Friday, January 13, 2012

Hosanna in the Highest!

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment provides additional and independent rights to religious organizations, beyond those to which non-religious groups are entitled.
by Michael Stokes Paulsen
January 13, 2012

The decision in Hosanna-Tabor is an occasion for celebration, for dancing in the streets (or, for some Baptists, simply praising the Lord). Essentially everything the Court said was right. And every right thing it said is important—a point brought home by considering the consequences if the Court had ruled the opposite way, as the Obama administration had urged and as many feared possible.

Consider for a moment, point by point, what makes Hosanna-Tabor so praiseworthy:

First, the Court specifically grounded the so-called “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws in an affirmative First Amendment constitutional right of religious organizations to select their own faith leaders and exemplars, free of government interference. The “ministerial exception” originated in a series of lower court decisions, beginning forty years ago, reading into federal anti-discrimination employment statutes an implied exception for a church’s hiring (and firing) of ministers. The exception had the feel of judge-made law, carving out of the law as written an unwritten escape hatch (of indeterminate breadth) for churches and synagogues. The lower courts then struggled with how to apply an unwritten statutory exception, creating all the problems, in principle and practice, common to legal rules seemingly made up by judges as they go along, in disregard of the text.

Hosanna-Tabor was the Supreme Court’s first case involving the “ministerial exception.” The justices might have chosen to embrace the exception on a more namby-pamby, “we-construe-the-statute-in-such-a-way-as-to-avoid-the-possibility-of-its-creating-constitutional-difficulties” approach—not exactly embracing a constitutional rule but adopting an awkward rule of interpreting statutes in such a way as to avoid possible constitutional problems. (The Court has done this a fair bit, including in the religious freedom context.) Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion would have none of that: the right embraced in Hosanna-Tabor is a First Amendment constitutional right.

This right is not a judge-made interpolation into a statute; it is not a rule of construction; it is not an avoidance of deciding a constitutional question. It is a right supplied “by the text of the Constitution itself.” Hosanna-Tabor is a constitutional holding that where the Constitution supplies one rule (here, that religious groups have the right to hire and fire, free from government interference, those who personify and represent their faith communities, as an aspect of the free exercise of religion) and a statute supplies a contrary rule (that government generally may regulate employment practices, for example, to forbid practices it considers discriminatory), the Constitution’s rule trumps the statute’s. This is straight, old-fashioned, Marbury v. Madison-style judicial review: the Constitution is law and prevails over inconsistent statutes, to whatever the extent of the inconsistency. There is nothing judge-made, narrow, ad hoc, or uncertain about this. Hosanna-Tabor is a rule of First Amendment constitutional law.

Second, the rule that Hosanna-Tabor embraces is a broad, principled rule of First Amendment constitutional law. the rest

Children 'dumped in streets by Greek parents who can't afford to look after them any more'

Youngsters abandoned as parents struggle-4-year-old found clutching note: 'I can't afford her'
-Country also running out of medicine
-Aspirin stocks low as austerity measures bite
By Lee Moran
11th January 2012

Children are being abandoned on Greece's streets by their poverty-stricken families who cannot afford to look after them any more.

Youngsters are being dumped by their parents who are struggling to make ends meet in what is fast becoming the most tragic human consequence of the Euro crisis.

It comes as pharmacists revealed the country had almost run out of aspirin, as multi-billion euro austerity measures filter their way through society.  the rest

Update on Tourette-Like Illness in Leroy

Jan 12, 2012
by Matt Pitts

LEROY, NY -- Administrators in the Leroy Central School District updated parents and students about a mysterious disorder that's affected twelve female high school students, causing them to exhibit symptoms similar to Tourette Syndrome.

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder defined by involuntary motor and vocal tics.

Wednesday night, administrators said all 12 students have been diagnosed and are being treated. They are not releasing causes due to HIPAA laws. They said they found similarities among some cases but wouldn't elaborate. the rest

Crow roof tubing

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fundamentally Freund: Who’s afraid of Tim Tebow?

8 New York Giants football players knelt down on one knee, bowed their heads, and offered a silent prayer.

WATCHING THE Giants kneel filled me with a sense of awe. What humility! Surrounded by 80,000 screaming admirers, with millions more watching on television, these grandees of the gridiron had no qualms about engaging in a public act of such profound self-effacement.

Like anyone about to undertake a monumental and daunting task, they sought solace in spirituality, acknowledging that we humans ultimately owe everything to the Head Coach in heaven.

At a time when society so badly lacks positive role models, it is refreshing to see some of America’s top athletes setting such an excellent example for the countless number of kids who look up to them.

Indeed, as Jews, we should welcome and encourage this development because it can only help to restore a healthy sense of perspective, one that can serve to counterbalance the West’s increasingly materialistic mores.

But not everyone, it seems, shares this point of view.

Last month, the New York Jewish Week ran a vile and hateful column by one Rabbi Joshua Hammerman entitled “My problem with Tim Tebow.”

Hammerman had the gall to claim that should Tebow lead his team to the championship, it could incite people to torch mosques and attack gays.

Yes, you read that correctly. the rest-awesome!

Tebow Makes Kids’ W15Hes Come True

Added Jan. 13, 2012:
Thank You, God, for Tim Tebow
WASHINGTON -- I have officially called off my boycott of the National Football League (NFL). I do not care how many felons or frotteurs play the game. Now there is Tim Tebow to redeem it. He can pass and run. He inspires his teammates. He inspires many returning fans like me. I shall follow him through the playoffs and maybe even next year as the season resumes anew. He is an American original -- and he is controversial. I am for him....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Best hands-free page turner ever!

IRD: Episcopal Property Ruling a Pyrrhic Victory

Jan. 11, 2012

Christian Newswire/ -- On January 10, Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in a lawsuit against parishes that have departed the U.S.-based church. The court ordered that all property subject to its ruling be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

A majority of members in the seven Anglican churches in 2006-2007 voted to sever their ties to the Episcopal Church and the diocese following disputes over the redefinition and reinterpretation of Scripture. They included some of the diocese's largest and fastest growing churches.

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has drawn from a line of credit to fund litigation, expecting to sell some properties following a favorable court ruling. According to self-reported statistics, the diocese has lost 26 percent of its attendance in the past decade and has ceased planting new churches, despite significant population growth in Virginia.

The 1.9 million-member Episcopal Church is engaged in ongoing litigation against departing parishes and dioceses across the country. Denominational officials maintain that parishes are not free to depart the church and that internal church rules enacted in the 1970s mandate that all local property is held in trust for the diocese and denomination. the rest

+Minns: Reflections on the Judgment Against the VA-7


Dear Friends,

The judgment against the seven churches came as a great disappointment to me especially in light of earlier rulings. We all know that Christ's church is built in the hearts of men, women, and children - not in stones, bricks and mortar no matter how historical, beautiful, or valuable. But there are so many personal connections to the buildings that will likely be disrupted by the potential loss of these properties: baptisms performed, marriages celebrated, and funerals remembered. It will be painful and yet we have the assurance that God will not leave us comfortless and we also know that the decision that we all made to stand for Christ and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures will be vindicated. The future of each of the churches is bright and secure because the cornerstone is Jesus Christ and He will have the victory.

Be assured of our love and prayers during these coming days,
+Martyn Found here

Anglican Perspective: Reconciliation

Rev. Canon Phil Ashey
January 11, 2012

Supreme Court sides with church on decision to fire employee on religious grounds

January 11, 2012

The Supreme Court has sided unanimously with a church sued for firing an employee on religious grounds, issuing an opinion on Wednesday that religious employers can keep the government out of hiring and firing decisions.

In the case of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, Cheryl Perich, a "called" teacher, argued that the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich., had discriminated against her under the Americans With Disabilities Act by refusing to reinstate her to her job after she took leave for narcolepsy.

But the high court found that Perich's was properly classified as a "minister," meaning she falls within the "ministerial exemption" from many employment laws.

"Because Perich was a minister within the meaning of the exception, the First Amendment requires dismissal of this employment discrimination suit against her religious employer," reads the ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts. "The EEOC and Perich originally sought an order reinstating Perich to her former position as a called teacher. By requiring the Church to accept a minister it did not want, such an order would have plainly violated the Church's freedom under the Religion Clauses to select its own ministers. ...

"The exception ... ensures that the authority to select and control who will minister to the faithful is the church's alone," the ruling reads.
 the rest

Reuters:  US Supreme Court: ministers can't sue churches for job discrimination

Episcopal Abandonment

By Charlotte Hays
January 11, 2012

I am sorry to say that I can’t share my friend Phil Terzian’s pleasure that a court in Virginia has ruled that the Episcopal Church can reclaim property from a so-called breakaway Anglican group.

Phil says: “If people want to abandon the Episcopal Church, they are free to do so; but they cannot take historic Church property with them, or deprive Episcopalians of their parish homes.”

But who has abandoned the Episcopal Church? I would argue that the real abandoners of the Episcopal Church more rightly include those who have kept the miters and want to keep the property but have ditched all semblance of doctrine.

Of course, the Episcopal Church always had a certain latitude regarding faith and morals (good taste, not so much), but sadly it has become in many ways a post-Christian institution. This was most recently and outlandishly manifested in the first sermon given by the Rt. Rev. Marianne Budde in her capacity as spiritual leader of Episcopalians in the nation’s capitol. The bishop took as her text a poem by New Age poet David Whyte and referred to “Jesus and all of the great spiritual masters before and after him.” 

Long ago, back when I was an Episcopalian, Christ was the Son of God, which ranks even higher than a “great spiritual master.” I have many dear friends like Phil who are hanging in there with the Episcopal Church, and I don’t want to offend them. I know the love that the Episcopal Church inspired in all of us. I will always be grateful that my parents — the two least literary people you’d ever meet — gave me the gift of hearing Thomas Cranmer’s English as a living thing.

But I am willing to bet that the people buried in historic cemeteries on Episcopal Church property would hardly recognize what their church has become. They might even hope that those who stand for the Church’s historic character be allowed to have the historic properties.

Of course, property is a matter of law, not sentiment. I am only sorry that the Episcopal Church has decided to spend so much money suing for property. I wish the church as a whole would follow the path of the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, the highly orthodox bishop in South Carolina who has sent quitclaim deeds to all the churches in his diocese. That way parishes get decide about the property — in all likelihood bought and endowed by their ancestors — rather than Episcopal HQ in New York. the rest

Praying for the Virginia churches!

Psalm 25

In you, LORD my God,
I put my trust.

I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good.

Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your name, LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, LORD, is in you.

Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to Your honour and glory. ...Augustine image

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Spins Church and Its Future

The following interview with Katharine Jefferts Schori took place on Lutheran Public Radio with Issues, Etc. hosted by Todd Wilkens
By David W. Virtue
January 10, 2012


WILKEN: What do you see the central message of Scripture is, Bishop?

JEFFERTS SCHORI: Love God and love your neighbor.

VOL: One wonders if that applies to Archbishops Bob Duncan, Rowan Williams or Nicholas Okoh. Talk is cheap.

WILKEN: I think that the central message is: of man's sin ...his fallen condition - alienation from God, thereby loss of the image of God, thereby... And it's complete restoration in the Incarnation ... the perfect life -- sinless life ... death and resurrection ... the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And I think that is the central thread of Scripture. Am I wrong?

JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think that is a piece of it. But clearly God is at work communities and contexts beyond the Christian one. If you see that as the primary thrust of the Jewish Scripture I think that is a misreading. Certainly the Jews are understood as "Chosen People" in our Biblical texts. God is clearly at work in all of creation and part of our task as Christians is to discern and affirm at where we find God at work beyond our comfortable places.

VOL: In other words Christianity is not exclusively the way to the Father there are other pathways - Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. The Presiding Bishop is on record saying she would never seek to convert a Muslim to Christ as their pathway to God is just as valid as her pathway, which, presumably, is still Christian. She also publicly denied the need for personal salvation.

WILKEN: The passage that I guess I go to repeatedly in taking that position is to Jesus, Himself, where He says: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me." [John 14:6] Jesus is claiming to be the ONLY revelation of God; the ONLY revelation of the sacred in His Incarnation; and most certainly, the ONLY way to the True God. What are your thoughts there?

JEFFERTS SCHORI: He also says in another place [John 10:16] that He has flocks, that He is called to care for flocks - sheep that aren't already in a particular fold, and that He has words of truth for them as well.

WILKEN: So what do you think He is referring to there, specifically?

JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think He is referring to people beyond our comfort zone.

WILKEN: Beyond Christianity?


WILKEN: Well, do you think it is beyond Christianity?

JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think the work of Jesus has changed reality for all human beings whether they acknowledge themselves Christians or not.

Full transcript and commentary at Virtueonline

Press release: VA Anglicans Remain Prayerful Amid Church Property Ruling

Jan 10, 2012

Seven Anglican congregations in Virginia that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s ruling by the Fairfax County Circuit Court that the property should be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese.

The Circuit Court heard the case last spring after the Virginia Supreme Court remanded it in June 2010. The congregations previously had succeeded in their efforts on the Circuit Court level to defend the property that they bought and paid for.

“Although we are profoundly disappointed by today’s decision, we offer our gratitude to Judge Bellows for his review of this case. As we prayerfully consider our legal options, we above all remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith. Regardless of today’s ruling, we are confident that God is in control, and that He will continue to guide our path,” said Jim Oakes, spokesperson for the seven Anglican congregations.

The Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, a historic property involved in the case, stated, “The core issue for us is not physical property, but theological and moral truth and the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. Wherever we worship, we remain Anglicans because we cannot compromise our historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, ‘Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.’”

The seven Anglican congregations are members of the newly established Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, a member diocese within the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic has expressed to leaders of the seven congregations, “Our trust is in the Lord who is ever faithful. He is in control and He will enable you to carry forward your mission for the glory of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom. Know that your brothers and sisters in Christ continue to stand with you and pray for you.”  Here

Court Rules for Diocese of Virginia Vs. Breakaway Group on Church Properties

By Nicholas F. Benton
Tuesday, January 10 2012

Tuesday night, the Fairfax Circuit Court issued its ruling in favor of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in litigation seeking to recover Episcopal church property, according to a report from the Diocese of Virginia. "Our goal throughout this litigation has been to return faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and Episcopal properties to the mission of the Church," said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia.

The court ruled that the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia have "a contractual and proprietary interest" in each of the properties subject to the litigation. The court ordered that all property subject to its ruling be turned over to the Diocese. the rest


A.S. Haley: Fairfax Circuit Court Awards Parish Properties to Episcopal Diocese
...The opinion is remarkable for its exhaustive consideration of every possible Virginia statute and previous case (including an unreported one) that could bear on the issues at stake. Along the way, it notably holds that the Dennis Canon (and its local diocesan equivalent) were ineffective per se to create a trust interest in favor of the diocese or national Church. But the bulk of the opinion appears (on a very quick first read) to be devoted to arriving at the same result (i.e., as if the Dennis Canon and its local equivalent had established a trust) by other means. It reaches its conclusion in favor of ECUSA and its diocese by drawing upon a minutely detailed analysis of the course of conduct between the parishes in question and the former entities over more than a hundred years (and in the case of Falls Church and a few others, for many more years than that -- but in the case of the Church of the Epiphany, on a course of conduct extending for just the first twenty of the last twenty-four years).

In doing so, however, the court ends up equating what it terms a "proprietary and contractual interest" of the diocese in individual parish property to the functional legal equivalent of an express or implied trust in favor of the diocese (and the national Church). And since it recognizes that Virginia law does not allow express or implied trusts in favor of denominations, the marvel is that Judge Bellows can still conclude, by drawing heavily upon his interpretation of a Virginia statute (§ 57-16.1), that the parishes effectively controlled their own properties only for so long as they remained constituent member of the Episcopal Church (USA) -- which is exactly what the Dennis Canon states, in haec verba.

The result is a carefully-crafted holding that appears (at first blush, at any rate) to be insulated against any federal constitutional grounds for overturning it -- unless it can be argued that the "proprietary and contractual interest" which the court found to be decisive is simply the inherent byproduct of being affiliated with what the Virginia Supreme Court already deemed (without any distinctions) to be a "hierarchical church." If that is the net effect of this decision, one has to wonder whether or not Judge Bellows has given the Episcopal Church (USA) an unassailable preference by the back door, and so thereby "established" it as a specially preferred type of church for purposes of resolving property disputes, in violation of the First Amendment.

It will take some time to analyze the opinion more carefully, because Judge Bellows is nothing if not painstaking and thorough. I also have to prepare for a court proceeding of my own tomorrow, and so it may be a day or two before I can publish a full assessment and analysis. Baby Blue has more background and first-person reportage at this post.

Comments at Stand Firm

 Washington Post: Va. judge rules against conservative churches in property case
A Virginia judge has ruled against seven conservative congregations that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2006. The decision rejected the congregations’ arguments that tens of millions of dollars of historic real estate should be theirs because their members stayed true to the Bible...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be free, simple, a child....

Be free,... simple, a child. But be a sturdy child, who fears nothing, who speaks out frankly, who lets himself be led, who is carried in the arms; in a word, one who knows nothing, can do nothing, can anticipate and change nothing, but who has a freedom and a strength forbidden to the great. This childhood baffles the wise, and God Himself speaks by the mouth of such children. ...Francois Fenelon image by Nisha A.

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood protects churches for Coptic Christmas

by Jayson Casper
10th January 2012

The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Muslim Brotherhood celebrated Christmas together in churches throughout Egypt on Saturday, in a display of national unity.

Christmas, celebrated in Egypt on January 7, has in recent years been a holiday of sorrow and worry, with attacks on churches and an intensifying politics of religious identity.

Many Copts are fearful over a parliament dominated by Islamists, who are poised to claim around 75% of the seats following a third round of elections.

Two Christmasses ago a church in the town of Nag Hamadi witnessed a drive-by shooting that killed six Christians exiting mass.

A church in Alexandria was bombed last New Year’s Eve, killing twenty-three.

Yet this year, Christmas passed off without violence, in a show of national unity by both church and Brotherhood. the rest

Non-citizen Voting in Connecticut

January 10, 2012
By Jon N. Hall

The Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, John DeStefano, a Democrat, wants to let non-citizens vote in city elections. One might ask the good mayor if he also thinks it OK for non-citizens to run for city offices, too -- like for mayor. According to a news story in New Haven Register, Pat O'Neill, spokesman for the state GOP House Republicans, asked when told of DeStefano's proposal: "When are they going to extend voting rights to the dead?"

One inconvenient little snag for Mr. DeStefano's expansion of the franchise is the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, which stipulates in Article 6, Section 1 that voters must be U.S. citizens. One might think that in requiring citizenship to vote, Connecticut's Constitution is merely reaffirming the U.S. Constitution. But there is no such requirement in the original Constitution, nor is there even an instance of the word "citizen" in the Bill of Rights.  Indeed, in all of the U.S. Constitution (including the other amendments), it is not explicitly stated that to vote in America, one must be a citizen.

The U.S. Constitution leaves eligibility requirements for voting to the states. Some states, for example, don't allow incarcerated felons to vote. So, could the states amend their constitutions and strike down the citizenship requirement for voting? the rest

Nigeria: Muslim sect kills 2 Christians

posted January 10, 2012

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's army says suspected members of a radical Muslim sect have killed two Christians in separate attacks despite an increased security presence in the area.

Col. Victor Ebhaleme said Boko Haram gunmen attacked two Christian homes Monday evening in back-to-back attacks in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

At least 54 people have been killed in recent days by Boko Haram, according to an Associated Press count.   the rest

Boko Haram Members in Nigerian Government

Monday, January 09, 2012

No worst thing ever done in the name of Christianity...

No worst thing ever done in the name of Christianity, no vilest corruption of the Church, can destroy the eternal fact that the core of it is the heart of Jesus. Branches innumerable may have to be lopped off and cast into the fire, yet the word “I am the Vine” remaineth. ...George MacDonald image

A.S. Haley: The Republican Nomination Process in 2012

January 8, 2012

Today I start a new category of posts: "Election 2012." Although this is not a political blog, part of its leavening consists of commentary on the contemporary scene -- and that certainly includes politics. And since this will be a decisive election year for our country, I will do my small part to illuminate the various forces which are at work even now, eleven months ahead of the election, to shape our future.

Some disclosures at the outset: I am registered with neither major political party, but vote as an Independent. That being said, I am very much against allowing Barack Obama another four years in which to wreak his particular brand of havoc more than he has already.

As for the current crop of Republican candidates, I have to say I am not yet enthusiastic about any of them. At the same time, one of my most strongly held beliefs is that January or February is way too early to settle upon a candidate who will oppose Obama in November.

To do so simply plays into the media's hands. For make no mistake, the media is desperate to control the outcome of the forthcoming election. And the sooner the Republicans pick a candidate, the sooner the media can send out their legions to pry into every nook and cranny of his or her life -- in a manner they have never inflicted upon Barack Obama -- and never will. That is the scandal of the present-day hacks who populate the "media" in this country. the rest

Anglican Unscripted Episode 23

January 9, 2012

Kevin and George deliver news and commentary on apossible civil war in Nigeria and the latest news (andcommentary) from PEAR and the Anglican Mission inAmerica. Allan Haley talks about last years news andthe good news of 2012. oh... and then there is thattattoo story....

Extremists ‘infiltrating’ Christian groups in India

Monday, January 9, 2012

Islamic and Hindu extremists in India are reportedly posing as Christians to obtain information about them and pass it on to radical groups.

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) said in a report to the Fides news agency that the radicals have infiltrated churches and Christian NGOs.

They are gathering information about church property and members of the Christian communities, including conversions and baptisms.

The CSF believes the information is being passed on to extremist political parties and terrorist organisations to be used against Christians.

Although Christians in most parts of India enjoy religious freedom, there are pockets in the country, most notably Orissa, where Christians are being targeted by radicals. the rest

Albert Mohler: What Breathes Fire into the Equations? Professor Stephen Hawking at 70

Monday, January 9, 2012

In her new biography of Hawking, Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind, Kitty Ferguson traces Hawking’s intellectual directions, while making clear that Hawking clearly denies the reality of a personal God. Unlike Richard Dawkins, another famous scientist, Hawking does not prefer to refer to himself as an atheist, preferring to refer to God as “the embodiment of the laws of physics.”

In his words: “We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star on the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.”

That makes perfect sense, if one operates intellectually within the closed box of nature. Given the expanse of the cosmos, it would certainly seem that we are, indeed, radically insignificant. Indeed, Hawking’s point underlines the sheer audacity of the Christian truth claim — the claim that the entire cosmos was created as the theater of God’s glory for the purpose of displaying his glory through the redemption of sinful human beings through the atonement accomplished by his Son.

As a matter of fact, Hawking’s argument makes one truth very clear. This cosmos is either entirely purposeful, as is held by Christians, or it is entirely purposeless. There is no viable option of some limited purpose. Quite clearly, it is all or nothing. the rest image

Churches struggle with declining congregations

January 07, 2012
By Kristin E. Holmes

For a while, it seemed as if the new year would be anything but happy for the members of St. James Episcopal Church in Prospect Park.

The 106-year-old Delaware County congregation was so mired in debt that it couldn't pay its rector. Closing seemed imminent.

Just 10 minutes away, in Ridley Township, Leiper Presbyterian Church faced a different challenge: a small, aging membership, with only 30 coming to Sunday services.

Leiper, founded in 1818, voted to dissolve, an acknowledgment of hurdles too steep to overcome. Its last service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday.

St. James fought and survived - for now. It will install a part-time rector Jan. 28. the rest

Sunday, January 08, 2012

3D paintings by Riusuke Fukahori

The Surprisingly Mundane Genetic 'Secrets' of Earth's Oldest People

While genomic research on the super-old is still in its very early stages, what's most fascinating is what the researchers are not finding.
By Alexis Madrigal
Jan 6 2012

While genomic research on the super-old is in its very early stages, what's fascinating is what the researchers are not finding. These people's genomes are fundamentally the same as other people's. They are clearly very special, but not in ways that are obvious.

"We tried to see whether these two genome sequences differ in something dramatic, like major structural or functional differences, but we didn't see any major differences," explained Boston University statistician Paola Sebastiana, who worked on the new paper. "They also don't differ in the number of disease-associated variants. We have seen this several times now. People who live very long carry as many disease pre-disposing variants as people in the general population."

One of the patients had a gene variation associated with higher rates of colon cancer and was, in fact, diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in his 70s. "The cancer was treated with surgery and this person went on to live another 40 years."

"They must have something that allows them to avoid the bad effects of variants associated with diseases," Sebastiana said.

If we know one thing, it's that such things are not the result of individual gene variations but require many different genes acting in concert.
the rest image

Christians in Nigeria considering fleeing after latest attack

Saturday, January 7, 2012

At least 17 people have been killed in another attack on Christian communities in Nigeria.

The Christian Igbo group was meeting in a town hall in Mubi when gunmen burst in and opened fire.

It caps a week of deadly attacks on Christians in the predominantly Muslim north. The surge in violence coincides with the expiration of the Wednesday deadline for Christians to leave the region that was set by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Hours after the deadline expired, gunmen attacked a Christian compound in the Yobe state capital of Damaturu, killing two people and wounding several others. the rest

Nigerian church shootings kill six
Pastor's wife among victims after congregation sprayed with gunfire during prayer service...

Homosexual Lobby Group Funded Mostly by Governments

By Austin Ruse
January 6, 2012

(C-FAM) European human rights lawyer J.C. von Krempach has taken a close look at the funding stream of the International Gay and Lesbian Association – Europe (ILGA) and concluded that most of their money comes from governments. Writing in the foreign policy blog Turtle Bay and Beyond, von Krempach found a vast majority of ILGA’s funds come from just two governmental entities, the European Commission and the Dutch government.

ILGA is an advocacy group promoting homosexual rights. They were notoriously denied UN accreditation for years because of their connection to groups that promote pedophilia. The NGO Committee of the UN Economic and Social Council consistently rejected ILGA until the Economic and Social Council, led by European countries, overruled their decision.

Among the requirements for UN NGO accreditation is “the major portion of the organization's funds should be derived from contributions from national affiliates, individual members, or other non-governmental components." the rest

Anglican Archbishop Orombi to retire in June

Jan 08, 2012

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi has called for the election of the next Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. The announcement came during a regularly scheduled meeting of the House of Bishops on Saturday, 7th January, in Mbarara.

Orombi confirmed the announcement in Ntungamo on Sunday, 8th January, during the consecration and enthronement of the new Bishop of South Ankole Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Nathan Ahimbisibwe.

The election of the next Archbishop will take place in June 2012 by the House of Bishops. The enthronement of the new Archbishop will take place in December 2012. the rest