Supreme Court Allows Sect to Use Hallucinogenic Tea

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday (Feb. 21) unanimously sided with members of a small New Mexico sect’s bid to use hallucinogenic tea in religious rituals. Chief Justice John Roberts, in his first religious freedom case, said the sect’s right to religious expression and practice superseded federal drug control laws that were used to confiscate the tea, known as hoasca. The court’s ruling also served as a strong endorsement of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the government to show a “compelling interest” before it can limit religious freedom.

COMMENTARY: No Room for Grace When Religious Extremism Takes Over

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If we ever doubted the wisdom of keeping religion out of politics, ongoing protests over Danish cartoons deemed offensive to Islam should be our wake-up call. This is the face of religious extremism. When religion is on the line, no side understands any other side. Angry Muslims cannot imagine a culture in which everything is routinely offered up in caricature, from kings and presidents to popes and preachers, and cartoon images of Jesus run the gamut from reverent to ribald.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Faith-Based Relief Agencies Mobilize After Landslide in Philippines (RNS) U.S. religious relief agencies scrambled to respond to a Friday (Feb. 17) landslide in the Philippines that engulfed hundreds of homes and left an estimated 1,500 people missing and feared dead. Mudslides after heavy rains enveloped houses and an elementary school in the village of Guinsaugon in the country’s Southern Leyte province, news services reported. “One of the really sad things is that the poor of the world tend to live on the side of mountains, where landslides are likely to come down,” said Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Falls Church, Va.-based Baptist World Alliance.

Vatican Official Calls for Talks With Islam on Crusades, Muslim Conquests

c. 2006 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Amid global anger over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the Vatican’s top mediator with Islam is pushing to heal long-festering wounds of history _ the Christian Crusades and the Muslim conquests of medieval Europe. “It is a question that needs to be addressed. How do we read history? Can we read history together and come to some common understanding?” Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said in an interview Thursday (Feb.

Evangelical Leader Advocates `Creation Care’ to Fight Global Warming

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ The Rev. Jim Ball has gotten 85 other Christian evangelical leaders to launch a national campaign against global warming, a feat that just might make him the most important environmentalist of 2006. The Evangelical Climate Initiative, which Ball organized with a handful of other like-minded Christians, declared the “basic task for all of the world’s inhabitants” is to cut emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. It is spreading the word in newspaper, television and radio ads; meetings with key legislators; and events at churches and Christian colleges around the country. That has irked some influential evangelicals, who sabotaged Ball’s efforts to recruit the National Association of Evangelicals to the cause last month.

RELIGION BEST-SELLERS

(Editor’s note: This February list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of January. Copyright 2006 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren. (Zondervan, $19.99) 2.

Vatican calls for talks with Muslims on Crusades; Rev. Jim Ball and the environment

In Friday’s RNS report Stacy Meichtry writes that the Vatican wants discussion with Islam on the Crusades: In the midst of global anger over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the Vatican’s top mediator with Islam is pushing to heal long-festering historical wounds-the Christian Crusades and the Muslim conquests of medieval Europe. “It is a question that needs to be addressed,” said Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in an interview Thursday (Feb. 16) with Religion News Service. Fitzgerald, who is slated to soon become Pope Benedict XVI’s ambassador to Egypt and the Arab League, also rejected a call from an Italian lawmaker for the Vatican to lead a showdown with Islam. Instead, Fitzgerald called for Vatican and Muslim scholars to examine the legacy of Christian-Muslim confict to build historical consensus.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Blair Promises British Crackdown on `Glorification’ of Terrorism LONDON (RNS) Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged that under a new law Britain’s police and courts will take tougher steps against demonstrators glorifying terrorism, including those carrying inflammatory placards like the ones waved during a protest of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. The Blair government has come under fire for the failure of police to arrest any of the Muslim demonstrators who during a march in London hoisted posters calling for a “massacre” and demanded, “Behead those who insult Islam.” The prime minister stepped in with his new promise of firmer action after the House of Commons, the lower chamber of Parliament, approved legislation Wednesday (Feb. 15) outlawing the “glorification” of terrorism such as the deaths of 52 people at the hands of four Muslim suicide bombers last July 7. “The law …

Southern Baptist Mission Board to Drop Plan Dumping Critical Member

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board have decided to drop a plan seeking the ouster of a fellow board member who criticized a policy prohibiting speaking in tongues. Board Chairman Tom Hatley announced Thursday (Feb. 16) that he intends to ask trustees at their March meeting to reverse their motion seeking the removal of the Rev. Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor who differed with recent policies the board enacted. The move came after executive committee members of the board met on Feb.

COMMENTARY: In Darfur, We Must Again Proclaim `Never Again’

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) “Never Again!” is a well-worn mantra invoked by many people when they remember the mass murder of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. The phrase is meant to indicate we have learned the disastrous effects of remaining silent or indifferent in the face of genocide, the systematic killing of an entire people. But have we truly learned such a lesson? Or is “Never Again!” rhetorical comfort food for our souls?

Ancient `Gospel of Judas’ to Be Published, Promoting Christ’s Betrayer

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The first translation of an ancient, self-proclaimed “Gospel of Judas” will be published in late April, bringing to light what some scholars believe are the writings of an early Christian sect suppressed for supporting Jesus Christ’s infamous betrayer. If authentic, the manuscript could add to the understanding of Gnosticism, an unorthodox Christian theology denounced by the early church. The Roman Catholic Church is aware of the manuscript, which a Vatican historian calls “religious fantasy.” According to scholars who have seen photographs of the brittle manuscript, it argues that Judas Iscariot was carrying out God’s will when he handed Christ over to his executioners. The manuscript could bring momentum to a broader academic movement that argues Judas has gotten a bum rap among both historians and theologians, as well as in popular culture.

Priest refuses to bless skis

Quote of the Day: Aldo Bernetti of Olympic Interfaith Committee “It’s like when you have two nation’s armies, each asking God to be on their side. How can God know which to choose?” -Aldo Bernetti, Catholic representative on the Olympic interfaith committee, on a priest who refused an Italian Olympic racer’s request to bless his skis. He was quoted in The Washington Times.

Gnostic Gospel of Judas; Baptist reversal

RNS has a U.S. exclusive today about a soon-to-be-published ancient manuscript that argues Judas wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Our Vatican correspondent Stacy Meichtry reveals that the gnostic `Gospel of Judas’ will be published in April: The first translation of an ancient, self-proclaimed “Gospel of Judas” will be published in late April, bringing to light what some scholars believe are the writings of an early Christian sect suppressed for supporting Jesus Christ’s infamous betrayer. If authentic, the manuscript could add to the understanding of Gnosticism, an unorthodox Christian theology denounced by the early church. The Roman Catholic Church is aware of the manuscript, which a Vatican historian calls “religious fantasy.” According to scholars who have seen photographs of the brittle manuscript, it argues that Judas Iscariot was carrying out God’s will when he handed Christ over to his executioners.

Artists Work Around Muhammad

Artists Find Creative Ways Around Muslim Ban on Muhammad Images RNS’s article of the week, linked above, looks at how artists work around depicting the prophet Muhammad. Of note, the article features a photo of a U.S. Supreme Court frieze which shows Muhammad among 17 other great lawgivers of history. Quotes: Global outrage and violence over insulting cartoons of Muhammad reveal just how inflammatory portrayals of the prophet can be. So to avoid controversy, visual artists like Demi have long found creative alternatives. The techniques range from blotting out Muhammad’s face in medieval manuscripts to shooting contemporary films from his vantage point.

COMMENTARY: Pope’s Latest Encyclical Helps Heal Wounds of Sex Abuse

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope John XXIII once explained that he convened Vatican Council II in 1962 to open some windows and let fresh air into a Church long closed off from the world. Through his first encyclical, “God Is Love,” Pope Benedict XVI does virtually the same thing in 2006. Writing about the mystery of God’s love for us and our love for each other, he describes eros as a healthy component of human experience. He thereby opens a long-sealed window in official Catholicism in which anything concerning sex has been left in the dark.