Crown of Thorns digital painting by modera 761101 via Shutterstock

Crown of Thorns digital painting by modera 761101 via Shutterstock (Image source)

It’s Good Friday, a day of mourning in the Christian world, and thousands have already made their way on Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa, following the path they believe Christ walked.

In the United States, Good Friday is not a federal holiday, but you might live in a state or territory where it is a legal day of rest. Question of the Day: In which states and U.S. territories is this the case? Answers at the end of the roundup.

Today’s top story:

Call for Ukrainian Jews to register

Upon leaving synagogue after a Passover service this week, Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk were handed leaflets by masked men which instructed them to register every Jewish person in their household and pay a $50 registration fee. Failure to do so, the leaflets threaten, can result in deportation and confiscation of property.

It was supposedly signed by the head of the unrecognized pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, but that group denies authorship. Making the situation more confusing is that both the Russians and the Ukrainians have been finger-pointing for months now, claiming that the other is anti-Semitic and will make life miserable for Jews. The leaflets bear a striking resemblance to the Fascist registration decrees that preceded the Holocaust. Fake or not, these 21st century instruments of intimidation sent a chill throughout the Jewish world and beyond.

RNS-JAKES-MOVIEBishop T.D. Jakes answers our questions about the “Heaven” movie

Our own Adelle Banks asks the Dallas megachurch leader about producing recently released “Heaven is for Real” movie. Did he think the movie would prompt questions or provide answers? And why is he branching out into films about white people. Jakes responded:

There are still far too few scripted roles for actors of color. In the faith space, actors of color are rarer still. I am delighted that “Heaven is for Real” will reach a larger audience and provide additional opportunities to speak to people that don’t look like me or think like me. Jesus said to go into all of the world, to preach the gospel. He didn’t send me just to the black world.

Atheist to fellow atheists: come out

Kimberly Winston read “Coming Out Atheist,” and explains why author Greta Christina wants fellow atheists to copy their gay friends, reveal their true selves and find out how much better life can be. “Even in a phobic world, we are usually happier when we come out and the same seems to be true of atheists when they come out, too,” Christina said.

An atheism association is founded . . . in Turkey

The Atheism Association is now open in Istanbul, a place to “provide legal support to people facing problems as atheists” in the mostly Muslim country. The founders say that now atheists don’t have to be alone in Turkey, a country in which the prime minister recently compared atheists to terrorists.

Louisiana legislators want the Bible as state’s official book

A bill to make the Bible Louisiana’s official book passed out of committee and could reach the state house floor soon. Here’s the story. Here’s the Establishment Clause.

The bill won approval in the Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee on an 8-5 vote. One member of the committee, foreseeing problems with the bill, sought to amend it so that “all holy books,” and not just the Bible, would be the official state book.

James Dobson wins contraception injunction

The Focus on the Family founder, and now head of Christian broadcast ministry “Family Talk,” has won a temporary injunction that prevents the federal government from forcing him to comply with the contraception requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Dobson’s objections are similar to those of the owners of Hobby Lobby, whose case the Supreme Court heard in March.

Louisiana governor to address Liberty U grads

Devout and conservative Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will give the commencement speech at Liberty University’s upcoming graduation ceremonies. Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said he hears that Jindal speaks just “like a Baptist preacher.” Jindal is Catholic, and one of the few non-evangelicals upon whom Liberty has bestowed the honor. On the same day in the same state, Michelle Obama will speak to the grads of Dillard, a historically black university.

Key appeals court judge suggests he may rule for gay marriage

In the first gay marriage case post DOMA to reach a federal appeals court, the swing judge on the panel Thursday asked questions that indicate that he could side with those who support same-gender marriage. It’s always a bit risky to judge judges on their questions to lawyers, but U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jerome Holmes asked whether DOMA established that “the state cannot define marriage in any way that would trample constitutional rights, right?”

International roundup within the roundup

Vandals attacked a mosque in Northern Israel. Filipinos nail themselves to the cross despite admonitions against the Good Friday practice from Catholic clergy. The fate of more than 100 Nigerian school girls abducted by Islamic extremists is unknown.

Bonus Tracks

Our Vatican correspondent, Jo McKenna, on Italy’s ‘singing nun’ and the sister’s rendition of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.”

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at an interfaith service to commemorate the victims of last week’s shooting at a Kansas Jewish Community Center. Our photo editor, Sally Morrow, created a slide show.

Chelsea Clinton, a United Methodist, is pregnant. I wonder in what faith(s) she and her Jewish hubby are going to raise the child?

And, the answer to RNS quiz: Where is Good Friday a legal holiday in the U.S.? Twelve places: Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Puerto Rico and Tennessee. Here’s the source.

May this day be a meaningful one for all who observe it.

– Lauren Markoe

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Categories: Beliefs

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011. She previously was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.)


  1. Masked men in Ukraine handing out anti-Semitic leaflets?

    How convenient, making it credible that this was a false flag stunt engineered by the CIA (as in the Saddam statue incident in Baghdad, or the “popular” uprising against the democratically elected Mossadegh in Iran). Just as likely would be the Blackwater mercenaries (under their new name, Akademi or something like that) operating in Ukraine, probably on the Pentagon’s or the CIA’s payroll. Or the Fascist, anti-Semitic members of the two parties that overthrew the pro-Russian former President (no prize, a gangster too) and now dominate the government in Kiev.

    We have no way to know who engineered this leaflet stunt, but we do know that real anti-Semites are in control in Kiev. Yet we never hear about that.

    When are Americans going to learn that they are constantly gamed with US government propaganda?

    • Charles Freeman

      You’ve made a number of statements which if proved, might lead to a U. S. revolution. When I turn your statements into null hypotheses, they turn out to have little substance. Stop telling lies!

  2. The Filipinos who crucify themselves are not Roman Catholics. They are part of a Filipino church that broke away from the Roman Catholic church quite a while ago. This should be noted.

  3. Chelsea Clinton, a United Methodist, is pregnant. I wonder in what faith(s) she and her Jewish hubby are going to raise the child?

    There is no logical reason why the answer should not be; none.

  4. Kimberly Winston read “Coming Out Atheist,” and explains why author Greta Christina wants fellow atheists to copy their gay friends, reveal their true selves and find out how much better life can be.
    I have been an atheist all of my life. I have rarely thought much about it. I think it silly for someone to suggest that my life will be MUCH BETTER if I “come out” like my gay friends.

  5. “Chelsea Clinton, a United Methodist, is pregnant. I wonder in what faith(s) she and her Jewish hubby are going to raise the child?”

    If they respect their children’s inherent right to freedom of religion, which necessarily includes freedom from religion, then they will raise their children without indoctrinating them into anyone faith. They will, instead, allow their children to make autonomous decisions as to whether to believe in a particular faith or not once they are older. They will expose them to all faiths, as an inoculation against the dogma of any particular faith (they can’t all be true), to ensure they have an open future, that their future rights as adults are not denied them while they are still children.

  6. Atheism will not make one happy. I am Messianic and now have peace in my life that was never there before. I know how I felt before and how I feel now. And I know many others who have had the same experience. No, we don’t need to turn away from God, we need to turn to Him. Receive Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah and Savior and follow Him as He leads and you will know His peace, and His promise of everlasting life. Shalom

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