Don't mail Christian materials to soldiers, says U.S.
The post office in Lenoir, North Carolina, told Jack Moody that he couldn't mail Christian comic books and a book of Bible verses to his son, who is stationed as an Army National Guardsman in the Middle East. U.S. rules prohibit mailing  "any matter containing religious materials contrary to Islamic faith," a postal clerk explained.

This morning, the Rutherford Institute, a civil and religious liberties organization, is suing the U.S. Postmaster General over the rule.

"At a time when members of our armed forces are risking their lives as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it is inconceivable that their own freedoms and those of their parents would be curtailed by the U.S. government in an effort to impose political correctness on our armed forces," said Rutherford head John W. Whitehead in a press release. "The U.S. Constitution does not bow to the religious intolerance of other nations."

No, says Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders, but there's no use in mailing items if they'll be confiscated by customs agents. "That's reality. Anything going to another country has to go through Customs," he told The Charlotte Observer.

"The local post office should have let Moody ship the books," officials told the Observer. "The restriction doesn't apply to religious materials sent to individuals overseas, the wording of the regulation has caused confusion, and the MPSA is reviewing the regulation to try to clarify it."

But the Postal Service agrees that the rule, adopted around the time of the last Gulf War, is too vague. "Any matter containing religious materials contrary to Islamic faith or depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or nonauthorized political materials is prohibited," it says. But what are "materials contrary to Islamic faith?"

"If nothing else out of this, we need clarification, obviously," postal spokesman Bill Brown told the Observer. "We will make sure we do get it clarified. We just want to do the right thing by our troops over there."

To continue tracking this story, keep an eye on the Rutherford Institute's press releases, and the USPS's "Setting the Record Straight."

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Church and state:

  • Pastors' trip questioned | Watchdog group says it objects to church training on base (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

  • Also: Church event set for base stirs concern | An invitation to predominantly Southern Baptist pastors to participate in a military-themed motivational program for Christian evangelists offends some. (The New York Times)

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First Amendment:

Politics and law:

  • Christians must fight plans to make poor poorer | In light of the Ohio General Assembly's intentions for addressing the state's budget crisis, the least of our brothers and sisters are in dire need of the faith community to rise to meet this expectation (Rich Aronson, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  • Muslims protest Bush nominee | Groups say peace institute choice Daniel Pipes sends 'wrong message' (The Washington Post)

  • An unholy alliance with the Christian right | With Christian friends like these close to the president's ear, the right-wing government in Israel does not need Jewish friends to rebuff political initiatives like the road map to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the territories (Akiva Eldar, Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv)

  • Business, Christian groups pose dilemma for DeLay | The second ranking Republican in the House's newer allegiance to business lobbyists has led to a rupture with old friends in the evangelical Christian community, allies who had a major impact on DeLay's career when few on K Street even knew his name (The Hill, D.C.)


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Money and business:



Faith and spirituality:

  • Where is religion's spirituality? | The crux of the difference between religion and spirituality is this: While each religion subscribes to a unique body of beliefs, spiritual experience is the same for all people in all religions at all times (Mary Ford-Grabowsky, Newsday)

  • Gossip: How telling tales affects us down to the soul | Often, exchange of information can take an ugly turn to a much darker side (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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  • Resurrecting the church | The church, it is said, is only ever one generation from extinction - a precarious state in which it has notched up nearly two millennia. But many today consider its position as dire as almost any time in its existence (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • You don't need to believe in God to learn from religion | The common messages of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are too valuable to be ignored (Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, London)

Clergy sex abuse:

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