Voices of the `values voters’

c. 2007 Religion News Service Quotes from the Values Voter Summit, held Oct. 19-21 in Washington: “It’s terrible, terrible, just terrible. Because we don’t have a clear-cut choice.” _ Dale O’Leary, 66, of Avon Park, Fla., author of the book “A Catholic’s Guide to Defending Marriage.” She likes former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and won’t consider former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “There’s a consensus that we’re not sure who the man is going to be, that we’re hearing what we want to hear and not the real agenda.” _ Leonard Geidel, owner of a construction company in Rapid City, S.D., speaking of Giuliani.

`Values voters’ are as split over issues as they are on candidates

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ William and Lyra Hoeft of Florida say they want a president who will “hold our borders” and protect national security. Joe Guarino of Illinois wants someone who will tackle health care. And Jonathan Bell of Arkansas, a recent home-school graduate, says education tops his list. They all agree on one thing: They’re looking for a (Republican) candidate who can win the White House.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Anglicans in Montreal, San Francisco vote for same-sex blessings TORONTO (RNS) A second Canadian Anglican diocese has voted to approve the blessing of same-sex marriages. Delegates at the Diocese of Montreal’s annual synod voted Friday (Oct. 19) to request that the bishop grant permission for clergy whose conscience permits to solemnize registered civil marriages, including those between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized. It also asks that the bishop authorize an appropriate rite for same-sex ceremonies and to enact regulations for their use in supportive parishes.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Senator cuts $100,000 from religious group WASHINGTON (RNS) Bowing to pressure, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has backed off an attempt to steer $100,000 to a Christian group that supports teaching religious and alternative theories of creation alongside evolution in science classrooms. Vitter has taken heat from educational, religious and civil rights groups for earmarking money in a fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Louisiana Family Forum, “to develop a plan to promote better science education.” The group has long challenged Darwinian theories explaining the origins of life, and the earmark was seen by some as an attempt to inject Christian religious doctrine into the classroom. Vitter went to the Senate floor Wednesday (Oct. 17) and announced that “to avoid more hysterics,” he wanted to shift the money to science and computer labs in schools in Ouachita Parish. He said the earmark had been misconstrued.

Sweat lodge allows inmates to `purify’ prison life

c. 2007 Religion News Service BRIDGETON, N.J. _ Frederick “Two Feathers” Owle is 38, but he can still remember taking part in his first Native American purification ritual 30 years ago on a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina. The traditional ceremony, which offers prayers to the creator, uses steam trapped under a wood-framed hut called a “sweat lodge” to cleanse bodies and minds. Owle’s most recent purification ritual, however, was at an unusual place: South Woods State Prison, where he is serving 15 years for committing a string of armed robberies in South Jersey. A sweat lodge was built at the prison after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law requiring state prisons to accommodate religious practices of inmates.

Indians have their own angels in the clubhouse

c. 2007 Religion News Service GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio _ In 22 seasons of triumph, despair and frustration in the Cleveland Indians’ quest for a World Series title, there has been one constant. Chocolate chip cookies. The team’s most dedicated and prayerful fans, the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, have faithfully delivered boxes of the delectable treats whenever they felt the Tribe needed a boost. Cookies accompanied the team to Boston for the first games of the American League Championship Series and were delivered to Jacobs Field for the home stand.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Saudi textbooks, school under federal scrutiny WASHINGTON (RNS) Textbooks used in Saudi Arabian schools and a Saudi-funded school in Northern Virginia have come under scrutiny by a federal watchdog panel charged with monitoring international religious freedom. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has asked to see the textbooks, which critics say teach hatred of non-Muslims, but so far has gotten no response from Saudi officials. Some U.S. officials worry the books will not promote peace in the next generation of children. “World leaders can wrap their arms around each other at diplomatic signing ceremonies,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., at a press conference Thursday (Oct.

Church banned from prison project over gay stance

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A United Church of Christ congregation in Texas has been told it cannot participate in an evangelical Christian program that assists children of prisoners because of the church’s outspoken gay-friendly stance. The Rev. Dan De Leon, pastor of Friends Congregational Church in College Station, Texas, said he learned this summer that his church was disqualified from Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, which encourages churches to buy Christmas presents for the children of inmates. Prison Fellowship officials said the church’s stance on homosexuality, declared on its Web site, represented a disagreement about basic scriptural doctrine. “For a church to qualify for Angel Tree, its beliefs must be consistent with our Statement of Faith, including being Trinitarian and accepting the unique authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and life,” reads a July 24 letter the church received from Prison Fellowship.

COMMENTARY: Authentic evangelism, virtual or otherwise

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The X-Box game Halo 3 was released a few weeks ago and it is HUGE, with more than $300 million in sales in the first two weeks; it is expected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue. Within the Christian world, however, Halo 3 is hugely controversial. It turns out to be so pervasive among young men that, despite the game’s violence, some church youth groups have literally decided to not fight Halo 3, but to join it. The New York Times reports that “across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors, desperate to reach young congregants, have drawn concern and criticism” for using Halo as an evangelism tool.

Communities are feeling the squeeze of rapid church growth

c. 2007 Religion News Service ORLANDO, Fla. (RNS) Some neighbors tend to complain about too many Wal-Marts or too many strip joints in their midst. In southeast Orlando, it’s too many churches. About a dozen churches _ Baptist, Nazarene, Pentecostal and independent _ are located within a few miles of each other on city’s outskirts, and more are under construction.

The UMC and Transgenderism

Transsexual pastor prompts uneasy questions for Methodists RNS’ Dan Burke covers the issue of transgenderism, as the United Methodists next week consider whether the Rev. Drew Phoenix (formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon), remains eligible for pastoral appointment within the church, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote: The 40-odd members of St. John’s, who say they pride themselves in being the most accepting and inclusive Methodist church in Baltimore, said their minister’s sex change was no big deal. They had some questions, which Phoenix answered in individual meetings, but no large theological hang-ups.

U.S. rolls out red carpet for Dalai Lama as China objects

c. 2007 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Demonstrating an unprecedented show of support for Tibet, the U.S. on Wednesday (Oct. 17) awarded the Dalai Lama the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, despite strong objections from China. The nation’s most powerful political leaders, including President Bush and a bipartisan congressional delegation, attended the Capitol Rotunda ceremony, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president has met in public with the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Beijing has lambasted the U.S. for the award, accusing its leaders of meddling in China’s internal affairs.

Pope to meet _ but not pray _ with interfaith leaders

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Twenty-one years ago this month, Pope John Paul II met in Assisi, Italy, with more than 150 leaders of different religions to pray for peace. Images of the white-robed pontiff worshipping in the Basilica of St. Francis alongside colorfully garbed Tibetan Buddhists, Japanese Shintoists and representatives of traditional African and American faiths captivated millions around the world. Not everyone, however, was pleased, including the man who would one day succeed John Paul.

John Foley, always the American-in-waiting, finally gets a red hat

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Of the 23 men whom Pope Benedict XVI will make cardinals on Nov. 24, probably none has waited longer for a cardinal’s red hat than Philadelphia’s John Patrick Foley. Since becoming an archbishop in 1984, Foley, 71, has attended eight consistories (as the ceremonies for creating cardinals are called), watching as 214 others received the red hat. For years he was on a lot of short lists but never made the final cut.