Jury convicts Dale, Shannon Hickman of manslaughter in faith-healing trial

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) A jury on Thursday (Sept. 29) unanimously convicted an Oregon couple, Dale and Shannon Hickman, in the faith-healing death of their infant son. Both parents were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a Class B felony that requires a sentence of at least six years and three months in prison under Oregon’s mandatory sentencing law. However, because of a religious exemption that was eliminated after the Hickmans were indicted, they could face less than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Pentagon: Chaplains can celebrate gay marriages

WASHINGTON (RNS) Military chaplains can lead same-sex marriage ceremonies on and off military bases, the Pentagon announced Friday (Sept. 30), in a move that closely followed the repeal of a ban on openly gay service members. “A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law,” wrote Undersecretary of Defense Clifford L. Stanley. Stanley’s memo was released less than two weeks after the Sept. 20 repeal of the Clinton-era Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.

Friday Godbytes

The internet made a lot of noise over megapastor Rob Bell’s recent decision to leave his church to go do vague, undefined things. Well, it looks like we now know what those “things” are: Rob Bell is collaborating with Carlton Cuse – the Executive producer of the hit show “Lost” – to create a spiritual TV drama entitled “Stronger.” And it’s not all talk – ABC just bought the rights to the new show. No word on whether the story will feature polar bears, giant black clouds or time travel. It’s also still not clear whether the show will run for 4 seasons, or 8, or 15, or 16, or 23, or 42…* The Washington Post Blog has a response from the Washington-area Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center addressing the recently announced death of Anwar al-Awlaki – a leading figure in Al Qaeda’s outpost in Yemen.

Friday’s Religion News Roundup

If you haven’t seen it yet, drop whatever you’re doing and take a few minutes to read our own Dan Burke’s compelling and poetic account of Terri Roberts, whose son killed five Amish schoolgirls and wounded five others five years ago this weekend. Roberts now spends every Thursday bathing and reading to an Amish girl who was left paralyzed by her son’s actions. Read. It. Now.

New Orleans pastor on restaurant quest can’t live by bread alone

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Minister Ray Cannata’s mission is almost complete. Four years ago he set out to eat at every restaurant in New Orleans. By mid-September, he’d already checked 719 eateries off his list and only had 10 meals to go before the ceremonial conclusion of his quest on Oct. 21, when he’ll have dined in 729 establishments. That last meal will be a celebratory steak-house dinner he refers to as “the last supper.”

Thursday Godbytes

So some of you asked yesterday if we here at RNS “forgot” about Rosh Hashanah… Oh ye of little faith. The twitterverse certainly didn’t forget, what with President Obama tweeting well-wishes to all his Jewish followers. Not to be left out, Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain also extended new year greetings. Looks like Christian megapastor Rick Warren got in on the action as well (with transliterated Hebrew), as did the Pope.

Churches lose fight over Ala. immigration law

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (RNS) A federal judge jolted the national immigration debate on Wednesday (Sept. 28) by approving most parts of Alabama's aggressive immigration law that religious leaders had called the “meanest” in the nation. In a ruling hailed by many state officials, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn refused to block much of Alabama's far-reaching immigration law from going into effect. Blackburn's decision came after three separate challenges were filed by the U.S. Department of Justice; Catholic, Episcopal and United Methodist bishops; and a coalition of civil rights groups, unions and individuals who said they would be harmed by the law.

ThursdayâÂ?Â?s Religion News Roundup

Alabama takes center stage, as a federal judge’s ruling upholding core elements of the state’s toughest-in-the-nation immigration law was at least a partial victory for religious leaders who opposed the entire law. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled that the religious leaders did not have standing to challenge the law, though other groups – including the Obama administration, did. But Blackburn did block a section of the law that makes it a state crime to knowingly harbor, conceal or transport an undocumented alien, which church leaders said would make religious services and ministries involving unlawful aliens illegal. Gov. Robert Bentley, whose Baptist faith is central to his platform, was pleased with the ruling on his most notable legislative achievement so far. Happier still are companies that are turning a profit in the illegal immigration crackdown business.

Mother cares for her son’s Amish victims

LANCASTER, Pa. (RNS) Terri Roberts was eating outside with a co-worker on a bright October day when an ambulance wailed nearby and a helicopter swooped overhead. As she often did at a sirens’ sound, Roberts said a quick prayer. “Little did I know what I was praying for,” she said. Walking back to her office, Roberts heard the phone ring.

Supreme Court to weigh churches’ hiring rights

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday (Oct. 5.) will hear one of most important religion cases in decades, centered on the degree to which religious institutions should be exempt from anti-discrimination laws. The case started at a Lutheran elementary school in Michigan where a teacher claimed she was fired in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The question before the justices concerns the “ministerial exception,” a 40-year-old legal doctrine that protects churches and other religious institutions from government interference in their employment decisions. Few would dispute that a religious congregation should be unfettered when it chooses to hire or fire clergy.

U.S. Christians rally around Iranian pastor

WAHSINGTON (RNS) Religious freedom advocates rallied Wednesday (Sept. 28) around an Iranian pastor who is facing execution because he has refused to recant his Christian faith in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. The British-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide has asked international supporters to urge Iranian officials to halt plans to execute Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. The pastor was found guilty of apostasy last year, and the conviction has been upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court. If carried out, the execution would mark the first time since 1990 that an Iranian pastor was killed for his Christian faith.

Wednesday Godbytes

Cathleen Falsani of the Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog talks about National Back to Church Sunday (wait, that was THIS PAST weekend?!). America Magazine reports on an online effort to start a Catholic Petition against the death penalty. Coming on the heels of President Obama’s encounter with a heckler Monday night, CNN reports on a (possible) movement to paint the Commander in Chief as the Antichrist. Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta has a piece over at the Washington Post On Faith blog discussing atheist hip-ness after the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury’s commented that “Atheism is cool.” House Speaker John Boehner is calling for the release of Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian facing execution in the country for allegedy refusing to recant his Christian faith.

Wednesday Godbytes

Cathleen Falsani of the Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog talks about National Back to Church Sunday (wait, that was THIS PAST weekend?!). America Magazine reports on an online effort to start a Catholic Petition against the death penalty. Coming on the heels of President Obama’s encounter with a heckler Monday night, CNN reports on a (possible) movement to paint the Commander in Chief as the Antichrist. Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta has a piece over at the Washington Post On Faith blog discussing atheist hip-ness after the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury’s commented that “Atheism is cool.” House Speaker John Boehner is calling for the release of Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian facing execution in the country for allegedy refusing to recant his Christian faith.

Is there a death penalty-sized hole in Catholicism’s âÂ?Â?seamless garmentâÂ?Â? ethic?

(RNS) Is Catholic opposition to the death penalty losing traction as opposition to abortion, gay marriage, contraception and other causes become the defining “pro-life” issues for the American hierarchy? That’s what some Catholics are asking after the bishops’ Pro-Life Activities Committee on Monday (Sept. 26) released its message for October’s “Respect Life Month” campaign, which kicks off in thousands of U.S. parishes on Oct. 2. Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, who wrote the message, focused tightly on the bishops’ increasingly fierce fight with President Obama over mandated contraception coverage, allegations of growing discrimination against believers, concerns about excess embryos from fertility treatments and long-term care of the infirm.