NEWS STORY: Faith-Based Election Drives Inspire Voters on the Right and Left

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As states’ voter registration deadlines for the November election approach, conservative and liberal religious groups are pounding on doors and ringing every phone in their directory to reach potential supporters. While there is nothing new about old-fashioned “doorbelling” itself, faith-based groups are out with more intensity and better organization this year than they have been in recent elections, scholars and activists say. Also, the Help America Vote Act, enacted by Congress in 2002 in response to low voter turnouts, has made it easier to register through third-party registration drives. The 2000 presidential race was so close and so many people _ nearly half the electorate _ didn’t vote.

NEWS STORY: Bush, Kerry Take Vastly Different Approaches to Religion in Public Life

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) One candidate is from the Bible Belt and likes to tell the story of how God redeemed him from a life of destructive drinking, which made him a better husband and public servant for such a time as this. The other hails from the Northeast, where religion is a more private matter. While he won’t wear his on his sleeve, he says, his faith shapes his values and his values animate his actions. President Bush, a United Methodist, and Sen. John Kerry, a Roman Catholic, both consider faith a vital part of their lives.

NEWS STORY: Journalists Honored for Coverage of Religion

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A religion writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune was named religion reporter of the year and the editor of Religion News Service was given a lifetime achievement award at the annual awards ceremony of the Religion Newswriters Association. Sandi Dolbee, the immediate past president of the association, earned the $3,500 Templeton Reporter of the Year award for excellence in enterprise reporting and versatility in her coverage of religion in the secular press. In a written statement, judges said Dolbee wrote stories that are “sensitive, well-written and painstakingly and thoroughly researched.” They also said Dolbee “uses background, detail and sources so real they seem like friends.” During the Saturday (Sept. 11) ceremony, Religion News Service Editor David E. Anderson, 63, was honored with the William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award.

NEWS STORY: Muslim Leaders Push for Shariah Law in British Columbia

c. 2004 Religion News Service VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Some prominent Muslim leaders would like the Canadian province of British Columbia to formally allow Islamic shariah law to be used to arbitrate decisions regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance and other family disputes. These influential Muslims want to follow the lead of some eastern Canadian Muslims who are making submissions in support of shariah to an Ontario government review committee, which is examining whether Islam’s religious codes conform to Canadian law. Imam Sahadat Mohammed of Burnaby, just east of Vancouver, says he hopes Ontario Muslims are successful in their efforts to endorse shariah so British Columbia Muslims can follow suit. “It would be good.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Third Federal Judge Strikes Down `Partial-Birth’ Abortion Ban (RNS) A third federal judge ruled Wednesday (Sept. 8) that a law against “partial-birth” abortions is unconstitutional because it ignores parameters set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln, Neb., agreed with two other federal judges in New York and San Francisco that the law must include a provision that allows the procedure to protect the mother’s health. “According to responsible medical opinion, there are times when the banned procedure is medically necessary to preserve the health of a woman and a respectful reading of the congressional record proves that point,” Kopf said, according to the Associated Press.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Editors: Carman in 8th graf is CQ Paul Crouch Did Not Have Homosexual Encounter, Religious Network Says (RNS) Trinity Broadcasting Network has denied allegations that its president, Paul Crouch, was involved in a homosexual encounter and says he will remain at the helm of his California ministry. The Los Angeles Times published a story Sunday (Sept. 12) about legal wranglings involving Crouch and accuser Enoch Lonnie Ford since the late 1990s. Ford met Crouch at a drug treatment center affiliated with the network in 1991 and later worked for the ministry.

COMMENTARY: What We Had, What We Lost, What We Have

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant, managing large-scale database implementations. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham, N.C. Visit his Web site at (UNDATED) I skip an end-of-summer swim party but overhear the disc jockey’s concluding salute to America, a song radiating patriotic rage and promising to rain destruction on whoever brought terror to our shores three years ago. Such a song might have made a certain manly-man sense when 9/11 pain was still fresh. Today it sounds ugly and cheap.

NEWS FEATURE: Book Tries to Heal Hurt of Those Abused by Priests

c. 2004 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ As with many other victims of sexual abuse, Mona Villarrubia’s psychic damage lay buried and ticking away for years, long after the acts stopped during her childhood in England. It emerged with a fury in the late 1980s when Villarrubia, a young mother and a Catholic high school religion teacher, found herself raging inexplicably at her two bewildered sons, then careening into black depression she was powerless to check. Years of grueling therapy followed. A serious flirtation with suicide.

Religious Left Says It’s Ready for Major Political Push

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Ed. note: Photo to accompany this article is available from To download photos from the RNS photo Web site, call 800-767-6781.) NEW YORK _ With a full-page ad in the New York Times, a flashlight-illuminated protest on Broadway and a plea from rock star Bono for spiritually motivated, poverty-fighting activism, the religious left has sent a message to the presidential candidates and the voters during the Republican Convention. After years of impotence, their movement is back, progressive religious leaders say.

NEWS FEATURE: Beliefs of Evangelical Voters Don’t Fit Into Neat Box

c. 2004 Beliefnet (UNDATED) The mammoth Lancaster County Bible Church in Manheim, Pa., sits like a shopping mall alongside a four-lane highway that cuts across Pennsylvania’s green countryside. A megachurch with more than 4,000 members, it boasts its own Starbucks-style cafe, a bookstore and a gigantic parking lot overseen by volunteer traffic control monitors. The church’s senior pastor, David Ashcraft, is a graduate of the nondenominational Dallas Theological Seminary, perhaps the most conservative seminary in the nation. His flock takes Scripture seriously, describing the Bible in the church’s bylaws as “inerrant in the original writings.” Members believe Christ will return in the clouds at the Rapture, gather up all born-again Christians and condemn the unsaved to hell.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Black Church Leaders Seek Caucus Support for Marriage Amendment (RNS) A group of African-American church leaders opposed to gay marriage have asked members of the Congressional Black Caucus to support a constitutional amendment to “protect marriage.” “As bishops, pastors, ministers, evangelists and leaders, we want to join forces with you to protect black families at this defining moment in American history,” reads the two-page letter, dated Wednesday (Sept. 8) and signed by dozens of people. “We are calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to take a leadership role in the development of a constitutional amendment.” The leaders, who appeared at a Capitol Hill press conference on the same day, were in Washington to participate in a related summit sponsored by the Traditional Values Coalition, a Washington-based conservative Christian group. They said the amendment is necessary because the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman, has been challenged by federal judges.

NEWS STORY: Spiritual Adviser, White House Official Speak on Bush’s Faith

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ President Bush doesn’t believe he received divine direction to run for the nation’s highest office or to wage war, a man who has acted as his spiritual adviser told religion reporters Friday (Sept. 10). The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a Houston church, was a surprise guest accompanying Jim Towey, head of Bush’s faith-based initiatives office, at the annual meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association. Both Caldwell and Towey defended the president as a man whose faith has been misrepresented and misunderstood and said they consider him to be a “mainstream” American when it comes to his religion.

NEWS FEATURE: Small Chapel Becomes Keeper of Sept. 11’s Spiritual Flame

c. 2004 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ The bells toll at 12:30 p.m. at the Episcopal chapel across the street from the World Trade Center site, but Gary Just of Glen Rock, N.J., is already praying in one of the scarred pews. So are the honeymooners from Italy and the 12-year-old British Columbian. None are Episcopalian, but it doesn’t matter; today’s prayer service is Muslim. Tomorrow, it will be Native African.

COMMENTARY: Sept. 11 and the Mystery of Pain Nobody Can Solve

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of “Cardinal Bernardin’s Stations of the Cross,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) We come to the third anniversary of Sept. 11 with many explanations of how the jet daggers slashed across America’s last innocent morning. In classic American fashion, we believe our experts _ theorists, protesters, politicians, and not-quite-A-list celebrities _ who say blaming some agency or some person will put the mystery to rest.

NEWS FEATURE: Alternative Jewish Minyans Promote Equality but Keep Tradition

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Jill Levy, 28, stepped off the plane three years ago after studying in Israel, the first place she went was Central Park for a Friday evening service at Kehilat Hadar, a vibrant alternative prayer community in New York City. Hadar, as it is known, is one of a growing number of traditional but alternative Jewish “minyans” across the country. Unlike Orthodox minyans, which require a quorum of 10 men for certain Jewish prayers to be recited, these minyans include women. Another difference is that in alternative minyans, women don’t have to sit separately.