Hands in supplication position.

Praying for rain. Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Bible thumper: Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas explicitly invokes his Christian faith in a new TV campaign ad intended to help his 2014 re-election campaign. “This is my compass, my North Star,” says Pryor, holding a Bible, as he looks straight into the camera. But it’s not clear such invocations will do him much good. For another look at the odds Pryor faces a story in The Wall Street Journal explores the senator’s dismal approval ratings amid his state’s Republican march.

Pope beat: Pope Francis has received positive coverage and otherwise high marks since his election. Case in point: During a Wednesday speech on income equality, Obama quoted him. But as David Gibson writes, the pope’s comments on child sex abuse by priests have so far been perfunctory. And now there’s this: The pontiff is assembling a panel of experts to advise him about protecting children from sexually abusive priests and helping victims who have already been harmed. Catholics in Minnesota might appreciate it:  A new report shows nearly half the parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have been served by priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor.

ACA news: Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren said a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring businesses to provide their employees with insurance that covers birth control was “like making a Jewish deli sell pork,” a dubious comparison (since when did all Christians disapprove of birth control?). Of course, Catholics do, and on Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame filed another lawsuit opposing that mandate. Related: More than 90 percent of health insurance plans offered to lawmakers and congressional staff cover abortion.

Two interesting takes on religion in Turkey:  First, Jacob Resneck, writing for RNS, tells us Turkey’s leaders want to convert the iconic Hagia Sophia back into a mosque. (It is now a museum, and was originally built as a church after the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.) Then, Time offers a fascinating look at the tensions between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born imam now living in Pennsylvania, but with thousands of followers in Turkey.

Women’s rights: Seventh-day Adventists are torn about women’s ordination. Adelle Banks gives a good snapshot of some of the tortured discussion on the subject, including this interesting stat: There’s a slight increase in congregations’ allowance of women leaders between 2006 and 2012 in the third wave of the National Congregations Study.

Dangerous times: A Mexican drug cartel has tried to extort a Catholic seminary. Cardinal Norberto Rivera, archbishop of Mexico City, has spoken out about it, which is apparently rare, and dangerous. And, Algerian army helicopters killed a top al-Qaida leader and four associates as they sped through the southern Algerian desert. More ominously: Gunfire echoed through the capital of the Central African Republic Thursday in escalating Muslim-Christian sectarian violence.

Disturbing trend: At prayer healing services in some Pentecostal churches, pastors invite people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured. Read our man in Kenya’s article.

Long read: Kathryn Joyce has an article in the American Prospect on the emergence of a coalition of young former fundamentalists who are coming out publicly, telling their stories, and challenging the Christian homeschooling movement.

Be careful what you pray for: Israel’s chief rabbis called on the public to say special prayers due to the lack of rain. And voila! The skies opened up.

Christmas contretemps: Sarah Palin says there’s a war on Christmas. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama unveiled Christmas decorations at the White House. And a 76-foot Christmas tree was lit at New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Must be that merry time of year again.

Finally, this is the time of year when we give thanks. If you’ve read this far down, you probably like our Religion News Roundup. Please consider supporting the work we do every day by donating to RNS.  Not everyone knows this, but we’re a nonprofit news organization and we rely on donations to keep doing what we do: bringing you the latest religion news in one central website.  Please let us know how we can serve you better.


  1. Ahem. I know this column is written to engage, but I think you are a bit too flippant when you mockingly write about Rick Warren’s comments: “a dubious comparison (since when did all Christians disapprove of birth control)?”

    Of course not ALL Christians believe the same thing on the issue of birth control, but the federal mandate forcing businesses to go against their owner’s religious convictions is a very serious subject and I think Warren was trying to put it in perspective.

    I understand Rick Warren’s point — Jewish businessmen have the freedom to not serve a food item that may go against their religious convictions. I am sure there are some Jewish business owners (deli-owners or otherwise) who do sell pork products. They are free to sell or not sell. Don’t you think it would be highly offensive if the government forced all Jewish deli’s to sell pork because some people want to eat pork? The law would be egregious.

    • Yonat Shimron

      Yonat Shimron

      Article author

      Thanks for writing in. I was just trying to make a point that while all Jews would agree that pork is forbidden in Jewish law (regardless of whether they personally buy, sell or eat it), I don’t know that all Christians can argue that contraception is forbidden in Christian practice.

    • When exactly did birth control become forbidden to non-Catholic Christians (if I can use that term, since many Christians don’t consider Catholics Christians)? Was it when a political alliance in favor of the Republican Party was forged between fundamentalist Bible Christians and the Catholic hierarchy? Or was it before that?

    • Except the point is a perfect example of a crappy analogy and not a very honest appraisal of the situation. It would be more akin to the owner of a Jewish deli telling his employees they cannot spend their paycheck on bacon. Insurance benefits are compensation for work performed. It is conceptually no different from the paycheck. Once the money is doled out, the employer has no business as to how it is spent or what it is spent on.

      Actual health care options making up the government regulated minimal level of coverage in any kind of insurance policy are NEVER choices which could be made by the insured. An employer/insured can always choose to increase coverage levels but never make decisions as to what the government mandates is the “floor” for coverage of any kind of insurance policy. Government always had a right and duty to regulate insurance of all kinds. Libertarian arguments are meaningless in this context.

      It is like saying you object to the mandatory basic liability coverage in your auto policy because it casts aspersions on the veracity and good name of those of your religious faith.

      Besides there is no such thing as corporate religious faith and free exercise of religion does not give one the right to harm others. In this case companies are deliberately looking to violate a law which sets standards of health insurance care for specious reasons.

  2. Wow, Yonat. Great round-up. The whole religious liberty argument about ACA just infuriates me. It seems a perversion of our constitutional right to practice religion freely for an employer to force their religious beliefs on employees–which is what these businesses like Hobby Lobby and others are saying: your employer can force their religiously based beliefs about abortion and contraceptives on you. And once they’re allowed that ground, watch them go for divorce, homosexuality, wifely submission and any other belief they happen to subscribe to. If they’re allowed to this, they should have to post their religious beliefs openly on each building, so we can know which businesses not to support.

    Also–thanks for the link to the Homeschool Apostates article. Great article about a really important movement. Especially as it operates in the south and brushes up against white supremacist and xenophobic religious movements here.

  3. Yonat, don’t want to pile on, but your assessment of Catholics: “(since when did all Christians disapprove of birth control?). Of course, Catholics do…” is incorrect. The vast majority of Catholics support access to and use or have used a birth control method banned by the Vatican. So, the Catholic hierarchy may disapprove, bu the faithful aren’t paying any heed.

      • Well, that very much depends on how you define church. Most Catholics believe that it is far more than the hierarchy, but includes all Catholics and Catholic institutions as well, “the people of God assembled” as some theologians like to say.

  1. […] Bible thumper * Jewish deli * Rain prayers: Thursday's Religion News Roundup Mark Pryor of Arkansas explicitly invokes his Christian faith in a new TV campaign ad intended to help his 2014 re-election campaign. “This is my compass, my North Star,” says Pryor … ACA news: Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren said a provision in … Read more on Religion News Service […]

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