NEWS STORY: NAE Says Faith-Based Funding Should Not Include Anti-Bias Provisions

c. 2003 Religion News Service EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. _ The right of faith-based organizations to hire and fire staff must be retained as the federal government seeks to make more funds for social services available to them, the National Association of Evangelicals said Thursday (March 6). Members of the evangelical umbrella organization adopted a resolution at their annual meeting applauding President Bush’s faith-based initiative but which used forceful language about their desire to make staffing decisions on the basis of religion regardless of federal, state or local anti-bias employment laws. “Such equal treatment without being accompanied by expressed legal guarantees of autonomy concerning the operation of a religious organization’s governance and internal administration is a false and dangerous promise for faith-based social service providers,” the resolution said.

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Bush Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Case WASHINGTON (RNS) The Bush administration has formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a lower court decision and allow the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “one nation under God.” U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson said last summer’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the pledge violates the separation of church and state is “manifestly contrary” to previous church-state cases. “Whatever else the (First Amendment) may prohibit, this court’s precedents make it clear that it does not forbid the government from officially acknowledging the religious heritage, foundation and character of this nation,” Olson wrote Wednesday (April 30) in his argument. California atheist Michael Newdow sued in 2000, saying his daughter should not be forced to listen to the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. The first court to hear the case dismissed it, but the San Francisco-based appeals court ruled in Newdow’s favor.

NEWS FEATURE: Agnostic Questions if AA Is the Way

c. 2003 Religion News Service TOLEDO, Ohio _ Lou Peters accepts that he was wrong for driving drunk three years ago. But he cannot accept that God is the answer. Peters, 59, is an agnostic. So when a judge ordered him to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, the former hobby shop owner chose 30 days in jail instead.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Ten Commandments Symbolize the Sacred for Evangelicals

c. 2003 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _ To Alabama’s dominant evangelical Christian population, the Ten Commandments stand as a powerful symbol of the sacred, not a quaint myth about the origins of law. “Evangelical Christians, particularly here in Alabama, have a strong conviction that it’s part of biblically inspired Scripture,” said Don Hawkins, president of Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham and former host of the “Back to the Bible” radio program broadcast on 600 stations worldwide. “They take this literally.” Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore put that belief into a symbol _ a hulking, 2.6-ton monument in the Alabama Judicial Building that, graven image or not, still stands for many as an embodiment of biblical principles.

NEWS FEATURE: A Book of Nun Fun: Sisters Share Tales of What School Kids Say

c. 2003 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The sermon went on and on, and a little boy in the front row started talking during Mass. Sister Adelle told the child sitting next to her to go up and tell him to keep quiet. The boy dutifully walked up to the front, then past the boy in the first row and up to the lectern. There he told the priest, “Sister said you should stop talking.” The tale from the Catholic school front is one of 150 told by Cleveland Sister Mary Kathleen Glavich in her new book from Paulist Press titled “Catholic School Kids Say the Funniest Things.” In recent years, Catholic nuns have been the target of humor on shows like “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You” and movies in which sisters are portrayed as ruler-wielding battle-axes.

NEWS STORY: Dwindling Numbers Force Nuns to Sell Monastery

c. 2003 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ For 121 years, nuns have prayed for the troubled world outside the stone walls of the Monastery of St. Dominic here, living almost unknown to their neighbors. Although more than 100 nuns have spent their years in cloistered contemplation at the monastery since 1882, it has been 12 years since a new member has been taken in, and only 13 nuns remain. Now the nuns, who wear white habits and black veils, have decided they can no longer maintain their facility and must sell it.

COMMENTARY: Commandments Not Written in Stone

c. 2003 Religion News Service (UNDATED) There’s one little problem with the Ten Commandments that Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been fighting to keep in the lobby of the state judicial building in Montgomery. The commandments aren’t numbered on the 21/2-ton, jukebox-size granite monument that Moore moved secretly into the building under the cover of night two years ago. But the stone tablets, which were removed from public display Wednesday, have five verses on the left and six on the right. That adds up to 11 _ a potential source of confusion that points out something that hasn’t been much noted.

COMMENTARY: Rape No Therapy for Trauma of Rape

c. 2003 Religion News Serice (The Rev. Marie M. Fortune is editor of the Journal of Religion and Abuse and founder of the Seattle-based Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence. She is the author of “Is Nothing Sacred? The Story of a Pastor, the Women He Sexually Abused, and the Congregation He Nearly Destroyed,” and an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ.) (UNDATED) There seems to be some confusion as to the nature of pastoral counseling provided by priests to rape victims. The Rev. Roman Kramek, a Polish priest serving a parish in New Britain, Conn., told police over the holidays he had sex with a teenage rape victim in her family’s apartment in order to counsel her and show her that sex with men doesn’t have to be bad. He questioned the victim about the rape and then, ignoring the young woman’s protests, began to touch her breasts and crotch and to have intercourse with her.

COMMENTARY: Near-Future of Catholicism in America Is a Close Call

c. 2003 Religion News Service (David Gibson, former religion writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., is author of “The Coming Catholic Church” (HarperSanFrancisco), to be published June 30.) (UNDATED) More than a year after the Catholic hierarchy gathered in Dallas to try to head off the galloping clergy sexual abuse scandal, and in the wake of their recent meeting in St. Louis, the future course of American Catholicism remains uncertain. Charges and countercharges between bishops and their critics still fill the air, nasty legal disputes still command headlines, and victims continue to come forward with accounts of awful misdeeds. When Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien of Phoenix was arrested in the death of an innocent pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident while driving home from a confirmation Mass, the tragedy seemed to epitomize the church’s haplessness.

NEWS STORY: Religious Comfort in a Time of War _ Online and Off

c. 2003 Religion News Servic (UNDATED) At an online “prayer chapel” of the United Church of Christ, military relatives are sharing prayer requests for the safe return of their loved ones. The Jewish Federation of Rockland County, N.Y., has started “Operation Matzo Meals” to send care packages to Jewish troops who may celebrate Passover in the midst of battle. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is distributing a “community safety kit” to help Muslims and Arabs prepare for possible discrimination in the event of a possible anti-Muslim backlash. Even before the bombs began falling on Baghdad, religious leaders across the country grappled with how to meet the needs of those who would be affected _ from the ranks of the military to their worried family members to grass-roots Americans concerned about the crisis.

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c. 2003 Religion News Serevice Presbyterians Tweak Late-Term Abortion Policy DENVER (RNS) The Presbyterian Church (USA) revised its position on late-term abortions Thursday (May 29) to say a fetus should not be aborted to save the life of the mother if it could survive outside the womb. Delegates to the church’s annual General Assembly meeting revised the abortion policy first set in 1992 and then amended in 1997 and 2002. Though the policy remains essentially the same, the 548 delegates rejected an alternative statement that would have been slightly more restrictive. The policy calls late-term, or “partial-birth,” abortions a “matter of grave moral concern” that should be used only in cases of rape or incest, a threat to the mother’s health or a fetus’ “untreatable life-threatening medical anomalies.” The revised policy, adopted on a 405-108 vote, says that when a mother’s health is threatened by a pregnancy and if the “baby may be able to live outside the womb, a procedure should be considered which gives both the mother and the child the opportunity to live.” In one minor addition to last year’s policy, the church said it “appreciates the challenge each woman and family face when issues of personal well-being arise in the later stages of a pregnancy.” Delegates rejected a measure that would have removed the rape and incest provisions in a 353-150 vote.

NEWS FEATURE: Public Radio Program Lets Believers Speak Their Faith At Length

c. 2003 Religion News (UNDATED) Krista Tippett has spent time in journalistic, diplomatic and theological circles. But it was her time on a lakefront, wooded property taking oral histories of people involved in the 20th century movement for church unity that led her to start a radio program called “Speaking of Faith.” The hourlong show, produced by Minnesota Public Radio, has been carried by 250 stations nationwide since its monthly _ now weekly _ broadcasts began in 2001. Years before hosting the program, Tippett spent time at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, Minn., talking to “great minds” of the church who had been involved in ecumenical work, from Pentecostals to Armenian Orthodox. “At the institute …

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c. 2003 Religion News Service Bishops’ Labor Day Statement Appeals for Migrant Workers WASHINGTON (RNS) The annual Labor Day statement by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops appeals for fair treatment for migrant farm workers who “still have a claim on our conscience.” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, said migrant workers deserve safe working conditions, affordable housing and legal rights. “The plight of agricultural workers may not be on the evening news or in the headlines, but it should be at the heart of our thoughts, reflections and priorities as we celebrate Labor Day this year,” McCarrick said. The bishops will consider a statement on the rights and plight of illegal immigrants and migrant farm workers when they meet in Washington in November. McCarrick called for a “just and fair legal pathway” that “protects the basic labor rights of foreign-born workers and recognizes the reality of so many of these workers in the field.” Migrant workers already in the United States should be eligible for legal residency, McCarrick said.

NEWS FEATURE: Prayer Book Explores Jewish Roots of Christian Prayer Cycle

c. Religion News Service “Sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs among yourselves, singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts, always and everywhere giving thanks to God who is our Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19- 20 (UNDATED) The first major literary and liturgical reworking of the Benedictine rule of “fixed hour” prayer traces its origins to the Judaism from whence Christianity came _ a history explored and explained in the introduction to the second volume of Phyllis Tickle’s trilogy of prayer manuals. Centuries before the birth of Jesus, a Hebrew psalmist wrote of praising God seven times a day. While scholars disagree on the hours of early Judaism’s set prayers, the ritual soon took on specific characteristics, Tickle writes in “The Divine Hours” (Doubleday). In fact, Tickle said, the Old Testament figure Daniel was thrown to the lions for refusing to give up praying in the middle of the work day.