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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Accuses Priest Critic of Adultery

Plus: Whether evangelicals can recover from a Catholic's fall, the escalating cost of abuse, and many other stories from online sources around the world.
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Today's Top Five

1. Zimbabwe government attacks Pius Ncube, its chief critic
Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube has been heralded around the world for his brave opposition to Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. Last month, he made headlines for saying Britain would be justified in invading the country to oust Mugabe. "We should do it ourselves but there's too much fear. I'm ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready," he told the London Times.

In that same interview, Ncube noted that Mugabe had spent millions of dollars on surveillance equipment. "How can you expect people to rise up when even our church services are attended by state intelligence people?"

Now Mugabe is saying that some surveillance equipment caught Ncube in an extramarital affair. Government run newspapers this week published hidden camera photos purporting to show Ncube with a married woman. The woman's husband is reportedly suing the archbishop for Z$20 billion (about $82.7 million in the official exchange rate; but more like $180,000 on the actual black market rate).

Ncube so far isn't saying much in response. "I will not answer this question concerning my private life," he told the state-run television service. "Yes, I did take a vow. There are a whole lot of other circumstances that take place in a person's life. I would not be able to answer those items." He also said, "We all have weaknesses. That's why when we pray we ask God for forgiveness."

Sounds bad, but Ncube's attorney says the archbishop will deny the allegations in court, and The Times of London, at least, is skeptical. "The only photographs indisputably of Archbishop Ncube picture him alone. Others are blurred, and one — allegedly of him standing naked — does not appear to resemble him at all," the paper says.

Mugabe, meanwhile, is smug about the photos, which ran in his Zimbabwe Herald under the headline, "Pius Ncube Shamed."

"I can also do what Pius Ncube did, but I never vowed to remain celibate," he told reporters, smiling, as he attended a televised state funeral. (Mugabe's affair with his secretary is rather notorious.) "Having vowed to remain celibate before God, please keep your faith, my friend. This business of taking other people's women is not a good game."

2. Speaking of sex scandals
Washington is still talking about Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who admitted committing "serious sin" when he was tied to a reported prostitution ring.

"The first reaction one should have is not laughter, but sadness, sadness for him, his wife and their four children," says columnist Cal Thomas. "The second reaction is how could he have been so stupid? … Not all sins are exposed in this life, but the higher the profile, the more likely exposure will occur, especially if it involves our national preoccupation with sex."

Over in The Washington Post, Pamela Druckerman argues, "The changing way we treat politicians' infidelity reflects the changing way we handle such affairs in our own lives. … The country may have caught up with the Clintons. The latest thinking from therapists and religious groups is that affairs need not be a marital death sentence."

But perhaps the oddest piece comes in Newsweek, as Susannah Meadows interviews Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The deck: "How does news of an outspoken Christian senator's fall from grace play in the evangelical community?" The first question: "As an evangelical, what is it like for you when yet another story breaks about a self-righteous, 'family values' Christian caught cheating on his wife with another woman or man?" Later questions:
"What was the conversation like among evangelicals when the news broke about Vitter?" "Do you cringe when you hear fellow evangelicals moralizing?" And most astoundingly: "Is the movement damaged to the extent that people might leave the church?"

The article doesn't mention one important detail: David Vitter is a Roman Catholic. [Update: Newsweek changed the introduction to describe Vitter as a "devout Catholic." Earlier, it identified him only as a devout Christian.] Why interview Cromartie and not, say, George Weigel?

3. Los Angeles diocese abuse cases settled for $660 million
That's "$1.3 million per person involved," The New York Times notes. The Associated Press notes that the payouts for all American dioceses now total more than $2 billion.

4. British court: Church of England must hire gay youth workers
Church of England Bishop of Hereford Anthony Priddis was wrong not to hire John Reaney as a youth worker, an employment tribunal ruled Wednesday. Reaney had stated on his application that he was gay and had been in a homosexual relationship, but that he was not then in a relationship and did not intend to enter one.

After interviewing Reaney for two hours, with several questions about his past relationship and sexuality, Bishop Priddis decided not to hire him. Reaney's behavior, he explained, "had the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese."

Reaney sued, and his lawyers argued that a heterosexual candidate would not have been asked the same questions. The tribunal apparently agreed, and ruled "The respondents discriminated against the claimant on the grounds of sexual orientation." (The full decision has not yet been made public.)

Bishop Priddis stands by his decision. "I regret the polarisation of view that tends to take place when these things happen," he said at a press conference. "I took the decision after a great deal of thought and prayer and anguish. If there had been a stability of life then I would have taken a different view, but there wasn't. I don't normally ask anybody about their sex lives. Mr Reaney raised the issue, not me."

The case is one of several important U.K. court decisions we've been watching this week. In another, a student lost in her effort to wear a chastity ring to school. A judge ruled that the "Silver Ring Thing" ring was not an integral part of her Christian faith, as head scarves are in Islam.

In the other case, the Christian Union at Exeter University lost its case against the school's students' guild, which had suspended the club and froze its back account because the Christian Union required its members to sign a statement of faith. An independent adjudicator said the Christian Union's rights were not violated.

5. WSJ: Why Christianity is making a comeback in Europe
It's not just immigrants, some scholars told The Wall Street Journal in a provocative piece this week. "As centuries-old churches long favored by the state lose their monopoly grip, Europe's highly regulated market for religion is opening up to leaner, more-aggressive religious 'firms.' The result, [the scholars] say, is a supply-side stimulus to faith. … The enemy of faith, say the supply-siders, is not modernity but state-regulated markets that shield big, established churches from competition."

This thesis, like the earlier sociological theses on why Christianity "died" in Europe, leaves little room for the Holy Spirit. But it's definitely worth reading and pondering.

Quote of the day
"Not one time did Jesus refer to pornography, or homosexuality. Jesus could have commented. He didn't."

— Porn star Ronald Boyer, who told The New York Times he is now pursing a priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno says Boyer "is not in any process for ordination in The Episcopal Church … and so far Mr. Boyer has taken none of the steps that would make him a viable candidate for ordination."

More articles

Crime | Los Angeles diocese abuse settlement (news) | Los Angeles diocese abuse settlement (opinion) | Other abuse stories | Sexual ethics | Vitter | Zimbabwe | Electric pastor and Uganda crackdown | Africa | Anglicanism | Church of England discrimination case | Silver Ring Thing case in U.K. | Education | India | Church and state | Church building disputes | Religious freedom | Speech case in Alberta | Politics | 2008 election | 2008 election and abortion | Abortion | Life ethics | Immigration, asylum and travel | Middle East | Christians United for Israel rally | Islam | Russia | China and the Vatican | Vatican statement on Catholic supremacy | Latin Mass | More Catholicism | Denominations | Church life | Missions and ministry | Money and business | Entertainment and media | Harry Potter | Books | Art | History | People | Atheism | 20/20 on hell and universalism | Other stories of interest

Crime:

  • Religion in the news: Church cops | Frustrated with widespread drug abuse — especially of easily accessible prescription painkillers — a handful of mountain churches are moving away from their traditional role as a refuge for the poor and addicted. Now they're more interested in law enforcement (Associated Press)

  • Apartheid enforcer facing trial over plot to kill church leader | A former police minister in South Africa's apartheid regime is to stand trial accused of a plot to kill one of President Mbeki's top aides 18 years ago (The Times, London)

  • Also: 'Apartheid minister' to stand trial | Adriaan Vlok and four other former police officials have been charged with attempted murder in connection with an alleged 1989 plot to kill the Rev. Frank Chikane, now a top aide in President Thabo Mbeki's office (Associated Press)

  • Pastor's son charged in killing of his sister | Former Monroe United Methodist Church pastor Scott Carlson has lost one family member to death, and possibly another to the criminal justice system (The Monroe Times, Wis.)

  • Cops: Parents tried to exorcise teen's 'demons' | Authorities were investigating an unusual case after police found the daughter of an Edgewater city councilwoman screaming, bruised and claiming her parents tried to perform an exorcism on her (The Orlando Sentinel)

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Los Angeles diocese abuse settlement (news):

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Los Angeles diocese abuse settlement (opinion):

  • Prevent future tragedies | L.A. archdiocese should have to reveal more details on its abusive priests (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • Open the archdiocese's archives | After agreeing to a $660-million settlement for victims of sexual abuse, the church should also shed light on some church documents (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

  • A settlement in Los Angeles | In announcing a $660 million settlement for more than 500 victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles tried to soothe the turbulent waters with conciliatory oil (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • In Los Angeles, still a scandal | The agreement keeps Cardinal Roger Mahony from testifying at a trial -- but ought to prompt him to consider whether the needs of the Los Angeles Archdiocese would be best served by his resignation (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  • More than money | What the victims, their families and other Catholics want, beyond financial compensation, is transparency, a conciliatory attitude from church leaders and the kind of hard-nosed reforms that would ensure that this kind of abuse won't happen again (Editorial, USA Today)

  • Paying for abuse | The church must continue to confront this issue and come clean - not only with past victims, but with itself - in order to prevent more abuse (Editorial, The Baltimore Sun)

  • No salvation | The only thing left is for the truth to finally emerge: all the files, reports, police paperwork, et al. that spell out the secret crime spree against generations of children. (Editorial, Los Angeles City Beat)

  • Mahony needs to restore his credibility | The Cardinal has made an apology on behalf of the church, but when is he going to take personal responsibility for his misdeeds? (Editorial, Daily Breeze, Los Angeles)

  • Imperfect apology | This should be an opportunity to move beyond the sordid scandal of priestly abuse. But it isn't, and that's because lacking is a key ingredient: contrition (Editorial, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ca.)

  • What wasn't discussed at Mass | At a Catholic church service Sunday, news of the $660 million abuse settlement goes unmentioned (Carl Marziali, Los Angeles Times)

  • A 'window' for victims of abuse | Historic legislation from Sacramento allowed abuse victims to take legal action against the Los Angeles Archdiocese (Marci A. Hamilton, Los Angeles Times)

  • Protecting Mahony was church's cardinal objective | So, on the eve of being called to testify in the first L.A. clergy abuse trial, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony settled with 508 claimants for a staggering $660 million, the largest such settlement in the entire country. Was anyone surprised? (Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times)

  • Mahony's tainted legacy | Many priests' sex crimes will stay secret, but now some victims can rest (Jeffrey Anderson, LA Weekly)

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Other abuse stories:

  • Order to release financial data has LDS Church, courts on collision course | Oregon justices rule in 'home teacher' sex abuse suit (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Catholic Church steady despite scandals | The sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church that rocked Boston six years ago and rippled across the country before the latest after-shock in Los Angeles does not appear to have markedly thinned the church's ranks or the money it takes in (Reuters)

  • Should the Vatican pay for abuse? | Depending on the subject at hand, the day-to-day running of the worldwide Catholic Church can resemble either a sort of centralized sacred politburo or a loose confederation of autonomous dioceses. If you prefer a business model, it's top-down management vs. franchising. (Time)

  • Vatican pledges to fight pedophilia | The Vatican said Tuesday it would lead the fight against pedophilia, but said the problem was not limited to the Catholic Church and that other institutions should take responsibility (Associated Press)

  • Also: Sexual abuse not just a Catholic problem: Vatican | Sexual abuse of children is not just a Catholic Church problem and other institutions should take steps to acknowledge and deal with such "wickedness" within their own ranks, the Vatican said on Tuesday (Reuters)

  • Church 'better at tackling abuse' | The way sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is tackled has improved but reforms have alienated some clergy, an inquiry has found (BBC)

  • Catholics 'must do more to stop sex abuse' | Five years after the introduction of sweeping reforms to try to stop sexual abuse, the Roman Catholic Church has been told that it needs to do more (The Times, London)

  • Catholic church's anti-abuse chief quits on eve of scathing report | Eileen Shearer, the director of Copca - the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in England and Wales, an independent body set up by the church five years ago - has resigned 'to pursue other interests in child protection' (The Observer, London)

  • Insurance for sex abuse | A policy tailor-made for the Catholic Church (Michelle Tsai, Slate)

  • Boys' moms rip priest, church | Say McCormack's sentence too light, his protectors kept jobs (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Also: Priest's sentence called 'not enough' | The mothers of two boys abused by Rev. Daniel McCormack said Tuesday that they are relieved the priest is behind bars but that a 5-year sentence does not do justice to the crimes he committed against their sons. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Six Miami Archdiocese priests face sex abuse suits | New lawsuits alleging sexual abuse were filed against six Catholic priests, and a separate suit involving a priest linked to Mark Foley was settled (The Miami Herald)

  • Also: Settlement in abuse case of Foley priest | The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami has settled a lawsuit in which a former altar boy claimed he was sexually abused by the same priest accused by former Congressman Mark Foley (Associated Press)

  • Just how saintly was John Paul II? | This rush to canonize is either a testament to the worldwide renown and affection for the late pontiff, or an end-run, that ignores his tepid, or, at best, inadequate reaction to the scandal of clergy abuse (David McGrath, Chicago Sun-Times)

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Sexual ethics:

  • Ordination spurned in gay row | A Church of England curate is refusing to be ordained by his diocesan bishop because he objects to the bishop's support for a group campaigning for equal rights for homosexuals within the church (The Guardian, London)

  • Sex and the conservative | Social conservatives appear unusually permissive these days (Dana Milbank, The Washington Post)

  • 'I do'? Knot so fast | Wedding gridlock at churches means wait of up to a year (Chicago Sun-Times)

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Vitter:

  • The Vitter effect | How does news of an outspoken Christian senator's fall from grace play in the evangelical community? Assessing the fallout with Michael Cromartie (Newsweek)

  • Senator apologizes for sex scandal | A Republican U.S. senator who admitted to "serious sin" after he was linked last week to a Washington escort service apologized for the sex scandal on Monday, but said he will go back to work (Reuters)

  • Our ready embrace of those cheating pols | The changing way we treat politicians' infidelity reflects the changing way we handle such affairs in our own lives (Pamela Druckerman, The Washington Post)

  • Sex and the married senator | While sexual escapades have always been with us, we now seem to have a bipolar approach to such behavior (Cal Thomas)

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Zimbabwe:

  • Mugabe's top critic sued for z$20 billion over adultery | A visibly shaken Archbishop Ncube, who has been at the forefront demonising President Mugabe and the Government, was served with the declaration and summons yesterday morning by the Deputy Sheriff of Bulawayo (The Nation, Kenya)

  • Archbishop in Zimbabwe is accused of adultery | Zimbabwe's state-controlled television broadcast photographs on Tuesday that it said showed President Robert G. Mugabe's fiercest critic, Archbishop Pius Ncube, in bed with a married woman (The New York Times)

  • Did Mugabe's regime fake pictures of the Archbishop 'caught in flagrante'? | The only photographs indisputably of Archbishop Ncube picture him alone. Others are blurred, and one — allegedly of him standing naked — does not appear to resemble him at all (The Times, London)

  • Cameras along as Zimbabwe bishop accused | Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube was named in an adultery case Monday in what his lawyer called an "orchestrated attempt" to embarrass the outspoken government critic (Associated Press)

  • Mugabe to pray for cleric in sex case | President Robert Mugabe said he would pray for Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, an outspoken government critic accused of having an affair (Associated Press)

  • Pius Ncube - Mugabe's distraction of the year | The state has strong reasons for wanting to discredit Pius Ncube and an alleged sexual scandal is the most effective way of silencing their most outspoken critic (Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa)

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Electric pastor and Uganda crackdown:

  • Be patient with born-agains | The public and relevant authorities need more information to understand why there appears to be serious crimes being committed many times in the name of God in these churches (Editorial, The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Accesories to crime in 'church' | It is heard to understand how an elected government can allow such collective conning of the people to go on for so long without subjecting the culprits to the strict terms of the law (Moses Sserwanga, The Monitor, Uganda)

  • Do not blame pastors alone | We attempt to relate with God by relating with the pastor whom we assume is relating with God (Nick Twinamatsiko, New Vision, Uganda)

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Africa:

  • Author Rick Warren visits Uganda | Self-centred leadership is to blame for the failure to fight poverty and disease, author Rick Warren said on Friday (New Vision, Uganda)

  • Also: Rick Warren hails Vision 2020 | Renowned American pastor Rick Warren has praised Rwanda's Vision 2020, a development plan which seeks to transform the country into a middle-income economy by the year 2020 (New Times, Rwanda)

  • Uganda war victims sceptical on talks anniversary | A year of talks between Uganda's government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels has brought relative peace to the north, but the region's war victims are not convinced the conflict is finally over (Reuters)

  • Groups discuss peacekeepers for Africa | The European Union and the United Nations are discussing the possibility of sending an EU peacekeeping force to Chad and Central African Republic for six months to help those affected by the spillover from the Darfur conflict, U.N. diplomats said Friday (Associated Press)

  • You have failed, Njonjo tells church leaders | Former attorney-general Charles Njonjo says the clergy has remained silent in the face of many disturbing trends in the country, yet they had continued to claim society leadership (The Nation, Kenya)

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Anglicanism:

  • Leading conservative: West Newbury rector to become bishop | The Rev. William Murdoch, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, was an early and sharp critic of the 2003 ordination of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire. He's joining the in the Anglican Province of Kenya (The Daily News, Newburyport, Mass.)

  • Grace's paper chase | 'Donation' document from 1929 pledges Grace Church to Denver diocese (Colorado Springs Independent)

  • Don't dismiss the Church of England as wishy-washy | It is an era of growing dogmatism - almost as if the more people believe their identity to be under threat, especially the totems of masculinity, the more they have dogmatically to assert it. (Will Hutton, The Guardian, London)

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Church of England discrimination case:

  • Bishop loses gay employment case | A gay man has won his case for unlawful discrimination after he was refused a youth official's job by a Church of England bishop (BBC)

  • Bishop loses in gay worker case | In a move which could have major repercussions on the Church of England, an employment tribunal has confirmed that John Reaney was discriminated against by the Rt. Rev Anthony Priddis (Hereford Times, England)

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Silver Ring Thing case in U.K.

  • UK girl loses battle over chastity ring | A teenage girl banned from wearing a chastity ring in class lost a legal challenge Monday against her former school (Associated Press)

  • Schoolgirl loses "purity ring" battle | Lydia Playfoot, 16, says her silver ring is an expression of her faith and had argued in court that it should be exempt from school regulations banning the wearing of jewellery (Reuters)

  • 'Chastity ring' girl loses case | Miss Playfoot said the ruling would "mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith" (BBC)

  • Girl loses legal fight over 'chastity ring' | Deputy High Court judge Michael Supperstone said today that the ring was not an integral part of the Christian faith and upheld the school's right to enforce its uniform policy (The Times, London)

  • Chastity ring teenager loses High Court fight | Lydia Playfoot argued that the school authorities were violating her right to 'freedom of thought, conscience and religion' (The Telegraph, London)

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Education:

  • Birth of clean town: Ave Maria | On Saturday, the town will open its doors to the public. Next week, Ave Maria University will move from its cramped quarters in Naples to a permanent campus here, which sits on what used to be about 1,000 acres of tomato plants (USA Today)

  • Allegations plague Texas Christian School | Principal says effort to shut it down, claims of grade fixing are misguided (Houston Chronicle)

  • Update in anti-evolution case: Were Colorado "death threats" actually threats? | The reason why the police have not named Michael Korn as a suspect in the threats against University of Colorado evolution biology professors is probably not because they're not sure if Korn sent the messages, but because it's not clear whether the letters actually represent threats (Wired News)

  • Faith, funds & the city | Can you tell the difference between a youth soccer league organized by a church and a youth soccer league organized by a religious school? Neither can we - but, according to the Bloomberg administration, funding the church league is fine, while funding the religious-school league would violate the First Amendment (David Yassky & Hiram Monserrate, New York Post)

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India:

  • Reservation sought for Christians in jobs, education | A delegation of the Puducherry Catholic Laity Forum, led by Vicar General of Archdiocese of Puducherry and Cuddalore Very Rev. Msgr P.Antonisamy, presented a memorandum to Chief Minister N. Rangasamy on Tuesday urging him that Christians be sanctioned 13 per cent quota of reservation in jobs and education (The Hindu, India)

  • TN announces reservations for Muslims, Christians | In the midst of a raging controversy over the Supreme Court's stay on the 27 per cent reservation for OBC students in the elite educational institutions, the Tamil Nadu government on Thursday announced an 'exclusive reservation' for Christians and Muslims in government services and educational institutions (PTI, India)

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Church and state:

  • Jewish inmates say Torah now banned | Fearing Muslim 'radicalization' in prisons, feds limit number of religious books (The Jewish Week of New York)

  • West Point grad sues Army for discharge as conscientious objector | The ACLU said Brown comes from a religious family, but had not felt the conflict between his faith and military service until after his graduation, when he attended a civilian religious education center in Holland and began to examine Scriptures and his beliefs in greater depth (Mid-Hudson News, Middletown, N.Y.)

  • Also: West Point grad sues for objector status | A West Point graduate serving in Iraq is suing the Army to gain conscientious objector status, saying his religious convictions prevent him from carrying a loaded weapon or ordering his men to kill (Associated Press)

  • U.S. backs churches in atheist fight | The U.S. Department of Justice has waded into a legal brawl between a national atheist group and the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, which pledged $734,570 in grants to three historic churches in a major downtown face-lift in time for the 2006 Super Bowl (Detroit Free Press)

  • City dedicates historic plaza | This morning, the city of Casper will dedicate a new historic monument plaza made up of six large, granite monuments that include the Ten Commandments (Jackson Hole Star-Tribune, Wy.)

  • Nativity battle brewing in Berkley | City voters will get a chance in November to decide whether they want the city to display a nativity scene and other holiday symbols on City Hall property for the Christmas season (Daily Tribune, Royal Oak, Mi.)

  • House snubs Egan | Congress' cardinal sin (New York Post)

  • Chavez: Catholic Church losing backing | President Hugo Chavez criticized Venezuela's Roman Catholic leaders on Monday for condemning his plans to rewrite the constitution, saying the church is losing support in this politically divided nation because priests are meddling in politics (Associated Press)

  • Bishop in Paraguay runs for president | Fernando Lugo's candidacy for the Paraguayan presidency not only tests the church's strict prohibition on clergy seeking political office, it also challenges the country's established elites (Associated Press)

  • Asking churches to do state's job has dangers | Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen's newly created Faith-Based Community Initiative Program is arguably more about politics than the provision of social services (Editorial, Concord Monitor, N.H.)

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Church building disputes:

  • Church gets $1.2 million in settlement | Attorneys for the city have dropped a Supreme Court appeal and paid more than $1.2 million to a church that was denied permission to open up a new sanctuary on Main Street (The Californian, Temecula, Ca.)

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Religious freedom:

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Speech case in Alberta:

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Politics:

  • Religious leaders threaten to shut down Illinois House | More than 100 religious leaders from the Chicago area are threatening to take over the Illinois legislature if lawmakers fail to pass a state budget in the next week (WLS, Chicago)

  • Knollenberg staff seeks reprimand of activist for religion comments | U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg is taking exception to a comment made by an Oakland County activist about his religion—and his staff is calling on Gov. Jennifer Granholm to do something about it (Detroit Free Press, Mi.)

  • Campaign contributions change priorities, not beliefs | Sure, there are always going to be sleazy politicians who think of donations as bribes. But these are the exception, not the rule (The Washington Post)

  • Dr. Dodgy | A surgeon general nominee does little to quell concern about a paper on gay men (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Outsourcing Justice? That's obscene | Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's Justice Department has put a privatized eye on American morality (Stephen Bates, The Washington Post)

  • Founders respected all religions | In his notes on the Virginia statute, Jefferson specifically argued that Hinduism and other faiths would be afforded the full protection and privileges of the act (John Nichols, The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.)

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2008 election:

  • Poll deems Romney most religious of all White House hopefuls | Many pundits have said that presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith will be a hindrance to his 2008 bid, but a new poll shows that voters believe he is more religious than any of the other contenders out there (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Romney faces skepticism | Romney remains characteristically upbeat on the Mormon question, and about visiting Dobson's turf (The Denver Post)

  • Romney, no rum, & Mormonism | Faith and forthrightness (Joshua Treviño, National Review Online)

  • Mormons in Congress not flocking to Romney's side | 4 of 16 have endorsed him in presidential race (Deseret Morning News, Ut.)

  • Romney's pornography dilemma | The headline in the New York Times reads "Romney Criticized for Hotel Pornography," which makes it sound as though the Republican presidential candidate had been caught watching dirty movies in his hotel room (Robert T. Miller, First Things)

  • Things we don't have to know | The amazing thing is that Clinton, after turning down requests for months, granted the half-hour "quiz" into her religious convictions. A "none of your business" answer would have served just as well (Colbert I. King, The Washington Post)

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2008 election and abortion:

  • Democrats attack Bush on women's health issues | Candidates expressed commitment to reversing the Bush administration's approach to abortion rights, judicial appointments, sex education and contraception (The New York Times)

  • Obama, Clinton slam court on abortion ruling | Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama criticized recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions as hypocritical and inconsistent on Tuesday, saying a ruling upholding a late-term abortion ban was part of a concerted effort to roll back women's rights (Reuters)

  • Giuliani: Abortion not a test for judges | Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a proponent of abortion rights, said Wednesday he would not use a judicial nominee's stand on the issue or the landmark Supreme Court decision as a litmus test (Associated Press)

  • Democrats pledge support for wide access to abortion | Elizabeth Edwards said Tuesday that her husband's health-care plan would provide insurance coverage of abortion (Chicago Tribune)

  • Records show ex-senator's work for family planning unit | Records show that former Senator Fred Thompson worked on behalf of a group seeking to ease rules on abortion counseling, though he has said he did not recall doing so (The New York Times)

  • Hungering for Thompson | A week after reports emerged suggesting that the former Tennessee senator once lobbied for an abortion rights group, few leaders of the GOP's conservative wing have expressed concern (Politico.com)

  • Richardson would have abortion 'litmus test' for court nominees | New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said that if he was elected president he would require all of his US Supreme Court nominees to uphold the Roe v. Wade abortion decision (The Boston Globe)

  • Riding the antiabortion tide | Opposing abortion has become a shorthand way of siding with the simple values of the American heartland against the permissive attitudes of the two coasts. (Peter S. Canellos, The Boston Globe)

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Abortion:

  • Abortion pill facilities shortage | A shortage of facilities for women wanting an abortion pill means some are paying privately or having invasive terminations, the BBC has learned (BBC)

  • India seeks register to curb abortions | Indian women would be required to register their pregnancies and seek government permission for abortions under a proposal intended to curb abortions of female fetuses in the country, where boys are traditionally preferred (Associated Press)

  • La. bans late-term abortion procedure | Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed legislation Friday that penalizes doctors who perform a late-term abortion procedure, making Louisiana the first to outlaw the surgery since a similar federal ban was upheld this year (Associated Press)

  • 2 arrested in disruption at church | An abortion protester from Arizona was arrested Sunday after he went to communion and then began reading Scripture from the pulpit of the church attended by George Tiller, who performs late-term abortions (The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

  • The politics of stillbirth | A new movement seeks to award special certificates to fetuses that are stillborn, but pro-choice advocates worry that this is yet another step toward fetal personhood that could endanger abortion rights (The American Prospect)

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Life ethics:

  • Your gamete, myself | Using donor eggs for in vitro fertilization is one of the fastest-growing infertility treatments today. But women struggle with many questions as a result of it (The New York Times Magazine)

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Immigration, asylum and travel:

  • Religious visa workers fear program overhaul | Some groups critical of proposed regulations intended to reduce fraud (The Washington Post)

  • Christian group in asylum seeker call | The Home Office was under pressure today to reform the way Christian asylum seekers are treated following complaints about "ludicrous" questioning from immigration officials (Western Mail, Wales)

  • How the Government tests for faith | The Evangelical Alliance, one of the most powerful groups of Christians in the UK, has today called for a series of reforms to the way Christian converts seeking asylum on religious grounds are treated by the immigration authorities (The Times, London)

  • Death threat to woman 'ignored' | An Iranian who says she will be killed by Islamic fanatics in her native country should be able to stay in Britain because the Government failed to consider a death warrant issued against her in May, her supporters said yesterday (The Telegraph, London)

  • Update: Saved: Christian woman who faced being stoned to death | A woman who faced being stoned to death in Iran for the "crime" of becoming a Christian was granted a reprieve last night when Britain postponed her deportation (Daily Express, U.K.)

  • Church offers refuge to illegal immigrants | Saying she believes today's immigration laws are "broken," a Simi Valley pastor will be the first in Ventura County to open her church to illegal immigrants facing deportation (Los Angeles Daily News)

  • Group asks congregations to aid immigrants | Effort to house illegal workers at churches is growing (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • Need a passport in a hurry? Good luck | You can pay extra for expedited service from the State Department, but there are no guarantees. You can ask for an appointment at a passport center, but you may not get one. You can ask your congressman to intervene. Or you can hire a private expediter (Associated Press)

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Middle East:

  • Nazareth wants world's largest cross | The world's largest cross will be built in the Israeli Arab town of Nazareth in an attempt to draw millions of Christian tourists to the boyhood town of Jesus, according to an initial private building plan under consideration, officials said Sunday (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Last rites in the Holy Land? | The world's most ancient Christian communities are fleeing their birthplace (Newsweek)

  • Biblical destruction | Israeli and Palestinian authorities are failing to protect the Temple Mount (Hershel Shanks, The Wall Street Journal)

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Christians United for Israel rally:

  • Christian Zionists: Ahmadinejad is new Hitler | Christians United for Israel call on US to attack Iran immediately, move US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as sign of support (YnetNews, Israel)

  • Pro-Israel Christians mobilize in D.C. | "Tell the people in Israel," Gary Bauer said to Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor, "that we are praying that they never give up — even under American pressure. Never give up even one centimeter." (Forward, Jewish newspaper)

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Islam:

  • Radicalism among Muslim professionals worries many | Some scientists and analysts say that some fervent Muslims are using science as a reinforcement of religious belief (The New York Times)

  • "Count the religious differently" | At the moment anyone whose parents were born in an Islamic country are counted as Muslim. Even if a person distances himself from his religion, he is still counted as Muslim (Expatica, Netherlands)

  • The first openly Muslim priest | The highest purpose of interfaith dialogue is not to create some strange hybrid religion that reconciles two faiths that make competing truth claims (Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, First Things)

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Russia:

  • Old Believers sect fears for homes | The Russian city of Sochi can relish its victory in the race to host the 2014 Winter Olympics but some local residents fear for their homes ahead of large-scale construction work (Reuters)

  • Novel faiths find followers among Russia's disillusioned | In Russia, millions of people returned to the Orthodox Church after seven decades of state suppression of religion, but hundreds of thousands of others sought new faiths for new times (The Washington Post)

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China and the Vatican:

  • China nominates bishop, threatening Vatican rift | China's state-controlled Catholic church has quietly nominated a new bishop for Beijing and the priest chosen said the government would decide whether to seek approval from Rome as Pope Benedict demanded (Reuters)

  • New Beijing bishop praised by Vatican | Despite not being chosen by the pope, the new Beijing bishop is a "very good" candidate, the Vatican said Wednesday — further evidence of the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to reach a compromise with China over the contentious nomination of bishops (Associated Press)

  • Official: Beijing Catholics choose bishop candidate | A senior official in China's state-sanctioned Catholic church on Thursday confirmed Beijing church leaders have selected a new bishop but said the candidate still requires the approval of the country's other 59 bishops (Associated Press)

  • China Church 'chooses new bishop' | China's state-controlled Catholic Church has reportedly nominated a new bishop for Beijing, threatening to damage fragile ties with the Vatican (BBC)

  • China picks bishop, tests Vatican tie | The official Beijing diocese chooses a low-profile parish priest. It's a guess whether Rome will assent (Los Angeles Times)

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Vatican statement on Catholic supremacy:

  • Brilliant marketing | New motto of Catholic Church: 'We're the real thing' (Ian Robinson, Calgary Sun)

  • There are Catholics and then everyone else | When the Vatican issued its controversial document last week, it may have put painstaking efforts for rapprochement at risk (Waveney Ann Moore, St. Petersburg Times)

  • A caste system for Christians | The Pope's reaffirmation classic case of an institution painting itself into a corner and being officially unable to find its way out (N.T. Wright, On Religion)

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Latin Mass:

  • Latin leaves priests at a loss | Pope Benedict may want more of his flock to have the chance to hear mass in Latin. But there is a snag. Not many of his priests know enough of the language to hold a service in it (The Guardian, London)

  • Vatican may drop prayer offensive to many Jews | Church official suggests possibility of substitution (Reuters)

  • Pope's latest moves setting church apart | You don't have to be paranoid to see the return of the Latin mass as a powerful sign of what is to come: a full-bodied campaign by the Vatican to bolster the monarchical, authoritarian claims of the church (Robert McClory, Chicago Tribune)

  • Mix realism with humility | There have been suggestions, echoed uncritically in the media, that there is some kind of new Catholic initiative for the conversion of Jews, and that Jewish-Catholic relations are regressing. This is completely incorrect (David Rosen, The Jerusalem Post)

  • The Pope has given Catholics a choice | Every Catholic can now choose whether he or she wants to pray utilizing liturgy that is associated with antisemitism, or cast away that practice entirely in favor of praying in a way that is more respectful of other faiths. (Michael Barclay, Forward, Jewish newspaper)

  • Mass confusion, or the rite stuff? | Will Latin services restore the lore and mystery of Catholic worship? (Michael McGough, Los Angeles Times)

  • The language of tradition | The pope brings back the Latin Mass (Raymond Arroyo, The Wall Street Journal)

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More Catholicism:

  • Vatican actions worry some in other faith traditions | Documents released in recent days raise fears that the pope is steering his church away from interfaith dialogue that opened up in the 1960s (Los Angeles Times)

  • Pope Benedict's mistake | Pope Benedict XVI last week issued two unexpected decrees, restoring the atavistic Mass of the Council of Trent and resuscitating an outmoded Catholic exclusivism -- the notion of a pope-centered Catholicism as the only authentic way to God (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)

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Denominations:

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Church life:

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Missions and ministry:

  • Also: A Katrina survivor stands fast in her faith | A surprising number of Katrina survivors say their faith in God has only grown stronger (USA Today)

  • That old-time religion | In a democracy, shouldn't one believer's perceived obligation to evangelize end where another's right to be left alone and "unsaved" begins? (Carol Towarnicky, Philadelphia Daily News)

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Money and business:

  • The joe of salvation | Messiah Lutheran Church's "journeys" drive-through coffee café -- the first such venture in the Saginaw Valley -- is the latest twist on reaching the masses. (The Saginaw News, Mi.)

  • Vonage faces suit for religious discrimination | An Orthodox Jewish man has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Vonage, the telephone giant headquartered in the township (Sentinel, Edison, NJ)

  • Don't invest money based only on faith | When it comes to business, Christians can pray for success, but they should make sure there's a sensible business plan and a written agreement, too (Brent Castillo, The Wichita Eagle, Kan.)

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Entertainment and media:

  • Religious groups protest against 'porn' | Religious groups protested against late night pornography screened on e-TV outside the broadcaster's offices in Cape Town on Saturday (Independent, South Africa)

  • Licence for Christian station | Universal Christian Broadcasters is set to become a permanent fixture in the Irish radio scene after it signed a 10-year satellite licence with the Broadcasting Commission on Monday (Irish Independent)

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Harry Potter:

  • 'Use Harry Potter to spread Christian message' | The Church of England is publishing a guide advising youth workers how to use Harry Potter to spread the Christian message (The Telegraph, London)

  • Church preparing to preach Potter's missionary message | The Church of England is publishing a guide advising youth workers how to use Harry Potter to spread the Christian message (The Times, London)

  • Churches co-opt Potter's magic | with Potter fans already lining up ahead of the final book release this Saturday, some Christian denominations are now eschewing condemnation for praise, embracing Ms. Rowling's tales as powerful religious fables for our time (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

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Books:

  • Christian booksellers face crisis of faith | Religious publishing's move to the mainstream has invited mainstream competition (Religion News Service)

  • Catholic guilt | After the love of his life dies, this novel's protagonist becomes a priest. Then he falls in love again. Stephen Metcalf reviews Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan (The New York Times)

  • How the Amish do it | A study of Old Order Amish and Mennonite schools should provoke us to rethink Christian schooling more generally. O'Ann Steere reviews Train Up a Child by Karen M. Johnson-Weiner (Books & Culture)

  • What scandal? Whose conscience? | Some reflections on Ronald Sider's Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Books & Culture)

  • Sharing secrets about the Amish | An interview with Joe Mackall, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Archaeologist plumbs mysteries of the Bible | In From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible, Eric H. Cline blends the stuff of summer — sun, sand and stories — with archaeology to come up with some surprisingly intriguing beach reading. Who doesn't love a good mystery, especially one that is thousands of years old? (USA Today)

  • An outpost of God's Kingdom | Making a Christian home (Lauren F. Winner, Books & Culture)

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Art:

  • European artists return to church | As a wave of contemporary art installations is being unveiled in cathedrals, churches and chapels across Europe, religious spaces are once again becoming showcases for many artists (The New York Times)

  • Art restorer claims Caravaggio find | An Italian art restorer said she has identified a painting long thought to be a copy of a Caravaggio masterpiece, "St. Jerome Writing," as an authentic work of the Baroque master (Associated Press)

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History:

  • Important Viking treasure found in Britain | The hoard contains coins relating to Islam, to the Vikings' pre-Christian religion and to Christianity (Reuters)

  • Also: A Severe Salvation | How the Vikings took up the faith (Christian History & Biography)

  • Jerusalem seeks return of ancient tablet | Known as the Siloam inscription, the tablet was found in a tunnel hewed to channel water from a spring outside Jerusalem's walls into the city around 700 B.C. — a project mentioned in the Old Testament's Book of Chronicles. It was discovered in 1880 and taken by the Holy Land's Ottoman rulers to Istanbul, where it is now in the collection of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Associated Press)

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People:

  • The Plame game | The columnist who outed Valerie Plame talks about why Scooter Libby should be pardoned, his conversion to Catholicism and why he's the real Prince of Darkness (The New York Times Magazine)

  • Nun can't kick this habit | She has lost count of the triathlons she has done, but it's more than 300, including "about 33" Ironmans. At age 75, she became the oldest woman to finish the Kailua-Kona Ironman World Championship, and she did it again a year later (The Denver Post)

  • The actualizer | Milton Katselas may be the best acting coach in Hollywood. Does it matter that he's a Scientologist? (The New York Times Magazine)

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Atheism:

  • Religion today: The Amazing Randi | For more than two decades, Randi has been the country's skeptic-in-chief, aiming his arrow of rationalism at psychics and faith healers, mediums and mentalists (Associated Press)

  • What atheists can't answer | How do we choose between good and bad instincts? (Michael Gerson, The Washington Post)

  • An atheist responds | On Michael Gerson's "What Atheists Can't Answer" (Christopher Hitchens, The Washington Post)

  • The new new atheism | Playing into the anger and enmities that debase our politics today, the new new atheism blurs the deep commitment to the freedom and equality of individuals that binds atheists and believers in America. (Peter Berkowitz, The Wall Street Journal)

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20/20 on hell and universalism:

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Other stories of interest:

  • Reluctance to confront religion's grisly secret | The confusion of humanly sacred texts with the very word of a mysterious and elusive God is now one of the greatest dangers of our time (Ron Ferguson, The Herald, Glasgow)

  • Girl's death on festival ride probed | Elizabeth K. Mohl, 16, was attending Lifest, a Christian music festival that features rides and sports (Associated Press)

  • Public hearing on project is set | The Religious Freedom Byway generally follows the Maryland shore of the Potomac River from Port Tobacco to Point Lookout (The Washington Post)

  • Religion news in brief | Richard Land on the Vatican statement; Muslim women told to remove head scarves for license photo; Seattle airport panel proposes ban on religious holiday displays; and other stories (Associated Press)

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