More than meets the eye

Here is the typical scenario when religion meets journalism: There are traditional believers holding the line against liberal activism. The reality is rarely as simple as usual meme would have us believe.

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Chaplains at the winter Olympics

The Salt Lake Tribune writes about the ministry of chaplains at the winter Olympics.

Kristen Moulten writes:

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Repentance is hard work

He was not wearing sackcloth and ashes, but Tiger Woods met with a select, closed group of reporters and issued a statement of apology and regret about the behavior that was a nightly staple of the news for a while. Woods says that he is in intensive psychotherapy and that he is turning to religion to help him turn his life around.

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Ignatian Spirituality for Inmates

Having entered the season of Lent last week, many Christians are taking up the challenge and opportunity of a deepened prayer life to cultivate the awareness of God's presence in our lives. In one LA correctional facility, seminarian Karri Backer, is leading Ignatian Spirituality groups in the midst of a most distracting and challenging context.

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Religion and homophobia in Africa

The debate over the proposed Ugandan "kill-the-gays" bill has increased homophobia in eastern Africa as well as increasing calls to end homophobic laws and practices in those nations.

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Bush v. Gore lawyers now teaming up to fight Proposition 8

Lawyers from opposing sides who brought Bush v. Gore to the Supreme Court are working together on Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a U.S. District Court case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8. (Prop 8, you'll recall, was a California-based definition-of-marriage [one man, one woman] initiative that won narrowly and is now back before the bench.)

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CofE Weddings Project

The BBC reports on churches trying to make themselves more attractive to couples planning a wedding and hope that it will increase membership as well over the years:

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Does the Supreme Court need a Protestant Justice?

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced this week that he would retire as soon as the Court rises from its current session in late June. The prognosticators immediately got to work, creating a short-list of three. (That was a few days ago. Now the Stevens memorializers are having their say.)

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What's God ticked off about now?

What do homosexuality, health care reform, and British advertising standards all have in common? They're all things that have ticked God off, some religious leaders say, and he's venting his frustration with the angry fires of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

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Emergent church meets New Mystics

Dave T. Brown at Emergent Village Weblog discusses "Where the Edges Meet: What Emergents Can Learn from the New Mystics.

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Are Presbyterians looking at a sexual-ethics sea change?

Will the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), currently sitting in its 219th General Assembly in the Twin Cities area, be the next major denomination to make major adjustments in regard to a self-understanding of who may marry and be ordained?

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Anne Rice uses Facebook to break up with Christianity

Anne Rice - author of massively popular vampire fare who recently turned her pen to the matter of religion - recently broke up with Christianity using Facebook, then clarified that it wasn't so much Christ himself as it is the incidentals; in other words, I love ya, Jesus, but your friends have gotta go.

On Wednesday, she wrote on her Facebook fan page:

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Institutional bias and universities: anti-theological?

Is theology so obscure an object that theological departments at universities have become an easy target for budget-trimming?

In The Guardian online, Sophia Deboick notes the tension:

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The "M-Word" as smear

Two new polls say that one in four respondents believe that President Obama is a Muslim. This, combined with the current flap over a proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan, raises the question: is calling someone Muslim a code for saying "I don't like you?"

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Go ahead, hate me more

The Washington Post reports on Fred Phelp's day in court scheduled for next week. The Westboro Baptist Church will argue before the Supreme Court that they have a first amendment (free-speech) right to disrupt the first amendment (free exercise of religion) rights of families at the funerals of soldiers who have been killed in action.

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Christian theocrats in Canada

Jim Naughton, our Editor in Chief here at Episcopal Café, was one of the first people to write about the actions of the Christian Theocrats in the US. Now there's book that discusses the same group and their growing influence in Canada.

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Presiding Bishop's name appears on 'powerful women' list

Appearing on a Fortune list that includes Oprah, Lady GaGa, Ellen DeGeneres, and Michelle Obama, we find the name of The Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, listed as a powerful female voice in the category of religion.

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Will the miners' new faith stick?

CNN asks whether the newfound faith of the 33 rescued miners in Chile will stick. The answer is "maybe, maybe not."

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Remembering those who have taken their own lives

The University of Virginia held a moving vigil Wednesday night to combat sexual orientation bullying and honor those who committed suicide. Several Episcopal clergy and some other ministers joined several hundred students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

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Decision making and walking the labyrinth

Daily Kos' spirituality blog, Brothers and Sisters, tells how walking the labyrinth helps with decision making:

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Wallace and Gromit as minions of the Anti-Christ

wallace_gromit.thumbnail.jpgJonathan Bartley, in Ekklesia, notes that rants against Wallace and Gromit on UK Christmas stamps have begun to appear and the Archbishop of Canterbury has been asked to take action.

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A loathing of God-in-a-bottle

Tony Jordan is the writer who penned a four-part drama for BBC based on the Nativity - cleverly enough titled The Nativity. (Hey, don't mess around with the classics, right?) He told The Telegraph that the writing process was something of a conversion for him.

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Analyzing religion in America, 2010 edition

We've seen a veritable cornucopia of "top 10 lists" over the past weeks (including ours here on the Café). But there's not been much analysis of what the lists tell us about religion in America. There's been even less discussion of what we can learn by looking at which group puts which story in the top 10.

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No more intolerance, or lots more?

Considering yesterday's events in Tuscon, Matt Bai writes:

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"A life dedicated to love"

Bishop Marc Andrus writes of recent events in Tunisia, the legacy of Martin Luther King, and the kind of love that launches movements:

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Religious leaders voice support for Wisconsin unions

Late last night the Wisconsin State Assembly voted to strip most state employed union members of their collective bargaining ability. The measure now moves to the Senate and if a quorum can be found to pass it, it is expected to be signed by the governor.

Yesterday religious leaders from across the state and around the country came out in support of the Union members and in opposition to the legislatures' actions; Rabbi's and Catholic bishops in that state in particular.

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How much is that bone fragment in the window?

Baltimore's Walters Art Museum is currently running an exhibit titled "Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe." The Walters' online catalogue for the exhibit includes a number of shrines and reliquaries.

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Episcopal bishops chastise Israeli government in Dawani case

Update: Episcopal leaders dismayed at Israel's denial of Jerusalem bishop's residency permit

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Grieving in Japan: Not why, but what

In light of earthquake, tsunami, and death, Religion & Ethics News Weekly's Bob Abernethey asked Rev. Maggie Izutsu (an expert in Asian bereavement issues) about how she perceives the Japanese processing recent events.

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Life expectancy up; religiosity down: cause and effect?

Two UK researchers, Elissaios Papyrakis and Geethanjali Selvaretnam, argue that increasing life expectancy is causing the greying of the church.

Their findings as summarized in the abstract to their article published in the International Journal of Social Economics:

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More education = less religion?

Freakonomics reports on a new study from Canada:

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Responses roll in to Presbyterians' action on ordination standards

Now that The Presbyterian Church (USA) has relaxed its prohibition on ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians as officers through the passage of its Amendment 10-A by majority vote of its presbyteries, the reactions have begun to come in.

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Hawking: there is no heaven

Brad Hirschfield, writing in the Huffington Post reflects on the real sin of Stephen Hawking in denying heaven:

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Oops. Sorry about that. Can I keep the cash?

D'oh!

We're still here, right? Well, then, let the inevitable backlash/backpedaling begin.

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Prayer vigils ask to lift ban on Bishop Dawani

Episcopalians in the Dioceses of Washington and Los Angeles held prayer vigils in protest of Israeli treatment of Palestinians yesterday, including the treatment of the Bishop of Jerusaslem, Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani, who has been a permit to reside in Jerusalem:

Prayer vigils send message to Netanyahu: 'Lift the ban on Bishop Dawani'

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Even 'Carmageddon' respects religious boundary markers

Orthodox Jews in Los Angeles have need of eruvs - ritual enclosures allowing them to do things on the Sabbath not normally permitted under Torah.

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Army to host atheism-themed event

From Religion News Service: U.S. Army officials have agreed to host "Rock Beyond Belief" - an event centered around the theme of nonbelief - at North Carolina's Fort Bragg.

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Naming most names

It's been about ten years since news of sexual abuse of children clergy and the systematic protection of offenders in the Archdiocese of Boston was first exposed. Now the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has released a list of accused sex offenders in the Archdiocese.

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In Libya, a focus on reconciliation

Tom Heneghan of Reuters has some hopeful news:

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Religious controversy over major 9/11 events

Some evangelical groups and conservative commentators complain that evangelicals--and even religion itself--is being excluded from some of the major commemorations set to take place this weekend in New York and Washington a decade after the 9/11 attacks.

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Church goers happier?

The Gallup organization reports church going is linked to having a better mood:

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Fortnight for Freedom begins today; Who's paying the freight?

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on Catholics throughout the country to observe a "Fortnight for Freedom," beginning today and running through July 4, to protest the Obama administration's health care policies.

They contend this is not political. Some Catholics in the pews disagree: According to an NPR report by Barbara Bradley Hagerty:

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Health care act upheld; insurance exec, moved by faith, joins the fight

Update: The U. S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 decision. We will be posting links to the responses of religious organizations as we receive them.

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The right's appropriation of the 'Christianity' mantle

Zack Ford at Thinkprogress.org notes he received some flak from a reader who complained about his characterizing Chick-Fil-A as a "Christian-run company." He admits this perspective has merit, and goes on to describe how conservatives have appropriated the mantle of Christianity specifically to advance an agenda hostile to the gay community and progressive Christians:

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Hooligans or prophets? What's the difference?

A Russian judge convicted the three singers known as Pussy Riot to two years in jail for "hooliganism" because they sang (or at least videotaped themselves singing) a protest song in a Moscow cathedral. Were they hooligans or prophets?

Two commentators think they were prophets whose act of hooliganism was challenging the abuse of the holy to prop up the political.

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As Ramadan ends, Muslims brace for violence

RNS reports that many Muslim Americans are approaching the end of Ramadan on Sunday (Aug. 19) under a cloud of fear as Muslim groups try to increase security without spurring panic.

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Ed Bacon and Oprah

The Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints in Pasadena, CA will be on the air with Oprah tomorrow (Sunday August 19). Check out the preview of the show at:
Faith and Spirituality.

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More musing on the life and wife of Jesus

I do find this week's news about the discovery of a tiny piece of ancient papyrus on which is written a reference to Jesus' wife fascinating. I especially enjoyed this piece by the Guardian's religion writer Stephen Bates about the academic debate on all this. He writes:

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An Obama Doctrine on religion?

Lauren Markoe of Religion News Service is among the commentators who believe that President Barack Obama yesterday laid out a kind of Obama Doctrine on Religion and Religious Freedom in his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations. It's five key points, she writes, are

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Is the 'Jesus Wife' fragment a fake?

Harvard Divinity professor Karen King says she is "open to questions about authenticity" regarding the papyrus fragment she presented at a conference last week that raised questions about the marital status of Jesus.

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The NYTimes asks readers about the welcome of worship places

The Booming blog at the nytimes.com invites readers to tells stories of welcome at their places of worship.

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Padre Alberto earns HuffPo recognition

Fr. Alberto Cutié is among seven Latino religious leaders recognized byThe Huffington Post as "shaping the wider religious, spiritual and political landscape of America."

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Jesus calls us to help the poor, deserving or not

Christians err when they fall into the trap of believing that charity should be based on whether those in need deserve help or not, contends Rachel Johnson, writing at Patheos.com. This is important to consider as we debate public policy on poverty issues. In a piece titled "Jesus Doesn’t Care or Why Liberals Need Christ," she writes:

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Judge rules couple can't change last name to 'ChristIsKing'

A Staten Island Judge, citing separation of church and state, ruled yesterday that a couple cannot change their last name to "ChristIsKing."

The same judge denied a request six years by the same couple to change their son's name to "JesusIsLord." The couple, Michael and Angela Nwadiuko, subsequently went to Virginia where a judge ruled in their favor on that one.

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Feds seek to block Hobby Lobby's religious freedom claim

The federal government is seeking to block Hobby Lobby from denying its employees access to the morning-after pill under the nation's new health care law. Hobby Lobby's attorneys are claiming this violates a constitutional right to freedom of religion. Associated Press reports:

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Does Catholic support for Obama weaken bishops' position?

Does the fact that Barack Obama won the Catholic vote nationwide (albeit narrowly) weaken the position of Catholic bishops that the contraception mandate within Obamacare represents a violation of their members' religious freedom? Mark Movsesian, director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University, writes:

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Priest charged with smuggling drugs into jail

A 70-year-old Episcopal priest in Maine has been arrested and charged with smuggling illegal prescription drugs to prisoners during jail visits. According to the local sheriff's department, the priest who has been serving as interim pastor at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, has admitted to the charges against him. The Bangor Daily News reports from Wiscasset, Maine:

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Hope and peace in a violent world

Rabbi Matthew Gevirtz, Bishop Mark Beckwith and Imam Deen Shareet appear on a "Faith on Fridays" segment on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." They talk about the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, the times when God transcends the limits of our faith, and how working together the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace has reached out in the wake of the violent gun deaths of young people in their city.

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Episcopal church #8 in 2012 religion news writers' stories

Religion news journalists voted for the top 10 religion stories of the year. The poll was taken before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown CT or the tragedy and search for meaning would have been number 1.

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Priest offers solace through San Francisco chaplaincy program

An inspiring story from the San Francisco Chronicle highlights the vital ministry of hospital chaplains:

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Is 'Spiritual But Not Religious' a risk to one's mental health?

A study published in this month's British Journal of Psychiatry, says spiritual but not religious people are more likely to develop mental problems and dependence on drugs. From CNN's religion blog:

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Catholic hospital argues fetuses are not people

In a malpractice case involving a Colorado woman and her unborn twins, lawyers for a Catholic Hospital are arguing that the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.” From the Colorado Independent:

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Virgin Mary crisps: storm in a lunchbox?

Are Virgin Mary crisps offensive or just in bad taste? Ekklesia reports on the Protect the Pope group who have taken offense. Did they make an "own goal?"

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School director memorialized on anniversary of tragedy

Dale Regan, the head of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Florida, who was killed in her office one year ago today, was remembered at a memorial service this morning. Students, faculty, family and friends gathered under the majestic old oak tree at the center of the school's campus, Florida, a spot Regan particularly loved. A fund of $300,000 has been raised in the past year to build a 12,000-square-foot wood deck around "the Great Oak" in Regan's honor, surrounded by walkways and ramps to protect the tree’s roots from foot traffic and keep it accessible.

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U.S. Cardinals cancel daily Vatican press briefings

It's tough to keep papal election proceedings secret in the information age. U.S. Cardinals have been "slapped down" for conducting daily press briefings on what's happening at the Vatican these days, according to one observer. The Washington Post reports:

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The white smoke has billowed

We have a pope, folks. Well, actually, of course, it's the Roman Catholics who have a pope. White smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel just a few moments ago, signaling election of a new pontiff. We could know the identity of the new pope within the hour. CNN reports from Rome:

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Americans, even those raised in church, losing their religion

New evidence that Americans are turning their backs on religion, and this is increasingly true of those who grew up in religious homes. From the Huffington Post:

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Pope Francis and Argentina's 'Dirty War'

What was the role of Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina's "Dirty War" of the 1970s? The Guardian reports that the new pope "has not escaped personal controversy or scrutiny:"

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Encouraging signs from the Vatican

What am I hoping for with the new pope? As someone who was baptized as a Catholic and now worships in the Episcopal Church, I'm hoping he will work to bridge the chasm between those who follow the faith of my childhood and those who adhere to other faiths and traditions. I am hoping he is all about the love of God, caring for the poor, respecting the dignity of every human being. In my lifetime, I would like to be welcomed at communion in a Catholic church, just as we welcome all baptized Christians to the Eucharist in my adopted denomination.

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Pope to wash and kiss feet of youth prisoners

Imagine being a young troublemaker sitting in an Italian jail cell on Maundy Thursday, pondering all the ways the world owes you, when the pope stops by to wash and kiss your feet. The Daily Mail reports:

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Desmond Tutu: 'God is weeping' over the plight of Syrians

Desmond Tutu today issued an impassioned plea to the international community to take action on behalf of Syria. From the Elders Blog:

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Bishop Budde on 'Face the Nation,' Bishop Beckwith on 'Morning Joe'

Those tempted to skip church on Easter Sunday (or those attending a midnight or sunrise vigil) can stay home to hear "Face the Nation," featuring Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. She will be part of a roundtable discussion on the state of religion in America. Joining her will be the Islamic Society of Boston's Imam Suhaib Webb, Rabbi David Wolpe of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, and Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church. The show will start with an interview with Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, discussing Pope Francis and challenges facing the Catholic church.

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Fr. Emil Kapaun awarded Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism

The heroic and saintly actions of Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest from rural Kansas, during the Korean War were truly remarkable. Today, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to members of his family. The Wichita Eagle reports:

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Tebow vs Collins-- a contrast in faith and reporting

The contrast in the discussion of faith in the stories of two prominant athletes in the news tells us a lot about whose faith we take seriously and whose we ignore.

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Evangelist Graham blasts administration over IRS audits of his organizations

As furor mounts about IRS scrutiny of conservative non-profit groups, evangelist Franklin Graham is raising hellfire over tax audits of two organizations he leads: the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the relief group Samaritan’s Purse. He wrote a letter this week to President Obama asserting that "someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us."

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Pope Francis: God has redeemed everyone, even atheists

Vatican Radio cites Pope Francis' words at morning Mass that everyone is called to "do good" because all are redeemed in Christ:

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Christianity and liberty

Earlier this week, the Council of European Episcopal Conference and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople met to commemorate Edict of Milan, which promoted religious tolerance of both Christians and pagans, in 313.

While some of the western churches focused on the loss of status and rights in Europe, many Eastern churches focused on living with the consequences of "the gung-ho spirit of their cross-wielding Western brethren" over the centuries.

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"Now we need each other."

While the bells at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Connecticut tolled 26 times, the work of faith communities and clergy continues to evolve six months after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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Fr. Dan's Skype interview on social media & church

Kudos to the Rev. Dan Webster for this TV interview regarding his Episcopal Cafe blog post on using social media in church. (And note that KSL-TV in Salt Lake City gave the Cafe some good exposure here too!)

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A closed church is designated a landmark

The Jersey City, NJ, council has voted to require the Diocese of Newark to seek approval before altering or demolishing a church that has been closed since 1994.

NJ.com:

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Mediator works with churches in Sanford during trial

An Episcopal Church is one of a large group of pastors and churches in Sanford, Florida, working with the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service (CRS) to monitor the Trayvon Martin investigation and the trial of George Zimmerman.

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Mixing science and religion

“Now I would love to tell you that there is no conflict between science and religion at all,” he told the gathering, “but I’m afraid there is.” said Nick Knisely, bishop of Rhode Island in the Providence Journal. He goes on to discuss his beliefs as a person of faith and a scientist:

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Suspect arrested after vandalism Monday at National Cathedral

From USA Today:

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Can corporations hold religious beliefs?

Or more precisely, can a CEO impose his or her religious convictions on every employee and, by extension, every customer of that corporation?

When Hebrew National produces kosher hot-dogs, is that an exercise of religion? When Hobby Lobby denies birth control or abortion coverage on the health insurance offered to employees is that protected religious speech?

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Religion and the pursuit of a long, long life

Among people of faith, who wants to live the longest? Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics are the most likely to say living to age 120 or more could be a good thing, according to a new Pew Research Center study. From Religion News Service:

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Pope bluntly urges church to 'find a new balance'

In an interview published today, Pope Francis says the Roman Catholic church has grown "obsessed" with gay marriage, contraception and abortion, topics he has deliberately avoided during these first months of his papacy. The New York Times reports:

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Thistle Farms featured on ABCNews

The Rev. Becca Stevens ministry, Thistle Farms in Nashville, was featured on ABCNews' final segment "America Strong":

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Female cardinals?

Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants to see greater roles for women in the Roman Catholic Church, and some argue that he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals.

This has led to a lot of speculation, even though there is absolutely no sign it would happen.

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Let's help CNN

Let's help CNN correct and improve its Episcopal Church Fast Facts.

What would you change about the timeline CNN lays out? It includes:

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Pope to bishops: How can the Church serve same-sex couples?

Pope Francis is surveying Catholic bishops around the world about how to provide pastoral care in practical ways to meet the needs of modern families, including same-sex couples. From Agence France Press, via rawstory.com:

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"Religious" prayer at public meetings

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard a case about prayer at public governmental meetings. The Greece, N.Y. case, the first major church-state dispute to go before the Supreme Court in nearly a decade, could be a vehicle to test the current justices’ views on whether practices seen as an official “endorsement” of a religion can give rise to a valid legal claim.

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Counting martyrs

Religious persecution happens all over the world and in some places in the world proclaiming the Gospel out loud can result in death, but is it really true that over 100,000 Christians are martyred every year and that over a million people have been killed for their faith in the last decade?

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Pope Francis is TIME's "Person of the Year"

The Choice: Nancy Gibbs on Why Pope Francis Is TIME's Person of the Year 2013

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Overdue repairs underway at site of Christ's birth

From AP, via ABC News:

As visitors descend upon Bethlehem this holiday season, they will notice a different look for the Church of the Nativity. Wrapped in scaffolding, the basilica located at the traditional site of Jesus' birth is undergoing a much-needed facelift after 600 years.

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Book describing white Jesus pulled from school shelves

The New York Daily News reports that a Christmas book has been pulled from school shelves in Volusia County, Fla., after a parent complained about its religious content and racially offensive overtones. "The Legend of the Candy Cane," published by Zondervan, looks like a hideous read on a number of levels, asserting that Jesus is white, for starters (this season will be remembered, we hope, as the moment we laid that notion to rest once and for all).

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"A wolf in sheep's clothing"

The Arizona legislature has passed a bill that uses the cover of "religious freedom" to allow a person to discriminate against a GLBT person in public accommodation. Episcopal Bishop Kirk Smith opposes the legislation.

WaPo:

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Wisdom from Dean of Phoenix Cathedral on anti-gay measure

Bravo to the Very Rev. Troy Mendez, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, interviewed about Arizona legislation that would protect business owners who choose to discriminate against gay people.

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Cathedral, destroyed by bombs & earthquake, reborn

From Anglican Communion News Service:

Tohoku Diocese’s Cathedral Church of Christ, in Sendai City, was destroyed twice – first in 1945 in during an air raid and, after being rebuilt, was damaged beyond repair in the 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear fallout disaster.

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Kentucky children's charity blacklisted for hiring gays

Sunrise Children’s Services, which shelters and feeds more than 2,000 abused and neglected children every year, is facing a $7 million budget shortfall caused by the Kentucky Baptist Convention in order to prevent Sunrise from hiring gay people.

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