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Another U.K. Jewelry Row

Also: Supreme Court rulings, Canadian Anglicans vote on same-sex blessings, and indulgences as 'lasting souvenirs.'

Today's Top five

1. Supreme Court rulings on faith-based funds and student free speech cases
The Supreme Court handed down several rulings Monday, the second-to-last day of the term. The"Bong Hits" case, which raised concerns about schools' ability to regulate what students say on and off-campus, was decided on very narrow terms. Chief Justice Roberts said:

Student speech celebrating illegal drug use at a school event, in the presence of school administrators and teachers … poses a particular challenge for school officials working to protect those entrusted to their care from the dangers of drug abuse. The First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers.

The religious element of the student's message was not addressed by the decision.

The court also voted 5-4 against taxpayers' standing to sue the White House for funding faith-based organizations' conferences and programs.

2. More Jewelry Wars in UK
Another row in Britain over jewelry that is more than jewelry. The daughter of U.K. Silver Ring Thing volunteers is suing her school under British human rights laws to let her wear a "chastity ring." The school says it violates their no-jewelry policy. Lydia Playfoot, the plaintiff, says the dress code is "loosely adhered to" and hasn't stopped other girls from wearing piercings and other jewelry. A major point of argument here, as in the British Airlines cross necklace kerfuffle, is that British Muslims are permitted to wear headscarves and Sikhs are permitted to wear bangles. While the ring may be more symbolically parallel to a hijab than to a cross necklace, the headmaster argues that a chastity ring "is not a Christian symbol, and is not required to be worn by any branch within Christianity."

3. Canadian Anglicans vote against same-sex blessings
It's hard to get the full sense of this story without reading the Vancouver Sun's report, which describes all the delegates as sweating profusely after eight hours in a muggy hotel. It also got rather cranky quotes ("The decision raises serious doubts about leadership -- when the whole church is held back by two bishops") about the bishops' 41-39 vote, which overrode lay and clerical approval of same-sex blessings.

4. Benedict XVI starts to assume John Paul II's diplomacy, revokes his rules (and hosts Tony Blair)
Benedict XVI has made a few administrative changes to adjust his interreligious diplomacy credentials, including appointing a lifelong diplomat, Jean-Louis Tauran, as his new point man for relations with the Muslim world. "When he speaks, the Pope uses diplomatic concepts for Muslims, not theological ones," wrote La Croix, of the pope's post-Regensburg tack.

The pope also reversed John Paul II's changes to the process by which popes are elected. Benedict reinstituted the requirement of a two-thirds majority to elect the next pope.

Benedict also received a visit from Tony Blair who, as of today, has left the office of Prime Minister. According to LeFigaro (in French) the pope spoke with Blair "after having implicitly confirmed his imminent conversion to Catholicism." The French newspaper also reports that Blair gave Benedict photographs of John Henry Newman, a Church of England cleric who famously converted to Catholicism in the nineteenth century.

5) Kidnapped Italian priest still not located
Little has cleared up in the search for Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped June 10 in the Philippines. The groups searching for him, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front separatist group, "have made no contact whatsoever and the reasons for the abduction remain completely unknown." They're also not sure who the abductors are.

However, the Phillipine military is following up on a phone call that a major general, Ben Dolorfino, received Monday from someone who claimed to have Bossi. Dolorfino sent a team out to find the kidnappers. "Once contact has been established and there is proof of life, we will relay this to authorities, and steps would be taken after that," he said. He also told negotiators to encourage the kidnappers "not to rush because things really take time."

Quote of the day:

"It adds to the joy of the occasion, it allows each person a participation in the event, and it provides a lasting souvenir."

—Cardinal Justin Rigali, in a letter explaining the Philadelphia Roman Catholic archdiocese's decision to offer plenary indulgences to celebrate its bicentennial.

More Articles

Silver Ring Thing | Religious rights & persecution | Iraq | Gaza Christians | Kidnapped priest | Africa | 2008 candidates | Obama | Giuliani | Romney | Mormonism | Catholicism | Benedict XVI | Blair and Pope Benedict | Pope election rules | Church life | Charitable giving | Sports evangelism | Archaeology & history | Life ethics | Books | Entertainment & media | Ban on Tom Cruise | People | Celebrity conversions | Crime & lawsuits | Laws & rulings | Supreme Court on 'Bong hits' | Supreme Court on faith-based funding | Immigration | Baptist gay ministry | Gay Pride | Defrocked Lutheran pastor | Canadian Anglicans | Anglican women | Other stories of interest

Silver Ring Thing:

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Religious rights & persecution:

  • Vietnamese president discounts criticism | Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet is resisting pressure from U.S. lawmakers and President Bush to improve what critics call a dismal human rights record (Associated Press).

  • Group: China detains 8 church leaders | Police have detained eight leaders in the country's unauthorized Protestant church movement on charges of violating rules on religious activity, a Texas-based monitoring group said Wednesday. (Associated Press)

  • Christians vs. atheists: Whose side are you on? | Both groups say they're victims of an aggressive battle against them and increasing hostility. (The Florida Times-Union)

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Gaza Christians:

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Kidnapped priest:

  • Manila emissaries to meet kidnappers | The Philippine government yesterday dispatched three emissaries to establish contact with Muslim kidnappers holding captive an Italian priest in the country's troubled south. (Gulf Times)

  • Emissaries verifying Fr. Bossi situation | The military has dispatched three emissaries to a remote village at the boundaries of the Lanao provinces in a bid to reestablish contacts with the band of armed men keeping Italian priest Fr. Giancarlo Bossi captive. (The Manila Times)

  • Missionaries seek talks with kidnap gang to free colleague | The superiors of an Italian Catholic priest kidnapped by an armed gang in the southern Philippines are seeking to open up direct links with the group to negotiate his release, sources and officials said. (Gulf Times)

  • Where is Bossi? Military confused | Confusion over the whereabouts of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi and his kidnappers is hampering efforts to rescue. (The Manila Times)

  • Philippines sends emissaries to get "proof of life" | The Philippines sent three emissaries on Tuesday to gunmen holding an Italian Catholic priest in the south, a general said, instructing them to get "proof of life" before any negotiations could be started. (Reuters)

  • Earlier: Philippine abductors of Italian priest allegedly offer to negotiate | The abductors of an Italian priest have offered to negotiate for his freedom, according to a purported intermediary in the southern Philippines, an official said Monday. (Associated Press)

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2008 Candidates:

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  • Giuliani facing bad news at a bad time | Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has confronted a spate of bad news in recent days, from the drug indictment of his South Carolina chairman to criticism for skipping meetings of the Iraq Study Group. (Associated Press)

  • Group wants Giuliani priest pal fired | Advocates for victims of abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday urged presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to fire a priest who was suspended from the church and then hired by the ex-mayor's security consulting business (Associated Press).

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  • Romney finds funds to pull ahead in Republican race | Being a Mormon from Democrat-leaning Massachusetts would normally be a handicap for a Republican with presidential ambitions, yet Mitt Romney has broken through as a serious contender for his party's nomination with another massive fundraising haul. (The Australian)

  • Deep pockets make Romney unexpected contender | Being a Mormon from Democrat-leaning Massachusetts would normally be a handicap for a Republican with presidential ambitions, yet Mitt Romney has broken through as a serious contender for his party's nomination after raising nearly $40 million this year. (The Times)

  • Romney hits rivals for Mormon criticism | Mitt Romney said yesterday that criticism of his Mormon religion by rival GOP presidential campaigns is happening too frequently. (The Boston Globe)

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  • Mormon church president turns 97 | The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got a 97th birthday present Saturday that was too big to wrap — a building bearing his name built with donations from followers (Associated Press).

  • Mormon milestone: Missionary army has enlisted 1 million since church's 1830 founding | Standing on the grounds of the LDS Missionary Training Center before a statue of Mormonism's first missionary, LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard announced Monday that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has called its millionth missionary since the faith's founding in 1830. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

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  • Catholic lay group tests a strategy change | Voice of the Faithful has begun speaking up on controversial issues such as celibacy requirements for Catholic priests (New York Times).

  • Library repair causes a plea to the Pope | Normally a sanctuary of scholarly meditation, the Vatican Library has been the scene of unusually hectic activity lately, as word has spread that it will close in July for a three-year renovation (New York Times).

  • A place at the altar | Jane Via was frustrated with the Roman Catholic Church's ban on female priests, so she and a small number of women took matters into their own hands (New York Times).

  • Dutch religious processions thrive | Bronkfeest is celebrated in numerous towns and villages in the far south of the Netherlands shortly after Pentecost — and it is just one of dozens of regional Catholic traditions that continue to thrive around the country despite a sharp fall in churchgoing in recent decades (Associated Press).

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Benedict XVI:

  • Pope turns to veteran diplomats after slip-ups | After a season of apparent policy slip-ups, Pope Benedict XVI is shuffling top advisers and bringing in veteran diplomats closely identified with Vatican policy in Iraq and the Middle East. (Associated Press)

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Blair and Pope Benedict:

  • Blair meets with pope in farewell visit | The Vatican on Saturday bid farewell to Tony Blair as British prime minister, wishing him well on what it said were his plans to work for Middle East peace and interreligious dialogue (Associated Press).

  • Mr Blair goes to Rome | The visit has fuelled speculation that, along with climate change and the Middle East, their conversation will focus on the outgoing Prime Minister's conversion to Catholicism. (The Independent)

  • Tony Blair, bientôt retraité, pourrait devenir catholique | Le premier ministre britannique s'est entretenu avec le pape Benoît XVI après avoir implicitement confirmé son imminente conversion au catholicisme. (LeFigaro)

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Pope election rules:

  • Pope changes rules for papal elections | Pope Benedict XVI has changed the rules for electing popes, making it potentially harder to name a successor but ensuring that when the white smoke rises from the Sistine Chapel, the new pontiff will have broad support among cardinals. (Associated Press)

  • Pope Tightens Voting Rules for Election of Successors | Pope Benedict XVI has reinstituted the traditional requirement that two-thirds of cardinals agree on a candidate, no matter how long the process takes. (The New York Times)

  • Papal election rule ensures broad support | Pope Benedict XVI has changed the rules for electing popes, making it potentially harder to name a successor but ensuring that when the white smoke rises from the Sistine Chapel, the new pontiff will have broad support among cardinals. (The Washington Post)

  • Pope alters voting for successor | The rules will ensure a new pope will enjoy a large consensus. (BBC News)

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Church life:

  • Black church targets families | A black Baptist leader is urging black churches to set goals for reducing by 25 percent the rate of black divorce, teen pregnancy, illiteracy, murder and HIV infection by 2012, and increasing the adoption of black foster children (Associated Press).

  • A church and its neighbors grapple over a patch of green | At the corner of 234th Street and 39th Avenue, in the wealthy Douglas Manor section of Douglaston, Queens, a narrow plot of grass abuts a sprawling brick church (New York Times).

  • Laurie brings in his 'harvest' | By the look of it, the Harvest Crusade yielded the harvest it is named for: a crop of new believers. (The News Observer)

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Charitable giving:

  • Charitable gifts set new record in 2006 | Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charitable causes last year, setting a new record and besting the 2005 total that had been boosted by a surge in aid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the Asian tsunami. (Associated Press)

  • Absence of major disaster in '06 affected giving | Although 2006 was heralded as the dawn of a golden age of philanthropy, charitable giving was almost flat last year (New York Times).

  • Americans Set Record for Donations in 2006 | Americans gave nearly $300 billion to charitable causes last year, setting a new record and besting the 2005 total that had been boosted by a surge in aid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the Asian tsunami (The Washington Post).

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Sports Evangelism:

  • Cardinals and Jesus take the field at Busch | For 17 years, St. Louis' Green Cathedral — Busch Stadium — and some of the gods who play there have hosted a group with a purpose higher than winning a pennant. They have come to the ballpark to win souls for Jesus Christ. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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Archaeology & history:

  • Manchester's restored monastery | The monastery of St Francis and Gorton was built in 1872. A charitable trust has now completed its work to restore the listed church and friary buildings after they fell into disrepair. (slideshow, BBC News)

  • A lively debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls | As the ancient documents are readied for a San Diego exhibition, scholars clash over just who wrote them and what they represent. (The Los Angeles Times)

  • Historic abbey dig gets under way | Annual excavations are under way on the Isle of Man in the hope of uncovering more of a medieval abbey's past. (BBC News)

  • Monastery's restoration completed | A Manchester monastery which ranked alongside Pompeii and the Taj Mahal as being one of the world's 100 most endangered sites has been restored. (BBC News)

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Life ethics:

  • La. lawmakers ban late-term abortions | The Louisiana Legislature approved a ban on a late-term abortion procedure Tuesday, the first state to do so since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal ban earlier this year. (Associated Press)

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  • Whose Orders? | Review - Saul Friedländer challenges the view that the Holocaust was simply the result of bureaucrats doing what they were told (New York Times).

  • Kiss and make up | A Gnostic gospel presents the "traitor" Judas as a hero who helped Jesus fulfill his destiny (New York Times).

  • Free to be you and me | Author Brink Lindsey says libertarianism the default ideology of our time. (The Austin-American Statesman)

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Entertainment & media:

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Ban on Tom Cruise:

  • Germany imposes ban on Tom Cruise | Germany has banned the makers of Tom Cruise's new movie from filming at military sites in the country because the actor is a Scientologist.

  • Germany bans Cruise film from military sites | Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defense Ministry said on Monday.

  • Germans nix Cruise movie over scientology | Germany has prohibited shooting of the Tom Cruise World War II thriller "Valkyrie" because of the actor's ties to Scientology. (Associated Press)

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  • Jesse Jackson arrested at gun protest | The Rev. Jesse Jackson was arrested Saturday at a demonstration outside a south suburban gun shop and charged with one count of criminal trespass to property (Associated Press).

  • Dutch social worker dies | Alida Bosshardt, who spent more than 50 years working for the Salvation Army and established a center in Amsterdam's Red Light District for prostitutes and drug addicts, died Monday, the Christian organization said. She was 94. (Associated Press)

  • Volunteer Mary C. 'Maureen' Michaud | Mary Cusick "Maureen" Michaud, 78, a former board chairwoman of Fairfax County organizations serving the homeless and needy, died June 18 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. She had a heart arrhythmia (The Washington Post).

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Celebrity conversions:

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Crime & lawsuits:

  • Row over religion's role in US jails | Supporters of President George W Bush say it's one of his greatest achievements: encouraging religious organisations to help with the provision of basic social services. (BBC News)

  • Civilian gang czar to manage L.A.'s numerous efforts | Minister will help evaluate programs (Union-Tribune, SanDiego)

  • The paper clip thieves | The law-abiding majority is a myth, according to a survey, which finds most of us have indulged in some sort of petty crime. (BBC News)

  • Autopsy planned in missing woman case | Supporters of a police officer accused of killing a woman and her unborn child huddled Sunday at a closed prayer service scheduled before police found what they believe is her body and arrested him (Associated Press).

  • Fake priest arrested baptizing baby | A man pretending to be a priest was arrested by police as he prepared to baptize a baby in a small town in the north of Portugal (Reuters).

  • Critics warn Mexico City over prostitution proposal | A proposal to legalize prostitution in Mexico City risks making women more vulnerable to human traffickers forcing them onto the street as sex slaves, a U.S. academic said on Friday (Reuters).

  • Mistrial declared in priest sex case | A mistrial was declared Monday in a priest sex case when a Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington lawyer overstepped the bounds established by a judge in questioning the alleged victim. (The Boston Globe)

  • Farmer: Registration violates religion | Mennonite sues Pennsylvania over farm rule, fearing 'damnation'; state admits error in rule (Associated Press).

  • Creation Museum leader sued | An Australian evangelical group has filed a suit against the founder of the Kentucky-based Creation Museum alleging he stole subscribers away from its magazines. (Associated Press)

  • Accused Pa. priest commits suicide | A priest committed suicide two days after his bishop said claims of sex abuse by the priest dating back more than 30 years would be turned over to police. (Associated Press)

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Laws & rulings:

  • Court allows issue ads near elections | Free speech rights take precedence over government restrictions on political advertising, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a decision that opens the door for greater influence by interest groups in the closing days of an election. (Associated Press)

  • Court rejects Orthodox Patriarch status | A court Tuesday backed Turkey's long-held position that the Istanbul-based Orthodox Patriarch is only the head of the city's tiny Greek Orthodox community and not the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians. (Associated Press)

  • An easy target, but does that mean hatred? | Hate-crime laws have long had their skeptics, and the one enacted by New York State in 2000 is no exception. (The New York Times)

  • Jesus portrait in Louisiana court will stay up despite outcry from ACLU | A portrait of Jesus on the wall at Slidell City Court will remain up for now, despite objections from the American Civil Liberties Union, which calls it a violation of church-state separation. (Associated Press)

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Supreme Court on 'Bong hits':

  • Court backs school on speech curbs | A 5-4 Majority Cites Perils of Illegal Drugs In Case of the 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' Banner. (Washington Post)

  • US student loses free speech case | A former high school student has lost his case in what is the US Supreme Court's first major ruling on students' free speech rights in almost 20 years. (BBC News)

  • Court tightens limits on student speech | The Supreme Court tightened limits on student speech Monday, ruling against a high school student and his 14-foot-long "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner (Associated Press).

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Supreme Court on faith-based funding:

  • Court bars suit against faith-based plan | The Bush administration's faith-based initiatives got a boost Monday from the Supreme Court: a ruling that ordinary taxpayers cannot sue to stop conferences that help religious charities apply for federal grants. (Associated Press)

  • Justices quash suit over funds for faith groups | The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that federal taxpayers cannot challenge the constitutionality of White House efforts to help religious groups obtain government funding for their social programs, handing a victory to President Bush's faith-based initiatives program. (Washington Post)

  • 'No challenge' to US faith scheme | Taxpayers cannot challenge a White House initiative that helps religious groups get federal funds for social programmes, the US Supreme Court says. (BBC News)

  • Court bars suit against faith –based plan | The Supreme Court ruled Monday that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge a White House initiative that helps religious charities get a share of federal money (Associated Press).

  • Court: taxpayers can't sue on faith-based plan | A closely divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that taxpayers cannot challenge President George W. Bush's use of government funds to finance social programs operated by religious groups (Reuters).

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Baptist gay ministry:

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Gay Pride:

  • Religious groups take lead for gay pride | Religious groups led the city's gay pride parade on Sunday, lending gravity to an often outrageous event that also featured a jumble of drag queens in feather boas, marching bands, motorcycle-riding lesbians, rugby players and samba dancers (Associated Press).

  • Mrs. Edwards comfortable with gay unions | Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, kicked off San Francisco's annual gay pride parade Sunday by splitting with her husband over support for legalized gay marriage (Associated Press).

  • NYC has reason to celebrate gay pride | New York's gay pride parade is traditionally a mix of politics and campy pageantry, and the state Assembly's move toward legalizing same-sex marriage has heightened the atmosphere this year. But parade organizers are smarting over the city's rejection of a request to hold a street fair in an area with the city's heaviest concentration of gay-oriented businesses (Associated Press).

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Defrocked Lutheran pastor:

  • Defrocked pastor becomes unlikely hero | Lutheran reverend refuses to resign after coming forward about being in gay relationship (Associated Press).

  • Ousted gay pastor draws crowd | The tattered cloth scraps started arriving at St. John's Lutheran Church shortly after the Rev. Bradley Schmeling took his stand against the church hierarchy, each with an embroidered or drawn message of support. (Associated Press)

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Canadian Anglicans:

  • No to gay blessings in Canada | The Anglican Church of Canada has decided against offering blessing ceremonies to same-sex couples. (BBC News)

  • Slumping membership doesn't rate on Anglican agenda | Among all the items discussed by the Anglican Church of Canada at its national meeting last week, from same-sex unions, to residential schools, and aid to Africa, missing from the agenda was one of the institution's most pressing problems - the fact increasing numbers of Canadians don't go to church. (The Ottowa Citizen)

  • Canada's bishops veto synod on gay blessings | Canadian Anglicans failed by the narrowest of margins on Sunday night to agree to allow their churches to bless the committed relationships of same-sex couples. (Mail & Guardian)

  • Anglicans vote down same-sex blessings | Approval by lay delegates and priests narrowly overruled by bishops. (Vancouver Sun)

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Anglican women:

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Other Stories:

  • Seeking answers with field trips in faith | Nora McNulty, a Scottish grandmother, began climbing the hill at 5:50 a.m., having traveled 1,300 miles in search of something hard to find at home (The Washington Post)

  • Why Brown needs to lose his religion | Gordon Brown, true son of the manse, clearly has a thing about pulpits. (The Scotsman)

  • Man sues over vaccination dispute | Man Sues Mo. Army Post, Ga. Company Over Vaccination Dispute (Associated Press)

  • First things first | 'Housing first,' a radical new approach to ending chronic homelessness, is gaining ground in Boston. (The Boston Globe)

  • European rights body calls off creationism vote | Europe's main human rights body on Monday cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided (Reuters).

  • Rays of hope for Africa's AIDS children | Little Natasha is a giggling, wriggling bundle of mischief. She adores Barney the Dinosaur, claps along to her favorite songs, and throws a typical 3-year-old's temper tantrums (Associated Press).

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Related Elsewhere:

We're still soliciting comments on how to improve Weblog.

Our most recent Weblogs include:

Weblog: Catholic School and Church Attacked as Gaza's Christians Worry | Plus: Ruth Graham laid to rest, an Episcopal priest converts to Islam (but stays an Episcopal priest), and other stories from online sources around the world. (June 18)
Should School Workers Be Banned from Off-Hours Counseling? | Plus: National Right to Life kicks out Colorado chapter after Dobson criticism, and more (June 15)
Christian Reformed Church Removes Bars to Women in Leadership | Plus: The big news from the Southern Baptist Convention, Romney's faith team, and other stories (June 13)
Italian Priest Kidnapped in Philippines | Plus: 'Virtual desecration' of a famous cathedral, an important IVF finding, another pastor mariticide, Paris Hilton (of course), etc. (June 12)
Stem Cell Bill's Bad (Or Providential?) Timing | Plus: Surgeon general nominee's Methodist work under fire, Time interviews Rowan Williams, church building conflicts, and more. (June 8)
The God Debates of '08 | Plus: More tragedy for Iraq Christians, another blow to Iowa's faith-based prison program, America's new pilgrimage points, and other stories. (June 7)

See also the Christianity Today Liveblog and our articles on this week's Supreme Court decisions.

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