German family seeks asylum to homeschool kids in Tennessee

Romeike, his wife, Hannelore, and their children live in a modest duplex about 40 miles northeast of Knoxville while they seek political asylum here. They say they were persecuted for their evangelical Christian beliefs and homeschooling their children in Germany, where school attendance is compulsory.

A new day for U.S. atheists?

CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) – For some atheists in the United States it’s a bright new day with the election of President Barack Obama and a move away from religion-shaped government policies of past years.

Kaine signs off on ‘Choose Life’ license plates

Gov. Tim Kaine on Monday signed a bill that will allow Virginia motorists to obtain license plates with the message “Choose Life,” joining 23 other states that issue plates with the pro-life slogan.

COMMENTARY: Something’s cooking in the kitchen

NEW YORK — Three years ago, when moving to Manhattan was still a dream, our oldest son led us to 84th and Amsterdam. “Best burgers in New York,” he promised. We found a tiny eatery called Harriet’s Kitchen: two tables, the owner at the counter, and a small kitchen tended by a solitary cook, plus a delivery man in constant motion. Both tables were occupied, so we took our food outside to the sidewalk, where many a meal is eaten in Manhattan, and enjoyed what were, in fact, terrific hamburgers. Thick, juicy, cooked from scratch, covered with onions.

Ethical debate swirls over teens’ lurid photos

(UNDATED) In Pennsylvania, authorities are threatening to prosecute three teenage girls after finding risque images of them on a cell phone. In Indiana, a middle-school boy faces obscenity charges for transmitting naked photos of himself to female classmates. And in New Jersey, authorities recently accused a 14-year-old girl of distributing child pornography, saying she posted nude portraits of herself on MySpace. In a growing number of states, law enforcement agencies are cracking down on teens who use cell phones and social networking sites to share lurid photographs. Prosecutors say they are trying to stamp out a dangerous trend.

Catholic bishops warned in ‘50s on abusive priests

— The founder of a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests who molest children concluded in the 1950s that offenders were unlikely to change and should not be returned to ministry, according to his letters, which were obtained by plaintiffs’ lawyers.

US names religious freedom violators

WASHINGTON — On its final working day in office, the Bush administration re-designated eight countries as severe violators of religious freedom but waived possible sanctions against Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, officials said Monday.

Turkey seeks to contain Islamic radicals

ANKARA, Turkey — As the only Muslim member of NATO and a candidate to join the EU, Turkey has come to be seen as a bridge between East and West _ held up by Washington as a shining example of how Islam is compatible with modern democracy.

China cracks down in Muslim west

BEIJING — An overseas rights activist said Monday that authorities in China’s predominantly Muslim far west are closing unregistered Islamic schools and conducting house-to-house searches in a new security crackdown in the restive region.

Fargo divides day between church, city’s salvation

FARGO, N.D. — Weary residents of this sandbagged city came together in churches Sunday, counting their blessings that the Red River finally stopped rising and praying the levees would hold back its wrath. A brief levee break that swamped a school warned them of the threat they face in days ahead.

Mexico’s death cult protests shrine destruction

Leaders of Mexico’s “Death Saint” church are protesting the destruction of more than 30 shrines by authorities in northern Mexico. Their archbishop said Sunday that it was an act of religious discrimination and has demanded a meeting with President Felipe Calderon.

Death opens doors on group

Members of One Mind Ministries drew little notice in the working-class Baltimore neighborhood where they lived in a nondescript brick rowhouse. But inside, prosecutors say, horrors were unfolding: Answering to a leader called Queen Antoinette, they denied a 16-month-old boy food and water because he did not say “Amen” at mealtimes. After he died, they prayed over his body for days, expecting a resurrection, then packed it into a suitcase with mothballs. They left it in a shed in Philadelphia, where it remained for a year before detectives found it last spring.

New from ARIS

There’s a new table up on the American Religious Identification Survey website showing changes in the proportion of Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans in all states from 1990 to 2008. Although Baptists are down in 43 states, they’re up in the upper Mountain West (ID, WY, MT), Louisiana (Catholics in steep decline), Delaware (Methodists in free fall), and–most strikingly–Maine. Baptists have been rising steadily in the Pine Tree State, such that given the decline in Catholicism, there are now nearly as many of them (19 percent) as Catholics (22 percent). Indeed, Maine now has a higher proportion of Baptists than any state outside the South (counting Missouri). Make of that what you will.

VT House J.C. Hearts Gay Marriage

Today Vermont’s House Judiciary Committee voted 8-2 in favor of allowing same-sex marriage–with one additional supporter (a Republican) not voting. To get one GOP vote, an amendment was added strengthening protections for religious organizations that oppose gay marriage. I’d say passage with sufficient votes to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ promised veto is likely.