Judge upholds law preventing guns in churches

(RNS) A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by gun rights advocates who claimed a Georgia law prohibiting weapons in a house of worship was unconstitutional. GeorgiaCarry.org, an organization that supports gun owners’ rights, and two of its members filed suit against state officials saying the law placed an undue burden on them. “The law at issue here … does not prohibit anyone from attending services at a place of worship,” ruled Judge Ashley Royal of the U.S. District Court in Macon, Ga. The judge said any burden on worship attendance was “tangential” because the law requires that people not carry the weapon in services, leave it in their cars, or surrender it temporarily to security officers.

Minister offers comfort, calm in disasters’ ‘shadowy places’

KIRKWOOD, Mo. (RNS) Three years after a gunman opened fire and killed six people at a Kirkwood City Council meeting, the Rev. David Holyan found himself in Tucson, Ariz. Holyan, 46, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, has become an accidental expert in what the Presbyterian Church (USA) calls “human-caused disaster” response. More precisely, he is a member of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s National Response Team. His expertise comes from the victim side.

Many genocides to be commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day

CANTERBURY, England (RNS/ENInews) After the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II, the world cried out “never again.” But one of Britain’s best-known young rabbis, Jonathan Romain, said the phrase has proved tragically wrong. “Genocide has happened again and again and again,” he told ENInews ahead of Thursday’s (Jan. 27) Holocaust Memorial Day observances 66 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. “We only have to think about Biafra, Bosnia, Darfur and there are other examples,” said Romain, a leading spokesman for Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom.

10 minutes with … David Thompson

(RNS) Some 2 million Americans have served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Now, thousands are coming home each month and trying, sometimes with difficulty, to settle back into civilian life. Churches are uniquely positioned to help returning veterans adjust and find meaning in their lives away from the battlefront, according to David A. Thompson, a retired Navy chaplain and co-author of the 2009 book, “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: Ministering to Returning Combat Veterans.” For two years, he worked as a military family life consultant, helping 8,000 soldiers and their families handle the transition back to civilian life. He says churches need to recognize what they have to offer and rise to the occasion.

Windows from closed church find new life among the dead

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) Crouched on a scaffold, Ray Clagnan gingerly tapped his hammer near Saint James’ feet, hoping to set them free. Clagnan, a stained-glass expert, worked slowly, pane by pane. Soon, he moved to Mary Magdalene, carrying away her resplendent image in four pieces. During a break, he marveled at the level of skill displayed on the windows. “You would never see decorations as elaborate and detailed as these anymore,” he said.

COMMENTARY: Suffer the children

(RNS) The Parents Television Council has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether “Skins,” an MTV remake of an award-winning British drama about high school kids, constitutes child pornography for its use of underage actors in highly sexualized scenarios. I’m no fan of censorship, and the PTC historically has veered into histrionic territory with its protestations of shows such as “That 70’s Show” and “Dawson’s Creek.” Yet when it comes to MTV’s “Skins,” I reluctantly concur. MTV’s version of “Skins” is, in my humble, vaguely nauseated opinion, repellant — but not for the same reasons as the PTC and Taco Bell (which pulled its ads from the show). Is it child pornography?

Obama stands up

You’ve got Rep. Peter King, who after 9/11 turned his back on his Muslim constituents, once his friends, and is now leading a GOP congressional charge against radical Islam in the American population, claiming, “We are under siege by Muslim terrorists.” You’ve got Richard Land, the Southern Baptist Convention’s grand pooh-bah of religious liberty, withdrawing from an interfaith coalition to support the right of Muslims to build mosques because he’s caught some flak from co-religionists, and anyway, while he supports religious liberty in general supporting the construction of a particular mosque in Tennessee with an amicus brief is one bridge too far.And then you’ve got Barack Obama, who had nothing to gain but moral stature from the last phrase in this sentence from last night’s State of the Union





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: And as extremists try to inspire acts of
violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our
communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that
American Muslims are a part of our American family.And must be treated as such.

Southern Baptist leader resigns coalition supporting mosques

(RNS) A top leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has resigned from a new interfaith coalition, saying some fellow Southern Baptists felt it was inappropriate for him to support the building of mosques. Richard Land, who heads the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told organizers at the Anti-Defamation League that “many Southern Baptists share my deep commitment to religious freedom and the right of Muslims to have places of worship.” At the same time, “they also feel that a Southern Baptist denominational leader filing suit to allow individual mosques to be built is `a bridge too far.”‘ The ADL formed the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques after it was widely criticized for opposing the construction of the controversial Park51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. The ADL coalition aims to help Muslims who face opposition when they seek to build or expand houses of worship. Land was an early supporter when the coalition began last September.

Russian patriarch denounces Moscow airport bombing

MOSCOW (RNS/ENInews) The head of the Russian Orthodox Church denounced a terrorist attack at Moscow’s busiest airport as “the horrifying scowl of sin,” and said actions once condemned even in war “are today becoming a form of protest.” Patriarch Kirill I spoke after a service to mark the feast of St. Tatyana, which this year became an occasion to address growing ethnic tensions in Russia after a suicide bomber killed at least 35 people and injured more than 150 at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Monday (Jan. 24). While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, assailants in a number of previous terrorist attacks have been linked to a separatist movement in Chechnya and other republics of the troubled Northern Caucasus region.

Archdiocese upset after St. Patrick finds a home in restaurant

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (RNS) And now, let us raise a toast to St. Patrick. Once a cherished icon for generations of Catholics, a statue of Ireland’s patron saint from Sacred Heart Church in Newark has landed in a South Orange restaurant — much to the chagrin of local Catholic leaders. On a recent night, as college-age students mingled at Cryan’s Beef and Ale House, St. Patrick watched silently from a corner in the restaurant section, a shepherd’s staff in his left hand.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup

POTUS went to Capitol Hill last night to assess the state of our Union, and gave a shout-out to American Muslims — “the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family,” and a nod to members of the military, be they “Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay.” After laying low for a couple of weeks, House GOP conservatives vowed to mount a bid to ban same-sex marriage in WDC. House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, is teaming up with outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman in a bid to revive the city’s voucher program — most of which went to the city’s struggling Catholic schools. Kansas lawmakers want a Medal of Honor for a Catholic chaplain (and potential saint) who died in a Korean POW camp in 1951.

King’s daughter won’t assume helm of father’s civil rights group

(RNS) Fifteen months after being tapped to head the civil rights group founded by her famous father, the Rev. Bernice King has declined the post, citing a leadership clash and an inability to “move forward.” King’s decision leaves the venerable Southern Christian Leadership Conference again facing an uncertain future, a half century after it was founded to mobilize black churches in the Rev. Martin Luther King’s fight against discrimination. “After numerous attempts to connect with the official board leaders on how to move forward under my leadership, unfortunately, our visions did not align,” King said in statement on Friday (Jan. 21). Instead, she said, she plans to work with immigration activist Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, whose National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference is modeled on the SCLC, and work to develop legacy of her mother, Coretta Scott King.

Faiths’ ad campaigns chase after the great `I Am’

(RNS) To many viewers, the “I’m a Mormon” ad blitz from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seemed hip, refreshing and original. The campaign, launched last year in nine U.S. cities, generated a lot of national buzz. Its short videos featured regular folks talking about their lives as doctors, skateboarders, tax attorneys, environmentalists, surfers or former felons before announcing that they are Mormons. Turns out, lots of other faiths take a similar tack. Scientologists, with longtime connections in Hollywood, have produced personal-story videos for a marketing effort known as “Meet a Scientologist.”

Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

Thousands of abortion opponents rallied Monday on the National Mall, encouraged by recent federal and state GOP wins and hopeful about proposals to tighten bans on federal funding for abortions, according to WaPo. Deadly attacks against Shiite pilgrims in Iraq continued on Monday, including three car bombings around the city of Karbala, where as many as 10 million marchers are expected to travel in observance of one of the sect’s most sacred holidays, reports NYT. Egypt arrested 19 Arabs suspected of having links to al-Qaida en route to Iraq, according to the AP. The men have no connection with the New Year’s Day suicide bombing of a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria that killed 21 people, said Egypt’s interior minister. Human Rights Watch wants the U.S. to return Vietnam to a list of the world’s worst abusers of religious freedom, saying the country continuously harasses groups trying to worship peacefully, the AP reports.

COMMENTARY: Tough medicine for tough problems in tough times

(RNS) Now begins the annual season of church leadership workshops, retreats and formation events. It’s an important time because when leaders have their act together, the faith community can move forward. Here are my six suggestions for church leadership. I know they represent course changes — and serious ones at that — but I am concerned about congregational well-being, and I think these steps are critical. 1.