RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Before politics, Mitt Romney was a Mormon bishop

(RNS) While Mitt Romney was building his career at Bain Capital, he was also a Mormon bishop who had to learn how to give sermons, advise squabbling couples, organize worship services, manage budgets and address the needs of more than 1,000 Mormons in the region. By Peggy Fletcher Stack.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup: Benedict & Fidel; Kagan & Christian Science; Tebow & the Times

Not a whole lot of religion at Day Two of the Supreme Court's health care oral arguments. But Associate Justice Kagan alluded to religion when she noted that the plaintiffs do not represent a group of people, such as Christian Scientists, who would refuse on principle to enter the health insurance market. Nearly everyone else, Kagan said, will use health care at some point. If the individual mandate stands, you might see this scenario come before the courts.   Pope Benedict XVI concludes his visit to Cuba today with a public mass in Havana and a meeting with Fidel Castro. Yesterday, Benedict reportedly asked Cuban President Raul Castro to make Good Friday a national holiday.

Religion News Service file photo.

‘Covenant’ to bind Anglican Communion appears dead

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Commission for Religious Freedom just got two new members, both darlings of conservatives: Princeton University philosopher Robert P. George and Zuhdi Jasser, who describes himself as an alternative voice to established Muslim civil rights groups. By Al Webb and Kevin Eckstrom.

Muslims call new religious freedom appointee a ‘puppet’ for Islam foes

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Commission for Religious Freedom just got two new members, both darlings of conservatives: Princeton University philosopher Robert P. George and Zuhdi Jasser, who describes himself as an alternative voice to established Muslim civil rights groups. By Lauren Markoe.

RNS photo by Sean Locke/iStockPhoto.

Report says church giving on the rebound

WASHINGTON (RNS) Churches may have suffered financially for the past three years due to the recession, but the fourth annual “State of the Plate” found strong evidence of a rebound in 2011. By Annalisa Musarra.

COMMENTARY: We can do better

(RNS) We have seen ourselves up close and decided we can do better. Pouring a lifetime of earnings into showy living becomes embarrassing. Turning religion into shouting matches and rampant bigotry doesn't pass any gospel sniff test. By Tom Ehrich.

RNS photo by Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger

Refugee finds his own church ‘sanctuary’

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. (RNS) Saul Timisela spends his days in a Sunday school classroom, with a small bed and a rack on which to dry his laundry. The room is decorated with cards from children expressing their love. “It is my home and I love it,” says Timisela, who's been seeking sanctuary to avoid deportation back to Indonesia. By Bob Braun.

TuesdayâÂ?Â?s Religion News Roundup: Sex abuse trials; HHS mandate; dinosaurs in NYC

Religious groups have a rooting interest in the health care law arguments continuing today before the U.S. Supreme Court, but there are a couple of other judicial developments worthy of note: Such as the start of the trial of Msgr. William Lynn, who oversaw priest assignments for the Philadelphia archdiocese and is now the first church official to be tried for endangering children by allowing known abusers to operate in parishes. In Missouri, a county judge is to consider motions today to dismiss a misdemeanor charge against a Catholic bishop, Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who is accused of violating Missouri’s mandatory reporter law for failing to notify authorities about a priest who had child pornography and was the subject of numerous complaints. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, a district court judge sides with the ACLU and ruled that the Health and Human Services Department violated the Establishment Clause by contracting with the U.S. bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services, or MRS, because MRS does not refer victims to contraceptive or abortion services.

Alain de Botton’s tips for atheists

(RNS) In “Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion,” Alain de Botton proposes ways atheists can borrow some of the rituals, practices and other trappings of religion and adapt them to build a better secular society.

Pope arrives in Cuba, blasts economic ‘selfishness’

VATICAN CITY (RNS) On his arrival in Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI renewed the Catholic church's pledge to work with the Communist government in order to help the island look at the future, and criticized the “ambition and selfishness” which engendered the global economic crisis. By Alessandro Speciale.

RNS photo by JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News.

Church’s mock raid leaves teen traumatized

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (RNS) A fake terrorist raid staged to show Christian teenagers the perils faced by Christian missionaries left one 14-year-old girl so traumatized that her mother filed a report with the police, claiming her daughter suffered a busted lip and bruised knees. By Ed Komenda.

RNS photo by Peter Sachs.

Lapsed Catholics explain why they leave church

TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) As part of a survey to understand why they have stopped attending Mass, a few hundred lapsed Catholics were asked what issues they would raise with the bishop. He would have gotten an earful. By Peggy McGlone.

RNS photo by Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger.

Tim Tebow brings a little goodness to Gotham

NEW YORK (RNS) Tim Tebow is Howdy Doody in a helmet, Opie Taylor running for touchdowns — while reciting Bible verses, stopping to find a lost dog, visiting sick children in a hospital and helping a little old lady across the street, all before he reaches the end zone. By Kevin Manahan.

Monday’s Religion News Roundup: Atheist rally; Santorum’s curse; brew unto others

An estimated 8,000-10,000 atheists gathered in a biblical downpour on the National Mall Saturday in a bid to show politicians, voters and even themselves that they have grown into a force to be reckoned with.  The overall mood on the mall was festive and family-oriented, according to our reporter on the scene, despite the four-letter words slung regularly from the podium. Meanwhile, conservatives held a rally for religious freedom, protesting the contraception mandate in 2010 healthcare overhaul.   Calls for legal action in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin are growing, USA Today reports, as preachers took to their pulpits wearing hoodies in symbolic solidarity around the country. Rick Santorum won Louisiana's primary handily, then cursed out a New York Times reporter and released a scary ad.  Pope Benedict XVI wrapped up his Mexico trip and “appeared to lay to rest the impression that he is a distant, cold pontiff,” according to the AP. “I've made a lot of trips, but I've never been welcomed with such enthusiasm,” Benedict told a cheering crowd on Sunday.