NEWS STORY: Private Faith, Public Religion, Merge at Bush Inauguration

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Presidential inaugurations tend to be sober affairs with benign overtures to national unity and American pride. References to God tend to be generic and genteel. But after a bitterly fought presidential campaign in which religion played a larger-than-expected role, President Bush’s second inauguration took on a distinctive spiritual flavor. It reflected a man of outspoken Christian faith whose evangelical beliefs have galvanized his conservative religious base but alienated others from different faith backgrounds.

COMMENTARY: This Disaster Fosters an Immature Religion

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The tsunami had a peculiar impact in America. Many who had just celebrated Christmas demanding that religion keep silent in national life suddenly demanded that religion speak up to explain how the disaster fit into God’s plan, if God exists, that is, and if He has a plan. Even those supportive of religion have turned the tsunami into a test for faith itself. Thus, the Wall Street Journal, William Safire in the New York Times and Rabbi Michael Lerner in Tikkun magazine call God into the dock for questioning, asking, Where do we find meaning in this terrible calamity?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Catholic and Sikh Leaders Urge Canada to Not Legalize Same-Sex Marriage TORONTO (RNS) Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto, has sent an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin urging “caution” on the issue of impending same-sex marriage legislation. In another religious warning, Sikhism’s leading cleric, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti of India, issued an edict condemning Canada’s proposed legislation. “Can we say with certainty what the social outcome of a re-definition of marriage would be?” Ambrozic asked in his letter, made public Wednesday (Jan. 19).

NEWS FEATURE: Conservative Christian Groups Say SpongeBob Video Promotes Gay Families

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Conservative Christian groups are criticizing a multicultural children’s video featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and other TV characters, claiming it promotes acceptance of gay and lesbian families. The video, “We Are Family,” was created by Nile Rodgers, who wrote a 1970s disco hit of the same title. After 9-11, Rodgers formed the New York-based We Are Family Foundation to promote tolerance and diversity. Rodgers said his video, featuring more than 100 children’s characters _ including Arthur, Barney and Clifford the Big Red Dog _ will be sent to 61,000 public and private elementary schools across the country in March to affirm diversity.

COMMENTARY: Amber Frey Alerts Us to a Collective Loss of Decency

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) No surprise here. Schadenfreude sells. Amber Frey’s book on her affair gone awry with Scott Peterson hit the top of every best-seller list in its first week of distribution. Frey cooperated with police to bring Peterson to justice when she was alerted to the manifestly obvious: He had murdered his wife and unborn child, apparently to clear a path for his relationship with her.

NEWS FEATURE: Animated Characters Provide Modern-Day Parables of Morality and Immorality

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When he was growing up, Mike Mignola had two great loves _ monster movies and superheroes. So when Dark Horse Comics offered him the chance to write and illustrate his own comic book, Mignola decided to combine the two. The result is Hellboy, a wisecracking, good-hearted, old-fashioned superhero with one small problem: He’s a red-skinned, cloven-hoofed demon summoned by the Nazis to bring about the end of the world. When the Nazis’ plans are foiled, the then-infant Hellboy is taken in and raised by human beings.

NEWS STORY: In Wake of Tsunami, Relief Groups Plant Seeds of Faith for Later Growth

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When the Rev. Dr. Tim Dearborn journeyed to tsunami-plundered Thailand in early January to encourage a team of Christian missionaries there, he reaffirmed what has become a standard vow for faith-inspired relief workers: we don’t proselytize those we serve. Refusing to proselytize, however, doesn’t mean stifling hopes for church growth after an epic disaster. On the contrary, Dearborn and others say they hope aid recipients will seek to know _ and possibly experience for themselves _ what it was that inspired so many workers to help them rebuild their lives. “This builds the credibility of the gospel.

COMMENTARY: Charitable Giving Releases God’s Blessing on the Giver

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When people knock on our door to collect charity, my husband and I give our children dollar bills that they can each give to the collector. Although we could simply write a check (we often do that as well), we want the children to become accustomed to the notion of giving from their hand to the hand of another. Hard times have hit many in recent years, and we have seen a notable increase in the number of knocks at our door. As we live in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, many of the collectors are seeking support for Jewish schools or organizations in Israel, hard hit by severe government cutbacks in their funding.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Supreme Court Denies Atheist’s Request to Ban Inaugural Prayer WASHINGTON (RNS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday (Jan. 19) rejected atheist Michael Newdow’s plea to prohibit clergy-led prayer at President Bush’s inauguration Thursday. Nonetheless, Newdow said he hasn’t given up his fight to block prayer at the swearing-in ceremony. After Chief Justice William Rehnquist denied Newdow’s request, Newdow used an obscure Supreme Court rule to submit an appeal to Justice John Paul Stevens, hoping that he would be more sympathetic to the case.

NEWS STORY: Lutheran Panel Says No to Changes on Gay Clergy, Same-Sex Unions

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A Lutheran task force on Thursday (Jan. 13) recommended no change to church rules that ban gay clergy and same-sex unions, saying a majority of the church does not support “wholesale change” to existing gay policy. But the 13-member panel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America proposed that the denomination refrain from disciplining churches and pastors who feel “conscience-bound” to disobey the rules. The proposals suggest that _ at least for now _ the 5.2 million-member church will follow the lead of other mainline churches in choosing the status quo over major changes on the divisive issue of homosexuality.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Religious Leaders Urge Bush to Address Middle East Conflict (RNS) Representing 28 religious organizations, a diverse group of leaders appealed Thursday (Jan. 13) to President Bush to make every effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his second term. The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East _ made up of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders _ requested that the administration appoint a special presidential envoy to the region and negotiate a timeline for steps to be taken by the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority. In a news conference at the National Press Club, the leaders also called for increased international economic aid to improve security and promote development for the Palestinian people.


c. 2005 Religion News Service AYLMER, Ontario _ Over three days in this community of 6,500, I talked with several dozen Canadians: all Baptists, down-to-earth folks who work hard, make good chili and are concerned about politico-religious events south of their border. One told of visiting family in Florida and encountering a conservatism that bewildered him: a take-no-prisoners juggernaut of political, cultural and religious hostilities. One showed me an article about the right wing’s plan to force politicians to enact their narrow morality agenda. She asked, “How can this be?” I felt affirmed in my growing unease.

NEWS STORY: Ohio, Prepare Ye the Way of the Southern Baptists

c. 2005 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The nation’s largest Protestant church is coming into the heart of one of the nation’s most Catholic regions with a two-year, approximately $2.5 million evangelistic effort to win souls in Northeast Ohio. The 16.3 million-member Southern Baptist Convention selected Cleveland as its Strategic Focus City in the United States for the years 2006 and 2007. Thousands of volunteers will be pouring in from all over the country to help win converts and start new churches in an area that now has only one Southern Baptist church for every 43,000 people, compared with the national average, Southern Baptists say, of one of its churches for every 6,400 people. In Canada, the same type of campaign will be conducted in Vancouver.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Kidnapped and Released Iraqi Bishop Says Church Not a Target VATICAN CITY (RNS) A Catholic archbishop held by kidnappers for 20 hours in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul said on his unharmed release Tuesday (Jan. 18) that no ransom was paid and he does not believe the church was a target. “I think that my abduction was a coincidence,” Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of the Syrian Catholic Church told Vatican Radio. “It did not seem to me that they wanted to strike at the Church as such.” Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, the senior Catholic prelate in Iraq agreed with Casmoussa.

Conservative Christians Want More from Bush This Time

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) They pushed hard for his re-election, and now that President Bush is starting his second term this week, conservative Christian leaders across the country want their agenda put in motion as soon as possible. They demonstrated that victory would not be quiet for them when they pounced in fury, and with effect, after an influential senator implied he would try to block prospective Supreme Court justices who would end abortion rights. They want abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem-cell research banned. They want judges who will let prayer back in public schools.