Our first roundup of 2014 begins with that quintessential journalism staple: Who’s the first baby to be born this year? In Washington and Toronto two pairs of twins vied for the honor. In both cases, the first clocked in during the final two minutes of 2013, and the second in the first minute of 2014. Will they celebrate their birthdays on Dec. 31, or Jan. 1?
Contraception challenge: The Obama administration faced a fresh challenge to its health-care law after an 11th-hour Supreme Court ruling temporarily allowed some Catholic groups not to cover birth control in employee health plans, which went into effect Jan. 1. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the stay at the request of an order of nuns from Colorado. Look for more details Friday when the government is expected to issue a response.
Mad at the pope: Ken Langone, a billionaire Roman Catholic who is helping the New York Archdiocese’s fundraising effort to restore St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, said he has heard grumbling from his wealthy friends who don’t like Pope Francis’ comments on capitalism and the wealthy.
Peace, said the pope, “requires the force of meekness, the force of non-violence, of truth and of love.”
And: A Catholic priest was found dead in the rectory of his California church Wednesday morning, and police are investigating it as a murder.
Moral dilemma: Stumped about the ethics of keeping severely brain-damaged 13-year-old Jahi McMath alive (she’s the girl who had her tonsils removed and wound up brain dead)? An AP story helps sift through the agonizing details.
Jewish Reformation? Eight years after the Reform movement in Israel first launched a legal battle for funding on the same basis as Orthodox rabbis, the Religious Services Ministry paid the salaries of four Reform rabbis, a first in the government’s recognition of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.
More on Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argues that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state underpins all other issues in peace negotiations. But this focus is exactly what makes it unacceptable to Palestinians.
Allah contretemps: Islamic authorities in Malaysia on Thursday seized 321 Bibles from a Christian group because they used the word Allah to refer to God, signaling a growing intolerance that may inflame ethnic and religious tension in the Southeast Asian country.
Sunni-Shiite violence: Islamist militants stormed police stations in several cities of Iraq’s western province of Anbar on Wednesday, seizing weapon caches and freeing prisoners after government security forces (Shi’ite) dismantled a Sunni Muslim protest camp on Monday.
Islamophobia in Sweden? Swedish police have opened a hate-crime investigation after swastikas were spray-painted on the entrance of a mosque in downtown Stockholm.
More Phil Robertson: At a 2009 Christian retreat center in Georgia, the Duck Dynasty star said men should marry 15-year-old girls. Robertson married his wife Kay when she was just 16 years old.
After-church dining: Columnist LZ Granderson writes about the decline of the Red Lobster restaurant chain, which is facing financial difficulty. It remains a favorite spot for black families to dine after church.
Weird and tragic: Phoenix Police say a father confessed to killing his 13-year-old son with an ax because he thought he was a demon and would eat him.
Transitions: Ian Barbour, a physicist who forged a career devoted to bridging the chasm between science and religion, and won the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, died at 90.
Finally: If you contributed to our recent fundraiser, a big thank you! You make this all possible. If you still want to give, it’s never too late. As for that New Year’s resolution, it’s not too late for that, too: Go ahead, click the blue box to read the roundup each morning and keep abreast of the day’s religion news.