Today's Top Five

1. West calls for Rahman's freedom as Afghan clerics call for death
There are some signs of hope for Afghan Christian convert Abdul Rahman. German chancellor Angela Merkel says Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai personally assured her that Rahman would not be executed. And unnamed "senior Afghan government officials" are saying he could be released soon. It looks like the trial will take place on Saturday. (We won't be able to update until Monday.) If he's freed but kept in Afghanistan, he's as good as dead. The New York Times reports that Friday prayers at mosques around the country focused on why Rahman should be killed—if not by the government, then by the faithful. It's heartening to see so many newspaper editorials supporting Rahman's case, and so many news outlets keeping a close eye. Perhaps this case could mark the beginning of increased media attention to religious freedom cases worldwide.

2. Former First Things editor Damon Linker attacks Neuhaus
Richard John Neuhaus's new book, Catholic Matters, is a mere 260 pages. The New Republic's review of the book, written by the former editor of Neuhaus's First Things journal, seems almost as long. Damon Linker's 8,952-word "review"—mostly about Neuhaus and very little about Catholic Matters—seems more a promotion of Linker's forthcoming book, The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege than a book review. But Neuhaus fans and foes won't care. They'll just be amazed that the article goes with the byline. The article is long and detailed—CT readers might be interested in Linker's suggestions that Neuhaus is ultimately no friend of evangelical Protestants—but the final paragraph captures the gist:

That is the America toward which Richard John Neuhaus wishes to lead us—an America in which eschatological panic is deliberately channeled into public life, in which moral and theological absolutists demonize the country's political institutions and make nonnegotiable public demands under the threat of sacralized revolutionary violence, in which citizens flee from the inner obligations of freedom and long to subordinate themselves to ecclesiastical authority, and in which traditionalist Christianity thoroughly dominates the nation's public life. All of which should serve as a potent reminder—as if, in an age marked by the bloody rise of theologically inspired politics in the Islamic world, we needed a reminder—that the strict separation of politics and religion is a rare, precious, and fragile achievement, one of America's most sublime achievements, and we should do everything in our power to preserve it. It is a large part of what makes America worth living in.
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As of this posting, there's no response over at the First Things blog, which one expects to receive a fair bit of traffic this weekend.

3. Police say pastor's wife confessed to murder
Mary Winkler reportedly said she shot her husband, Matthew, the 31-year-old pastor of the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer, Tennessee. "Our concern at this point is why the crime took place," police investigator Roger Rickman told the press. "There have been no specific accusations made by Mrs. Winkler." The Tennessean will probably have the best coverage over the weekend if you're into this kind of story.

4. America's most famous conscientious objector dies at 87
Desmond Doss, the Seventh-Day Adventist who received the Medal of Honor despite his refusal to carry a gun in World War 2, died yesterday. The stories about how he saved the lives of more than 75 wounded soldiers in the Pacific are pretty amazing. The site for the 2004 documentary about his life, "The Conscientious Objector," has more information about him. It would be interesting to see an op-ed piece comparing his brand of peacemaking to that of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, which were also in the news this week. Two very different approaches.

5. Tennessee requires DNA sample in pre-teen abortions
Pro-life groups have long pointed out that abortion groups have made it difficult for law enforcement to take action in cases where it's clear a crime has taken place: Those cases where a girl getting an abortion is under the legal age for sexual activity. A new Tennessee bill dares abortion groups to oppose it: The bill, passed by the state Senate yesterday, requires doctors to preserve tissue from the aborted fetuses of mothers 12 or younger. The tissue can be used to identify and prosecute the rapists. Planned Parenthood of East and Middle Tennessee didn't bite: It supports the bill.

Quote of the day:
"What is next? Do we drop the St. Patrick's Day Parade because it is based on religious traditions?"

John Krenik, on St. Paul's decision to remove a picture of the Easter Bunny from City Hall because it was branded too religious. He was quoted in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

More articles

Abdul Rahman (news) | Abdul Rahman (opinion) | Christian Peacemaker Teams | War, terrorism, and peace | Crime | Religious freedom | Church and state | Easter bunny ban | Education | Politics | Life ethics | Sexual ethics | Church life | New cardinals | Books | Other stories of interest
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Abdul Rahman (news):

  1. Afghan clerics, in Friday prayers, call for convert's execution | Despite growing international protests, clerics demanded the execution of Abdul Rahman if he doesn't convert back to Islam (The New York Times)

  2. Kabul judge rejects calls to end trial of Christian convert | The case of Abdul Rahman, who could face death for converting to Christianity from Islam, has drawn concern from the U.S. (The New York Times)

  3. Judge defends autonomy of Afghan court | The chief judge trying an Afghan man who faces a possible death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity defended the court's autonomy Friday as international pressure grew against the case (Associated Press)

  4. White House presses Afghans not to punish Christian convert | Rice asks Karzai for a quick resolution of the case. Both he and Bush face political dilemmas (Los Angeles Times)

  5. Leaders rally to Afghan convert | Many world leaders, including those with troops in Afghanistan, have expressed concern about the trial (BBC)

  6. Mood hardens against Afghan convert | Increasing international pressure over the case of Christian convert Abdul Rahman is forcing the Afghan government to play a careful balancing act between its Western allies and religious conservatives at home (BBC)

  7. Afghan Christian's plight draws U.S. pressure | The Bush administration Thursday intensified pressure on Afghanistan to spare a Christian convert in a case that has raised outrage among Christians in the USA (USA Today)

  8. U.S. Christians outraged over Afghan trial | Christian lobby groups are urging President Bush to do more to save a man on trial in Afghanistan for converting from Islam to Christianity (Associated Press)

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Abdul Rahman (opinion):

  1. Why risk our troops for Afghanistan? | No country aiding in the rebuilding of the nation should tolerate a man on trial for his life over his choice of religion (Editorial, Vancouver Sun)

  2. Freedom a work in progress in Taliban-free Afghanistan | Afghanistan's budding relationship with the United States must not suffer a potentially mortal wound because one man chose to walk down his own religious path. (Editorial, Amarillo Globe-News, Tex.)

  3. Religious choice in Afghanistan | A man faces death for converting to Christianity from Islam. Might as well call back the Taliban (Editorial, Times Record-Herald, Middletown, N.Y.)

  4. Taking hard stand | By directly intervening in the Rahman case, Harper is certainly taking a stand on a big issue that matters very much (Editorial, Edmonton Sun)

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  1. In the name of Allah? | Why are Americans still fighting in Afghanistan and why is the government of that country receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid? (Editorial, The Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  2. Sharia calling | America, we have a problem (Nina Shea, National Review Online)

  3. Religious freedom Afghan-style is no freedom | The trial of a Christian convert undermines the US democracy agenda (Tony Perkins, The Christian Science Monitor)

  4. Masking terror | What's worse than Afghanistan's barbaric prosecution of Abdul Rahman for the Islamic crime of converting to Christianity? The muffled US. reaction. (Diana West, The Washington Times)

  5. Get ready for modern-day martyrdom | The court case in Afghanistan is not a duel of religions (Jonathan Morris, Fox News)

  6. Being a Christian can still get you killed in some places | Maybe we can't force Afghanistan to behave in a way that we consider to be reasonable and civilized when it comes to persecuting religious minorities, but lending military and economic support to a government that stands by and lets something like this happen is not something that my basic sense of decency is prepared to accept (Bill Ferguson, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.)

  7. Who will come to the aid of converted Christian? | This is a watershed moment in the post-Sept. 11 world (Michelle Malkin, Courier Post, Cherry Hill, N.J.)

  8. Related: Wasting the day | Friday has become an occasion for violence in the Muslim world (Christopher D. Ringwald, The Wall Street Journal)

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Christian Peacemaker Teams:

  1. Release of Westerners in Iraq is bittersweet | Friends and family rejoice for three antiwar activists rescued outside Baghdad. The men did not know their U.S. colleague had been slain (Los Angeles Times)

  2. Who are the Christian Peacemakers? | Rescued hostages volunteer as anti-war activists around the world (ABC News)

  3. Christian Peacemakers celebrate release | Three hostages were freed Thursday shortly after coalition forces received key intelligence (The Christian Science Monitor)

  4. Activist group fails to thank rescuers | The Christian group whose activists were freed in a British-led raid in Baghdad yesterday did not thank their rescuers but instead called on them to withdraw from Iraq (The Times, London)

  5. No gratitude? | With all respect to the three Christian activists recently rescued by American and British forces in Iraq, you'd think the trio might have shown a bit of gratitude, which was noticeably lacking in their statements (Editorial, Daily News-Record, Harrisonburg, Va.)

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War, terrorism, and peace:

  1. Famed conscientious objector Doss dies | Desmond T. Doss Sr., a conscientious objector whose achievements as a noncombatant earned him a Medal of Honor in World War II, died Thursday. He was 87 (Associated Press)

  2. Wall squeezes Bethlehem Christians | All visitors to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem must now pass through a high security checkpoint (BBC)

  3. The Irish priest who brought Eta killers to peace | In recent years Alec Reid has played a key role in persuading two of Europe's most ruthless terrorist groups to abandon the gun and embrace politics (The Times, London)

  4. Dr Williams defends Akinola on anti-Muslim riots | "He's a man who will speak very directly and immediately into crises. I think he meant to issue a warning, which certainly has been taken as a threat, an act of provocation. Others in the Nigerian Church have, I think, found other ways of saying that which have been more measured." (Church Times, U.K.)

  5. Soldier priest says he's right where God wants him: Iraq | Raymond Bucon is proud to be an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, but his potential as a recruiter is greatest in promoting his other vocation — as a Catholic priest. (David Crumm, Detroit Free Press)

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  1. Authorities say minister's wife confesses | The wife of a slain minister confessed to shooting him at their church parsonage, then fleeing to Alabama, where she was found the following night with their three young daughters, authorities said Friday (Associated Press)

  2. Also: Wife confessed to killing minister husband, police say (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  3. Earlier: Wife held as suspect in minister's slaying | Police find her, daughters safe in Alabama beach town (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  4. Cardinals scramble to defeat abuse bills | Child victims would get more time to sue in Md. (The Washington Post)

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Religious freedom:

  1. Doubts dog revised decree on places of worship | The government is ready to publicize the revised ministerial decree on places of worship but Christian leaders still have reservations about the controversial law (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

  2. Charity leader jailed in India | Allegedly offered a banned book for sale; case under investigation (Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus, Oh.)

  3. Govt. to repeal or substitute conversion law: Apang | Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang today told the Assembly that the State Cabinet would consider if the anti-conversion law enforced in the tribal State in 1978, is to be repealed or substituted by any other law for preservation of culture and tradition of indigenous people (PTI, India)

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Church and state:

  1. Religious affiliation scuttles grant to restore Mission San Miguel | A $1 million grant that would have helped repair the earthquake-damaged Mission San Miguel was rejected by the California Culture and Historical Endowment recently because the structure is owned by the Roman Catholic Church (The San Luis Obispo Tribune, Ca.)

  2. Also: State denies grant to preserve mission | Advocates: Building is historical landmark and not just a church (Modesto Bee, Ca.)

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Easter bunny ban:

  1. Easter Bunny backlash whips City Hall | It turns out you can fight City Hall — if you have a fluffy tail and pink ears (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  2. Ouster of the Easter Bunny draws unwanted attention to St. Paul | A flap over the removal of "Happy Easter" signs grew on the second day. One writer asked online what's next to go - the St. Patrick's Day parade? (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  3. Bring back banished bunny | Some of us will find joy in our outrage over hypersensitivity. Others may find joy in the irony of a Christian defense of a pagan symbol. Either way, it's hard to say or even think "Easter Bunny" without a smile (Editorial, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  4. One city's bunny ban lays an egg | So it's finally come to this. They've banned the Easter Bunny in St. Paul. (Mike Hendricks, Kansas City Star)

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  1. Novel solution in Judson: Board reinstates sci-fi book | The critically acclaimed novel The Handmaid's Tale was reinstated to Judson Independent School District's Advanced Placement curriculum after board members voted 5-2 Thursday in favor of the move (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  2. Parents rally behind school's art teacher | Contract won't be renewed, but reasons why a mystery (Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.)

  3. Forgiving their trespass | Christian colleges gear up for visits from the activist gay group Soulforce (World)

  4. Where boys must opt for Bible study or go back to the streets | More than 70 former street boys who had enrolled for secondary education at a church-sponsored school have to make a tough choice: They must decide between taking Bible study or dropping out of school (The Nation, Kenya)

  5. Judge in Dover case reports hostile e-mails | Jones and his family were under marshals' protection in December (York Daily Record, Pa.)

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  1. Approval of textbooks goes forward despite Hindu suits | Members of the California Board of Education began meetings with publishers Thursday for final editing sessions of sixth-grade history textbooks (The Oakland Tribune, Ca.)

  2. Gospel by pasta sticks it to religion's funny bone | Organized religion's been having a rough month. Again (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times)

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  1. Rallying the base | Bush's P.R. offensive is designed to bolster support for the war — and win back conservatives (Time)

  2. Romney's Rome visit seen fueled by politics | Catholic vote considered key (The Boston Globe)

  3. Patron feint | An initiative for the GOP faithful. (Amy Sullivan, The New Republic)

  4. "What Would Jesus Do?" | Selfish capitalists surely have never been so grateful for the political activism of a socially conscious (and ill-informed) Catholic bishop (Rich Lowry, National Review Online)

  5. Mahony: Brave but out of line | Should illegal immigrants be viewed solely through religious eyes as the poor people Jesus said to help? Or is it valid to view them through civil eyes as persons subject to American law? (Michael Fitzgerald, The Record, Stockton, Ca.)

  6. The fallacy of governing through 'flawless' Scripture | The vital wall established by our Founding Fathers between religion and governance has been breached, and that opening has become an imminent threat to both our democracy and our faith communities (Don Badgley, Times Record-Herald, Middletown, N.Y.)

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Life ethics:

  1. Tennessee to require DNA from abortions | Doctors performing abortions on girls younger than 13 years old would be required to preserve a sample of the fetal tissue for law enforcement under a bill passed by the Senate on Thursday (Associated Press)

  2. Battle to overturn S. Dakota abortion law begins | The newly formed coalition South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families said it would try to collect thousands of signatures aimed at giving voters the chance to pass judgment on what it called "the nation's most extreme abortion law" (Reuters)

  3. For ex-governor who advocates right to die, political is personal | Booth Gardner, a Parkinson's patient, wants Washington state to adopt a measure more liberal than Oregon's assisted-suicide law (Los Angeles Times)

  4. After Roe | South Dakota is a preview of what the abortion landscape will look like—eventually (Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard)

  5. Cell clump isn't a person | Ask yourself whether that microscopic cluster of cells, grown from a patient's own skin cell, is what you think of as a "clone." Does it represent a new person? (William B. Neaves, The Kansas City Star, Mo.)

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Sexual ethics:

  1. Bishop: Set aside marriage legislation | Bill won't protect heterosexual pacts, Rogness says (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  2. Same-sex marriage battles escalate | Gay rights advocates are pushing to legalize same-sex marriage with an unprecedented wave of lawsuits in state courts, while those seeking to ban such unions are gaining ground in state legislatures (USA Today)

  3. Adoption institute supports gay parents | As debate over the issue flares in several states, a major adoption institute says in a new report that it strongly supports the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt, and urges that remaining obstacles be removed (Associated Press)

  4. Taking the gay insults personally | if you give one church permission to discriminate against gays, what's next? Permission to discriminate against blacks or Jews who want to adopt? (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

  5. Don't do unto others | The difference between gay marriage and polygamy (William Saletan, Slate)

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Church life:

  1. Baptist trustee safe from ouster try | The trustees of a Southern Baptist Convention board voted Wednesday to withdraw a motion to remove one of its members and approved new guidelines for dealing with disagreement in the trustee ranks (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

  2. Neb. diocese is lone U.S. holdout on allowing altar girls | The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., is the only one in America that prohibits altar girls in church after a Northern Virginia diocese dropped its ban this week (USA Today)

  3. The gift of giving | Watermark Church members, handed envelopes of cash, find creative ways to spend it for good (The Dallas Morning News)

  4. Diocese: Host that became clot isn't divine | The communion host that hundreds of people lined up to see at an Oak Cliff church earlier his week is not a miracle, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas said (The Dallas Morning News)

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New cardinals:

  1. The pope's new cardinals | You can tell a lot about Benedict XVI from the people he has elevated. A guide to the new men in red hats (Time)

  2. Two Americans among 15 new cardinals | Pope Benedict XVI installed his first group of cardinals on Friday, placing crimson hats on their heads in a ceremony Friday on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica that added 15 more prelates to the elite club that will choose his successor (Associated Press)

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  1. Pope installs first group of new cardinals | Pope Benedict installed his first group of new cardinals on Friday, elevating 15 men from Hong Kong to Boston to join the exclusive Roman Catholic group that advises him and will one day elect his successor (Reuters)

  2. Pope appoints 15 new cardinals | Among those promoted are Hong Kong's archbishop, who is an active campaigner for religious freedom in China, and several men from the developing world (BBC)

  3. Many hope O'Malley will grant demands | Closings, scandal remain concerns (The Boston Globe)

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  1. The Christianizing of America | Father Richard John Neuhaus insists America is essentially a Christian country. A critical examination of a religious radical (Damon Linker, The New Republic)

  2. The Left Hand of God | Mark LeVine reviews Michael Lerner's latest (Mother Jones)

  3. Ex-Christian scholar explores New Testament views of Jews | Julie Galambush brings a rare background to the often delicate topic of Jewish-Christian relations and her special interest in the first-century split between the two faiths (Associated Press)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Researchers look at prayer and healing | Conclusions and premises debated as big study's release nears (The Washington Post)

  2. Pastor files complaint over treatment at jail | Chaplaincy panel's chief denies use of racial slur (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

  3. Investors bet on their faith | More and more funds help individuals align their investments with their religious beliefs — and post surprisingly solid returns (

  4. Johnny Cash treasure chest on the way | Personal File features 49 never-released acoustic cuts, including a series of original Cash gospel songs (

  5. Cutting at Christianity | It's become fashionable to take shots at the Christian religion. In a lot of otherwise civilized circles, the faithful and the faith itself are an easy object of prejudice; and worse, it's a prejudice you can get away with (Nora Gallagher, Los Angeles Times)

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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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