Today's Top Five
1. Dean to Pat Robertson's show: Democrats oppose gay marriage
Howard Dean clumsily attempted to woo religious conservatives during his 2004 presidential campaign, then vowed to reach evangelical voters when he became chairman of the Democratic Party. Now he's going so far as to appear on Pat Robertson's 700 Club television program to assure viewers that Democrats "have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community."
"One of the biggest things that Democrats worry about is the materialism of our country, what's on television that our kids are seeing, and the lack of spirituality. And that's something we have in common," Dean told the show's David Brody. When asked about his party's positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, his comments put him at odds with some party activists. "Let's discuss abortion first," he said. "I think what we have in common with the evangelical community is that we ought to have a lot fewer abortions than we do. The difference is that we don't think making criminals out of doctors and women is a good idea."
But it's Dean's comments on same-sex marriage that have him in trouble. "The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's what it says. I think where we may take exception with some religious leaders is that we believe in inclusion, that everybody deserves to live with dignity and respect, and that equal rights under the law are important."
We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families. In our country, marriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there. We repudiate President Bush's divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a 'Federal Marriage Amendment.' Our goal is to bring Americans together, not drive them apart.
The news outlets noted that Dean has repeatedly mischaracterized the platform, and that activist groups like the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force have become increasingly frustrated with "Dean's record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues."
Today, Dean acknowledged that he "misstated the Democratic Party's platform. The Democratic Party remains committed to equal protection under the law for all Americans. How we achieve that goal continues to be the subject of a contentious debate, but our Party continues to oppose constitutional amendments that seek to short circuit the debate on how to achieve equality for all Americans."
365Gay.com ends its story this way: "Not only has the 'misspeak' forced Dean to acknowledge it has hurt the party with gays, he now has to face conservative Christians who have begun portraying his original remarks to be a callous attempt to get their votes by misleading them."
2. Jury finds priest guilty of 1980 nun murder
The 1980 Holy Saturday murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was particular grisly and full of religious symbolism: She was stabbed 31 times through an altar cloth, with several of the wounds clearly meant to form the sign of the cross. Her dress was pulled up over her chest, and her undergarments pulled to her ankles. Then her killer anointed her forehead with the sign of the cross, using her own blood. Today, a jury found that Gerald Robinson, the priest who presided at her funeral Mass, was the murderer. His lawyers say they'll appeal the verdict. Meanwhile, the Toledo Blade says it's unclear what the Roman Catholic Church will do about his ordination:
Toledo Diocese spokesman Sally Oberski said the unprecedented murder conviction of a priest has left her and the Diocese at a loss. The Vatican will most likely get involved, she said, but she could not say exactly what the process would be for dealing with the future of Robinson in the church.
"I'm sure [the Vatican] will be involved, yes. And I can't say beyond that," she said. "As of today, his status has not changed from his current status as being barred from public ministry. He's still a priest. We don't know [what's next]. We've never had to deal with this."
3. Encourage charitable giving? No thanks, says Congress
"As members of the House and Senate worked out a compromise tax measure this week, they dropped nearly every provision that charities and lawmakers had sought to cut down on abuses of charity tax laws and encourage charitable giving," the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports today. "The tax bill now contains just a single nonprofit provision: a measure to tighten rules on corporate tax-shelter abuses that involve charities."
Among the items passed by the Senate now dropped in the joint bill was a provision allowing taxpayers who don't itemize deductions to deduct a portion of their charitable donations. That was one of the very few surviving legislative proposals in Bush's faith-based initiative.
4. Seminary's commencement speaker prompts protest
While theology professors at Boston College are protesting the school's decision to award an honorary degree to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a more interesting commencement debate is occurring down at Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center. Theologian James H. Cone, scheduled to receive an honorary degree by the school, is now refusing to attend. So is a former chairman of the school's board. A third of the graduating class signed a letter saying they'll take their diplomas, but they're not happy about it. The reason for the hubbub? Saturday's commencement speaker: ITC alumnus Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.
"The controversy revolves around three emotionally charged issues: the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the future of the black church, and a deeper issue how a Christian lives out his or her faith," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Key issues include Long's preaching of prosperity gospel messages, "Long's ethics, his remarks about women and black pastors, and a 2003 sermon that Long gave at ITC that [students] said denigrated the value of seminary training."
5. God is still speaking, and he says he doesn't like you around here
The United Church of Christ kicks out people for reasons other than advocating fidelity to biblical orthodoxy. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that some UCC churches aren't too keen on those who want to see financial responsibility, too:
TV commercials and monthly tidings of the Venice United Church of Christ tout an open-door policy that welcomes everyone and declares that no one will ever be kicked out of the church's membership.
But Bill Walker learned he was the exception.
As a member of the church's auditing committee, a position the church asked Walker to fill, he raised questions about church spending and an $80,000 deficit in its operating fund.
The result: Walker received a letter April 25 stating, "It is with regret that we inform you that a unanimous decision was made this morning by the Church Council on behalf of the Congregation to remove you from membership in the Venice United Church of Christ because of your disruptive behavior to our church."
The TV advertisements aired by UCC headquarters and supported by the Venice church, proclaim, "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."
And the Venice church's monthly bulletin adds, "We do not condone anyone ever being ejected from his or her church."
Walker was labeled in two lettersone the dismissal letter to Walker and a second to church membersas "disruptive" and "the cause of dissension."
But he was never given an explanation why his behavior was considered disruptive.
"Do I know to this day what I have been accused of? No," Walker said.
All Weblog knows about the particulars of the Venice controversy comes from this story, and it would have been nice to hear a bit more of the church's side (it refused comment, which is generally a good idea in church discipline cases). Still, it's interesting to see a church that so adamantly opposes discipleship make such a move.
Quote of the day:
"Early this year I realized that in decades of reporting, writing, or assigning stories on human rights, I rarely touched on one of the most important. Political human rights, legal, civil, and press rights, emphatically often; but the right to worship where and how God or conscience leads, almost never."
Howard Dean on 700 Club | Sexual ethics | Politics | Abortion | Abortion pill | Life ethics | War and terrorism | Ohio priest murder trial | Crime | Church and state | Immigration | China | Catholicism | Church life | Da Vinci Code | Entertainment and media | Education | Missions & ministry | Other stories of interest
- Dean misstates party platform on gays | Democratic chairman Howard Dean mischaracterized his party's platform on gay rights in an interview courting evangelicals, then set the record straight Thursday when an advocacy group called him on it (Associated Press)
- Dean slams gay marriage on '700 Club' | DNC chair misstates party platform, angering activists (Washington Blade, gay newspaper)
- Howard Dean: Democrats have much in common with evangelicals | "One of the biggest things that Democrats worry about is the materialism of our country, what's on television that our kids are seeing, and the lack of spirituality. And that's something we have in common" (CBN)
- Dean taken to task for rewriting gay history (365Gay.com)
- Update: Dean issues gay mea culpa | It was less than an apology but Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean now says that he "misstated the Democratic Party's platform" when he told TV evangelist Pat Robertson's 700 Club this week that the 2004 platform stated "marriage is between a man and a woman. That's what it says" (365Gay.com)
- Pope attacks gay marriage, some politicians upset | "Only the rock of total and irrevocable love between a man and a woman is capable of being the foundation of building a society that becomes a home for all mankind," he said (Reuters)
- HPV vaccine nearing approval | FDA likely to okay immunizer that may eliminate most cases of cervical cancer (The Baltimore Sun)
- State marriage amendment: House panel accepts disputed explanatory language | The fight over the explanatory language portends a fierce campaign over the amendment barring same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships as proponents and opponents reach out to Virginia voters in the coming months (The Washington Post)
- Court backs man's right to preach at Pa. park during gay event | But federal judge declines to prevent city of Harrisburg from enforcing 50-foot buffer zone at PrideFest, as street-preachers group had requested (Associated Press)
- Don't come, all ye faithful | Give me your freaks, your perverts, your unrepentant sinners, the immoral refuse of your oversexed land. But please, dear God, keep the evangelicals to yourself (Ashlea Halpern, Philadelphia City Paper)
- McCain to make nice with old foe Falwell | John McCain will trade superlatives with the man he once called an "agent of intolerance" when he delivers the commencement address Saturday morning at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University (The Washington Times)
- Langley general's e-mail probed | Jack J. Catton Jr. used his military e-mail account to solicit support for a candidate (Daily Press, Hampton Roads, Va.)
- Also: Wanted: Good Christians in Congress | Air Force general's e-mail draws ire of Military Religious Freedom Foundation (Colorado Springs Independent)
- Groups to Bush: Drop Iran-Israel linkage | Jewish community leaders have urged the White House to refrain from publicly pledging to defend Israel against possible Iranian hostilities (Forward, Jewish newspaper)
- Bush the bad Christian | Better late than never -- Mahmood Ahmadinejad follows the lead of pious American left-wingers to find the president's religiosity wanting. (Mark Tooley, The American Spectator)
- Out front about his faith, Romney scoring points | Some on the right are troubled by his Mormon faith. One conservative here said privately that some evangelicals believe "it's a cult" and that people would have trouble supporting Romney as a result. Others don't seem troubled because the church's socially conservative teachings on many issues dovetail nicely with their own beliefs (David Yepsen, Des Moines Register, Ia.)
- Abortion partially legalized in Colombia | Under the Constitutional Court decision, abortions will be permitted in the cases of rape, incest and if the life of the mother or fetus is in danger. Abortion under all other circumstances will remain illegal, punishable by up to three years in jail for the woman and the doctor performing the procedure. (Associated Press)
- Democrats link insurance bill to more abortions | Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday said the Republican health bill before the chamber would eliminate state health care guarantees, thereby jeopardizing women's access to contraception and perhaps resulting in more abortions (The Washington Times)
- Pregnant prisoner taken for abortion | Queensland prison authorities transferred a female inmate who was 23 weeks pregnant across the NSW border to Tweed Heads to have a late-term abortion (The Australian)
- Guttmacher inseminates the media | Pro-abortion researchers and their media accomplices would have you believe that pregnancy is foisted upon women (Paul Chesser, The American Spectator)
- Scientists will gather to discuss safety of abortion pill | The first meeting in 10 years on the safety of the abortion pill RU-486 comes after a bacterial infection led to the deaths of at least five women who took it (The New York Times)
- Women's deaths mystery widens | A rare germ that killed four California women who took the abortion pill RU-486 has been implicated in the deaths of even more women following childbirth or miscarriage, broadening the debate beyond abortion on the eve of a meeting to examine the bacterial mystery (Associated Press)
- Experts consider abortion pill-infection link (Reuters)
- Human embryos in Britain may be screened for cancer risk | British regulators yesterday ruled that fertility clinics may screen out human embryos carrying genes that raise the risk of cancer in adulthood -- a move the government said could prevent future suffering but that others said was proof that the age of handpicked, "designer" babies is at hand (The Washington Post)
- The ethics of assisted suicide | On Friday the House of Lords will debate Lord Joffe's private member's bill, Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill (BBC)
- I'd like to die with dignity. And I don't want the medieval brigade interfering | Our churchmen preen and preach and rage about the immorality of assisted suicide. But it is their position that is immoral (Camilla Cavendish, The Times, London)
War and terrorism:
- Sudan's interlocking wars | Some analysts say that unless there is a comprehensive agreement involving all warring groups across the country, including in Darfur, the agreement signed in Nigeria can't work (BBC)
- A terrifying truth about terrorism | Polls find that Muslims in the Middle East who regularly attended prayer services were no more likely to back terrorism than those who did not. Nor were Muslims who agreed that religion "was an important part of your daily life" (The Washington Post, second item)
- "Mighty and the Almighty" | Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discusses her new book: Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, PBS)
Ohio priest murder trial:
- Defense will appeal priest's guilty verdict | Co-counsel John Thebes said one of the things defense attorneys felt should have been admissible in court was the comments made by Robinson when he was alone in the interrogation room (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)
- Jury convicts priest of nun's 1980 murder | A priest was convicted Thursday of stabbing a Roman Catholic nun to death as she prepared for Easter services at a hospital 26 years ago, a murder prosecutors say was steeped in religious ritual (Associated Press)
- Jury deliberates in priest's murder trial | Closing arguments completed in nun's slaying case (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)
- Jurors sort out two accounts of nun's killing | A summary of closing arguments (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Theology student held in husband's death | Jee-hung Song will be charged with murder, deputy D.A. says (The Orange County Register)
- AME Church relieves minister of duties after sex abuse allegations | The African Methodist Episcopal Church has relieved a Los Angeles minister of his duties after concluding that he sexually molested two underage victims, according to a spokesman for the church, even though no criminal charges have been filed and the pastor denies the allegations (Los Angeles Times)
- Catholic priest put on leave after sexual misconduct allegations | The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has put a 61-year-old priest on administrative leave after receiving "credible" allegations that he touched two girls inappropriately between 1975 and 1980, a diocesan spokesman said yesterday (The Washington Post)
- Religious riots: Govs, security agents blamed for high tolls | The Christian Association of Nigeria in the North Central and North East Zones of the country have blamed slow response of governors and security agents to religious riots in their regions for the high toll in deaths and destruction of properties (This Day, Nigeria)
Church and state:
- Council okays step toward Ten Commandments exhibit | Religious rules would be posted with other documents (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)
- Also: Mayoral hopefuls weigh in on gift | City given historic documents to post (Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.)
- County tries to lasso Cowboy Church | Bedford County officials say the barn, typically used for a horse-breeding business, is unsafe for a large group of people to gather in (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)
- Group sues Osceola over rehab home | The Liberty Counsel wants a faith-based substance-abuse program to stay where it is (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Is this a mission impossible? | Official seeks a constitutional amendment to use state funds to repair religious landmarks such as Mission San Miguel, now on an endangered structures list (Los Angeles Times)
- Diocese lawsuit dismissed | A lawsuit accusing the Catholic Diocese of Yakima of forcing an employee to quit has been thrown out by a judge as a constitutional violation of the separation of church and state (Yakima Herald-Republic, link via Religion Clause)
- Church-state gadfly roils military, rips Jewish groups | In the face of mounting Republican opposition, fiery Air Force veteran-turned-gadfly Mikey Weinstein is stepping up his fight to stop Christian proselytizing in the military, and criticizing Jewish groups for not doing more to help his cause (Forward, Jewish newspaper)
- Venezuela limits on church concerns Pope | Pope Benedict XVI told Hugo Chavez on Thursday that he was very concerned about moves to limit the Catholic Church's influence in Venezuela, including proposals to change anti-abortion rules, the Vatican said (Associated Press)
- Evangelical churches back Hinn visit | The TT Council of Evangelical Churches has called for "religious tolerance in our plural society" and strongly objects to any move to block Hinn's entry into the country or attempts to "smear" his name (Trinidad and Tobago Newsday)
- Indigenous population 'neglected' | The Archbishop of York has blamed the rise in popularity of anti-immigration parties on a perceived failure to support the "indigenous population" (BBC)
- Vatican backs protests in asylums battle | Papal nuncio supports church occupations as illegal immigrants demand residency (Expatica, Belgium)
- Bush meets Chinese activists on religious freedom | President Bush met on Thursday with Chinese activists who said afterward that he had pledged to raise the issue of religious freedom with Chinese leaders in the future (Reuters)
- Hong Kong cardinal rejects China overtures on bishops | Hong Kong's most senior Roman Catholic clergyman Cardinal Joseph Zen rejected on Thursday suggestions from China that he persuade the Vatican to accept Beijing's appointment of bishops (Reuters)
- 'No timetable for diplomatic ties with Vatican' | China does not have a timetable for forging diplomatic ties with the Vatican, Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong Lu Xinhua said Wednesday (China Daily)
- Losing faith with China | Beijing's tangle with the Vatican illustrates the sorry state of Chinese religious freedom (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
- Cuenin's new calling | For outspoken priest, Brandeis post is a world away from his days as cause celebre at Our Lady's in Newton (The Boston Globe)
- O'Malley fights anti-Semitism | Urges Catholic, Jewish kinship (The Boston Globe)
- Church door slams on member | Venice United Church of Christ boots member for questioning finances (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla.)
- Church of England flock strays far from its pews | `Britain is showing the world how religion as we have known it can die,' a historian observes as regular church attendance slips to 8 percent (Chicago Tribune)
- Exile Orthodox to vote on Moscow tie | The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, long exiled in the United States, votes on Thursday on whether to embrace the Moscow-based church it left after the 1917 Communist revolution (Reuters)
- Churches 'facing risk of decay' | Some of England's most precious buildings are at risk of decay unless up to £1bn is spent on restoring places of worship, English Heritage has said (BBC)
- Postponing Armageddon | But no end to Anglican civil war (David C. Steinmetz, The Orlando Sentinel)
Da Vinci Code:
- 'Da Vinci Code' Now a tool to win Christian converts | Some churches think book and new film are offering a perfect chance for Bible lessons (Los Angeles Times)
- Christian foes of 'Da Vinci Code' debate how to fight it | Leaders of many denominations agree that the novel the movie is based on attacks the pillars of Christianity, but some are planning a boycott while others see a "teaching moment." (The New York Times)
- 'Da Vinci Code' boycott sidestepped in U.S. | Boycotts are taking a back seat to anti-"Da Vinci" books and teaching sessions about the Gospels (Associated Press)
- Opus Dei strikes back before "Da Vinci Code" movie | "We're kind of used to being not understood" (Reuters)
- "Da Vinci Craze" thrives thanks to cardinal, judge | Pre-release hype is normal for a big Hollywood production. But in the case of Dan Brown's fictional hunt for the Holy Grail the headlines have been dominated by events apparently beyond the control of studio Sony Pictures (Reuters)
- Up jumps the 'Da Vinci' devil | Books and movies about conspiracy theories and skeptical views of religion are sure paths to popular attention. And some people say the devil is behind such works whether the authors are aware of this or not, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup survey (USA Today)
- Hanks blasts Da Vinci critics | "The story we tell is loaded with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense. If you are going to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this, you'd be making a very big mistake." (Evening Standard, London)
- 'The Da Vinci Code' follows grail trail | Since the Holy Grail became part of the popular Christian imagination in the Middle Ages, it's taken an array of forms (Associated Press)
- Brian McLaren on The Da Vinci Code | "Frankly, I don't think it has more harmful ideas in it than the Left Behind novels." (Sojourners)
- You're already part of the phenomenon | Jesus: A conspiracy vaster than anything in The Da Vinci Code (Tim Cavanaugh, Reason)
Entertainment and media:
- Lifetime award for Ostling | Religion Newswriters names AP'S Richard Ostling as the 2006 William A. Reed / Religion News Service Lifetime Achievement Award;Â Ostling will retire as the Associated Press' religion reporter in July, although he will continue to write his weekly Bible column (Press release)
- Christian group to appeal for right to air political ad | The Maine Christian Civic League is challenging a new federal law that prohibits targeted ads within 30 days of an election (Portland Press Herald, Me.)
- Sirius to begin a Catholic channel | The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is venturing into satellite radio, announcing a deal on Wednesday to work with Sirius Satellite Radio to create a 24/7 Catholic channel (The New York Times)
- The divine Miss Winfrey? | After two decades of searching for her authentic self exploring New Age theories, giving away cars, trotting out fat, recommending good books and tackling countless issues from serious to frivolous Oprah Winfrey has risen to a new level of guru (USA Today)
- Wake up, Dodos | Making light of a dry, but important, topic (Anthony Dick, National Review Online)
- Bishop Eddie Long not welcome by all at seminary | Graduation invite provokes protests (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Cornerstone University upholds ban on vices for employees | Cornerstone University is keeping its 65-year-old ban on smoking, drinking and gambling by employees at any time (The Grand Rapids Press, Mi.)
- Brandeis weighs merger of Christian chapels | Brandeis University is considering combining its two Christian chapels in a long-term renovation project that would make room for its growing Muslim population, according to students and faculty (The Boston Globe)
- Difficult separation for Belmont | Inspired by long-lost document, Tennessee Baptists reject plan for independence; fight looms and could spread to other colleges (Inside Higher Ed)
- School board backs off on Bibles | Expecting a vote on the second reading of a controversial religious materials policy, the people who crowded into the lobby of the Brunswick County Board of Education administrative offices last Thursday were surprised when the school board voted to table the decision (The Brunswick Beacon, Shallotte, N.C.)
- Religion Today: Public high schools weigh Bible courses | Textbook with substantial interfaith, academic endorsements may end up in 800 schools (Associated Press)
- Idaho school board rejects minister's request to ban book | The Chocolate War had been pulled temporarily from English curriculum because of complaints of negative portrayal of Christians (Associated Press)
Missions & ministry:
- Charity measures left out of a major congressional tax bill | As members of the House and Senate worked out a compromise tax measure last week, they dropped nearly every provision that charities and lawmakers had sought to cut down on abuses of charity tax laws and encourage charitable giving (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
- One less place for those unwanted | Indian officials insist fewer patients, not religion, forces closing of Leprosy Hospital run by Catholic order (Chicago Tribune)
- Teens mark the passage to adulthood with grace | Church-run program ends in a cotillion (The Washington Post)
- American preachers predict hope | 44 Christian missionaries from Harvest Church, Oklahoma, US, concluded their preaching crusade to the south with optimism over restored hope and unity among Rwandans (The New Times, Rwanda)
- Many respond to call to read Bible nonstop | Marathon Scripture session has them speaking in tongues: French, Italian (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
Other stories of interest:
- Jordan site may be biblical city of Sodom | Archaeologist has committed to seven years excavating Tall el-Hammom (El Defensor Chieftain, N.M.)
- What would Jesus drive? | Church leaders are calling for more action on climate change, but how would Jesus get about if he embarked on his travels today? (BBC)
- Religion news in brief | Anglican archbishop of Ireland to retire; Vatican approves revisions in bishops' disciplinary policy on abuse; Draft law on Indonesia's Aceh province to impose Islamic law on all residents; and other stories (Associated Press)
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