Friday’s Final Godbytes: Monks vs. Radiation; Afternoon “LINks”; BYU “Valentine”

Think just being a monk is dedication? Try taking on the unseen energy of the universe head-on: A Zen monk in Japan is helping to fight radiation, potentially putting himself in danger as he tries to quell the spread of radiation in Fukushima, Japan. A duo of Jeremy Lin links for you today (er, LINks?): The New York Times wonders if professional sports and religion are inherently opposed to one another, and the Washington Post looks at Faith, Sin and Jeremy Lin. (Hey! That rhymes!) There's a new take on the story of the Good Samaritan: A Priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan walk into a bar…

RNS photo by Sean Locke/iStockPhoto.

Nonprofit groups oppose Obama’s change in charitable deductions

WASHINGTON (RNS) For the fourth year in a row, President Obama is proposing lower tax deductions for the wealthy on donations to churches and other nonprofit organizations. And for the fourth year in a row, nonprofit groups say the change would lead to a dramatic drop in charitable giving. By Annalisa Musarra.

RNS photo courtesy eByrd Communications.

Marvin Winans will add soul to Whitney Houston’s funeral

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) At the end of the day, those in pastoral and gospel circles say Marin Winans is a preacher and a good one who'll lean on the gospel to eulogize Whitney Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church here in Newark on Saturday. By Barry Carter.

Photo courtesy Bob Jagendorf.

N.J. lawmakers approve gay marriage, but veto looms

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) Even as Gov. Chris Christie's threat of a “swift” veto looms, gay rights activists are celebrating after the state Assembly voted on Thursday (Feb. 16) on a bill to legalize same sex marriage in New Jersey. By Maryanne Spoto.

Vatican leaks scandal looms large at meeting to elevate new cardinals

VATICAN CITY (RNS) It isn't anywhere on the official agenda, but as Roman Catholic leaders meet in Rome this weekend, looming in the background will be a recent string of Vatican leaks that reveal a bitter power struggle among the hierarchy. By Alessandro Speciale.

RNS photo by Mark Hundley.

Grief without God is a challenge for nonbelievers

(RNS) If you're an atheist who loses a child or loved one, there's no hope of a reunion in the afterlife. The absence of the comfort of religious ritual is one of the hardest adjustments for unbelievers, leading some nonbelievers to craft support groups and resources for grief without God. By Kimberly Winston.

Thursday Godbytes: Christian Partisanship; Jewish Twitterverse; Salmon in Yemen

You've probably read about Christian Libertarians, so why not complete the set? Relevant magazine has a series that includes “Why I am a Christian Republican” as well as “Why I am a Christian Democrat.” No word on whether they'll get Jimmy McMillan to do a “Why I am a Christian Member of the Rent is 2 D@#$ High Party.” One can only hope. The Jewish twitterverse is a thing.

RNS photo by Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger.

Fans to be shut out of Whitney Houston’s church funeral

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) With TV trucks and camera crews clogging the streets and thousands of fans hoping for a glimpse of the event, Whitney Houston's family has decided that no one but invited guests will get near her church funeral on Saturday. By James Queally and Peggy McGlone.

RNS photo courtesy FBI.

FBI, Muslims report progress over training materials

(RNS) The FBI said it was willing to consider a proposal from a coalition of Muslim and interfaith groups to establish a committee of experts tasked with reviewing literature and videos used anti-terrorism training, but it had not yet received a plan to consider.

Sparks fly as House GOP blasts contraception mandate

WASHINGTON (RNS) A House committee holds hearings Thursday that will find the Obama administration guilty of trampling on religious freedom by requiring employers to provide insurance that includes contraception coverage. By Lauren Markoe.

RNS photo by Bill Starling/The Press-Register.

Southern Baptists mull whether ‘Southern’ still fits

FAIRHOPE, Ala. (RNS) For the Southern Baptist Convention, which has used the same name for nearly 170 years, changing its name to make it less “Southern” isn't easy. First, there has to be the will to do so. And on that, the jury is still out. By Roy Hoffman.