10 Minutes with … Sally Quinn

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Started by two leading journalists with little background in religion, On Faith, the multi-contributor blog at Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive, has rocketed to prominence since it launched last November, registering some of the highest traffic levels on the already popular washingtonpost.com Web site. Each week On Faith moderators Sally Quinn, a longtime feature writer, and Jon Meacham, the managing editor of Newsweek, and pose searching questions to a star-studded panel of experts that includes Nobel Prize-winner Desmond Tutu, megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. Sally Quinn talked about the niche On Faith hopes to fill, its planned expansion, and her own “freelance polytheism.” Q: What sparked your recent interest in religion? A: I was planning to write a book about religion in Washington.

COMMENTARY: My Name is Cathleen, and I’m a Celebaholic

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I don’t recall the first time I indulged in my guilty pleasure _ the dirty little secret I am about to confess. What I do remember is that the first hit was like crack (or so I’m told), and I’ve been addicted ever since. Admitting one has a problem is the first step to recovery, so here it goes. I am a celebaholic.

Under the Bodhi Tree

A Buddhist monk in the northern India state of Bihar, where legend has it the Buddha attained enlightenment, is taking local government and religious officials to task for supposedly cutting off a branch of the famed Bodhi tree. According to Buddhist history, the Awakened One meditated beneath this tree (or, as the story explains, one of its progenitors) for three days and three nights before he achieved insights into the meaning of human existence. Since impermanence and the unhappiness that comes with grasping plays such a large role in Buddhist thought, many Buddhists are loath to attach too much importance to physical things-even holy things. Still, this tree is considered sacred and millions of pilgrims have gathered under its shade since 6 BCE.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Canadian Anglicans, Lutherans Say No to Same-Sex Unions WINNIPEG, Manitoba (RNS) The national governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada on Sunday (June 24) defeated by the tightest of margins a motion to forge ahead with same-sex blessings across the country. The church’s lay and clergy delegates voted to allow same-sex blessings, but church bishops defeated the move, 21-19. Majorities in all three groups would have been needed to approve the measure. Earlier in the day, delegates approved a statement that said the blessing of same-sex unions is “not in conflict with the core doctrine” of the Anglican Church of Canada.

On 07/07/07, Luck Runs Hotter Than on 06/06/06

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It comes only once a century. So for the host of religious traditions that see 7 as the most sacred digit, 07/07/2007 is looking like the perfect day for everything from weddings to worldwide activism. Or at least it’s better than last year’s eerie 06/06/06. According to David Frankfurter, professor of religious studies and history at the University of New Hampshire, the number 7 is characteristic of how God organizes heaven.

RNS Daily Digest: 1,825 words

c. 2007 Religion News Service Pope Changes Rules on Election of Next Pope VATICAN CITY (RNS) In a move that could lengthen the process of choosing the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI has ruled that popes must always be elected by a two-thirds majority of eligible Roman Catholic cardinals. The change undoes a reform by Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, which permitted election by a simple majority under certain circumstances. After the death of a pope, all cardinals under the age of 80 who are healthy enough to attend must assemble in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to elect a new pontiff. A majority of at least two-thirds has traditionally been required for election.

Play Tries to Bridge Divide Between Gays, Mormons

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Not many theater productions include a glossary of Mormon theological and ecclesiastical terms in the program. Then again, Carol Lynn Pearson’s play, “Facing East,” defies a number of expectations. Pearson’s somber but compassionate one-act portrayal of a Mormon family’s struggle to come to terms with the suicide of their gay son treats, as some reviewers have noted, both church traditionalists and critics with humanity and empathy. It’s one reason the play had a much-feted premiere in Salt Lake City last November.

COMMENTARY: Lessons from the Duke Lacrosse Scandal

c. 2007 Religion News Service DURHAM, N.C. _ Now that District Attorney Mike Nifong has been removed for misconduct in handling rape allegations against three Duke University lacrosse players, it is time to learn from this 17-month saga. I’m not talking about simply closing the book on a rogue DA, breathing a sigh of relief, and moving on. Instead, we need to dig deeply into the broader and deeper meanings of these events. We all have a stake in this learning.

On 07/07/07, Luck Runs Hotter Than on 06/06/06

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It comes only once a century. So for the host of religious traditions that see 7 as the most sacred digit, 07/07/2007 is looking like the perfect day for everything from weddings to worldwide activism. Or at least it’s better than last year’s eerie 06/06/06. According to David Frankfurter, professor of religious studies and history at the University of New Hampshire, the number 7 is characteristic of how God organizes heaven.

Supreme Court Turns Down Challenge to Faith-based Office

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday (June 25) that taxpayers affiliated with an atheist group do not have standing to challenge the White House initiative channeling federal funds to religious groups providing social services. Overturning a federal appeals court decision, the justices gave the White House a 5-4 victory in a closely watched ruling regarding its Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. “It has long been established … that the payment of taxes is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the federal government,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Court Rules Against Student in `Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ Case

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Public school officials do not violate a student’s free speech rights when they prohibit displays that promote illegal drug use, the Supreme Court ruled Monday (June 25). The 5-4 decision appeared to satisfy religious groups which had expressed concern that a ruling could give schools power to limit student religious expression that officials find offensive. But in Monday’s opinion, the majority emphasized the limited nature of the holding, which is confined to illegal drug use. “We hold that schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.

After Obama’s Pep Talk, UCC Looks to Continue Momentum

c. 2007 Religion News Service HARTFORD, Conn. _ With fiery speeches on faith and politics, the United Church of Christ’s General Synod here has seemed at times as much a revival or political rally as a mainline church meeting. The nearly 10,000 church members gathered here through Tuesday (June 26) heard speeches from journalist Bill Moyers and presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who exhorted his denomination to continue its support for progressive causes. “They say your church is dying,” Moyers said Saturday.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Canadian Lutherans Say No to Same-Sex Blessings WINNIPEG, Manitoba (RNS) Susan Johnson, elected Friday (June 22) as the first female National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, says she’s “really disappointed” her denomination defeated a motion to bless same-sex relationships. On Saturday (June 23), 52.5 percent of delegates to the biennial national gathering of the 175,000-member church voted against allowing local congregations to offer the rites of blessing to same-gender couples. (The Anglican Church of Canada, also meeting here, narrowly defeated a similar measure at its General Synod on Sunday). The Lutheran motion was similar to one that delegates narrowly defeated two years ago.

Unitarians Find They’re Almost Universally White

c. 2007 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Joseph Santos-Lyons is this city’s first homegrown minister of color in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the church that proudly represents the far left pole of American religion. During the UUA’s recent national General Assembly here, Santos-Lyons was “fellowshipped” (the equivalent of a large-scale ordination), a milestone for the liberal UUA, which is 92 percent white, by its own estimates. But as he assumes his minister’s mantle, Santos-Lyons is speaking out about the elephant in the room: Liberals embrace multiculturalism in theory, he says, but there’s a reason the UUA and other progressive movements, from anti-war to environmentalism groups, remain nearly all white.

SIDEBAR: Unitarian Universalism at a Glance

c. 2007 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ A quick glance at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations: Q: What’s the origin of Unitarians and Universalists? A: Unitarians date from 1568, when some Christians in Transylvania declared that they did not believe in the trinity _ the understanding that three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are united as one God. The first Unitarian Church in the United States was established in 1794 in Northumberland, Pa.