RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service GOP Wants Answers About Religious Texts in Prisons WASHINGTON (RNS) A group of conservative House Republicans has sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons seeking information about its effort to ban religious texts from prison libraries. “No matter how well-intentioned, a government project to limit books and other material deemed religious raises serious issues with respect to the religious liberties of Americans,” reads the Tuesday (Sept. 18) letter to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley G. Lappin from three members of the Republican Study Committee. The letter writers _ Reps.

COMMENTARY: Finding Truth in the Page and on the Stage

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Before I was a journalist, I was an actor. Briefly, a semester or so ahead of my debut in the pages of the Wheaton College student newspaper, I became a member of its theater company, a group known simply as “Workout.” The company performed in the Arena Theater, a simple black box that was transformed miraculously into imaginative sets for various productions. Long since I walked its stage, that theater remains a sacred space for me. I was transformed inside its walls, touched by grace and the hand of God in a way I’ve rarely felt elsewhere.

Kathy Griffin Knows What to Do With Jesus; Hollywood Isn’t So Sure

(UNDATED) Comedian Kathy Griffin has built her entire D-list career on telling A-list Hollywood celebrities _ Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Ryan Seacrest _ to “suck it.” So when she told Jesus to “suck it” after winning an Emmy for her reality show, “My Life on the D-List,” it was meant as just another swipe at someone who gets invited to better parties than she does. But as Griffin quickly learned, dissing Jesus _ even in left-leaning Hollywood _ carries more risk than poking fun at the Lindsay Lohans of the world. Griffin’s remarks _ “I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. … So all I can say is, suck it, Jesus.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service AME Church Leaders Join Protest of `Jena Six’ Case (RNS) Top leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church have joined protests of the prosecution of six black teenagers in Jena, La., who have been charged with the alleged beating of a white schoolmate. “We in no way condone fighting … and would expect local school officials to equitably handle this per their administrative guidelines with suspension, etc.,” reads a letter signed by more than 150 bishops, general officers, pastors and members of the historically black denomination in a letter to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. “The handling of this incident is not only an injustice to the six young men but deja vu of days we thought have gone by _ days when the lives of black persons were considered as chattel.” The AME Church’s Council of Bishops voted in August to take action on the issue involving the “Jena Six,” said Jackie Dupont-Walker, social action officer for the 2.5-million member denomination.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Insurer Rejects UCC Church Because of Gay Stance (RNS) A United Church of Christ congregation’s pro-gay stance puts it “at a higher risk” of litigation and property damage, a leading U.S. church insurer said in refusing to offer coverage to a Michigan congregation. Brotherhood Mutual, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based insurance company, turned down the business of the West Adrian United Church of Christ after learning the church “publicly endorses” same-sex marriage and gay clergy. “Based on national media reports, controversial stances such as those … have resulted in property damage and potential for increased litigation among churches that have chosen publicly to endorse these positions,” wrote Marci J. Fretz, a regional underwriter for Brotherhood Mutual, in a July 30 letter to the West Adrian Church.

Photographer Captures Faith on the Side of the Road

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Sam Fentress has spent the past 25 years crisscrossing America’s highways and byways, stopping along the way to snap shots of religious signs in every state except Hawaii. He found everything from John 3:3 on a farm silo in Ohio to “Obey God or Burn” scratched into a rock in Harlem. Together, his photographs capture the gamut of Christian religious expression in America. Now, nearly 150 of those images are collected in his recent book, “Bible Road: Signs of Faith in the American Landscape.” The story of his images _ thousands collected over a lifetime _ begins with Fentress’ religious and intellectual experiences in college.

Some Evangelical Leaders Go Green As Skepticism Lingers

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Bishop Harry Jackson saw melting glaciers and devastated forests on a recent trip to Alaska, he decided that global warming should be a higher priority on his list of key issues for evangelicals. “I thought the globe was warming, but I thought that there was a whole lot of hype attached and there were not a lot of practical solutions presented,” said Jackson, pastor of a megachurch in Beltsville, Md. The trip to Alaska was a bit of a road-to-Damascus moment for Jackson, a leading voice among conservative black pastors. Earlier this year, he had gone on CNN to question environmentally friendly evangelical leaders and joined a protest against the green-minded vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).


c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Whether they say so or not, I think most people come to churches on a spiritual quest. They might see their needs in more functional terms, like wanting friendship, loving good music, making business contacts, or doing the right thing by their children. Or perhaps the “buzz” about a lively congregation has piqued their curiosity. Or they want one bit of routine in their lives that isn’t devoted to work or self.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service State Department: Iraq Insurgency Harming Religious Freedom WASHINGTON (RNS) The continuing insurgency in Iraq is “significantly” harming the freedom of worship in that country, the State Department said in its 2007 International Religious Freedom Report. The report, released Friday (Sept. 14), lists Iraq among 22 countries it notes for either particular abuses or positive steps related to religious freedom. “The ongoing insurgency significantly harmed the ability of all religious believers to practice their faith,” the report’s executive summary reads.

Some Moms Say Natural Childbirth Is Labor of Love _ and Faith

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) While Jane Ellen Hannaman labored to bring her son, Weston, into the world last February, she could hear her husband, Ryan, praying. She joined him, she said, in between contractions. And while childbirth entailed “the most intense pain,” Hannaman relied on her faith and eschewed medications designed to ease her discomfort. After all, she reasoned, God didn’t just hand Jesus to Mary in a bassinet.

Churches Weigh Whether to Join Sanctuary Movement

c. 2007 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Jean Bucciarelli remembers the Sunday last May when someone urged her congregation to become a sanctuary church _ to actively support illegal immigrants who want to stay in this country. “Someone said, `Let’s just do it,”’ she recalls. Some members of Ainsworth United Church of Christ were ready, but Bucciarelli wasn’t.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Carving Out Time for God

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Busy with the worldly demands of our hectic lives, many of us leave the deepest needs of the human heart unattended. For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan, which began this year on Thursday (Sept. 13), is a time to subjugate the needs of the body to tend to the needs of the heart. During Ramadan, the call of the heart and its longing for connection with God take precedence.

Parents, Kids Tackle Jewish Education Togethe

c. 2007 Religion News Service SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio _ The half-dozen young parents sitting in a local coffee shop grew animated as they recounted their experiences as children in Jewish education. Most of their own parents had little interest in going to synagogue but considered it their duty to send their children for religious education. So they were dropped off at Hebrew school, which they attended until their bar or bat mitzvah around age 12 or 13. And then it was like “you’re done,” and for 20 years or more they paid minimal attention to their religion, the parents said.

Muslims Say Charity is Pinched by U.S. Oversight

c. 2007 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly LOS ANGELES _ Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region is one of the most desolate and dangerous places on earth, as Anwar Khan of Islamic Relief USA knows all too well. His group is one of the few charities working inside Darfur’s teeming refugee camps. For Khan, such work is a way to live out his faith. “To us, the way that you see a Muslim is not by the size of his beard or the clothes _ it’s not a fashion statement,” Khan told Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.