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Middle East

Lebanon Bus Bombs Target Christians

Plus: Rumor prompts Egyptian Muslims to attack Copts; Anglicans and Presbyterians prepare for splits; TV station criticized after pastor's suicide; and other stories from online sources around the world.

Today's Top Five

1. Lebanon gets worse as Christians targeted
Two commuter buses were bombed Tuesday in the small Christian village of Ain Alak (photos). "Many residents simply shrugged over the culprit's identity, a seeming gesture of weariness over a crisis that has brought Lebanon perilously close to civil war," The Washington Post reports. But everyone agrees that the target was Lebanon's Christian community, and the victims were among the poorer members of that community.

"The buses were packed with students, blue-collar workers, Sri Lankan maids and women making their way to Christian theology lessons," the Los Angeles Times notes.

"The attacks, spaced 10 minutes apart … appeared to mark a new chapter in Lebanon's months-old crisis, with the aim shorn of any apparent political objective beyond killing civilians," says the Post.

If you haven't read our recent coverage of the Lebanon crisis from the perspective of two Lebanese evangelicals, be sure to read Martin Accad's "The 'Jesus Manifesto' for Lebanon" and Riad Kassis' "The Colors of Lebanon."

2. Coptic Christians attacked again in Egypt
It seems not to take much for Muslims in southern Egypt to attack Christians in the area. Reuters reports that "rumors of a love affair between a Muslim woman and a Coptic Christian man" set off a riot in Armant, with Muslims attacking Christian shops and a minivan. Eight Muslim men (who are permitted to marry Christian women, but whose daughters are not allowed to marry Christian men) were arrested.

3. Anglicans, Presbyterians face splits
The big Anglican primates' meeting is underway in Tanzania. Despite truckloads of predictions and analysis (the Anglican blogosphere seems both ablaze and weary), there's very little to report so far. We'll let you know when something actually happens.

Meanwhile, it looks like 130 or so of the 151 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations in the New Wineskins Association of Churches are taking steps to leave the denomination, likely for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The EPC may create a new, non-geographic presbytery for the New Wineskins group. Will it really happen? We'll see. But we've learned to be cautious about these realignment / breakaway / exodus stories.

4. ELCA disciplinary committee criticizes but follows policy on gay pastor
In another of these almost-a-real-decision stories, a disciplinary committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to remove Bradley Schmeling from the ministry because he engages in homosexual behavior. But the committee also said that the rules barring gay ministers "are at least bad policy, and may very well violate the constitution and bylaws of this church" and urged the denomination to "initiate a process" at its August assembly to remove the prohibitions against gay clergy. Hoping to see such changes made, the committee didn't make Schmeling's removal effective until after the assembly.

5. Is KDKA to blame in pastor's suicide
The story of the Rev. Brent Dugan, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, Pennsylvania, is a tragic one. After a lifelong struggle with homosexual desires, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last year, in 2002 Dugan "became close friends with a man who claimed to love him, and with whom he had occasional sexual encounters. That man cajoled him into leaving specific kinds of sexual fantasies on his answering machine, and then betrayed him by setting up a meeting at an adult bookstore, where KDKA-TV recorded him."

In November, a sweeps month, KDKA repeatedly aired promotions for its expose of Dugan, but didn't mention him by name. Reporter Marty Griffin said his investigation "uncovered illicit, possibly illegal, activity by a local minister, activities which, at the very least, violated the rules of his denomination."

KDKA never aired the report. It canceled its broadcast plans when it heard that Dugan was "considering doing harm to himself." The next day, Dugan committed suicide by overdosing on aspirin and alcohol. That set off a wave of criticism of the station.

"It's the use of key words — possibly illegal, at the very least — that call into question whether the report was worth doing in the first place," Post-Gazette TV columnist Rob Owen said. "If the best Griffin could dig up was a trip to an adult bookstore (not illegal) and violation of church rules, then there's not much in it to serve the public interest. It comes off looking like another 'gotcha'-style story designed for no benefit except the TV station's ratings."

"What kind of culture (individual+church+politics+press+commercialism) sets the stage for this sort of pain after a lifetime of service, sacrifice and silent struggling? What kind of people patiently plan and then wait for such a person's failure?" Grove City College psychology professor Warren Throckmorton asked on his blog. "Brent Dugan apparently led an honorable, commendable and generous life. He deserved much better than treachery for the sake of commercialism."

James Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, told members in December, "It is the view of many, including me, that KDKA may well be said to have crossed boundaries of acceptable journalistic practices in its development and treatment of this story, and its treatment of our pastor who was its subject."

This week, Pittsburgh's main ecumenical body filed an official complaint with the FCC as the station seeks renewal of its broadcast license. While Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania says it doesn't want KDKA's license revoked, it does want an apology "for the misleading promos and unfortunate lapse in journalistic reporting that led to the Rev. Brent Dugan's unfortunate death."

The Post-Gazette's Ann Rogers reports:

[The letter to the FCC] says the promos "sentenced" the Rev. Dugan before the presbytery had time to look into the situation, which could have produced a church process that "provided for repentance, rehabilitation and forgiveness." It says that the promos violated the Code of Broadcast News Ethics, and the letter deplores "the exploitation of religious leaders and issues for increased ratings at the expense of journalistic integrity and the truth." Mr. Mead said they were not asking to stop coverage of clergy who commit crimes, but to refrain from sensationalistic stories that would not be considered news if they were about someone in a different profession.

You might wonder why Weblog is covering this now, instead of on November 3, when Dugan committed suicide. We probably would have given this more attention, but we were busy. On November 2, Ted Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals amid news reports that he had been involved with a male prostitute. So far, Weblog has seen no comparisons of media coverage of those two cases. But one wonders: What made the Haggard case such an acceptable story that we're still seeing articles and commentaries about it (Haggards to leave Colorado Springs! Mike Jones to auction his massage table on eBay!), while the Dugan case is a sensationalistic "gotcha" story "with no benefit" that "would not be considered news if it was about someone in a different profession"?

Quote of the day
"When you're a Christian and a middle linebacker for the Colts, you still hit people when they come over the middle. You just make sure it isn't a cheap shot."
—Political strategist Ralph Reed, on why he uses negative campaign ads. He added, "In politics, you try to make sure it's not personal. I've never felt comfortable with a family situation, even a divorce. … You also have to make sure that the negative information is true. … We're all going to make a mistake. I think about Peter and the ear of Malchus, how after he severs his ear Christ heals it. … If we're willing to say, I went too far, I think we have to trust Christ to heal it." He was speaking at a symposium at Yale Divinity School and quoted by Huffington Post blogger Chris Meserole.

Special note
We had trouble getting the Weblog put together last week, but we've compiled stories under the "better late than never" principle. Unfortunately, some of the stories from last week are a bit outdated, and some of the links may be broken. To help you find the most recent and relevant stories, then, we've split the links below into two sections. The first are articles that have been published since last Friday. The second are older articles published last week. Sorry for the delay.

More articles

Anglican meeting in Tanzania | More Anglicanism | ELCA verdict | Ted Haggard and New Life Church | Homosexuality | Sexual ethics | Church life | Presbyterians | Catholicism | Abuse | Lebanon attacks | Crime | Remnant Fellowship murder trial | Funding prison ministry | Church and state | Politics | Mitt Romney | Other Republican candidates | Democratic candidates | Environment | Life ethics | Death penalty | Religious freedom | India | Fiji | Sudan | Israel and Judaism | Blood libel | History | Evolution | Education | Sexual education | Higher education | Research | Books | Media | Entertainment | People | Money and business | Missions & ministry | Islam | Other stories of interest

Last Week's Articles

Ted Haggard | Homosexuality | Marriage | Spring Arbor's transgender prof | Evolution | Education | University of Sydney | Life ethics | Parental notification | HPV | Healthcare | Adoption | Church and state | China | Malaysia | Religious freedom | Religious displays | Property disputes | Anglicanism | Baptists | Eastern Orthodox | Catholicism | Robert Drinan | People | Dungy and Smith | NFL vs. churches | More on Super Bowl and churches | Media, art, and entertainment | Books | John Edwards's bloggers | Barack Obama | John McCain | Mitt Romney | Other 2008 candidates | Politics | Environment | Fiji | War and terrorism | Crime | Abuse | Remnant Fellowship murder case | Arson | Theft | Money and business | Church life | Florida tornadoes | Judaism | Islam | Other stories of interest

Anglican meeting in Tanzania:

  • No pain, no gain | Worldwide Anglicans, facing split, prepare for key meeting that's all about losing (World)

  • New Episcopal leader braces for gay-rights test | Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori may face hostility at a meeting in Tanzania with Anglican bishops (The New York Times)

  • Blunt bishop at the center of a schism | How Archbishop Peter Akinola's rejection of liberal "sins" and the ordination of gay clergy could push the Anglican Church to split (Time)

  • The real Mr Big? | The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is the nominal head of the world's 78 million Anglican Christians. But he now faces a challenge from Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola, whose fiercely anti-gay stance could tear the Communion apart (The Guardian, London)

  • Njongonkulu Ndungane invites Africa's Anglicans to gather under a bigger tent | A global meeting of Anglican leaders in Tanzania will focus on the issue of homosexuality, which currently threatens to break the church apart (The New York Times)

  • The Episcopal Church's struggles concern us all | If you care about the erosion of civility and general polarization going on in America, you might think of the Episcopal Church as a canary in the mine shaft (Barry L. Beisner, San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Gays, marriage and Rowan Williams | Neither side sees homosexuality as the most important factor in a Christian life. It is just a focus for differences on Scripture and authority. Schisms have turned on lesser matters—the date of Easter, say. Fallen mankind tends to break up (Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, London)

  • Blathering bishops | Some of them say the silliest things, at the worst possible moment (Stephen Bates, The Guardian, London)

  • Church must confront this clash of convictions | We must be welcoming, but we cannot embrace indifference about doctrine and hope to survive. (Peter Jensen, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • It is time for the Anglican Luthers to divorce | An obsession with unity is blinding Anglican leaders from seeing the truth now facing them (Ruth Gledhill, The Times, London)

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More Anglicanism:

  • Judge says Episcopal Diocese can't amend lawsuit | A Superior Court judge Wednesday denied a request from the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego to raise new legal claims in a lawsuit against a Fallbrook church that already had been decided in the church's favor, an attorney for the church said (North County Times, San Diego, Ca.)

  • Lodi church rejects Episcopal schism | Issue of whether gays can join the clergy splitting the world Anglican Communion (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Christians want Bishop Onono out | The continued row at the Gulu Anglican Church has taken another twist with Christians of Christ Church demanding that Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng, the northern Anglican bishop leave the diocese (The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Earlier: Gulu church row deepens | The troubles in the Gulu municipality Church of Uganda seem to deepen by the day. On Sunday, Christians were treated to free drama when Ray Otim, a catechist, grabbed a microphone from Martin Okulluyere, a former parish council member (The Monitor, Uganda, Feb. 7)

  • Cohabitation, church style | Two signs can be found outside a modern church building in Oak Harbor: One announces "St. Stephen's Anglican Church," the other "St. Stephen Episcopal Church." (Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Episcopal Church will survive latest strife | As has happened before, the Episcopal Church will survive its passionate divisions (Ed Jones, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • One holy catholic | Anglican dioceses should be more expressive of their catholic identity (Martyn Percy, The Guardian, London)

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ELCA verdict:

  • Lutherans hedge in verdict on gay pastor | A detailed reading of the decision —- and even the timing of Schmeling's removal —- convinces the 44-year-old pastor and his supporters that he eventually may be vindicated (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Lutheran panel votes to expel gay minister | A disciplinary committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ruled Thursday that a gay pastor in Atlanta must give up his pulpit, saying it was reluctantly enforcing a "bad policy." (The Washington Post)

  • Gay Lutheran pastor removed over partner | The delay in Schmeling's removal gives the ELCA a chance to nullify it by changing the document at an August meeting (Associated Press)

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Ted Haggard and New Life Church:

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  • Gay churchgoers more likely to quit mainstream religion | "Christian religions by and large have done an excellent job in communicating that a Christian identity and a homosexual identity are incompatible, or at least difficult to reconcile," says Massey University's Mark Henrickson (The New Zealand Herald)

  • Minister defies Kirk on 'gay weddings' | Church of Scotland minister Kim Cran will go ahead with the blessings, even though she risks disciplinary action if an official complaint is made (Scotland on Sunday)

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Sexual ethics:

  • Church at logger-heads with priest | The Catholic Church is embroiled in a legal conflict with a priest who has been accused of fathering a child with a poor young woman, having several girlfriends and failing to account for church funds. (Cape Times, South Africa)

  • Catholic Church slams free Brazil Carnival condoms | Catholic bishops criticized on Friday Brazil's plan to hand out millions of free condoms in the world's largest Catholic country when its famously bacchanalian Carnival begins next week (Reuters)

  • After so many deaths, too many births | Though Rwanda is predominantly Catholic, the church's leaders here are not expected to oppose a campaign for population control. A number of priests, nuns and lay workers participated in the 1994 genocide, which weakened the church's moral authority, and has led it to avoid politics (The New York Times)

  • Bill to require HPV vaccine stirs concern | Some believe making California schoolgirls get inoculated against the sexually transmitted virus would violate parental rights (Los Angeles Times)

  • Also: HPV vaccine for girls promoted in Maine | Proposal sidesteps controversy by focusing on education and funding, leaving it up to families to decide whether their daughters should be vaccinated (Bangor Daily News, Me.)

  • AIDS and abstinence | Governments starting to realize that promoting condoms has left things worse, not better (National Catholic Register)

  • Abstinence saves lives | The Catholic Church is often pilloried, or worse, for opposing condoms (Editorial, National Catholic Register)

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Church life:

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  • Hub groups resist closing of churches in 3 other states | Dissident Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston have joined parishioners in New York in struggling to keep open some of the 21 churches slated to be closed there and are working with groups in Ohio and Arizona to encourage resistance to parish closings nationwide (The Boston Globe)

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Lebanon attacks:

  • Lebanese Christians targeted by bus bombers | At least three people have been killed after bombs ripped apart two buses in a Christian area of Lebanon, on the eve of the second anniversary of the killing of Rafik Hariri, the country's former prime minister (The Telegraph, London)

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  • Love rumour sparks Muslim attack on Christians in Egypt | Groups of Egyptian Muslims set fire to Christian-owned shops in southern Egypt after hearing rumours of a love affair between a Muslim woman and a Coptic Christian man, security sources and a witness said on Tuesday (Reuters)

  • Radic has a book, but betrayed flock left with questions | His book deal and website likely will disappoint those looking for an explanation for what prosecutors say was the 54-year-old pastor's secret sale of the First Congregational Church of Ripon's sanctuary, his sealed plea agreement or his upcoming testimony at the murder trial of a fellow jail inmate (The Modesto Bee, Ca.)

  • Also: California pastor stole the whole church | But he won't serve any more time behind bars (Associated Press)

  • Accused priest appears in Nevada court | The 52-year-old priest answered just one question, telling Justice of the Peace Douglas Smith he could not afford to hire a lawyer. Diocese administrators said George Chaanine was responsible for his own defense. (Associated Press)

  • Teen who robbed priest gets year in youth lock-up | The pistol was a BB gun, but the priest who felt the cold steel against his head didn't know that (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

  • Monday: Church apology helps heal hurt | Priest intervenes, gives half brothers second chance after robbery, carjacking (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

  • Courthouse preaching a path to jail | Michaelene Cooney, who is homeless, has been arrested 18 times for trespassing (Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

  • Arrest warrant issued for church leader | Prosecutors said Mark Mehner embezzled nearly $300,000 from Zion Lutheran Church starting in October 2004 (KETV, Omaha)

  • Omaha priest accused in theft case surrenders | The Rev. Stephen J. Gutgsell will plead guilty to felony theft by deception, perhaps as soon as this week, his attorney said Monday (Omaha World-Herald, Neb.)

  • Arson suspect denied bail | A judge yesterday ordered a woman accused of burning down a Belchertown house used as a church held without right to bail because she is dangerous (The Republican, Springfield, Mass.)

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Remnant Fellowship murder trial:

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Funding prison ministry:

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Church and state:

  • Churches, signs clash with city | Mayor, planners look to ease sign ordinance (The Noblesville Enquirer, Ind., link via Religion Clause)

  • Christian legal group enters debate over GJ library exhibit | Though no one is threatening a lawsuit, Carol Anderson, who created the religious anti-gay, anti-adultery and anti-divorce display in the library's rear stairwell, has the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund going to bat for her against the American Civil Liberties Union (The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Co.)

  • S.Africa expropriates first farm in reform drive | The farm in the Northern Cape province had belonged to the South African Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has been ordered to sell it for 35.5 million rand, the commission said (Reuters)

  • Redmond church risks big fines as it hosts homeless camp | Defying an order from the city of Redmond, St. Jude Catholic Church welcomed Tent City 4, the Eastside's traveling homeless encampment, to its grounds Saturday (The Seattle Times)

  • God help needy Christian charities | It is perfectly reasonable for the public authorities to say that they do not want to spend taxpayers' money on the work of conversion. But it is another matter to attack religious beliefs, and to try to keep the people who hold them away from all public money, and from the drunk and homeless and poor and handicapped and old, and from children, all of whom need so much more help than a society without belief can give them (Charles Moore, The Telegraph, London)

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  • Congressman's imam is taking a lead in interfaith efforts | Makram El-Amin has become Representative Keith Ellison's imam putting an Islamic imprint on the role of spiritual adviser in American politics (The New York Times)

  • Baptist group fights Texas coal plants | Texas' largest Baptist group is taking a rare step into environmental advocacy, working to block Gov. Rick Perry's plan to speed the approval process for 18 new coal-fired power plants. (Associated Press)

  • Policy on asylum-seekers faulted | Report criticizes detentions by U.S. immigration officials (The Washington Post)

  • Punishing the persecuted | A twisted interpretation of U.S. law has turned thousands of victims of global oppression, who sympathize with America, into terrorists ineligible for asylum (Doug Bandow, The American Spectator)

  • Keeping the faith | The House of Lords should not be subjected to a risky electoral process, nor should it lose its bishops (Anil Bhanot, The Guardian, London)

  • Rudd a cafeteria Christian | If the Leader of the Opposition wants to pursue the Catholic vote — something the ALP has taken for granted far too long — he's perfectly entitled to do so. However he can't pretend that sometimes, when it suits him, deep down he's still a member of the tribe (Christopher Pearson, The Australian)

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Mitt Romney:

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Other Republican candidates:

  • The pastor populist | Southern governor + folksy flare + ability to connect = proven presidential prospect. Mike Huckabee puts a new twist on an old formula (World)

  • Huckabee defends traditional marriages | "People have a right to decide how they live their lives. But they have to respect not changing the definition of marriage," said Huckabee, who served as a pastor in Baptist churches before becoming governor in 1996 (Associated Press)

  • Searching for Mr. Right | Wanted: A candidate who truly opposes abortion and gay marriage — and who can win (The New York Times)

  • Litmus test for hypocrisy | Why is it that abortion, a subject on which political candidates often claim to be expressing their most deeply held moral convictions, is often the issue on which they seem especially opportunistic and unprincipled? (E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post)

  • Giuliani's faces uphill fight in GOP presidential race | He is pro-choice and in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples. He also has been married three times and was involved with his future third wife while still married to his second (The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.)

  • Giuliani shifts abortion speech gently to right | Rudolph W. Giuliani has directed questions on abortion toward discussion about judges, saying he would appoint "strict constructionist" jurists (The New York Times)

  • Culture warrior | Don't write off Giuliani's appeal to social conservatives (Brendan Miniter, The Wall Street Journal)

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Democratic candidates:

  • Obama stresses appreciation for faith | Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think voters have a litmus test on religion, whether evangelical Christianity or his childhood years in a largely Muslim country (Associated Press)

  • Black power sermons test Democrats' faith | In a country where a candidate's spiritual beliefs are a make or break factor, the charismatic Democrat is coming under scrutiny about his church's creed (The Telegraph, London)

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  • Science and religion unite on climate | The active involvement of religion is necessary for wide-scale social change (Stephen H. Schneider and Sally G. Bingham, San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Saving souls - and the planet | Religious conservatives could become a bulwark against environmental disaster. (Mark Vernon, The Guardian, London)

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Life ethics:

  • Low turnout undercuts Portugal vote on abortion | A referendum to liberalize the abortion law was approved, but turnout was too low for the result to be deemed valid (The New York Times)

  • Portugal fails to overturn abortion law | Portugal's prime minister said he will enact more liberal abortion laws in the conservative Roman Catholic country even though his proposal to relax restrictions failed to win complete endorsement in a referendum (Associated Press)

  • Analysis: Portugal's abortion rethink | With abortion legal in all but three other European countries, Portugal can draw on experience elsewhere in dealing with this sensitive issue (BBC)

  • Strict abortion bill revisited in S.D. | But none of the Legislature's leaders, notably some sponsors of last year's bill, are joining the effort this year because waging last year's fight was so exhausting (Associated Press)

  • States fund antiabortion advice | Public grants surge for the crisis centers. Some ban contraception talk (Los Angeles Times)

  • Lynch backs notification repeal bill | House panel takes up abortion proposal (Concord Monitor, N.H.)

  • Diocese, abortion foes are at odds | Who's more pro-life, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington or Northern Kentucky Right to Life? (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

  • Code of silence | Another source of useful stem cells has been found--and the media and the cloning crowd are trying keep it quiet (Michael Fumento, The Weekly Standard)

  • Anything goes | The International Society for Stem Cell Research issues its "ethical guidelines." (Wesley J. Smith, The Weekly Standard)

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Death penalty:

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Religious freedom:

  • Uzbek authorities arrest Protestant pastor on illegal proselytizing charges | Dmitry Shestakov led an underground Charismatic Pentecostals church in the eastern city of Andijan and was converting Muslims to Christianity, the State Religious Affairs Committee said Tuesday, without specifying the date of his arrest (Associated Press)

  • Residents demand local church closes | Dozens of residents of Warung Satangkal kampong in Majalaya, Bandung, rallied in front of a house belonging to a Christian family Sunday in reaction to the use of the house as a venue for religious rituals (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)

  • Religious freedom in America | If we value religious liberty, we should value the Christian faith as its guarantee. (Roger Scruton, The American Spectator)

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  • Activists chastise India on untouchables | Indians at the bottom of India's Hindu caste system are attacked, raped and killed daily due to their status, even though the rigid social hierarchy has been outlawed for decades, an international human rights group said Tuesday (Associated Press)

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  • Killing fields | It's becoming obvious: No one is going to save Darfur (Editorial, The New Republic)

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Israel and Judaism:

  • Divided loyalties | Harry Bernstein grew up in a Lancashire street with Jews on one side and Christians on the other. Now, at the age of 96, he has written a memoir recalling the tensions that the split created (The Guardian, London)

  • The danger of a 'chosen' nation | Israel holds a sacred place in the words of the Old Testament. But does Christian doctrine give that country a free pass at the expense of peace in the Middle East? (Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, USA Today)

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Blood libel:

  • Bar-Ilan prof. defiant on blood libel book 'even if crucified' | Professor Ariel Toaff said he stood behind the contention of his book, "Pasque di Sangue," just published in Italy, that there is a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews. However, he said he was sorry his arguments had been twisted (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

  • Bar-Ilan turning aside pressure to fire author of blood libel book | Bar-Ilan University is resisting pressure to fire history professor Ariel Toaff for writing a book arguing that there is a factual basis to some of the blood libels against the Jews in Europe in the Middle Ages, university president Moshe Kaveh's media consultant said Monday (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

  • Author admits blood-libel claim was meant as provocation | Ariel Toaff, the author of Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murders said Monday his previous statement that some ritual murders of Christian children by Jews "might have taken place" had been an ironic academic provocation (The Jerusalem Post)

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  • Polish bishop seeks special court probe | The former Warsaw archbishop who resigned after admitting he agreed to cooperate with the communist-era secret police has asked a special court to investigate the case against him, a court spokesman said (Associated Press)

  • Also: Slovak church plans to review its past 50 years | The Roman Catholic Church in Slovakia said Tuesday that it would create a council to review its history over the last 50 years, including the period of fascist state rule during World War II and the subsequent Communist era (AFP)

  • Revealed: secret of the lodger living inside St Peter's | Michelangelo had a secret bedroom inside St Peter's Basilica in Rome where he lived for the last 17 years of his life, it emerged yesterday (The Telegraph, London)

  • Bill to honor Paine stalls in Arkansas | Legislation designating Jan. 29 as Thomas Paine Day failed after a member of the state House of Representatives protested Paine's criticism of religion (The New York Times)

  • Teacher's dad exiled from church | Paula Barkley remembers being about 7 years old when her father was voted out as pastor of Louisville, Ky.'s Weaver Memorial Baptist Church in 1956 for wanting to open its doors to African-Americans (The Tennessean, Nashville)

  • The hypocrisy hunter's guide | Sex, politics and religion have been bedfellows since 1804 (Debby Applegate, The Wall Street Journal)

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  • Believers accepting evolution | Founded by a professor at Butler University, Evolution Sunday reconciles faith and science in churches in Indiana and across the country (The Indianapolis Star)

  • Church makes evolutionary change over time | To Evolution Sunday-goers, notions of a grand designer threaten to undermine the science (Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Dumbing down evolution to kill it | On Darwin's birthday, vocal opponents of his theory fundamentally misunderstand what they don't believe in (Edward Humes, Los Angeles Times)

  • The Gospel according to Darwin | There is scant reporting on the anti-religious zeal with which many atheists promote Darwinism (John G. West, National Review Online)

  • Happy Darwin Day! | Celebrating mankind's discovery of eugenics (David Klinghoffer, The Weekly Standard)

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  • Guv quietly signs school voucher bill | The watershed program rolls out in the fall (The Salt Lake Tribune, Ut.)

  • Judges to rehear school prayer case | Arguments set before full court May 21 (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

  • Cornerstone sues to play ball in UIL | A private school in San Antonio filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing the state's largest extracurricular organization of unfairly excluding private schools from league competition, and the school is seeking a court order to halt the alleged practice (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • National Council of Churches questions 'No Child' | Although the event will include secular participants, the involvement of the nation's largest ecumenical religious organization signals a growing grass-roots concern about the 2002 law, which is scheduled for reauthorization by Congress this year (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  • Home schoolers find strength in numbers | More and more, parents are forming co-ops, where they meet to share teaching talents and advice, as well as socialize (The New York Times)

  • Senator causes stir by reading profanity | Comments made at a high school (The Boston Globe)

  • Religious land use trial against Alameda County begins | A long legal battle over a proposed Christian school near Castro Valley finally went to trial Monday, with a 10-person jury ready to decide whether the situation is a civil-rights violation or sound suburban planning. (San Mateo County Times, Ca.)

  • School refuses to deny smacking | A Christian college is continuing to defy state agencies over its right to use corporal punishment, saying it is up to parents to decide (Dominion Post, New Zealand)

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Sexual education:

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Higher education:

  • To fulfill a prophecy | Mount St. Mary's Seminary has 38 seminarians. And a basketball team (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

  • Who wants to be a priest these days? | The Roman Catholic Church in Germany is running out of vocations. Who wants to be a priest in this day and age? A visit to St. Georgen Seminary in Frankfurt (Der Spiegel, Germany)

  • Polygamy page finds new home on an Internet site | Assistant college dean had addressed the topic as a 'personal project' (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Religion edition sends student newspaper editor into hiding | The editor of a Cambridge University college newspaper is in hiding after his attempt at religious satire backfired (The Guardian, London)

  • Stem cell research affects education bill | The bitter fight over embryonic stem cell research in Missouri led to six university building projects being axed Wednesday from a higher education bill by the Senate Education Committee (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Ex-Baylor star walks away from basketball | Emily Nkosi said she also feared losing her Baylor scholarship because of her evolving relationship with Ashley Taylor, then a graduate student and roommate and now her partner. The administration at Baylor, a Baptist school, says it does not revoke scholarships, including athletic scholarships, for homosexuality (USA Today)

  • Questions of faith | I find richer spiritual exploration teaching students at Piedmont College than I did leading congregations (Barbara Brown Taylor, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

  • 'To teach or exercise authority over a man' | Southwestern scholar was badly served (Benjamin Cole, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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  • Jurist passes positive judgment on radio host's book | Pennsylvania judge sentences sex offender to read a volume about addiction written by Laguna Beach Christian broadcaster (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)

  • A familiar and prescient voice, brought to life | Carl Sagan has rejoined the cosmic debate from the grave, with "new" words on the boundary between science and religion (The New York Times)

  • In the beginning was the Word, and it was so cool | Some pastors say "amen" to the so-called Biblezine, which wraps articles around a modern-text New Testament. It may put the Bible in the hands of youths who might otherwise not read it, they say. Others say the trendy mag trivializes the Good Book (Contra Costa Times, CA.)

  • Trust them, it's a hit | Unlike its movie and TV kin, the publishing industry keeps book sales figures to itself (Los Angeles Times)

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  • Christian group chides KDKA over pastor's suicide | Group says promos "sentenced" the Rev. Dugan before the presbytery had time to look into the situation (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Also: Complaint links TV promo, pastor suicide | A Christian group complained to the Federal Communications Commission about a TV station's investigation of a minister who committed suicide after the station taped him entering an adult bookstore (Associated Press)

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  • Was missing Grammy winner in bathroom? | "I wasn't literally in the bathroom," said Third Day guitarist Mark Lee. "It happens every year. There's just somebody that gets caught. This year it happened to me." (Associated Press)

  • Relient K draws fans in Christian, mainstream markets | After toiling away for seven years and building a rabid fan base in the Christian market, Relient K broke through to mainstream success with the 2004 release "Mmhmm." The band's career illustrates that sometimes the least calculated of efforts reap the most rewards (Reuters)

  • Bluegrass duo revisits gospel roots on new album | "Tell Someone," the new Rebel Records release from the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band, is a musical feast not only for the group's bluegrass base but for country and Southern gospel music fans as well (Reuters)

  • Charles, Maher film to take potshots at religion | The prospects of an untitled movie from "Borat" director Larry Charles, narrated and presented by comedian Bill Maher, which takes potshots at major religions from Judaism and Islam to Christianity, has buyers salivating (The Hollywood Reporter)

  • Eastern Nazarene College mounts play banned in China | It might seem a bit unusual for a Christian college in New England to put on a little-known avant-garde Chinese play with Buddhist themes (The Boston Globe)

  • Irreverent? Oh, heavens! | Blend Christian pop and boy bands. The result: The cheeky stage musical 'Altar Boyz,' which draws its own congregation of faithful (Los Angeles Times)

  • Who critiques the critics? | The makers of The Last Sin Eater seem to be a rather touchy lot. (Peter Chattaway, FilmChatBlog)

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  • Prayers for Nowak but few answers | For those who don't know her, Lisa Nowak might be just the centerpiece of a salacious media scandal that makes for a great Saturday Night Live skit, but to her church, she's a fellow parishioner who could really use some prayers right now (Houston Chronicle)

  • Also: A man with friends | Bishop Acen Phillips has a record of service to the underdog in Denver that goes back to the 1950s, but his reputation, while unquestioned by his supporters, has not gone unsullied (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Minister plans '07 convention to fill MegaFest void | Bishop Paul Morton, one of the nation's most popular preachers and gospel singers, announced Monday that he will bring a convention to Atlanta this summer that he claims will fill the void left by MegaFest (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Bishop Wanjiru bars media from her church | The Bishop's wedding failed to take place Saturday as the court has issued a temporary injunction filed by one James Kamangu who claims to be Wanjiru's customary husband (KBC, Kenya)

  • Also: Bishop Wanjiru celebrates love without a wedding | The controversial preacher obeyed a court order barring any such celebration as her fiancé stayed away from the Jesus is Alive Ministries Church on Saturday (The East African Standard, Kenya)

  • Bill Donohue vs. the world (especially women) | Frances Kissling, head of Catholics for a Free Choice, talks about the right-wing activist who forced the John Edwards campaign to part with one of its bloggers (Salon.com)

  • Sports, religion strange bedfellows | There is a part of Dungy's philosophy that troubles me -- and, I believe, many others -- and that is his insistence upon making proper coaching not just a matter of good heart but of religious zeal, even dogma (Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times)

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Money and business:

  • Religious tension in workplace on the rise | Complaints alleging religious discrimination are up dramatically, with confrontations arising over how people publicly observe their faith, when and where they pray, how they dress, what hours they work — and generally what they believe (The Seattle Times)

  • New tax laws alter face of donations | A new set of IRS rules that toughens the tax laws for charitable donations could change the way many Americans donate to houses of worship (The Gainesville Sun, Fla.)

  • NHS 'cutting chaplain services' | Hundreds of hospital chaplains face the sack or a reduction in their hours as a result of the NHS cash crisis (The Telegraph, London)

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Missions & ministry:

  • City proposing new law, fee for volunteer workers | Mayor of Lynch, Ky., says he's worried about residents getting bad repair work and the city being liable for it. But local ministry leaders say the plan could drive volunteers who just want to help away (WYMT, Hazard, Ky.)

  • A ministry in the cold, with a gospel of propane | In Ocean County, N.J., the homeless hunker down in scattered tent encampments. Connecting them is a minister who delivers the gift of survival (The New York Times)

  • Churches grieve for members who died in Honduras | "They were doing the work of God when death came," the Rev. Don Hattaway told the congregation at Tabernacle Baptist in Cartersville (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Mayor looks to churches to help end homelessness | Already 122 congregations have signed on, each pledging to raise $1,200 to help pay first month's rent and deposit on an apartment and establishing a "mentor team" of two to six people who agree to work with the family or senior to help them leave homelessness behind (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)

  • Christian leaders commit to tackling poverty | Christian leaders from the country's broadest-ever ecumenical group have issued a statement condemning the "scandal of widespread poverty" and calling for action by the public and private sectors to combat it (Religion News Service)

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  • A split after Muhammad's death that still resonates | Who is Sunni, and who is Shiite, and what is the difference between the two? All this week NPR's "Morning Edition" presents a five-part primer (The New York Times)

  • The partisans of Ali | A history of Shia faith and politics (Morning Edition, NPR)

  • Nigerian Muslim convicts in legal limbo | In Nigeria's Muslim north, sentences of amputation and death by stoning are routinely imposed under Shariah, or Islamic law. But no stonings have ever been carried out, and no amputations since 2001 (Associated Press)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Christianity in Africa: Jesus in the morning, voodoo in the evening | The old natural religions continue to thrive in Africa. While Christianity and Islam vie for supremacy in many countries, they have failed to banish the rain gods and spirits south of the Sahara. Frequently the pagan rites have fused with a faith in Jesus Christ (Der Speigel, Germany)

  • Minority report | Christians in Jordan (Jason Byassee, The Christian Century)

  • Pray for a special Valentine, says Church | Forget speed-dating and lonely-hearts columns. The Roman Catholic Church has come up with a more reliable way of finding love on Valentine's Day: pray to St Raphael, the little-known patron saint of "happy meetings" (The Telegraph, London)

  • Groovin with God | Many Jesus People still follow faith (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)

  • Thou shalt not bloat | Many Christians spurn nutrition and exercise (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

  • Darien church owns half of Fay's condo | A Darien church and its former pastor's boyfriend are now co-owners of a luxury condominium in Florida (Stamford Advocate, Ct.)

  • Crowds flock to 'miracle' statue | A statue of Jesus Christ is causing a sensation at an art gallery after witnesses said they saw sparks shooting from its eyes (Metro, U.K.)

  • Forgive us their trespass | Western evangelicals are plotting an apology to China for 150-year-old imperialist abuses. Critics wonder, how do you make up for the past? (World)

  • Doctors who fail their patients | A new survey has revealed that a disturbing number of doctors feel no responsibility to inform patients of treatments that they deem immoral or to refer them to other doctors for care. (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Black churches must address HIV/AIDS | Of the more than 85,000 black churches in the United States, only a handful, primarily in major cities, are actively involved in this important work. The others have descended into denial, ignorance and homophobia, and they focus on the so-called Great Beyond (Bill Maxwell, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

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Last Week's Articles

Ted Haggard | Homosexuality | Marriage | Spring Arbor's transgender prof | Evolution | Education | University of Sydney | Life ethics | Parental notification | HPV | Healthcare | Adoption | Church and state | China | Malaysia | Religious freedom | Religious displays | Property disputes | Anglicanism | Baptists | Eastern Orthodox | Catholicism | Robert Drinan | People | Dungy and Smith | NFL vs. churches | More on Super Bowl and churches | Media, art, and entertainment | Books | John Edwards's bloggers | Barack Obama | John McCain | Mitt Romney | Other 2008 candidates | Politics | Environment | Fiji | War and terrorism | Crime | Abuse | Remnant Fellowship murder case | Arson | Theft | Money and business | Church life | Florida tornadoes | Judaism | Islam | Other stories of interest

Ted Haggard:

  • Haggards will leave Colo. Springs | Three months after being ousted in a drugs and gay-sex scandal, the Rev. Ted Haggard is telling friends that counseling has given him hope, and he and his wife plan to leave Colorado Springs and pursue psychology degrees (The Denver Post)

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  • Solution elusive as churches weary of gay clergy debate | Many members say they would like to move on to religious missions (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • He's 'out,' he's saved, what's the problem? | Bruised in one encounter with evangelicals, gay actor Chad Allen gets a different reaction the second time around (Newsweek)

  • About Isabella | Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller got hitched and had a baby together. Vermont says that's a simple truth. Virginia said it was all null and void. The future of a little girl hangs in the balance (The Washington Post)

  • Court bars government benefit for same-sex domestic partners | A three-judge panel found that an amendment banning same-sex marriage also prohibits government agencies from recognizing domestic partnerships (The New York Times)

  • Brokeback Mutton | More on the gay sheep (William Saletan, The Washington Post)

  • A pink reformation | Churches have always faced difficult moral issues and they have muddled through, but with homosexuality things are different. Why? (Theo Hobson, The Guardian, London)

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  • Ministers say 'I do' to policy | Fifteen area pastors affirm traditional marriage and sign the Greater Raymond Area Community Marriage Policy (Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.)

  • Initiative ties marriage, procreation | A group of gay-marriage supporters could begin collecting signatures today for a November ballot initiative that would limit marriage in Washington to couples willing and able to have children. The measure would also dissolve the union of those who remain childless three years after marrying (The Seattle Times)

  • And the bride and groom were smelly pigs | Two Musk hogs were married in a lavish ceremony in Taiwan, with the blessings of a Catholic priest (Reuters)

  • Focusing on virginity also sexualizes girls | Something like a "purity ball" essentially minimizes a young woman's very humanity (Betsy Hart, Chicago Sun-Times)

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Spring Arbor's transgender prof:

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  • Cross removal stirs Va. college campus | More than 10,000 supporters have signed an online petition since last fall asking for the cross to be placed back on the altar permanently (Associated Press)

  • Also: W&M board to consider cross issue | But the Wren Chapel matter is not expected to come up for vote (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.)

  • Public school students getting abstinence lessons from church | New Hope Baptist last fall received a federal grant of $3 million—$600,000 annually over five years—for its Outreach Ministries program to teach abstinence to students from middle school through high school in Birmingham city schools (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • Seattle Pacific University embraces a new global awareness | Many students, faculty and administrators are taking seriously the spirit of president Philip Eaton's motto — "engaging the culture, changing the world" — even if the ubiquitous slogan sometimes engenders good-natured eye-rolling (The Seattle Times)

  • Real-world studies proposed at Harvard | The task force earlier jettisoned a preliminary recommendation that every student be required to take a religion class after some professors objected last fall. However, members of the task force said that religion is covered by several of the eight broad categories, including one called culture and belief (The Boston Globe)

  • Atascadero school board to rethink religion class | The Atascadero school board voted Tuesday night to reconsider a controversial resolution allowing students to attend a church class during school hours (The Tribune, San Luis Obispo, Ca.)

  • Potter's House faces expulsion | Basketball team is ousted from playoffs; school put on brink of severe penalty (The Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla.)

  • Public schools: Why we don't fight more | Some say public schools create war zones of clashing values — but more and more they're proving to be places where students learn to find common ground amid their differences. (Charles C. Haynes, First Amendment Center)

  • Can we really let students skip drama classes on religious grounds? It's time liberals fought back | A truce has been reached in some areas of US society, whereby the liberals can have their culture so long as anyone could opt out on the grounds of conscience or religious belief. It's a truce I am uneasy with. (Mark Ravenhill, The Guardian, London)

  • Taking kids spiritual hostage | Under the pretense of wanting kids to engage in healthy activities, religious youth groups are infiltrating schools and neighborhoods and working through churches in an attempt to convert children (Dennis & Sandy Sasso, The Indianapolis Star)

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University of Sydney:

  • Uni caveat: no stem cell research | The University of Sydney has paid one if its residential colleges $600,000 for land to build a medical research centre, but only on the condition it is never used to carry out fetal stem cell research (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Academics disturbed by university's deal to limit research | Academics at the University of Sydney are disturbed by its decision to restrict the research that can be conducted at a new medical institute and will meet today to discuss the decision (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Church land offer worries stem cell researchers | There are concerns about what the deal could mean for future medical work and academic freedom (PM, Australian Broadcasting Corp)

  • Sydney university stem cell ban sparks academic row | An Australian university has agreed not to conduct stem cell research in a new medical center to be built on land bought from a Catholic college, sparking criticism the deal undermines the freedom of academic research (Reuters)

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Life ethics:

  • Wider death penalty sought | At least a half-dozen states are considering broadening the death penalty, countering a national trend toward scaling back its use (USA Today)

  • Miss. looks to restrict abortions | The Mississippi Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would ban most abortions and charge those who perform the procedures with a misdemeanor (Associated Press)

  • Pope says compassion no excuse for euthanasia | Pope Benedict on Sunday renewed his appeal to Catholics to reject abortion and euthanasia, saying life was God-given and could not be cut short under "the guise of human compassion." (Reuters)

  • Portugal abortion vote to test modernity | Even though campaigners on both sides say the issue goes beyond a woman's right to choose, almost half the Portuguese may ignore the referendum (Reuters)

  • New law urged on assaults involving an unborn child | The Catholic Church and right-to-life advocates yesterday urged a House committee to pass a bill allowing murder charges to be filed in assault cases where a pregnant woman loses her unborn child (Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.)

  • Va. House advances bill to punish forced miscarriages | But rejects a proposal to give fertilized eggs and fetuses the "right to enjoyment of life." (The Washington Post)

  • Man places abortion pills in girlfriend's food | A 26-year-old man in western Sweden faces criminal charges after placing abortion pills in his girlfriend's food (The Local, Sweden)

  • Boozy festive parties led to high abortion rate | Alcohol-fuelled Christmas parties, which led to unprotected sex, are believed to be the reason behind a record number of abortions carried out by a charity last month (Reuters)

  • Risky business | What does a woman's weight have to do with birth control? According to FDA experts, a recent rise in pregnancies among women on the pill may be linked to obesity (Newsweek)

  • Compassion for rape victims | Connecticut apparently needs a state law to force hospitals to provide rape victims with emergency contraception (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Are you sure enough to kill? | You may have thought that legislating for killing people under carefully controlled conditions was a long way away from anything to do with the political platform of the Greens. If so, your view is not shared by Greens Senator Bob Brown, who plans to introduce a private member's bill in Federal Parliament entitled "Euthanasia for Death with Dignity" (Gordon Cheng, The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

  • The biotech bubble | Why stem-cell research won't make states rich (David Hamilton, Slate)

  • Dissatisfaction on the marches | Several readers complained that the story on the Jan. 22 antiabortion march was underplayed and that the Jan. 27 antiwar march was overplayed (Deborah Howell, The Washington Post)

  • Lucy is learning. Are the doctors? | People fear what they don't know. And people, doctors included, don't know enough about Down syndrome (Beverly Beckham, The Boston Globe)

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Parental notification:

  • Parental abortion notice has new snag | A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Illinois officials must put proper courthouse procedures in place before he will consider their request to revive a much-debated abortion law. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Notification law challenge halted | A federal judge has put a temporary halt to a legal challenge of the state's parental notification law, giving New Hampshire lawmakers time to rewrite the law or gut it all together (Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.)

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  • HPV vaccine: Who chooses? | Because immunization can prevent cervical cancer, bills seek to mandate shots. Some say such measures are ethically suspect (Los Angeles Times)

  • Texas is first to require cancer shots for schoolgirls | The requirement was praised by health advocates but caught many by surprise in a largely conservative state where sexual politics is often a battleground (The New York Times)

  • Opposition mounts, but Perry stands by HPV vaccine order | Despite growing pressure from lawmakers, Gov. Rick Perry firmly defended his order requiring anti-cancer vaccines for all Texas schoolgirls and said he'd rather "err on the side of protecting life" (Associated Press)

  • Florida may require vaccine for girls | Some key state lawmakers want to require Florida girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer (The Miami Herald)

  • Wash. state offers free HPV vaccine | There are no plans to make it mandatory (Associated Press)

  • Va. House OKs measures boosting parental say in health matters | Parents would have more say in how their seriously ill children are medically treated and whether their daughters would be required to receive a vaccine against a virus that causes cervical cancer under legislation passed by a hurried House of Delegates yesterday (Associated Press)

  • A vaccine to save women's lives | Congratulations to Texas for becoming the first state to require vaccinating young schoolgirls against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts (Editorial, The New York Times)

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  • Values play into treatment recommendations, study finds | Many doctors believe they have the right not to tell patients about treatments that they object to on moral or religious grounds and to refuse to refer patients elsewhere for the care, according to the first study to examine physicians' views on such situations (The Washington Post)

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Church and state:

  • Ugandan govt to regulate churches | According to the draft concept paper on the proposed policy on religion that Daily Monitor has seen, the autonomous body would regulate all religious institutions in the country (The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Oconee County to open meetings with silence | Council Chairman Marion Lyles said he hoped the moment of silence would end what he called Oconee County being used as a Ping-Pong ball by those wanting the council to keep its opening prayers in the name of Jesus and the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes sectarian prayers (Independent-Mail, Anderson, S.C.)

  • Pastors, laymen discuss prayer in government, homosexuality | "We need to get Christians running (for government offices)," says Councilman Dwight Cornelison. "The unsaved will run the country different than a saved person." (The Dispatch, Lexington, N.C.)

  • Call for Texas flag pledge to include 'one nation, under God' | "Our nation and our state was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics, Judeo-Christian values and I think it's a good thing to recognized that," says Houston representative Debbie Riddle (WFAA, Dallas)

  • Amish facing passport dilemma | Medical trips to Mexico, Canada in jeopardy (Lancaster New Era, Pa.)

  • Inmate pushes to end ban on his prison preaching | A new warden prohibited Wesley Spratt from preaching in the fall of 2003, with prison officials saying it was dangerous to give an inmate such a position of authority (Associated Press)

  • Appeals judge to rule on Christian prison program | A federal appeals court panel of three judges including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will hear arguments next week in the Prison Fellowship case (Associated Press)

  • City to church: Turn away homeless | In a letter delivered by hand Wednesday afternoon, Redmond officials warned St. Jude Catholic Church that if the church welcomed a homeless encampment this weekend, it would be breaking city code and subject to code enforcement (The Seattle Times)

  • Also: Orlando's homeless laws spark debate | Advocates for the homeless feared it wouldn't be long before other cities passed similar laws. As it happens, they were right (Associated Press)

  • Church drop-in to stay open | All Saints will continue to receive funds from city, at least until end of summer (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • At Regent, scholars discuss religion in democracy | Scholars at a Regent University symposium on Friday cited the Founding Fathers in asserting that American democracy and religion are indivisible, regardless of the public debate around mixing religion and politics (The Virginian-Pilot)

  • Euless tries to block Santeria lawsuit | Judge asked to dismiss priest's challenge to longtime ban on killing 1animals (The Dallas Morning News)

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  • Religious believers thrice the estimate | The number of people who describe themselves as religious is a startling three times more than the official estimate, according to the country's first major survey on religious beliefs (China Daily, official govt. media outlet)

  • Also: Survey finds 300m China believers | A poll of 4,500 people by Shanghai university professors found 31.4% of people above the age of 16 considered themselves as religious (BBC)

  • Poll finds surge of religion among Chinese | "More Chinese feel unstable and harassed by the rootless lives they lead now," Liu Zhongyu, a philosophy professor who helped organize the survey, said in a telephone interview (The Washington Post)

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Religious freedom:

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Religious displays:

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Property disputes:

  • Also: Presbyterian Church (USA) confident it will retain Corinth property | The presbytery will seek a declaratory judgment as to whether the Mississippi courts will recognize and uphold the PCUSA constitution's property trust clause (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal)

  • Remodeling the churches | As European worship steadily declines, many grand old buildings have fallen into disuse. What should become of them? (Newsweek)

  • The end is nigh for most of our chapels | Paul Chambers has warned this stereotypical slice of religious Welsh life is now in near-terminal decline, with only 2% of chapels built a century ago likely to last another 20 years (Western Mail, Wales)

  • Couple must pay £200k church bill | A couple have been ordered to pay more than £200,000 for repairs to a church, which falls within land they inherited after the death of an elderly relative (BBC)

  • Right to build not an inviolate religious freedom | One of the most basic rights of cities and counties is the right to decide what types of buildings should go where within their borders to maintain some sort of order and to protect public health and safety (Editorial, The Californian, Temecula, Ca.)

  • Federal law smites those in way of churches | Group will, quite literally, put the fear of God in anyone who dares stand in the way of anything a church wants. How Christian (Phil Strickland, The Californian, Temecula, Ca.)

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  • Local clergyman takes over Anglican diocese | All Saints' Daren K. Williams is consecrated Saturday (Orange County Register, Ca.)

  • Church names 1st female bishop in Cuba | The Episcopal Church has named a woman as bishop in Cuba, the first such appointment by the church in the developing world, church officials said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Also: First woman bishop in Cuba won't copy men | The Rev. Nerva Cot, the first woman bishop named by the Episcopal Church in a developing nation, said she will bring a feminine touch to leadership of her rapidly expanding congregation in Cuba (Reuters)

  • Church of England to debate tighter controls on pornographic material | Diocese warns of eroding boundaries in the media; synod faces battle over attitude to homosexuals (The Guardian, London)

  • Challenge for the Church | The Anglican Communion is one of several supra-national bodies (such as the Commonwealth) whose ambitions no longer correspond to reality. Dr Williams should let it fade away, and instead apply his intellect to holding together our national Church (Editorial, The Telegraph, London)

  • Church's hard line on gays hurts kids | Twenty Tanzanian teenagers who expected to start school in January did not, because the scholarship money we sent for them was not accepted (Ellen Painter Dollar, The Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  • A new bishop for a troubled diocese | A pair of popular Seattle-area clergy, along with three priests serving urban parishes in Texas, Ohio and Maryland, have been nominated as finalists to become the new Episcopal Bishop of Olympia (Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

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  • 2 Baptist churches leaving N.C. group | St. John's, Park Road vote to exit convention rather than be tossed out (The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)

  • New effort aims for Baptist unity | Coalition would take on social issues (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Baptist leader calls for unity | Southern Baptists must work collectively through the Cooperative Program, the denomination's program for national and international missions and ministries, as well through their local churches, Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page told more than 700 people Tuesday at an evangelism luncheon (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Ex-Rep. Bill Gray departs family pulpit | The pastor whose family has led the Bright Hope Baptist Church for three generations plans to give his last sermon on Sunday, when he will turn over his ministry to an outsider (Associated Press)

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Eastern Orthodox:

  • Church painting of Lenin sparks Greek row | A half-finished painting in a Greek Orthodox church of Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin cutting off the beard of a Christian saint has offended traditionalists who want the revolutionary painted over (Reuters)

  • 'Holy relic' ad angers Russians | The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed indignation at an attempt to sell a skull and bone allegedly belonging to Saint Philipp (BBC)

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  • Sabinal's test of faith | The prospect of glimpsing God's presence is drawing hundreds of believers to St. Patrick's Catholic Church where it's said that a small ceramic statue of Baby Jesus cried tears after local children used it in a Nativity play (San Antonio Express-News)

  • The modern US nun is an ex-soldier, lawyer and has a blog | A growing number of women in their 20s and 30s across the United States have shed high-powered jobs, career ambitions and boyfriends for a nun's veil and a life devoted to the church (AFP)

  • Principal allowed to return to Catholic high | Principal Lawrence Monroe on Monday returned to Santa Margarita Catholic High School, after the Diocese of Orange found he hadn't acted maliciously when he failed to respond appropriately to accusations of staff misconduct (The Orange County Register, Ca.)

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Robert Drinan:

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  • God and mammon on her side | Sister Patricia Daly is a nun with a fund, a thorn in the side of corner cutters, child exploiters and polluters (The Guardian, London)

  • Bill Donohue: The Catholic League's attack dog | His ability to manufacture controversy has brought a moribund advocacy group firmly into the black and turned Donohue into catnip for the press (Women's Wear Daily)

  • Rebuilding churches 'a restoration of hope' | Bill Frist's journal as he travels with Franklin Graham to Uganda, Sudan and other African nations (The Tennessean)

  • The pope's right hand man | Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone doesn't have the guarded air of those who tend to rise to the heights of Vatican power (Time)

  • Dalai Lama gets prof's chair at Emory | He is expected to deliver his inaugural lecture during an Oct. 20-22 visit to the university, and to participate in a conference on science and spirituality and an interfaith session on religion (Associated Press)

  • Earlier: Hollywood's Idol | CT visits the Dalai Lama, spiritual hero to millions (Christianity Today, June 11, 2001)

  • Jimmy Carter goes Episcopal | Still another way to move evangelicals to the left (Mark Tooley, The American Spectator)

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Dungy and Smith:

  • Dungy looks ahead while savoring win | There had been conjecture he might step down, perhaps to pursue a Christian ministry, after reaching the NFL mountaintop (Los Angeles Times)

  • All-class Dungy may heed greater calling | For Dungy, his faith is the impetus for trying to live a life with meaning. But you don't need religion to grasp that this is bigger than anyone one person (USA Today)

  • Christian values guide Dungy and the Colts | After Tony Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory on Sunday, he made it clear that his success had not affected his strong attachment to Christianity (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Super Bowl coaches buoyed by shared faith | For all the hoopla about Smith and Dungy being the first African-American head coaches to reach the Super Bowl, there's also a common bond in the friends' spirituality (Religion News Service)

  • At top of game, Dungy, Smith still feel higher calling | Not that other coaches who came before Dungy and Smith weren't religious. But their coaching demeanors were fiery, steel-fisted and frequently profane (Bill Ordine, The Baltimore Sun)

  • Dungy reaches summit without sacrificing values | He is a man who repeatedly talks about his Christian faith without seeming overly preachy, nor hypocritical (J.A. Adande, Los Angeles Times)

  • Dungy well aware of what he said | Dungy had to know when he told the biggest audience of his life that promoting his Christian identity meant more than achieving a racial milestone, he was poking a hornets' nest (Kevin Modesti, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Super Bowl is a super pulpit | Anyone who's a fan of football, and many who aren't, know that Dungy is a religious man. Amidst the celebration after winning the Super Bowl on Sunday, he never let anyone forget. Neither did his friend and losing Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith (Waveney Ann Moore, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Coaches of faith | Public professions of faith by NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith before and after Sunday's Super Bowl surprised and pleased Inland clergy, who said the two men are the kind of role models American youth need (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Ca.)

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NFL vs. churches:

  • Pastor says the game must go on | "I don't think they care about anything in Chico. They're not going to show up here," Pastor Ron Zimmer said Sunday. "The NFL has enough issues with their image. I really don't think they're going to sue me." (Chico Enterprise-Record, Ca.)

  • Church's Super Bowl party could violate NFL rules | The Stealey Assembly of God church is taking on the National Football League - in its own small way (The State Journal, Charleston, WV)

  • Church shrinks screen and shows the big game | But smaller size seems to have meant a smaller crowd at Southeast (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • NFL bristles as churches embrace Super Bowl | Among those not canceling: Ed Young, senior pastor of Fellowship Church in Dallas, which also has a ministry in Miami. Both locations have big Super Bowl parties planned, and are even giving away tickets to the game (Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR)

  • NFL sacks church Super Bowl parties | Jonesville Baptist Church encouraged members to boycott the game and showed the movie "Facing the Giants" instead (The Gainesville Sun, Fla.)

  • NFL stops church SB parties | River Hills Christian Church cancels (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

  • NFL calls foul on churches' viewing parties | Some local churches that had planned big-screen Super Bowl parties have canceled them or opted to show the game on smaller televisions after learning at the last minute that the National Football League has strict rules on what they can do (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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More on Super Bowl and churches:

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Media, art, and entertainment:

  • Jerusalem Post launches Christian edition | Why is Israel's oldest English language daily courting American evangelicals? Tourism, along with that group's strong support for the state of Israel, has a lot to do with it (Editor & Publisher)

  • Take that, Pharaoh! Bible dolls all mighty | Don Levine, the man who created GI Joe, is now introducing "Almighty Heroes," a collection of biblical action figures that includes Old Testament heroes such as Moses, Samson, David and Noah (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Five questions with Mr. Hymn | From an early age, Chris Tomlin says he set out to write songs people would want to sing along to. Now, at age 34, the Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter is among the most-sung artists in the world (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)

  • Also: Christian music star doesn't crave praise | Scrutiny "can wear on you at times" (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • New York label launches Christian music division in Nashville | New York-based Koch Records has launched Kosmos Records, a Nashville-based Christian music division (Nashville Business Journal)

  • Avant God | Troupe bases play on local religious climate (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)

  • Believers and doubters, inspired by the Word | The omissions of works by blacks, Latinos and younger artists keep "Biblical Art in a Secular Century" from making a cogent case for the 20th century as either secular or religious (The New York Times)

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  • Prison for MySpace perv | He's also sentenced to read Arterburn's Every Man's Battle (The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.)

  • Blame Satan! | Chris Hedges sees hypocrisy, violence on Christian Right (Bloomberg)

  • Hip puritan sex | In his latest book, Rob Bell gives a slick makeover to some old truisms and prejudices about sex (Astrid Storm, Soma Review)

  • Whose God is it anyway? | The renewed debate about the role of religion in Australian political and cultural life turns on a series of untested assumptions. David Burchell reviews Australian Soul by Gary Bouma (The Australian)

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John Edwards's bloggers:

  • Unholy hire | The anti-Catholic rants of John Edwards's blogospherically famous staffer (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online)

  • Catholics slam bloggers hired by Edwards | Catholic League cites posts that the women made on blogs in the past several months in which they criticized the pope and the church for its opposition to homosexuality, abortion and contraception, sometimes using profanity (Associated Press)

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Barack Obama:

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John McCain:

  • McCain recruits social conservative operative | Guy Rodgers, a former national field director for the Christian Coalition, will serve as deputy director of McCain's "Americans of Faith Coalition," the Arizonan's exploratory committee announced Monday (CNN)

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Mitt Romney:

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Other 2008 candidates:

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  • World's churches go green and rally to cause | Dire warnings from top scientists that mankind is to blame for global warming set off alarm bells everywhere -- but many of the world's churches have already "gone green" in the race to save the planet (Reuters)

  • The greening of the world's religions | Religious institutions have come to tackle daunting social issues like abolition and civil rights. Now a new, great challenge summons them: environmental crisis (Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

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  • Earlier: Church blasts 'treasonous' coup as police arrested | Fiji's Methodist Church, the country's largest religious denomination, issued a statement condemning the December 5 coup as illegal and "treasonous" (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Church silent on politics | The Methodist Church in Fiji does not want to comment on any issue concerning politics at the moment (Fiji Times)

  • Earlier: Church backs statement | The president of the Methodist Church in Fiji, Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca, had sighted and approved a press statement before it was released to the media, says church spokesman Rev Iliesa Naivalu (Fiji Times)

  • Fiji Methodists retract coup criticism | Fiji's influential Methodist Church has withdrawn a statement issued in its name last week attacking the military takeover and President Iloilo (Radio New Zealand)

  • Methodist Church withdraws 20 point resolution | The Methodist Church of Fiji has withdrawn the 20 point resolution released last week regarding the interim administration and the armed takeover on December 5th. Church General Secretary, Reverend Ame Tugawe said the decision was made yesterday after senior church executives said that the resolutions were not endorsed by the church standing committee (FijiVillage.com)

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War and terrorism:

  • Bishop Sentamu slams UK over detention of terror suspects | In a twist of political and moral irony, a Ugandan-born priest has blamed Britain's anti terror laws for turning the country into a "police state" not different from the dark days of the late dictator Idi Amin's government (The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Bali bomber taught Poso militants from jail — police | An Indonesian convicted of plotting the 2002 Bali bombings was able to give guidance from jail to Muslim militants in the troubled Poso region, a police statement submitted to parliament showed on Monday (Reuters)

  • Jesus loves Bali victims | Theologically, the newly installed Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, is correct. As Christ proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount, Christians should pray for those who persecute them. But Dr Freier's judgment in supporting churches who have put up signs saying, "Jesus Loves Osama", is seriously flawed (Christopher Bantick, Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia)

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  • Brazilians' arrest focuses scrutiny on evangelical groups | Estevam Hernandes-Filho and his wife, Sonia -- who oversee more than 1,000 churches in Brazil and several in Florida--were under house arrest in Miami, accused of carrying more than $56,000 in undeclared cash (The Washington Post)

  • Also: Brazil church leaders plead not guilty | A Brazilian couple accused of plundering millions of dollars from their evangelical church pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that they illegally smuggled $56,000 in cash into the United States (Associated Press)

  • Also: Couple pleads not guilty to currency smuggling | Megachurch leaders' supporters, including two men wearing hooded sweatshirts and jackets, linked arms around the couple as they hurried out of the courthouse. The group rushed the pair into a gold Chevrolet SUV that bore a sticker saying ''God is Faithful'' across its dark tinted windows (The Miami Herald)

  • In Kenya's capital, a sense that danger is ever stronger | A missionary's slaying illustrates that Nairobi, once a favorite playground for Westerners in Africa, is spinning out of control (The New York Times)

  • Ruling: Man arrested for cursing at meeting should get day in court | The Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2005 U.S. District Court decision that held Montrose Township police officer Stephen Robinson had probable cause to arrest Thomas Leonard, who used the word "goddamn" while addressing the township board in 2002 (Associated Press)

  • FBI agents go to Haiti in kidnapping | Nathan Jean-Dieudonne, 58, a U.S. citizen of Haitian descent, was abducted Sunday afternoon as he and three others drove home from church in Croix-de-Bouquets, a suburb of Port-au-Prince (Associated Press)

  • Suicidal monk has wrestled with past | The Catholic monk who stepped in front of a train Tuesday in Elkhorn had joined the Benedictine order partly to atone for a dark past: He murdered his 3-year-old daughter in 1976 (Omaha World-Herald, Neb.)

  • Church assault 911 call | The 911 call from the night Father George Chaanine allegedly attacked a choir singer (KVBC, Las Vegas)

  • Church of convicted pastor owes thousands in tax bills | Agape could lose half of its land if debts aren't paid (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Cutting Edge: Godless in America | This part-detective story revolves around America's No.1 atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Why my lovesick son shot his pastor | Mvusi Dondolo, 30, was so desperately in love with a woman at his church that when she spurned him he decided to kill himself. But after four failed attempts the tormented young man found a gun and went on the rampage, killing the very pastor he had earlier turned to for help (Helen Bamford, Cape Argus, South Africa)

  • Ministers asks community to unite at shooting victim's funeral | Boston ministers and family members of a youth slain in Dorchester today urged the city's black community to embrace and support its young men (The Boston Globe)

  • Sheriff enlists faith groups to help curb crime in Avery | Inmates in the 20-bed jail could get counseling from clergy or simply a promise of help for their families, as they wait for trial (Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)

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  • Ex-pastor gets death | Jurors sentenced Adrian Estrada to die in what's believed to be the first death penalty handed down under Texas' 2003 fetal protection law (San Antonio Express-News, Tex.)

  • Also: Texas man gets death for killing fetus | A former youth pastor was sentenced to death Wednesday for killing a teenager and her fetus in what is believed to be the first such order in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state (Associated Press)

  • Legal legacy | There's an unsung hero in the story of bringing clergy abuse to light: the plaintiff's lawyer (The Boston Globe)

  • Judge says priest files must be released | A judge Tuesday ordered the Roman Catholic Church to release insurance records and confidential files related to a priest who had been convicted of molestation before being transferred to California (Associated Press)

  • Ex-Norwich pastor receives 10 years | Charles Johnson Jr., the former head of the Norwich Assembly of God, was convicted of first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor for having inappropriate contact with a former church member who was 9 or 10 years old (Norwich Bulletin, Ct.)

  • Man arrested here in Pennsylvania sex assault case | Gerald Klever was the assistant pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, from 1977 to 1983 (Tucson Citizen, Az.)

  • Also: Ex-Delco pastor arrested in Arizona | Gerald L. Klever, formerly of Springfield's First Presbyterian, faces 1970s sex-abuse charges (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Remnant Fellowship murder case:

  • Remnant Fellowship tape could be evidence | On the tape, Sonya Smith talks with Gwen Shamblin, the founder of Remnant Fellowship, about what she learned from church leaders about child discipline (WTVF, Nashville)

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  • Church arson suspect held in jail | Evan Walgren, the woman charged with burning a Gulf Road house that has been serving as a pagan church, will be in jail until a Feb. 12 hearing on whether she is dangerous (The Republican, Springfield, Mass.)

  • Christians' tour bus set on fire | The caravan was parked by Franche Evangelical Church in Kidderminster at the time of the attack on Sunday. Luggage belonging to the Canadian Life-Force group was also destroyed (BBC)

  • Pastor wants plea deal for arsonists | The Rev. Jim Parker doesn't think the three former college students responsible for destroying his church a year ago should serve time in an Alabama state prison (Tuscaloosa News, Ala.)

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Money and business:

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Church life:

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Florida tornadoes:

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  • Anti-Semitism sermon title rankles Maine Jews | The title of the sermon, "The Only Way to Destroy the Jewish Race," appeared in an advertisement for the First Baptist in the church announcements section of Saturday's Portland Press Herald (The Boston Globe)

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Other stories of interest:

  • Will Pope Benedict become a Mormon after he dies? | The Church says it cannot stem the tide of dead baptized in its own temples (Reuters)

  • In Damascus, religions, cultures, and worlds collide | The 'Eternal City' is the original crossroads of commerce, culture, and religion (Good Morning America, ABC)

  • As church shows its age, bard is still the rage | It is a familiar story in England, where hundreds of centuries-old churches, left largely devoid of worshipers by a modern trend toward secularism, need hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of repairs (The Washington Post)

  • Ugandan warrior priestess laid to rest | Alice Lakwena, a Ugandan warrior priestess who led an insurgency in the 1980s and claimed to have spiritual powers to protect her fighters from bullets by anointing them with oil, was laid to rest at a funeral attended by several hundred followers (Associated Press)

  • Bless this church | Welcome to the Universal Life Church. You are to be ordained at our Modesto world headquarters. Congratulations. And remember: do only that which is right (Los Angeles Times)

  • Shuttered windows to the soul | We can know what people are prepared to say as a result of their religious beliefs, but what they understand by their words is another question (Andrew Brown, The Guardian, London)

  • The benefit of doubt | Doubt is not paralysis. Certainty is. Doubt keeps the doors and windows open. Belief is one room with no way out. Don't look to have life explained to you, presented to you. Live the life that emanates from your interior greatness (John Patrick Shanley, The Boston Globe)

  • With God on their team | A child growing up in 1940s Ireland soon learned that there were Catholic sports and Protestant sports. Play croquet and you were forever doomed (Frank McCourt, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

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