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Can Public Schools Ban Churches from Renting Space?

Plus: European court rules against mandatory religious education, abortion politics in Sweden, and other stories from online sources around the world.

1. A messy decision, ripe for the Supreme Court
Bronx Household of Faith wanted to rent space for Sunday morning worship at Public School 15 in New York City. The city refused, saying allowing church services would suggest endorsement of that church. Like many cases of this kind, it's had a long, messy history in the court system. Monday, it got messier. The three judges on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals each reached very different conclusions.

"Our disparate views of this case leave us without a rationale to which a majority of the court agrees. While two judges who disagree on the merits believe the dispute is ripe for adjudication, the court cannot decide the merits of the case without the vote of the third judge, who disagrees as to ripeness," the court ruled.

The fractured judgment "could provide the U.S. Supreme Court with its next big establishment clause case," The New York Sun concluded. "The case likely prompted such division because of the question, more theological than legal, at its center: What is worship?"

In its 2001 case Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the court said a school district couldn't discriminate against an extracurricular Christian club if it allowed other extracurricular clubs. But "the federal high court appeared to draw a distinction between religiously oriented lessons and outright worship," the Sun notes, so Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York would allow the Supreme Court to go into more detail on what's acceptable.

2. Sheldon Jackson College suspends operations
The Presbyterian college in Sitka, Alaska, is $6 million in debt, so it has suspended operations for a year "to determine a financially viable future."

3. European Court of Human Rights rules against Norway's mandatory religion classes
Ten years ago, seven families sued Norway over its mandatory religious education classes in elementary school. They lost on the local level, the appellate level, and at Norway's Supreme Court. But Friday, the European Court of Human Rights said the requirement violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Notwithstanding the many laudable legislative purposes associated with the introduction of [the religious education curriculum] in the ordinary primary and lower secondary schools, Norway could not be said to have taken sufficient care that information and knowledge included in the curriculum be conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner for the purposes of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 [of the convention]."

4. Sweden's Christian Democrats may split over abortion
Elsewhere in Scandinavia, members of Sweden's Christian Democrat party may break away to form a new political party over a dispute about the country's abortion law. The party's leader, Göran Hägglund, supports the country's liberal abortion laws and even worked to allow "abortion tourism" in the country. But others in the party, including Per Kronlid, told the Christian newspaper Dagen, "There must be a party which dares to stand" for unborn children. The Christian Democrats currently hold 24 of the Swedish parliament's 349 seats, and is a key part of the coalition government.

5. Iowa's InnerChange program okay for now
The Prison Fellowship program at the Newton Correctional Facility can continue with private funds for another 12 months as it appeals last year's federal court ruling that it violates the establishment clause. "Our donors are willing to step up and keep the program in operation," Prison Fellowship vice president Norman Cox Jr., told the Des Moines Register. "It will continue without state funding, but we are pleased to be able to do that, and we are pleased with the success the program has enjoyed."

Prison Fellowship's contract with the prison ends on June 30, 2008, and state officials say they will be taking bids from other organizations for a "values based" program.

Quote of the day
"[It] has the whiff of ethnic cleansing."

— From a resolution approved by the city council of Buffalo, New York, protesting the local Catholic diocese's decision to close and merge several city parishes. After widespread criticism, including an editorial in The Buffalo News, several lawmakers said they'll demand changes to the resolution. But council president David A. Franczyk, who drafted the bill, stands by his wording.

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Education | Sheldon Jackson College shuts | Higher education | Church and state | Fargo's Ten Commandments | Politics | Patriotism | Life ethics | 2008 campaign | Supreme Court | Alabama prays for rain | Prison ministry | Missions and ministry | Islam | Middle East | Zimbabwe | Mungiki | Crime | Daniel McCormack abuse cases | More abuse | Church life | Catholicism | Catholicism and China | Buffalo closings | Latin Mass | Anglicanism | Homosexuality | Sex and marriage | God's judgment? | Australia | Spirituality | Other religions | Mormonism | People | Money and business | Entertainment and media | Books | Other stories of interest


  • Appeals panel splits three ways on church-state suit | The city's policy of barring churches from holding Sunday services in public schools could provide the U.S. Supreme Court with its next big "establishment clause" case, given the fractured judgment rendered by a federal appellate court in Manhattan yesterday (The New York Sun)

  • Muslim prayers in school debated | S.D. elementary at center of dispute (San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Pair of fledgling Christian schools scramble for fall | Two Christian groups are starting small high schools from scratch in south St. Louis County, offering no-frills educations based around the Bible and tuitions that are lower than most larger private schools (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Parents won appeal against mandatory religious education | The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that mandatory religious classes (KRL) in Norwegian public schools violate Article 2 of the European human rights convention (Norway Post)

  • Also: Parents won fight against mandatory religious class | Parents who sued the Norwegian state 10 years ago over mandatory religious classes in public schools could finally claim victory on Friday. The European Court of Human Rights narrowly ruled in their favour (Aftenposten, Norway)

  • Chastity ring sparks British teenage sex debate | A high court battle between a schoolgirl and her head teacher over the right to wear a purity ring pledging her to virginity until marriage has reignited debate in Britain about how to make sex education effective (Reuters)

  • School bans anti-abortion T-shirt | A teenage mother has been banned from wearing an anti-abortion T-shirt to her secondary school in Aberdeenshire (BBC)

  • Bishop rejects MLC's call to end school religious instruction | A call by Greens MLC John Kaye to end religious instruction in public schools has met with a firm rebuttal from Catholic Bishop Julian Porteous (Australian Broadcasting Corp)

  • Court's ruling won't limit Christian hate speech | The Christian Right is concerned that yesterday's Supreme Court decision on student speech will restrict high-schoolers' ability to spread anti-gay messages. But they've got nothing to worry about (Sarah Posner, The American Prospect)

  • Religious education should be free | What America needs is a healthy infusion of values, which can only come from a values-based education. But due to the brick wall that has been constructed between church and state, public schools have been prevented from teaching the social values that are the hallmark of a religious education (Shmuley Boteach, The Jerusalem Post)

  • State officials blur church, state line | In Hoover, the public high school football team's opportunity to play a nationally televised Sunday game was disallowed by the private Alabama Athletic High School Association because "Sunday is a day of worship." (Chris Boles, The Tuscaloosa News, Ala.)

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Sheldon Jackson College shuts:

  • Sheldon Jackson to close for a year | Sitka college cites financial troubles (Juneau Empire, Ak.)

  • Sheldon Jackson suspends operations | "We simply do not have the cash to sustain Sheldon Jackson College in its current form," David Dobler, president of the college, said in a statement (Inside Higher Ed)

  • Sheldon Jackson College announces temporary closure | The Board of Trustees of Sheldon Jackson College, a small, Christian liberal-arts institution in Alaska, has voted to suspend academic operations for a year, in order to put the college on firmer financial footing (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

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Higher education:

  • Suit: Student sexually assaulted by coach, punished by university for speaking up | A basketball player for Trinity International University claims she was sexually assaulted by her coach last season and then punished by the school after reporting it (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Pennies for heaven | Religious student groups lean on the law, with mixed success, to get colleges to finance their activities (The Chronicle of Higher Education, sub. req'd.)

  • When prayer reaches the locker room | Iowa State University is embroiled in a controversy over whether its football team — at the request of its head coach — should be allowed a spiritual adviser (Inside Higher Ed)

  • At CUNY, religious studies, or religion? | The City University of New York Board of Trustees approved the creation of a religious studies major at Medgar Evers College on Monday, over the objections of CUNY faculty leaders who said the new program would blur the separation of church and state by focusing not on the study of religion but on the practice of certain religions (Inside Higher Ed)

  • Complicated legal win for Notre Dame | A complicated legal dispute involving separation of church and state, management of federal grants, and the right to sue may now be decided based on that last question, one of standing, and the University of Notre Dame could benefit (Inside Higher Ed)

  • Judge rules against Ky. evangelist in free speech suit | An evangelist who preaches at campuses nationwide has lost his initial bid to speak at Murray State University in western Kentucky (Associated Press)

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Church and state:

  • Church demands fee refund | It's not every day that a church shows up in force at a Columbia County Commission meeting, demanding money back from government officials (Augusta Chronicle, Ga.)

  • Tensions flare after aldermen vote against religious group | Aldermen killed a proposal for a religious group to take over the former OSF Saint Joseph Hospital during a short but tension-filled City Council meeting Monday night (Rockford Register Star, Ill.)

  • Plain duck breeder wins case | A Lebanon County Mennonite farmer will not be required to have a federal identification number in order to continue doing business, according to terms of a settlement with the state Department of Agriculture (Lebanon Daily News, Pa.)

  • Bush's church-state mess takes liberties with ours | By pouring billions of dollars into religiously affiliated social service providers, Bush will have accomplished precisely what the nation's founders warned against: a process by which people of many faiths and none at all are forced through compulsory taxation to underwrite other people's religious activities (Robyn Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)

  • Group tries to quash religious speech | If Americans United believes that Bishop Tobin broke the law by simply criticizing Giuliani, then its own past criticism of politicians may be illegal as well (Dimitri Cavalli, The Providence Journal, R.I.)

  • America free from religion? We all need its foundation | There are dangers in excessive government entanglement with religion, but there also are benefits in supporting proven, grass-roots programs that deliver needed services in an efficient manner (David Briggs, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  • Greece's government urges Israel to recognize Greek Orthodox patriarch | The Greek government is urging the State of Israel to immediately recognize Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox patriarch ahead of an Israeli High Court ruling on the appointment this fall, a senior Greek official said this weekend (The Jerusalem Post)

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Fargo's Ten Commandments:

  • Marker to stay on mall | The Fargo City Commission on Monday reversed its decision to move the Ten Commandments monument off the City Hall mall and took the first step toward cementing the marker's location in city law (The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

  • Politics poisons monument debate | The interests arrayed on the so-called "right" side of the debate—to keep the granite commandments monument on public property—are more political than faithful (Jack Zaleski, The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

  • We must ask hard questions | Red River Freethinkers offered a second monument to honor the new library. We did not request the removal of the present one. (Davis Cope, The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

  • Universal, unchanging truths embodied in commandments | The laws expressed by the Ten Commandments are basic principles accessible to all human reason, in spite of the fact that these laws have their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition of divine revelation (Jan George, The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

  • Arguments illogical and angry | I find Fargoans' resistance to this latest piece of political correctness and mealy relativism refreshing, if probably futile in the long run (Ross Nelson, The Forum, Fargo, N.D.)

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  • Hearing set on nominee Holsinger | A U.S. Senate committee plans a July 12 confirmation hearing to decide whether Kentucky's former top health official should become the nation's next surgeon general (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Senate panel approves reduced AIDS foreign aid | Senate Democrats are cutting President Bush's marquee foreign aid program to help emerging democracies and funneling more money to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis around the world (Associated Press)

  • Poll shows liberal ideas gaining with young people | Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage. (The New York Times)

  • Churches see their mission to care for creation | Anglican, Catholic and other denominations are trying to address concerns about environmental challenges caused by global warming (The New Zealand Herald)

  • Environmentalism: the new death cult? | The New Atheists attack the crumbling churches yet ignore the rehabilitation of backwards religious sensibilities under the guise of green values (Brendan O'Neill, The Guardian, London)

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Life ethics:

  • Is post-abortion syndrome real? | Proponents of grief theory add fuel to debate (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Abortion: A disease it's not | Regret is not a psychological disease, and saying that abortion leads to mental illness is just plain irresponsible (Editorial, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Chimera embryos have right to life, say bishops | Human-animal hybrid embryos conceived in the laboratory - so-called "chimeras" - should be regarded as human and their mothers should be allowed to give birth to them, the Roman Catholic Church said yesterday (The Telegraph, London)

  • Scientists: Stem cells created from eggs | Scientists say they've created embryonic stem cells by stimulating unfertilized eggs, a significant step toward producing transplant tissue that's genetically matched to women. (Associated Press)

  • Also: New stem cell could aid research | UK scientists say the discovery of a new type of stem cell should aid research into cures for disease. (BBC News)

  • Couples are 'driven to IVF tourism by ethical disparities across Europe' | Universal European regulations for fertility treatment are needed to reduce legal differences between countries that are encouraging "reproductive tourism", one of the Continent's most senior IVF specialists said yesterday (The Times, London)

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2008 campaign:

  • Edwards, wife split on gay marriage | There's a split in John Edwards' household over gay marriage, but he says his difference of opinion with wife Elizabeth hasn't created any awkward moments. (USA Today)

  • The gospel of Obama | Obama is clearly more fluent on religious issues than most in his party. But to appeal broadly to religious voters, he will need to be more than the candidate of the religious left. (Michael Gerson, The Washington Post)

  • Rudy amid the evangelicals | "America's mayor" stays resolute on terrorism and the war -- but don't even ask him about the A-word. (Salon)

  • Robertson thinks Rudy heaven-sent | Televangelist praises 'outstanding' Giuliani at lecture (New York Daily News)

  • Rudy at Regent | Giuliani gets a standing ovation at Pat Robertson's university (Matthew Continetti, The Weekly Standard)

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Supreme Court:

  • Federal officials see strong outlook for 'faith-based' grants program | At a wide-ranging conference on Tuesday, the federal Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives expressed relief over its recent victory in a Supreme Court case and offered charities advice on collecting data when trying to prove that their programs solve problems for the needy (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

  • Supreme Court term shows shift to right | Conservatives won twice as often as they lost on the Roberts-led court (Associated Press)

  • High court remains politically divided | More 5-4 rulings mark shift to right (The Boston Globe)

  • A disappointing term | President Bush's nominees give the Supreme Court an activist nudge to the right (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • The 5-4 court | Consensus and 'judicial modesty' lose out to muddled, half-reasoned decisions. Kennedy emerges as the swing vote. (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • The Roberts court | Three Supreme Court rulings this week show the difference President Bush's two pivotal court appointments have made. (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  • Guilty of confusion | When it comes to providing legal and ethical leadership, the high court's latest opinions failed us (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

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Alabama prays for rain:

  • Say a little prayer for us | Alabamians shouldn't be surprised by their governor's plea for divine intervention in the weather. Turning to prayer is very much in keeping with Gov. Bob Riley's character (Editorial, Mobile Press Register, Ala.)

  • Update: Rain answers parched state's prayers | Praise the Lord, it rained (Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.)

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Prison ministry:

  • Deal lets prison keep Bible program | Faith-based treatment in Newton must operate on donations (Des Moines Register, Ia.)

  • A day at church with Camp 9 inmates | The Rev. John Spinner gets buzzed through Camp 9's chain-linked front door on the first Sunday of each month, with a Bible in his hand and a choir in tow. For 22 years, Spinner, evangelist James Welch and a choir have ministered to Camp 9 inmates through song, scripture and sermon (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

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Missions and ministry:

  • Messianic group's touchy mission | Renewed D.C. campaign of Jews for Jesus brings out the counter-leafleters (The Washington Post)

  • Palau puts Omaha Christians in festive mood | Close to 3,000 people have signed up to serve as volunteers at the Luis Palau Heartland Festival, scheduled for July 14 and 15 outside the Qwest Center Omaha. Organizers are seeking 1,200 more volunteers (Omaha World-Herald, Neb.)

  • Also: Palau festival to run entirely on local money | The Luis Palau evangelical Christian festival coming to Omaha next week will cost $1.75 million, and to John Kotouc, it's worth it (Omaha World-Herald, Neb.)

  • Well-orchestrated evangelism | Mass evangelism has been a combination of one part sincere effort, one part entertainment, one part smoke and mirrors and, too frequently, one part personal aggrandizement, professional and financial. (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Finding refuge among the pews | Faced with deportation, the Razas found sanctuary in a Winnipeg church. A growing number of congregations are opening their doors to those they believe Canada's refugee system has overlooked (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Churches look at drugs, HIV/AIDS | "They're going to listen to you," said D.C. Health Department Director Gregg A. Pane. "They're going to listen to their preachers." (The Washington Times)

  • Laura Bush: religious groups key to aid | First lady Laura Bush promoted the role of faith-based organizations in combating disease in Africa as she launched an anti-malaria campaign in Zambia on Thursday. (Associated Press)

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  • Vatican to back moderate Muslims | The newly appointed head of the Vatican office that specializes in relations with Muslims pledged Wednesday to back the moderate forces within Islam to improve dialogue and help defeat extremist groups that encourage terrorism. (Associated Press)

  • Bush asks Muslims to hit terror | President Bush yesterday challenged Muslim leaders to do more in denouncing Islamist terrorism and also announced that he will name a special envoy to the world's diplomatic body of Muslim states.

  • Also: Bush to name envoy to Islamic Conference | President Bush announced Wednesday he will establish an envoy to a coalition of Muslim countries, with hopes of bolstering ties to the Islamic world and improving the image of the United States. (Associated Press)

  • Christians convert to Islam | Just as some Muslims have converted to Christianity, young Christians have also abandoned their faith to embrace the teachings of Islam. (WOFL, Orlando)

  • Judge orders man to leave Irvine mosque alone | Worshipers say they reported him to authorities after he asked to become a convert and began talking about jihad (Los Angeles Times)

  • Sultan - We must counter Christians | The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Saad III yesterday vowed to counter the upsurge of Christian evangelization in Nigeria with the message of Islam (Daily Champion, Nigeria)

  • Religiosity, not radicalism is new wave in Indonesia | A conservative tide is challenging the moderate traditions of the world's most populous Muslim nation, where as many as 50 communities have adopted Shariah regulations (The New York Times)

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Middle East:

  • Egypt agrees to consider case of Christian converts | Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court Monday agreed to hear the appeal of Coptic converts to Islam seeking to legally revert back to Christianity, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said (Middle East Times)

  • Also: Egyptian court accepts appeal of Christians to reclaim religious identities | An Egyptian court accepted an appeal Monday from 45 Copts who were denied the right to reclaim their religious identities after they decided to convert back to Christianity from Islam, a lawyer and court officials said (Associated Press)

  • Gaza's Christians | To propose that organizations like Hamas be recognized as peace partners and responsible caretakers of the people over whom they rule sends the message that it is okay to tell Christians and other minorities that they can kiss freedom goodbye, pack up, and get out (Elwood McQuaid, The Jerusalem Post)

  • Sojourners for Hamas | A columnist for Jim Wallis's "Religious Left" journal excoriates the U.S. and the opponents of Hamas as ultimately responsible for ascendant Islamic radicalism in Gaza. (Mark D. Tooley, FrontPageMagazine.com)

  • Thrown to the lions | The painful death of Iraq's Christian community (Doug Bandow, The American Spectator)

  • Saudi religious police faces backlash | Trials threaten to undermine the authority of the force's employer, the powerful, independent body called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Associated Press)

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  • Brutal Kenyan sect aims to provoke strife | Although the Mungiki claims thousands of members, it is difficult to say how widespread the sect is, much less what it is: the dying embers of a more violent 1990s Kenya or perhaps a sign of the growing urban poverty afflicting cities across Africa (The Washington Post)

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  • Muslim guerrillas in Philippines halt search for kidnapped Italian priest | Hundreds of Muslim guerrillas have pulled out of a search for a kidnapped Italian priest in a mountainous southern region of the Philippines after an accord allowing them to operate with government troops expired, the rebels said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Churches mourn members' violent deaths | A female choir leader and a male church warden from Brunskog Church were both killed in what police suspect was a murder followed by a suicide. The pair were also active in nearby Mangskog Church (The Local, Sweden)

  • DA to seek new trial in 4 church slayings | Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the convictions from 2000, saying District Judge Alvin Turner's pretrial rulings prevented Miller from exercising his right to plead not guilty by reason of insanity (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

  • Leaders of 5 faiths decry violence in name of religion | Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Jews meet in Indonesia, where they urge others around the world to practice tolerance (Los Angeles Times)

  • Former HealthSouth CEO headed to prison | In asking U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to spare him from prison, the 54-year-old Richard Scrushy portrayed himself as a humble man of God who did nothing wrong. "I'm just a pastor," Scrushy said (Associated Press)

  • Also: Ex-HealthSouth CEO Scrushy sentenced to prison | Ousted HealthSouth Corp. Chief Executive Richard Scrushy, acquitted two years ago in a major corporate fraud case, and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman were both sentenced to prison on Thursday for bribery (Reuters)

  • Ex-Bangor pastor to serve jail time for theft from church | The man who founded and led what became one of the region's largest churches was sentenced Monday in Penobscot County Superior Court to five years in prison with all but six months suspended for pilfering thousands of dollars from the congregation (Bangor Daily News, Me.)

  • Ex-officer to testify in church fraud case | A former Chandler police officer accused of aiding suspects in the Nakami Chi Group Ministries state fraud case has agreed to testify against them (The Arizona Republic)

  • Archdiocese sues nun, family | The Omaha Archdiocese has sued a nun and several of her family members in an effort to recover some of the $820,000 that church leaders allege Sister Barbara Markey stole from the Catholic Family Life Office (Omaha World-Herald, Neb.)

  • Hovind gets 1 year in prison | Wife sentenced in tax-evasion case (Pensacola News Journal, Fla.)

  • Church prays for accused soldier | Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, a 1998 Enka High School graduate, is being held in Kuwait on murder charges after three Iraqi nationals were found dead with weapons planted on their bodies to make them look like combatants, according to the U.S. military (Asheville Citizen-Times, N.C.)

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Daniel McCormack abuse cases:

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More abuse:

  • Records show Vt. church knew of child sex abuse | The statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington received dozens of reports of Alfred Willis acting out sexually in Burlington, Montpelier, Milton and places out of state (Rutland Herald, Vt.)

  • Church scandal | Documents brought to light in the latest sex abuse lawsuit against the Roman Catholic diocese of Burlington reveal a disturbing and familiar failure by church leaders (Editorial, Rutland Herald, Vt.)

  • Just to be sure, diocese is checking all volunteers everyone | The screening is a response to a national mandate adopted five years ago by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But to many volunteers it seems like a draconian response to the priest sex-abuse scandal (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Ex-youth minister is arrested in sex assaults | A former Camarillo church youth minister has been arrested on suspicion of child molestation and sexual assault of three teenage girls and possession of child pornography on his home computer, authorities said Friday (Los Angeles Times)

  • The church scandal that won't end | It's disheartening to Catholics that these cases continue, five years after the reports of priestly sexual abuse broke in Boston and tore through communities across the country (Roger Chesley, The Virginian-Pilot)

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Church life:

  • Focus on justice as Hillsong changes its tune | With themes of unity, courage, justice and freedom, this year's opening of the annual Hillsong conference had the ring of a United Nations convention rather than a church gathering (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Religion Today: The 'other' Baptistsy | They're America's other Baptists - the ones who appoint women pastors, work with theological liberals and line up more closely with President Carter than with President George W. Bush. (Associated Press)

  • For a master class on global worship, it's destination Queens | An international group of seminary professors traveled to Flushing recently for a conference on how congregations and cities affect one another (The New York Times)

  • Church controversy | When worshipers came to the Gun Creek Church of Christ Sunday morning, they found padlocks on the doors and a no trespassing sign (WYMT, Hazard, Ky.)

  • Drawing youth with graffiti | Keeping it real, church brings San Francisco tagger to Lakeland (The Lakeland Ledger, Fla.)

  • Condemning a church's properties | Two-decade campaign to get dilapidated buildings repaired gains momentum (The Washington Post)

  • Church bells take toll on neighbourhood | Some New Zealand parishioners will need to set their alarms tomorrow morning after local authorities ruled their church bell was too noisy to be rung for the early Sunday morning service (Australian Broadcasting Corp)

  • Bad advice hurting churches | Pews of religions which compromise their theology are quickly emptying (Ted Byfield, Calgary Sun)

  • A calling unlike any other | While I can explain some parts of this mysterious activity called preaching the word, I would be the biggest fool of all to pretend that I understand it even though I've been preaching for a little over 40 years (Harry J. Heintz, Albany Times-Union, N.Y.)

  • Churches worship to new beat | The pounding of drums is heard not only in contemporary worship but also in more traditional settings (Jim Jones, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Praise music flunks | If it is meant to attract church-goers, is there any hope for their aesthetic soul? (Lawrence Henry, The American Spectator)

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  • Polish church reports secret police ties | Documents in secret police files showed about a dozen bishops still alive had ties to Poland's communist-era secret services, a Roman Catholic Church commission said Wednesday. (Associated Press)

  • Also: Polish Church unveils informers | The Roman Catholic Church in Poland has said that about one dozen of the country's 132 bishops were registered as informers during the communist era. (BBC News)

  • Are there really 64 million U.S. Roman Catholics? | That's what the 2007 Official Catholic Directory, due out this week, will say. (USA Today)

  • Trainers want $50m to move from Randwick | Horse trainers at Royal Randwick will ask for about $50 million in compensation from the organisers of World Youth Day to hold the five-day religious festival at the racetrack next year (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Also: Tax funds for Pope tour | Acting Premier John Watkins flagged using taxpayer funds as part of a "shared" compensation payment to the Australian Jockey Club to cover its losses for halting its racing activities for up to 10 weeks (The Daily Telegraph, NSW, Australia)

  • Polish court orders eviction of rebel nuns | The 64 nuns took over the convent in 2005, rejecting the Vatican's decision to replace their mother superior, who had taken decisions she said were based on religious visions and had upset other nuns. (Reuters)

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Catholicism and China:

  • Pope urges Chinese Catholics to unite | Pope Benedict XVI made his most significant attempt to unite China's 12 million Catholics Saturday, urging the underground faithful and followers of the state-run church to overcome decades of animosity and distrust (Associated Press)

  • Pope says China "suffocates" faith, urges dialogue (Reuters)

  • Pope seeks to heal China rift | His open letter offers compromises and urges the nation's official and unauthorized Catholic churches to unify (Los Angeles Times)

  • Chinese church official attacks cardinal | A Catholic leader in China reproached a Hong Kong cardinal for marching in a pro-democracy protest, saying such political activism is why Beijing is reluctant to let the Vatican appoint Chinese bishops, a report said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Beijing removes papal letter to Chinese church from web | Several Chinese Catholic portals uploaded the letter in simplified Chinese after its publication, but government officials "convinced" them to remove it. All the same, the letter reached the community of the faithful through different channels (AsiaNews.it)

  • China Church welcomes Pope letter | A senior official from China's state-run Catholic Church has welcomed a letter from Pope Benedict to the authorities in Beijing (BBC)

  • Pope rallies split Chinese flock | Pope Benedict has addressed a message of reconciliation to millions of his faithful in China, whose loyalties are divided between Rome and Beijing (BBC)

  • The Pope reaches out to China | Months in the making, the letter is seen as the public cornerstone in Benedict's China policy, which may turn out to be more active — and perhaps more fruitful — than his predecessor's (Time)

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Buffalo closings:

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Latin Mass:

  • Pope explains revived Mass | The text of a "Motu Proprio" (papal decision) regarding the revival of a controversial Latin mass will be made public this week, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Vatican officials stressed that the current text, which formerly called Jews "perfidious," contains no derogatory reference to Jews (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Pope to relax policy on old liturgy | Letter will advise bishops on Tridentine Mass, said in Latin (The Washington Post)

  • Latin Mass may damage Catholic-Jewish relations | When celebrated in the traditional format that is favored by some conservative Catholics, the Good Friday liturgy contains a passage stating that Jews live in "blindness" and "darkness" and asking God to "remove the veil from their hearts." (The New York Sun)

  • Catholics retain hope for Latin Mass revival | While some said the pope's decision would vindicate their desire to celebrate the more traditional Latin Mass, others who ended their ties with the Vatican over this issue say that would not be enough to lure them back (The Baltimore Sun)

  • For a tiny Queens church, a smile from Rome | Our Lady of La Salette is a traditionalist church, where Mass has been delivered in Latin even as Rome turned to vernacular languages for its rites (The New York Times)

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  • Church ordered to forfeit property | Panel rules the Episcopal Diocese of L.A. has the right to claim St. James' property as a result of its split from the diocese (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Also: Parishioners pray for church | St. James' attorney may file appeal after Tuesday's ruling gave parish property back to Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Also: Church dissidents lose property appeal (The New York Times)

  • Who should get church property? | Do you think a congregation should be allowed to hold on to its church after splitting from a denomination? Local religious leaders respond (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

  • Local church case echoes Calif. suit | Attorneys in Episcopal split disagree on influence (The Gazette, Colorado Springs)

  • Pastor, flock face ouster | Episcopal diocese claims property of parish that defected (The Hartford Courant, Ct.)

  • Episcopal Diocese sues Attleboro dissidents | The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, faced with the prospect of conservatives bolting the denomination over its support for gay rights, is taking a newly tough stance against would-be schismatics, filing suit to freeze the bank account of a breakaway group in Attleboro (The Boston Globe)

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  • 3 former leaders of ex-gay ministry apologize | They cite psychological harm they caused gays as the ministry, Exodus International, meets in Irvine. (The Los Angeles Times)

  • Also: Former ex-gay ministry leaders apologize | Three former leaders of a ministry that counsels gays to change their sexual orientation apologized, saying although they acted sincerely, their message had caused isolation, shame and fear. (Associated Press)

  • Formerly gay Christian discusses his 'Exodus' | Exodus International holds its annual meeting Tuesday. Alan Chambers, head of the organization, describes his "choice to come out of homosexuality," and his life as a husband and father (Day to Day, NPR)

  • 'Cool Church' teachings on gays decried as 'uncool' | Leaders of a growing local congregation that advertises itself as "The Cool Church" are telling their parishioners that being gay will take 30 years off a person's life, prompting accusations that they are perpetuating "really uncool, deeply homophobic" lies (Arizona Daily Star)

  • Failed applicant sues bar examiners over test question on gay marriage | A Massachusetts bar examination applicant who claims he failed the test because he didn't answer a question about homosexual marriage and parenting is suing the test administration agency, the state Supreme Judicial Court and four individual justices for constitutional violations (The National Law Journal)

  • Civil union laws don't ensure benefits | Same-sex N.J. couples find that employers can get around new rules (The Washington Post)

  • Church pours scorn on love | Warships and hamsters can be blessed, but not a loving pair of women or men (Mark Abley, The Toronto Star)

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Sex and marriage:

  • One 'traditional' church wedding, and 18 openings to say, 'I do' | The group wedding will bless the unions of those who have been living together but were not married in the Catholic Church (The New York Times)

  • For Your Marriage | Catholic bishops' ad campaign to strengthen marriage focuses on simple day-to-day gestures (Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.)

  • Church blasts premarital sex proposal | The Omaha Archdiocese has severed ties with a Jesuit university's family center after two researchers urged the church to allow unmarried couples to live together and have sex and children as long as they are engaged. (Associated Press)

  • To be happy in marriage, baby carriage not required | Children rank as the highest source of personal fulfillment for their parents but have dropped to one of the least-cited factors in a successful marriage, according to a national survey (The Washington Post)

  • 25% of virgins 'ignore safe sex' | More than a quarter of people in the UK do not use contraception when they lose their virginity, a survey has claimed (BBC)

  • The shelf life of bliss | The seven-year itch? It may be down to three. (The New York Times)

  • Women unable to negotiate for safe sex | The Catholic Church has reiterated its opposition to the use of condoms at a recently concluded HIV/Aids conference. But the Anglican Church, led by Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, has called on discordant couples to use condoms (East African Standard, Kenya)

  • Marriage, trademarked | How to understand—and answer—the claim that same-sex marriage demeans the institution (Kenji Yoshino, Slate)

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God's judgment?:

  • Floods are judgment on society, say bishops | The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops (The Telegraph, London)

  • When is a bishop like a suicide bomber? | The Bishop of Carlisle's expressed the view that the recent floods in the north of England were a sign of God's displeasure, not only at our environmental fecklessness but also at our wilful refusal, as a society, to discriminate against homosexuals (Thomas Sutcliffe, The Independent, London)

  • The face | Bishop Dow is that rare creature who believes it all. He is a charismatic evangelical (The Times, London)

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  • Hispanic reformation | The number of Spanish-speaking evangelicals is growing, in Wichita and across the U.S. (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

  • Professing and practicing not the same | American spirituality is a mile wide but only an inch deep. (The Kansas City Star)

  • Shrine | St. Paul's is a shrine, the closest thing America has to a pilgrimage site (Newsweek)

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Other religions:

  • True or False: The major religions are essentially alike | Understanding real religious diversity—the undeniable differences demarcated by religious boundaries—is essential to understanding the powerful role that religious beliefs, practices and institutions play in the world today (Stephen Prothero, Newsweek)

  • The final days | A growing community of amateur scholars believe that the world as we know it will come to an end in 2012, as prophesied by the ancient Maya. Is the New Age apocalypse coming round at last? (The New York Times Magazine)

  • Indian govt turns to Wiccan queen to save girls | Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, a Wiccan and social activist, has been nominated by the Indian government's National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions to head a panel tasked with improving the status of young girls, they said (Reuters)

  • Also: Black magic women | Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, the wellknown Wiccan of our country, is all set to step into the world of films (The Times of India)

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  • Mission metamorphosis | The LDS Church announced this week that it had called its 1 millionth full-time missionary, but declined to name the candidate who gave the church its symbolic success (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Pro-Romney website dispels Mormon myths | Ryan Bell is worried about the "weird" factor (Politico.com)

  • Anti-Mormonism gets personal | Thirteen years after Mitt Romney's first political campaign, anti-Mormon hostility isn't so inhibited (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)

  • A Mormon in the White House | I believe that many Mormons are Christians as broadly defined by historic markers of Christian faith. That does not mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christian. (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)

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  • The Rev. Joel Hunter is part of a new generation of evangelical leaders | In the past 18 months, he has become emblematic of a new generation of evangelical leaders: younger mega-church pastors putting a kinder, gentler face on a conservative religious movement known for strident and sometimes divisive rhetoric (The Orlando Sentinel)

  • Missing O.C. priest, companion found dead | The two disappeared more than three weeks ago as they toured the west. Their car was found Sunday at the bottom of an embankment (Los Angeles Times)

  • MegaFest takes an indefinite break | MegaFest, the colossal Atlanta religious event created by Bishop T.D. Jakes, will remain on hiatus for a second year (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Sinéad's quiet return | The former pop star is mounting a spiritually informed, low-key comeback. (The Orange County Register)

  • Also: Nothing compares | If prodded, most music fans will admit to an inexplicable soft spot for one artist. Sinéad O'Connor, here comes a confession (Los Angeles Times)

  • Bruce R. Kennedy dies at 68 | Alaska Airlines leader gave up his job to do humanitarian work (Los Angeles Times)

  • The Right Rev Maurice Wood dies at 90 | Bishop of Norwich who was outspoken in his conservatism and was an ally of the US evangelist Billy Graham. (The Times)

  • Bill Moss dies at 76 | Member of prominent gospel music family started Celestials (Los Angeles Times)

  • Diabolical debate | Did Jemima Khan really do all that for love? (The Scotsman)

  • The modern evangelist | Ruth Bell Graham was a powerful force for Christ in her own right (Fr. Jerome Vereb, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Grahams understood fundamentals of Christian faith, religious doctrine | That Billy Graham refused to fall into the fundamentalist sideshow is quite likely a tribute to his wife, whom he knew to be deeply spiritual and committed to his evangelistic calling as her calling, too (Beth Pratt, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Tex.)

  • How my father changed history | Sir David Steel talks to Maureen Paton about the church minister seen as a dangerous subversive for speaking out against Britain's brutal suppression of the Mau Mau revolt (The Telegraph, London)

  • Darwin's defense of missionaries | A new report says those who label him anti-religion are wrong. The 19th Century English biologist famous for his theory of evolution supported Christian missionary work his entire adult life, reports Mark Graham (USA Today)

  • Christians protest over Eritrea | A service has been held in London to protest against the treatment of the head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. (BBC)

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Money and business:

  • Union-dues exemptions broadened | Judge Gregory L. Frost's ruling, issued Thursday, broadens the category of employees who may opt out of unions because of religious beliefs. Ohio law held that only Seventh-day Adventists and Amish Mennonites may do so (The Columbus Dispatch, Oh.)

  • Plastic replaces passing the plate | Growing number of churches taking credit, debit offerings (The Dallas Morning News)

  • In God's hands or the pastors'? | How can congregants be sure their money supports the causes they intended? The answer: They can't. (The Tampa Tribune, Fla.)

  • South Korean bank creates credit card for Protestant ministers | The Industrial Bank of Korea launched 'I am a Pastor' card on Friday mainly to help clergy members who do not qualify for regular credit cards because they have irregular incomes (Associated Press)

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Entertainment and media:

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  • 'Harry Potter' and the Gospel of J.K. Rowling | I had never read a "Harry Potter" book until three months ago, when a hopeful editor buttonholed me with a plea: Would I, a religion reporter, write about religious imagery in the series? (Jeff Diamant, Religion News Service)

  • Inferior design | In his second book, Michael Behe turns to genetics to poke holes in Darwin's theory. Richard Dawkins reviews The Edge of Evolution (The New York Times)

  • The least among us | The economist Paul Collier has some ideas about how to improve the lot of the world's poorest countries. Niall Ferguson reviews The Bottom Billion (The New York Times)

  • Keepers of the faith | A scholar finds that in ancient Greece, religion meant power for women. Steve Coates reviews Portrait of a Priestess (The New York Times)

  • AIDS in Africa: Rising above the partisan babble | It is a testament to the strength of Helen Epstein's new book that the one scientific goof she makes actually matters relatively little. Abigail Zuger, M.D. reviews The Invisible Cure (The New York Times)

  • The case against God | Acerbic Christopher Hitchens lays on the verbal lashes. James Cortese reviews God is Not Great (Houston Chronicle)

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