Roy Moore's Ten Commandments battle gets personal and ugly
Regular Weblog and Christianity Today readers will be familiar with the case of Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is probably best known for his postings of the Ten Commandments around his workplaces, and one display — a 5,300-pound granite version in the Judicial Building — is the subject of a trial in U.S. District Court.

Moore's lawyers are understandably upset about a letter by the justice's opponents that they mistakenly received. "You might remember that, from the start, I was laying our trial theme, i.e., how this was the act of a lone religious nut in partnership with a fanatical church," Morris Dees, a lawyer challenging the monument, wrote to Ayesha Khan, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "This is the story that will make this case so dirty that no appeals court will reverse [the district court judge] to make new law."

Moore's lawyers first filed the letter with the court in opposing Dees's motion to order removal the monument without a trial. The letter, Moore's lawyers say, shows the plaintiffs are playing "hard, loose and dirty with the facts in this case to fit their contrived theme."

Now Moore's lawyers are going further, using the letter in their own motion to have the district court judge removed from the case. They say the letter suggests that Dees knows how Judge Myron Thompson is going to rule.

"I am convinced that Judge Thompson has a pervasive and personal bias and prejudice against me in favor of plaintiffs, that Judge Thompson's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, and that there exists an appearance of impropriety in these cases warranting Judge Thompson's recusal," Moore wrote in a statement filed with the motion.

And the trial doesn't even start for another two weeks. This could get ugly.

Meanwhile, Thompson went to the Judicial Building Tuesday to look at the monument. Asked if he had any comment, he replied, "Nope, definitely not."

Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act fails mightily in House
As Weblog noted earlier this week, a bill allowing churches to endorse and oppose candidates and to donate to political campaigns needed a two-thirds majority vote to go to the Senate (where it was doomed to failure). It couldn't even muster half. The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act was voted down by a 178-239 vote, with 10 Democrats voting for the bill and 46 Republicans voting against it. An initial vote happened at 11:15 or so Tuesday night, but a tally wasn't taken until Wednesday. (A sidenote for vote counters: Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) initially voted for the bill, then changed their votes. George Gekas (R-Penn.) voted against it but later said he meant to vote for it.)

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Debate late Tuesday night was vigorous. "Americans who believe in God ought not to have their freedom of speech muzzled in the name of the law," said J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).

"This bill is an assault on the Constitution's fundamental separation between church and state. It was crafted with the single purpose of giving right-wing religious groups — like the Christian Coalition —a special advantage in the political process," said Pete Stark (D-Calif.). "Supporters of H.R. 2357 have cloaked the real intent of the bill in the blatant falsehood that religious leaders cannot speak on moral and political issues. This right is freely exercised and clearly protected by the Constitution."

Despite the defeat, the bill's chief sponsor, Walter Jones, (R-N.C.), says he'll try again. "Today we took a very important step toward bringing freedom of speech back to our pulpits," he told the Associated Press. "From the first day of the 108th Congress, I will continue this fight because I believe this battle can be won and will be won. Congress must return First Amendment rights to our houses of worship."

If you were really hoping the bill would pass, you can take heart in other news: the Federal Election Commission just changed campaign finance rules, giving big exemptions to religious and charitable groups.

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Life ethics:


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  • Catholic students 'unchristian' | Catholic students are leaving school with unchristian values, reflecting the growing trend of Australians to preach tolerance but not practice it, says a former chief justice of Australia's High Court (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Anglican schism:

  • Rift within Church of England over gays deepens | The Church of England Evangelical Council and the Anglican Evangelical Assembly backed the move by the conservative evangelical network Reform to urge Dr Williams to renounce his liberal views or resign (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Reform group challenges sexual freedoms | The Anglican organization demanding the resignation of the future Archbishop of Canterbury is the most influential evangelical lobby within the Church of England (The Times, London)

  • Archbishop fails to condemn unmarried sex | Although his comments were made in the context of the debate about homosexuality — on which his views are known — his failure to condemn adultery and pre-marital sex will dismay evangelicals and traditionalists (The Times, London)

  • Church rift over homosexuality set to resurface | Archbishop Rowan Williams's candid refusal to affirm the Church of England's traditional teaching against sex outside marriage will arouse new fears of a schism over homosexuality (The Times, London)

  • Archbishop-in-waiting rejects resignation call (The Guardian, London)

Pop culture:

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  • Stop the holy showboating | Listen up, jocks: God doesn't care if you score a touchdown. So do your praying in private, not in the end zone (Dan McGraw,

  • In league, God takes sides | New Zealand's Rugby League team, the Warriors, is dominated by Christians (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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