'Strong Link' Between Religious Beliefs and Teen Birth Rates

A new study published in Reproductive Health demonstrates that states with "increased religiosity" tend to have the highest teen birth rates. In order to determine religiosity, researchers averaged the percentage of respondents who agreed with eight theologically conservative statements, including, ''There is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion," and, ''Scripture should be taken literally, word for word." The researchers also found a link between high religiosity and lower abortion rates.

Garrido Invokes Faith in Defense

USA Today profiles the religious motivation behind Philip Garrido's kidnapping, rape, and imprisonment of Jaycee Dugard and the daughters he fathered with her. He often invoked Jesus and God to defend his actions, but, according to the report, his faith "had morphed from traditional Christian beliefs to a nearly indecipherable dogma that placed Garrido as a prophet who held the keys to a deep secret."

Former FBI profiler Ken Lanning, who specializes in kidnapping and child abuse cases, said, "A lot of them, when they're molesting children, put a lot of time and energy into trying to convince themselves that they're not bad people. In some cases the element of religion will come into it, and they will use varying aspects of their religious belief to justify all of this."

Prayer before Sex?

A 64-page "Prayer Book for Spouses" published by the London-based Catholic Truth Society includes prayers for every stage of marriage and family life, including a "Prayer Before Making Love":

Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts. Place within us love that truly gives, tenderness that truly unites, self-offering that tells the truth and does not deceive, forgiveness that truly receives, loving physical union that welcomes. Open our hearts to you, to each other and to the goodness of your will. Cover our poverty in the richness of your mercy and forgiveness. Clothe us in true dignity and take to yourself our shared aspirations, for your glory, forever and ever. Mary, our mother, intercede for us. Amen.

Uruguay Addresses Gay Adoption Law

Uruguay, which was on the path to become the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt, may not be so close after all. A new law, currently awaiting President Tabare Vazquez's signature, would drop a requirement that children can only be adopted by legally married couples or single parents. Gay rights activists say the law would open up adoption to those in same-sex unions, which the country currently endorses. However, attorney Juan A. Ramirez, an expert in civil rights law, told leading newspaper El Pais that, because the law does not explicitly grant permission to same-sex couples, judges still won't be able to approve these adoptions.

Number of Female Pastors Doubles

According to a recently released Barna report, women now hold 10 percent of senior pastor positions in Protestant U.S. churches, up from 5 percent in 1999. However, the study also shows that female pastors make, on average, 6 percent less than their male counterparts, despite holding a higher percentage of advanced degrees. One factor contributing to the disparity is the lower average membership of churches headed by women: 81 adults for female-led churches, compared with 103 for those led by men.

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A Father's Love on Display at the Game

Full disclosure: I'm a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan, and some of my best memories with my dad took place at Phillies' games. When I first heard the story of Steve and Emily Monforto, it made me smile, but it also made me think. This simple gesture (captured in the video above) offers a picture of the selfless love of a father for his daughter.

Steve, a lifelong Phillies fan, caught a foul ball at Tuesday's game and, after celebrating his good fortune with surrounding fans, presented it to his 3-year-old daughter, Emily. She promptly threw it back onto the field. With a look of bemused disbelief, he does not react angrily but instead pulls her quickly into a giant hug and assures her that everything's okay. While sports fans—especially those in Philadelphia—can get a bad rap for heartless, obscene behavior, Monforto demonstrates a love that trumps even his favorite team. It's a simple picture of some of the most basic truths of Christianity—may we all be both Steve and Emily as we extend and ask for forgiveness in the name of our Father.