Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

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Oops! … They did it again. The Obama administration again made big religion news last Friday (before a holiday weekend, no less!) though, to be fair, it wasn’t as late in the day as the faith advisory council announcement.

The Dept. of Health & Human Services on Friday said they’ve rescinded Bush-era conscience protections for health-care workers who refuse to perform procedures, mainly abortions, on religious grounds. Critics of the 2008 statutes called them overly broad. The policy maintains conscience protections for abortions and sterilizations, along with tips for health care workers to get the government to enforce the law.

The U.S. Catholic bishops called the announcement a “disappointment,” but welcomed the administration’s pledge to increase awareness of the extant conscience protections.

High winds blew down the National Christmas Tree outside the White House on Saturday.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and other faith leaders said everyone has a “moral obligation” to respect the rights of workers, as public employees continued to march in Wisconsin. Mike Huckabee criticized churches that allow Muslims to meet in their sanctuaries.

The Tunisian revolution that overthrew decades of authoritarian rule has entered a delicate new phase over the role of Islam in politics, the NYT reports. Islamists who suffered some of the toughest oppression of President Hosni Mubarak’s era are regrouping, making some fellow Egyptians very nervous, according to Reuters. Libyan Islamic leaders issued a fatwa telling all Muslims it is their duty to rebel against the the country’s dictator.

The number of Catholics, deacons, priests, bishops and dioceses all increased in 2009, while the number of women in religious orders continued to decline, according to Vatican statistics. The Vatican is warning people who plan to travel to the beatification of Pope John Paul II to beware scammers and scalpers. Got to be a special seat in hell for sinners who scam pilgrims.

Top Catholic bishops washed the feet of sex abuse victims during a special “Liturgy of Lament and Repentance” in Ireland. The Vatican found a top priest guilty of sexually abusing minors in Chile and ordered him to retire to a “life of prayer and penitence.” The Archdiocese of Philadelphia suspended its former vicar of clergy, after he was charged with endangering the welfare of a child earlier this month.

Germany opened its first new Reform synagogue since the Holocaust on Sunday. A conservative Anglican parish in Virginia has agreed to settle its part of a bitter, costly land dispute with the Episcopal Church.

Televangelist Benny Hinn is being sued for allegedly violating a morality clause in his contract when he began an “inappropriate relationship” with a fellow televangelist, according to CT. In a rare move that needed the pope’s approval, a Lutheran convert was ordained as a Catholic priest in Germany and is being allowed to remain married to his wife – who has already become a nun. It’s like Martin Luther in reverse.

A California couple who were traveling the world by boat and handing out Bibles were reportedly killed by Somali pirates.

Scientists are looking for the Garden of Eden. Two men posing as a couple were denied admission to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Martin Sheen is praying for his son.