After angering Catholics, White House honors teachers

WASHINGTON (RNS) Days after angering Catholics with a new rule that forces religious groups to offer contraceptive coverage, the White House on Wednesday tried to repair relations by honoring nine Catholic educators. By Lauren Markoe.

COMMENTARY: Spike Lee does the right thing by religion

PARK CITY, Utah (RNS) Imagine my surprise when Spike Lee's new film, “Red Hook Summer,” delivered a humorous, honest look at the vibrancy, complexity, sincerity and messiness of Christianity in the African-American community. By Dick Staub. 750.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup

Religion received scant mention in President Obama's State of the Union address last night, but he did say that the “conviction that American Muslims are part of our American family” is key in fighting Islamic extremism. The House of Representatives has passed two bills authorizing religious symbols on war memorials, one of which seems intended to save the Mt. Soledad cross. The other would add Franklin Delano Roosevelt's D-Day morning prayer to the WWII memorial on the National Mall.   Religion reporters are putting on those green visors accountants always wear in the movies and poring over Mitt Romney's tax returns.

Workers at religious institutions fear future of pensions

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (RNS) Tens of thousands of current and former employees at scores of religiously affiliated institutions across the country are worried as nonprofits increasingly seek refuge in “church” pension plans to escape onerous financial obligations. By Tom Haydon. 800. With photo.

Shhh! Pope praises value of short tweets, silence

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI praised new communications technologies like Twitter on Tuesday (Jan. 24), saying that even “concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible,” can convey “profound thoughts.” By Alessandro Speciale. 250.

Gay bishop documentary ‘Love Free or Die’ takes center stage at Sundance

“If my story can help a young boy or girl in their teens believe they can have a wonderful and productive life and family,” says the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, “then it's worth my putting up with a film crew following me around for two years in order to comfort and inspire them.”

COMMENTARY: Competing in the free market

(RNS) Welcome to the marketplace of self-determination, where everything from fact to faith is made a fungible commodity. We will either look out for ourselves, discover wisdom and exercise discernment, or we will get stripped clean by the sharps. By Tom Ehrich. About 700. With photo. 

Poll: Preachy politicians turn off many voters

(RNS) So all that “God talk” from the GOP candidates as they try to show who is more devout? A new survey shows that it may be more likely to hurt their chances with voters as help them. By David Gibson. 400 words.

Bodily desecration is disturbing — but why?

(RNS) Desecrating enemy dead is not always a vengeful impulse, and in some cultures even has a religious component. At the same time, disgust at the desecration of the dead is not always a simple case of demanding respect for a fallen human being, but also carries religious implications, and even one's journey in the afterlife. By Omar Sacirbey. 850. With photo.

Muslim men convicted of advocating death for gays

LONDON (RNS) In the first case of its kind, a British court has convicted three Muslim men — who claimed they were acting under teachings of their religion — of openly advocating the execution of gays. By Al Webb. 250.

Monday Godbytes: Mitt Romney’s Mormon Money; Ultra-Orthodox Discrimination; Jews of Caracas

As the Republican primary season continues to slog on, so too do the religious questions.  Chris Wallace is busy grilling Mitt Romney about whether his donations to the Mormon Church would be a problem in the general election. Meanwhile, the recent rise of the scandal-ridden and newly-Catholic Newt Gingrich has some bloggers asking: which candidate actually has a religion problem, Gingrich or Romney? Slate Magazine reports on a female rabbi who's spent years fighting against ultra-Orthodox Jewish-led discrimination.  In the wake of several recent Ultra-Orthodox scandals in Israel, others are starting to following her lead. Think putting an Islam exhibit about the hajj in the British Museum is easy?  It's not. Speaking of easy, the Jews of Caracas, Venezuela seemingly had it all: idyllic weather, prosperity, and all the perks of Venezuela-ness.  But recent twists and turns in Venezuelan politics have left the small group in turmoil.

Monday’s Religion News Roundup

After winning South Carolina's primary, Newt Gingrich is amping up his operation in Florida, reaching out to evangelical ministries in particular, the AP reports. Also, Jeopardy star Ken Jennings says Romney’s rise makes he and fellow Mormons uncomfortable.