Maine: the next voucher battleground
Since Lionel and Jill Guay's town of Minot, Maine, has no high school, the state offers to send their 15-year-old daughter to other local schools. As with about 17,000 other Maine students from small towns, the state will even pay for her to attend a private school.

Just so long as it's not a religious school.

The Guays want to send their daughter to a Roman Catholic school, but Maine has a 1981 law prohibiting the vouchers from going to religious schools. So now the Guays and five other local families are filing suit.

It's all been to court before, and in 1997 the state's Supreme Judicial Court upheld the law, saying the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of vouchers for religious schools.

The court won't be able to make that claim this time around. The Supreme Court unequivocally ruled in June that religious schools should not be discriminated against in voucher programs.

Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe says the June decision isn't similar enough to the Maine situation to make it an open-and-shut case. Assistant Attorney General Sarah Forster puts it another way: the Supreme Court ruled that states can pay for religious schools. "But the question quickly becomes: Must they?" she tells the Sun Journal of Lewiston.

The answer is yes, based not on the June case but in many other cases since 1997 ("Nothing in the Establishment Clause requires the exclusion of pervasively sectarian schools from otherwise permissible aid programs," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in a 2000 case. Clear enough?) Still, Weblog is sure it'll take a while for this to be resolved.

Religious mutual funds up 21 percent over last three years
MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, a Mennonite company, commissioned a study that shows assets in religious mutual funds rising 21 percent in the three years ending March 31, 2002—by the end, they were worth at least $4.42 billion. Assets in mutual funds of all types only rose 11 percent over that time.

With such growth and apparent increasing demand, it's little wonder that the number of religious funds to invest in is growing as well—up 121 percent from from 1999 to the end of 2001. Still, that $4.42 billion may seem like a lot, but as Reuters notes, it's only 0.1 percent of the total mutual fund industry.

CBS Marketwatch, however, says all isn't rosy:

So far this year, faith-based funds have had a hard time keeping up with the rest of the mutual fund universe. The group was down more than 13 percent until the end of August, compared to a 10 percent decline by the average mutual fund, according to Thomson Financial.

Article continues below

Over the period of the MMA Praxis study, which covers the three years ending in March 2002, religiously managed funds performed well, losing just half of 1 percent annually as opposed to a decline of 5.9 percent by the average mutual fund. In the longer term, the faith-based groups underperformed, averaging gains of 5.7 percent a year over the past five years compared to returns of 9.2 percent for the total mutual fund universe.

A separate Reuters story also suggests that MMA Praxis itself has had to respond to problems. The news service reports that investors with MMA Praxis assets below the $2,000 mark (about 40% of its investors) will be charged an annual fee of $14. "Most boards probably would have passed this without a lot of discussion," MMA Praxis President John Liechty told the paper. "But given the fact of who we are, there was some lively discussion among some of our trustees about whether this was the right thing to do."

Dobson responds to Bishara Awad
When Bethlehem Bible College President Bishara Awad issued an open letter to James Dobson, calling him "an instrument of hate and division" for his characterization of Palestinians and of Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, Weblog promised to link to Dobson's response. We've done better than that. Since Dobson's open letter won't appear on the Focus on the Family site, and Weblog can't find it anywhere else, we're running the full text, along with Awad's letter and the press release that started it all. There's clearly disagreement between the two men about what their disagreement is all about.

More articles

Church and state:

Politics and law:

Article continues below
  • House should reject bill on church politics | Imagine going to church and finding a politician's campaign banner displayed above the pulpit. It could happen if a bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law. (Florida Today, Melbourne)

  • Religious noise a city issue | The council is now engaged in a debate over how to balance the freedoms of assembly and religion with preserving peace and quiet in the community (The Times-Journal, Fort Payne, Ala.)

  • Dole's trail runs through pulpits | More than any North Carolina candidate in recent memory—more than even U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms—Elizabeth Dole, a Methodist, routinely weaves religious themes into stump speeches in her campaign to succeed Helms (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Politics threaten academic freedom | The University of Maryland's decision to assign freshmen to read a play on the killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard comes on the heels of a successful resolution of a similar controversy at the University of North Carolina (Richard T. Ingram, The Baltimore Sun)

  • Baptist Foundation indictments thrown out | Superior Court Judge Frank Galati ruled that some evidence presented by the state Attorney General's Office in obtaining a grand jury indictment was improper and prejudicial (The Arizona Republic)

  • Pork at the pulpit | Some Republicans are leading church groups to think they can win a chunk of federal money under the Bush "faith-based" initiative if their flock of believers votes for GOP candidates come November. (Editorial, The Christian Science Monitor)

  • Malaysia recognized as an Islamic state, says PM | But it's not in the Constitution (The Star, Malaysia)

  • Church ought to have a pass on domestic partner ordinance | A religious institution is not a business, and while that may be obvious to most people, it is not recognized by Portland's new domestic partner ordinance (Editorial, Portland [Maine] Press-Herald)

  • Undertaker given parking ticket for parking hearse outside church | "I don't think you can expect us to drive the hearse to a car park and than carry the coffin all the way on foot," driver says. (Ananova)

  • Judge rules against vegan suit | Practitioners may not claim religious discrimination (San Francisco Chronicle)

Michael McConnell:

  • Well qualified for the bench | To reject someone who has written thoughtfully and constructively on a range of subjects would send a message to academics everywhere to avoid creative inquiry (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Bush judicial nominee may survive Senate panel vote | McConnell told a Senate committee Wednesday that his personal opinions on abortion would not cloud his judgment on the law (Fox News)

Article continues below

Life ethics:

  • Mystics coach was cited in pregnancy suit | While head coach at the University of California at Berkeley, Marianne Stanley, now the head coach of the Washington Mystics, gave an assistant coach a choice between having an abortion or quitting, and then left the pregnant woman at a hotel during a Midwest recruiting trip. (The Washington Post)

  • Embryos' fate leaves lives hanging in balance | Donations fuel stem cell debate (Chicago Tribune)

  • Stem cell backing | Laws to allow stem cell research have passed their first crucial test with Parliament's Lower House emphatically in favor (, Australia)

  • Man of steel | In 1995, after the accident which left him paralysed, Christopher Reeve said he wanted to be on his feet by his 50th birthday. That's next week, and although he has made amazing progress, he won't be standing - and for that, he says, George Bush and the Catholic Church must share the blame (The Guardian, London)

  • Also: Paralysed Reeve blames Bush and Catholic church for his plight | Reeve blames Bush and Catholic church for plight (The Guardian, London)

  • Superman star blasts Church on cells stance (Evening News, Scotland)

  • Lesbian fertility clinic set to open | Europe's clinic dedicated to lesbians and single women opens in London but lacks a license to carry out treatments. (BBC)

  • Also: Lesbian baby clinic opens (The Guardian, London)

  • Cloning business closes down | The company that created Dolly the sheep is shutting down part of its cloning business to focus on more profitable markets. (BBC)

  • Archbishop calls for more debate on euthanasia | The head of the Anglican Church in Australia believes the community is generally supportive of euthanasia (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

  • Court upholds S.C. abortion law | A South Carolina law allowing state inspectors access to all abortion clinic records does not violate patients' privacy rights, a divided federal appeals court ruled (Associated Press)


Article continues below



Other religions:

Article continues below

Church life:

  • Church ministers 'under stress' | In a poll of almost 600 ministers the Church of Scotland, 43% felt their health had been affected by stress and a further 28% said their marriage had been adversely affected by their work (BBC)

  • Article: Gays Should Not Be Priests | If a man is gay, "then he should not be admitted to holy orders, and his presence in the seminary would not only give him false hope but it may, in fact, hinder" the therapy he needs, Monsignor Andrew Baker of the Congregation of Bishops wrote in an article to be published by America (Associated Press)

  • Chaplaincy crisis | Budget makes deep cuts in prison corps; churches expected to fill in (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

Denominational rifts:

  • A local Episcopal dispute reflects global friction | Two days after 125 priests gave him a standing ovation at the Episcopal cathedral, embattled Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison was interrupted repeatedly and shouted at Thursday by the congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Superiors back defiant priest | The Archbishop of Canterbury has committed the unprecedented action of siding with a priest against a bishop wishing to depose him. (The Washington Times)

  • Divided by a question of salvation | A Pentecostal bishop defies church tradition by saying that all are saved (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Gay issue threatens to fragment Anglicans | So says international commission comprised of 12 of the church's most senior prelates (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

Prayer and spirituality:

  • Room for God | Given the busyness of daily life, it can take creativity to find time to pray (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

Article continues below
  • Detour | Villagers in Bena will tell you they are Christians, but their faith seems a thin veneer over more ancient rites and beliefs (Time Asia)

  • Families lose loved ones, hope | Honduran village mourns victims of Maine crash, faces starvation. (The Boston Globe)

  • Pastors using litmus test ignore human qualities | I am politely scorned as marriage and family therapist for not having the correct religious beliefs (Tim Schnabel, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


  • Forgiveness can be more powerful than vengeance | We can either hang on to the pain and anger and allow it to manifest itself in deep-seated bitterness, or we can become the architects of our own emotional and psychological recovery by beginning the process of forgiveness. (Joel Edwards, The Times, London)

  • Repentance comes first | Forgiveness must be earned (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)

George Barna:

Family and marriage:

  • Marriage covenant gets clergy support | More than 200 North Florida clergy members pledged yesterday to require premarital counseling for couples who want to be married in their churches (The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)

  • Family Research Council releases 'full picture' on American family | Research and poll data on marriage, adoption, child care, unwed parenthood, cohabitation, divorce, single-parent families, stepfamilies and teen family issues, can provide a "full picture" of Americans' views and behavior (The Washington Times)

Interfaith relations:

Article continues below


Violence and persecution:


Article continues below
  • Judge: Alleged shooter must see docs | Peter Troy, accused of killing priest and parishioner, doesn't want to. (Newsday)

  • Two pastors at dagger's drawn | Assemblies of God church revolted against their head pastor, switched off electricity supply to the chapel, and locked a few of the faithful up with him in it (Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra)

  • 2 plead not guilty in fire rite | A Brooklyn pastor and his wife pleaded not guilty yesterday to assault for allegedly conducting a bizarre ritual that called for slicing up the feet of a Queens woman and setting them on fire (New York Daily News)

  • Pastor describes being knocked off bike at trial | David Tinney, head pastor at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church, said he still experiences severe pain about two or three times a day from his injuries (The Seattle Times)

  • Man indicted for Anthrax hoax | A man who once claimed to be on a mission from God to kill abortion providers was indicted Thursday on charges he mailed anthrax hoax letters to women's clinics around the country last fall (Associated Press)

Retired Anglican Archbishop Dr. David Gitari:

  • Moi attacks clergyman over Uhuru remark | President says recently retired Anglican Archbishop Dr. David Gitari may be trying to kill cabinet minister (Kenya Broadcasting Corp.)

  • Chaos as students protest at shooting | Former Anglican Archbishop David Gitari was beaten by the students and his jacket stolen (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Gitari's Statement | Retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari did not make statements implying that President Moi's preferred successor Uhuru Kenyatta may not live to see the presidency, the Nation has established (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)

Pop culture:

Article continues below
  • Christians rock Top 30 | Two albums by Christian singers Bill and Gloria Gaither were the week's only top 30 debuts as major diskeries shied from releasing albums during the week of Sept. 11 remembrances (Variety)

  • On the eighth day, a sitcom | A new multicultural TV show, set in a storefront Toronto church, is intent on becoming Canada's first religious situation comedy (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)


Missions and ministry:

Article continues below

Sex-abuse scandals:


  • "Weeping" Madonna still draws crowds | Thousands of people have visited since owner made public more than a week ago that it had begun weeping oily tears (, Australia)

  • Drought hits Colo. shrine's spring | Mother Cabrini shrine's main spring—considered holy by the faithful, who believe its water can heal—is being supplemented with city water brought in by truck (Associated Press)

Other stories of interest:

Article continues below
  • Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves | Conservative Brazilian cleric whose papal aspirations were undermined by his careerist reputation. (The Guardian, London)

  • Interview With James Dobson | On Muslims, theodicy, judicial nominees, and other subjects (Larry King Live, CNN)

  • Bilked believers forgiving of Jim Bakker | Branson business leaders, church groups support fallen televangelist (Springfield [Mo.] News-Leader)

  • Deliver us from evil | Calling terrorists "evil" requires no courage and justifies no self-congratulatory puffing. It's just not a problem. But it's also not a solution. (Michael Kinsley,

  • Armageddon ahead, please fasten your Bible Belt | There's bad news on the end of the world front. The Rapture Index, which measures end-time activities, has soared to dangerous levels and Bible-Belt America is readying itself for the last trump (Richard Morrison, The Times, London)

Related Elsewhere

What is Weblog?

See our past Weblog updates:

September 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
September 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9
September 6 | 5 | 4 | 3
August 30 | 29 | 28 | 27 | 26
August 23 | 22 | 21 | 20 | 19
August 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12
August 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5
August 2 | 1 | July 31 | 30 | 29
July 26 | 25 | 24 | 23 | 22