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Beliefnet News

April 2009 Archives

Dalai Lama Opens New Center at MIT

posted by akornfeld

Cambridge, Mass. — On the campus of the country’s premier scientific university, the world’s best-known Buddhist leader on Thursday (April 30) called on educators to teach ethics and compassion without a basis in religious belief. Hundreds gathered at the Massachusetts […]

Can Common Communion Chalice Transmit Swine Flu?

posted by akornfeld

Religious groups across the country are urging houses of worship to take special precautions this weekend, including changing sacred practices, as the swine flu outbreak threatens to grow into a global pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported […]

Conservatives Nervous as Hate Crimes Bill Advances

posted by akornfeld

WASHINGTON — As the House took up a hate crimes bill that would add sexual orientation to a list of federally protected classes, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition stood outside the Capitol and warned of dire consequences for […]

Pope Expresses ‘Sorrow’ to Victims of Canadian Schools

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI met aboriginal survivors of Canada’s residential school system on Wednesday (Apr. 29) and voiced his “sorrow” over “deplorable” abuses in the church-run schools. “Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian […]

Methodist Court Rejects Moves to Support Gay Marriage, OKs Bush Library

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The United Methodist Church’s highest court has ruled that clergy may not officiate at same-sex unions, even in states where such marriages are legal, and gave the final OK for the George W. Bush Library to be built at […]

27 Suspected in Death of French Jew Go on Trial

posted by nsymmonds

PARIS – The presumed leader of a group of 27 young people charged with participating in the torture and killing of a young French Jew took his seat in juvenile court Wednesday with the defiant declaration, “Allah will be victorious.” […]

Southern Baptists’ Baptisms Dip to Lowest in Two Decades

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The number of baptisms by Southern Baptists — who consider the rite a gauge of their evangelism success and a key element of their faith — has dropped to the lowest rate in two decades. The denomination, which also […]

Pat Robertson to Retire from US College Post

posted by nsymmonds

RICHMOND, Virginia – Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson plans to retire next summer as president of Regent University, the private Christian college he founded in 1978, the school said Tuesday. The 79-year-old, who became the university’s sixth president in 2000, will […]

Israel Marks Independence Day Without Peace

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – In a jarring contrast, Israel switched moods Tuesday evening from a somber Memorial Day for fallen soldiers to a joyous Independence Day celebrating 61 years since the Jewish state was created, but the absence of Mideast peace weighed […]

Foxman Says Middle East, Economy Fueling Anti-Semitism

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND (RNS) Violence in the Middle East and worldwide economic distress have combined to produce “the biggest explosion of anti-Semitism globally that we have witnessed since World War II,” according to the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Abraham Foxman, […]

Presbyterians Defeat Move to Allow Gay Clergy

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) The Presbyterian Church (USA) has defeated a move — for the third time in 12 years — that would have allowed partnered gay and lesbian clergy, but gay rights groups cheered what they called a “historic shift” in the […]

Survey: Americans Switch Faiths Early, Often

posted by nsymmonds

DENVER – The United States is a nation of religious drifters, with about half of adults switching faith affiliation at least once during their lives, according to a new survey. The reasons behind the swap depend greatly on whether one […]

New Orleans Archbishop Boycotts Commencement Over Abortion Issue

posted by nsymmonds

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Alfred Hughes has told Xavier University of Louisiana he will not attend its upcoming graduation ceremonies because he objects to the university’s decision to award an honorary degree to Donna Brazile, a veteran […]

Italians, Israelis, Palestinians Run Together in ‘Peace Marathon’

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS/ENI) Former Italian volleyball world champion Andrea Zorzi was one of 50 Italian runners who joined about 100 Israelis and Palestinians in the sixth annual Pope John Paul II Peace Marathon on Thursday (April 23) that concluded in Jerusalem. […]

For Financial Guru Dave Ramsey, Sour Economy Has an Upside

posted by nsymmonds

EDMOND, Okla. — In a gloom-and-doom economy, Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey fashions himself as a prophet of hope. Part stand-up comedian, part economics professor, Ramsey built a multimillion-dollar business by dispensing simple financial advice: Live on a budget. Don’t […]

Blair Names 30 Interfaith Fellows to Tackle Malaria

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The foundation started by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has named 30 interfaith fellows, including 12 Americans, to raise awareness about efforts to fight malaria in Africa. The fellows are expected to receive training in London and Chicago, […]

Study: Evangelicals Trail Other Faiths on Global Warming

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) While a majority of white evangelicals believe there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, only one in three says human activity is the cause, according to a recent survey. As the world celebrates Earth Day, a survey […]

Dalai Lama: China Riot Ruling Political

posted by nsymmonds

NARITA, Japan – The Dalai Lama on Wednesday criticized lengthy prison terms given a day earlier by China to three people for arson attacks during rioting last year in the Tibetan capital, calling the rulings politically motivated. The exiled Tibetan […]

Africa’s ‘Mormon Superstar’ Is First Black African LDS General Authority

posted by akornfeld

Joseph Sitati grew up as a Quaker in Nairobi, Kenya, but felt no great affection for the faith. Its sermons were too political, he felt, leaving him thirsty for spiritual satisfaction. When Sitati attended his first Mormon service in 1985, […]

Catholic Coalition Unveils Environmental ‘Covenant’

posted by akornfeld

On the eve of Earth Day, a coalition of Catholic groups launched a broad initiative Tuesday (April 21) to encourage Catholic churches, institutions and families to combat climate change and advocate for the poor in the debate over the environment. […]

Reform Seminary May Cut Two of Three U.S. Campuses

posted by akornfeld

The Reform Jewish movement’s central seminary is considering closing two of its three U.S. campuses amid what the school’s president calls “the most challenging financial position (the school) has faced in its history.” Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, with […]

Netanyahu Vows Not to Allow Second Holocaust

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday not to allow Holocaust deniers to carry out a second Holocaust against the Jewish people. Speaking at the ceremony marking Israel’s annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by […]

National Day of Prayer Events Overshadowed by Politics

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — Every year between 2001 and 2008, former President Bush’s calendar was cleared on the first Thursday in May to mark the National Day of Prayer in the White House East Room with prominent evangelicals. Now the Obama White […]

Advocates Say NIH Stem Cell Guidelines Are Sensible Middle Ground

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Some anti-abortion religious leaders are welcoming new draft guidelines from the National Institutes of Health on embryonic stem cell research as a balanced approach to the controversial procedure. The guidelines, issued Friday (April 17), permit federally funded research […]

Interview with a Physicist Theologian

posted by akornfeld

Christian thinkers have long employed insights from sociology, literature, and other fields to augment their ideas of how God works in the world. Yet despite the world-changing insights of science, very few theologians have drawn on physics, biology or geology […]

N.Y. Gay Marriage Bill Faces Tough Political Road

posted by akornfeld

Syracuse, N.Y. – Despite support from all statewide elected leaders, prospects for a same-sex marriage bill passing the state Legislature this year appear shaky at best. Political observers say its fate will hinge on the votes of a handful of […]

Vatican Decries Reaction to Pope’s Condom Remarks

posted by akornfeld

Vatican City – Critics of the Catholic Church’s social teachings are trying to intimidate Pope Benedict XVI into silence, the Vatican charged Friday in responding to attacks on the pontiff’s remarks about AIDS and condom use. In a strongly worded […]

Pope Thanks N.M. Governor for Death Penalty Repeal

posted by akornfeld

Vatican City – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Wednesday (Apr. 15), hours before a Catholic group lit up Rome’s Coliseum to honor New Mexico’s recent abolition of the death penalty. Richardson, a […]

Study: Religious Donors Don’t Plan to Cut Back

posted by akornfeld

Despite the economic downturn, more than half of actively religious donors plan to give the same or more to charitable causes in 2009 as they did last year, a new survey shows. Cygnus Applied Research, a Chicago-based international research firm, […]

In an Online World, All (Church) Politics Is Global

posted by akornfeld

Internet columns and chain e-mails question the candidate’s Christian bona fides. Old sermons are dredged up and dissected. Supporters, meanwhile, post documents online to combat perceived smears. In short: a campaign for high office delivers some low blows. The candidate […]

NYC’s New Archbishop Aims to Renew Church

posted by akornfeld

New York – Archbishop Timothy Dolan was installed Wednesday as the leader of Roman Catholic New York, taking the most prominent American pulpit in the church during an elaborate ceremony that drew thousands of parishioners and civic leaders to St. […]

Conservatives Decry Homeland Security ‘Extremism’ Report

posted by akornfeld

Conservative Christian groups blasted a new report from the Department of Homeland Security on “rightwing extremism,” calling it an example of “guilt by association” for linking anti-abortion activists with hate groups. The 10-page “assessment” from the department stresses that the […]

Vatican Launches Second Probe of U.S. Nuns

posted by akornfeld

Vatican City — The Vatican plans to investigate leaders of women’s religious congregations in the U.S. to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching on controversial questions of ecumenism, homosexuality and an all-male priesthood. Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s […]

Ceremonies for New NY Archbishop Begin Tuesday

posted by akornfeld

New York – The installation of New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan is stretching over two days in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in services before thousands of well-wishers ranging from his elementary school teacher to the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador. Dolan, 59, the […]

Sikhs Ask to Serve in Army Despite Rules on Attire

posted by akornfeld

Arlington, Va. – Two Sikh men say they want to report for active duty in July even as they refuse to comply with the Army’s demands to cut their unshorn beards and hair and remove their turbans. “I am willing […]

Commission: Cuba Withholds Visas from Religious Freedom Delegation

posted by akornfeld

Washington – The same day President Obama lifted some U.S. travel and monetary restrictions against Cuba, a federal religious freedom panel said Havana is withholding visas ahead of a scheduled visit to the island nation. Members of the U.S. Commission […]

Where Obama Turns for Spiritual Advice: Rev. Joel Hunter

posted by nsymmonds

Apr. 12–He doesn’t thunder from the pulpit in righteous rage. He’d rather relay stories that make a moral point. He has no catchphrases, fussy handlers or televised religious talk shows. What the soft-spoken Rev. Joel Hunter of Longwood does have […]

Suit Says Student Dismissed Over Gay Views

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A conservative legal group has filed suit against Eastern Michigan University on behalf of a graduate student who claims she was dismissed from counseling studies for her religious beliefs regarding homosexuality. The suit was filed with the U.S. District […]

AP Exclusive: Dolan to Fight Anti-Catholic Bias

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan said Monday, on the eve of his installation, that he will challenge the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is unenlightened because it opposes gay marriage and abortion. In an exclusive interview […]

Spiritual Seekers Drawn to Egyptian Sacred Sites

posted by nsymmonds

GIZA, Egypt – The Great Pyramid of Giza was one of the ancient wonders of the world, and even most travelers today would not consider a trip to Egypt complete without seeing the pyramids. But for some tourists, the pyramids […]

Obama Invites Friends, Aides to Seder Dinner

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is inviting close friends and staff to a private White House meal Thursday to mark Passover, part of the new president’s effort to reach out to Jewish voters. Among the invited is Valerie Jarrett, one of […]

In Pilate’s Wife, Some See An Unlikely Saint

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) For all of Pontius Pilate’s faults, one was distinctly damning: he didn’t listen to his wife. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Roman governor of Judea received a note from his spouse during the trial of Jesus. “Have […]

Obama Meets with Eastern Orthodox Leader

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) President Obama met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians, on Tuesday (April 7) in Turkey, where they discussed religious freedom and the opening of an historic seminary closed by Turkish authorities. Bartholomew “made a […]

Easter Hats Fall Victim to Economic Downturn

posted by nsymmonds

SILVER SPRING, Md. — There are many things that Paula Settles is willing to forgo in these budget-conscious times, but an Easter hat isn’t one of them. “I wouldn’t consider going to church without a hat on,” said Settles, an […]

Non-Jews take Temporary Custody of Food During Passover

posted by nsymmonds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — At 9 a.m. on Wednesday (April 8) morning, Jose Mendez, a non-Jew, became owner of a huge amount of food he’ll never eat. For the entire length of Passover, which runs April 8-16, Mendez will legally […]

Manischewitz: The Family Behind the Matzo

posted by akornfeld

New York — For many Jews, the thought of Passover conjures up images of families feasting on matzo, kosher wine and for a few brave souls perhaps, Gefilte fish. Chances are, the name on the packaging is always the same: […]

Two Conservative Methodist Groups Name New Leaders

posted by akornfeld

Two conservative groups that are active in the United Methodist Church have announced leadership shifts, with the Rev. James Heidinger retiring from Kentucky-based Good News, and Mark Tooley moving up to president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in […]

Vermont Legalizes Gay Marriage with Veto Override

posted by akornfeld

Montpelier, Vt. – Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage – and the first to do so with a legislature’s vote. The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote, the minimum needed, to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ […]

White House Expands Faith-Based Advisory Panel

posted by nsymmonds

A Pentecostal bishop who has challenged Democrats on abortion and a representative of a national gay rights group are among nine new members of a White House advisory council. President Barack Obama announced the appointments of Bishop Charles E. Blake […]

Newsweek Names Nation’s Top 50 Rabbis

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) There’s a new top rabbi in town, according to Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential Jewish clergy in America: Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington and a member of President […]

Obama Tells Turks that US is Not at War with Islam

posted by nsymmonds

ANKARA, Turkey – Barack Obama, making his first visit to a Muslim nation as president, declared Monday the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.” Urging a greater partnership with the Islamic world in an […]

Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in Iowa

posted by nsymmonds

In a precedent-setting ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court Friday upheld a lower court decision legalizing same-sex marriages in Iowa. The unanimous landmark decision is expected to carry national implications as Iowa becomes the first Midwest state to grant full legal […]

A John Paul II Miracle Cure? Maybe, Maybe Not.

posted by nsymmonds

CLEVELAND — It makes a great story. Jory Aebly’s miraculous recovery from an execution-style gunshot to the head bolsters Pope John Paul II’s case for sainthood. Except that four years after the legendary pope died at age 84, the Vatican’s […]

Palm Sunday Goes Greener with Fair-Trade Fronds

posted by nsymmonds

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Christian churches in the U.S. are turning over a new leaf for Palm Sunday. About 2,500 congregations from every major denomination this weekend will use fair-trade palm fronds in their annual celebration of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem […]

Atheists’ ‘De-Baptism’ Forms Snapped Up in Britain

posted by akornfeld

London — A secular organization in Britain that backs an atheist ad campaign on London’s buses is now producing “certificates of de-baptism” for people wishing to renounce their Christian faith — and claims it is getting thousands of takers. The […]

Priest Who Professed Islam Defrocked by Episcopal Church

posted by akornfeld

An Episcopal priest who professed two years ago that she was also a practicing Muslim has been defrocked by the Episcopal Church. Rhode Island Bishop Geralyn Wolf informed Ann Holmes Redding, who lives in Seattle, of the decision on Wednesday […]

Benedict Prays for John Paul’s Beatification

posted by akornfeld

Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI marked the fourth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II with a memorial Mass on Thursday and new prayers for the Polish pontiff’s beatification. Benedict presided over an evening Mass at St. […]

Court Hears US Case Over Animal Sacrifices

posted by nsymmonds

NEW ORLEANS – A Santeria priest who sued a Texas city for denying him permission to sacrifice a goat as part of a religious ceremony asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to let him resume the ritual in his home. […]

NAE President Wades Carefully into Immigration Debate

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The president of the National Association of Evangelicals took a rare step into the immigration debate Tuesday (March 31), saying that the long waiting period for citizenship must be shortened. “There are inconsistencies and many outdated aspects of […]

Brooklyn D.A. Launches Program on Orthodox Abuse

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK (RNS) Responding to increasing reports of sex abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes on Wednesday launched a new outreach program aimed at helping victims come forward. Kol Tzedek, which translates to “Voice of […]

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