A predictable outcry from social conservatives has greeted the Obama administration’s decision to move towards rescinding the “conscience” rule permitting health care workers to refuse to provide care if they have religious scruples about doing so. For example:”It is open season to again discriminate against health-care
professionals,” said David Stevens, head of the Christian Medical &
Dental Associations. “Our Founding Fathers, who bled and died to
guarantee our religious freedom, are turning over in their graves.” Bear in mind that this rule was put in place by the Bush administration at the tail end of its time in office, and only went into effect a month ago. But such comments are to be expected from such quarters.

Dobson retires from ministry, but expected to keep an eye on politics

(UNDATED) Focus on the Family founder James Dobson has resigned as chairman of the Colorado ministry he started 32 years ago, but will continue to host his daily radio broadcast and is expected to stay involved in national politics. Both Dobson and his wife, Shirley, have departed from the board, the ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colo., announced Friday (Feb. 27). The move is considered “the next step in a transition plan” that started in 2003 when James Dobson stepped down as president, the ministry said. “One of Dr. Dobson’s objectives during the last decade has been to help identify the next generation of leadership for the ministry, and to see it established securely before he stepped away from administrative oversight,” said the board of directors in a statement.

A dynamic duo

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham recently teamed up to deliver food to a small struggling Alaskan community. The Yukon River community, made up of 330 people, has been struggling financially because of soaring gas prices and scarce food supplies. Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization has stepped in with the goal of eventually delivering 40,000 pounds of donations to Alaska communities affected by hard times. Churches, nonprofits, bloggers and donors have also partnered in the relief effort in gathering food and supplies. Palin hopes the relief effort will raise awareness about available job opportunities for young people even if “it requires in some cases leaving the village for a short time.”

Jindal’s demon?

It’s very possible that Tuesday’s Republican response to President Obama’s speech isn’t the last people will see of Governor Bobby Jindal. Washington Times’ On Faith takes note that Jindal may very well make a 2012 bid for the presidency and that there may be a demon that will follow him the process. What’s being referred to is an article Jindal wrote entitled ‘Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare,” which is an account of witnessing an exorcism. David Brody of CBN News offers his take and a large excerpt of Jindal’s article here. Moneyquote: “I’m sure some will read this and afterwards try to label Jindal as someone with strange religious views….He experienced something that clearly had a major impact in his life.

Obama moves to rescind `conscience clauseâÂ?Â? for healthcare workers

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Obama administration announced Friday (Feb. 27) plans to rescind regulations that allow healthcare workers to abstain from performing medical procedures they object to on moral grounds. The Bush administration authored the rule shortly before leaving office last December, primarily to shield those with religious or moral opposition to abortion. It said healthcare workers cannot be discriminated against for refusing to participate in objectionable procedures, and facilities that did not accommodate employees with objections could lose federal funding. It is one of several abortion-related measures the new White House is seeking to overturn.

Holocaust-denying bishop apologizes, Vatican and Jewish leaders not satisfied

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A Holocaust-denying bishop recently readmitted to the Catholic Church apologized for comments that have provoked an international outcry, but Jewish leaders and the spokesman for Pope Benedict XVI call the apology unsatisfactory. Bishop Richard Williamson issued his statement Thursday (Feb. 26) on a Web site affiliated with the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Williamson is one of four SSPX bishops whose 1988 excommunications were lifted by Pope Benedict XVI last month, as part of the pope’s effort to reconcile with the schismatic group. Jewish organizations were outraged after Williamson recently told Swedish television that no more than 300,000 Jews “perished in Nazi concentration camps …

Non-profits call for public-private alliance to salve nationâÂ?Â?s ills

(RNS) Tens of thousands of leaders of nonprofit organizations, including a host of faith-based groups, are calling for a public-private partnership to address the nation’s social and economic troubles. “We issue this call now because of the magnitude of the problems that confront us, but also because of the opportunity the present moment offers to address them,” the nonprofits said in a public declaration issued on Tuesday (Feb. 24). Titled “Forward Together: Empowering America’s Citizen Sector for the Change We Need,” the declaration is signed by a broad spectrum of nonprofits, including the Metropolitan Jewish Health System in New York, Catholic Charities of Idaho, and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. “The citizen sector is a powerful engine for change with enormous potentials to assist in coping with our nation’s problems, but the country is not taking anywhere close to full advantage of these potentials,” said Lester Salamon, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies and the Listening Post Project, which generated the declaration.

Down to the wire

While the ELCA made headlines with its proposal to open the ministry to non-celibate gays, another mainline Protestant church is quietly dealing with the same issue. The 173 regional presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have been voting on whether to amend their Book of Order to allow gay and lesbian clergy. The amendment needs approval by a simple majority, 87 presbyteries, to pass. To date, the PCUSA’s news service counts 35 in favor and 47 against. In 2001, only 27 percent of the presbyteries supported a similar amendment.

Saving their asses

Donkeys have been beasts of burden in the Middle East for thousands of years, when they can no longer work, they are often abandoned. This Lent/Passover season a group called Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land is hoping to get word out about their care for malnourished, injured or elderly asses. According to founder Lucy Fensom: “Absolutely no veterinary care is given to sick or injured donkeys, since in most cases it would be cheaper to buy a new animal. For this reason when they are sick, injured, too old or surplus to requirements they are turned out and left to fend for themselves – quite often tied to a post without food or water and left to die. Many stray donkeys suffer from direct abuse and torture.

Obama moves to rescind `conscience clause’

WASHINGTON – Taking another step into the abortion debate, the Obama administration will move today to rescind a controversial rule that allows health care workers to deny abortion counseling or other family planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs, according to administration officials. The rollback of the so-called “conscience rule” comes just two months after the Bush administration announced it late last year in one of its final policy initiatives.

Who’s a terrorist?

CAIRO – If President Obama is serious about repairing relations with the Arab world and re-establishing the United States as an honest broker in Middle East peace talks, one step would be to bridge a chasm in perception that centers on one contentious word: terrorism.

Vatican says bishop’s apology not enough

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican says the apology issued by a bishop who denied the Holocaust is not enough to admit him into the church as a clergyman. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Friday that Bishop Richard Williamson’s statement “does not seem to respect the conditions” the Vatican set out for him.

Pope says encyclical delayed by recession

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The global economic crisis has contributed to the delay in the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical, not for financial reasons, but because the crisis has demonstrated how important and how complicated the topic is. If the encyclical “does not deal competently with the economic reality, it cannot be credible,” Pope Benedict said Feb. 26 in response to a question from a priest of the Diocese of Rome.

Archbishop O’Brien renews criticism of Legion of Christ

Concerned that the Legion of Christ stifles the free will of its members and lacks transparency, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien told the religious order’s director general that he cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone join the Legion or Regnum Christi, its affiliated lay movement.

Anti-porn groups target evangelical Christians

FRESNO, Calif. — Every February, SouthPoint Foursquare Church reminds its younger members here that “True Love Waits,” part of a global evangelical Christian campaign that stresses abstinence until marriage. A few days after Valentine’s Day this year, 80 teenagers and some parents attended the church’s weekly youth night to hear a related message: Jesus loves porn stars, but looking at pornography makes it much harder to find Him. “We feel that church should be the first ones to talk to you guys about this,” said Brandon Piety, the guest speaker from XXXChurch, an organization aimed at helping Christians overcome pornography addictions. “If you have a problem with porn, you’ve got to talk to God, and you’ve got to go to someone you can trust.”