Teaching intelligent design ruled unconstitutional; Kirtland, historic place of Mormon revelations

Adelle M. Banks and Bill Sulon report today on Tuesday’s ruling in Dover, Pa., calling intelligent design unconstitutional: A federal judge dealt a setback to the teaching of intelligent design Tuesday (Dec. 20) by ruling a Pennsylvania school district’s policy promoted an unconstitutional variation of creationism, a religious theory. U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones ruled that intelligent design violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which bars government from establishing a religion or favoring one religion over another. Jones said it is “abundantly clear” the Dover Area School District’s policy-which requires that ninth-grade students hear a statement on intelligent design prior to the start of a unit on evolution-“violates the Establishment Clause.” He added that the theory “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

Worried over “Peanuts”

Quote of the Day: “Charlie Brown Christmas” Producer Lee Mendelson “We told Schulz, `Look, you can’t read from the Bible on network television.'” -Lee Mendelson, executive producer of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” about initial fretting over “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz’s insistence that the program include the reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. The program remains a hit 40 years later, with the gospel reading intact. He was quoted by USA Today.

Travel Can Be a Spiritual Journey

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Regina Brandes finds spiritual renewal in travel and nature. She has wondered why the thousands of sheep on steep mountain slopes in Queenstown, New Zealand, don’t stumble. The Twinsburg, Ohio, retiree describes the Dolomites, mountains in the eastern Alps in Italy with deep, spectacular gorges and huge jagged pinnacles, as “breathtaking.” Seeing them “makes you believe in some kind of divine presence,” Brandes said. “When you see any kind of incredible natural phenomenon, it moves you.” Brandes’ experience is an example of what author Marlee LeDai calls “spiritual geography.” “You’ll find spiritual experiences _ epiphanies of the heart _ when you are not expecting them.

COMMENTARY: A Christian Musician Battles an Addiction to Pornography

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If the statistics are right, the pornography industry brings in more money than the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises. Money from U.S. porn also exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS and NBC. Child pornography alone generates an estimated $3 billion annually. Someone is sending money to the pornographers, and it’s not just the dirty old men who live on the wrong side of town.

COMMENTARY: Abuse of Palestinian Christians Goes Unchecked

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) These are acutely trying times for the Christian remnant residing in areas “governed” by the Palestinian Authority. Tens of thousands have abandoned their holy sites and ancestral properties to move abroad, while those that remain do so as a beleaguered and dwindling minority. Christians, who used to comprise the vast majority of the residents in the Bethlehem area, will fall past a critical point _ and their community will no longer be viable. Palestinian Christian leaders who should be protecting their co-religionists are instead abandoning them to the forces of radical Islam.

In Case You Become Pontiff, a Clever Guide to the Vatican

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Obviously, the position has been filled. But you still might want to file away a copy of “How to Be Pope” (Chronicle Books, $10.95, 127 pages) for future reference. Piers Marchant’s collection of truly useful tips, subtitled “What to Do and Where to Go Once You’re in the Vatican,” is a laugh and a half, a self-help guide whose humor lies in its straightforward and detail-driven approach. Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Roman Catholic Church for more than eight months now.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Pope: French Riots a `Message’ From Muslim Youth VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Monday (Dec. 19) called the chain of riots that recently roiled France a “message” from French youth that underscores the need to integrate Muslim minorities more effectively. Addressing France’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Benedict said the November violence reflected discontent among French youth over the government’s perceived failure to bring the country’s Muslim population into the social and economic fold. “Your country is going through a difficult period on a social level, making the deep dissatisfaction of some of its youth apparent,” the pope said.

Roman Catholic Spokesman on Rev. Ned Reidy

Quote of the Day: Roman Catholic Spokesman Howard Lincoln “What this is not is a Galileo trial of 1633. This is based on revised canon law of 1983. No one’s going to be burned at the stake.” -The Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif., on the church’s charges of heresy and schism against the Rev. Ned Reidy, a former priest. Reidy formed his own parish that rejects the authority of the pope, mandatory priestly celibacy and prohibitions against the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Bishop Receives a Gift of `Mercy’ for Christmas

Bishops, in church-speak, are supposed to be the good shepherds who look out for the flock. But in South Dakota, it seems one of the sheep is looking out for the shepherd. Episcopal Bishop Creighton Robertson found the new kidney he desperately needed from one of his priests, the appropriately named Rev. Mercy Hobbs. The story can be found on the South Dakota Diocese web site and Robertson’s journal from the transplant recovery center can be found on the caringbridge site here (enter “bishoprobertson”).

Hanukkah an Opportunity to Address Pitfalls of Gambling

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) At a time when gambling has become increasingly popular, with poker matches online and on television, some in the Jewish community say Hanukkah can be an opportunity to address the addictive dangers of wagering. Among the festivities associated with the eight-day holiday is the children’s game of dreidel, a penny-betting game involving a spinning top. While no one claims dreidel creates gambling addicts, the game can become a discussion starter for children to look at the deeper issues, and pitfalls, of higher stakes gambling. Dreidel is “not something that’s going to drive the gambling problem or stop the gambling problem,” said Jerry Zeitchik, a clinical psychologist who directs guidance at the Ramaz Upper School, an Orthodox Jewish day school in New York City.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Pope Says Mental Illness Caused by Erosion of Moral Values VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Friday (Dec. 16) described mental illness as a worldwide “emergency” caused by global instability and a general erosion of moral values in industrialized countries. In a message prepared for World Day of the Sick, which will be held in Adelaide, Australia, in February, the pope called mental illness a “real and true social and medical emergency” that he said affected one-fifth of the world’s population. “At the root of new forms of mental sickness in highly developed countries, experts also recognize the negative influence of the crisis of moral values,” Benedict said.

Persistence Pays Off for Lawyer Suing Vatican

c. 2005 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Process servers have crashed celebrity parties, donned disguises and engaged in car chases _ whatever it takes to put legal papers into the hands of reluctant defendants. But rough-and-tumble tactics won’t work against the Vatican, an independent country located within the city of Rome. To sue a foreign nation, lawyers in an Oregon priest-abuse case needed to spend $40,000 for a pair of Latin translators and wait more than three years to serve the proper Vatican official through the right diplomatic channels.

Hollywood Always Has Faith in the Profit, If Not the Prophet

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A mysterious visitor arrives from the heavens to walk among us. At first, hardly anyone believes in his existence. Gradually, though, more and more people come to know and follow him, as he teaches lessons of love to the meek and powerless. The powerful consider him a threat, however, and when they capture him, he dies.

COMMENTARY: What $20 at Christmas Meant to a Young Girl Freed from Dachau

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In 1913, my grandmother left Yugoslavia at age 16 and traveled the immigrant’s voyage across the ocean to America. Here she created a legacy in what she liked to call “her adopted homeland,” but her choice meant that she would never see her Slovenian family again. Her sister Ancka was supposed to join her in America the next year, but World War I broke out. Then the 1918 influenza pandemic swept through Europe.