Prayer rules * Mystery exits * Naked ‘Priests’: Thursday’s Religion News Roundup

The Supreme Court hunts for prayers acceptable to all. Tuesday's elections have both parties in a tizzy. U.S. bishops, looking to elect their own leader next week, feel the effect of Pope Francis.

Dear Lord-Allah-Vishnu-Great Spirit-Gaia-Yahweh-RichardDawkins-Ha-Shem-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster, please guide me in my first RNS daily roundup…

You won’t hear that at the Greece, N.Y., town hall meeting. But the U.S. Supreme Court is now mulling whether the government can or should vet public prayer.

Lauren Markoe was there for the big church-state Greece v. Galloway case arguments Wednesday as the court questioned if there could be pleas to heaven acceptable to all religious traditions. “Throw the atheists in, too,” urged Justice Antonin Scalia.

Demonstrators hold signs that read "Keep your theocracy off my democracy" and "This is not a church" in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (Nov. 6) during oral arguments of Greece v. Galloway. RNS photo by Katherine Burgess

Demonstrators hold signs that read “Keep your theocracy off my democracy” and “This is not a church” in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (Nov. 6) during oral arguments of Greece v. Galloway. RNS photo by Katherine Burgess

If you want to try your hand at prayer rules, take your case to Faith & Reason blog.

A Minneapolis-area school bus driver got schooled in the rules about prayer in school. The dual career driver (he’s a pastor, too) lost his driving job for leading the kids in prayer on the bus ride to public school every morning.

There were some unanswered prayers in elections on Tuesday. In the aftermath, Democrats are scrambling to arms at the prospect of facing freshly empowered N.J. Gov. Chis Christie.  On the GOP side, meanwhile, it’s internecine warfare among forces of the old right, the new right and the off the charts Tea Party right.

Now, we have three entries for a new category: Mystery exits in the news.

— Doug Phillips, the Christian ministry leader, resigned his post over an emotional extramarital “affair”:  “While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.” Is that a quote that would have made Bill Clinton-of-the-’90s proud?

—  Doug Birdsall was booted by the American Bible Society after a mere six months as CEO. No reasons given. Big name evangelicals like multi-site megachurcher Tim Keller are rallying to Birdsall’s defense.

— And one final exit: Swiss forensic tests have revived speculation that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died from poisoning. Israel says, don’t look at us. But the PLO still wants an international investigation.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops picks a new president next week. David Gibson says they’ll make their pick with “The Francis Effect” in mind. What kind of U.S. leadership might the humble, happy, huggable Holy Father want for his “poor church for the poor”? (Hint: Cue the social justice concerns, downplay the culture wars.)

Jana Riess looks at a multi-generation sociological study of how parents pass down their faith – or don’t.

What parent hasn’t told a little girl that everyone has an inner beauty? Evidently not so many in Venezuela, capital of plastic surgery. Osmel Sousa, head of the Miss Venezuela pageant, tells The New York Times: “I say that inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.”

Sexy “priests” sell a message in the second annual Orthodox calendar featuring men-of-little-or-no-cloth including one in priestly garb lasciviously licking whipped cream. Are they priests? The producers say, “We consider irrelevant the true identities of these men. What is important — as with the Pussy Riot debate – are discussions generated by this video in respect of the role of gay men in religious orders…

The Friendly Atheist Blog is bringing back its call for Heathen Holiday Cards.

Billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, disgraced former Italian prime minister, makes a sympathy plea: “My children say that they feel like Jewish families in Germany under Hitler’s regime.” Time for a visit to the Yad Vashem?

The Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan weighed in on bioethics this week: Test tube babies, yes. Cloning and sex-change operations, no.

Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking) celebrates this day as a “feast day” for a secular saint – 100 years ago Albert Camus was born. She admires the agnostic French author’s “moral compass.”

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