Today's Top Five

1. Among latest illegal immigrants: Iraqi Christians
Saturday, as immigration advocates around the country prepared for Monday's rallies, U.S. Border Patrol agents near Brownsville, Texas, arrested three men who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. But these aren't Mexicans: They are Iraqis. What's more, they are Chaldean Christians, who told the immigration officials that they're seeking religious asylum after death threats were made against them.

"The first words out of their mouth were, 'Iraqi Christian, Iraqi Christian, Iraqi Christian,'" their lawyer, Humberto Yzaguirre, told The Brownsville Herald. "They said Baghdad was a mess. … They told me that they have seen some of the terrorists kill Christians within their sight." One of the men owned a liquor store, which was burned down by Iraqi Muslims.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in October reported that such religious asylum seekers from Iraq "may not be receiving the protection to which they are entitled under the Refugee Convention." Assistant Secretary of State Richard Greene responded to the commission, saying that the government would work with the UN refugee agency "to ensure that vulnerable Iraqis receive appropriate protection and assistance until durable solutions can be found."

The Iraqis, who pled guilty to illegal entry, will be sentenced on Friday.

2. Appeals court backs ban on social worker's evangelism
Daniel Berry, an employee at the Tehama County (Calif.) Department of Social Services, kept a Spanish Bible on his desk and, in December 2001, put a "Happy Birthday, Jesus" sign in his cubicle. Not acceptable, said his employers. Citing a 1997 memo, they told him, "the Bible and other religious non-verbal communications cannot be visible to your clients." The department also denied his request to use a conference room for voluntary prayer group meetings. Such actions, said the department, would violate the First Amendment's prohibition on government-endorsed religion. But such bans, Berry responded, violate the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom.

Monday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided against Berry.

"The department's clients seek assistance from Mr. Berry in his capacity as an agent of the state. Accordingly, they may be motivated to seek ways of ingratiating themselves with Mr. Berry, or conversely, they may seek reasons to explain a perceived failure to assist them," Judge Consuelo Callahan wrote. "It follows that any discussion by Mr. Berry of his religion runs a real danger of entangling the department with religion. This danger is heightened by Mr. Berry's admission that unless restricted, he will share his faith with others and pray with them."

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The court also ruled that Berry "is not deprived of his Bible. He may keep it in his desk drawer and may read it whenever he does not have a client with him in his cubicle. Displaying the Bible implicitly endorses a religious message, and it is precisely that message which the department reasonably seeks to avoid."

3. Texas Supreme Court to hear church discipline case
Peggy Penley's messy 2001 suit against Buddy Westbrook and his Ft. Worth, Texas, CrossLand Community Bible Church is about to go to the Texas Supreme Court. (Weblog gave a brief overview in June 2004.) The Legal Liberty Institute is defending the church, and says it could be a test case on church discipline. Penley's lawyer says it has less to do with Westbrook's role as pastor than with his role as a state-licensed professional counselor. It's definitely a case worth keeping an eye on.

4. PCUSA to cut 75 staff, 55 missionaries
About 15 percent of the employees at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) headquarters were laid off this week. And about 18 percent of the denomination's 307 missionaries also lost their jobs. Several offices—particularly those involved in public policy matters, such as the Criminal Justice, Environmental Justice, and Corporate Witness programs—are to be closed altogether.

5. Another major American Baptist section votes to sever ties
The American Baptist Churches USA denomination continues to disintegrate. (Earlier coverage here.) In the latest development, delegates from the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted 1,125 to 209 to leave.

Quote of the day:

"Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism."

—Rick Warren on the Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, whom Time's current issue names one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

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War and terrorism | Save Darfur rally | More on Darfur | Interfaith relations | Religious liberty | Madeleine Albright on religion | China-Vatican relations | Catholicism | Vatican and condoms | Sexual ethics | Immigration | Zambia | Politics | Life ethics | Church and state | Evangelism at work case | Money and business | Film | Entertainment and media | Books | Da Vinci Code | Gnosticism and scholarship | Higher education | Education | Evolution | Study on doctors and religion | Spirituality | Church life | Abuse | Crime | Priest's murder trial | Fighting crime | Time's 100 people who shape our world | Missions and ministry | Other stories of interest
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War and terrorism:

  1. Iraqi Christians seek asylum here | Three men captured near Los Indios, claim Middle East mayhem (The Brownsville Herald, Tex.)

  2. 'In the hands of God' | For chaplains in Iraq, the constant battle is the fear, loneliness and tedium that can test a soldier's faith (The Washington Post)

  3. Pope prays for world to be free from wars | Pope Benedict XVI prayed Monday for the world to be freed from wars and terrorism as he visited a shrine dedicated to love (Associated Press)

  4. Crusaders, lies and videotape | Where on the globe will you find people possessed of a religious zeal and political power-lust who are willing, even eager to kill in the name of God? In Washington, D.C.? In Los Angeles? In Boston? How about Tehran, Baghdad, Riyadh and Amman? (Mona Charen, The Washington Times)

  5. Ultimate solution | Islamic clerics have decided "the final solution," the triumph of Islam over Christendom is near (Herbert London, The Washington Times)

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Save Darfur rally:

  1. Thousands rally in support of American aid to Darfur | Thousands of people urged Americans and the Bush administration to do more to help end the ethnic and political conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan (The New York Times)

  2. Thousands urge Bush to do more in Darfur | The organizers' permit anticipated 10,000 to 15,000 people would rally, one of several in U.S. cities this weekend against what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian disaster (Associated Press)

  3. Divisions cast aside in cry for Darfur | Mall rally highlights growing concern (The Washington Post)

  4. Thousands rally to stop the violence in Darfur | Washington protesters urge Bush to push for a stronger multinational peacekeeping force (Los Angeles Times)

  5. Divisions cast aside in cry for Darfur | Mall rally highlights growing concern (The Washington Post)

  6. Americans rally for Darfur | Protests push US action on genocide (The Boston Globe)

  7. 'My message is going to be passed' | Protesters from Maine bringing hope to end Darfur killings to rally on Mall (The Washington Post)

  8. Darfur arouses a new unity | Faith, political groups across wide spectrum to protest genocide (The Baltimore Sun)

  9. Rally decries Darfur killings | Religious organizations, political groups and foreign nationals led thousands of people in a rally yesterday on the Mall to urge U.S. leaders to help end the widespread killings in Sudan's Darfur region (The Washington Times)

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  1. Religious leaders to continue pressure on Sudan | Rabbi David Saperstein cried "Never again." Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, said "Now is the time." And Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention asked: "If not this, what? If not now, when? If not us, who?" (Religion News Service)

  2. Clooney does Darfur | If only our politicians were as wise, discerning, and benevolent as George (Nina Shea, National Review Online)

More on Darfur:

  1. A loss of hope inside Darfur refugee camps | Over two years, a genocide comes into view (The Washington Post)

  2. Darfur rebels hold out for better deal | Darfur rebels have bickered among themselves, violated a cease-fire and even been accused of attacking peacekeepers. Now they risk being seen as standing in the way of a peace agreement before a midnight Tuesday deadline (Associated Press)

  3. Aid to Sudan, though hefty, leaves gaps | The US leads countries in assistance, but the UN says it will cut back rations (The Christian Science Monitor)

  4. Muslims' plight in Sudan resonates with Jews in U.S. | When immigrants from the Darfur region of Sudan sought help in spreading the word about the carnage in their homeland, they found an unlikely but surprisingly effective ally (The New York Times)

  5. Peace eludes Darfur, even as global support rises | Even after the horrors of Rwanda, and despite the USA's superpower might, there are no quick fixes. Rallies like Sunday's help keep up the pressure for the only possible solution: one that is frustratingly slow-moving (Editorial, USA Today)

  6. Multilateralism kills | Sudan highlights America's unique role (Rich Lowry, National Review Online)

  7. Whither Darfur? | It's not enough to care. It may take military action to stop the slaughter in Darfur (Adam B. Kushner, San Francisco Chronicle)

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Interfaith relations:

  1. Priests and imams to play ball in a game of two faiths | Militants acting in the name of Islam, Christianity and Judaism are at loggerheads across the world. But in Berlin at least the great religions hope to settle their differences on the football field (The Times, London)

  2. A Syrian monastery lies at the nexus of Islam, Christianity | The monastery of Deir Mar Musa was first built by Greek monks in the sixth century as a remote retreat from the material and political world. Abandoned in the 19th century, it once again houses a small religious community. But now, under its second founder, Father Dall'Oglio, it is on the forefront of politics with a fresh approach to bridge-building with the Islamic world (The Christian Science Monitor)

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  1. At one with dual devotion | 'JuBus' blend the communal rituals of Judaism with the quiet solitude of Buddhism. Most adherents are at peace with the paradox (Los Angeles Times)

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Religious liberty:

  1. States rapped for attacks on Christians | After rapping Uttar Pradesh for failing to protect Muslims during last month's riots in Aligarh, the National Commission for Minorities has targeted two Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled States for not preventing attacks on Christians (IANS, India)

  2. Differing treatment of religious slurs raises an old issue | Poland's conservative government issues fines when television attacks its religious base, but lets anti-Semitic slurs go unpunished (The New York Times)

  3. Resettlement of Montagnards 'working well' | The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that the resettlement of Vietnamese ethnic minorities who fled to Cambodia during unrest was going well and would help resolve a long-standing issue (Associated Press)

  4. Fear of the West in Russia | A leading figure in the Russian Orthodox Church raised doubts about whether the "secular liberal" concept of human rights can be accepted as universal "without an appropriate correction" (Masha Lipman, The Washington Post)

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Madeleine Albright on religion:

  1. Albright reflects on religion and world conflict | Former secretary of State argues that policymakers need to do more to understand religion and tap its power to help resolve global conflicts (USA Today)

  2. In the mind of Albright | "Like the Islamic revolutionaries in Iran, (members of the Christian right) believe that they are being compelled to raise their children in surroundings hostile to their deepest beliefs." (USA Today)

  3. Madeleine Albright opens up | The former Secretary of State tells Time why religion has a place in diplomacy (Time)

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China-Vatican relations:

  1. China installs bishop without Vatican okay | China's state-approved Catholic church on Wednesday installed a bishop without Vatican approval — the second this week — in a move that may hinder talks to re-establish ties ended after communists took control of China in 1949 (Associated Press)

  2. China-Vatican ties tested by second bishop | A battle between Beijing and the Vatican over control of church posts flared on Wednesday as China's state-backed Catholic church installed another bishop without papal blessing (Reuters)

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  1. Earlier: China's naming of new bishop irks the Vatican | Father Ma Yinglin was consecrated by the state-controlled Catholic church despite a warning from the cardinal in Hong Kong (The New York Times)

  2. China's church defies Vatican objections | China's state-sanctioned Roman Catholic Church ordained a new bishop Sunday, rejecting the Vatican's request to delay the appointment and threatening efforts to restore official ties between the sides after five decades (Associated Press)

  3. Cardinal: Vatican should stop China talks | The Vatican should suspend talks with Beijing on restoring diplomatic ties because China's official Roman Catholic church is ready to ordain another bishop not approved by the Holy See, Hong Kong's cardinal said Tuesday (Associated Press)

  4. Also: China to defy Rome, ordain second bishop in days (Reuters)

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  1. St John Paul may have to wait as Pope shuts down 'saint factory' | As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to visit Poland, the birthplace of his predecessor, there is growing speculation that new papal guidelines on saint-making could slow down moves to canonize John Paul II (The Times, London)

  2. Italian media: Pope Pius XII close to being declared a saint | Sources in the Vatican said the present pontiff, Benedictus XVI, has been under pressure to move ahead with the process of beatification of Pius XII, a status that would render him immune from criticism by Catholics (Haaretz, Tel Aviv)

  3. O click all ye faithful | The nun who launched the Vatican's Web site is at work on a MySpace for Catholics (Business Week)

  4. Vatican: Numbers of European priests fall | The number of priests has decreased worldwide in the last quarter-century, with the sharpest fall in Europe — where there are now 20 percent fewer Roman Catholic clerics, the Vatican said (Associated Press)

  5. Afire with faith | Mahoney celebrates 50 years in the priesthood (The Boston Globe)

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Vatican and condoms:

  1. Condom fight: The Vatican strikes back | Vatican sources say the church's position has not changed--and will not change soon (Time)

  2. Ideals collide as Vatican rethinks condom ban | A clash is shaping up at the Vatican between the church's condom ban and its advocacy of human life (The New York Times)

  3. Abstinence and AIDS | Two recent developments offer hope that barriers between organizations fighting AIDS might be breaking down (Editorial, The Boston Globe)

  4. Outlawed AIDS prevention | Homophobia has been sacralized. The Vatican's rigid adherence to this teaching in the face of monumental human suffering has been central to the broader collapse of Catholic moral authority (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)

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Sexual ethics:

  1. Break looms within American Baptist Church | Delegates from the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted overwhelmingly Saturday to recommend severing ties with the national denomination in a dispute over homosexuality (Associated Press)

  2. Danforth says gay marriage ban silly idea | Former Sen. John Danforth says a conservative push to ban gay marriage through a constitutional amendment is silly. The Missouri Republican and an Episcopal priest called it the latest example of how the political influence of evangelical Christians is hurting the GOP (Associated Press)

  3. Ford sales hit by gay ad protest | Pastors are preaching against Ford in their Sunday sermons (The Detroit News)

  4. Teen virginity pledges: can they work? | Half of pledgers deny pledge; other teens become born-again virgins (WebMD)

  5. Study: Reborn a virgin: Adolescents' retracting of virginity pledges and sexual histories (American Journal of Public Health)

  6. United Methodist Church: Keep the door open to gays | Because of a gay man, I became a United Methodist (Barbara Shelly, The Kansas City Star)

  7. Beyond chastity belts | Unless the libidophobes in the Bush administration mandate chastity belts, their opposition to Plan B, the emergency contraceptive, amounts to a pro-abortion policy (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)

  8. Solemnize me | It's time for gay covenant marriage (William Saletan, Slate)

  9. A rabbi's struggle: To allow gay clergy or not? | My personal journey in rethinking this choice reflects one side of the debate underway in Conservative Judaism (Gerald L. Zelizer, USA Today)

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  1. Latino Catholics increasingly drawn to Pentecostalism | Shift among immigrants could affect politics (The Washington Post)

  2. Lighting the way | Clergy help lead the charge for immigration law overhaul (The Boston Globe)

  3. Cardinals back cry to ignore day of walkouts | Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley yesterday joined his fellow Catholic leaders -- along with President Bush and the Senate's top Democrat -- in calling for immigrants to ignore plans for a nationwide day of walkouts to demonstrate the impact immigrants have on the economy and society (The Boston Globe)

  4. Bishop doesn't speak for this Catholic | Support for illegal immigration not only breaks our country's laws, it is in opposition to the Master's admonition of "Go, and sin no more." (John L. Zoll, The Orlando Sentinel)

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  1. A shepherd church in changing times | The Catholic Church again finds itself as a shepherd of change, encouraging its parishioners to welcome Latino strangers (Richard J. Gonzales, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

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  1. Govt, church conflict is unavoidable, says Zambian president | "While the church may be driven by religious considerations in its social programming, government may sometimes be informed by political considerations. The important thing when conflict arises is to ensure that we engage in open, meaningful dialogue that will minimise the extent of the differences" (The Post, Zambia)

  2. Help us reconcile, Levy urges church | President Mwanawasa has urged the Church to play a reconciliatory role among political parties ahead of this year's elections as differences were likely to occur (The Times of Zambia)

  3. Dialogue between Levy and Catholics | We welcome this call because the road to social peace must necessarily pass through dialogue, sincere dialogue that seeks truth and goodness (Editorial, The Post, Zambia)

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  1. Bush 'problems' take their toll among core evangelical supporters | Approval for President George W. Bush among white evangelical Protestants, his most loyal supporters, has fallen to a new low, with nearly half agreeing in a new poll that they are "tired of all of the problems associated with the Bush administration" (Financial Times, U.K.)

  2. Pro-life Democrat vying for governor | After eight years of chafing under the rule of Republican Gov. Bill Owens, Colorado Democrats have a candidate for governor with a real shot at winning -- and he opposes abortion (The Washington Times)

  3. Are the Republicans ready for Rudy? | Ex-N.Y. Mayor Giuliani, the party's presidential front-runner though a political paradox to some, is gaining among core GOP conservatives (Los Angeles Times)

  4. God is the God of all | The brief but passionate liaison between the BNP and the Evangelicals has ended in tears (Giles Fraser, The Guardian, London)

  5. Church and state: A cue from JFK | Romney says he'll give a similar address, in which he will pledge allegiance to the Constitution, not the Mormon church (Paul Bedard, U.S. News & World Report)

  6. To secure religious freedom, stop shouting, start talking | New report shows how people of various faiths can engage in civil discourse about hot-button religious-freedom issues (Charles C. Haynes, First Amendment Center)

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Life ethics:

  1. Supreme Court rejects abortion poster case | The Supreme Court on Monday ended a decade-long fight over the use by anti-abortion protesters of "wanted" posters to identify clinic doctors (Associated Press)

  2. Poll: Catholics support morning-after pill legislation | Three out of four Connecticut Catholics support requiring all hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims (Associated Press)

  3. Ex-head of FDA faces criminal inquiry | The inquiry of Dr. Lester M. Crawford stems from accusations of financial improprieties and false statements to Congress (The New York Times)

  4. Also: The FDA awaits a cure for its malaise | Problems pile up in the absence of a permanent chief and political disputes over ideology (Los Angeles Times)

  5. Fighting for the right to die | Terri Schiavo's husband and Karen Ann Quinlan's mother tell of battles to honor loved ones' wishes (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  6. The honest Mr. Kaine | For all our disagreements with Mr. Kaine, we commend him this week for making good on a promise to Virginians not to impose his personal beliefs when they conflict with those of a sizeable majority's and the clear death-penalty consensus they support (Editorial, The Washington Times)

  7. Death by ethics committee | Refusing to treat lives deemed unworthy of living (Wesley J. Smith, National Review Online)

  8. Partial truth | The press and partial-birth abortion (Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review Online)

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Church and state:

  1. High court to decide if woman can sue pastor | In a local case that could have broad implications for First Amendment rights, the Texas Supreme Court will review a lower court ruling allowing a woman to sue her minister after he divulged details from her marriage counseling sessions to his congregation (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  2. Day of prayer more diverse this year | A handful of metro Detroiters are trying to expand Thursday's National Day of Prayer from a politically charged, Christian-only event into a broader celebration of America's religious diversity (Detroit Free Press)

  3. IRS scrutinizing charities' political work | An increasing number of churches and other charities are violating laws prohibiting involvement in political campaigns, prompting increased enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service and calls for a further crackdown (The Washington Post)

  4. Pulpits rev up in campaign | Ohio churches' activity prompts complaints to IRS (Chicago Tribune)

  5. God's country? | Evangelical Christians have been preaching politics in Ohio ahead of Tuesday's gubernatorial primaries and face accusations of using the church as a vehicle for political advocacy (NOW, PBS)

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  1. Single-faith prison program questioned | The Justice Department plans to set aside cellblocks at up to half a dozen federal prisons for an ambitious pilot program to prepare inmates for release. But it has produced an outcry by saying that it wants a private group to counsel the prisoners according to a single faith (The Washington Post)

  2. Judge boots lawyer off IR prayer case | As the Indian River School District is defending itself in a federal civil rights lawsuit over school prayer, a judge has ordered high-profile Wilmington lawyer Thomas Neuberger off the case (The News Journal, Wilmington, Del.)

  3. Interfaith Alliance: Close faith-based initiative office | Liberal group has opposed it from the beginning (The Washington Post)

  4. Navy charges protesting chaplain | The Navy is bringing charges against an evangelical Christian chaplain who wore his uniform during a protest in front of the White House (The Washington Post)

  5. Trial: Ten Commandments: Judge will rule on monument this month | Outside the courtroom, both sides expressed confidence in their arguments (Tulsa World, Ok.)

  6. Also: Ten Commandments display going to trial | The 8-foot granite slab planted in the Haskell County, Oklahoma, courthouse lawn makes the Ten Commandments easy to read and hard to miss from the state highway that doubles as this town's main thoroughfare (Associated Press)

  7. Taunton church joining effort to promote Ten Commandments | The Rev. Barry Kimbrough doesn't see himself as a crime fighter, but he has an idea he thinks might help reduce crime: The Ten Commandments (The Enterprise, Mass.)

  8. Mall churches in zoning review | Miramar is considering a freeze on permits for storefront churches. The city joins a growing number of Broward towns that are regulating where churches are located (The Miami Herald)

  9. Church rejects offer to buy cemetery in O'Hare expansion path | "Unacceptable and even blasphemous." (Chicago Tribune)

  10. Trinidadian group urges blocking visit of Texas televangelist | Trinidad's largest Hindu organization said Tuesday it was urging the prime minister to bar American TV evangelist Benny Hinn from visiting the country, saying he will threaten the country's religious harmony (Associated Press)

  11. Also: Maha Sabha tells PM: No Benny Hinn in TT | The Santan Dharma Maha Sabha is urging Prime Minister Patrick Manning not to allow controversial tele-evangelist Pastor Benny Hinn to hold a three-day crusade in Trinidad and Tobago because it would create discord among the nation's various religions (Trinidad & Tobago Newsday)

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  1. Church-state wall mandates neutrality | The "unbounded" world of ideas includes religious perspectives and practices. To exclude them - and not others - is not an exercise in neutrality but in favoritism (Rick Esenberg, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

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Evangelism at work case:

  1. Public employee loses religious freedom case | Tehama County's limits on evangelical Christian upheld (San Francisco Chronicle)

  2. Court says sharing religion not an employee's right (Sacramento Bee, Ca.)

  3. Court: Man's rights were not violated | Tehama County told employee not to talk religion with clients (Record Searchlight, Redding, Ca.)

  4. Court backs agency in Bible case | A U.S. public agency acted properly in telling an evangelical Christian social worker that he cannot display religious items in an area where he counsels welfare recipients, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday (Reuters)

  5. County worker has no right to preach at work, 9th Circuit rules | (Associated Press)

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Money and business:

  1. Faithful following | Christian stations in Maine that have quietly grown in popularity and number in recent years (Kennebec Journal, Me.)

  2. Moneymakers: Melanie Fahey | She's made spreading the word her business (Houston Chronicle)

  3. Leading Christian publisher Zondervan acquires ministry organization Youth Specialties (Press release)

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  1. Walden Media moving into a new phase | On the heels of the successful "Chronicles of Narnia" film epic last year, Walden is moving into a new phase by not only starting a book publishing arm but exploring a potential joint venture or partnership with studios (Associated Press)

  2. You can't film in my church, vicar tells stars | A vicar has rejected a proposal to film the Hollywood stars Sean Bean and Bob Hoskins at his church, because he fears gratuitous violence and bad language (The Telegraph, London)

  3. Christians embrace the power of movies | Film festival is touted as a perfect way to marry pop culture with Christianity (The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y.)

  4. Christian council objects to 'Tickle My Funny Bone' | All India Christian Council doesn't like ads showing vulgarly dressed nun with the church in the background (Sify, India)

  5. Also: Censoring 'ticklish' films | Board should include community representatives in their examining committee (Mumbai Mirror, India)

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  1. Film ignites the wrath of Hindu fundamentalists | Deepa Mehta's new film, "Water," about the degradation of Hindu widows in India in the 1930's, has sparked protests from its onset (The New York Times)

  2. Upward Christian soldier | The inspiring story of Sept. 11 hero Father Mychal Judge has been made into a stirring film (Philadelphia Weekly)

  3. Two movies provide two chilling lessons | After you see United 93, go see Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (DeWayne Wickham, USA Today)

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Entertainment and media:

  1. Frist puts indecency bill on faster track | Responding to pressure from conservative groups, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is attempting to jump-start legislation that would impose a tenfold increase on fines for indecent broadcasts, congressional and industry sources said (Reuters)

  2. MTV Germany blasted over 'Popetown' satire | In reaction, MTV decided to show only one episode, followed by a televised discussion. Based on the reaction to the first episode, MTV said, the channel will decide whether to broadcast the rest of the series, a total of 10 episodes (Reuters)

  3. Church protest at Springer show | Church leaders on Tyneside mounted a protest outside a theatre on the opening night of a week-long run of the musical Jerry Springer The Opera (BBC)

  4. Mormon Tabernacle Choir making history | 4,000th broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" is a milestone in radio broadcasting history (Associated Press)

  5. Going without God | Critic and comedian Julia Sweeney talks about how she gave up worrying and learned to love science (Seattle Weekly)

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  1. Roots of faith | Karen Armstrong traces the evolution of the great religious traditions. John Wilson reviews The Great Transformation, by Karen Armstrong (The New York Times Book Review)

  2. Honest, funny and full of doubt | Adrian Plass' walk of faith has been two steps forward, one step back. Also, he falls down a lot (The Dallas Morning News)

  3. Crunchy culture | Author Rod Dreher has defined a political hybrid: The all-natural, whole-grain conservative (The Washington Post)

  4. Editor discusses founding fathers' religious intent | John Meacham says the founding fathers clearly believed that they were setting up a republic based on God-ordained human rights. But they were not installing Jesus Christ as the moral architect of the new nation, instead settling on a more universal God who created the world, weighs our prayers, and will reward and punish people for their conduct in this world (The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.)

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  1. Beware the Theocons? | Despite being consistently wrong for decades, Kevin Phillips retains his image as a visionary, at least in U.S. faculty lounges, foundation offices, newsrooms, and the Nantucket Island farmers market - wherever the elite meet to tremble over the fate of their country. (Andrew Ferguson, The New York Sun)

  2. The founding believer | How is it that we've drifted from regarding George Washington as a devout Christian? (Mark Tooley, The American Spectator)

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Da Vinci Code:

  1. With movie due, 'Da Vinci' debate persists | Believers have released an extraordinary flood of material criticizing the story — books, tracts, lectures and Internet sites among them (Associated Press)

  2. Report: 'Da Vinci' boycott urged | A Vatican official reportedly called for a boycott of the upcoming "The Da Vinci Code" film Friday, saying it contained "slanderous" offenses against Christianity that would have provoked a worldwide revolt had they been directed against Islam or the Holocaust (Associated Press)

  3. 'Da Vinci Code' ban proposed by Heath | The Christian Civic League of Maine, in preparation for the upcoming release of the movie "The Da Vinci Code," is calling for a boycott of all Maine movie theaters, even those that aren't going to show the controversial movie (Kennebec Journal, Me.)

  4. Also: Religious groups speaking out on 'Da Vinci Code' | While fans of the novel eagerly await the movie, Christian leaders around the world are criticizing it, saying it contains everything from myth to blasphemy (Portland Press Herald, Me.)

  5. 'Da Vinci Code' fiction trumps facts for many readers | Walk into any mega-chain bookstore these days and you're confronted with evidence of the Great Church Cover-Up (The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.)

  6. Video Bible counters "Da Vinci Code" | A Christian evangelical company will on Tuesday release a 10-DVD version of the New Testament as a "Christian response" to "The Da Vinci Code" movie, set to open in U.S. theaters in two weeks (Reuters)

  7. Australian church launches 'Da Vinci Code' campaign | An Australian church group has launched a Web site and a series of cinema advertisements challenging theories in the blockbuster book "The Da Vinci Code" to coincide with the release of the movie version (Associated Press)

  8. Flock of Da Vinci tourists answers church prayers | Scotland's churches are enjoying a boom in tourist visitor numbers amid the publicity surrounding the Da Vinci Code (The Scotsman)

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  1. Visit the places from Da Vinci Code | You've read the book and you're probably thinking of seeing the movie. So, why not combine a vacation in Europe with a personal visit to some of the real landmarks that figure so prominently in "The Da Vinci Code"? (Associated Press)

  2. Decoding a global blockbuster | You've read the book, now marvel at the marketing phenomenon (The Australian)

  3. Carroll PTO cancels movie | Few tickets sold for 'Da Vinci Code' (The Journal-Sentinel, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

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Gnosticism and scholarship:

  1. Archaeologists debate whether to ignore the pasts of relics | As scholars grapple with the reality that a growing number of important works lack a clear provenance, ethics policies are the focus of heated debate (The New York Times)

  2. Highlighting the good in religious diversity | Unveiling the Gospel of Judas highlighted the good in religious diversity. And it is good -- to a point (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)

  3. The end of Gnosticism? | Lost texts of Christianity have created scholarly excitement  and news-media buzz. So why do some researchers  say we're using the wrong name for them? (Richard Byrne, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

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Higher education:

  1. Police: Sleepy trucker may be behind crash | The driver of a semitrailer may have dozed off before crossing an interstate median and colliding with a Taylor University van, killing four students and a staff member, authorities said (Associated Press)

  2. UW chancellor gives OK to Catholic group's budget | But regents must decide if student fees can go toward religious activities (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  3. Also: Wiley okays student fees for Catholic group | Freedom From Religion Foundation may file lawsuit (Associated Press)

  4. Invitation to Rice debated at Boston College | Honorary degree draws objections (The Boston Globe)

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  1. Senate kills plan to revive vouchers | In a stinging loss for Gov. Jeb Bush's education legacy, the state Senate narrowly defeated a plan to ask voters to protect and expand his voucher program that sends public money to private schools (The Miami Herald)

  2. School board may bring back 'Christmas' | Winter Break would become the Christmas Holidays Break if the board approves the change Thursday (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  3. Home-schoolers field own teams | The Crusaders now are the second football team in Maryland made up entirely of home-school and private-school students. The Maryland Christian Saints first took the field last year in Harford County, north of Baltimore (The Washington Times)

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  1. Parents sue school over gay storybook | Two couples are suing a Boston-area public school district, claiming it usurped their parental rights by exposing their sons -- in kindergarten and second grade -- to lessons that included homosexual romance without telling the parents (The Washington Times)

  2. Arresting free speech | High school should be a dress rehearsal for political participation and debate where disagreeable or vituperative views are regularly encountered (Bruce Fein, The Washington Times)

  3. Oh, Lord . . . | Gene helps a Catholic school girl write a speech (Gene Weingarten, The Washington Post)

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  1. Evolution makes the grade at Christian colleges | Christian schools are teaching evolution with a method that is sensitive to Christian values (Science & Theology News)

  2. Law may open Miss. classrooms to creationism | School officials can't prohibit teachers and students from discussing how life began under a new state law signed by Gov. Haley Barbour (Associated Press)

  3. Evangelicals assert right to be heard | Mainstream scientists assert that "intelligent design" is not a scientific theory and therefore has no place in a science classroom. But that viewpoint, along with scientific inquiry itself is simply one perspective, and one that is structured to be racist, patriarchal, Eurocentric and imperialistic (Cecil Bohanon, The Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

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Study on doctors and religion:

  1. Survey: Doctors don't mind talking religion with patients | A new survey suggests the vast majority of doctors are willing to discuss religion with patients, but only about half actually initiate such conversations (LiveScience / Fox News)

  2. Doctors now ask about your spiritual health | More than half of doctors say it's OK to ask about a patient's religion, and nearly one in five pray with patients, a University of Chicago survey has found (Chicago Sun-Times)

  3. Many doctors don't ask about a patient's faith | If you want the doctor to allow for, or even be aware of, your religious and spiritual beliefs in the course of your health care, a new survey suggests that you'd better bring up the topic (Scripps Howard News Service)

  4. Study: The Association of Physicians' Religious Characteristics With Their Attitudes and Self-Reported Behaviors Regarding Religion and Spirituality in the Clinical Encounter (Medical Care)

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  1. On holy ground, a hollow sound | Czechs' shunning of religion in part blamed on Soviets (Chicago Tribune)

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  1. Half of Canadians practice religion monthly: StatsCan | Less than a third of adults attend a religious service every month, but about half do something religious, says a study that suggests Canadians are more devout than is often assumed (CBC)

  2. Study: Who's religious? | There has been much debate about whether Canada is becoming increasingly secularized (Statistics Canada)

  3. Church to pray against crashes | Christians of Omega Healing Centre on Entebbe Road are to congregate every month and pray against the rampant road accidents on the road (New Vision, Uganda)

  4. Christian communities try "whole-life faith" | "New monastic" movement members try to follow a way of life that includes daily prayer and observation of the Sabbath (The Seattle Times)

  5. Exploring the connection of spirit, body | UC Berkeley symposium focuses on studies suggesting that strong spiritual convictions can have a positive effect on physical well-being (Los Angeles Times)

  6. Bible, yoga strike a pose | More Christians conquer doubts about the discipline that links the body and spiritual insight. (The Orlando Sentinel)

  7. Baptism was a real circus | Baby Daniel Coertze was baptised in the huge red and yellow circus tent of the visiting Moscow circus (SAPA, South Africa)

  8. Rebels with a cross | There is a wild new movement sweeping through Oklahoma. Movements like Christian punk, evangelical tattoos and even Bible studies in "off the wall" locations. Lance West looks at the new counterculture in Christianity (KFOR, Oklahoma City)

  9. Can an atheist be a fundamentalist? | Are there people who believe only somewhat that there are no supernatural entities in the universe—or only part of a god? (AC Grayling, The Guardian, London)

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Church life:

  1. 75 people lose jobs to church budget cuts | Presbyterians trim costs, reassign staff (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  2. Also: Presbyterian Church announces job cuts (Associated Press)

  3. Methodist panel upholds anti-gay ruling | The United Methodist Church's top court has refused to reconsider its ruling that a minister acted correctly when he refused church membership to a gay man, the church announced on Tuesday (Reuters)

  4. Also: Episcopal shakeup seen if gay bishop is chosen | The Episcopal Diocese of California's nomination of three gay clergy among seven candidates for bishop is no surprise -- priests in the diocese have been blessing same-sex unions for at least 27 years (San Francisco Chronicle)

  5. Pensions in peril over church exemptions | Under a little-known aspect of pension law, churches can opt out of the costly rules that apply to secular employers (The New York Times)

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  1. Diocese sues for church ownership | The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and its leader, Bishop Jon Bruno, are suing the clergy and volunteer leaders of St. Luke's of the Mountains Anglican Church in an attempt to gain control of the church's property, court records show (Pasadena Star News, Ca.)

  2. Church plan worries neighbors | Megachurch is fear as Oak Park congregation seeks to expand (Chicago Tribune)

  3. Embattled church placed in receivership | An arbitrator has ordered a receiver to take control of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith in South Philadelphia and to audit its assets (Philadelphia Daily News)

  4. Land auction was a long time coming | Md. churches to sell hundreds of acres of waterfront property (The Washington Post)

  5. Church members 'are giving more' | Donations to the Church of Scotland have doubled in real terms over the last two decades, according to a report prepared for its general assembly (BBC)

  6. Archbishop woos hoodie generation | The Archbishop of York wore a hoodie as he urged people not to judge teenagers by their choice of fashion (BBC)

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  1. 12-year-old boy charged in attack on girl at church | Pastor said boy was visiting the church for the second time with a "grandmother figure" who was trying to get the youth involved in church (The Kansas City Star)

  2. For priest, abuse case hits home | Rev. Michael Knotek stands by his brother George, who says he was abused by a priest as a teen and has sued the Joliet Diocese (Chicago Tribune)

  3. N.J. priest gets probation in abuse case | A Catholic priest accused of molesting a 9-year-old boy a decade ago after taking him to basketball games was sentenced to five years of probation Friday, angering some victims of sexual abuse including the cleric who replaced the defendant (Associated Press)

  4. Judge in Cornwall sex abuse inquiry will treat church like a 'public institution' | Ruling challenges traditional definition; diocese lawyer calls decision 'absurd' (The Ottawa Citizen)

  5. Minister accused of sex assault | Steven Lynn Ruger, who headed Sturgis Church of Christ, was arrested Saturday at his Sherman Township home after an investigation into charges of molesting a 13-year-old girl, Sturgis Police said (Kalamazoo Gazette, Mi.)

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  1. Wash. pastor charged with manslaughter | A pastor who struck and killed a bicyclist in a 2003 traffic accident was charged with manslaughter after a lawsuit uncovered evidence that he knew he couldn't see well enough to drive, prosecutors said (Associated Press)

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  1. Church fire called 'ugly, ugly crime' | A fire that caused $200,000 damage at Mission Bell United Methodist Church in northwest Phoenix was the city's thirteenth church fire, the tenth set on purpose, since Jan. 1 (The Arizona Republic)

  2. Pastor: Arrests in arson a relief | 2 teens are accused of fire that ravaged Lafayette church in October (The Indianapolis Star)

  3. Fire linked to death metal following | A fire that destroyed a 105-year-old church in Minnedosa last winter was not an isolated act of arson, but part of an international movement with links to a Norwegian "death metal" musician, say justice officials (Winnipeg Sun)

  4. Church workers not told about money | Federal prosecutors spent day four of Carl Hutcherson's trial trying to establish that the Lynchburg mayor was the brains behind a now-defunct church charity they say he used as his personal ATM (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

  5. Update: Mayor of Lynchburg, Va. found guilty | Carl Hutcherson, 62, a Methodist minister, spent several minutes with his relatives and attorneys holding hands in prayer before leaving the courtroom (Associated Press)

  6. Boynton commissioner arrested outside church for reportedly hitting firefighter | City Commissioner Mack McCray was arrested Sunday morning outside a church where he allegedly hit a city firefighter, whom he has been fighting for years, police and family members said (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  7. Ex-lawyer submits guilty plea | Church lost $297,000 in 5 years (The Kansas City Star)

  8. Indicted pastor says he'll prove innocence | Minister is accused of tax evasion (The Charlotte Observer, N.C.)

  9. Questions remain about jailed former pastor | A denominational official is asking members of Mt. Vernon Methodist Church to find forgiveness in their hearts for former pastor James Cornell Clark, arrested this month on a charge of compelling prostitution (Houston Chronicle)

  10. Killer 'is a religious teacher' | Liz Taylor reportedly "addicted" to David "Son of Sam" Berkovitz's website (Mirror, U.K.)

  11. 37 in court for public violence at church | One person was stabbed in the incident and stones were hurled at police officers who tried to intervene (SAPA, South Africa)

  12. US missionary, 70, accused of sodomy in Kenya | A Kenyan court charged a 70-year-old Catholic missionary from the United States on Tuesday with sodomy in a Nairobi park (Reuters)

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Priest's murder trial:

  1. Nun's killer used occult symbols, church expert in rituals testifies | No trial today; testimony to resume tomorrow (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

  2. Expert: Ritual took place in nun's slaying (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)

  3. Cold-case detective tells why priest was suspect | There was a limited window of opportunity, police had eliminated virtually all other hospital employees who could have been suspects, and the killer appeared to be very knowledgeable of church ritual and symbolism (The Toledo Blade)

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Fighting crime:

  1. Guarding God's house | Churches want to keep 'open arms,' but times call for security measures (The Dallas Morning News)

  2. Pastor's plan pits Bible vs. bullet holes | Tired of asking the law to clean up his southeast-side neighborhood, Pastor Paul Taylor's going to try a little Gospel instead (Kevin Leininger, The News-Sentinel, Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

  3. Churches can help stop crime | The $3 million initative to help a coalition of church groups promote faith-based anti-violence programs is laudable (Editorial, Toronto Sun)

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Time's 100 people who shape our world:

  1. Rick Warren on Archbishop Peter Akinola | The Strength of a Lion (Time)

  2. Jesse Helms on Bono | "I knew that he was genuine" (Time)

  3. Christine Gorman on Pernessa Seele | Her best weapon is faith (Time)

  4. Matt Ridley on John Jones | The judge who ruled for Darwin (Time)

  5. Peggy Noonan on Pope Benedict XVI | The new pontiff finds his voice (Time)

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Missions and ministry:

  1. Skepticism about charities | Nine in 10 Americans do not believe charities use their donations honestly, according to the latest Harris Interactive poll, but they give money anyway (The Chronicle of Philanthropy, sub. req'd.)

  2. SBC missionaries agree to guidelines, will return to the field | Southern Baptist missionaries Wyman and Michelle Dobbs will be allowed to return to their work in West Africa after telling the International Mission Board's overseas leadership they are committed to following the IMB's five levels of partnership and planting indigenous Baptist churches (Baptist Press)

  3. Also: IMB official reverses decision to fire African missionaries | International Mission Board officials have reinstated Wyman and Michelle Dobbs, the missionary couple who had faced termination for establishing a "baptistic" church in the West African nation of Guinea (Associated Baptist Press)

  4. Rwanda shall rise again—Meyer | Renowned world Evangelist Joyce Meyer, has assured Rwandans that Rwanda shall rise again. (The New Times, Rwanda)

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Other stories of interest:

  1. Televangelist couple at center of debt controversy | The people who ran Affordable Homes Limited said it was just about to take off when Kenneth and Gloria Copeland suddenly backed out and left tens of thousands of dollars of debt (WFAA, Dallas)

  2. Archaeologists discover unusual network of burial chambers in Rome | Archaeologists repairing a Roman catacomb have discovered an unusual network of underground burial chambers containing the elegantly dressed corpses of more than 1,000 people, a Rome official said (Catholic News Service)

  3. A town explodes in joy | "God is good. He's still a miracle-working God," United Church Community Minister Frances Seen said last night on hearing the two miners trapped underground for five days were alive (The Mercury, Tasmania, Australia)

  4. After two days, missing teen found | Just before daybreak Friday, Daniel Myers set off through the woods, carrying only his Bible. (The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.)

  5. ACLU challenges Ky. funeral protest law | Portions of a new Kentucky law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq are unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday (Associated Press)

  6. One man's Jesus | Rick Miller sticks a thorn in Christianity (The Ottawa Citizen)

  7. Aboriginal leaders, church in feud over memorial seat | A row has erupted over the fate of a memorial seat to the Aboriginal activist Mum Shirl (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  8. Inherit the wind | The ultimately secular brand of Protestantism that is fading away has been the essential, if ironic, infrastructure for the toleration of other more strongly held religious beliefs in America, beliefs that would otherwise clash and burn with each other and with toleration itself (Mark Alan Hughes, Philadelphia Daily News)

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April 12 | 11 | 7
March 31 | 30 | 28
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March 17 | 16 | 15
March 10b | 10a | 8
March 3 | 2 | 1

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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