NEWS STORY: “Choose Life’’ License Plates Spur Legal Brouhaha in Several States

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Drive the nation’s highways and you see state license plates touting “I am an animal lover,” “NASCAR,” “Friends of the Smoky Mountains,” “Florida Panthers,” and “Scouting teaches values.” State governments have discovered they can raise millions of dollars in revenue by offering license plate logos and slogans while drivers have learned they can communicate their passions on their vehicles. But two passions _ abortion, and to a lesser extent, adoption _ have caused problems, raising thorny legal questions about where personal freedom of expression ends and state endorsement of religion and other controversial beliefs begin. On Monday (Jan. 24) the U.S. Supreme Court refused to settle the issue, at least for now, when it declined to take a case involving a license plate battle in South Carolina.

COMMENTARY: After 350 Years, Baptists and Jews Have Much in Common

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Surely every authentic Baptist rejoices in the 350 years of American Jewish life. We celebrate the freedom of religion and pluralism that has marked our lives together since 1654 when the first 23 Jews arrived in New Amsterdam. A strong chain has linked Baptist and Jews theologically, historically and politically. Amanda Porterfield, in her 2001 book “The Transformation of American Religion,” gets right to the heart of Jewish/Baptist theological affinity.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Detroit Archdiocese Cancels Reception for Nun Supportive of Gay Catholics (RNS) Supporters of a nun silenced by the Vatican for her work with gay and lesbian Catholics have been turned away from a Detroit-area parish because their mission is “not in accord with the mission and message of the church.” The Archdiocese of Detroit ordered a halt to a reception at St. Mary’s Church in Royal Oak, Mich., that was scheduled for Sunday (Jan. 30) following a screening of “In Good Conscience,” a documentary about the work of Sister Jeannine Grammick. Detroit’s archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida, led a Vatican investigation into Grammick’s work with the Maryland-based New Ways Ministries that led to a 1999 directive to cease her work.

NEWS STORY: Black Baptists, in Newfound Unity, Declare Opposition to Iraq War

c. 2005 Religion News Service NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ After a historic gathering, leaders of four black Baptist denominations numbering more than 15 million members moved from celebrating their newfound unity to a future battling social problems with one voice. They issued their first joint statement on Friday (Jan. 28), declaring their stances on a number of social issues, most prominently their opposition to the war in Iraq.

COMMENTARY: Abu Ghraib Abuse Has Company in Immoral Universe

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) On Sunday, Jan. 23, the New York Times Book Review devoted its front page and almost three more inside pages to reviews of two books on the torture and sexual humiliation inflicted by some American soldiers on captives in now-notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Abu Ghraib is being analyzed as if it were the first gusher of inhumanity ever to blow wild in plain sight. It is intimated that the investigative drill has tapped into inhumanity’s sole source, the vast pool of American corruption welling out of Washington, rather than the proven reserves of inhuman crude that bubble beneath every continent on the globe.

International Project Reveals Cultural `Blind Spots’ in Bible Reading

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The members of a Bible study group in Elkhart, Ind., were meditating on the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, the biblical passage where Jesus Christ meets a Samaritan woman at a well and offers her eternal life _ “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst,” according to verse 14. The question was asked, What are you thirsting for? “For me, it’s security,” one participant replied. “My greatest fear is the rug will be pulled out from under me.

NEWS STORY: Evangelical Social Activist Preaches Values to Receptive Democrats

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Coming out of an election in which values issues played a key role in growing Republican majorities in the U.S. Congress, Jim Wallis is finding receptive ears among Democratic leaders eager to hear how they might win back religious voters. Wallis, one of the few prominent, left-wing evangelical Christians, comes bearing a simple message: Evangelicals care about more than abortion and gay marriage. He believes that Democrats could attract religiously conservative voters if they emphasized the religious roots of poverty relief and moderated their stance on abortion. Wallis recently delivered this message to Senate Democrats in a closed-door meeting.

COMMENTARY: Dobson Need Not Fear Diversity

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I learned an important lesson in the Air Force: If a primary target is too difficult, move to a secondary one offering greater possibility of success. I don’t know whether James Dobson, the president of the Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family, also served in the USAF, but he obviously knows this lesson. As a religious right leader, Dobson believes he was a major factor in President Bush’s re-election, and since Nov. 2, Dobson has been rhetorically attacking several political targets, all difficult to damage or destroy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Pope Says Holocaust Should Serve as Warning to Religious Terrorists (RNS) Pope John Paul II, marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, said Thursday (Jan. 27) that the Holocaust should be a warning to terrorists acting in the name of religion. “May it serve, today and for the future,” said the pope, “as a warning: there must be no yielding to ideologies which justify contempt for human dignity on the basis of race, color, language or religion. “I make this appeal to everyone, and particularly to those who would resort, in the name of religion, to acts of oppression and terrorism.” Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, represented the pope at the ceremonies in Poland and delivered John Paul’s message.

RELIGION BESTSELLERS

(Editor’s note: This January list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of December. Copyright 2005 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. Your Best Life Now, by Joel Osteen. (Warner Faith, $19.95) 2.

COMMENTARY: To Find God in Disasters, Look at Response, Not Act

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I have seen too much of death. After two weeks in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, visiting stricken sites, listening to stories of loss and survival, passing bodies on the roadside, standing beside mass graves, feeling even more helpless than I felt before beginning our trip, I am eager to do something the thousands of people we met cannot yet do _ leave it all behind and go home. Perhaps I have seen and smelled and heard and tasted enough and have reached my emotional limit. Yet even from the comfort of my seat on the plane heading home, the questions persist.

NEWS STORY: Passionate Christians Perceive Bias in Academy Award Nominations

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Conservative Christian groups are outraged, but not surprised, that the box-office hit “The Passion of the Christ” didn’t receive an Academy Award nomination for best picture or best director. Mel Gibson’s film, which grossed $370 million in the United States and more than $600 million worldwide, did receive three nominations Tuesday (Jan. 25), for “makeup,” “cinematography” and “original score.” But some religious fans still see a snub. “There’s no question that bigotry and prejudice is rank among the liberal elite of Hollywood,” said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder of the Washington-based Traditional Values Coalition.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Election Will Shape Religion and Politics in Iraq

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The e-mail from a Southern Baptist chaplain to friends and supporters was as blunt as it was urgent: “Freedom will not ring throughout this country (Iraq) if the voting process fails.” The chaplain, Capt. Lyle Schackelford, is assigned to U.S. troops delivering voting machines for the historic Iraqi election that will take place on Sunday (Jan. 30) in at least parts of violence-wracked and American-occupied Iraq. “Your prayer support and God’s intervention are needed to safeguard our soldiers and give democracy a chance in the war-torn country,” Baptist Press quoted the chaplain as writing. The election has become a pivotal moment, both for President Bush and his Iraqi policy, and for the insurgents who have vowed to disrupt the election, undermine its legitimacy and wage “fierce war” against the “evil faith” of democracy and “the arrogant American tyrant who carries the flag of the cross.” As the war, from its beginning, has been marked by intense religious rhetoric, so, too, has the debate about _ and the violence sparked by _ the election, mirroring the intense religious and ethnic rivalries that make up the fabric of Iraqi life.