Government’s Katrina Failure May Be Faith-Based Opportunity

c. 2006 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly NEW ORLEANS _ As criticism of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina mounts, praise of faith-based groups continues, providing new momentum in the campaign to expand federal funding of religious social services. Religious groups were some of the first on the scene, delivering desperately needed help in the rescue and relief operations. Many faith-based groups are still there, taking a high-profile role in rebuilding efforts, which raises the question: should they get government money for their work? “If a faith-based group is actually doing the best job at administering a service, why not?” said Pam Pryor, vice president of We Care America, a nonprofit organization that advocates more partnerships between government and religious groups.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Italian Official Asked to Resign After Threatening to Wear Muhammad Shirts ROME (RNS) A key member of Italy’s center-right government reported Wednesday (Feb. 15) that he has been asked to resign after pledging to wear T-shirts depicting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have provoked violent protests amongst Muslims. In an interview with Italian state television, Roberto Calderoli, Italy’s right-wing minister of institutional reforms, said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked him to step down for saying he would personally hand out T-shirts bearing Danish cartoons that have enraged the Muslim world. Calderoli gave no indication that he would resign, but reasserted his support for the T-shirts. “I have had T-shirts made with the cartoons that have upset Islam and I will start wearing them,” Italian news agency ANSA reported him as saying on Tuesday (Feb.

WCC Leader Calls on Christians, Muslims to `Put out the Fire’ From Cartoons

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Interfaith relations _ and tensions _ quickly took center stage at the opening of the World Council of Churches’ ninth assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as Christian leaders grappled with Muslim rage over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the international ecumenical body with some 340 member churches and denominations in more than 100 countries, told a Tuesday (Feb. 14) news conference that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right but “when it is used to humiliate people’s values and dignity, it devalues the foundation it is based on.” He said Christians and Muslims must work together to “put out the fire” created by the publication in a Danish newspaper of 12 cartoons ridiculing Muhammad. They have since been republished in newspapers and on Web sites in Europe and the United States.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service In Britain, Little Sympathy With Muslims’ Reaction to Cartoons LONDON (RNS) A newly published opinion poll indicates the British public has little sympathy for Muslims angered by cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad that have been printed in European newspapers. The YouGov survey for the Sunday Times newspaper (Feb. 12) showed 88 percent of the more than 1,600 men and women who were interviewed thought the violent protests the 12 Danish caricatures sparked around the world were a “gross exaggeration.” Some 58 percent vented their own fury over the placards some Muslim protesters carried during a demonstration in London, one of which demanded, “Behead those who insult Islam.” More than three-fourths _ 76 percent _ said the police should have arrested those carrying offensive or provocative banners. Scotland Yard police insisted their priority at the time was public safety and that film and photographs would be examined later to determine whether any charges should be made.

COMMENTARY: Nomadic Spiritual Seekers Are Not `Brand’ Loyal

c. 2006 Religion News Service MINNEAPOLIS _ In case I thought life had no further surprises, last Saturday I walked on water. On ice at least 12 inches thick, we strode onto Lake Harriet near downtown Minneapolis. There we found ice fishermen, para-sailers, sail-skaters, cross-country skiers and walkers, all making the best of a cold thing. It was quiet and peaceful _ and not a little odd _ to be standing in the middle of a snow-covered lake, with no noises louder than a ski’s scrape.

Gay Episcopal Bishop Seeks Treatment for Alcoholism

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, is undergoing treatment for his “increasing dependence on alcohol,” Robinson said in a letter to the 49 churches in his diocese. Robinson, 58, voluntarily checked himself into an undisclosed facility on Feb. 1 for a four-week stay. Robinson said in the letter, dated Monday (Feb.

Dominican Sisters Joyfully Preach Through Art

c. 2006 Religion News Service GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. _ She grew up at the foot of the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico, photographing friends and flowers with a Brownie camera. “I was very close to the earth, and I loved nature,” recalls Sister Orlanda Leyba, a photographer and Dominican nun. “I was always the one taking pictures of everybody.” She hasn’t stopped snapping since.

Skier Hopes for Gold _ And a Miracle _ for `Blessed Frassati’

c. 2006 Religion News Service TURIN, Italy _ Rebecca Dussault is praying for a miracle. She needs one to medal here in cross-country skiing, an overlooked sport in America where her times are no match for the stronger competitors. But she does not want gold, silver or bronze for personal acclaim. Dussault believes winning in the Winter Olympics would be the first of two miracles needed toward sainthood for her spiritual inspiration, a man who died helping the poor in Turin more than 80 years ago.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Focus on the Family Backs Colo. Measure For Nonmarital Benefits (RNS) Focus on the Family, a group known for its opposition to gay marriage, is supporting a proposed Colorado bill that would benefit gay couples and other adults seeking benefits outside a traditional marital relationship. The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, calls for the creation of “reciprocal beneficiary agreements” that would extend specific rights to two unmarried persons such as health care insurance benefits. Mitchell’s bill would also permit them to be involved in medical decisions, joint property ownership and some decisions that would be made at the time of death, such as disposition of remains.

Artists Find Creative Ways Around Muslim Ban on Muhammad Images

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Demi, an award-winning author-illustrator of religious children’s books, set out to create “Muhammad,” she had no idea depicting Islam’s prophet was considered idol worship, a grievous sin. So after consulting a Muslim teacher, the author used gold leaf to represent Muhammad’s outline, creating a silhouette that is beautiful yet respectful of Muslim beliefs. 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.

Denmark’s Flag, Now Burned by Muslims, Has Christian Past

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the heat of battle, a flag made of lambskin descended from the heavens and led the Danish army to victory over their heathen enemies. So goes the 13th century legend of the “Dannebrog,” Denmark’s national banner depicting a white cross with a red background. In recent days, the banner that once stood as a symbol of Christian warfare has taken a precipitous fall from grace. The flag has joined American and Israeli banners at widespread flag-burning demonstrations across the Muslim world.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service In Britain, Little Sympathy With Muslims’ Reaction to Cartoons LONDON (RNS) A newly published opinion poll indicates the British public has little sympathy for Muslims angered by cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad that have been printed in European newspapers. The YouGov survey for the Sunday Times newspaper (Feb. 12) showed 88 percent of the more than 1,600 men and women who were interviewed thought the violent protests the 12 Danish caricatures sparked around the world were a “gross exaggeration.” Some 58 percent vented their own fury over the placards some Muslim protesters carried during a demonstration in London, one of which demanded, “Behead those who insult Islam.” More than three-fourths _ 76 percent _ said the police should have arrested those carrying offensive or provocative banners. Scotland Yard police insisted their priority at the time was public safety and that film and photographs would be examined later to determine whether any charges should be made.

Members of Burned Alabama Church Forgive, Promise to Rebuild

c. 2006 Religion News Service ALICEVILLE, Ala. _ Ash remained on the floor of Dancy First Baptist Church. Yellow police tape rolled and fluttered in the parking lot of the Pickens County congregation, one of 10 Alabama churches damaged or destroyed by fire in recent weeks. So some of Dancy’s members spent part of their first Sunday (Feb.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service New Orleans Archdiocese to Close Seven Parishes After Katrina Damage NEW ORLEANS (RNS) The Archdiocese of New Orleans said Thursday (Feb. 9) it will indefinitely shutter more than 30 badly damaged churches, consolidate dozens of parishes and elementary schools, and permanently close seven parishes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The casualties include historic St. Augustine Church, founded in 1841 as the mother parish of black Catholics in New Orleans.

Bringing the bible (and free soda pop) to the people

Quote of the Day: Alabama Gas Station Operator Dale Lanier “I just wanted to bring a little hope, a little inspiration. I wanted to lead people to the church; whatever I can do in my little corner of the world.” -Dale Lanier, operator of a filling station in Snead, Ala., explaining why he offers customers free drinks if they can recite a particular Bible verse. He was quoted by The Washington Post.