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Beliefnet News

Bio

Nicole Symmonds is Beliefnet’s Prayer editor and also covers Christianity. A New Yorker by birth but a Floridian by tenure, Nicole graduated from Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Public Relations and a minor in Sociology. She moved to NY to pursue a career in journalism which started at In Style magazine. There she learned the ropes of magazine reporting, researching, and writing—and became exponentially more stylish. But what seemed like a deep interest in fashion and entertainment would soon be revealed as merely the vehicle that moved her closer to discovering her purpose, writing and covering matters of the Christian faith. While in her purpose-driven vehicle she can be found traveling between Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens for life, work and worship, respectively. From fashion to faith and the journey isn’t over yet…

Sikhs, Muslims Lobby Against Racial Profiling

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Sikh and Muslim groups are pushing Congress to pass a bill prohibiting racial profiling that’s been languishing for more than nine years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two groups, Muslim Advocates and the Sikh Coalition, are seeking passage […]

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Scientology and Abortion

posted by nsymmonds

Scientology and abortion. The Church of Scientology does not take a position on abortion. However, the subject comes up in the writings of church founder L.Ron Hubbard, which the church regards as sacred scripture. Scientology counseling seeks to rid the […]

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Anti-torture Group Demands Probe of Doctors’ Role in Interrogation

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The National Religious Campaign Against Torture wants the government to investigate claims that doctors and medical professionals performed unethical experiments on detainees in CIA custody during the Bush administration. On Tuesday (June 8), members of NRCAT voiced their […]

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Haggard’s New Flock Finds Faith in Redemption

posted by nsymmonds

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (RNS) Colby Rockhill was one of the 14,000 members of New Life Church who saw founding pastor Ted Haggard dramatically fall from grace in a 2006 scandal involving gay sex and drugs. Yet Rockhill never gave up […]

Episcopalians Booted from Anglican Bodies Over Gay Bishops

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Episcopal Church has been removed from Anglican committees that engage in dialogue with other Christians and consider doctrinal issues, the latest fallout from the church’s consecration of a lesbian bishop last month. The Rev. Kenneth Kearon, secretary general […]

Muslims, Churches Blast Israel for Deaths in Raid on Flotilla

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) Tens of thousands of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa on Tuesday (June 1) continued demonstrations against Israel’s deadly interception of a flotilla of ships trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Nine pro-Palestinian […]

U.S., Canadian Archbishops to Lead Probe of Irish Church Abuse

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has tapped four top U.S. and Canadian bishops to help lead a high-profile inquiry into child sex abuse in the Irish Catholic Church. The announcement comes as the Vatican appears to be taking a […]

Cash-Strapped National Cathedral Mulls Selling Treasures

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Facing a reduced budget and a third round of layoffs, officials at Washington National Cathedral are considering disposing of priceless treasures — including a trove of rare books — that are no longer considered part of its central […]

Obama Sides with Vatican in Abuse Lawsuit

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Obama administration has made a rare foray into the Catholic sexual abuse crisis, backing the Vatican’s claim it is immune to lawsuits in the U.S. because it is a sovereign nation. In a brief filed on Friday […]

Churches Race to Support Members Impacted by Oil Spill

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) As oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, churches and religious organizations along the Louisiana coast are providing food, money and support to parishioners whose livelihoods hang in the balance. More than 7 million gallons of oil […]

NYC Bus Ads Asking ‘Leaving Islam?’ Cause a Stir

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – The questions on the ads aren’t subtle: Leaving Islam? Fatwa on your head? Is your family threatening you? A conservative activist and the organizations she leads have paid several thousand dollars for the ads to run on […]

Blacks, Mirroring Larger U.S. Trend, ‘Come Out’ as Nonbelievers

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Standing before a room full of fellow African-Americans, Jamila Bey took a deep breath and announced she’s come out of the closet. Her soul-bearing declaration is nearly taboo, she says. “It’s the A-word,” said Bey, 33, feigning a […]

Churches Tread Carefully on Arizona Boycott

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The push for immigration reform has united many faith groups in a fervor not seen since the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, much of it directed at Arizona’s new get-tough immigration law. Yet a central feature of the […]

Swedish University Re-Invites Muhammad Artist

posted by nsymmonds

Associated Press – May 25, 2010 STOCKHOLM – A Swedish university has invited an artist who angered Muslims by caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad to finish a lecture that was disrupted by violent protests. Officials say Lars Vilks has agreed to […]

Firing Squad Sparks Talk of Mormon ‘Blood Atonement’

posted by nsymmonds

SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) After convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner announced his intention to be executed by firing squad, national and international reporters suggested it was a throwback to the wild, wild West. Some Utahns, though, had a different explanation […]

Landmark Status Could Stop Mosque Near Ground Zero

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – New York City officials say a plan to tear down a building and put up a mosque near the World Trade Center site will need the approval of a commission that protects landmarks. They say the building […]

In Last NYC Stop, Dalai Lama Discusses Kinship

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – The Dalai Lama said Sunday that the U.S.-led war in Iraq could perhaps have been avoided through negotiations with Saddam Hussein. Responding to a question about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the exiled leader of Tibetan […]

If There’s a ‘Just’ Way to Wage War, What About Ending One?

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) For centuries, Christianity’s theory of “just war” has helped religious and political leaders determine when, if ever, war is justified and how to conduct a moral military campaign. Now, as the U.S. prepares to reduce troop levels in Iraq […]

Pope Calls Abortion, Gay Marriage ‘Insidious and Dangerous Threats’

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (May 13) singled out abortion, divorce and same-sex marriage as “some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.” The pope made his remarks in an address to social […]

Ariz. Clergy Press Immigration Reform on Capitol Hill

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious leaders from Arizona took their cause to Capitol Hill on Thursday (May 13), saying they can no longer ignore the “human cost” of illegal immigration in their state. “I’m here representing evangelicals,” said Gary Kinnaman, an evangelical […]

Update: Judge Says Father Can Take Daughter to Catholic Mass

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Chicago man will be allowed to take his 3-year-old daughter to Catholic Mass, despite protests from the girl’s Jewish mother, a Chicago judge ruled Tuesday (April 13). The girl’s parents, Joseph Reyes and Rebecca Reyes, were married for […]

Groups Press for Religious Freedom Envoy

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) In an open letter sent to President Obama on Tuesday (March 30), 29 human rights groups and faith leaders pressed the president to fill the vacant position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. “The absence of senior level […]

Author Piper takes Leave to Tackle ‘Sins’

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Minnesota megachurch pastor John Piper, a prolific author whose staunch Calvinist views have made him a popular leader in Christian Reformed circles, is taking an eight-month leave of absence to address unspecified “sins” that have “taken a toll” on […]

Alleged Victim’s Lawyers: Vatican Protected Priest

posted by nsymmonds

MIAMI – Lawyers representing an alleged victim of sex abuse claim the Vatican instructed church officials in Florida to shelter a priest from Cuba who was later accused of pedophilia. Attorney Jessica Arbour, who represents an alleged victim of the […]

Experts Describe Michigan Militia As a Cult

posted by nsymmonds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (RNS) When militia expert Jack Kay first ran across a MySpace page for the Michigan-based Hutaree militia six months ago, he thought it was just another group wrapping itself in God and country. But on Monday (March […]

Muslims Probe Growing Islamic Financial Sector

posted by nsymmonds

TORONTO (RNS) Global leaders in Islamic finance are meeting in Toronto Tuesday and Wednesday (March 30-31) to probe the growing but still under-explored world of financial products and services that comply with Shariah, or Islamic law. The Usury-Free Association of […]

Vatican Defends Pope in US Lawsuit

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Dragged deeper than ever before into the clerical sex abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed. In […]

Lutherans Seeing Fallout Over Gay Clergy Issue

posted by nsymmonds

Until a few weeks ago, the Rev. Gail Sowell was pastor at two Lutheran churches in the small Wisconsin town of Edgar. That was before members of both congregations jumped headfirst into the simmering debate over gay clergy in the […]

Jewish Groups Agree to Civility Despite Differences

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Jewish agencies have resolved to handle internal disagreements over Middle East policy, health care reform and other polarizing issues calmly and respectfully, while banding together to confront what one leader called “a growing, global campaign to delegitimize Israel.” About […]

ACLU Files Suit Over USAID’s Abstinence Programs

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the U.S. Agency for International Development for not providing information about “religiously infused” abstinence programs the agency has funded. The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday (Feb. 18), follows a […]

Israel Adds West Bank Shrines to Protected Sites List

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) A decision to include two West Bank shrines in a list of Jewish heritage sites slated for preservation has been praised by religious and right-wing Jews and scorned by Palestinians and their supporters. Speaking at a Sunday (Feb. […]

The Economy’s Immoral and People are Angry, But then What?

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Ever since the Great Recession began in the fall of 2008, Christians and other faith leaders have criticized the speculative excess and greed that led to the crisis. A consensus on what to do about it, however, has yet […]

Wife of Televangelist Benny Hinn Files for Divorce

posted by nsymmonds

ORANGE, Calif. – The wife of televangelist Benny Hinn has filed for divorce from the high-profile pastor, whose reputation as an advocate of prosperity gospel has attracted millions of followers and criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups over his lavish […]

EEOC Settles Claim Between UPS, Rastafarian

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Shipping giant UPS will pay $46,000 in damages to a Rastafarian employee who was fired after he refused to cut his hair or trim his beard, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday (Feb. 17). According to the […]

Only 5 of Top 25 U.S. Churches Report Membership Growth

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) U.S. membership has increased in the Catholic Church — the nation’s largest Christian body — but the No. 2 Southern Baptist Convention, along with most mainline protestant denominations, reported continuing decline, according to new figures released by the National […]

Dissidents Unveil New Rival North American Lutheran Church

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Saying they’re done with efforts to reform the nation’s largest Lutheran body, dissidents unveiled blueprints Thursday (Feb. 18) for a rival denomination, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The new body, which will hew to a more traditional line […]

Attorney: 10 US Baptists Charged with Child Kidnap

posted by nsymmonds

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Ten members of a U.S. missionary group who said they were trying to rescue 33 child victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake were charged with child kidnapping and criminal association on Thursday, their lawyer said. Edwin Coq said […]

Obama Challenges Evangelicals on Uganda, Citizenship

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) President Obama chided conservative religious and political leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday (Feb. 4), condemning an anti-gay bill in Uganda and challenging them not to question his faith or his citizenship. “We may disagree about gay marriage, […]

Obama, Dalai Lama to Meet in February

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – The White House says President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama will meet at the White House this month. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed to reporters Thursday that the meeting would be in February but didn’t specify a […]

Graham Tops List of Most Influential Preachers

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Rev. Billy Graham was named by U.S. pastors as the country’s most influential living preacher, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. The study, conducted last November, interviewed more than 1,000 Protestant pastors by telephone. The participants […]

Gay Groups Pressure Obama Over Prayer Breakfast

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Progressive religious leaders on Tuesday (Feb. 2) unveiled plans to hold a multi-city event to protest Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast because of its sponsor’s alleged ties to an anti-gay bill in Uganda. The alternative American Prayer Hour will […]

China Says Opposes Obama Meeting with Dalai Lama

posted by nsymmonds

BEIJING – Any meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama would harm bilateral relations, China warned Tuesday while repeating Beijing’s refusal to discuss Tibet’s status with the spiritual leader’s envoys. An Obama meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader […]

Book Traces the Long Strange Trip of Drug-Induced Spirituality

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) If the word “psychedelic” conjures up images of San Francisco or Woodstock, there’s much more to learn from journalist Don Lattin’s mind-blowing guided tour of the colorful people who gave birth to America’s psychedelic era in an unlikely place: […]

Doctor Testifies for Parents in Faith-Healing Death

posted by nsymmonds

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) When their son became ill, Jeffrey and Marci Beagley were confronted by several symptoms that would concern any reasonable parent but gave no indication that death was imminent, a pediatrician told jurors on Monday (Jan. 25). […]

Polish Bishop, Under Fire from Jews, Steps Back from Statement

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A Polish Catholic bishop who has been denounced for calling the Holocaust a “Jewish invention” distanced himself from the statement on Tuesday (Jan. 26), saying that he had been misunderstood. In an interview published Monday (Jan. 25) […]

Evangelist Oral Roberts dies in Calif. at age 91

posted by nsymmonds

TULSA, Okla. – Oral Roberts, a pioneer in televangelism who founded a multimillion-dollar ministry and a university that bears his name, died Tuesday. He was 91. Roberts died of complications from pneumonia in Newport Beach, Calif., according to his spokesman, […]

Think You Don’t Know Yiddish? Oy Vey!

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Whether they call it a temple, synagogue or shul, you can tell a lot about Jews by what they call their house of worship. So says a new survey of American Jews — and non-Jews — that says one’s […]

Christian Scientists Concerned About Health Care Provisions

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Atheists are celebrating and Christian Scientists are worried now that a provision requiring private medical insurers to reimburse for “religious or spiritual health care” has not been included in the Senate’s health care reform bill. In a news release […]

Poll: Americans Pin Poverty Passage on Obama, not Bible

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) More Americans believe a statement about giving “justice to the poor and homeless” came from President Obama instead of its true source, the Bible. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Bible Society found that 54 percent […]

Hebrew Bible Looted by Nazis Being Sent to Vienna

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – A 16th century Hebrew Bible looted by the Nazis six decades ago was returned to Vienna’s Jewish community Monday. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials turned over the two-volume Bible to two Austrian emissaries during a repatriation […]

Vatican Looks to Heavens for Signs of Alien Life

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – E.T. phone Rome. Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien […]

Obama: ‘No faith justifies’ Fort Hood Attack

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) In a somber ceremony recalling the 13 people gunned down in an attack at Fort Hood, President Obama said the tragedy cannot be supported by any faith. “It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to […]

Religious Life Won’t Be the Same After Downturn

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – Organized religion was already in trouble before the fall of 2008. Denominations were stagnating or shrinking, and congregations across faith groups were fretting about their finances. The Great Recession made things worse. It’s further drained the financial […]

Pope Urges Czechs to Reclaim Christian Heritage

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Visiting the Czech Republic 20 years after a Velvet Revolution overthrew the nation’s communist regime, Pope Benedict XVI called on one of the world’s most secular societies to reclaim its Christian heritage as the basis for “true […]

Coen Brothers Find Unorthodox Stories of Redemption in Films

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) In the beginning was the Dude. And the Dude was with God, and the Dude himself was kind of godly, if you’re into that sort of thing. In his right hand the Dude carried a cocktail, and in his […]

Rabbis Urged to Focus on Ethics for High Holy Days

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) In an unusual move, a group of influential Orthodox Jewish leaders has written a letter urging American rabbis to speak during this year’s High Holidays on the importance of ethical living, in response to some recent high-profile arrests of […]

Update: Fla. School Officials Acquitted on Prayer Charges

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Florida judge acquitted two Florida school officials Thursday (Sept. 17) of charges they broke the terms of an order that was meant to prevent faculty-led prayer at public school events. Principal Frank Lay and athletic director Robert Freeman […]

Christian Conservatives Decry Health Care Plan, Cheer GOP

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) More than 1,800 religious conservatives cheered Republican politicians, criticized President Obama’s health care plan, and rallied enthusiasm for the 2010 mid-term elections at the annual Values Voters Summit on Friday (Sept. 18). “When the president said — (with) […]

New Dan Brown Novel Means Extra Scrutiny for Masons

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — As members of a secretive brotherhood, Freemasons are no strangers to conspiracy theories. They’ve heard it all before: that they’re child-sacrificing cult members, or religious zealots plotting aNew World Order with the Jews, or satanic anti-religious alien spies. […]

German Priest Allowed to Continue Condoms Work in Africa

posted by nsymmonds

TRIER, Germany (RNS/ENI) A German priest who distributes condoms to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDS can continue working at his South African clinic but must give up the pulpit at a local Catholic church under a new deal with […]

Lutherans Approve Sexuality Statement by Razor Margin

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination approved a carefully balanced statement on human sexuality late Wednesday (Aug. 19) that progressives quickly welcomed as a possible step towards overturning a churchwide ban on non-celibate gay clergy later this week. By a […]

Obama Seeks Religious Help in Debunking Health Care ‘Lies’

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — Facing incendiary charges that health care reform would finance abortion and euthanasia, President Obama on Wednesday (Aug. 19) appealed to religious groups to help sell the plan and debunk critics’ “false witness.” “I’m going to need the help […]

Does Lit 101 Lead to Unbelief?

posted by nsymmonds

As college students return to campus in the coming weeks, a new study suggests that some could be in danger of losing their religion. Economics professor Miles Kimball and researchers from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research determined […]

Heaven? Sure. Hell? Not So Much.

posted by nsymmonds

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Just when it seemed to have cooled off, the topic of hell is back on the front burner — at least for pastors learning to preach about a topic most Americans would rather not talk about. Only […]

National Civil Rights Museum to Honor Dalai Lama

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Dalai Lama will be honored with an international award from the National Civil Rights Museum this fall. The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader will receive the International Freedom Award at a Sept. 23 ceremony at a Memphis, Tenn., hotel. […]

40 Years Later, Woodstock’s Spiritual Vibes Still Resonate

posted by nsymmonds

Organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair planned for a crowd of 50,000 at their August gathering 40 years ago in rural New York. Instead, nearly 500,000 people showed up to hear Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Who, […]

Did the Crusades Get a Bum Rap?

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) — The Crusades, when Christians tried for two centuries to oust Muslims from the Holy Land, left over a million dead, with territory lost and gained and lost again — all in the name of Jesus. These days, Christians […]

Changing Sexual Orientation is Risky, Psychologists Say

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The American Psychological Association has announced that therapies aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation could be hazardous, but health professionals should respect the beliefs of patients who object to homosexuality on religious grounds. Although the APA Task Force […]

Airport Chapels Offer Haven to More Faiths

posted by nsymmonds

ATLANTA – Ordained a United Methodist minister, the Rev. Chester Cook has now become a jack of all faiths. On a recent day, Cook welcomed a Christian-oriented Army chaplain, a Muslim family and a Buddhist ticket agent to his interfaith […]

Baptists Mark 400th Anniversary, Celebrate Religious Freedom

posted by nsymmonds

UTRECHT, Netherlands — (RNS/ENI) Four hundred years after the first Baptist congregation was established, followers have been challenged to continue championing religious liberty. “We as Baptists must continue to defend religious freedom for all peoples and all religions,” said Denton […]

Senate Confirms Diaz as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Senate on Tuesday (Aug. 4) confirmed a Cuban-born theologian as the ninth U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Miguel H. Diaz, 45, will be the first theologian and the first Hispanic to serve as American envoy since […]

In Poland, Signs of Renewed Jewish Life

posted by nsymmonds

KRAKOW, Poland — “Warsaw,” I said, skittish about my impending travel plans. “I mean, it’s got the word war in it,” I told my brother. “And saw,” he added. In fact, my reaction seemed pretty typical. It seemed each time […]

Dalai Lama: Growing Support in China for Tibetans

posted by nsymmonds

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The Dalai Lama said Tuesday that an estimated 4,000 people who were imprisoned during anti-Chinese riots in Tibet last year remain in custody, and he called for an international investigation of the violence. The exiled Tibetan spiritual […]

Santeria Priest Can Sacrifice Animals at Home, Court Rules

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Santeria priest can continue to sacrifice animals in his Texas home, a federal appeals court has ruled. Jose Merced of Euless was told in 2006 that he needed a permit to slaughter animals — including goats, sheep and […]

Jehovah’s Witnesses Win More Than $1 Million in Lawsuit

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Two Jehovah’s Witnesses received more than $1.3 million in a religious discrimination lawsuit against AT&T, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on Friday (July 31). Jose Gonzalez and Glenn Owen, former AT&T customer service technicians, lost their jobs after […]

Faith Groups More Likely to Attract Volunteers, Report Says

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Faith-based organizations attract more volunteers than any other type of organization, according to a recent survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service. More than one-third of the country’s almost 62 million volunteers served through religious organizations last […]

Fathers Convicted, Sentenced in Separate Faith-Healing Deaths

posted by nsymmonds

A Wisconsin man who opted for prayer over medical care to heal his daughter was found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide on Saturday (Aug.1). Dale Neumann, 47, was convicted in the March death of his 11-year-old daughter, Madeline, who suffered […]

Episcopal Church Nominates Two Gay Bishops, Tests Anglicans

posted by nsymmonds

Two Episcopal dioceses have nominated gay and lesbian priests in same-sex relationships to become bishops, testing a weeks-old policy and the Episcopal Church’s place within the global Anglican Communion. The Diocese of Minnesota nominated three candidates for bishop on Saturday […]

Progressive Protestant Power Shift Not Without Challenges

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK — When the Rev. Brad Braxton was tapped last year as the next senior pastor of Riverside Church, he was billed as an energetic and dynamic preacher with the power to reinvigorate the flagship pulpit of progressive Protestantism. […]

Father In Faith-Healing Death Tries to Block Sentencing

posted by nsymmonds

OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) Defense attorneys for a father who was convicted of second-degree criminal mistreatment in the faith-healing death of his 15-month-old daughter are trying to block his sentencing, arguing that the court set too low a standard for […]

Hindus Celebrate Cultural Center

posted by nsymmonds

Jul. 30–SOUTH JORDAN — The Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple hosts dozens of festivals each year in honor of different deities — the multiple forms of a single God. During those festivals, the temple’s priest Satish Kumar said “first we do […]

Faith Healing Cases Present Legal Challenges

posted by nsymmonds

An Oregon jury acquitted two Oregon parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington, on July 23 in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava, who succumbed to pneumonia as the couple relied on prayer instead of seeking conventional medical help. Shawn Francis […]

Pope: ‘Guardian Angel’ Did Not Stop Accident

posted by nsymmonds

LES COMBES, Italy – Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that his guardian angel was clearly acting “on superior orders” when he let the pontiff fall and break his wrist this month. The 82-year-old pope said in a lighthearted tone that: […]

Faith-Based Mutual Insurers Worry About Health Care Reform

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — As Congress debates whether to mandate health insurance for all Americans, several Christian ministries whose members share each other’s medical costs are hoping the final version of health care reform doesn’t put them out of business. Officials of […]

Episcopalians Reject Bishop Who Embraced Zen Buddhism

posted by nsymmonds

An Episcopal priest who has practiced Zen meditation and espoused unconventional ideas about Christianity has lost his bid to become a bishop in Michigan, the church announced Monday (July 27). The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester, who was elected in February […]

Georgia to Allow Headscarves in Courtrooms

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Georgia court officials unanimously voted on Monday (July 27) to allow individuals to wear religious head coverings in state courtrooms. The Georgia Judicial Council adopted the policy after a Muslim woman was arrested last year for refusing to remove […]

Wis. Mom of Dead Girl: Sickness Was Test of Faith

posted by nsymmonds

WAUSAU, Wis. – The mother of an 11-year-old central Wisconsin girl who died of undiagnosed diabetes as the family prayed for her to get better testified Tuesday that she believes sickness is caused by sin and can be cured by […]

Tutu Jokes Dalai Lama ‘Quite Mischievous’

posted by nsymmonds

PRETORIA, South Africa, Jul 27, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) — The Dalai Lama is not simply not bitter after 50 years in exile from China — “he’s actually quite mischievous,” South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu joked. The Dalai Lama “really […]

Poll: Mormons Most Likely to Be Offended by Hollywood

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Mormons are the faith group most likely to say Hollywood threatens their values, followed by Jehovah’s Witnesses and evangelicals, according to a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey showed more than […]

Williams Suggests Secondary Role for Rebel Episcopal Church

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested Monday (July 27) that the Episcopal Church may have to accept a secondary role in the Anglican Communion after voting to allow gay bishops and blessings for same-sex unions. Williams, the spiritual leader […]

NIH, Surgeon General Nominees Live Private Faith Behind Public Careers

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — When President Obama named his choices for his administration’s two top medical posts, he chose people of private faith and public acclaim whose positions may put them out of lock step with fellow believers. Dr. Francis Collins, 59, […]

Religious Group Paid for Ensign Trips

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON, Jul 23, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) — A secretive religious group paid for trips to Japan and the Middle East by U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., now under fire for an adulterous affair, records show. The travel in 2003 […]

New Service Lets Jews Tweet a Prayer to God

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – For centuries, people have stuffed prayers written on scraps of paper into the ancient cracks in the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. In recent years they could fax or e-mail their prayers – and now […]

Bishop Says Turkey Ready to Permit Permanent Church in St. Paul’s Birthplace

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS/ENI) Turkey’s government has agreed to extend indefinite permission for Christian worship at an historic church in Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, says the head of the country’s Roman Catholic bishops’ conference. “I’m confident the church in Tarsus could […]

Islamic Group Paid for Lawmaker’s Pilgrimage to Mecca

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – Days after his return from an unannounced pilgrimage to the Islamic holy site of Mecca, Rep. Keith Ellison talked about it as a transformational personal experience, saying “I didn’t want to turn it into a politics thing.” Nearly […]

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearings on Vatican Ambassador

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, told senators Wednesday (July 22) that his socially conscious scholarship gives him common ground with fellow theologian Pope Benedict XVI, which could further U.S. policies and interests in […]

Birth Control Puts Catholics in Tight Spot on Abortion

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — While the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken a cool response to many of President Obama’s policies, the one area where the two sides seem to be finding fragile common ground is on the need to reduce […]

Israelis Praise Episcopal Bishops for Rejecting Middle East Statement

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Israeli officials praised Episcopal bishops on Monday (July 20) for rejecting a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that they deemed too pro-Palestinian. The rejected resolution called for a Palestinian state and an end to the “ongoing confiscation of […]

Is Doomsday Upon Us (Again) In 2012?

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) It’s that time of the century again. Time to sell your real estate, rid yourself of cherished possessions and purge the evil tendencies of your wicked soul. The world is scheduled to end in late 2012 — at least […]

Mormon Leaders Give Obama Genealogical History

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama met with Mormon leaders Monday (July 20) and received genealogical information about his family. The president met with President Thomas Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder Dallin Oaks, who oversees […]

Atheists Choose ‘De-Baptism’ to Renounce Childhood Faith

posted by nsymmonds

Up until last summer, Jennifer Gray of Columbus, Ohio, considered herself “a weak Christian” whose baptism at age 11 in a Kentucky church came to mean less and less to her as she gradually lost faith in God. Then the […]

Chicago Group Helped Pave Way for Episcopal Church’s Landmark Decisions

posted by nsymmonds

Jul. 20–The successful push to open all doors to ordained ministry for openly gay and lesbian Episcopalians last week started with a nudge from Chicago. Seeking to lift a de facto moratorium on gay bishops and end the deadlock about […]

NY Court Rules on Muslim Scholar Barred from US

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – A federal court in New York says U.S. officials were obligated to give a Muslim scholar a chance to show he was no supporter of terrorism before barring him from the country. Professor Tariq Ramadan had his […]

Conn. Diocese Seeks Appeal to US Supreme Court

posted by nsymmonds

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut sought Friday to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep under wraps sex abuse documents that could shed light on how a prominent retired cardinal handled the allegations. Bridgeport […]

Churches Commemorate the Anniversary of Communion in Space

posted by nsymmonds

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was the first human to witness how liquid behaves in the weak gravitational field of the moon — but this was no science experiment. This was a believer giving thanks to God for an […]

How to Fight Sharia Law? Use Sharia, Muslim Lawyer Says

posted by nsymmonds

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — To many Americans, Sharia, or Islamic law, conjures up images of a vengeful legal system that punishes thievery with amputation and promises death by stoning for alleged adultery. But as an attorney for those unfortunate enough to […]

Minister Wins Right to Threaten Judge with Biblical Curses

posted by nsymmonds

A Michigan appeals court on Tuesday (July 14) overturned a ruling that had sent a minister to jail for threatening a judge with curses from the Bible. The appeals court unanimously decided the Rev. Edward Pinkney’s rights to free speech […]

Episcopalians Ask Who Should Lead: Church or Culture?

posted by nsymmonds

ANAHEIM, Calif. — As the Episcopal Church lifted a de facto ban on gay and lesbian bishops and appears headed toward adapting rites for same-sex unions, one question has repeatedly surfaced in the debates: Does the church takes its cues […]

Witness: Evangelist Had Total Control at Compound

posted by nsymmonds

TEXARKANA, Ark. – A woman whose parents and grandparents followed evangelist Tony Alamo testified at his sex-crime trial Wednesday that “Papa Tony” segregated children by gender to prevent “hanky-panky” and controlled everything at his religious compound. The woman, now 30, […]

Atheists Sue to Stop ‘In God We Trust’ in Capitol Visitor’s Center

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) The nation’s largest group of atheists and agnostics filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday (July 14) to stop the engraving of “In God We Trust” and the “one nation under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance in the new […]

Despite Pro-Gay Moves, Episcopalians Remain Divided

posted by nsymmonds

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Russell Randle and J.P. Causey are both lawyers, both Virginians, and both longtime Episcopalians. They have visited each other’s homes, served on church committees together, and when Randle wrote a book on environmental law, he sent a […]

Sotomayor Has Mixed Record on Church-State Disputes

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — As a federal judge, Sonia Sotomayor sided with Santeria prisoners who wanted to wear religious beads and Muslim inmates who wanted to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. At the same time, she ruled against […]

Jewish Demographer Gary Tobin Dies at 59

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Gary Tobin, a sometimes controversial researcher who studied Jewish demographics and the growth of contemporary Judaism, died of cancer in a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on July 6. He was 59. The self-described “radical thinker” made it his […]

Abortion Case Plaintiff Arrested at Senate Hearing

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – The plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, who became an anti-abortion protester in recent years, was among four protesters arrested Monday for disrupting Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Better known as “Jane Roe,” 61-year-old Norma McCorvey of Texas […]

Lay Catholic Group Fears Demise Amid Budget Woes

posted by nsymmonds

BOSTON – A lay Catholic group founded in the worst days of the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal said Monday it may be forced to cease operations because of a downturn in donations. Leaders of Voice of the Faithful sent […]

Security Group Forms Church Violence Task Force

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The world’s largest security training organization has opened a new church-security division and will instruct churches on how to prevent and respond to violent crimes at its annual conference in September. ASIS International’s new church-security division will lead a […]

Pope Meets Obama with Abortion as Topic No. 1

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY — President Obama met Pope Benedict XVI for the first time on Friday (July 10) in a closed-door meeting that a Vatican statement said covered multiple topics but focused on the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion. The pope […]

Muslim Women Lead Protests in Restive West China

posted by nsymmonds

URUMQI, China – The petite Muslim woman with the sky blue head scarf began by complaining that the public washrooms were closed at a crowded mosque on Friday – the most important day of the week for Islamic worship. When […]

States Moving Faster than Churches on Gay Marriage

posted by nsymmonds

BOSTON — The historic Church of the Covenant just off the city’s Public Garden has been an important place for Anne Crane and Sarah Perreault. The lesbian couple had their first date there in the late 1970s, and by the […]

House Orders Engraving of ‘In God We Trust’ Motto

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – The national motto, “In God We Trust,” will be engraved in the Capitol Visitor Center, responding to critics who said Congress spent $621 million on the new facility without paying due respect to the nation’s religious heritage. The […]

Panel Backs Aid to Groups that Perform Abortions

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – Democrats on a key Senate panel Thursday voted to permanently reverse a policy in effect under recent Republican administrations that banned giving U.S. money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information. The 17-11 vote by […]

Evangelical Francis Collins Named to Head NIH

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Francis Collins, the researcher who mapped the human genome and navigated clashes between his Christian faith and science, has been chosen to lead the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Calling Collins “one of the top scientists in the […]

Pastor Gets Used by ‘Bruno,’ and ‘Bruno’ Gets Used by Pastor

posted by nsymmonds

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A lot of youth pastors might love the chance to share their faith with a movie star for two hours and then be featured in the star’s next motion picture, testifying about Jesus. Jody Trautwein, youth pastor […]

Democrats, Progressives Find Unlikely Ally in Benedict XVI

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — The ink had barely dried on the pope’s newest encyclical when the group Catholics for Working Families used the document to push for the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act. Has Pope Benedict XVI suddenly become a liberal? Worker’s […]

On All Things Religious, Obama Turns to DuBois

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — From a sparsely adorned office building a stone’s throw from the White House, Joshua DuBois carefully navigates the delicate line between church and state. Each morning, he sends a devotional message to President Obama’s BlackBerry. He appears before […]

Economy Closes One Relief Group, Forces Cuts at World Vision

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A Michigan-based Christian relief group, International Aid, has closed its doors amid financial struggles while World Vision, one of the largest evangelical relief agencies, has eliminated about 75 positions. International Aid needed to collect about $1.5 million in the […]

Conservatives Blast Obama on Stem Cell Guidelines

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Christian conservative groups decried new federal guidelines that will increase taxpayer dollars going to embryonic stem cell research. The guidelines, which took effect Tuesday (July 7) after they were issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stipulate […]

Pope Proposes New Financial Order Guided by Ethics

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI called Tuesday for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good, denouncing the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown. In the third encyclical […]

Obama Says He May Attend ‘A Number’ of Washington Churches

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama said he may attend “a number of different churches” in Washington rather than just one and is receiving a daily devotional message from a key staffer. “How we handle church when we’re here in D.C. is […]

Vatican City State Reports $22 Million Deficit

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican City State reported a deficit of $22 million for 2008 as a consequence of the “global economic-financial crisis,” the Vatican announced on Saturday (July 4). The Vatican’s annual profit and loss statements showed that the […]

Evangelical Pastor Warren Asks Muslims for Interfaith Action

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) California megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren spent his Independence Day here in the nation’s capital addressing the largest Muslim organization in North America. While publicity ignited before the speech, the actual event had some competing fanfare. […]

Unitarians, UCC Elect Minorities as Presidents

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) both made history this week by selecting minority presidents at their annual meetings. The Boston-based UUA elected its first Latino president, the Rev. Peter Morales; the Cleveland-based […]

Pastor Rick Warren to Address American Muslims

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – Sayyid Syeed remembers an interfaith event several years ago when a Jewish leader went to embrace him, saw someone snapping a photo, then suddenly pulled back. “He said to the man, `Stop,’” Syeed recalled, “`I’ll lose my […]

Conservatives Launch New ‘Freedom Federation’

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) A new federation of two dozen conservative Christian groups announced plans Tuesday (June 30) to work together to strategize around moral values they feel are under attack across the country. “We are not wed to a particular partisan […]

Holocaust Meeting Wants Better Care of Survivors

posted by nsymmonds

PRAGUE – An international conference assessing efforts to return property and possessions stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners or heirs said Monday that caring for Holocaust survivors is a matter of the “utmost urgency.” The five-day meeting attended […]

Pope: Scientific Tests Confirm Ancient Remains Are St Paul’s

posted by nsymmonds

Rome (dpa) – In a surprise announcement Pope Benedict XVI has said scientific tests carried out on an ancient Roman tomb confirm the long-held Roman Catholic belief that it contains the remains of Saint Paul. Benedict on Sunday evening told […]

Designer Labels Give the Abaya a Makeover

posted by nsymmonds

PARIS – A redheaded horsewoman in a flowing, made-to-measure Islamic gown atop a snorting steed opened what can only be deemed Paris’ most unusual fashion show of late. The display, a sumptuous affair held Thursday at the French capital’s George […]

Holocaust Assets Conference Opens in Prague

posted by nsymmonds

PRAGUE – Holocaust survivors, Jewish groups and experts gathered in Prague on Friday to assess efforts to return property and possessions stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners or heirs. The five-day conference, which brings together delegates from 49 […]

Questions and Answers on Celebrity Worship

posted by nsymmonds

When sex symbol Rudolph Valentino died at the age of 31 in 1926, riots broke out as tens of thousands of mourners tried to cram themselves into a public viewing in New York. It was, says Emory University’s Gary Laderman, […]

France to Consider Banning Burqas

posted by nsymmonds

PARIS (RNS) Five years after France banned Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in public schools, the government has launched a probe into another Muslim garment — all-covering burqas or niqabs — that may lead to a similar injunction in public […]

Obama to Meet the Pope While in Italy for G-8

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama will meet on July 10, a much-anticipated Vatican audience with a president under attack by some American bishops for his support of abortion rights. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi […]

Evangelicals Tap New Top Lobbyist

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest evangelical umbrella group has tapped a veteran expert on refugee settlement and international relief efforts as its new top lobbyist in the nation’s capital. Galen Carey was announced Wednesday (June 24) as director of government […]

Oregon Parents to Stand Trial in Daughter’s Faith-Healing Death

posted by nsymmonds

OREGON CITY, Ore. — Ava Worthington died surrounded by loved ones who believed their prayers would heal the young child. As the 15-month-old girl struggled to breathe, church members anointed her with oil and pleaded with God to provide a […]

New Mormon Library Will Preserve History of the Church

posted by nsymmonds

The Salt Lake Tribune – June 22, 2009 Jun. 22–Standing in the new LDS Church History Library behind a large wooden pulpit, LDS President Thomas S. Monson relived his past. “This pulpit, in part, tells the story of my own […]

Unitarians Say They’re ‘Standing on the Side of Love’

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Members of Unitarian Universalist churches are unveiling a campaign against hate crimes at their General Assembly this week (June 24-29), calling on their congregations and those of other faiths to advocate for equality and to curb violence. The Unitarian […]

U.S. Religious Freedom Panel Denied Visas to Visit India

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Indian government officials have denied visas to commissioners of a U.S. religious freedom watchdog panel for the second time since 2001. Members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) were forced to cancel their plans to […]

Revised Catholic Statement on Conversion Worries Jews

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) U.S. Catholic bishops tried Thursday (June 18) to clarify the Catholic Church’s relationship with Judaism, saying Jews will not be targets of evangelism, but the church reserves the right to share its faith and welcome Jewish converts. The bishops […]

Obama Talks Immigration at Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

posted by nsymmonds

Religion News Service WASHINGTON — President Obama committed to comprehensive immigration reform Friday (June 19) at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in a speech that was laden with religious language but short on policy specifics. “We know there is much […]

Faith-Based Beliefs About Modesty Create Challenges for Swimming Pools

posted by nsymmonds

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — When Zahra Khan arrived at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from her native Ottawa, Canada, in 2005, she looked for a swimming pool where she wouldn’t have to worry about showing too much skin. The only options were […]

Pope Deplores Priests’ Infidelities to Their Vows

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI deplored priests who were unfaithful to their vows and called Thursday for a “frank and complete acknowledgment” of the Catholic Church’s weakness in a letter to priests around the globe. The letter was the […]

Conservatives Criticize Obama Move on Gay Federal Benefits

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday (June 17) expanding benefits available to same-sex partners of federal employees, a move that was not unexpected but nonetheless criticized by social conservative groups. “Many of our government’s hard-working, dedicated, and […]

Annual Hindu Pilgrimage Begins in Indian Kashmir

posted by nsymmonds

SRINAGAR, India – Thousands of Hindu devotees began an annual pilgrimage Tuesday to an icy cave in Indian-controlled Kashmir amid tight security in the Muslim-majority region, officials said. At least half a million devotees are expected to make the pilgrimage […]

Israeli Company Launches Kosher Search Engine

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) A new Internet search engine is making it possible for ultra-Orthodox Jews who use computers to obtain information online– but not on the Sabbath, when the site shuts down. Dubbed Koogle (a cross between Google and kugel, the […]

Celebrity Priest Marries Former Girlfriend in Fla.

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A hugely popular Miami priest, who left the Catholic Church when he could no longer abide by his vow of celibacy and his romantic relationship became tabloid fodder, married his girlfriend of two years Tuesday (June 16). The Rev. […]

Report Says Terrorism Finance Laws Hurt Muslim Charities

posted by nsymmonds

DALLAS – Federal laws targeting the financing of terrorism are vague and have given the government unchecked power over American Muslim charities, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a new report. The rules have made American Muslims fearful that […]

Mormon Missionaries Go Online in Search of New Converts

posted by nsymmonds

c. 2009 Salt Lake Tribune PROVO, Utah — Tyson Boardman sits before the computer screen at the LDS Missionary Training Center, discussing Mormonism with Jason and Travis in two Internet conversations at the same time. Why do people say Mormons […]

Vatican China Envoy to Get Tough with Beijing

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican’s top envoy for China says the time has come for the Holy See to get tough with Beijing and not compromise over religious freedom, saying relations are taking a “worrisome slide” for the worse. Hong […]

Doctor Who Served Popes for Over 30 years, Retires

posted by nsymmonds

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) – June 15, 2009 Vatican City (dpa) – The Vatican announced Monday the retirement of long-time papal personal physician, Renato Buzzonetti, who assisted Pope John Paul II following the failed 1981 assassination attempt and at his deathbed […]

Prosecutor in French Scientology Trial Seeks Ban

posted by nsymmonds

PARIS – The prosecutor in a French trial involving the Church of Scientology has asked that the group be banned in France and handed a hefty fine if convicted on fraud and other charges. The persecutor’s office has asked that […]

Shy Bishop’s Career Buffeted by Abuse Scandal, Katrina

posted by nsymmonds

NEW ORLEANS — Conventional wisdom holds that history requires years to render judgment on leaders, but this much is sure of New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes: The two greatest catastrophes ever to befall the Catholic Church in New Orleans both […]

Jehovah’s Witnesses More Likely to Die in Childbirth, Study Finds

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Pregnant women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are six times more likely to die during childbirth and three times more likely to have serious complications than the general population, according to a new study by Dutch researchers. All of the […]

DOJ Moves to Dismiss First Fed Gay Marriage Case

posted by nsymmonds

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Justice Department has moved to dismiss the first gay marriage case filed in federal court, saying it is not the right venue to tackle legal questions raised by a couple already married in California. The […]

Woman Defends Book on Friendship with John Paul II

posted by nsymmonds

WARSAW, Poland – To him, she was “My Dear Dusia” and he signed his letters “Br” – short for brother. She was one of a handful of people by his bedside when he died, and visited him in the hospital […]

Study: Megachurch Attenders Tend to Be Younger

posted by nsymmonds

Despite their reputation as symbols of baby-boomer America, Protestant megachurches attract a younger crowd and more singles than the average Protestant church, according to large-scale study released Tuesday. The survey also found distressing news for a movement that took off […]

Religious Charities Gain in a Down Year

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Religious organizations reported a 5.5 increase in donations last year, a marked contrast from the nationwide 2-percent decline in charitable giving, according to a study by Giving USA Foundation. Religious congregations, which accounted for 35 percent of the total […]

NIV Translator John Stek Dies at 84

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Rev. John Stek considered Bible translation a never-ending work, once noting, “Even the most durable words take on different nuances as culture changes.” Stek attended diligently to those nuances, serving for nearly 45 years on the translation committee […]

Gunman Shoots, Kills, Guard at Holocaust Museum

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – An elderly gunman opened fire with a rifle inside the crowded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, killing a security guard before being shot. Authorities said they were investigating a white supremacist as the suspect. The 89-year-old assailant […]

Christian Leaders Push for Immigration Law

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON (RNS) Christian leaders, including three members of President Obama’s faith advisory council, on Wednesday (June 10) pushed the president to make good on his promise of comprehensive immigration reform. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Noel Castellanos, the Rev. Vashti McKenzie […]

Appeals Court Declares Ten Commandments Monument Unconstitutional

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) A federal appeals court has declared the erection of a Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional, citing the “unusual” circumstances of its placement on the courthouse grounds in a small Oklahoma county. In its Monday (June 8) ruling, the 10th U.S. […]

‘Mindfulness’ Meditation Gaining Medical Acceptance

posted by nsymmonds

Challenges are landing fast and furious on Capitol Hill. So Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, feels he has to arrive at the top of his game every day. And Ryan says he has found a way to do that: He meditates […]

Study Finds No Similar Abortion Rates Among Religious Students

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Unwed young women who attend or have attended religious schools are more likely to have abortions than their public school peers, according to a new study. The study also found “no significant link” between abortion and personal religiosity — […]

ADL Reports Fourth Annual Decrease in Anti-Semitic Attacks

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The volume of physical assaults, vandalism and harassment against Jews decreased for the fourth consecutive year in 2008, according to a recent audit that tracks anti-Semitic incidents. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose aim is to counteract prejudice against Jews, […]

Pope Meets with Irish Churchmen After Abuse Report

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI expressed solidarity with victims abused by clergy in Ireland in a meeting with the country’s top churchmen Friday, following a report detailing decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at church-run reform schools, the Vatican […]

At Death Camp, Obama Says Evil Must be Confronted

posted by nsymmonds

WEIMAR, Germany – President Barack Obama witnessed the Nazi ovens of the Buchenwald concentration camp Friday, its clock tower frozen at the time of liberation, and said the leaders of today must not rest against the spread of evil. The […]

Episcopal ‘Buddhist Bishop’ Appears Headed for Defeat

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The election of an Episcopal bishop in Michigan who has practiced Buddhist meditation and changed traditional church prayers appears headed for defeat, according to an unofficial tally kept by a newspaper reporter. The Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester was elected […]

Asra Nomani Promotes Moderate Islam

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON — Not long after 9/11, Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani was working in Pakistan when her friend and housemate, Daniel Pearl, was abducted and killed by Islamic extremists. His death — and the version of Islam that seemed […]

Eco-Theologian Thomas Berry Dies at 94

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) The Rev. Thomas Berry, a Passionist monk who made it his life’s work to explore the connection between humans and the earth, died at a retirement community in his native Greensboro, N.C., on Monday (June 1). He was 94. […]

First Orthodox Rabbis Ordained in Germany Since Holocaust

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Germany saw the ordination of its own Orthodox rabbis on Tuesday (June 2), a first in the more than six decades since the Nazi Holocaust and World War II. Broadcast live on German television, the historic ordination of Zsolt […]

With Abortion Doctor Dead, Do Conservatives Share Blame?

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) With the murder Sunday (May 31) of Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation’s few late-term abortion doctors, supporters of abortion rights are questioning whether there is a connection between his death and the rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement. […]

Sotomayor Would Be 6th Catholic on Supreme Court

posted by nsymmonds

NEW YORK – If Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she will be the sixth Roman Catholic of the nine justices. But far from forming any unified bloc, the justices would represent the vast diversity of […]

Wikipedia Bans Scientology from Editing Entries

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Wikipedia, the user-edited Internet encyclopedia, has banned the Church of Scientology from editing entries about the controversial religion. Internet addresses known to be “owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates, broadly interpreted, are to be […]

Is Mary the `Coredemptrix’ of Humanity?

posted by nsymmonds

Religion News Service VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square in April that the Virgin Mary “silently followed her son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with great suffering in his sacrifice, thus cooperating […]

Celebrity Priest’s Conversion Strains Ecumenical Ties

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) In the nearly 500 years since the Church of England split with the Roman Catholic Church, a fair number of converts have crossed from one church to the other. Still, the path is fraught with stumbling blocks, as the […]

1st Black Female Rabbi to be Ordained in US

posted by nsymmonds

CINCINNATI – A woman will be ordained as what is believed to be mainstream Judaism’s first black female rabbi next month. Alysa Stanton is to lead a predominantly white congregation of about 60 families in Greenville, North Carolina, after her […]

Vatican Radio to Accept Advertising to Help Pay Bills

posted by nsymmonds

VATICAN CITY (RNS) After 78 years of broadcasting the pope’s message around the world, Vatican Radio is to break with tradition and take paid commercials for the first time. The move to mix jingles and advertising with religious programming will […]

Muslim Charity Member Gets 65 Years in US Prison

posted by nsymmonds

DALLAS – A founding member of what was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States was sentenced to 65 years in prison Wednesday for funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Shukri Abu Baker, 50, […]

Southwest Families Discover Hidden Jewish Roots

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) Growing up in Wyoming to Catholic and Protestant parents, Isabelle Medina-Sandoval watched the women in her family practice strange customs — washing off babies’ baptismal water and setting aside some dough when they made tortillas. “As a teenager, I […]

Church Pays Little of Ireland’s Child-Abuse Bill

posted by nsymmonds

DUBLIN – Ireland’s Roman Catholic religious orders resisted growing demands Friday for them to pay more for the abuse of thousands of children behind the closed doors of state-funded schools. The Irish government expects to dole out more than euro1.1 […]

Krumping Gives Movement to the Spirit’s Call

posted by nsymmonds

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On a peaceful afternoon in a suburban home garage, Demetrus Leslie, 17, jerked like he was dosed with strychnine. His arms lashed menacingly, then he dropped to the floor, only to rear up smoothly. His chest popped […]

Israel Ready for Peace Talks: Netanyahu

posted by nsymmonds

TEL AVIV/RAMALLAH — Israel is ready to open peace talks with Syria immediately and without preconditions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday after talks with US President Barack Obama. The offer followed Obama’s first White House meeting with the Israeli […]

Indian Yoga Guru Krishna Pattabhi Jois Dies at 93

posted by nsymmonds

NEW DELHI – Krishna Pattabhi Jois, a yoga teacher and practitioner famous for popularizing Ashtanga yoga in the West, has died. He was 93. Jois died in the southern Indian city of Mysore on Monday, a press statement from the […]

Police Look for Mother and Son Who Fled Chemo for Religious Reasons

posted by nsymmonds

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. – A courtroom clash between medicine and faith took a criminal turn, with police around the country on the lookout Wednesday for a Minnesota mother who fled with her cancer-stricken 13-year-old son rather than consent to chemotherapy. […]

Study: Mainline Clergy OK with Gay Rights, Cautious on Gay Marriage

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) Mainline Protestant clergy are generally more likely than most Americans to endorse gay rights, but only one in three supports same-sex marriage, according to a new study. About one-third of mainline clergy support civil unions and one-third oppose any […]

Supreme Court: Lawsuit by Sept. 11 Detainee Who Said He Was Abused Because of Religion Cannot Proceed

posted by nsymmonds

WASHINGTON – FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft cannot be sued by a former Sept. 11 detainee who claimed he was abused because of his religion and ethnicity, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court said Monday […]

Vatican to Unveil Pope’s Profile on Facebook

posted by nsymmonds

Vatican City (dpa) – In the latest bid to broaden Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal among computer savvy, younger generations, the Vatican is to post the pontiff’s profile on popular online social networking site, Facebook, officials said Monday. “The pope has […]

How Do You Spell Lust? M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) Las Vegas may be known as “Sin City,” but when it comes to transgressions per capita, parts of the Bible Belt may burn much hotter, suggests a new study by Kansas State University geographers. The project, conducted by four […]

Pope Ends Holy Land Pilgrimage with Call for Peace

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM – Pope Benedict XVI ended his pilgrimage to the Holy Land Friday with a stirring call for peace at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and then made an emotional appeal to Israel and the Palestinians: “No more bloodshed. No […]

N.H. Governor OKs Gay Marriage, with Religious Exemptions

posted by nsymmonds

(RNS) New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said Thursday (May 14) that he would sign legislation legalizing same-sex marriage as long as religious groups would be not be forced to “violate their deeply held religious principles.” State lawmakers said a bill […]

Judge Rules Teen Must Be Treated for Cancer Despite Religious Objections

posted by nsymmonds

MINNEAPOLIS – A 13-year-old Minnesota boy with cancer must resume medical treatment to save his life, despite religious and other objections by his family – unless it already is too late, a Brown County District Court judge ruled Friday. Daniel […]

Pope Visits Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Dome of the Rock

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM — Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday (May 12) prayed at the Western Wall and visited the nearby Dome of the Rock, two disputed pieces of holy ground that are sacred to both Muslims and Jews, as controversy continued to […]

Previous Posts

Former Muslim Wants to See Change
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=348P3ooQUPk   Author and former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at the National Press Club on April 7th and said there needs to be five amendments to Islam. She said “individuals” within Islam today ...

posted 9:08:12am Apr. 10, 2015 | read full post »

Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular
Worship service attendance is up in New York City, but down among young adult Jews, according to recent studies. On the other hand, fewer Spanish-speaking teens are attending Catholic mass, but more are showing up at Evangelical ...

posted 3:10:30pm Nov. 05, 2013 | read full post »

Billy Graham: I know where I'm going
“Daddy thinks the Lord will allow him to live to 95,” said Franklin Graham recently. It was not a prophecy but a hope, Franklin explained, ...

posted 10:02:01am Oct. 24, 2013 | read full post »

Are All These Christians' Complaints of Persecution Just So Much Empty Whining?
The headlines are alarming: “Catholic-Owned Company Wins Religious Freedom Court Decision,” “Death Toll Rises to 65 in Boko Haram Attack on Students,” “Little Sisters Catholic Charity Victimized By Obamacare,” “Christians Sought ...

posted 2:41:26am Oct. 07, 2013 | read full post »

How can Christians defend themselves against today's random violence?
So, a crazed gunman opens fire and you’re caught in the middle. How can you survive? Heroes come in all sorts of packages. And they wield all sorts of defensive weapons. Such as guns and Jesus. Sometimes both at the same time. [caption ...

posted 2:53:48pm Sep. 27, 2013 | read full post »

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