Religion Calendar

c. 2007 Religion News Service Note: Holidays that begin at sundown continue through sundown of the next day, unless otherwise noted. (UNDATED) Here is the RNS calendar of major religious holidays, denominational meetings and other events for July and August. It will be updated monthly. June 29-July 2 American Baptist Churches USA: Biennial Meeting and Centennial Celebration, Washington.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Mennonite Farmer Settles With State Over Animal ID Tags (RNS) A Mennonite farmer from Pennsylvania does not have to comply with a state animal identification program after arguing that numbering his ducks would bring about his “eternal damnation.” Pennsylvania officials now say the identification program, which is designed to protect against disease outbreaks among fowl, is not mandatory. James Landis, of Lebanon County, Pa., had argued that the program’s requirements would force him to violate his religious beliefs. “He sincerely believes that if he, as a Christian, were to participate in such a numbering system, it would result in his eternal damnation,” Landis’ lawsuit said. Leonard Brown, Landis’s attorney, said the settlement “is a victory for all farmers and for people of faith in this country.” Brown is affiliated with Alliance Defense Fund, a network of conservative Christian lawyers based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ministries Aren’t Just for the Big Names Anymore

c. 2007 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly LAS VEGAS _ Television ministry used to be the province of a few prominent preachers like Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. But the business _ and it is a business _ has definitely come of age. At this year’s National Association of Broadcasters convention, the “technologies for worship” pavilion drew hundreds of religious broadcasters, and they are only part of the picture. Industry leaders say there are some 10,000 TV ministries around the country, both big and small.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Questions Linger as Bush Announces Envoy to Islamic Countries (RNS) Hoping to improve America’s negative image in the Muslim world, President Bush said he will appoint a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a political group of 57 nations home to more than 1 billion Muslims. But at least one expert warned that while many Muslims will welcome the envoy, others will see it as just another empty gesture from an administration they say is at war with Islam. “Some will say the damage done is far more complex and the solutions go beyond just setting up an envoy,” said Qamar-Ul Huda, a senior program officer for religion and peacemaking at the United States Institute for Peace, a think tank. Speaking Wednesday (June 27) at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., Bush said the special envoy “will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states and will share with them America’s views and values.” While much of the Islamic world sympathized with America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, that support has plummeted in recent years over Iraq, Afghanistan, and U.S. policy toward the Israeli/Palestinian disputes. But the envoy, Bush said, would also advocate for American views and stress what the United States has done in the Muslim world.

The Not-so Jewish Jewish Mayor

Jennifer Siegel at the Foward in New York has an interesting take on Michael Bloomberg-a self-described “short Jewish billionaire in New York”-and how he has won the hearts and minds of Jewish New York. Bloomberg, who is maybe/maybe not mulling a run for the White House, is what you might call a nominal Jew. He attends a high-profile Reform synagogue on the high holidays but doesn’t go around talking about his bubbe or his love of noodle kugel, as one New York pol noted. Siegel writes: Bloomberg the mayor has transformed himself into a politician whom the vast majority of New York Jews can get behind, even though he does not present himself as a typically “Jewish” politician. It’s a characteristic that some say could prove beneficial if the mayor – who derides himself as “a short, Jewish billionaire from New York” – launches the independent bid for the White House that is suggested by his recent decision to quit the Republican Party.

Kickin’ Back with Gordon Brown

Jim Wallis over at Sojourners has his take on the new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who he says called Wallis and requested a meeting. Apparently the two soon became fast friends. I have taken American heads of churches and development agencies to visit with Brown, and they have been universally and amazingly impressed with his deep understanding of the issues of globalization and his personal commitment to tackling the moral challenge of inequality. I believe that Gordon Brown has more passion (and knowledge) about the issues of global poverty and social justice than any other Western leader today. And I believe his leadership could make a great difference.

Wafer Watch: Part 37

We told you this would rear it’s head again. Monsignor J. Gaston Hebert, diocesan adminstrator for the Diocese of Little Rock, takes pro-choice politicians to task in the pages of the Arkansas Catholic. “For the Catholic politician to say that he/she is personally opposed to this grave evil but supports it in the light of a woman’s `right’ to abort her child would indicate a lack of compliance with the basic teachings of the Church,” Hebert rights. Hebert also says that: “If the politician will not change his stance, he places himself outside of `eucharistic consistency’ and should not receive Communion.” “Eucharistic consistency”? Oh, almost forgot.

Pope Opens Door to Wider Use of Latin Mass

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope Benedict XVI has approved a document that will make it easier for Mass to be celebrated in Latin, a practice sidelined in the 1960s when church officials made local-language Mass the norm. Benedict met with representatives of various bishops’ conferences from around the world on Wednesday (June 27) to discuss the document, which will be issued “in the next few days” along with a personal letter from the pope, the Vatican said Thursday. The move is seen in part as an attempt to bring back into the fold ultra-traditionalist Catholics who split with the Vatican over the decision to restrict the old Latin Mass. The Vatican gave no indication to what extent those restrictions would be lifted.

Brownback Has the Credentials, But Not the Buzz

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Sam Brownback has never been a star attraction on the capital scene. Instead, the soft-spoken Republican from Kansas quietly built an 11-year Senate career as a champion for conservative Christians, fighting abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research with a consistency and fervor matched by few. Brownback, 50, comes to that commitment, he says, by way of his upbringing as a farmer’s son and his relatively new faith as a Roman Catholic. “I am the base of the (Republican) party,” he said in a recent interview, and he hopes to parlay those convictions into a longshot bid for the White House.

On Balance, Religious Conservatives Fared Well Under Roberts, Alito

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Conservative religious advocacy organizations roundly praised the Supreme Court term that ended Thursday (June 28), saying they are pleased with the way the court resolved several high-profile church-state disputes. The court left high school students with considerable leeway to voice religious opinions, cleared the way for interest group-funded campaign ads and shielded the White House’s faith-based initiative from challenge in the courts. The justices also upheld the constitutionality of a federal ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortions. “Overall, we had a very good term with the partial-birth abortion case and the Wisconsin Right to Life case all being decided in our favor,” said Jay Sekulow, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, referring to the campaign finance opinion.

COMMENTARY: The Touchy-Feely Gospel According to Hollywood

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In a culture that trivializes everything, God is not exempt from our breezy superficiality. Neil Postman once warned that in our embrace of electronic media we were “amusing ourselves to death.” Postman believed the problem was the medium, not just the content, agreeing with Marshall McLuhan who said, “The medium is the message.” Since the 1960s, we’ve embarked on a bold new experiment that favors the senses (particularly sight and sound) over words and reason. MTV elevated sensory media to an art form. MTV’s founding chairman, Bob Pittman, put it this way: “What we’ve introduced is non-narrative form; we rely on mood and emotion.

The Right Saint?

Washington Archbishop Speaks Softly and Carries a Light Crozier RNS’ Daniel Burke profiles Donald Wuerl, a year after he was named archbishop of Washington, in this week’s full-test article, linked above. Quote: In many ways, Wuerl resembles the man who put him in Washington, Pope Benedict XVI, church-watchers say. A reserved intellectual with a reputation as a “teaching bishop,” Wuerl prefers working quietly behind the scenes and avoids controversial public pronouncements. Moreover, in contrast to their charismatic, globe-trotting predecessors, Benedict and Wuerl seem to be as concerned with the world of the church as they are with the church in the world.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Judge Says California Parishes Belong to Episcopal Church (RNS) Three California parishes that have left the Episcopal Church cannot keep church buildings or other property, a California appeals court ruled Monday (June 25). A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s rulings and found that the Diocese of Los Angeles and the national Episcopal Church essentially own the buildings and property. “I believe this is a conclusive statement that the property will come back to us,” Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno said in a statement. “Now we can get about the business of healing and about the business of being a church.

Faith Groups Oppose New Rules on Religious Worker Visas

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Atop Mount Waialeale on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the Iraivan Temple is designed to be one of the most splendid Hindu temples in the world. So far, the temple that was started 32 years ago is about half-finished. But the $16 million granite temple may never be completed, some American Hindu leaders worry, after U.S. immigration officials in March denied religious worker visas to six shilpis, the specially trained masons who build temples in accordance with Hindu scripture. “Within Hinduism, building temples is a religious occupation,” said Sannyasin Arumugaswami, managing editor of Hinduism Today magazine and a disciple at the Kauai monastery.