COMMENTARY: Where Does All Our Sorrow Go?

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Sadness settled on Chippewa Falls, Wis., after a bus carrying the high school band crashed into a jackknifed trailer truck on Sunday (Oct. 16), killing five, including the band leader. Does the music of sorrow rise from the wreckage of that crash like the blues above New Orleans, and will people now hear it in every high wind that blows across that place? Beneath the ’60s lament “Where have all the flowers gone?” is a question as old as humankind, “Where does all our sorrow go?” Some educators apparently think that sadness can be dealt with in pragmatic American fashion.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Bush Administration: Religious Schools Can Get FEMA Aid WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious schools and faith-based community service organizations that suffered damage during the recent hurricanes are eligible to receive federal disaster grants, the Bush administration said Tuesday (Oct. 18). Despite concerns from groups saying the government shouldn’t finance religiously affiliated groups, Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said money will be available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for rebuilding facilities damaged in hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Towey said a policy change in 2002 cleared the way for providing such relief.

NEWS ANALYSIS: `Red States’ Race to Find Medical Options That Spare Embryos, Create Jobs

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Opponents of embryonic stem cell research have long contended the practice should wither because it’s morally wrong, but conservative-leaning states are now sprinting to prove it’s also a big waste of money. The “red states” strategy _ so named for the states’ tendency to vote Republican in national elections _ increasingly hinges on showcasing alternatives in the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine. From Missouri to Virginia, the race is on to find therapies that save human embryos and create high-paying medical jobs for state voters. That contrasts with the big bet on embryonic research in most Democratic “blue states.” To grow the nation’s pool of “adult” stem cells, red states such as New Mexico and South Dakota are urging mothers to donate umbilical cord material after childbirth.

Survey Shows Religious Americans Tolerant of Divorce

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Most Americans continue to believe that “God’s plan for marriage is one man, one woman, for life,” but they are still tolerant of those who divorce, a new survey on family and faith shows. A poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted for the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly” found that 71 percent of Americans said they believe in the ideal of lifelong traditional marriage. But just 22 percent of those surveyed agreed that “divorce is a sin.” Religious conservatives were most likely to agree that divorce is sinful. But they were still a minority within their own ranks, with 34 percent of evangelical Christians and 30 percent of traditional Catholics saying divorce is sinful.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service New British Rules Increase Cost of Replacing Church Light Bulbs LONDON (RNS) How many electricians does it take to change a light bulb? In at least one British church, more than it used to. New British government safety regulations that came into effect last April require “safe landing areas or rest platforms” for any job more than 29 feet off the ground. At St.

`Let my palm fronds go’

Quote of the Day: U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman “I said, `Let my palm fronds go.’ … We’re trying to avoid the Egyptians from looking like the grinch that stole Sukkot.” -U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., commenting on Israeli complaints that prices for palm fronds imported from Egypt have skyrocketed from $2 in 2004 to $20 this year. The palm fronds are used in the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service New British Rules Increase Cost of Replacing Church Light Bulbs LONDON (RNS) How many electricians does it take to change a light bulb? In at least one British church, more than it used to. New British government safety regulations that came into effect last April require “safe landing areas or rest platforms” for any job more than 29 feet off the ground. At St.

RNS Exclusive: Queen of Darkness Sees the Light in New Book on Christ

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The queen of darkness has seen the light. In her latest book, “Christ the Lord,” novelist Anne Rice turns away from the doomed souls of her best-selling tales about vampires and witches in favor of a first-person account of the 7-year-old Jesus. “I was sitting in church talking to (God) about it and I finally realized there was no holding back anymore,” said Rice, 64, who returned to the Catholic Church in 1998 after a 30-year absence. “I just said, `From now on it’s all going to be for you.’

No Major Changes Expected on Communion, Politicians

c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ A synod of bishops advising Pope Benedict XVI is not expected to recommend any concrete changes on priestly celibacy or how the church treats divorced Catholics or Catholic politicians, according to a draft of the bishops’ final report. Bishops on Tuesday (Oct. 18) reviewed a first draft of proposals that will be put to a vote Saturday and presented to the pope in a final message. Portions of the draft were made available to Religion News Service by sources participating in the synod.

COMMENTARY: Yes, There is a First Amendment Wall of Separation

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “Is there such a thing as separation of church and state?” asks a reader. Yes, it is required by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Arguments about “separation of church and state” sound like other culture-war arguments being waged in code language. Like “family values,” as if that were a settled compilation waiting to be implemented; or “states’ rights,”a onetime cover for perpetuating racial segregation in the name of freedom. The First Amendment cuts two ways.

Pope’s synod of bishops; Anne Rice writes about Jesus

RNS’s Vatican correspondent Stacy Meichtry is monitoring the first synod of bishops of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. The meeting began Oct. 2 and will continue through Oct. 23. According to Meichtry: A synod of bishops advising Pope Benedict XVI is not expected to recommend any concrete changes to church policy, according to a draft version of the bishops’ final report.

Rev. Medley on American Baptist Churches focus

Quote of the Day: American Baptist Churches General Secretary A. Roy Medley “ABC is not collapsing. Our mission focus and call are clear. We intend to focus on them like a laser beam.” -The Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA, speaking about his denomination’s recent challenges, including divisions over homosexuality and a recent decision to close its communications department. He was quoted by Associated Baptist Press.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service New Approach to Stem Cell Research Could End Some Ethical Concerns (RNS) Two new research techniques unveiled in a prestigious scientific journal Monday (Oct. 17) are stirring hopes that embryonic stem cell research might be doable in a way that avoids sticky ethical and religious objections. Teams from Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge reported their experiments online in the journal “Nature.” At stake: billions in federal funding for regenerative therapies if researchers can ultimately convince elected officials that embryonic stem cell research can be performed in an ethical manner. Working independently, the two teams said they have obtained embryonic stem cells from mice without destroying any embryos to get them.

Alleging Detainees Abused, Ex-Guantanamo Bay Chaplain Releases Detailed Book

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For James Yee, it has been a long silence. Arrested on suspicion of espionage in September 2003 and later exonerated, the former Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay prison remained under a military gag order until his honorable discharge earlier this year. Now Yee has written “For God and Country,” an insider’s account of the controversies surrounding the treatment of prisoners captured by the United States in the war on terror. The charges against him, he said in an interview, were the price he paid for blowing the whistle on detainee treatment.

Christian Vegetarians Inspired by Garden of Eden Diet

c. 2005 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ In the biblical book of Leviticus, the Lord is said to tell Moses, “You may eat any land animal that has divided hoofs and that also chews the cud.” In the Gospel of Luke, the father celebrates the return of the prodigal son by ordering the slaughter of the fatted calf for a feast. And in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when Jesus is said to have fed thousands gathered to hear him, fish was definitely a big part of the menu. So you know it’s not easy being a Christian vegetarian, or to seek to convert meat-eaters to a dietary lifestyle that makes fewer demands on the environment and is sensitive to the feelings of other creatures in creation. For the Cleveland-based international Christian Vegetarian Association, one place to start is in the beginning, in the first chapter of Genesis.