RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service FEMA Extends Faith-Based Initiative With Hurricane Reimbursements (RNS) The Federal Emergency Management Agency intends to reimburse religious groups that have offered relief to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, marking a new step in the White House’s faith-based initiative. The move by FEMA is being criticized by a church-state watchdog group, while a scholar of the faith-based initiative says it should not cause constitutional alarm. Butch Kinerney, a spokesman for FEMA, said the government will reimburse sheltering expenses of private nonprofit organizations if they made an agreement with county or state government officials to house evacuees. “We want to make sure that every group, religious or nonreligious, which opens its doors and opens its arms to shelter evacuees from this storm are able to get compensated for their generosity,” Kinerney said in an interview.

Hurricanes Provide Teachable Moment, Spur Interfaith Cooperation

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Less than a month into his job, the Rev. Reid Doster is coordinating disaster recovery for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Louisiana, helping victims near Lacombe deal with the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As he works with Presbyterians, Lutherans and other volunteers to help remove wet furniture and stave off dangerous black mold, the return of cable television to his own home doesn’t seem so important. “I concluded that my possessions have been possessing me and that as long as I have people I love, and my health and a roof over my head, what else could anybody want?” he said. For many believers like Doster, the one-two punch of natural disasters has become both a test of faith and a teachable moment.

On First Day of Trial, Biology Professor Calls Intelligent Design `Dangerous’

c. 2005 Religion News Service HARRISBURG, Pa. _ The lone witness in a federal lawsuit being scrutinized across the country testified on the trial’s first day that a statement on intelligent design being read in the Dover Area School District is “terribly dangerous.” Kenneth R. Miller, a biology textbook author and professor of biology at Brown University in Rhode Island, said the Dover policy is based on flawed information and “misleads students” into equating intelligent design with evolution. Miller testified on Monday (Sept. 26), the first day of the nonjury trial that has attracted more than 40 media outlets.

Hurricanes’ lessons; intelligent design

Tuesday’s RNS report includes a story about the lessons hurricanes offer to people of faith. Adelle M. Banks and Jason Kane write: The one-two punch of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is serving as both a test of faith and a teachable moment for the nation, religious leaders say. As resources are stretched to aid those affected by the double disaster, long-standing charity efforts are combining with new examples of interfaith cooperation. “I think most people tend to pray harder through something like this,” said Loui Dobin, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Greene Family Camp near Waco, Texas, which has become a shelter for hurricane evacuees. Bill Sulon reports on the trial taking place in the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania, regarding the teaching of intelligent design to its ninth-grade students: The lone witness in a federal lawsuit being scrutinized across the country testified that a statement on intelligent design being read in the Dover Area School District is “terribly dangerous.”

Actor says “Jesus is the only way to Heaven”

Quote of the Day: Actor Kirk Cameron “If we present the gospel simply as a life improvement program, well, boy-there’s lots of things that work to improve your life. You could get into yoga, become a vegetarian.” -Actor Kirk Cameron, known for his role in the 1980s situation comedy “Growing Pains” as well as a more recent role in the “Left Behind” movie series, commenting on findings of a Newsweek/Beliefnet poll. He was quoted by Agape Press, an online Christian news source.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Pope Meets with Dissident Theologian Hans Kung VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has met with dissident theologian Hans Kung in a push to improve relations with an outspoken Vatican critic that many regard as the pope’s main theological adversary. In a statement released Monday (Sept. 26), Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described the Saturday meeting as a “friendly” exchange that avoided doctrinal issues, which have divided the two theologians in the past. “Both parties agreed that during the meeting there was no sense getting into a dispute over the persistent doctrinal questions between Hans Kung and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church,” Navarro-Valls said.

COMMENTARY: It’s OK to Question God About the Hurricanes

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Even if you’re not the sort of person who believes God is directing the path of all these storms, it’s been hard not to throw a lamentation or two in the Almighty’s direction lately. Maybe yours came with Arlene. Perhaps you waited for Dennis or held off until Katrina’s wrath was unleashed at the end of last month. Or maybe somehow you were able to keep your cool, and your faith, until the forecasters started mentioning that Rita _ neither lovely nor a meter maid _ was headed into the Gulf of Mexico.

NEWS SIDEBAR: Why Rosh Hashana and Ramadan Meet Only Once Every 33 Years

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Everybody knows that there are 365 days in the solar year. But how many know the number of days in a lunar year? The answer is 354, 11 days fewer than the solar calendar. Judaism and Islam, which both observe a lunar calendar, treat this disparity differently, explaining why it is so noteworthy that this year, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on the same day as the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana (Oct.

Interfaith Activities to Celebrate `God’s October Surprise’

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If all goes as predicted, Tuesday, Oct. 4, will indeed be a holy day. For the first time in 33 years, two world religions would mark the beginning of their most sacred seasons on the same day. Jews will begin celebrating Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year that also begins the 10-day period known as the “Days of Awe.” And if the first moon sighting goes as some are predicting, Muslims will usher in the holy month of Ramadan that same day.

Dalai Lama Urges Peace Through `Science of Emotions’

c. 2005 Religion News Service PISCATAWAY, N.J. _ Sharing the simple spiritual lessons that have become his calling card, the Dalai Lama drew the largest crowd for a non-athletic event in Rutgers University history Sunday (Sept. 25) for a wide-ranging speech on what he called the “science of emotions.” From a massive stage behind the goal line near the Rutgers Stadium scoreboard, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism spoke of inner peace and world peace, and of the connection between them. With occasional help from a translator sitting next to him, the man believed to be the 14th incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion joked with an appreciative crowd and answered questions on morality submitted earlier via e-mail. The audience that began arriving hours before the speech reflected the popularity of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner among Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews.

Katrina’s displaced pastors; intelligent design case; and the giant Jesus

In Friday’s RNS report, Bruce Nolan reports from New Orleans on the struggles faced by displaced pastors, who lost not only their church buildings and their congregations, but also their chief source of personal income: The rebuilding, such as it is, presents enormous challenges to displaced pastors struggling to find hundreds of church members scattered across the countryâÂ?¦In places such as Baton Rouge, Houston and Atlanta, displaced New Orleans pastors are locating a few scores of their former church members and holding worship services in borrowed churches or university student centers. We also offer a story out of Harrisburg, Pa., where on Monday U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III will hear a suit to stop the Dover School Board from introducing intelligent design in science class as an alternative to evolution. Mary Warner writes: As the nation watches, a 21st-century courtroom drama will emerge from an old and ongoing cultural divide in America. It’s about evolution. In a nonjury civil trial expected to last until late October, the latest challenge to the teaching of evolution in public schools receives its first courtroom scrutiny.

Court Battle Joined on Teaching of Intelligent Design

c. 2005 Religion News Service HARRISBURG, Pa. _ In Harrisburg on Monday, as the nation watches, a 21st-century courtroom drama will emerge from an old and ongoing cultural divide in America. It’s about evolution. In a nonjury civil trial expected to last until late October, the latest challenge to evolution in public schools receives its first courtroom scrutiny.

New Orleans Pastors Struggle to Reconnect and Rebuild

c. 2005 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ The same storm winds that shattered New Orleans neighborhoods scattered its faith communities. In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, once-solid New Orleans churches struggled to reconstitute themselves, worshipping in new, unfamiliar cities. Then came Hurricane Rita, wreaking even more damage. The rebuilding, such as it is, presents enormous challenges to displaced pastors struggling to find hundreds of church members scattered across the country.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Report Provides New Details of Secret Election of New Pope VATICAN CITY (RNS) Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina received enough votes during the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI to have blocked the pontiff’s election, according to a detailed report published Friday (Sept. 23) in Italy. The report, published in the quarterly review Limes, draws from the diary of an anonymous cardinal who voted in the April conclave. In leaking his diary, the author appears to have compromised the oath of secrecy that all cardinals took upon entering the conclave.