RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Same-Sex Couples in New Jersey Get Marriage Without the Name (RNS) New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed a bill Thursday (Dec. 21) that will give those in same-sex civil unions “all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities” the state confers on married couples. “Through our actions today, we will provide equal rights for same-sex couples,” Corzine said. He called enactment of the legislation “one of the most important steps we can take” to provide “equal justice under law.” The law takes effect Feb.

Christmas Wars Prove Lucrative Fundraising Opportunity for Advocacy Groups

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For Conservative Christan groups, this year’s hot gift is a weapon for fighting back in the “War on Christmas,” be it a button, a bumper sticker or a memo with advice to the troops. The Mississippi-based American Family Association says it has sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan “Merry Christmas: It’s Worth Saying.” The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid group that boasts a network of some 900 lawyers standing ready to “defend Christmas,” says it has moved about 20,000 “Christmas packs.” The packs, available for a suggested $29 donation, include a three-page legal memo and two lapel pins. And Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm affiliated with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, says it has distributed for free 16,000 legal memos on celebrating Christmas. Leaders say demand for the goods _ which are pitched online and through e-mail to supporters _ is driven by what they view as a coordinated effort to secularize Christmas.

Christmas Wars Prove Lucrative Fundraising Opportunity for Advocacy Groups

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For Conservative Christan groups, this year’s hot gift is a weapon for fighting back in the “War on Christmas,” be it a button, a bumper sticker or a memo with advice to the troops. The Mississippi-based American Family Association says it has sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan “Merry Christmas: It’s Worth Saying.” The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid group that boasts a network of some 900 lawyers standing ready to “defend Christmas,” says it has moved about 20,000 “Christmas packs.” The packs, available for a suggested $29 donation, include a three-page legal memo and two lapel pins. And Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm affiliated with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, says it has distributed for free 16,000 legal memos on celebrating Christmas. Leaders say demand for the goods _ which are pitched online and through e-mail to supporters _ is driven by what they view as a coordinated effort to secularize Christmas.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Moving from Crisis to Hope in the Middle East

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East might seem hopeless given the fractious history of the region. As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, however, we believe peace is an essential of faith that can be attained. In this holy season, our shared commitment compels us to recognize that the light of a new future can break through the darkness of past tragedies and political failures. We believe the United States has an indispensable role to help make this happen.

Some Civil Servants Balk at Performing Civil Unions:

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEWARK, N.J. _ For mayors, standing before a love-struck couple as they say “I do” is one of the lighter and more pleasant aspects of their job. But mayors across New Jersey have found themselves grappling over that duty when it comes to gay couples who may ask them to preside over a civil union ceremony. “I’m still up in the air about it,” said Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish. “If a same-sex couple stopped in today and asked me to perform a ceremony, I don’t know what I would do.” The New Jersey Legislature approved gay civil unions Dec.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Three Ex-College Students Admit Burning Alabama Churches BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Three former college students face seven to eight years in federal prison after admitting Wednesday (Dec. 20) they participated in burning nine churches in Alabama. Wearing orange jail jumpsuits and leg irons, Matthew Cloyd, Russell Lee Debusk and Benjamin Nathan Moseley stood before a federal judge to enter guilty pleas to conspiracy and arson charges in the fires set Feb.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Three Ex-College Students Admit Burning Alabama Churches BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Three former college students face seven to eight years in federal prison after admitting Wednesday (Dec. 20) they participated in burning nine churches in Alabama. Wearing orange jail jumpsuits and leg irons, Matthew Cloyd, Russell Lee Debusk and Benjamin Nathan Moseley stood before a federal judge to enter guilty pleas to conspiracy and arson charges in the fires set Feb.

Giving to Charity Is a Year-End Tradition

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Donating to charity at the end of the year is a tradition for countless Americans. Some folks rush to beat the deadline for same-year tax deductions. Some don’t think of making contributions until seasonal reminders arrive in the mail. Others simply feel more charitable during the holidays or have waited to see how much they can afford to give.

Giving to Charity Is a Year-End Tradition

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Donating to charity at the end of the year is a tradition for countless Americans. Some folks rush to beat the deadline for same-year tax deductions. Some don’t think of making contributions until seasonal reminders arrive in the mail. Others simply feel more charitable during the holidays or have waited to see how much they can afford to give.

Latinos Will Shape Future Religious Landscape

c. 2006 Newhouse News Service (UNDATED) The bongo drums and keyboard at Iglesia El Shaddai, a Pentecostal church in Elizabeth, N.J., are being played so briskly they can support a conga line. The El Salvadoran-born pastor shakes a tambourine, some women rock their hips and everyone sings praise to Jesus in Spanish. Soon the pastor takes the service down a notch. But just a notch.

Latinos Will Shape Future Religious Landscape

c. 2006 Newhouse News Service (UNDATED) The bongo drums and keyboard at Iglesia El Shaddai, a Pentecostal church in Elizabeth, N.J., are being played so briskly they can support a conga line. The El Salvadoran-born pastor shakes a tambourine, some women rock their hips and everyone sings praise to Jesus in Spanish. Soon the pastor takes the service down a notch. But just a notch.

Herod:  Nice Guy?

Historians, Fans Defend the `Real’ King Herod Nope. King Herod certainly doesn’t qualify as a nice guy, but his image has been buffed and shined of late, as Nicole Neroulias reports in this full text RNS article, linked above. Quote: Annually vilified in Christmas pageants as the tyrant responsible for the slaughter of Bethlehem’s baby boys and for chasing Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt, Herod the Great should receive more balanced treatment, some historians and academics argue.

Herod:  Nice Guy?

Historians, Fans Defend the `Real’ King Herod
Nope. King Herod certainly doesn’t qualify as a nice guy, but his image has been buffed and shined of late, as Nicole Neroulias reports in this full text RNS article, linked above. Quote:
Annually vilified in Christmas pageants as the tyrant responsible for the slaughter of Bethlehem’s baby boys and for chasing Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt, Herod the Great should receive more balanced treatment, some historians and academics argue.