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- Tennessee seeks to question evolution in bill, AFP. US conservative Christians and science advocates are clashing again, this time in Tennessee over a bill that would allow debate in public schools over theories like evolution.
- Roman Catholic Bishop warns stripping Britain of religion leaves country vulnerable to extremism, The Telegraph. “If Christianity is no longer to form the basis and the bedrock of our society then we are, indeed, left at the mercy of passing political projects and perhaps even the most sinister of ideologies.” Bishop Mark Davies became the latest influential religious leader to warn of the consequences of increasing secularisation.
- Rowan Williams: ‘Young are keen to learn about religion’, The Scotsman. In his last Easter sermon as leader of the Church of England, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury claimed that young people’s hostility towards faith is not as extreme as society perceives. “There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don’t have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some sense that there is something here to take seriously – when they have a chance to learn about it,” he said.
- Seeking to Clear a Path Between Yoga and Islam, New York Times. In New York City, where yoga has become as secular an activity as spinning or step aerobics, the potential sins of yoga are not typically debated by those clad in Lululemon leggings. But in some predominantly Muslim pockets like Jackson Heights, Queens, yoga has been slow to catch on, especially among first-generation immigrants, newly arrived from cultures where yoga is considered Hindu worship. Among Christians there are similar concerns regarding the spiritual roots of yoga.
- Chuck Colson in Critical Condition after Surgery, Recovering Slowly, Christianity Today. The Prison Fellowship founder fell ill at a conference after having an intracerebral hemorrhage. See also: When Redemption is Real: Colson didn’t fall from grace, he ascended to it.
- Widow with dementia gave $600,000 to Kabbalah Centre charity, Los Angeles Times. She also borrowed millions to build a home in Beverly Hills. Her financial advisor, a key figure in the oversight of Kabbalah Centre finances, has been instrumental in those expenditures, public records and interviews show. The controversial Kabbalah Centre is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service.
- France takes new look at radicalization in prisons, Associated Press. French authorities contend the gunman in a killing spree in Toulouse took the path to religious radicalization behind bars, with neither teacher nor network. The investigation will show whether gunman Mohamed Merah, who claimed al-Qaida links, acted alone in the three March attacks that killed seven people, and may help decipher his path to radical Islam. But in the meantime, his case has been seized upon by those who say the model for Islamist radicalization in prisons may be changing, away from networks of extremists and toward more individualized paths to radicalism. President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered a study on the evolving threat in prisons after last month’s killings, and the justice minister called for greater intelligence gathering in prisons and more Muslim prison chaplains.
- Mom slams drug rehab centre run by Scientologists, CBC News. A Toronto mother is speaking out about a Quebec treatment facility she sent her drug-addicted son to, which turned out to be run by Scientologists. Former Narconon employee David Love said the facility is simply a front to recruit vulnerable people into Scientology, while collecting fees — up to $30,000 for the whole program — from the addict’s families.
- Psychics’ practices protected by religious rights, lawyers say, Sun-Sentinel. What a South Florida family of psychics did for 20 years was criminal fraud, federal prosecutors say. But the Marks family’s defense team says it was something very different — religion, free speech and a sincere belief in spiritual healing. Nine members of the Fort Lauderdale family of Roma, or gypsies led by fortunetelling matriarch Rose Marks, were arrested in August on federal fraud conspiracy charges and accused of defrauding their clients of $40 million. The family is accused of preying on people at the lowest times of their lives. The women of the family told clients that they “had the ability to tell the future, to cure people of disease, to chase away evil spirits from homes and bodies, to remove curses, and to cleanse the souls of clients and their families and friends, in exchange for money, jewelry and other things of value,” prosecutors wrote. That would not be illegal, prosecutors said, but the family took it farther by taking money, jewelry and other items of value and promising that they would “cleanse” them of evil spirits and curses and then return the items. The behavior became criminal, prosecutors said, when the family refused to or failed to return the cash and valuables.
- The Lesson of the ‘Jesus Is Not a Homophobe’ T-shirt, TIME. How did a slogan endorsing compassion and tolerance get turned into an “indecency”? Backstory: A gay Ohio teenager’s t-shirt proclaiming “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” is the subject of a federal lawsuit. His prayer for relief: permission to wear the shirt at school. Maverick Couch, 17, actually did wear the t-shirt to Waynesville High School last year, but the principal made him turn it inside-out. That’s standard procedure when a student’s t-shirt is deemed potentially disruptive, the district’s superintendent said. One day after the lawsuit was filed, the school partially reversed its decision banning a student from wearing his “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” t-shirt to school. Lawyers for the Couches and the school district plan to meet in the coming weeks to reach a final resolution on whether the “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” shirt may be worn on other days of the year, according to court records.
- A society that persecutes Christ is heading for terrible trouble, The Telegraph. Politicians in the West – and atheists – ignore at their peril the benefits and power of organised religion.
- A Global Assault On Religious Liberty, Forbes. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its latest report with grim news. According to USCIRF: “Across the global landscape, the pivotal human right of religious freedom was under escalating attack. To an alarming extent, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief was being curtailed, often threatening the safety and survival of innocent persons, including members of religious minorities.” Religious liberty matters even to people who are not religious. Everyone has a transcendent worldview. Protecting the right to believe also means protecting the right not to believe.
Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
- Taking a rare tour of a Mormon temple, CNN. Last Saturday was the first time people in Kansas City, Missouri could visit the newest temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was also one of the last days, because once the temple is dedicated — on May 6 — only temple-recommended Mormons will be able to visit the edifice. The Mormon Church claims that Jesus and His apostles instituted and practiced the secret rituals performed in Mormon temples, including baptism for the dead and eternal marriage. Further, the Mormon Church claims that it is the only true Christian church on the face of the earth, because it alone has “restored” these lost temple practices of original Christianity. As can be expected, the CNN story does not make clear that Christian denominations do not consider the Mormon (LDS) Church to be part of the Christian faith. Indeed, Mormonism is, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Likewise, a comparison of the activities of the Biblical temple and Mormon temples shows clearly that the two have nothing in common.
- Ex-Hasidim reality TV, New York Post. Move over, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — the Real Hasidim of New York are coming to reality TV. Three ultra-Orthodox Jews ditch their strict religious lifestyle and join the sin-city world of secularism in a docudrama, called “Shunned,” about their new lives.
- Reviving Faith by ‘Taking Up Serpents’, Wall Street Journal. Since he opened its doors last fall, Mr. Hamblin’s small Pentecostal church, 39 miles north of Knoxville, has grown to almost 50 members, most of them in their 20s. Part of his strategy for expansion has been to use Facebook to publicize the daredevil spiritual exploits of his congregation: snake handling. The practice of handling snakes as a sign of faith, based on an interpretation of Mark 16:18. Practiced mainly by small, fundamentalist Pentecostal churches in Central and Southern Appalachia (USA). Not condoned by mainstream Pentecostal churches nor other denominations. The Wall Street Journal quotes Ralph Hood, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga who has written about the practice: “The tradition had been declining until recently because the pastors were aged and not attracting new believers,” “But now that it’s gone digital, that is going to increase its popularity.” Prof. Hood has seen an uptick of young practitioners, says the Journal. “When they feel called and have the anointing, they are like rock stars,” he said. “When they handle serpents, they either have ‘victory,’ in which God has granted them power over the serpent, or if bit and even killed, that demonstrates their obedience and assurance of salvation.” The term “anointing” refers to power given by the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals believe that when people are anointed by God, nothing evil can hurt them. Hood’s book: Them That Believe: The Power and Meaning of the Christian Serpent-Handling Tradition
- Tim Tebow Draws Thousands to Easter Service, TIME. New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow flew to Georgetown, Texas to celebrate Easter Sunday at Celebration Church. The appearance attracted an an estimated 15,000 to 20,000. “In Christianity, it’s the Pope and Tebow right now,” Champion said. “We didn’t have enough room to handle the Pope.” Tebow encouraged worshipers to share their Christian faith publicly, the New York Times says. “My biggest prayer is to kind of make that cool again, for a high school kid to get on a knee and pray and it’s not something that’s unique or different and that it’s O.K. to be outspoken about your faith
- Breast milk ‘miracle’ healing stunt breaks up marriage: A pastor’s hands-on ‘miracle healing’ approach has resulted in tragic consequences.