Los Angeles Times)
- Did a miracle happen at a Dallas church? | Parishioners at St. James Church say a piece of bread used in a communion service there turned to blood (KTVT, Dallas)
- Catholics worry as major closings loom | The largest religious group in southeast Michigan, the 1.5-million-member Catholic Church, is downsizing its 306 parishes in a massive plan that leaders will start unveiling today (Detroit Free Press)
- Archdiocese lags on student training | The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has failed to provide safety training to about 40 percent of the children in its religious education classes and schools, despite a commitment made to provide such training in response to the clergy sexual-abuse scandal, archdiocesan officials said yesterday (The Boston Globe)
- Archdiocese widens alerts on accused priests | The Newark Archdiocese has recently implemented a new policy to alert parishioners whenever a priest is permanently barred from the ministry because of a sex abuse allegation, a spokesman said (The Star Ledger, Newark, N.J.)
- Sex abuse bill on a roll | Proposal breezes through second reading in Senate (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- Suit charges abuse by priest | Winfield pastor says accuser in his prayers (Chicago Tribune)
- His silence still echoes | Maybe O'Malley is being rewarded with a cardinal's skullcap for his willingness to confront the difficult challenges facing an archdiocese in disarray. What he is not being rewarded for is his commitment to justice for childhood victims of sexual abuse (Eileen McNamara, The Boston Globe)
- Females are allowed to be altar servers | Bishop's move, a first for diocese, aimed at encouraging participation (The Washington Post)
- Anglican leader to hold rare meeting with Pope | Anglican leader Rowan Williams is to visit Pope Benedict in the Vatican as the world's two largest organized churches battle to bridge their differences over homosexuality (Reuters)
- Episcopal church faces another showdown over gays | The next flashpoint will occur in an unlikely place -- Columbus, Ohio -- where the Episcopal Church's triennial general convention will have to confront the issue again, and may even have to decide whether a second openly gay person should be made a bishop (Reuters)
- Gay bishop candidates worry Episcopal dean | The head of the U.S. Episcopal Church said Wednesday it would create "definite difficulty" between the denomination and fellow Anglicans worldwide if the Diocese of California elects an openly gay bishop (Associated Press)
- Unitarian pastor protests state's stance on gay marriage | Ward refuses to perform civil ceremonies until N.C. changes laws (Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)
- Same-sex marriage ruling expected in Washington | The state's high court should rule any day on the Defense of Marriage Act (The Oregonian)
- Judging gay marriage | State, advocates square off in suit brought by eight couples (The Hartford Courant, Ct.)
- Bid to ban gay unions rejected | House votes 207 to 125 against amendment (Concord Monitor, N.H.)
- Gay marriage foes, friends insist God is on their side | Both camps draw on their faith in the emotional debate (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
- Poll: Opposition to gay marriage declining | The public backlash over gay marriage has receded since a controversial decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 to legalize those marriages stirred strong opposition, says a poll released Wednesday (Associated Press)
- Californians more accepting of gays | Attitudes change on marriage, military since '97, survey finds (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Tenn. pastor found killed, family missing | A church minister was found shot to death in his parsonage, and authorities were searching for his missing wife and three young daughters Thursday (Associated Press)
- Penalise educated stay-at-home womenPvdA | MP Sharon Dijksma, deputy chairperson of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA), believes the punitive measure is needed to stimulate more women to join the workforce (Expatica, Netherlands)
- Religion news in brief | Trouble for PCUSA, UMC (Associated Press)
- Martyr remembered | Archbishop lauds Cranmer, the reformist trapped by political winds of change (The Guardian, London)
- Pride goeth before the fall | To preen oneself on having resisted temptations one has never felt is no different from taking credit for victories over enemies one has never faced (Paul Campos, The Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- God's gift of love between man and woman has been perverted by an 'anything goes' society | The hard pill for some to swallow is that the God of love is also a God of justice (Gail Harding, Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)
- Visitors flock to see Jesus in drywall | People steadily flowed into a Saraland church Tuesday to see a wall on which, members say, lies a miracle-inspiring image of a crucified Jesus Christ (Mobile Register, Ala.)
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