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Belief Beat

Belief Beat

Bio

Nicole Neroulias is a correspondent for Religion News Service, a secular news and photo service devoted to unbiased coverage of religion and ethics. A graduate of Cornell University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she has previously written for The New York Times and other media outlets. She and her family live in Seattle.

Muslim Suspect Arrested in Times Square Bomb Scare; U.S. Muslim Group Praises Law Enforcement

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Although U.S.officials have stood by their dismissal of the Pakistani Taliban’s efforts to claim credit for the Times Square bomb scare over the weekend, it appears that a Muslim man from Pakistan is the prime suspect. The New York Times […]

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Happy Star Wars Day, Jedi Religion Followers and Fans

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Yoda fans around the world are observing today, May 4, as “Star Wars Day,” in a punny take on the Jedi Knight motto: “May the Force Be With You.” (May the Force, May the 4th… get it? Geddit?!) To learn […]

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Pope Watch: Benedict Visits Shroud of Turin, Briefly Trading Current Problems for Historical Controversy

posted by Nicole Neroulias

While the jury is still out on the recent Noah’s Ark discovery on Mount Ararat in Turkey, Pope Benedict has just returned from his pilgrimage to the mother of disputed religious artifacts: the Shroud of Turin. The Associated Press reports that the pontiff “all […]

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Pakistani Muslim Terrorist News: Suspect Convicted in Mumbai Attack, Group Claims Credit for NYC Bomb Scare

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Pakistan’s branch of the Taliban is trying to claim credit for the bomb scare that shut down Times Square on Saturday night, but U.S. officials and other experts say it’s highly unlikely the group had the ability to pull something […]

Obama Proclaims May as Jewish American Heritage Month 2010

posted by Nicole Neroulias

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, now in its fifth year. President Obama issued the proclamation Friday, noting that just as America has served as a haven for Jewish immigrants, their experience as “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (famous words […]

BREAKING NEWS: Pope Will Appoint New Leader for Disgraced Legionaries of Christ

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Here’s a bonus Pope Watch, updating yesterday’s post: The Vatican has just announced that Pope Benedict will appoint a new leader and oversee restructuring of the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative Catholic order investigated recently due to revelations that its founder, […]

Pope Watch: Vatican Reviews Investigation on Legionaries of Christ, Group Founded by Abuser

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Pope Benedict made an appearance at today’s Vatican meeting to discuss the investigation of the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative Catholic order founded by the Rev. Marcial Maciel, who turns out to have fathered several children and abused seminarians. As expected, […]

Fun Friday: ‘Boobquake’ Responds to Muslim Cleric, Causes Taiwan’s Tremor?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The most entertaining religion news story this week was unquestionably “Boobquake,” a Facebook-fueled joke calling on ladies to respond, um, appropriately to an Iranian Muslim cleric’s recent statement that womens’ immodest attire has been causing the earth’s violent tremors. Purdue University student/Boobquake mastermind […]

Sentencing Scheduled Next Month for Kosher Slaughterhouse Chief

posted by Nicole Neroulias

After spending the last two days hearing arguments over the controversial sentencing of Sholom Rubashkin, a Hasidic Jew convicted of fraud related to how he ran Agriprocessors, the now-defunct kosher meat plant based in Postville, Iowa, U.S. District Court Judge Linda […]

Pope Watch: Vatican May Issue Formal Apology for Abuse Scandal in June

posted by Nicole Neroulias

In his recent interview with PBS Newshour, Cardinal William Levada indicated that Pope Benedict will be issuing a formal apology to clergy abuse victims in June, at the end of his — unfortunately timed, given the global pedophilia revelations — “year […]

SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Mojave Desert Cross

posted by Nicole Neroulias

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a federal court ruling that had ordered the removal of a war memorial cross at the Mojave National Preserve in California. The Associated Press reports that the large cross, erected by […]

Pope Watch: Vatican’s U.S. Attorney, In His Own Words, On the Clergy Abuse Scandal

posted by Nicole Neroulias

As promised, here are the notes from my conversation with Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican’s U.S. counsel, who recently talked with me for my Religion News Service feature concerning the lawsuits filed by Catholic clergy abuse victims against the Holy See. In contrast to victims’ […]

Gay Clergy Decision Causing Rifts Among Evangelical Lutherans

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Last August, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a body of about 10,000 churches with more than 4 million members, became the latest denomination to allow openly gay clergy. (This category includes the Episcopal Church and Judaism’s Conservative and Reform branches.) In her recent […]

Christian Explorers Claim Noah’s Ark Discovered in Turkey

posted by Nicole Neroulias

This story doesn’t pass my smell test, but it’s certainly making religion headlines: a Chinese-Turkish group of Christian explorers from Noah’s Ark Ministries International claims to have found the remains of Noah’s Ark on Turkey’s Mt. Ararat. According to Abrahamic tradition, the massive […]

Pope Watch: Victims’ Advocate vs. Vatican’s Attorney in Clergy Abuse Lawsuits

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Jeff Anderson has represented hundreds of Catholic clergy abuse victims, going back to the 1980s when he was one of the few attorneys taking on these kinds of cases. Two of his lawsuits currently seek damages from the Holy See […]

With Business Summit, Obama Continues Outreach to Muslim World

posted by Nicole Neroulias

As part of his ongoing efforts to repair America’s relationship with the Islamic world, President Obama is hosting a gathering of Muslim enterpreneurs in Washington this week. The two-day Presidential Summit on Entrepeneurship has brought together about 250 people from more than 50 […]

Haiti Drops Charges Against 9 of 10 Baptist Missionaries; Organizer Remains in Jail

posted by Nicole Neroulias

A Haitian judge has dropped charges against nine of the 10 Baptist missionaries from America, but group organizer Laura Silsby remains in jail there at this time. (The rest of her group had already been released in February and March.) […]

Pope Watch: Public Editor Defends NYT Coverage of Abuse Scandal

posted by Nicole Neroulias

In his weekly column yesterday, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt defended the newspaper’s coverage of the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal. The NYT has received hundreds of letters complaining about its investigation, mainly from lay Catholics who […]

Faith Leaders Condemn Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Faith leaders from a range of religious backgrounds have banded together to condemn a new Arizona law, signed Friday, that allows police to stop anyone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. Critics say this essentially legalizes racial profiling and harrassment of […]

Obama Prayed With Billy Graham, Then Eulogized W. Virginia Miners

posted by Nicole Neroulias

On his way to deliver a eulogy at a memorial service for the 29 West Virginia miners who died in the explosion earlier this month, President Obama met with celebrated evangelist Billy Graham. Although Graham, 91, has counseled White House occupants since […]

Pope Watch: More European Bishops Resign as Clergy Abuse Scandal Continues

posted by Nicole Neroulias

More bad news for the Catholic Church in Europe: Admitting to having sexually abused a young boy about 25 years ago, Roger Vangheluwe, 73, has resigned from his position as Belgium’s longest-serving bishop. The Associated Press and Catholic News Agency have […]

Fun Friday, Part II: Players Tricked Into Selling Their Souls for Online Games

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Along with last night’s Jon Stewart/South Park segment, the most entertaining religion news item of the past week came out of an April Fool’s Prank played by GameStation, a British online gaming store that buried an “immortal soul clause” in […]

Fun Friday, Part I: In ‘South Park’ Defense, Jon Stewart Recaps ‘Daily Show’ Religious Mockery

posted by Nicole Neroulias

While I considered the two-part 200th episode of “South Park” lots of fun, it wasn’t necessarily the most entertaining religion story of the week, especially once the censorship of the Prophet Muhammad’s image went from ironic plot device to network-imposed mandate, and media […]

RIP Alicia Parlette, San Francisco Chronicle’s Cancer Writer

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Alicia Parlette, 28, passed away yesterday, five years after her devastating diagnosis of sarcoma. a type of cancer. As I mentioned in my blog post last week, tens of thousands of readers had followed her emotional first-person series, Alicia’s Story, in the San […]

Pope Watch: British Clergy Apologize to Abuse Victims, Request Prayers for Pope Benedict

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Catholic News Agency reports that British and Welsh bishops have apologized for their handling of the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal, while also asking Catholics to pray for Pope Benedict during the four Fridays of May. Those Friday prayers […]

Washington D.C. Events Rescind Invites to Catholic Cardinal, Franklin Graham

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Coincidentally, two separate Washington D.C. events have just rescinded invitations to conservative Christian clergy, in response to public outcry over each man’s previous statements. In brief: –Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who formerly headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, will no longer be leading a […]

Muslim Extremist News: Lebanese TV Psychic Saved, South Park Censored

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Looks like the media spotlight and global campaigning by groups like Amnesty International has succeeded in saving Ali Hussain Sibat, the Lebanese TV psychic sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for “witchcraft” after being arrested by the country’s religious police during a pilgrimage. […]

Faith Groups View Earth Day 2010 Through Spiritual Lens

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Today is Earth Day, as well as the NFL draft and Take Our Daughters And Sons to Work Day (or as it’s known in my home office, Thursday) — something for everyone! But to focus on Earth Day, which is […]

Pope Watch: Benedict Vows ‘Church Action’ Against Clergy Abuse, as Scandal Spreads South

posted by Nicole Neroulias

A few days after praying with clergy sex abuse survivors in Malta, Pope Benedict has announced that the Catholic Church will take action to bring justice to abusive priests and protect children in the future. The Vatican has not yet elaborated on […]

Baha’is Celebrate Ridvan With Prayers, Elections

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Today marks the first day of Ridvan, the holiest period of the year for members of the Baha’i faith, a religion that began in modern-day Iran and has major temples in Israel, Illinois and India. (Photo below shows me at the Lotus […]

Kosher Meat Plant Chief Faces Jail Time, Denied Bail, Despite Jewish Protests

posted by Nicole Neroulias

I’ve been following the case of Agriprocessors, a now-defunct kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa, ever since an immigration raid found hundreds of undocumented workers (some underage, as well) there in May 2008. The plant was owned by the Rubashkin clan, which has […]

Pope Watch: Benedict Marks Five Years as Pontiff

posted by Nicole Neroulias

(Experiencing some technical difficulties, so I’ll keep my next few posts short and sweet.) Pope Benedict celebrated his fifth year anniversary as pontiff, succeeding John Paul II, by having lunch with 46 cardinals at the Vatican yesterday. Links to some of […]

SCOTUS Grappling With Christian Law School Group’s Rights

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The U.S. Supreme Court has started hearing arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the case that concerns whether the University of California’s Hastings College of Law can deny formal recognition (including organizational funding) to the student religious group that denies […]

Pope Watch: Benedict Prays With Maltese Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors

posted by Nicole Neroulias

During his visit to Malta over the weekend, Pope Benedict met with eight clergy sex abuse survivors, men who said they had been molested by priests in a Catholic orphanage on the European island nation. The Associated Press reports the pope […]

Pope Watch: U.S. Catholics Present Pontiff With Birthday Cake

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Pope Benedict turned 83 today, and members of the Philadephia-based Papal Foundation presented him with a large cake and cheerful rendition of “Happy Birthday.” The Associated Press reports that the Vatican doesn’t officially celebrate popes’ birthday, though a papal palace luncheon is planned […]

Prayers for Alicia Parlette, San Francisco Chronicle’s Cancer Writer

posted by Nicole Neroulias

I was working in the Bay Area when one of my competitors, the San Francisco Chronicle, began running “Alicia’s Story,” a first-person account from a young copy editor who had been diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma cancer. The compelling 17-part series, […]

Fun Friday: Vatican Newspaper Forgives The Beatles

posted by Nicole Neroulias

This week’s most entertaining religion story came out of the Vatican — a nice surprise, considering the significantly less pleasant headlines from there lately. In short, the Holy See’s official newspaper published a glowing tribute to The Beatles, on the 40th anniversary […]

National Day of Prayer Ruled Unconstitutional; Obama Will Still Recognize It

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Ah, so maybe this is what prompted today’s (false) rumor that President Obama was canceling National Day of Prayer 2010: a federal district judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the 1988 law creating the annual observance is unconstitutional. According to the Associated Press […]

Pope Watch: Penance Needed, Pope Benedict Says

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Continuing the Vatican’s damage-control efforts regarding the clergy sex abuse scandal, including a new Associated Press investigation reporting that at least 30 accused priests have been shuffled around the globe, Pope Benedict spontaneously confirmed the need to repent for sins during a homily today. […]

President Obama Has NOT Canceled National Day of Prayer

posted by Nicole Neroulias

For some reason this morning, there’s a big rumor going around that President Obama has canceled National Day of Prayer 2010, scheduled for May 6. It’s not true, despite what your search engine and e-mails tell you. The rumormongers seem […]

Millions of Hindus Converge on Ganges for Kumbh Mela 2010

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Yesterday was the culmination of Kumbh Mela 2010, a Hindu festival that draws millions of pilgrims to the Ganges River over a three-month period. The New York Times reported that an estimated 10 million people entered the water on Wednesday, creating serious […]

Pope Watch: Protesters Target Pontiff’s Travel Plans, Threaten Arrest

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Vatican response to the clergy sex abuse scandal has gone into damage-control overdrive this week, the Associated Press reports, as church officials try to improve public sentiment before Pope Benedict visits Malta, Cyprus and other parts of the world. Although some abuse victims and advocates have literally […]

Ex-Husband May Take Child to Church, Despite Jewish Mom’s Objections

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Personally and professionally, interfaith marriage issues fascinate me, especially when families find creative ways to honor multiple sets of beliefs and traditions. Unfortunately, for every positive example of love conquering all, there are plenty of painful situations like the recent case of […]

Birthright Israel Expands Efforts to Keep Alumni Connected to Judaism

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that sends Jewish young adults on free 10-day trips to Israel, has begun expanding efforts to keep participants involved in Judaism long-term, both religiously and culturally. The alumni program, called Birthright NEXT, will expand from seven […]

Pope Watch: Cardinal Links Homosexuality to Pedophile Priest Problem

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Despite Pope Benedict’s previous comments distinguishing between pedophilia and homosexuality, the Vatican’s secretary of state has just come out citing homosexuality – as opposed to celibacy — as a related factor in the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone made the comments […]

Sikhs Celebrate Baisakhi Festival 2010

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Thousands of Sikhs from around the world have gathered in north India and Pakistan to celebrate Baisakhi Festival 2010, a three-day religious holiday combining a harvest and New Year’s celebration. (The festival, sometimes spelled Besaki, Vaisakhi, or Vasakhi, is also celebrated […]

Pope Watch: Bishops Instructed to Report Clergy Sex Abuse to Secular Authorities

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Vatican has posted an official guide on its procedures concerning sexual abuse allegations — spelling out a policy that “civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.” In other words, bishops should report such […]

Prayer Services Honor Fallen West Virginia Coal Miners

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Hopeful prayers that some of the West Virginia coal miners would still be found alive turned into sorrowful prayers for their grieving families and coworkers over the weekend, at funerals and Sunday church services. A few of the stories: Some W. […]

Polish Plane Crash, Holocaust Observance Brings Catholics, Jews Together

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Mourning for Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the dozens of other victims of Saturday’s plane crash has brought together Poland’s Catholics and Jews, groups that haven’t shared the happiest history. In fact, Jewish leaders have called Kaczynski a “friend to […]

Justice Stevens, Rep. Stupak Will Retire

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Was it something we said? Both Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak each announced today that they are retiring. From a religion news perspective, the SCOTUS departure is important because with Stevens departing this summer, […]

Fun Friday: Barbie Gets Ordained

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Introducing “Fun Friday,” my take on the most entertaining religion news of the past week. Hands down, as I came down off my Greek Easter food coma to a week of more clergy sex abuse news and the West Virginia coal mine disaster, […]

Pope Watch: Scandal Has Caused Pope Pain, Vatican Official Says

posted by Nicole Neroulias

A top Vatican official says the ongoing clergy sexual abuse scandal has caused Pope Benedict great pain, the Associated Press reports. (With all the allegations reported lately, spanning from Mexico to India and including the pontiff’s own brother in Germany, I would […]

Pope Watch: Africa Also Suffers From Clergy Sex Abuse, Archbishop Admits

posted by Nicole Neroulias

For years, Catholic Church leaders at the Vatican and around the world considered clergy sex abuse an “American problem.” Well, the past year has shown that pedophile priests and the cover-ups that protected them have been a European scourge as well — […]

Prayers Continue as Hope Fades for West Virginia Miners

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Rescue efforts have resumed for the four trapped men that may still be alive deep beneath the earth, four days after the West Virginia coal mine disaster. The blast killed 25 miners; 18 of their bodies have yet to be recovered. From […]

Tiger Woods Returns to Masters… and Buddhist Values?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Masters Golf Tournament 2010 starts today, and all eyes are on Tiger Woods, who is ending a self-imposed five-month exhile after his extremely public fall from grace. In a press conference this week, Woods reiterated that he has recommitted himself to […]

Pope Watch: Accused Indian Priest Will Return to U.S.; More Vatican Authority Needed?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who allegedly molested two teenage girls while serving in a Minnesota parish a few years ago, will return from India to face sexual assault charges. Apparently, he wasn’t aware that the U.S., with the Vatican’s […]

Glenn Beck Gets ‘Twitterstorm’ From Jewish Social Justice Group

posted by Nicole Neroulias

From 9 a.m. today and for the next 24 hours, Jewish Funds for Justice is sending one “Tweet” a minute to Glenn Beck’s personal Twitter account. The “Haik U” messages (like haiku poems) are protesting the conservative broadcaster’s comments about religion and social […]

Obama Met With Black Church Leaders, Other Clergy at Easter Prayer Breakfast

posted by Nicole Neroulias

On the heels of his family’s visit to an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church on Easter Sunday, President Obama met with a group of black church leaders before convening a larger gathering of clergy and community activists for an Easter prayer breakfast […]

Pope Watch: Pope Benedict Names Gomez to L.A. Archdiocese

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Pope Benedict has named Archbishop Jose Gomez, 58, of San Antonio, Texas, to the position of coadjutor for Los Angeles, which puts him next in line to become the diocese’s cardinal — becoming America’s first Latino cardinal. Gomez, who was born […]

Pope Watch: Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal Reaches India

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal has hit a new country: India. The Associated Press and The New York Times report that while working in a Minnesota diocese five years ago, the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul allegedly molested two teenage […]

Pope Watch: Random Apologies Made as Holy Week Ended

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The clergy sex abuse scandal didn’t elicit further statements of regret from Catholic Church leaders over the weekend, but two peripheral apologies did make headlines: The Vatican’s struggle over its response to the scandal was compounded by the controversial Good […]

Obama Family Chooses Black Church for Easter Service

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The First Family has decided not to join a church — President Obama says they decided their presence, and the security required, is too disruptive and distracting to the others on a weekly basis — but they did attend Easter […]

Pope Watch: A Tale of Two Popes

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Catholics today are observing Good Friday and the fifth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. The Associated Press reports that in his native Poland, although the population has gotten more secular lately, he is still mourned by many. […]

Tiller’s Killer Gets Life in Prison for Gunning Abortion Doctor Down in Church

posted by Nicole Neroulias

A Christian extremist who murdered George Tiller, a doctor who had performed late-term abortions in Kansas, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday. Scott Roeder, 52, shot the 67-year-old physician during a Sunday service at Tiller’s church last year. CNN reported […]

CNN: Condemned ‘Sorcerer’ Still Alive, in Saudi Prison

posted by Nicole Neroulias

It’s been a relatively good Friday for Ali Hussain Sibat, the Lebanese TV fortune-teller arrested by Saudi Arabia’s religious police and convicted of witchcraft last year. CNN reports that his attorney said he has not been beheaded today after all, though he […]

Trial Dates Set for Utah ‘Prophets’ Warren Jeffs, Brian David Mitchell

posted by Nicole Neroulias

It’s going to be a sour November for Mormons, with long-awaited trial dates now set for Warren Jeffs, the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Brian David Mitchell, the self-proclaimed prophet accused of abducting […]

BREAKING NEWS: TV ‘Magician’ May Be Executed in Saudi Arabia Tomorrow

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The lawyer for Ali Hussain Sibat, a fortune-teller on a Lebanese TV show, says Saudi Arabia plans to behead her client tomorrow. (This is not an April Fools’ Day joke.) Sibat, 49, is Lebanese citizen, but was arrested by Saudi religious police […]

John Piper, Megachurch Pastor and Author, Takes Break to Tackle ‘Sins’

posted by Nicole Neroulias

John Piper, a prolific evangelical Christian author and founder of Desiring God Ministries, is taking an 8-month leave of absence from public life, including his role as pastor at Bethlethem Baptist Church in Minnesota. It’s not an April Fools’ Day joke […]

Pope Watch: Vatican Strikes Back at The Gray Lady

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Coverage of the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal had focused on Ireland and Germany and other parts of Europe lately, until The New York Times started revisiting old American cases, trying to find a link between church coverups of pedophile priests and […]

Passover and Two Easters Collide, Interfaith Families Adapt

posted by Nicole Neroulias

With Passover and both Easters — for eastern and western Christians alike — coinciding this year, it’s a more hectic “Holy Week” than usual for religion reporters and interfaith families. Although it’s more historically accurate when Passover and Easter come together, given that […]

Pope Watch: Clergy Abuse Victims Respond to Vatican Defense

posted by Nicole Neroulias

As I predicted yesterday, the clergy and commentators defending Pope Benedict’s response to the clergy sex abuse scandal — including a legal defense being planned in the U.S. — has fueled a backlash from victims and their supporters. After the American bishops affirmed […]

Pope Watch: Clergy, Catholic Press Defend Pope Benedict

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Apologies to Tammy Wynette, but I’ve had “Stand By Your Man” stuck in my head for hours while sifting through the influx of Catholic bishops and commentators defending Pope Benedict’s response to the global clergy sex abuse scandal (as his U.S. approval […]

Scientology Abuse Claims Investigated by CNN, AP

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Church of Scientology is getting more unwanted publicity this week, as reporters look into claims made by former members accusing high-ranking officials — including church leader David Miscavige, who also served as best man in Tom Cruise’s wedding to […]

U.S. Muslim Group Condemns Christian Terror Plot, Moscow Suicide Bombings

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Muslim Public Affairs Council condemned two terrorist incidents that made news yesterday: a Christian militia group’s alleged plot to kill police officers in the Midwest, and the suicide bombings in the Moscow subway, which Russian officials suspect were carried […]

BREAKING NEWS: Muslim Extremists Bombed Moscow Subway?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Russian officials suspect this morning’s suicide bombings of the Moscow subway, killing more than three dozen people, were a response to the crackdown on Islamic extremism in Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus region in Southern Russia. The attacks […]

Pope Watch: Palm Sunday Edition

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Given the daily — sometimes hourly — influx of Catholic news lately, I’m introducing Pope Watch, my daily digest of the Vatican’s response to the global clergy sex abuse scandal, including the New York Times’ ongoing investigative coverage and commentary, and other headlines. Yesterday was […]

Obama White House Observes Black-Jewish Passover Seder

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The major Jewish holiday of Passover starts tonight, with families and friends gathered to tell the Exodus story over Seder meals. The New York Times reports that President Obama will again preside over a White House Seder, a new tradition, where his family […]

Did the Pope Approve Covering Up for Pedophile Priests?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

That’s the million — perhaps billion — dollar question for faithful Catholics, as the New York Times continues hammering away at its investigation of how Pope Benedict’s former office handled reports of clergy sex abuse in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere. The […]

Interfaith Groups Lobby for Immigration Reform

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The escalating interfaith call for immigration reform, including a rally that brought 200,000 people to Washington Sunday, would have been the top religion headline… in a week not dominated by the widening Catholic sex abuse scandal, the bitterly contested health care bill, the U.S.-Israel conflict […]

NYT: Pope’s Office Ignored Warnings about U.S. Pedophile Priest

posted by Nicole Neroulias

(Updated at 3 p.m. EST to add links to Andrew Sullivan’s call for Pope Benedict’s resignation and to the Whispers in the Loggia blog.) After weeks of speculation over whether Pope Benedict could be linked to the Catholic Church’s coverup of clergy […]

Muslim Soldier Battles Discrimination in U.S. Army

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Check out this Washington Post story about Spec. Zachari Klawonn’s struggles as a Muslim soldier in the U.S. Army. (Funny how this story came out the same week as the news about the Army now welcoming Sikh men — whose traditional turbans […]

Irish Bishop Resigns Over Sex Abuse Scandal

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Less than a week after Pope Benedict sent an apologetic letter to Catholics reeling from a clergy sex abuse scandal in Ireland that spanned decades, Irish Bishop John Magee’s resignation has been accepted. According to the Associated Press, Magee apologized to victims […]

SCOTUS Declines to Hear Case of ‘Ave Maria’ School Censorship

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case charging that a superintendent in Everett (near Seattle, my neck of the woods) should not have banned an instrumental performance of “Ave Maria” at a 2006 high school graduation ceremony. According […]

Arrested by Saudi Religious Police, ‘Magician’ Gets Death Penalty

posted by Nicole Neroulias

(Updated at 6:30 p.m. EST to clarify my last question.) Amnesty International has issued an “urgent appeal” calling on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to stop the execution of a Lebanese TV personality sentenced to death for “sorcery.” Ali Hussain Sibat, […]

U.S. Army Makes Exception for Sikh’s Turban, Beard

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Associated Press reports that Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan has become the first Sikh in 25 years to join the U.S. Army, thanks to an exception that allows the Indian American to retain his religiously-mandated turban and beard. About 300,000 Sikhs live in America; until […]

UPDATED: Religious Groups React to Health Care Vote

posted by Nicole Neroulias

(Updated at 8 p.m. EST to add Southern Baptist Convention and Church of Latter-day Saints, and more on Catholics.) After assuring pro-life Democrats that President Obama would sign an executive order affirming that federal money would not pay for abortions, […]

BREAKING NEWS: Clinton Says Israeli Settlements Undermine Peace Efforts

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Sen. Hillary Clinton just addressed the annaul meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. JTA reports that she reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, but also maintained the Obama administration’s position that building Jewish housing in Palestinian areas […]

Pope to Irish Catholics: ‘Healing, Renewal and Reparation’ Needed

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Over the weekend, the Vatican released Pope Benedict’s letter to Catholics traumatized and horrified by the clergy sex abuse scandal in Ireland. In it, the pontiff expressed his own “dismay and sense of betrayal,” while urging victims to find solace and […]

Trying ‘National Day of Unplugging,’ aka the Sabbath?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Several years ago, I failed to make it through Lent without visiting my favorite time-sucking Web site; I’ve never even considered giving up Facebook or going offline entirely (not a professional option, anyway). But, all this coverage of the Sabbath Manifesto’s call […]

Catholic Bishops, Nuns and Hospitals Take Sides as Health Care Debate Wraps Up

posted by Nicole Neroulias

With Congress expected to vote on the health care reform bill Sunday, the predictable debates among the Democrats (pro-life vs. pro-choice, naturally) and with the Republicans pale in comparison to the Catholic infighting: nuns and hospitals support the bill, bishops oppose […]

No Longer Banned, Muslim Scholar Is Coming to America

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim scholar barred from entering the United States in 2004 will be in New York in a few weeks to discuss “Secularism, Islam and Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West.” The U.S. travel ban was […]

BREAKING NEWS: ‘Jihad Jane’ Denies Role In Terror Plot

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Associated Press reports that Colleen LaRose, the Pennsylvania woman who allegedly used the Internet alias “JihadJane,” has denied in court that she sought to kill a Swedish artist targeted by radical Muslims or agreed to marry a terrorism suspect […]

UPDATE: Obama Postpones Trip to Indonesia, Again

posted by Nicole Neroulias

UPDATED: The New York Times just reported that President Obama has decided to push back his Indonesia trip for the second time. (The rest of my post remains accurate, with the strikethroughs added.) President Obama has had already postponed his […]

Jewish Aid Group Supports Refugee Bill

posted by Nicole Neroulias

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act, prompting the Episcopal Church to renew its “committment to remember and advocate on behalf of the uprooted, recognizing that situations of violence and war around the world will continue to […]

BREAKING NEWS: Episcopal Church approves 2nd gay bishop

posted by Nicole Neroulias

In a move that’s sure to deepen the rift between America’s Episcopalians and the global Anglican communion, the Rev. Mary Glasspool has been approved to become the Episcopal Church’s second openly gay bishop. She will be consecrated the new assistant bishop […]

Israel Approves Civil Weddings, For Some

posted by Nicole Neroulias

It’s more about St. Valentine than St. Patrick in Israel this week, as some couples finally got the right to get married there even if they don’t meet the country’s strict standards for a religious ceremony. In the past, Jews who wanted to […]

Pope Benedict, Irish cardinal, address sex abuse scandal

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Guess I spoke too soon about today being a happier news day for Irish Catholics. Then again, St. Patrick was celebrated for driving the snakes out of Ireland, so perhaps it’s fitting to report on the church’s need to do likewise with the snakes […]

Parades, prayers converge for St. Patrick’s Day today

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Catholics have gotten plenty of tough press lately, between coverage of their disagrements over health care reform, same-sex marriage and family issues in Washington, D.C. and Boulder, Colo., and the investigations of the clergy sex abuse scandals embroiling Europe and battering Pope Benedict. At least […]

Arizona town reconsiders zoning prohibition on at-home Bible studies

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Town Council in in Gilbert, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb of about 217,000 residents (and currently one of the fastest growing municipalities in America) is moving quickly to change a zoning code that technically prohibits Bible study groups and other “religious-assembly uses” […]

Catholic hospitals, bishops split over health care reform

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The health care reform package nearing a vote in Congress has officially divided America’s Catholics: their hospitals endorse the plan, their bishops “regretfully” oppose it. The president of the Catholic Health Association, which represents more than 600 hospitals, calls the […]

U.S.-Israeli Relations In Crisis Mode

posted by Nicole Neroulias

America’s friendship with Israel is at risk, mainstream and Jewish media outlets are reporting, due to Israel’s announcement (made during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, of all times) that it will build 1,600 more housing units for Jews in East […]

Panel: NYC was wrong to fire Muslim principal

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has concluded that New York City’s Department of Education wrongly fired Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim American from Yemen, discriminating on the basis of her race, religion and national origin. Almontaser was the founding principal of the […]

Christians Object to Glenn Beck’s Warnings About ‘Social Justice’

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Coverage has snowballed in the week since conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck called on Christians to “run as fast as you can” if their churches preach about social or economic justice, which he defines as code words for Communism and Nazism. Summarized […]

Texans clash over religion, race in history textbooks

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Texas textbook wars are underway: the State Board of Education spent hours yesterday clashing over its public school social studies standards, including how to teach students about religious freedom and separation of church and state. Republicans rejected a Democrat-backed motion […]

Catholic sex abuse: fueled by celibacy, male leadership, or Satan?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The growing Catholic sex abuse scandals in Germany – Pope Benedict’s homeland – and the Netherlands are making headlines all over the world, just as the Vatican had started to emerge from the furor over abuse of children in Ireland, […]

Faith leaders offer Obama personal, political guidance

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The concept of separation of church and state may polarize politicians, but when it comes to access to the White House, it seems a range of religious leaders have President Obama’s ear — whether it’s to help shape policy or […]

Freedom of Religion, Speech… and Hate?

posted by Nicole Neroulias

The Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on whether the Westboro Baptist Church had the right to picket a military funeral with signs like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Fag Troops.” As Religion News Service reports, the justices will decide whether […]

Rabbis give yellow light to interfaith marriage

posted by Nicole Neroulias

If you can’t beat ’em, bless ’em? Not quite, but intermarriage rates have prompted more dialogue, less debate, among Jewish leaders lately. As I reported for Religion News Service yesterday, Reform Judaism’s clergy organization has formally adopted a more accepting attitude towards […]

Scientologists get the non-Hollywood treatment

posted by Nicole Neroulias

Scientology has suddenly made lots of news lately — without the usual focus on Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and the religion’s other celebrity adherents. Last month, newsrooms were buzzing about the church hiring three investigative reporters, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, to […]

Religion news you can use

posted by Nicole Neroulias

From the home office in Seattle, WA: Welcome to Belief Beat, a blog that will highlight important and intriguing faith-related stories making headlines every day. I aim to make this a lively mix of breaking news, ongoing issues and upbeat odds-and-ends, […]

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posted 4:57:28pm Feb. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Fun Friday: Atheist Temple Planned for UK's Nonbelievers
Author Alain de Botton has announced plans to build an Atheist temple in the United Kingdom, presumably so nonbelievers have a place to gather and share their philosophies. Um... isn't that what Starbucks is for? Also, I can't wait to see ...

posted 2:53:42pm Jan. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Alaska Airlines: High Payers No Longer Offered Sky Prayers
Alaska Airlines, now the country's seventh-largest airline, has announced it will stop offering prayer cards with its in-flight meals. (It's just raining religion news in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest lately.) I've flown Alaska ...

posted 11:07:56am Jan. 26, 2012 | read full post »

Washington's Gay Marriage Debate: Clergy vs. Clergy
I reported for Reuters at the Washington state Capitol yesterday, covering the public hearings on a gay marriage bill -- and in between, the breaking news that the state Senate now has enough votes to pass the bill. (The House already had ...

posted 11:24:39am Jan. 24, 2012 | read full post »

What Israel's Domestic Policy & Santorum Supporters Have in Common
Hope everyone had an introspective Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, whether observed as a faith-related holiday, a nice break from the work week or something else entirely. Check out this story from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about how ...

posted 1:32:44pm Jan. 18, 2012 | read full post »

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