Judge steps into priest's role, says denial of Eucharist to gay activists is "tremendous violence"
In November, three gay activists made national headlines when they were refused Communion during the Washington meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops. More precisely, they made headlines the next day, when they refused to leave the Hyatt Regency Hotel until a bishop served them the Eucharist. They were repeatedly asked to leave, then arrested by D.C. police.

As it turns out, they were gay activists, but apparently the right kind of gay activists for the Roman Catholic Church. Michael Bugarin, the priest who denied them Communion, said he thought they were members of the Rainbow Sash, an activist group that deliberately tries to be refused communion. But members of Soulforce, he said, are okay. "If they're receiving [Communion] in active opposition … of the church's teaching, I have an obligation to hold up the dignity and belief that we have in the Eucharist," Bugarin told the Detroit Free Press. "I regret that there was a misunderstanding on my part, and I regret the whole situation."

Yesterday, Judge Mildred M. Edwards convicted the three activists of unlawful entry, but declined to sentence them and apologized on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, The Washington Post reports today.

"Tremendous violence was done to you … when the Body of Christ was denied to you," she said. "As a member of your church, I ask you to forgive the church."

Sound like an absurd mixing of church and state? Consider this: "At the end of sentencing," the Post's Arthur Santana writes, "Edwards offered the activists the words priests use at the end of a Catholic Mass: 'Go in peace.'"

Want to bet that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State won't be protesting this?

Baptist church school sued for expelling student for sex
About a year ago, Calvary Christian School, run by Calvary Baptist Church in Covington, Kentucky, expelled 17-year-old Jessica Frietch and a male student for having sex in violation of the school's code of conduct. But Frietch, now 18, says the sex wasn't consensual, and she's suing the church and school for defamation and obstruction of justice.

"She felt very deeply that she had been wronged by the school," Jessica's mother, Sarah Frietch, told television station WLWT (video; WCPO has another video). "She has always said, and maintains, that this was not consensual. And for her to be expelled is completely the wrong step for this school to take." Frietch's lawyer asserts that even if the sex was consensual, the school would have had no right to punish her for what she does in her private time away from the campus.

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But the school says both it and the police investigated Frietsch's case, and both decided that no crime was committed. "We're very sorry for the young lady, that she feels wronged," Calvary Christian attorney Tom Kerr told WLWT. "But I believe as the facts come forward that the school will be vindicated."

In case you're wondering, Frietch's age alone would not legally be considered rape as Kentucky's age of consent is 16.

The Kentucky Post notes that Frietch's lawyer won a settlement from another Christian school in a similar December 2000 case.

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President Bush and the State of the Union address:

  • Religious leaders offer mixed assessment of Bush speech | The president's words on Iraq prompted a more divided reaction than his words on AIDS did (Religion News Service)

  • Bush not shy about Christ's role in his life | President Bush has many church-state separatists in a twist over the overtly religious language he peppered throughout his State of the Union address this week (Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Next stop: War | The State of the Union highlighted President Bush's religious convictions—and made war in Iraq a near certainty. (Terry Eastland, The Weekly Standard Online)

  • Amazing grace and amazing faith | Let us pray that Congress comes to accept the fact that faith, indeed, is a key to recovery (Deborah Simmons, The Washington Times)

Politics and law:

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  • Bill requires schools offer time for prayer | State Rep. Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville, announced Tuesday he has joint-authored House Bill 167 that, if passed, will require Texas school districts provide one minute of silent observance to all students (Jacksonville (Tex.) Daily Progress)

High school drops "love of God":

Africa relief:

  • Doing it right | How that new African AIDS money should be spent (Rod Dreher, National Review Online)

  • Hunger: Churches make appeal | The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has appealed to world leaders to take urgent action to address the food crisis sweeping across Africa (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

Crime and investigations:

  • Dept. of Justice probes professor's policy | The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into a complaint filed against a Texas Tech professor who stands accused of religious-based discrimination against students seeking letters of recommendation (University Daily, Texas Tech)

  • FBI raids evangelist's North Georgia home | Abraham Kennard is accused of operating a multi-million-dollar scam (WTVC, Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Sexual ethics:

Church life:

  • Don't blame Jesus | It should surprise nobody that a minister might invoke Jesus's name, given that Jesus plays a central role in Christianity's conception of God. The problem, rather, is official prayer, and the implausible notion that it can ever be truly ecumenical (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Mass defection | As congregations shrink and followers ignore official teachings, Australia's Catholic Church continues to resist reform (The Sydney Morning Herald)
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Clergy sex abuse:

Culture and entertainment:

Interfaith and other religions:

  • Can Christians and Jews work together for Israel? | The ongoing Mideast conflict has created an awkward partnership for American Jewish groups, which are finding some of the staunchest pro-Israel support in this nation comes from a vocal group of evangelical Christians (Associated Press)
  • A denomination for everyone | Americans are proud of their freedom of religion, and the work of J. Gordon Melton shows they have a whole lot of religions to choose from (Associated Press)

  • Beware New Age, Vatican tells flock | The Vatican is to urge Catholics to resist experimenting in cranky "alternative" lifestyles, in an attempt to prevent its flock being led astray by the growing popularity of New Age spiritualism (The Guardian, London)

Other stories of interest:

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