Backlash to New York City Council's health benefits demand
Three weeks ago, the New York City Council overwhelmingly passed the Equal Benefits Bill (full text | press release PDF | video-hi | video-lo | audio), which requires all organizations contracting with the city to provide the same benefits to employees' "domestic partners" as they do to employees' spouses.

There's just one problem: one of the city's largest aid organizations believes that there are important differences between heterosexual, married spouses and unmarried and gay couples. The New York Post reports that the Salvation Army won't follow the new law, and may reject millions of dollars it receives each year from the city. Such a massive funding cut would of course lead to widespread program cuts—so much so that the paper characterizes it as "leaving town."

"The Army will not change its policy," an unnamed official told Post reporter Brad Hamilton. "You cannot change theological views. Those are so deeply embedded, they form the root of the faith itself."

But the bill's chief sponsor says the Army is mistaken. The law doesn't require that the church support homosexual and unmarried sex, she says, only that it provide benefits to "any family member" of an employee.

"I think the bill makes a very fair accommodation for religious organizations," Christine Quinn told the Post. "I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the Salvation Army and explain how this would work, that they could keep their contracts, abide by the law, and not violate their core religious beliefs."

There's clearly some disagreement on the nature of the bill, so here's what it says:

"Domestic partners" means persons who have registered with the city clerk as domestic partners, or who are the members of a domestic partnership or other civil union recognized by another jurisdiction, or who have registered as domestic partners with a contractor pursuant to subdivision m of this section. … No contracting agency shall … discriminate … between employees with domestic partners and employees with spouses and/or between domestic partners and spouses of such employees.

Quinn is right that the bill doesn't say anything about homosexual relationships. But it doesn't say "any family member" either. Several evangelical leaders have actually supported domestic partnership benefit programs just like this, but for now that seems beside the point—other evangelicals might approve, but the Salvation Army apparently doesn't. And forcing them to approve is extremism, says National Review Managing Editor Jay Nordlinger. "The air space in American life seems to be tightening. Won't our new diversity tolerate the Salvation Army? Is it, too, to be labeled a 'hate' group?"

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Religious freedom:


  • Some 56 killed in W.Sudan militia raid, say witnesses | Arab militiamen killed at least 56 people in a raid in western Sudan, just days after the government declared the region stable (Reuters)

  • Oxfam: Sudan faces humanitarian disaster | The suffering people of war-ravaged western Sudan need the help of their government and the international community if a humanitarian disaster is to be averted, the aid agency Oxfam said Monday (Associated Press)

  • Sudan, rebels expected to sign agreement | The Sudanese government has reached an agreement with rebels on issues that have stalled talks to end the 21-year-old war, clearing the way for a comprehensive peace deal, officials said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • March to spotlight Sudan | Protest in Washington organized by Virginia Episcopal diocese (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.)

God in the EU:

  • France rejects God reference in EU draft | France said Monday it could not accept references to God and Christianity in a European Union constitution (Associated Press)

  • Christianity bedevils talks on EU treaty | The controversial question of Christianity returned to the EU yesterday when seven states, led by Italy, urged the union to recognise a "historical truth" and refer explicitly to the "Christian roots of Europe" in its new constitution (The Guardian, London)

  • Holy row may delay EU constitution deal | The European Union yesterday split over calls for a reference God or Christianity in the draft constitution, casting a cloud over fresh optimism that an overall deal will be struck next month (The Independent, London)

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Zimbabwe president calls Tutu 'evil':

  • Mugabe says Tutu is evil | Archbishop Tutu once said that the Zimbabwean President resembled a caricature of an African dictator (BBC)

  • Profile: Archbishop Desmond Tutu | Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe may have just described him as "evil", but Archbishop Desmond Tutu remains a much loved figure across the world - principally for his role in South Africa's struggle against apartheid (BBC)

Church & state:

  • Calif. lawmakers stage 'domestic revolt' | State lawmakers staged a "domestic revolt" Monday, some donning kitchen aprons and scarlet "M's" to protest a pastor who characterized female legislators with young children at home as sinners (Associated Press)

  • County seal has a cross the ACLU can't bear | At issue is the seal designed by the late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn that contains a tiny cross symbolic of the Catholic missions that are so much a part of the county's history (Los Angeles Times)

  • Commandments case dominates Ala. primary | Bounced from office and not listed on any ballots, Alabama's "Ten Commandments judge" could nonetheless be a major player in the state's primary June 1 (Associated Press)

Religion & politics:

Catholic church & politics:

  • Hustings and pulpits | Attempts by the clergy to make political leaders toe a doctrinal line in their public duties raises multiple risks (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • Archbishop denies rebuking McGreevey | Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said on Friday that he was "deeply disappointed" that his recent criticism of Roman Catholic elected officials who supported abortion rights had been interpreted by some New Jerseyans as a political slap at Gov. James E. McGreevey (The New York Times)

  • Local state senator leaves Catholic church | Communion is a personal act of faith and not a political statement, says Kenny (Union City Reporter, N.J.)

  • Politically troubled McGreevey faces new headaches | New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey has clashed with his own church over abortion rights and other social issues like stem cell research (Associated Press)

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  • The altar is not a battlefield | Essentially, proponents of denying Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians make the flawed and intellectually dishonest argument that a vote not to criminalize abortion is the moral and church law equivalent of the act of abortion itself (Victoria Reggie Kennedy, The Washington Post)

  • Bishops won't deny politicians Communion | Breaking with some colleagues, two Arizona bishops say they won't deny Communion to Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion rights (Associated Press)

  • Bishops put strain on US church-state divide | The church-state wall's would-be wrecking crew this time comes from the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church (Niall Stanage, The Sunday Business Post, Ireland)

  • Denver Catholics awaiting edict | Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput is likely to issue his opinion today on whether Catholics who vote for politicians who break from politically charged church teachings can receive Communion (Editorial, The Denver Post)

  • Religion, politics don't mix | Political confrontation has no place at the communion rail (Editorial, Lewiston Sun Journal, Me.)


Closing Catholic churches:

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Gay marriage:

  • A bold stroke | When Margaret Marshall was a corporate lawyer, her actions were colored by caution. But in her opinion ordering Massachusetts to allow gay marriages, the chief justice of the state's supreme court has shunned politics and stood on principle. Will she be remembered as the judge who jeopardized her court for a cause? (Legal Affairs)

  • The (gay) marriage penalty | The bad news for newlywed Massachusetts gays and lesbians is that, under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government won't recognize their marriages. (Virginia Postrel, The Boston Globe)

  • Going Dutch? | Lessons of the same-sex marriage debate in the Netherlands (Stanley Kurtz, The Weekly Standard)

  • Romney is booed at Suffolk commencement | Governor's opposition to gay marriage spurs criticism and protest (The Boston Globe)

  • In suburbs, gay marriage filings grow | Many are noting support in their communities (The Boston Globe)

  • She sings of the 'heroes and sheroes' | As gays wed, she joins the chorus (The Boston Globe)

  • Pope says marriage is between heterosexuals | "Family life is sanctified in the joining of man and woman in the sacramental institution of holy matrimony," he said in an address to visiting American bishops (Reuters)

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  • Minister boycotts marriage licenses until gays can wed | Unitarian minister Tess Baumberger says she won't sign any licenses until she can sign them all (Associated Press)

  • California high court eyes mayor in gay marriage case | Supreme Court holds hearing this week on whether the mayor of San Francisco abused his powers by issuing 4,000 marriage licenses to gay couples will not address whether the unions are legal (Associated Press)

  • Gay marriage a quandary for Romney | For three days after the legalization of gay marriage on Monday, the governor remained in seclusion, quietly avoiding the international media that descended on the state (Associated Press)

  • Judge: Mo. doesn't have to set ban vote | A judge ruled Friday that Missouri's secretary of state does not have to set a vote on a constitutional gay marriage ban for August — a victory for Republicans hoping for a November date (Associated Press)

  • Bush and Kerry both lag on civil rights for gays | Politicians and government are lagging indicators in civil rights, not leading ones (Thomas Oliphant, The Boston Globe)

  • Gay marriage battle moves to new venue | State's top court will hear oral arguments on the issue Tuesday (The Sacramento Bee)

  • Dictionaries take lead in redefining modern marriage | Now that Massachusetts has legalized same-sex "marriage," will major dictionaries expand their definitions of the word "marriage" itself? The answer is simple: They already have (The Washington Times)

  • The gay divorcee is on the way | The same-sex "marriage" movement is about to give new meaning to "gay divorcee" (Associated Press)

  • When children are involved | Are children raised by same-sex parents worse off than other children? (Mona Charen, The Washington Times)

  • Surviving gay marriage | A free society such as the United States, where the vast majority of the people believe in Judeo-Christian values, can tolerate no government restrictions on non-violent, private sexual activity between consenting adults, but cannot allow public sanction and endorsement of homosexual behavior as a cultural norm (Samuel Silver, UPI)

  • Time to end straight monopoly on marriage | I fail to see how one group's attitude toward an institution has any bearing on the way others view that same institution (Gerard DeGroot, Scotland on Sunday)

  • The women's marriage march | Majority of same-sex couples who took vows are female (The Washington Post)

Homosexuality & religion:

  • A thorny issue begets much reading | No issue is currently more inflamed and divisive among Christian churches and denominations than homosexuality. In 1995, a group of distinguished British theologians tried to begin a serious theological discussion that might escape these polemical fevers (The New York Times)

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  • Conservative Episcopalians protest 'wedding' | The ceremony involving two lesbians is so controversial among the members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Leonardtown, Maryland, that it was moved out of the sanctuary and into the parish hall. The church's pastor, the Rev. Paula Halliday, decided to not participate (The Washington Times)

  • Here comes Charlie Brown | The author, a former head of the Dominican Order, recently welcomed Charlie Brown, who is gay, into the Catholic Church (Timothy Radcliffe, The Guardian, London)

  • Ministers and congregations accused of failing homosexuals | Steve Mallon, the author of Sexuality and Salvation, argues that gay men and women are often not accepted by either ministers or congregations (The Scotsman)

Sexual ethics:

  • CDC cuts funds to AIDS organization | A San Francisco AIDS organization criticized for sponsoring "obscene" sex workshops has lost federal funding (The Washington Times)

  • Unmarried woman wins share of former partner's home | The ruling could benefit thousands of other unmarried couples who under the current law have no special rights to each other's property when a relationship breaks down (The Independent, London)

  • Pupils to learn how to say 'no' to sex | Schoolchildren are to be told to avoid sexual intercourse until they are older in a radical change in sex education policy (The Sunday Times, London, sub. req'd.)

UN sex abuse in the Congo:

  • Sex and death in the heart of Africa | Hungry, frightened and helpless, young women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are selling their bodies in exchange for food and shelter. And the men expecting such 'payment' are the UN peacekeepers responsible for protecting them (The Independent, London)

  • UN troops buy sex from teenage refugees in Congo camp | Teenage rape victims fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being sexually exploited by the United Nations peace-keeping troops sent to the stop their suffering (The Independent, London)

  • Earlier: UN probes reports of sexual abuse by Congo staff (Reuters, May 10)

  • DRC: UN mission probes sex abuse claims | The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has launched "a comprehensive investigation" into reported instances of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of civilians, including minors, by its personnel in the northeastern town of Bunia, Ituri District, UN News reported on Friday (IRIN, UN, May 10)

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  • Alleged abuse victims weigh settlement offer from diocese | The Springfield diocese has offered $7 million to settle lawsuits from 46 alleged Roman Catholic clergy abuse victims (Associated Press)

  • Child sex investigations haunt Wash. town | It's been a decade since this placid town surrounded by scenic peaks and apple orchards first came to be haunted by whispers of a pastor and his flock taking children to the church basement and forcing them to take part in sex orgies (Associated Press)

  • Lawyers ready claims of more clergy abuse | Meeting planned on legal actions (The Boston Globe)

  • More claims seen in Boston sex abuse cases | An attorney who represented dozens of people who claimed they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests says there are at least several dozen more with similar claims against the Boston Archdiocese (Associated Press)

  • Parishioners back accused pastor | Parishioners of St. Benedict Church in Somerville are rallying to defend the Rev. John E. McLaughlin, who last week agreed to accept a voluntary administrative leave pending the investigation of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor in the 1980s (The Boston Globe)

  • Funds solicited for beleaguered priests | A letter sent out to raise funds to help three of the former priests accused of sexual abuse in Amarillo has some people in the diocese upset (The Amarillo Globe-News, Tex.)

  • Priest abuse probe unresolved | Quinn continues work as priest in Manlius (The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.)


  • Sins of the fathers | Karen Liebreich invites us to draw comparisons across the centuries with her account of paedophile priests in 17th-century Italy, Fallen Order (The Guardian, London)

  • Among the believers | Is a book about reading a book really a book or a joke? (The Washington Post)

  • Code words | Making people think, theologically or otherwise, is a fine thing. Thank you, Dan Brown -- and all your careful, curious readers (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  • Secular illusions | The right way to rescue America from religious correctness (Richard Wightman Fox, Slate)

  • Chronicle of an enduring enmity | Andrew Wheatcroft's Infidels charts centuries of confrontation and hatred between Christendom and Islam (The Guardian, London)

TV, film, & music:

  • Bringin' down the house | Colonial House's Baptist preacher fights swearing, idleness, and floozying on reality TV—and points up a few things about nation building along the way (The American Prospect)

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Pop religion:

  • Pop culture gets religion | T-shirts with Christian tone emerge as latest fashion trend, but some retailers prefer to stick to the secular (The Wall Street Journal)

  • Archbishop attacks 'Pop Idol worship' | The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, launched a fierce assault on his own Church yesterday, accusing it of abandoning the mysterious for the banal and indulging in ineffective debate (The Telegraph, London)

Related Elsewhere:

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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