RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service University Denies Dismissing Players Because of Faith PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) An attorney for New Mexico State University on Tuesday (Aug. 29) denied that three football players were removed from the team because they were Muslims and said the school “did nothing wrong.” Bruce Kite, the university’s general counsel, was responding to a federal civil rights complaint filed on behalf of the three men, who currently play at Portland State University. Kite said the suit stemmed from one player’s demotion from the 2005 New Mexico State starting lineup.

U.S. Catholic Bishops Approve New Rules for Priests

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have issued revised guidelines for teaching and accepting candidates for the priesthood, placing additional emphasis on celibacy and formally adopting the Vatican’s ban on “those who practice homosexuality” or support “gay culture.” The Program of Priestly Formation, which has governed U.S. seminaries since 1971, was last updated in 1992. The new version reflects the church’s response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal by calling for greater scrutiny of men who want to be priests. The new rules tighten admission policies and explicitly ban any applicant who has been involved in the sexual abuse of a minor or shows evidence of a sexual attraction to children. According to the new guidelines, “thresholds pertaining to sexuality serve as the foundation for living a lifelong commitment to healthy, chaste celibacy.

COMMENTARY: Abbott More Like Costello in Attacks on Bernardin

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago has been dead for almost 10 years. He is, however, far more alive than many church leaders because of his great contributions to church and society, and for his holiness as he accepted the suffering from cancer that led to his death. He is certainly more alive than Matt Abbott and Randy Engel, two writers whose current attacks on Bernardin are as hilarious and illogical as the late comedian Lou Costello’s lines in the classic “Who’s on first” routine. Engel claims Bernardin was a leader of a gay combine and makes accusations the way a bad imitator of Julia Child might concoct a souffle.

Disabled Muslims Lobby for Better Access to Mosques

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Every Friday afternoon, Betty Hasan-Amin asks her caretaker to help her tie a brightly patterned scarf around her head, making sure no strands of hair escape. In the next room, her husband finishes his ablution, the ritual washing Muslims conduct before praying. At 12:45, the couple departs for the congregational prayers held at their neighborhood mosque in Atlanta. Though the mosque is only about 25 minutes from her home in Stone Mountain, Amin usually leaves more than an hour before the prayers begin.

Lights! Camera! Gospel! Georgia Church Tries to Compete with Hollywood

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Alex Kendrick thinks about sharing his faith, he thinks about movie screens, not evangelistic tracts. Kendrick, the associate pastor of media ministries at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., has co-produced “Facing the Giants” with the help of hundreds of volunteers _ on screen and behind the scenes _ from his Southern Baptist congregation and local community. On Sept. 29, the movie about a Christian high school football team will premiere on 400 movie screens in 86 markets.

Ten Minutes With … Rachel Grady

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When the Rev. Becky Fischer walks through a toy store, she imagines a Ken and a Barbie doll becoming Adam and Eve, a balloon illustrating God’s breath of life and sticky goo showing what bad thoughts do to the mind. Fischer knows the best way to reach children with her hourlong sermons is through visuals. In “Jesus Camp,” a documentary that opens Sept. 15, co-directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing use their own visual to examine youth and the evangelical movement through the lens of Fischer’s Kids on Fire summer camp for charismatic and Pentecostal Christians in Devil’s Lake, N.D. RNS talked with Grady about her experiences making the film: Q: Do you think the camp leaders and parents were brainwashing the kids?

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Federal Judge Dismisses Suit by `Connecticut Six’ Against Bishop (RNS) A federal judge in Connecticut dismissed a lawsuit filed by six conservative Episcopal pastors against their bishop, ruling that the dispute is a matter of church _ not federal _ law. The six pastors, known as the “Connecticut Six,” have fought with Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith over his acceptance of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Their lawsuit alleged that Smith has deprived the six pastors of their First Amendment and other constitutional rights during a protracted dispute that has impacted diocesan finances, property and personnel. Throughout the 2.1-million member Episcopal Church, conservatives, unhappy with the election of an openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003, have battled Episcopal leaders over church resources.

Salve Regina: Life at America’s Newest Catholic University

The Naples Daily News has a story about the first day of classes at Ave Maria University in Florida, the upstart (and way conservative) Catholic school started by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan. “Salve, regina, mater, misericordiae, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve …” chants Ave Maria University professor Daniel Nodes. Freshman Keith Badinelli recites the prayer in perfect unison. In English: “Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.”

Embracing Old World Values, Wenger Mennonites Show Sharp Growth Rates

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) On the highways of American life, one might expect the “horse-and-buggy” Mennonites to be left in the dust. But this conservative Christian sect, whose members eschew the indulgences of modern life _ including computers, cell phones and cars _ is quietly thriving, according to a new in-depth study. The Old Order Mennonites, also known as “horse-and-buggy” or “Wenger” Mennonites after former Bishop Joseph Wenger, included about 200 families in 1927 when they split from other Mennonites who wanted to allow the use of automobiles. Now, the Wenger Mennonites have grown to 18,000 in nine states, with most living in rural areas such as the Finger Lakes region of New York and parts of Lancaster County, Pa., according to research compiled by sociology professors Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Two Churches Fined for Cuba Travel Get New Licences (RNS) As the Alliance of Baptists appeals a $34,000 penalty for allegedly violating travel rules to Cuba, two of the five churches charged with breaking the rules have recently received new licenses to visit the island nation. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) informed the Washington-based alliance in July that five churches that had used its license had itineraries that “did not reflect a program of full-time religious activity” in Cuba, including tourist activities and “beach time.” Two of the churches _ First Baptist Church of Savannah, Ga., and First Baptist Church of Washington, received new licenses in March and August, respectively. “Apparently, the civil penalties division and the licensing division … are doing their work on separate tracks,” said the Rev. Stan Hastey, executive director of the alliance and a member of the Washington church.

COMMENTARY: Getting It Right, and Getting It Done

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) With a defiant look backward, Chrysler has unveiled a 10-cylinder, 510-horsepower pickup truck that costs $57,000 and guzzles fuel as if gasoline still costs 25 cents a gallon. Toyota, meanwhile, is adapting its product line to the reality of $3-plus gasoline. With a defiant look backward to the 1950s, North Carolina legislators now compel every child to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class. It seems they think compulsory recitation will instill national pride and not feel like, well, compulsory recitation.

Study Says Half of Katrina Donations Went to Red Cross

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A year ago, Americans started signing checks and clicking on Web sites to raise an estimated $4.2 billion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the most they have ever donated in response to a natural disaster, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. After Katrina roared ashore a year ago Tuesday (Aug. 29), the worst U.S. natural disaster in the Internet age offered a model for how donors might respond to future catastrophes: increasingly online, and to the largest, most established charities. Amid the slew of charities and foundations publicizing their post-hurricane efforts, the American Red Cross collected the most: at least $2.1 billion, or about half of the total collected in the United States, the Chronicle reported.

RNS Clips: Calif. Bishops Worried About Secession

The Christian Century has Dan Burke’s story about four Episcopal bishops who are taking Bishop John-David Schofield to the woodshed over his perceived desire to leave the Episcopal Church. By allowing critical changes to his diocese’s bylaws, conservative bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, California, is clearly preparing to abandon the 2.2-million-member Episcopal Church, the four bishops argue. Moreover, at a volatile moment when disputes over church leadership and property threaten to rip its 110 U.S. dioceses apart, the denomination could be thrown into legal disarray by San Joaquin’s actions, according to church experts. “You have taken legal action that destroys any chance that the rest of the Episcopal dioceses in California could ever argue that we are a hierarchical church,” retired San Francisco bishop William Swing wrote in a June 22 letter to Schofield. “That will create chaos for us for all time.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Study Says Muslim Men Saw Wages Drop After Sept. 11 (RNS) Men from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries employed in the U.S. saw their wages drop about 10 percent in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a new study. While approximately the same number of hours were worked before and after Sept.