Christian Scientists Chafe Under New Health Care Law

c. 2006 Religion News Service BOSTON _ The nation’s first law requiring citizens to carry health insurance is drawing spiritual healers into the political fray as they fight for the right to refuse coverage for medical services. By July 1, 2007, all Massachusetts residents must be able to prove that they have health insurance. Certain large employers who don’t provide coverage will be fined $295 per uninsured employee, to help the state fund low-cost coverage for the poor. That mandate has Christian Scientists urging regulators to spell out that qualifying group health plans should provide broadly for “health care” rather than just pay for “medical services,” which Christian Scientists reject on religious grounds.

Book Urges Teens to Use Blogs for Good, Not Bullying

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Beware the wrath of a dumped boyfriend or girlfriend spreading rumors about a former partner on MySpace. Pity the middle school student whose clothes, popularity or appearance becomes the object of derision in public chat rooms frequented by classmates. These days, teenagers and their parents don’t have to look out just for sexual predators online. Some of their peers are turning into cyberbullies, using sites such as MySpace and Facebook to harass and humiliate classmates.

Jackie Mason: Not a Jew for Jesus!

Quote of the Day: Comedian Jackie Mason “While I have the utmost respect for people who practice the Christian faith, the fact is, as everyone knows, I am as Jewish as a matzo ball or kosher salami.” -Comedian Jackie Mason, in court papers filed as part of a $2 million lawsuit against Jews for Jesus for using his name and image in a pamphlet. He was quoted by The Associated Press.

A Year After Katrina, Churches Continue Recovery and Rebuilding Work

c. 2006 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly NEW ORLEANS _ In the blistering summer heat of the Crescent City, Southern Baptist volunteers are putting the finishing touches on a new development of Habitat for Humanity homes _ rare signs of construction in the city’s still-devastated Ninth Ward. Just a few miles away, United Methodist volunteers are dragging out moldy carpet that has rotted inside a church sanctuary for nearly a year. Team members are shocked at how little has changed since Katrina. “I guess I wasn’t aware that the devastation was still as bad as it was, almost a year later,” United Methodist volunteer Cheryl Walker told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.” “I thought more work had been done because of all the money that you hear has been pumped in.” A year after Hurricane Katrina unleashed death and destruction across the Gulf Coast, faith-based groups are playing a key _ and often overlooked _ role in the region’s struggle to move forward.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Mattson Elected First Woman to Head Major Muslim Organization (RNS) North America’s largest Islamic organization elected Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian-born convert and Islamic scholar, as president this week (8/22), making her the first woman to lead any major Muslim organization on the continent. Mattson, whose many roles include director of the Islamic Chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, steps into the Islamic Society of North America’s top spot after serving two terms as the vice president of the Indianapolis-based group, founded in 1963. During that time, Mattson earned a reputation among many Muslim Americans as an eloquent voice better suited than her foreign-born colleagues for defending Islam at a time when many believe their faith is under siege. Muslim American observers see Mattson’s election as a chance to redefine both the image and the role of Muslim women in America and the Islamic world.

BYU, Reed at Opposite Ends of College Religiosity Poll

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Considering that 98 percent of the students are Mormon, some classrooms are converted into worship spaces on Sundays, and alcohol and drugs are banned from campus, perhaps it’s not surprising that Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, received the sacred No. 1 spot on the list of schools where “Students Pray on a Regular Basis” in the Princeton Review’s 2007 college rankings. Meanwhile, the liberal arts Reed College in Portland, Ore., where the Christian student group is called “Oh, for Christ’s Sake,” ranked atop the “Students Ignore God on a Regular Basis” category, according to the same rankings, which were released this week (Aug. 22).

A Year After Katrina, Churches Continue Recovery and Rebuilding Work

c. 2006 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly NEW ORLEANS _ In the blistering summer heat of the Crescent City, Southern Baptist volunteers are putting the finishing touches on a new development of Habitat for Humanity homes _ rare signs of construction in the city’s still-devastated Ninth Ward. Just a few miles away, United Methodist volunteers are dragging out moldy carpet that has rotted inside a church sanctuary for nearly a year. Team members are shocked at how little has changed since Katrina. “I guess I wasn’t aware that the devastation was still as bad as it was, almost a year later,” United Methodist volunteer Cheryl Walker told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.” “I thought more work had been done because of all the money that you hear has been pumped in.” A year after Hurricane Katrina unleashed death and destruction across the Gulf Coast, faith-based groups are playing a key _ and often overlooked _ role in the region’s struggle to move forward.

Christian Video Game Designer

Quote of the Day: Christian Video Game Designer Ralph Bagley “There are people out there who think that if it’s a Christian game it has to be about putting two animals on an ark. But how many people are going to play that?” -Ralph Bagley, designer of a Christian video game and spokesman for the Christian Game Developers Foundation, speaking of the controversy surrounding violent Christian video games. He was quoted by The Washington Post.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Poll Shows Declining Religious Influence on Society (RNS) A solid majority of Americans believe that the earth is getting warmer, that religion’s influence on society is waning and that the U.S. is a Christian nation, according to a new poll released Thursday (Aug. 24). The poll, a joint effort of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, shows Americans’ attitudes toward a host of issues touching on faith and public policy. Politicians in Washington may note that only 26 percent of Americans see the Democratic Party as “friendly to religion.” But the number of Americans _ particularly white evangelical Protestants _ who view the Republican party as friendly to religion has fallen from 55 percent last year to 47 percent today, according to the Pew poll.

RNS Clips: Hospitals Create Areas for Muslim Prayer—Beliefnet.com

Janice Neumann’s story on Muslim prayer rooms-not chapels-in hospitals can be found here. OAK LAWN, Ill-The corridor of a bustling hospital is not the best place for kneeling in devout prayer, many Muslim families and doctors have learned. But praying in a chapel comes with its own set of problems-forbidden pictures and statues of living beings, pews facing in the opposite direction of Mecca, and worshippers wearing shoes on the floor where Muslims kneel to pray. So when a nondescript Muslim prayer room recently opened at Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in this Chicago suburb, families and staff were “flying from happiness,” said Refat Abukhdeir, the hospital’s Muslim chaplain.

Presbyterian Fights Over Property Heating Up

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When married parents break up, the most contentious legal scrums are often over who gets custody of the children. When congregations walk away from the Presbyterian Church (USA), the biggest battles are often about who keeps church property. As the 2.4 million-member denomination deals with the fallout from its June decision to loosen bans on gay clergy, these “custody” battles are elbowing aside theological disputes. Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News Service, said at least five of the denomination’s 11,200 congregations have decided to leave the denomination since its national assembly in June, when delegates voted to give local churches more leeway in applying rules against gay clergy.

New Books Sew Faith, One Stitch at a Time

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Books espousing the Zen-like benefits of knitting, crocheting and quilting abound as enthusiasts for the sewing arts praise their similarity to prayer and meditation. The new titles highlight a growing movement linking faith and the sewing arts, one offering practitioners the opportunity to bring spirituality out of houses of worship into everyday life. “This ministry brings quiet comfort to people’s lives,” says Kimberly Winston, a California-based journalist and author of a new book, “Fabric of Faith: A Guide to the Prayer Quilt Ministry,” that explores quilting across Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other faith traditions. Researching the book, she heard “story after story after story” of people “facing the darkest times in their lives.” Getting a quilt helped each recipient cope, while the prayer quilters who made them reported “feeling almost guilty” about what they got out of volunteering for the ministry.

Matisyahu Makes Reggae Kosher for the Masses

c. 2006 Religion News Service MORRISTOWN, N.J. _ Moshe Herson seemed perplexed. Never before had the 72-year-old Orthodox rabbi been asked to listen to reggae to see if he could hear Talmudic overtones. Of course, until three months ago, no Hasidic Jew had ever been crowned Best New Entertainer at the International Reggae and World Music Awards. So one recent morning in his office, Herson, dean of the Rabbinical College of America here, listened on a borrowed iPod to the 27-year-old Hasidic music sensation known as Matisyahu, whose mix of reggae, rap and rock has won gold status for two recent albums, “Live at Stubb’s” and “Youth.” Orthodox youth generally avoid pop music, but since 2004, Matisyahu’s religious-themed reggae has become familiar to many young people across the Orthodox world, which includes the leafy campus of the rabbinical college.

COMMENTARY: Welcome to the Real World of Bigotry

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Why do public figures damage their public images by spewing words of prejudice and contempt? Recently, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., former Atlanta mayor and civil rights leader Andrew Young and actor/director Mel Gibson have seriously harmed their personal reputations and shattered the superficial protection of celebrity. Because of their self-inflicted wounds, the three men have raised troubling questions about who they really are and what they truly believe. At a campaign stop in rural Virginia, Allen insulted S.R. Sidarth, a 20-year-old Indian-American man who attended the event.

An Army of One

New Society of Priests Has One Goal-and One Member RNS’s Daniel Burke reports on the foundation of a new Roman Catholic society of priests-the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life-in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: Pavone imagines society members, free from diocesan and parish duties, burgeoning into an army of priests ready to fight abortion across the country, preaching at churches, organizing rallies, protesting at clinics and leading retreats.