Monday’s round up

As the Senate takes up the health-care reform bill, an influential Catholic bishop says “we’re going to work very hard to speak to senators.” One ear the bishops may be bending belongs to Sen. Bob Casey of Pa., one of the country’s most prominent anti-abortion Democrats. Right now, though, Casey wants to talk about anything but abortion, according to the NYT. After the sinking of same-sex marriage in Maine, gay rights have lost momentum, according to the AP. Legislators in NY and NJ have failed to take up gay marriage bills, despite earlier expectations that they would pass this year.

At church cafe, eat what you want and pay what you can

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. (RNS) At A Better World Cafe, it’s not exactly “all you can eat.” It’s more like whatever you can pay. The new church-affiliated restaurant is offering customers an innovative new dining option: choose the size of your portion, then pay what you want. People who can afford to pay extra help subsidize those less fortunate. A Better World Cafe, housed at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, is the fifth restaurant of its kind in the nation, which some are nicknaming “Robin Hood restaurants.”

Bruskewitz v. Morin

Ronald Reagan was famous for invoking the GOP’s so-called Eleventh
Commandment; to wit: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. These days, to be sure, it’s a commandment often honored in the breach. And maybe the same is becoming true for the equivalent Catholic commandment; namely, “Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow bishop.”Last week, after Bishop Roger Morin of Biloxi gave an impassioned pitch for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) at the USCCB meeting in Baltimore, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln explained why he was declining to take up a collection for the church’s anti-poverty agency–which has come under heavy fire from the Catholic right for once having given grants to ACORN and for supporting “pro-abortion” and “anti-family” organizations. In a report on the CCHD, Morin called the charges “outrageous.” As quotes Bruskewitz:”I didn’t think [the report] took into account sufficiently the
negatives that have been bantered about with regard to the
organization,” he said.  He said Bishop Morin was “obviously defending
the organization he had been involved in different areas,” and now for
which he’s the chairman.The report, further, “lacked some of the
interests” that concerned people “have brought to the fore,” he said. 
“I think he was perhaps a little bit too dismissive of them.”So far, there’s been no response from Morin.

Huckabee Pardoned Christian Terrorist Cop-Killer

Just in case you were wondering how Anti-Fox News would play the story. As for itself, it has this:Responding to his critics, Huckabee said,
“Politics is the last thing on my mind. It should be the last thing on
anybody’s mind. To me it’s repulsive that people are trying to bring
something like that up in the midst of what ought to be a concern for
these officer’s families. “The criminal justice is far from perfect and in this case it failed miserably on all sides.”Somewhere, a Palin is smiling.Just in from a friend in Tacoma: ”





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This shooting is more of the darker side of Cascadia–a
place of violence and dehumanization.

Jenny Sanford, Media Darling

With her estranged husband facing impeachment proceedings in the South Carolina legislature, still First Lady of South Carolina Jenny Sanford proved over the weekend that her status as media love object is as exalted as ever. “From Shadow to Limelight,” Robbie Brown’s front-page profile in Saturday’s NYT, enumerates the ways she’s turning herself into the best-known Jenny brand since Jenny Craig: trademarking her name to sell clothing, mugs, and other merchandise; managing her own “privately financed” website; appearing among Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009; endorsing a gubernatorial candidate to succeed the disgraced Mark; and of course writing The Book, whose title, “Staying True,” begs all the right questions.What’s not quite right about the profile is its premise that somehow Jenny Sanford, shy thing that she is, has gradually emerged into the media glare, embracing her unsought celebrity almost against her will–“a person who is growing more comfortable as a headline maker.” But as Marie Griffith shows in her article on L’Affaire Sanford in the latest Religion in the News, Jenny has been on top of the game from the outset. She was conspicuous by her absence from her husband’s side at his confessional press conference, and then conspicuous by her adroit self-presentation as the scorned but unbowed Christian wife and mother. If “Jenny Sanford” were a 60-year-old movie, Joan Crawford would be cast in the title role–but she wouldn’t be playing it any better than the original.

Calif. pastor drops death wish against Obama

(RNS) Pastor Wiley Drake, the Southern Baptist minister who has publicly prayed for the death of President Obama, has changed his mind — but only because he wants to see the president live long enough to face a trial for treason. “I am calling for all of God’s people and prayer warriors to cease the imprecatory prayer, and pray for Mr. Obama’s PROTECTION until he can be properly tried for treason,” Drake said in a statement he released Thursday (Nov. 19). The pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., said he was convinced he should withdraw his prayers for Obama’s death after getting advice from Pastor James David Manning of Harlem, N.Y., who also questions the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency. “Dr. James David Manning appealed to me that we do not want to have him dead,” Drake said in an interview Tuesday (Nov.

Appeals court upholds ban on religious songs

TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) A federal appeals court has upheld a policy that allows songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” but prohibits religious carols like “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” in Maplewood-South Orange public schools. A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said there was “no constitutional violation” in the policy because other constitutional principles require public schools to remain strictly secular environments. “Those of us who were educated in the public schools remember holiday celebrations replete with Christmas carols, and possibly even Hanukkah songs, to which no objections had been raised. Since then, the governing principles have been examined and defined with more particularity,” Judge Dolores Korman Sloviter wrote for the court. The judges said public school administrations can discern which songs are most appropriate according to those constitutional guidelines because schools already are charged with the responsibility of creating a secular “inclusive environment” for students every day.

Handwritten Bible sells for $15,000

(RNS) The first handwritten copy of the New International Version Bible sold on eBay this weekend for more than $15,000. Zondervan’s handwritten Bible Across America project marked the 30th anniversary of the popular New International Version translation. Zondervan went on a nine-month tour across the country to give people a chance to write one verse of the Bible for the edition. One of the two original manuscripts was sold on eBay for $15,407.53. The other was intended to be donated to the Smithsonian, but Zondervan is now looking at other museum options.

All eyes on Ohio as shift in executions looms

COLUMBUS, Ohio (RNS) Death row inmates and advocates on both sides of the capital punishment debate across the country have their eyes on Ohio since the recent announcement that this state will pioneer the use of a single drug to execute inmates. Ohio prison officials plan to abandon the traditional three-drug cocktail for lethal injection in favor of a single injection of a massive dose of barbiturates. If the execution team is unable to find a suitable vein, the drug will be injected into an inmate’s chest muscle. Both procedures are unprecedented in modern American execution practices, and the new blueprint has thrust Ohio into the center of the raging ethical and legal debates that swirl around capital punishment. “It could be a significant turning point in the direction of the death penalty in this country,” said Ohio State University Law School professor Douglas Berman, an expert on criminal sentencing and the death penalty.

Govs to DC church: “I think it’s wrong”

As the Archdiocese of Washington steps up its campaign against (all but certain) same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia, the Catholic governors of Maryland and Virginia, both Democrats, are crying foul. Virginia’s Tim Kaine, a former missionary and head of the Democratic National Committee, and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley said it would be “wrong” for the archdiocese to yank its social service contracts in the city if same-sex marriage becomes legal. Kaine: “I’m Catholic, and I think it’s wrong. I don’t think you take your ball and go home.” Adds O’Malley: “I have a hard time believing that the nuns and priests who taught me about the Corporal Works of Mercy would agree that this is an appropriate response for the church.”

Wednesday’s roundup

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” and in the spirit of the holidays, it’s the gift that keeps on giving (kind of like fruitcake, I suppose). And while this is a time of giving thanks and taking stock, there seems to be a lot of downer news out there: A Georgia church has been robbed for the 4th time in two years; the thief left a note this time: “Sorry but I’m poor. Forgive me Lord” and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention has prostate cancer. A Russian Orthodox priest who was killed in his church (Muslim extremists are the alleged suspects) was laid to rest. Sex abuse victims say Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin should be focusing more on rooting out abusive priests than going after Rep. Patrick Kennedy on abortion.

Mother faces same disease that claimed her poet son

BETHESDA, Md. (RNS) It’s standing room only at the Borders bookstore here, where Jeni Stepanek is talking about her new book, “Messenger.” The book is about her son Mattie, the New York Times-bestselling inspirational poet who died five years ago at the age of 13 after battling a rare form of muscular dystrophy. It’s the same disease that now confines Jeni Stepanek to a wheelchair. In his short life, Mattie wrote six books of poetry and a collection of essays that he collaborated on with Jimmy Carter.

10 minutes with … Leigh Anne Tuohy

LOS ANGELES (RNS) In the new movie “The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock plays real-life Memphis mother Leigh Anne Tuohy, a woman whose family is turned upside down when she spots Michael Oher — a young boy who has left the projects and has nowhere to turn. The Tuohys decide to provide a home for Michael and as a result, he reaches heights — both as a student and as a football player — that few could have imagined. In the process, he not only transforms himself, but those around him. Oher, 23, now plays for the Baltimore Ravens. Tuohy spoke about the movie that depicts her family’s life and in particular, the role faith played.

COMMENTARY: Happy Dowhateveryouwannukah. Bah humbug

(RNS) There are only a few dozen shopping days left until Christmas. I’m keenly aware of this primarily because of those over-caffeinated Gap ads that started running about a week ago. You know, the ones where they chant a little ditty titled, annoyingly, “Happy Dowhateveryouwannukkah.” “Go Christmas! Go Hanukkah!

A Happyish Thanksgiving

This is how we Nutmeggers used to do it:That is: ALTHOUGH, Considering the Judgments of GOD, which are on the Earth, in the great Distress & Desolation brought upon many Nations, both by WAR and PESTILENCE,AND Considering also particularly, the awful Tokens of GOD’s Righteous Anger against us, Especially in the Contagious SICKNESS which has been in divers Places of the Land, and in the continued RAINS, by which great Losses have been sustained, It becomes us to be deeply Humbled before the LORD.It is nevertheless our Duty to Acknowledge the many Influences of Divine Goodness, which the LORD whose ways, are not as Ours, has Graciously vouchsafed Us and which are never to be forgotten. Namely,& cetera.