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History > 2005 > USA > Faith





Trois présidents américains,

dont un en exercice,

se sont agenouillés mercredi soir

devant la dépouille du pape.


Le président George W. Bush (à gauche),

arrivé à Rome à la tête d'une importante délégation

comprenant son épouse Laura,

son père l'ancien président George Bush (au centre),

son prédécesseur Bill Clinton (à droite)

et la secrétaire d'Etat Condoleezza Rice,

s'est aussitôt rendu à la basilique Saint-Pierre.


Costume noir et cravate grise,

il est resté agenouillé quelques minutes,

en compagnie des deux ex-présidents,

devant le catafalque sur lequel repose le pape.


Vendredi, il sera le premier président américain

à assister aux funérailles d'un pape.


Trois présidents américains à genoux

jeudi 7 avril 2005 - 11:52


page.php?Article=195004&Template=GALERIE&Objet=34898 - broken link















Backers Join

Ousted Priest In 'Illicit' Mass


December 26, 2005
The New York Times


ST. LOUIS - At least 1,500 people attended Christmas Eve Mass with an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest presiding, despite warnings from the archbishop that participating would be a mortal sin.

The Rev. Marek Bozek left his previous parish without his bishop's permission and was hired by St. Stanislaus Kostka Church this month. As a result, Father Bozek and the parish's six-member lay board were excommunicated last week by Archbishop Raymond Burke for committing an act of schism.

Archbishop Burke said it would be a mortal sin for anyone to participate in a Mass celebrated by a priest who was excommunicated.

The archbishop, who could not stop the Mass, said it would be "valid" but "illicit."

Despite the warning, Catholics and others from as far as Oregon and Washington, D.C., filled the church. An overflow crowd viewed the Mass by closed-circuit television in an adjoining parish center.

"I'm not worried about mortal sin," said Matt Morrison, 50, a worshiper.

"I'll take a stand for what I believe is right," Mr. Morrison said.

Many wore large red buttons reading "Save St. Stanislaus" and said they wanted to offer solidarity to a parish that they believed had been wronged.

When Father Bozek entered from the rear of the church, the congregation rose and greeted him with thunderous applause.

"It was magic," said JoAnne La Sala of St. Louis, who described herself as a lapsed Catholic. "You could feel the spirit of the people."

The penalty of excommunication was the latest wrinkle in a long dispute over control of the parish's $9.5 million in assets.

The parish's property and finances have been managed by a lay board of directors for more than a century. Archbishop Burke has sought to make the parish conform to the same legal structure as other parishes in the diocese. As a result, he removed both the parish's priests in 2004.

Father Bozek, a Pole who came to the United States five years ago, said he agonized about leaving his previous parish but wanted to help a church that had been deprived of the sacraments for 17 months.

Backers Join Ousted Priest In 'Illicit' Mass, NYT, 26.12.2005,






Mormons honor

bicentennial of church founder's birth


Posted 12/23/2005
11:54 PM
USA Today


SHARON, Vt. (AP) — Faithful Mormons on Friday celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.

"A sense of history overwhelms me. I feel as if I am straddling the centuries," church President Gordon B. Hinckley said in a taped statement broadcast Friday to members in 160 countries.

"This is a glorious and wonderful day. It is a day of remembrance, a day of great rejoicing, a day for gratitude and thanksgiving," Hinckley said.

The commemoration included simultaneous celebrations at Smith's birthplace monument in Vermont, where 450 people packed into a church meeting house, and at the church's Salt Lake City conference center, where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed for a crowd of thousands.

Hinckley, 95, had been expected to speak live from Vermont, but he changed plans midday Friday and taped his remarks instead, then returned home to avoid a winter storm, said church spokesman Bruce Olsen.

Joseph Smith founded the church in 1830, 10 years after he claimed to experience a vision of God and Jesus in a grove of trees near his family home in Palmyra, N.Y.

He said an angel named Moroni led him to a set of buried gold plates that contained the ancient records of Christ's dealings with the inhabitants of the Americas. Smith's translation of the plates became known as the Book of Mormon, the text on which Mormons base their religion.

Smith's original church had just six members, mostly his family, and only 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon were published at first. He sent out a handful of missionaries.

Today, Mormonism has more than 12 million members — half of them outside the United States. Some 130 million copies of the Book of Mormon are circulating in 77 languages.

"If (non-Mormons) care at all about the history of religion in their own country, they should certainly be interested in the influence of Joseph Smith," said Armand Mauss, a professor emeritus of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University, who is currently a visiting scholar at the Claremont Graduate University in California.

The growth of the church since the mid-20th century has helped change the perceptions non-Mormons have of the faith, for the better and for the worse, said Mauss, himself a lifelong church member and a past president of the Mormon History Association.

"The positives are those which see Mormonism as an increasingly legitimate religious tradition, entitled to a certain amount of admiration and appreciation for its unique teachings and lifestyle," he said. "This is also accompanied by more negative feelings as the political and economic influence of the church sometimes looms large."

Attention to the church could grow if Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, decides to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Some have speculated he could have a hard time winning over Christian conservatives, some of whom do not consider Mormonism to be a Christian religion.

Mormons are viewed largely as ultraconservative because the church has strict lifestyle standards, shunning alcohol, for example, and favoring traditional family practices.

Faithful members also adhere to a standard of tithing 10% of their income to the church, which is said to be worth billions but never publicly reports its annual income or expenses.

Mormons honor bicentennial of church founder's birth, UT, 23.12.2005,






Churches as businesses

Jesus, CEO


Dec 20th 2005 |
From The Economist print edition


America's most successful churches
are modelling themselves on businesses

VISIT Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, an upscale exurb of Chicago, and you are confronted with a puzzle. Where in God's name is the church? Willow Creek has every amenity you can imagine, from food courts to basketball courts, from cafes to video screens, not to mention enough parking spaces for around 4,000 cars. But look for steeples and stained glass, let alone crosses and altars, and you look in vain. Surely this is a slice of corporate America rather than religious America?

The corporate theme is not just a matter of appearances. Willow Creek has a mission statement (“to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ”) and a management team, a seven-step strategy and a set of ten core values. The church employs two MBAs—one from Harvard and one from Stanford—and boasts a consulting arm. It has even been given the ultimate business accolade: it is the subject of a Harvard Business School case-study.

Willow Creek is just one of a growing number of evangelical churches that borrow techniques from the corporate world. Forget those local worthies who help with the vicar's coffee mornings and arrange flowers. American churches have started dubbing their senior functionaries CEOs and COOs. (North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, even has a director of service programming. Can Chief Theological Officers be far behind?) And forget about parish meetings in which people bat about random ideas on how to keep the church going. America is spawning an industry of faith-based consultancies. John Jackson, the senior pastor of Carson Valley Christian Centre, a “high-impact” church in Minden, Nevada, has taken to describing himself as a “PastorPreneur” and has published a book with that title.

Willow Creek is based on the same principle as all successful businesses: putting the customer first. Back in 1975 the church's founder, Bill Hybels, conducted an informal survey of suburban Chicagoans, asking them why they did not go to church, and then crafted his services accordingly. He removed overtly religious images such as the cross and stained glass. He jazzed up services with videos, drama and contemporary music. And he tried to address people's practical problems in his sermons.

An emphasis on user-friendliness continues to pervade the church. Mr Hybels's staff try to view their church through the eyes of newcomers (or “seekers” as they are dubbed). This means dedicating themselves to “total service excellence”. The grounds—“the path of first impressions”—are kept impeccably, with the lawns mown and the car park perfectly organised. It means being welcoming without being over-the-top (“evangophobia” is a big worry). And it means having lots of “hooks” that help to attach seekers to the church.

Willow Creek has dozens of affinity groups for everyone from motor-cycle enthusiasts to weight-watchers. The church provides social services, from counselling for drunks and sex-addicts to providing help with transport. It has a “cars ministry” which repairs donated vehicles and gives them to needy people. “Cars”, of course, stands for “Christian auto-repairmen serving”. The church also lays on entertainment, from sports to video-areas.

Willow Creek is particularly careful to ensure that everything is suitably tailored for different age-groups. The church provides child-care for thousands of children every weekend: this started out as a necessity (parents will not come if their children are not taken care of) but has become a hook in its own right (parents can relax at the service while children are royally entertained). The church also has a youth auditorium. Willow Creek's adolescent members have taken over a hall, tearing up the carpet to expose the concrete floors, painting the whole thing black and littering video-screens all over the place.

Mr Hybels's emphasis on user-friendliness is now commonplace in the Evangelical world. Rick Warren is a fifth-generation Southern Baptist who was raised in a faith that is both austere and emotional. But when he moved to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Southern California, he realised that Baptist staples like altar calls—in which worshippers come to the front of the church and accept Jesus—would not go down well with his prosperous and laid-back congregation. So he packaged himself as a relaxed Californian: bearded and open-shirted, he served up a diet of contemporary music and self-help tips.

In their pursuit of “total service excellence” America's pastorpreneurs do not just preach on Sundays and deal with the traditional “hatch, match and dispatch” rites of passage. They keep their buildings open seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, and deliver a truly catholic array of services. Some mega-church complexes house banks, pharmacies and schools. Counselling and guidance groups are routine. So are children's ministries.

The Second Baptist Church, in Houston, Texas, has a huge football pitch. The Phoenix First Assembly of God has a medical-equipment lending closet. The World Changers Ministry in Georgia offers help preparing for tests, filling out tax forms and buying houses (it even has a network of mortgage brokers and real-estate agents). Lakewood Church, also in Houston, puts on one of its Sunday services en español. Carson Valley Christian Centre (motto: “friends helping friends follow Christ”) offered sermons on how to slay the “Goliaths” of procrastination, resentment, anxiety, temptation and loneliness. It also offers classes in martial arts: “the Christian warrior way”.

This emphasis on customer-service is producing a predictable result: growth. John Vaughan, a consultant who specialises in mega-churches, argues that 2005 has been a landmark year. This was the first time an American church passed the 30,000-a-week attendance mark (it was Lakewood, which earlier this year moved into its new home in Houston's Compaq Center). It was also the first time that 1,000 churches counted as mega-churches (broadly, you qualify if 2,000 or more people attend). Willow Creek has seating for 7,200 (comfortable chairs, not wooden pews). The fastest-growing church in the country, Without Walls in Tampa, Florida, added 4,330 new members in the past year alone.

This sort of rapid growth brings all sorts of advantages. The most obvious is that it lets churches put on extravaganzas. Willow Creek regularly invites celebrities such as Randy Travis, a country singer, or Lisa Beamer, the widow of Todd Beamer (a hero on one of the hijacked aircraft on September 11th). Lakewood has a 500-strong choir. Westlink Christian Church put on an outdoor display of extreme sports that includes skate-boarders jumping over a fire to illustrate salvation.

Growth also allows pastorpreneurs—empowered by a combination of large cash flows and economies of scale—to exploit every available channel to get their message across. Joel Osteen, the chief pastor of Lakewood, has a television-ministry, which reaches 7m people around the world, and a best-selling book, “Your Best Life Now”. Rick Warren's “The Purpose-Driven Life” has sold more than 25m copies and spawned a follow-up industry of books, tapes, courses and CDs, including a selection of songs. Bishop T.D. Jakes, the chief pastor of The Potters House, reaches 260 prisons a week via satellite.

Most successful churches are humming with technology. Willow Creek sports four video-editing suites. World Changers Ministries has a music studio and a record label. The Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, employs a chief technology officer (and spends 15% of its $30m annual budget on technology). Worshippers in such churches do not have to worry about finding their place in the hymn book or that they will catch cold. Computers project the words of the hymns onto huge screens, and the temperature is perfectly controlled.

But this rapid growth brings problems in its wake too—problems that usually end up forcing churches to become yet more business-like and management-obsessed. The most obvious challenge is managing size. You cannot just muddle through if you have an annual income of $55m (like Lakewood in 2004) or employ 450 full- and part-time staff (like Willow Creek). Such establishments need to set up a management structure with finance departments and even human-resources departments. They also need to start thinking—like Mr Hybels—about the relationship between the religious leadership and the management team.

Another problem is subtler: how do you speak directly to individual parishioners when you have a church the size of a stadium? Some mega-churches have begun to see members drift away in search of more intimate organisations. And many mega-preachers worry that they are producing a flock who regard religion as nothing more than spectacle. So they have begun to adopt techniques that allow churches to be both big and small at once.

One ruse is to break the congregation into small groups. Most big churches ask members of their congregation to join clutches of eight-to-ten people with something in common (age or marital status, for example). A second is to segment the religious market. Willow Creek has two very different services. The Sunday one for new “seekers” is designed to exhibit the Christian faith in a “relevant and non-threatening way”. Willow Creek estimates that over half of the people who come to its Sunday services would otherwise be “unchurched”. The Wednesday service for people who are committed to Christianity is designed to deepen their faith.

A third technique is to set up satellite churches—a form of religious franchising. Willow Creek has set up several satellite churches in the Chicago area so that nobody has to travel more than 50 miles. Life Church has franchised five campuses in Oklahoma, two in Arizona and one in Texas.

Growth in religious organisations is proving just as addictive as it is in corporate ones, and successful churches are reaching deep into business theory to feed their habit. They use strategic planning and strategic “visions” to make sure they know where they are headed.

These pastorpreneurs are committed not just to applying good management techniques to their own organisations but also to spreading them to others. This is, after all, the world of evangelism. Willow Creek has a consulting arm, the Willow Creek Association, that has more than 11,500 member churches. It puts on leadership events for more than 100,000 people a year (guest speakers have included Jim Collins, a business guru, and Bill Clinton) and earns almost $20m a year. Rick Warren likens his “purpose-driven formula” to an Intel operating chip that can be inserted into the motherboard of any church—and points out that there are more than 30,000 “purpose-driven” churches. Mr Warren has also set up a website, pastors.com, that gives 100,000 pastors access to e-mail forums, prayer sites and pre-cooked sermons, including over 20-years-worth of Mr Warren's own.

Indeed, in a nice reversal businesses have also started to learn from the churches. The late Peter Drucker pointed out that these churches have several lessons to teach mainline businesses. They are excellent at motivating their employees and volunteers, and at transforming volunteers from well-meaning amateurs into disciplined professionals. The best churches (like some of the most notorious cults) have discovered the secret of low-cost and self-sustaining growth: transforming seekers into evangelicals who will then go out and recruit more seekers.


The Lord helps those who help themselves

There is no shortage of criticisms of these fast-growing churches. One is that they represent the Disneyfication of religion. Forget about the agony and ecstasy of faith. Willow Creek and its sort are said to serve up nothing more challenging than Christianity Lite— a bland and sanitised creed that is about as dramatic as the average shopping mall.

Another criticism is that these churches are not really in the religion business but in the self-help trade. Mr Osteen and his equivalents preach reassuring sermons to “victors not victims”, who can learn to be “rich, healthy and trouble free”. God, after all, “wants you to achieve your personal best”. The result is a wash: rather than making America more Christian, the mega-churches have simply succeeded in making Christianity more American.

Moreover, it is a wash that is extraordinary good for the pastorpreneurs themselves, who prosper by preaching the gospel of prosperity. The wonderfully named Creflo Dollar, chief pastor of World Changers Church International in Georgia, drives a Rolls-Royce and travels in a Gulfstream jet. Joyce Meyer, who promises that God rewards people with his blessings, counts among her own blessings a $2m home and a $10m jet.

Yet three things can be said in the mega-churches' defence. The first is that they are simply responding to demand. Their target audience consists of baby-boomers who left the church in adolescence, who do not feel comfortable with overt displays of religiosity, who dread turning into their parents, and who apply the same consumerist mentality to spiritual life as they do to everything else. The mega-churches are using the tools of American society to spread religion where it would not otherwise exist.

The second line of defence is that they are simply adding to a menu of choices. There is no shortage of churches that offer more traditional fare—from Greek Orthodox to conservative Catholic. The third defence is more subtle: these churches are much less Disneyfied than they appear. They may be soft on the surface, but they are hard on the inside. The people at Lakewood believe that “the entire Bible is inspired by God, without error”. Cuddly old Rick Warren believes that “heaven and hell are real places” and that “Jesus is coming again”. You may start out in the figurative hell of a Disney theme-park, but you end up with the real thing.

The other common criticisms of the mega-churches—and the marriage of religion and business that they embody—are practical. One is that the mega-churches are a passing fad, doomed to be destroyed by a combination of elephantiasis and scandal. Another is that they are an idiosyncratic product of red-state America: amusing to look at, but irrelevant to the rest of the world. Again, neither argument is entirely convincing.

The marriage of religion and business has deep roots in American history. Itinerant Methodist preachers from Francis Asbury (1745-1816) onwards addressed camp meetings of thousands of people, and often borrowed marketing techniques from business. Aimee Semple McPherson, one of America's first radio Evangelists, built a church for 5,300 people in Los Angeles in 1923. (She had none of Mr Hybels's worries about religious symbolism: she topped her church with an illuminated rotating cross that could be seen 50 miles away.) And the gospel of self-help and prosperity is as American as apple pie. In his 1925 bestseller, “The Man Nobody Knows”, Bruce Barton, an adman turned evangelist, pictured Jesus as a savvy executive who “picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organisation that conquered the world”. His parables were “the most powerful advertisements of all time”.

The mega-churches are also on the march well beyond red-state America. America has an impressive track record of exporting its religious innovations. Pentecostalism, which was invented in a Kansas bible college in 1901, currently has well over 100m adherents around the world. Even Mormonism, that most idiosyncratically American of religious faiths, has 6.7m followers outside the United States. There is no reason to think that the latest style of marriage between religion and business is an exception. Rick Warren has inserted his “purpose-driven operating chip” into churches in 120 countries around the world. He and his congregation have also set themselves the goal of eradicating poverty in Africa. The Willow Creek Association has 4,700 member churches abroad; a meeting in the staid English town of Cheltenham recently attracted almost 3,000 people. The merger between business and religion has been fabulously successful in America. Now it is starting to do battle with the “evangephobia” that marks so much of the rest of the world.

Jesus, CEO, E, 20.12.2005,






Judge bans teaching intelligent design


Tue Dec 20, 2005
12:47 PM ET
By Jon Hurdle


PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday banned the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution by Pennsylvania's Dover Area School District, saying the practice violated the constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John Jones dealt a blow to U.S. Christian conservatives who have been pressing for the teaching of creationism in schools and who played a significant role in the re-election of President George W. Bush

"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school classroom," Jones wrote in a 139-page opinion.

The school district was sued by a group of 11 parents who claimed teaching intelligent design was unconstitutional and unscientific and had no place in high school biology classrooms.

The six-week Harrisburg trial, one of the highest-profile court cases on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial, was closely watched in at least 30 states where Christian conservatives are planning similar initiatives.

Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they must have been the work of an unnamed creator rather than the result of random natural selection, as argued by Charles Darwin in his 1859 theory of evolution.

Opponents argue that it is a thinly disguised version of creationism - a belief that the world was created by God as described in the Book of Genesis - which the Supreme Court has ruled may not be taught in public schools.

In October 2004, Dover became the first school district in the United States to include intelligent design in its science curriculum.

Ninth-grade biology students were presented with a four-paragraph statement saying that evolution is a theory, not a fact, and that there are "gaps" in the theory. The statement invited students to consider other explanations of the origins of life, including intelligent design.

In a fierce attack on the Dover board - all but one of whom have now been ousted by voters -- the judge condemned the "breathtaking inanity" of its policy."

Jones defended the students and teachers of Dover High School whom he said "deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Judge bans teaching intelligent design, R, 20.12.2005,

    Related > The Judge's Ruling > http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/educate/ktzmllrdvr122005opn.pdf







The Orignal Statement

by the Dover School Board


December 20, 2005
The New York Times


The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.

    The Orignal Statement by the Dover School Board, NYT, 20.12.2005,






Good Will Took a Holiday,

Whatever You Call It


December 18, 2005
The New York Times


At a Christmas tree lighting ceremony recently in Manhasset, N.Y., a crowd of 200 gasped at the intemperate words uttered by a public official who was angry at a priest for an invocation the official considered too religious.

In Huntington in nearby Suffolk County, people are still fuming about the lawsuit filed last week to remove the crèche and the menorah displayed on the village green.

In Florida, rather than a complaint about too much religion, conservative Christian lawyers brought suits recently against two towns whose holiday displays on public property the lawyers considered too secular.

The suits demanded that Nativity scenes be placed there, and they were.

If nothing quite says holiday spirit to you like family tension and the perennial rehashing of old scores, then this might be your kind of holiday season.

With a new aggressiveness, some conservative Christian groups have declared war this year against what they see as an attack of secularization on Christmas, using boycotts and lawsuits to invoke the baby Jesus and the words "Merry Christmas" with an unusual fervor.

At the same time, members of other religious groups and civil libertarians have mounted a resistance to what they see as a creeping imposition of religion on public and commercial places, in a few cases filing suits of their own.

But in the vast middle - in that central core of the population where people shop and the Chipmunks sing, and contradictory notions live in peace, and the Festival of Lights shares deep and undisputed psychic space with the glittering Christmas tree - there is a sense of impending loss.

If the bellicose atmosphere of national politics can infect even this season of childhood and enchantment, as this thinking goes, we are all in some kind of big trouble.

"It's like everybody's going crazy," said Liseanne Altmann, a Nassau County legislator from Great Neck, the town next to Manhasset. "I wish they would all chill out a little. At this time of year, the overarching theme should be coming together, not division."

Jim Ellis, an advertising executive strolling past the Christmas-wreathed light poles of downtown Huntington, a minute's sleigh ride from the town's recently contested Nativity scene and menorah display, said such disputes at a time like this were a kind of self-indulgence.

"With all that's going on, I mean kids are dying every day in the war," he said, "and this is what we're worried about? People have too much time on their hands."

It is hardly the first contentious holiday season. In recent decades, civic quarrels over the placement of religious holiday symbols in taxpayer-owned space have resulted in various court decisions, most sanctioning the use of such symbols as long as they are displayed in a sort of panoply of the religious and the secular - a crèche beside a menorah beside a Santa and a Kwanzaa kinara, for example.

But in the uncharted territory of a conflict whose terms are as often unspoken as they are openly discussed, there can be surprises like the one that happened in Manhasset on Dec. 2, when the Rev. Nick Zientarski invoked "Jesus Christ, our Lord" in blessing the Christmas tree at a public ceremony across the street from the North Hempstead Town Hall.

Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who had presided at the ceremony, was heard muttering angrily during the blessing. After Father Zientarski finished, Mr. Kaiman stood up and addressed the crowd of about 200.

"This is inappropriate," the supervisor said of the invocation. "I just want to make it clear that this is in no way a religious ceremony."

Mr. Kaiman's response was considered rude by an overwhelming majority of several hundred people who e-mailed or phoned his office afterward to complain.

"Manhasset is a predominantly Christian town and a conservative town," one of Father Zientarski's parishioners told Newsday.

A prominent local citizen, the Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who has made what he calls the "war on Christmas" a regular feature of "The O'Reilly Factor," scolded Mr. Kaiman on the air.

"It never occurred to me that I was stepping into this national discussion," Mr. Kaiman said in a telephone interview on Thursday. "The depth of the passion people feel about this issue was really eye-opening."

In several letters and opinion articles published in local newspapers, and in a series of meetings with residents, Mr. Kaiman has apologized for what he conceded was the rudeness of his response.

Similar waves of condemnation befell Mitchell Pashkin after he filed suit on Dec. 7 to force Huntington to dismantle its traditional holiday display of a Nativity scene and a menorah in a public park. He said they violated the First Amendment's establishment clause, but later agreed to a compromise wherein the symbols were accompanied by signs explaining their provenance - the crèche from a Catholic group, the menorah from a synagogue.

"It's not about Christmas," said Mr. Pashkin, a town resident and a lawyer, who received dozens of angry phone calls after his suit was publicized. "It's about whether religious symbols should be displayed on public property at all. The government should not be seen as endorsing anybody's religion."

The same religious holiday display had been put up in the same park for years, and had offended him all along, but what made him file the suit this year was hard for him to identify.

"I just thought it was time to do it," Mr. Pashkin said.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, suggested that civil libertarians everywhere were on heightened alert, consciously or not, because of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's widely publicized "Friend or Foe" Christmas campaign, an effort to counter perceived attacks against Christmas.

The Falwell campaign, which was announced soon after Thanksgiving, threatened boycotts against the retailers Wal-Mart, Target and Lowe's for using the term "holiday" instead of "Christmas" in advertising.

An affiliated group, Liberty Counsel, brought suit to force the Florida towns of Neptune Beach and Wellington to include Nativity scenes in displays that previously featured only a Christmas tree and a menorah. The group threatened to sue an elementary school in Dodgeville, Wis., where in a school play about a homeless family, the lyric of the song "Silent Night" was changed to eliminate religious references.

"This campaign has never been so aggressive as it is now," Mr. Lynn said. "They have 1,500 lawyers standing by, ready to promote this idea they have, what I call this Christian triumphalism, anywhere they can gin up some case."

Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, said the campaign only sought "to make sure that Christmas is not censored from the holiday season."

"We have a national holiday called Christmas," Mr. Staver said in an interview, "and the central meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus."

In Manhasset the other day, a woman passing the Christmas tree that started the angry tensions was asked what she made of it all.

"I am French," said the woman, Gigi Anderson, a real estate agent in Manhasset for more than 30 years. "I maybe have a different view than most Americans, but in France we do not make so much of religious matters. They are private matters."

Patricia Sciortino, shopping bags in each hand and the cold weather's rouge in both cheeks, voiced a more common American view of religious observance. It is a shared experience, she said, something akin to the block party, where everyone brings a dish.

"I think we should all celebrate everything," said Mrs. Sciortino, who was interviewed in Manhasset. "We should have Christmas, we should have Hanukkah and whatever people have. I think we should all learn to respect each other. Everyone should have the right to be who they are. That's what the country is all about."

"Have a nice day," she added.

    Good Will Took a Holiday, Whatever You Call It, NYT, 18.12.2005,






Clergy's Call Still Strong

for Young Vietnamese


December 11, 2005
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 - When the Rev. Augustine Tran went to Vietnamese-American parishes as a seminarian a couple of years ago, pastors and worshipers would hand him money to help him with school, though they had little of their own. When he goes to the Vietnamese enclaves of suburban Virginia, where he now works, Roman Catholics often greet him like a celebrity, his siblings said.

Strong support from the community, as well as their own families, has helped propel Vietnamese-American men like Father Tran, 29, into the priesthood in ever-larger numbers.

At a time when fewer American Catholics are expressing interest in the priesthood, Vietnamese-American men are an anomaly. They are now the second-largest minority ethnic group in seminaries, only slightly behind Hispanics, who account for a far larger percentage of the general population.

While church experts and priests say that some Catholics frown upon their sons' joining the priesthood and are even embarrassed by it in the wake of the sex abuse scandals among members of the clergy, Vietnamese Catholics continue to hold the priesthood in high regard. They say that the sex scandal marred individual clergymen but not the vocation itself.

Like many of his counterparts, Father Tran, a priest at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Fairfax, Va., came to the United States from Vietnam when he was young, in his case at age 17. Those of his generation, like the one before him, often describe the priesthood as the pinnacle of service and success, as many European Catholic immigrants did a century ago.

"If you go to a Vietnamese parish and ask people, would they prefer that their son be the president, a doctor or a priest, they would say, 'A priest,' " Father Tran said. "It is seen as a blessing from God for the family."

Asians and Pacific Islanders constitute about 1 percent of American Catholics, but they account for 12 percent of seminarians, or about 397 of 3,308 men; a vast majority of them are of Vietnamese heritage, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. In 1999, they were about 9 percent of seminarians, although the number of seminarians overall was only slightly less than it is now.

That such a small group of American Catholics is able to deliver so many new priests reveals the grip tradition, family and faith still have on many Vietnamese-Americans.

"I feel like our path is different from Americans', in that they don't get the support from their family," said Paul Nguyen, 26, who is studying at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Mr. Nguyen's older brother, John, is also a seminarian, as are three other men from their parish in Silver Spring, Md.

"When you get that support from family and from parishioners, it's very reaffirming," Mr. Nguyen said. "Sometimes when men don't have the support of parishioners, they feel alone, and some have left the seminary because of that."

The Rev. Joachim Hien, pastor of St. Anthony's Church in Spokane, Wash., estimates that at least 30 percent of the approximately 1.1 million Vietnamese in the United States are Catholic.

For the most part, the Vietnamese-American men now studying for the priesthood left their homeland after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and through the early 1980's. Many Vietnamese immigrants flocked to places like Orange County, Calif.; Houston; New Orleans; and the suburbs around Washington. They chose to live in close communities, brought over their extended families and built churches where Mass was held in Vietnamese.

"Those born in Vietnam have been through a lot of sacrifice and difficulty," said Bishop Dominic Luong, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange County and a Vietnamese immigrant. "When they suffer so much and see things passing so fast, they have to find some kind of permanence, and religion seemed to assure that."

Some seminarians were adults when they immigrated, but the majority were children and teenagers. A few older seminarians, like Trinh Quang Le, 51, who is studying at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago to join the Congregation of the Holy Spirit order, had been in the seminary before the fall of Saigon, after which seminaries were closed.

Most Vietnamese-American seminarians are nourished by early memories of their lives in towns that, because of the influence of previous French rule, were predominantly Catholic. Mr. Nguyen, the Mount St. Mary's student, who came to the United States when he was 11, remembers walking with his grandmother in the predawn darkness to Mass every day in his hometown.

The only day that Father Tran's family does not attend Mass near their home in Annandale, Va., is Tuesday, their son's day off. On those days, before a makeshift altar the Trans created in their living room with an excerpt from the Bible emblazoned on a wall and a statue of the Virgin Mary that they spirited out of Vietnam, Father Tran conducts Mass for his parents, brothers, sisters and their children.

"When my brother celebrates Mass, you have the feeling that he is one of those who were chosen, and it's very, very special," said Kim Tran, 27.

Father Tran told his parents when he was 10 that he wanted to be a priest like his uncle, now a bishop in Vietnam. His mother, Hien T. Nguyen, said she wept with joy. His father, Phuc Q. Tran, said that even then, as an altar boy, his son worshipped with a fervent devotion.

Father Tran's younger brother, Dai, 17, listening to his family on the edge of the living room on a recent Sunday afternoon, piped up with the most enthusiasm.

"In school, when some of my teachers hear that my brother is a priest, they say, 'Wow, what an honor,' and my friends think that it's really interesting," said Dai, himself an altar boy. "It feels good because you have someone to look up to."

A web of relationships in the Vietnamese-American community supports young men considering the priesthood. Many have relatives in the priesthood. Many Vietnamese priests take it upon themselves to help young men decide whether they want to join the priesthood, "which is rare in this country," said Bishop Luong of Orange County.

"The Vietnamese community responds communally sometimes, even sacrificing with money to help those who cannot afford to go to seminary," he said. "They work together to help those in seminary as a community project."

When Father Tran tells his own parishioners, mostly non-Vietnamese, that their sons might end up as priests someday, they often demur. They want grandchildren, they explain. Or they are afraid of something ineffable, Father Tran said. He added: "There isn't that level of support."

Still, there are exceptions among Vietnamese families. Mr. Nguyen said his father was alarmed because both of his sons chose to become priests. "He wasn't very pleased with my decision," said Mr. Nguyen, who had been on the path to becoming a doctor. "I pray a lot for him to understand. It has brought me closer to my dad. I talk to him every week."

And as Vietnamese Catholics spend more time in the United States, their attitudes toward the priesthood might change, becoming more like other Americans'. Seminarians say anecdotally that American-born Vietnamese are still turning to the priesthood, but Bishop Luong and others expect the numbers to taper off as the new generation becomes more assimilated and more secular.

Bishop Luong said: "Those born here are interested in making a lot of money. I had a very successful priest come and speak to a group of 12th graders. They asked, 'How much money do you make?' He said, '$35,000 a year.' They said, 'That's not enough for me - I need to make two to three times more than that.' "

    Clergy's Call Still Strong for Young Vietnamese, NYT, 11.12.2005,






When Christmas Falls on Sunday,

Megachurches Take the Day Off


December 9, 2005
The New York Times


Some of the nation's most prominent megachurches have decided not to hold worship services on the Sunday that coincides with Christmas Day, a move that is generating controversy among evangelical Christians at a time when many conservative groups are battling to "put the Christ back in Christmas."

Megachurch leaders say that the decision is in keeping with their innovative and "family friendly" approach and that they are compensating in other ways. Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., always a pacesetter among megachurches, is handing out a DVD it produced for the occasion that features a heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale.

"What we're encouraging people to do is take that DVD and in the comfort of their living room, with friends and family, pop it into the player and hopefully hear a different and more personal and maybe more intimate Christmas message, that God is with us wherever we are," said Cally Parkinson, communications director at Willow Creek, which draws 20,000 people on a typical Sunday.

Megachurches have long been criticized for offering "theology lite," but some critics say that this time the churches have gone too far in the quest to make Christianity accessible to spiritual seekers.

"I see this in many ways as a capitulation to narcissism, the self-centered, me-first, I'm going to put me and my immediate family first agenda of the larger culture," said Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. "If Christianity is an evangelistic religion, then what kind of message is this sending to the larger culture - that worship is an optional extra?"

John D. Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin College, asked: "What about the people in society without strong family connections? The elderly, single people a long distance from family, or people who are simply lonely and for whom church and prayers would be a significant part of their day?"

The uproar is not only over closing the churches on Christmas Day, because some evangelical churches large and small have done that in recent years and made Christmas Eve the big draw, without attracting much criticism.

What some consider the deeper affront is in canceling services on a Sunday, which most Christian churches consider the Lord's Day, when communal worship is an obligation. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was in 1994. Some of these same megachurches remained open them, they say, but found attendance sparse.

Since then, the perennial culture wars over the secularization of Christmas have intensified, and this year the scuffles are especially lively. Conservative Christian groups are boycotting stores that fail to mention "Christmas" in their holiday greetings or advertising campaigns. Schools are being pressured to refer to the December vacation as "Christmas break." Even the White House came under attack this week for sending out cards with best wishes for the "holiday season."

When the office of Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia sent out a press release last Friday announcing plans for a "holiday tree" lighting, a half-hour later it sent out another saying, "It is in fact a Christmas tree."

For years, it has been an open secret that many mainline Protestant churches are half empty - or worse - on Christmas Day. The churches' emphasis has been instead on the days leading up to Christmas, with Christmas Eve attracting the most worshipers. Some of the megachurches closing on Christmas this year have increased the number of services in the days before.

But for the vast majority of the other churches, closing down on Christmas Sunday would be unthinkable.

"I can't even imagine not observing Christmas in an Episcopal church," said Robert Williams, a spokesman for the Episcopal Church USA. "The only thing I could think of would be a summer chapel that might be shut down anyway."

In many Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, known for their rich liturgical traditions, Christmas Day attracts far more worshippers than an average Sunday. Grown children return with their parents to the parishes they belonged to when they were young.

"From the Catholic perspective, the whole purpose of the holiday is to celebrate it as a religious holiday in the company of the community, and for Catholics that means at Mass," said Robert J. Miller, director of research and planning in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Canceling worship on Christmas Day appears to be predominantly a megachurch phenomenon, sociologists of religion say.

"This attachment to a particular day on the calendar is just not something that megachurches have been known for," Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University, said. "They're known for being flexible and creative, and not for taking these traditions, seasons, dates and symbols really seriously."

At least eight megachurches have canceled their Christmas services. They are only a fraction of the 1,200 or so in the country, but they are influential, Scott Thumma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary, said. The trend has been reported in The Lexington Herald-Leader and in other newspapers.

Besides Willow Creek, the churches include Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky.; Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington, Ky.; Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Tex.; Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C.; North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga.; First Baptist in Atlanta; and Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich.

Many other megachurches that are staying open on Christmas Day are holding fewer services than they would on a typical Sunday. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in Lithonia, Ga., with about 25,000 members, will hold only one of its usual two services this Christmas Day.

Bishop Eddie L. Long, the senior pastor, said that his church was "always promoting family," and that many members of his congregation were transplants to the Atlanta area who traveled far away to be with their families on Christmas.

"We're encouraging our members to do a family worship," Bishop Long said. "They could wake up and read Scripture and pray and sometimes sing a song, and go over the true meaning of what Christmas is, before opening up their gifts. It keeps them together and not running off to get dressed up to go off to church."

His church offers streaming video of the Sunday service, and Bishop Long said he expected a spike in viewers this Christmas. "They have an option if they want to join their family around the computer and worship with us," he said.

Staff members at Willow Creek said they had had few complaints from members about the church closing on Christmas. Said the Rev. Mark Ashton, whose title is pastor of spiritual discovery: "We've always been a church that's been on the edge of innovation. We've been willing to try and experiment, so this is another one of those innovations."

The real question is not why churches are skipping Christmas, but why individual Christians are skipping church on the second holiest day on the Christian calendar next to Easter, said Mr. Thumma.

"I think these critics who decry the megachurches should really be aiming their barbs at individual Christians who are willing to stay at home around the Christmas tree instead of coming and giving at least part of that day to the meaning of the holiday," he said. "They should be facing up to the reality of that."

    When Christmas Falls on Sunday, Megachurches Take the Day Off, NYT, 9.12.2005,






Some megachurches closing for Christmas


Posted 12/6/2005 9:48 PM
Updated 12/6/2005 11:16 PM
The Associated Press


This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anti-cipating low attendance on what they call a family day.

Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.

It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.

"This is a consumer mentality at work: 'Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Mass. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

The churches closing on Christmas plan multiple services in the days leading up to the holiday, including on Christmas Eve. Most normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before. However, Sunday worship has been a Christian practice since ancient times.

Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.

"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said.

Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its website that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.

The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes, which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled.

Cindy Willison, a spokeswoman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church, said at least 500 volunteers are needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend. She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working, although she said a few church members complained.

"If we weren't having services at all, I would probably tend to feel that we were too accommodating to the secular viewpoint, but we're having multiple services on Saturday and an additional service Friday night," Willison said. "We believe that you worship every day of the week, not just on a weekend, and you don't have to be in a church building to worship."

Troy Page, a spokesman for Fellowship Church, said the congregation was hardly shirking its religious obligations. Fellowship will hold 21 services in four locations in the days leading up to the holiday. Last year, more than 30,000 worshippers participated. "Doing them early allows you to reach people who may be leaving town Friday," Page said.

These megachurches are not alone in adjusting Sunday worship to accommodate families on Christmas. But most other congregations are scaling back services instead of closing their doors.

First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., led by the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will hold one service instead of the usual two. New Life Church in Colorado Springs, led by the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, will hold one Sunday service instead of the typical three.

    Some megachurches closing for Christmas, UT, 6.12.2005,






A Pair of Wings Took Evolving Insects

on a Nonstop Flight to Domination


November 29, 2005
The New York Times


In the annals of life, insects are one of the great success stories.

A little over 400 million years ago, their six-legged ancestors came out of the water onto dry land. They have evolved into an estimated five million living species - dwarfing the diversity of all other animals combined. Even if you throw in all the known species of plants, fungi and protozoans, insects still win.

Insects are also a success in terms of sheer biomass. Put all of the insects on a giant scale, and they will outweigh all other animals, whales and elephants included.

And insects are also ecologically essential. If all humans decided to leave for Mars, taking all the vertebrates with them, the disruption to life on Earth would be incomparably less than the catastrophe that would ensue if insects disappeared. Forests would probably collapse, rivers and oceans would be poisoned, and many other animals would starve.

Two entomologists have now written the first book that chronicles this success story. "Evolution of the Insects," published by Cambridge University Press, results from five years' labor by David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History and Michael Engel of the University of Kansas.

Dr. Grimaldi and Dr. Engel are well qualified for the job. Among their many accomplishments, they identified the oldest insect fossils from a 410-million-year-old rock in 2004. But to write "Evolution of the Insects," they went well beyond their own research and synthesized the work of the armies of scientists who study living insects, dig up insect fossils and discover evolutionary secrets in insect DNA.

This effort has produced an increasingly clear picture of the rise of insects. Their success, scientists now recognize, did not occur overnight. The oldest living lineages of insects - which include bristletails and silverfish - number only 900 species today. These early insects may not have been able to become very diverse because they didn't have wings. When insects later evolved the ability to fly, they gained the ability to explore more territory and find new kinds of food - giving rise to more species.

Early flying insects grew wings that stuck straight out - as illustrated by mayflies and dragonflies, the oldest flying insects alive today. By 300 million years ago, other insects had evolved folding wings. This innovation may have given a new boost to the diversity of insects. Such an insect could keep its wings safely tucked away as it crawled through leaf litter, squeezed under tree bark or even dived into water.

It is unlikely that insects would have enjoyed their great success without the success of plants, which evolved from algae about 450 million years ago. Plants set the table for insects. They provided a vast amount of food for the taking, spurring the evolution of all manner of insect mouthparts for nibbling, sucking and drilling.

The assault of insects prompted the evolution of sophisticated chemical weapons in plants. But the insects evolved defenses against them. Some insects, like monarch butterflies, can recycle poisons from plants they eat, making themselves poisonous to birds and other predators.

As Dr. Grimaldi and Dr. Engel make clear, though, vegetarianism is hardly the rule among insects. Some of the most successful lineages eat other insects, drink the blood of mammals and birds, or lay their eggs inside unlucky hosts.

Scientists are beginning to learn how some of these transformations took place. Take fleas. Recent research has revealed that fleas descend from mosquitolike insects called scorpionflies, which have long wings and powerful eyes, aiding them in finding insect carcasses for food.

A clue to how scorpionflies evolved into fleas comes from the fleas' closest living relatives. Known as boreids or snow fleas, these 24 species walk across snow in late winter to feed on moss. Unlike other scorpionflies, snow fleas have tiny wings that are useless for flying. They don't have the keen eyesight of other scorpionflies, probably because they need their eyes only to detect predators.

Once the ancestors of fleas split from snow fleas 160 million years ago, they continued this trend. They lost their wings altogether and their eyes became completely covered over. But at the same time, they were adapting to a new habitat, the hair of mammals and the feathers of birds. That shift turned out to be a key to evolutionary success. There are now 5,000 species of fleas, 200 times as many as their snow flea relatives.

Insects came on land more than 50 million years before our vertebrate ancestors arrived. They were barely touched by the mass extinctions that annihilated the dinosaurs and marine reptiles 65 million years ago. But Dr. Grimaldi and Dr. Engel believe that they now face a challenge almost without precedent in their history: humans.

Roaches, houseflies and a few other species have adapted well to a human-dominated world. Insects that eat crops have even evolved resistance to almost all the pesticides farmers have sprayed on them. But other species are not so fortunate.

Insects that live only in certain habitats can face extinction when their homes are taken over - when houses are built on coastal dunes, for example. Other insects depend entirely on a single species of plant for food, and if that plant disappears, they may disappear as well. While pests evolve resistance, pesticides are devastating neighboring insects that don't feed on the crops. So we can expect more pests and fewer bees and butterflies.

"The behavior, life histories, ecological interactions and biology of most insects in our own yards and city parks are largely unknown, let alone the millions of species in remote regions," Dr. Grimaldi and Dr. Engel write. "We will never know the full extent of what we are losing."

"Evolution of the Insects" may at least show us what came before.

    A Pair of Wings Took Evolving Insects on a Nonstop Flight to Domination, NYT, 29.11.2005,






U.S. Catholics Are Divided

Over New Directive on Gays


November 28, 2005
The New York Times


Grappling with the implications of a Vatican directive issued last week that would bar most gay men from seminaries, Roman Catholics at several parishes around the country yesterday offered sharply contrasting interpretations of its impact on the priesthood, on the potential for sex abuse by clergy members and on the church itself.

More than three dozen interviews at churches in Los Angeles and around Boston, Washington and Austin, Tex., underscored that Catholics were as divided as the rest of the country in their attitudes about gay men and lesbians. Roughly half the Catholics interviewed praised the Vatican document as upholding church teachings, which consider homosexuality "objectively disordered." But just as many parishioners criticized it as unfair to gay men, saying that a priest's commitment to celibacy should be the issue, not his sexual orientation.

Similarly, some Catholics said that because the majority of victims in the scandals involving sexually abusive priests were boys, barring gay men from the priesthood would reduce the likelihood of such abuse in the future. But others said there was no link between homosexuality and pedophilia, especially many parishioners in Boston, an archdiocese profoundly affected by the sexual abuse scandal.

Both sides largely predicted that if the directive, or instruction, was vigorously enforced, it would reduce the number of priests ordained in the Catholic church at a time when it is grappling with an acute shortage of clergy members. Yet supporters of the Vatican's stance said that such a step was necessary to root out priests whom they considered dangerous.

"If it is part of church doctrine, we'd be better off with 5 percent less priests, but who conform to church doctrine, rather than a few more," said Travis Corcoran, 34, the owner of an online DVD rental company, as he left an early Mass yesterday at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Mass., near Boston. "It's the same way if there's a shortage of school bus drivers. If you drug-test school bus drivers and the result is there are a few less school bus drivers, that's better."

Work on the document began years ago in the tenure of Pope John Paul II, but last spring, Pope Benedict XVI cast the issue in terms of the recent sexual abuse scandals, saying there was a need to "purify" the church. The document, which was published last week on an Italian Catholic Web site, would exclude from the priesthood men "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture.' "

It would allow into the priesthood those who had "clearly overcome" what it deemed "transitory" homosexual impulses at least three years before ordination as a deacon, the last step before priesthood. The document did not define "overcome."

Bernadette Ruiz, a stay-at-home mother of three boys in Austin, Tex., echoed many Catholics who said they thought the directive discriminated against gay men by targeting them for greater scrutiny and possible expulsion.

"Once you enter the priesthood, you give up sexual activity, whether you're straight or gay," Ms. Ruiz said as she left Mass yesterday at St. Catherine of Siena in southwest Austin. "We're taught to love and forgive and be open. To single out people is to go against what we're being taught."

She added: "Some people, they make it seem like if a priest is gay, they are less than a priest. I don't believe that."

But proponents of the instruction applauded the Vatican for reaffirming a longstanding position on homosexuality, especially in the face of growing acceptance of gay men and lesbians in the West. "Somebody has to have standards, not just politically but morally," said Sharon France, 65, a retired building supply executive from Phoenix, who attended Mass yesterday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles with her husband, Tom, 69.

Mr. France said the ban should go even further to encompass anyone who had ever had homosexual tendencies. "I don't think you can make chicken soup out of chicken feathers," he said. "It should be either one way or the other."

Most supporters of the directive said they believed there was a link between homosexuality and the sexual abuse by clergy members that has recently rocked the church, and they said the initiative would make such scandals less likely in the future.

"There were good intentions in the past, with people saying, 'Let's pray for it, treat it,' and now we have to deal with it," said Robert Searby, 49, who was attending Mass yesterday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Va., where his son, James, is a priest. "It should be done with charity, but that doesn't mean meekness."

But many Catholics said the directive served only to scapegoat gay men, rather than deal with what they see as the root causes of the sexual abuse. Those Catholics say that pedophilia is not tied to sexual orientation and that the church hierarchy is ignoring its own missteps in the scandals.

"They're afraid to look at themselves because they allowed the abuse to happen," said Kevin Thomas, 73, a retired social studies teacher from Woburn, Mass, who was at coffee hour yesterday at Sacred Heart Parish in Lexington, Mass. "All those people sent priests back in to abuse more and more."

Some worshipers, including Paul Bjarnason, 37, predicted that the directive, if carried out forcefully, could alienate gay Catholics. "Any time you have something like this, there is bound to be collateral damage," Mr. Bjarnason said as he watched his three young children play in the entry hall to Holy Spirit Church in Annandale. "I don't know if it changes much but it brings the issue to the fore, and so people will probably feel more shunned because of it."

Others still said they were disturbed by how the directive could winnow the church of good priests. "I'm disappointed in the Vatican," said Patsy Heuchling, 80, a retiree from Winchester, Mass., at a coffee hour after Mass yesterday at Sacred Heart Parish. "I know priests who are gay, and I fear it will make them uncomfortable - maybe even marginalized. I resent the missed opportunity to welcome young men who are gay, but are put off. We may never know the good priests we have lost from this."


Neela Banerjee reported from Annandale, Va., for this article, and Katie Zezima from Lexington, Mass. Cindy Chang contributed reporting from Los Angeles and Nathan Levy from Austin, Tex.

    U.S. Catholics Are Divided Over New Directive on Gays, NYT, 28.11.2005,






Boston "holiday tree" stirs controversy


Fri Nov 25, 2005 5:53 PM ET
By Jason Szep


BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston set off a furor this week when it officially renamed a giant tree erected in a city park a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree."

The move drew an angry response from Christian conservatives, including evangelist Jerry Falwell who heckled Boston officials and pressed the city to change the name back.

"There's been a concerted effort to steal Christmas," Falwell told Fox Television.

The Nova Scotia logger who cut down the 48-foot (14-meter) tree was indignant and said he would not have donated the tree if he had known of the name change.

"I'd have cut it down and put it through the chipper," Donnie Hatt told a Canadian newspaper. "If they decide it should be a holiday tree, I'll tell them to send it back. If it was a holiday tree, you might as well put it up at Easter."

Falwell and the conservative Liberty Counsel led a campaign that threatened to sue anyone who spreads what they see as misinformation about Christmas celebrations in public spaces.

The controversy reflects the legal vulnerability of city and state governments over taxpayer-funded displays of religious icons and concern over crossing the line in the separation between church and state.

Last year, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lit what he called a "Christmas tree" at a state ceremony. The year before, he and former California Gov. Gray Davis presided over ceremonies for the more secular "holiday trees."

In Boston, many residents voiced their dismay over the Web site that promotes a December 1 ceremony for "Boston's Official Holiday Tree Lighting."

Christmas has become too politically correct, said 64 percent of people who responded to an online poll by a CBS television affiliate in Boston.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he would keep calling the Nova Scotia spruce a "Christmas tree" regardless of what it said on the city's official Web site.

"I grew up with a Christmas tree, I'm going to stay with a Christmas tree," Menino told reporters on Thursday.

But the controversy cast a pall over a long-standing tradition between Boston and Canada. Nova Scotia donates a tree each year to Boston in gratitude for the city's help after an explosion killed about 1,900 people and injured 4,000 others in Halifax in 1917.

    Boston "holiday tree" stirs controversy, R, 25.11.2005,






Religion Journal

A Rabbi,

a Van and 28 Temples in 12 States


November 26, 2005
The New York Times


ATLANTA, Nov. 25 - When Rabbi Debra Kassoff shows up to lead Friday night shabbat services in McGehee, Ark., she is a bit of a star. People have been known to drive 90 miles to hear the slight 33-year-old read from the Torah and lead prayers. Sometimes, she says, there are even more Christians in attendance than Jews.

That Rabbi Kassoff is so popular is less a testament to her wisdom and insight - though her congregants agree she has both in spades - than it is to her availability. When Rabbi Kassoff shows up, she is the only game in town.

This year, Rabbi Kassoff will travel to 28 temples in 12 states throughout the South to provide leadership to small-town congregations, some with fewer than a dozen members.

Dr. Stuart Rockoff, director of the history department at the Institute for Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss., said that although visiting rabbis were not uncommon at understaffed temples around the country, Rabbi Kassoff was believed to be the only full-time circuit rabbi in the United States.

"I recently took a class on how to serve small congregations," said Rabbi Kassoff, who lives in Jackson. "They defined 'small' as anything with less than 200 members. I thought, 'If that's small, I'm serving micro congregations.' "

Since 2003, Rabbi Kassoff has spent two weekends of every month traveling around the South in her blue van. She ministers to towns where the gatherings may be modest, but where Jewish life still has deep roots, often going back five or six generations to the merchants who first settled in those towns.

Though there is a national shortage of rabbis, that dearth is perhaps felt most acutely in this 12-state region. According to a 2002 study by the Institute for Southern Jewish Life, a nonprofit organization that provides education and rabbinic services to small Jewish communities, 34 percent of the 336 congregations in the Deep South, which excludes Florida, lack a full-time rabbi. In Arkansas, just 3 of 11 temples have full services, and in Mississippi, only 2 out of 14 congregations have been able to hire a full-time leader.

Employing a circuit rabbi to reach the far-flung faithful is not new. In the 1950's, Rabbi Harold Freedman tooled around the back roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a bus outfitted with blackboards, a record player, a library, a battery-powered eternal light and even a portable ark.

Dr. Rockoff, who has researched Rabbi Freedman's travels, said more than 150 families were regulars to the bus, and in his first five years Rabbi Freedman trained more than 20 children for their bar and bat mitzvahs. A succession of rabbis made similar travels into the 1980's.

Hiring a traveling rabbi struck Macy Hart, a Mississippi native who founded the Southern Institute for Jewish Life, as an idea worthy of revival. Mr. Hart had watched thriving Jewish communities around him shrink over the years, until even some of the strongest were struggling to keep their synagogues open. Natchez, Miss., for example, once had more than 200 Jewish families, but now has only 15 members in its temple.

When a congregation dwindles so sharply, it usually does not have enough money to hire a full-time rabbi, and in order to be as inclusive as possible, it often drops affiliation with any particular Jewish movement. As a result, it is much harder to find a rabbi willing to serve their less defined pulpits.

The only way to help them, Mr. Hart reasoned, was to treat small Southern temples as a group, and hire one person to serve them all. In 2003, Mr. Hart employed Rabbi Kassoff fresh out of rabbinical school to be the first on the circuit. Rabbi Kassoff said life on the road was exhausting, but not without its rewards.

"There's something deeply moving about seeing how hard these families are committed to being where they are," she said.

With a lack of strong ties to the larger Jewish world, Jews in the South have been known to make a few accommodations.

Rabbi Pamela Gottfried, a native New Yorker who moved south for a teaching job at a Jewish high school in Atlanta, recalled a woman who approached her to say, " 'You'll have to forgive me, Rabbi, I'm a fifth-generation resident, and Mamma used to make the matzo balls with bacon fat drippings.' I thought I was on Mars."

Beyond dietary restrictions, other Sabbath rules are often overlooked in cases where the end justifies the means. Some temples, for example, have members who drive 50 miles one way to attend services. In some branches of Judaism, driving is considered a kind of work and is frowned upon on the day of rest.

"It's very heartening to me that people work so hard here to maintain their Jewish identities," Rabbi Gottfried said. An Atlanta resident, she will sometimes travel to smaller temples to help with services around the High Holy Days.

Observing life's passages sometimes calls for creative thinking. Nathaniel Graham, a poised, soft-spoken 13-year-old from Auburn, Ala., recently took his bar mitzvah classes with Rabbi Kassoff over the telephone.

For more than a year, Nathaniel and Rabbi Kassoff spoke by telephone - twice a month - for an hour each time. Nathaniel would sing his Torah portion, and she would wait until he finished the phrase to offer guidance. They talked about how he would interpret the Scripture. The two worked long distance until Rabbi Kassoff traveled to Auburn to lead Nathaniel's bar mitzvah last August.

Because Rabbi Kassoff cannot be everywhere she is needed, many rituals are carried out without the aid of a rabbi. In those cases, a senior member of the congregation is usually called upon to lead the service - sometimes with mixed results.

"There are many different melodies for Jewish prayers and we all forget which ones we're doing, so the singing is kind of all over they place," said Cynthia Kristan-Graham, 50, Nathaniel's mother and an art history teacher who worships at Beth Shalom in Auburn, a temple without a full-time rabbi.

Though Rabbi Kassoff only makes it to Beth Shalom twice a year, she has become an integral part of its spiritual life.

"We're really going to miss her when she leaves," Nathaniel said.

Rabbi Kassoff's three-year term will end in 2006; a search for her successor is under way. Rabbi Kassoff said that she would be happy to stay in one place for a while - but that she might also grow restless.

"We're a wandering people," she said. "In some ways, there's nothing more natural than for me to be on the road."

    A Rabbi, a Van and 28 Temples in 12 States, NYT, 26.11.2005,






Priests Citing New Problem in Gay Policy


November 24, 2005
The New York Times


A day after the disclosure of a new Vatican directive that deters most gay men from joining the priesthood, some priests say they are shocked by one easily overlooked clause. It says that spiritual directors and confessors in seminaries "have the duty to dissuade" any candidates "who show deep-seated homosexual tendencies" from joining the priesthood.

These priests said this would turn the confessional and spiritual counseling sessions, which seminarians previously regarded as private and supportive meetings, into a tool for weeding gay men out of seminaries.

"The relationship between a seminarian and his confessor or his spiritual director should not be about enforcing church documents, but to serve as spiritual guides," said the Rev. Michael Herman, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago who has recently publicly identified himself as gay in order to speak out against the Vatican's action.

"They've gone so far as to say your confessor's and spiritual adviser's role is to talk you out of" becoming a priest, Father Herman said.

His reaction to the document was echoed by other priests and Roman Catholic organizations, who said that the church's decree was discriminatory and hurtful to faithful chaste gay priests and would only exacerbate an already dire shortage of Catholic clergymen.

But that was only one reaction to a Vatican directive that church experts say is intentionally sprinkled with undefined terms and left open to interpretation.

Some priests and church officials welcomed the document as a corrective to what they call a gay subculture in some seminaries. Others said it merely restated an existing policy and would have far less impact than advocates of gay priests and their opponents have claimed.

"There is nothing in this document that would require a change in the current practice," said the Rev. James Bretzke, chairman of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco.

Father Bretzke said it had long been true that some American bishops and superiors who lead religious orders would automatically disqualify candidates for the priesthood who claimed a gay orientation, while other bishops would consider them.

"Unless you get a critical mass of bishops and religious superiors who say, Now we can't admit any gay men, I don't think it's going to have any discernible effect," Father Bretzke said. "There are lots of excellent gay priests and seminarians, and we have a priest shortage. We're not exactly in a buyer's market here. If you're not going to ordain gay men, and not going to ordain married men, and not going to ordain women, well then who's left? It's not exactly a big pool."

Estimates of the percentage of priests who are gay have varied from as low as 10 percent to as high as 60 percent. The directive applies only to seminarians, not to priests.

The document, written in Italian, was posted on an Italian Catholic Web site on Tuesday, one week before the Vatican was set to formally release it in Rome. It was signed by the heads of the Vatican office that oversees Catholic education and approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

Vatican documents dating as far back as 1961 have proclaimed that the church should not ordain gay men. But this document goes further in saying that a chain of church officials have the responsibility to make a "morally certain judgment" about whether a candidate's sexuality would disqualify him.

"The church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture," it says in one key passage. "Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women."

The document does not define "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," and the meaning was debated yesterday.

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things, a conservative journal about religion and public life, said the Vatican was referring to "dominant or exclusive same-sex desires." Father Bretzke, at the University of San Francisco, said the Vatican meant "activities" like frequenting gay bath houses or bars, or looking at Internet pornography.

The Rev. Stephen P. Rossetti, a psychologist and president of St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., said bishops would require further consultations before they knew how to apply the document.

The document is clear, however, about the role of the spiritual director - a priest, a nun or even a trained lay person assigned to each seminarian to talk with him about his spiritual life, in meetings that are supposed to be private and confidential.

"If a candidate is actively homosexual or shows deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, has the duty to dissuade him, in conscience, from proceeding towards ordination," it says. It does not suggest that spiritual directors violate confidentiality or inform others of the candidate's homosexuality.

One gay priest in Boston who said he was afraid to be identified because of the current climate said his spiritual director knew of his sexuality and "in fact encouraged me to proceed toward ordination."

This priest, who is now himself a spiritual director, said that if a gay man told him he wanted to join the priesthood, "I would evaluate him on the basis of the whole person."

"The job of spiritual director is not to turn people away from vocation but to help them understand what God is calling them to do," he said.

At least one gay seminarian has already quit in anticipation of the document's release. Tim Powers, 30, said he left Holy Name College in Washington in October because he was struggling with celibacy and wanted to live a more honest life. Mr. Powers said he talked with his spiritual director about his conflict.

"Both she and I realized that it was something I had to try and figure out in a way that was both authentic and had some integrity to it," he said. "The leaving part was really something I decided on my own."

    Priests Citing New Problem in Gay Policy, NYT, 24.11.2005,






University Is Accused of Bias

Against Christian Schools


November 20, 2005
The New York Times


Cody Young is an evangelical Christian who attends a religious high school in Southern California. With stellar grades, competitive test scores and an impressive list of extracurricular activities, Mr. Young has mapped a future that includes studying engineering at the University of California and a career in the aerospace industry, his lawyers have said.

But Mr. Young, his teachers and his family fear his beliefs may hurt his chance to attend the university. They say the public university system, which has 10 campuses, discriminates against students from evangelical Christian schools, especially faith-based ones like Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, where Mr. Young is a senior.

Mr. Young, five other Calvary students, the school and the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents 4,000 religious schools, sued the University of California in the summer, accusing it of "viewpoint discrimination" and unfair admission standards that violate the free speech and religious rights of evangelical Christians.

The suit, scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 12 in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, says many of Calvary's best students are at a disadvantage when they apply to the university because admissions officials have refused to certify several of the school's courses on literature, history, social studies and science that use curriculums and textbooks with a Christian viewpoint.

The lawyer for the school, Robert Tyler, said reviewing and approving the course content was an intrusion into private education that amounted to government censorship. "They are trying to secularize private Christian schools," Mr. Tyler said. "They have taken God out of public schools. Now they want to do it at Christian schools."

A lawyer for the university, Christopher M. Patti, called the suit baseless. Acknowledging the university does not accept some courses, Mr. Patti said that more than 43 courses were recognized and that university campuses had offered admission to at least 18 Calvary students since 2002. "Calvary students are perfectly free to take whatever courses they like," Mr. Patti said. "All we are saying is that unapproved courses cannot be submitted to satisfy the requirements for entry."

The suit is being closely watched by free speech advocates, other public universities and Christian education leaders. All see it as a possible harbinger for admissions policies at state universities nationally.

Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum, which studies press and religious freedom, said the university was sending a chilling message to religious schools. "If you have to clean up your religious act to get courses accepted, that's a problem," said Mr. Haynes, who has reviewed the long complaint.

Discussing the university, he said: "They certainly have a right to say the student needs to take foundational courses. That's fair. But when you get into the business of saying how a particular subject is taught or if it has too much of a religious overlay, then I think you are crossing a line."

The university maintains that under the state Constitution, the Board of Admissions and Relations With Schools, a faculty committee, has the authority to set academic standards for admissions. Ravi Poorsina, a spokeswoman for the university, said the goal was to ensure that entering students were well-prepared and competitive.

"This is not a viewpoint issue for us," Ms. Poorsina said. "Teach whatever you want. We don't want to be in the position of dictating what is taught. But we do have a right to set standards for admission, and ours are not unreasonable requirements."

A lawyer for the Association of Christian Schools International, Wendell Bird, said the Calvary concerns surfaced two years ago when the admissions board scrutinized more closely courses that emphasized Christianity. In the last year, the board has rejected courses like Christianity's Influence in American History, Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and a biology course using textbooks from the Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, conservative Christian publishers.

The officials rejected the science courses because the curriculum differed from "empirical historical knowledge generally accepted in the collegiate community," the suit said. Calvary was told to submit a secular curriculum instead. Courses in other subjects were rejected because they were called too narrow or biased.

"What really lights the fire here," Mr. Tyler said, "is when you look at courses the U.C. has approved from other schools. In the titles alone, you can see the discrimination against us."

The university has approved courses on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and gender and counterculture's effects on literature, he noted. Ms. Poorsina said many courses on Christianity had been accepted, as have Bob Jones science books.

For texts, Ms. Poorsina said, the university wants comprehensive and instructive overviews. A university fact sheet says publishers sometimes acknowledge their books are mainly to teach religion. The sheet has this excerpt from Bob Jones's "Biology for Christian Schools," used in unapproved courses, "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second."

    University Is Accused of Bias Against Christian Schools, NYT, 20.11.2005,

















Included in the exhibition is

Charles Darwin's sketch of an evolutionary tree.

© American Museum of Natural History

Enough to Make an Iguana Turn Green: Darwin's Ideas

NYT        18.11.2005

















Exhibition Review > 'Darwin'

Enough to Make an Iguana Turn Green:

Darwin's Ideas


November 18, 2005
The New York Times


DURING the years in which Charles Darwin was working on his revolutionary book, "On the Origin of Species," and later, with more intensity, in the 1860's, when controversy raged over his ideas, the naturalist was plagued with bouts of gastric trauma, sometimes accompanied by severe eczema. The illness was never diagnosed, and various hypotheses about a tropical parasite, picked up during Darwin's five years traversing the world aboard the HMS Beagle, have not been widely accepted.

At the very least, though, one could guess from Darwin's suffering the toll it took to spend more than 20 years scrutinizing specimens of bone, feather and leaf, meticulously chronicling habitats and behaviors and creating a theory that tried to explain the entire development of the animal and plant kingdoms. That theory has become so familiar, it is easy to forget how bizarre and shocking it really is; it still inspires some with outrage and disbelief.

The strangeness of that theory also does not really emerge in the sweeping new exhibition devoted to Darwin's life and ideas at the American Museum of Natural History (which opens tomorrow and will be on view until May 29, before traveling to science museums in Boston, Chicago, Toronto and London). Instead, this show, with almost too much propriety, makes Darwin's theory of evolution seem - well, almost natural. That is both a virtue and a flaw: the theory becomes clear but not its revolutionary character. The exhibition is billed as the "broadest and most complete collection ever assembled of specimens, artifacts, original manuscripts and memorabilia related to Darwin." By the time one works through it, it has so successfully given a sense of the theory's explanatory power that the exhibition can seem too small for its subject rather than too large. But it should be seen.

Curated by Niles Eldredge, a Darwin scholar and curator of the museum's division of paleontology, the exhibition offers a habitat of Darwiniana. It is handsomely populated with animals (even live ones), orchids, fossils, films, interactive video screens and historical documents and objects, some on loan from Down House, Darwin's longtime home in England; the Natural History Museum in London (which will present the exhibition in 2008-9); and Cambridge University Library. And for the most part, the elements cohabit in extraordinary harmony, recounting the course of a life and the evolution of its ideas.

Two live Galápagos tortoises, each weighing nearly 50 pounds, welcome the viewers into the exhibition, which also includes live Argentinian horned frogs and a green iguana - all displayed in glass-enclosed habitats resembling the ones Darwin believed led to the animals' distinctive coloring and character. There is a cartoon a classmate drew of the aspiring naturalist mounted on a giant beetle waving a butterfly net; a letter to his father in which Darwin, at age 22, pleaded to be allowed to join the crew of the Beagle as the ship's naturalist; and scanned images of Darwin's herbarium sheets showing leaves and stems collected during that voyage. Notebooks in which Darwin's ideas about evolution began to coalesce are here, as is - in a sure sign of canonization - a replica of Darwin's studio, complete with his walking stick and microscope.

But the exhibition actually domesticates Darwin and his theory. Think, instead, of the theory's daring. Darwin was asserting that over the course of millenniums, miraculous bodily organs have taken shape out of prehistoric crudities, species have changed their characters and turned into completely different creatures, and human beings have come into existence, all because of accidental events and the brute forces of nature. Chance, in league with danger, created both the eye and the orchid, the ocelot and the man. Now imagine asserting these ideas when no one knew anything about genetic inheritance or mutation. Darwin's digestive discomfort makes sense; in a way, so do contemporary discomforts with his work.

In an 1844 letter on display, Darwin said that beginning to write about his ideas was "like confessing a murder." He did not publish them for well over a decade, until he was spurred by the prospect of competition, when a young novice naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, sent Darwin a letter that eerily echoed some of his long-gestating ideas. After generously sharing some credit and helping to arrange for simultaneous publication of their primary ideas in 1858, Darwin set to work on his magnum opus, "On the Origin of Species."

In its sheer accumulation of objects and displays, the exhibition gives a sense of the wealth of information and experience Darwin himself had to sift through. It is shaped chronologically, as a journey through Darwin's life, punctuated with clear texts that highlight the connection between the objects on display and the ideas taking shape. The voyage on the Beagle, for example, offered a panorama of the natural world, through which Darwin peered, prodding, probing, describing everything he saw. Why did some extinct species seem to resemble those that took their place? Why did similar environments sometimes include very different species? What relationship was there between a place and the animals that lived there?

The Galápagos Islands presented a kind of astounding laboratory. Creatures on one island developed isolated from those on another, the accidents of habitat somehow producing birds and tortoises with different colorations or shapes. Darwin surmised that such variation developed out of common ancestry, an idea that would, he said, "undermine the stability of Species," challenging the notion that species possessed eternal stability.

Darwin was indefatigable, obsessed and all too aware that his ideas were cutting close to the spiritual and cultural home that had been constructed by religious belief. His wife, Emma, worried that the Darwins might not, given their different religious perspectives, be spending eternity in the same place; Charles shed tears over their differences. But he also instructed Emma in another document, that if he were to die before finishing his work, 500 pounds could be set aside from his estate to ensure its compilation and continuation.

Both worlds were shaken when Annie, one of the 10 children they were to have, died when she was 10. A writing box, preserved by her parents, is filled with the girl's treasures; instead of fossils and beetles, there are neatly wound embroidery thread, a quill pen, and - added later - her father's chart chronicling her tuberculosis and a drawn map of her grave.

Darwin was shattered by the death of his "poor, dear, dear child," though in his universe, death had a very different meaning than it did in Emma's. But he must have hung on to aspects of her world. The term, "natural selection," after all, almost personifies nature, as if there were some force selectively working toward an end. The terminology had a religious cast, as Darwin well knew, but the implications of his ideas, as his illness attests, were far more unsettling.

The exhibition, in fact, falls short in not showing just how provocative and revolutionary Darwin's theory is. The introductory section, about the world before Darwin, shows an astonishing collection of skeletons from the museum's collection in a curiosity cabinet that displays each species with its own set of bones and shape - a collection of representative models. A counterpart reflecting Darwin's theory could have also been shown, reordering the creatures, or perhaps a Darwinian "tree" could have displayed the species branching out from each other as they evolved.

The theory is also made to seem too invulnerable, particularly toward the exhibition's end, where recent views about evolution are surveyed and recent evidence for the theory presented.

Perhaps in reaction to the various attempts to get notions of "intelligent design" taken seriously in science classrooms the exhibition ends up minimizing scientific questions about the theory as well. "For 150 years," the wall text states, "the theory of evolution by natural selection has not been seriously challenged by any other scientific explanation."

But the point would have been even stronger had the museum acknowledged that Darwin's theory has indeed been subject to scientific modification, and still is. The exhibition does not draw attention to these issues, though Mr. Eldredge's own biography on the museum's Web site points out that he was one of the scientists (including Stephen Jay Gould) "challenging Darwin's premise that evolution occurs gradually," asserting instead that it occurs in spurts with long periods of stasis. Doesn't this modify the idea of the "survival of the fittest" in an important way? It would have been worth pointing out, too, why this modification was proposed: the fossil record doesn't provide the plentiful examples of continuous evolution that Darwin's theory predicts.

If examples like that - about the evolution of Evolution - had been included with more discussion, one of the crucial aspects of a scientific theory would have been illustrated: that it is subject to change and modification, that the pressures of ever-increasing knowledge have the power to kill off some ideas while permitting others to flourish. Such a theory is continually evolving, rather than eternally comforting - which can itself induce vertigo.


"Darwin" opens tomorrow at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street; (212) 769-5100. It runs through May 29.

    Enough to Make an Iguana Turn Green: Darwin's Ideas, NYT, 18.11.2005,






Conservative Episcopalians Warn Church

That It Must Change Course or Face Split


November 12, 2005
The New York Times


PITTSBURGH, Nov. 11 - Conservative leaders of the Episcopal Church U.S.A. and their Anglican counterparts from overseas intensified their warnings Friday about the possibility of a schism in the Anglican Communion if the Episcopal Church did not renounce the consecration of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions.

About 2,400 Episcopal Church and Anglican bishops, clergy members and lay leaders from around the world gathered here Thursday for a three-day show of solidarity in preparation for a general convention of the Episcopal Church next June in Columbus, Ohio.

While Episcopal and Anglican conservatives have warned before of the possibility of a split in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion over these issues, powerful primates of national and regional Anglican churches from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean said Friday that a break was all but inevitable if the Episcopal Church did not vote to change course at the Columbus meeting.

"The primates will decide" if they consider the response of the Episcopal Church "adequate," said Archbishop Drexel Wellington Gomez, primate of the West Indies. He said, however, that he expected no change in the stance of the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the Anglican Communion, when it comes to gays.

If that is the case, "given our present mood, the convention will most certainly be followed by some action," Archbishop Gomez said. "We have worked too hard, too long, to leave it like that."

The Episcopalians and Anglicans were joined by well-known American evangelical Christians, most notably the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." Mr. Warren gave encouragement to conservative church dissidents who are trying to break with the Episcopal Church but who have often been stymied by disputes with their dioceses over ownership of church property.

"What's more important is your faith, not your facilities," he told the crowd at the Convention Center here. "The church is people, not the steeple. They might get the building, but you get the blessing."

Mr. Warren was warmly received, but a panel of foreign primates elicited several standing ovations for sharply criticizing the Episcopal Church.

Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung, primate of South East Asia, said, "We will stand with you as long as you remain faithful, biblical, evangelical and orthodox."

Tensions between the Episcopal Church and Anglican churches in the developing world, and within the American church itself, have simmered for years over issues like the ordination of women and the interpretation of Scripture. But for many conservatives, the last straw came when the Episcopal Church consecrated the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

To avoid a split in the global communion, an Anglican commission issued a report in October 2004 urging the Episcopal Church to apologize for creating division by its consecration of Mr. Robinson. But the church did not renounce its actions, and impatience with it is boiling over, conservatives said.

"There's no way for these two conflicted faiths to live under the same roof," said the Right Rev. Robert W. Duncan, bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese and the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, a group of 10 dissident dioceses in the Episcopal Church. The network organized the conference in Pittsburgh.

An Episcopal Church U.S.A. spokeswoman, the Rev. Jan Nunley, said the tensions voiced at the Pittsburgh conference were not new.

Ms. Nunley added: "We're trying not to get ahead of events. We sit, watch and trust God, and hope for the spirit of reconciliation."

Though it has lost members and even congregations in the past over issues like the ordination of women, the Episcopal Church has managed to stay together because of the autonomy it gives dioceses. "We basically have a long history of working things out," said Lionel E. Deimel, president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, who also attended the conference but did not support its views. "But this is the most serious thing to happen to the Episcopal Church, and it has mobilized people on both sides."

At the convention in Columbus, the church is expected to issue a response to the October 2004 report. In the meantime, conservative congregations throughout the country have moved to leave the Episcopal Church and place themselves under the guidance of foreign Anglican bishops.

Conservatives and liberals agreed that any split within the church would be complicated by feuds and lawsuits over property and assets. But the thought of such disputes did not seem to weigh heavily on those gathered here, who said they were eager to resolve their major disagreements with the church, even if it meant a break from it.

"We definitely get the sense that there is something on the horizon," said the Rev. Mike Besson, 40, assistant to the rector at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Tomball, Tex. "The church won't be the same shape and form as before. We just don't know when or where that will occur."

    Conservative Episcopalians Warn Church That It Must Change Course or Face Split, NYT, 12.11.2005,





5 Cases of Polio

in Amish Group Raise New Fears


November 8, 2005
The New York Times


LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. - Polio was pronounced dead in the Western Hemisphere years ago, after one of the most successful public health campaigns in history. But now it is stealing through a tiny Amish community here in central Minnesota, spreading from an 8-month-old girl to four children on two neighboring farms.

So far, no one has been crippled by the disease; only 1 in 200 cases of polio results in paralysis. But worried public health officials say it may be only a matter of time.

The story of how polio came to this dairy farming community of 24 families, with 19th-century ways that include a deep-rooted suspicion of vaccination, is both a medical whodunit and a cautionary tale, suggesting that eradicating polio may prove far harder than anyone thought, even in the developed world.

No one expects that the United States will be visited by the kind of outbreaks that recently flared up in Africa and Asia, frustrating the longstanding goal of eliminating polio for good by the end of this year. But the Long Prairie cases highlight a weakness in the worldwide campaign.

The 8-month-old Amish girl, whose name has been withheld by health officials, has an immune deficiency that makes her unable to rid her body of the virus.

How she contracted the virus remains a mystery. She may have been infected in a hospital by another immune-deficient patient who nursed it for years. A doctor or nurse may have served as a go-between. Or there may have been a chain of carriers in the Amish community. The virus is spread from stool to mouth, a surprisingly efficient form of transmission.

Regardless, the girl is now a wellspring for polio, a modern-day Typhoid Mary who can pass it along to others. Anyone who has not been vaccinated is vulnerable. And though vaccination rates in the United States are at historic highs, an increasing number of parents are resisting inoculations for their children, fearing that they may cause disorders like autism, a connection scientists have almost universally discounted.

So health authorities are keeping a watchful eye on the girl and her neighbors.

"If that child is a message in a bottle," said Bruce Aylward, coordinator of the global polio eradication initiative at the World Health Organization, "it has just washed up on shore."

The 24 families moved to this windswept stretch of prairie from Wisconsin about three years ago. An Amish community generally includes only as many families as can fit into one house for church services, and each community must come to a consensus on what to accept from modernity.

This one allows windshields for its horse buggies, kitchen cupboards that are attached to walls and some upholstered furniture - all somewhat unusual for the Amish, said Dr. Susan Rutten, a physician from nearby Sauk Centre who makes house calls in four Amish communities. Men can wear dark green shirts, not just navy blue and black.

The farms could have come straight out of children's books. There are ducks and chickens, cattle and hogs. Fence posts are columns of stones enclosed by wire mesh. Lacking electricity, the farms are remarkably quiet. At one, the children rarely yelled or even spoke in the presence of a stranger. The air smelled of turned earth, manure and wood smoke.

The threat of polio seemed remote here - until this summer. That was when the baby was hospitalized with an immune-system disorder.

As her care became increasingly complex, she was shuttled through four hospitals. At the third, she developed diarrhea. On Aug. 27, doctors sent a stool sample to the hospital's laboratory, which determined that the girl had an intestinal virus. In many states, nothing more would have been done.

But in Minnesota, hospitals send such samples to a sophisticated state laboratory. On Sept. 29, the tests matured. A laboratory supervisor called Dr. Harry Hull, the state epidemiologist, to say they had isolated a polio virus.

Dr. Hull was stunned. "I said, 'You have made a mistake,' " he recalled.

Tall and thin, with glasses and bushy eyebrows, Dr. Hull is one of the world's foremost polio experts. Before coming to Minnesota, he worked for 10 years in the World Health Organization's global polio eradication effort. In an interview, he scrawled circles and arrows on a sheet of paper as he described the search for the virus.

The state laboratory redid the tests. The results were identical. Then it sequenced the virus's genomic code. A supervisor plugged the code into a national genomic database, comparing it with the genes of a polio virus.

"Bingo," said Dr. Norman Crouch, the laboratory's director. "It was a 98 percent match. We knew we had nailed it."

The Minnesota laboratory sent the sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which confirmed the results. Officials were immediately concerned about where the virus originated and where it might have spread.

Confirming the presence of polio in a city with even one infected person is not impossible, said Dr. Mark D. Sobsey, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of North Carolina. The stool of an infected person contains so many viral particles that tests at a sewage treatment plant can reveal it. Such tests helped track outbreaks in the Gaza Strip and Haiti in recent years.

Since many Amish use outhouses, however, state officials geared up to go door to door. They unearthed a public health form explaining how to collect stool samples. The form had pictures of a flush toilet and a garbage can with a plastic liner - things foreign to many Amish communities. Officials changed the form.

Gary Wax, an epidemiologist for the Minnesota Department of Health, contacted the leader of the Amish community where the child lives and asked for his permission to seek stool samples from those in his community. The leader gave his blessing, Mr. Wax said.

"We really tried to do it in a respectful way rather than just barge right in there," Mr. Wax said.

Since the Amish have no phones, he could not call for appointments. He and his colleagues knocked on doors. They had been warned against speaking directly to Amish women without their husbands present, Mr. Wax said, and the men were "running all over the place, helping each other with harvesting and construction." So if the man was not at home, they left.

"We came back many times to some places," Mr. Wax said. After weeks of effort, just 5 of 24 families in the community agreed to cooperate. Three of the five, including the family of the 8-month-old, proved to have infected children.

"I would be surprised if we don't get a paralytic case someplace," Dr. Hull said.

In a neighboring community, a 38-year-old farmer who is also a sawyer agreed to speak with a reporter only if his name would not be used, saying Amish people avoided calling attention to themselves.

The farmer, who has seven children, explained that nothing in Amish law forbade vaccinations, but that many Amish believed that vaccines weakened the immune system. He added that as a result of the infections, he planned to have his children vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps and rubella, and that most of the families in his community were doing the same. "We'll get vaccinated if we feel it's necessary," he said. "But our definition of necessary may be very different from yours."

A further challenge for public health officials is that their surveillance efforts cannot be confined to a few remote farming communities.

"My mental image of the Amish was that they don't travel at all because they don't drive cars," Dr. Hull said. "That's not true."

The Amish commonly take buses and trains, and occasionally even planes. Families from the baby girl's community recently attended a wedding in Ontario, Canada, that health officials said drew more than 1,000 guests. Some have visited Wisconsin in recent weeks.

Polio experts have long feared that an immune-deficient person could cause an outbreak of paralytic polio. That is a particular hazard in poorer countries.

In much of the developing world, children are given an oral vaccine made of a live, nonparalytic polio virus. Two drops confer partial immunity, making mass vaccination campaigns achievable in poor countries. To become fully immunized, a child must be vaccinated several times. The vaccine causes an infection that usually lasts a few weeks. The infection can spread to others and immunize them, too.

But if the virus spreads too far among previously unvaccinated people, its genes will change and the virus will regain its ability to cripple and kill. Such a virus caused an outbreak of paralytic polio in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2000 and 2001, crippling 21. (The outbreaks in Africa and Asia began after many Nigerians refused vaccinations in 2003, suspecting they were a Western plot to sterilize Muslim girls.)

The United States and much of the developed world used live-virus vaccinations for decades, but switched in recent years to a dead virus that is injected. The dead virus does not cause an infection or paralysis.

In people with poor immune systems like the 8-month-old Amish child, the live polio vaccine can change to a paralytic form without being passed to anyone else, since such people can nurse a mutating virus for years.

In most of the world, such patients die quickly because of poor medical care. In the West, they can live for years, with a few of them shedding polio viruses all the while. Among experts, these patients are called "chronic excreters." That such a polio wellspring would be born among a largely unvaccinated population like the Amish, Dr. Hull said, was a "random unlucky event."

"It's a model of what might happen if we stop vaccinating too soon," he said.

The Amish girl remains hospitalized in strict isolation. Health officials will not say where. And they are still trying to figure out where she contracted the virus.

Genetic testing showed that the virus was almost identical to that of the oral polio vaccine given in much of the rest of the world but not in the United States. The slight changes to the virus from that of the vaccine suggested that it had been circulating for at least two years. The girl has never traveled abroad.

A fear is that such a person could unwittingly incubate a polio infection for a decade or more and then accidentally reintroduce it - years after experts have declared it eliminated from the world and vaccinations have stopped.

That prospect has long seemed remote, because such children are so rare, Dr. Aylward of the World Health Organization said. But an outbreak of paralytic disease in Minnesota would prove that it was more likely than many had believed, and it would demonstrate that work now under way to better understand the risks posed by chronic excreters would have to be intensified.

"Or we may need to revisit the strategy and time frame for stopping the use of the oral polio vaccine," Dr. Aylward said. "It's a tiny chance, but it's something we need to keep an eye on."

5 Cases of Polio in Amish Group Raise New Fears, NYT, 8.11.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/08/national/08polio.html






In Intelligent Design Case,

a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit


November 4, 2005
The New York Times


HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 3 - For years, a lawyer for the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan visited school boards around the country searching for one willing to challenge evolution by teaching intelligent design, and to face a risky, high-profile trial.

Intelligent design was a departure for a nonprofit law firm founded by two conservative Roman Catholics - one the magnate of Domino's pizza, the other a former prosecutor - who until then had focused on the defense of anti-abortion advocates, gay-rights opponents and the display of Christian symbols like crosses and Nativity scenes on government property.

But Richard Thompson, the former prosecutor who is president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Center, says its role is to use the courts "to change the culture" - and it well could depending on the outcome of the test case it finally found.

Lawyers for the center are to sum up their case on Friday after a six-week trial in which they have been defending the school district in the small Pennsylvania town of Dover. The school board voted last year to require that students in ninth grade biology class be read a statement saying that "Darwin's theory" is "not a fact" and that intelligent design is an alternative worth studying.

At issue in the Dover lawsuit, brought by 11 parents in Federal District Court, is whether intelligent design is really religion dressed up as science, and whether teaching it in a public school violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The More center's lawyers put scientists on the witness stand who argued that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them - is a credible scientific theory and not religion because it never identifies God as the designer.

Still religion is at the heart of the case's appeal for the center, say its lawyers and the chairman of its board.

The chairman, Bowie Kuhn, the former baseball commissioner, said the board agreed that the center should take on an intelligent design case because while it is not necessarily based on religion "it is being opposed because people think it is religious." And that was enough for a group whose mission, as explained on its Web site, is "to protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square."

"America's culture has been influenced by Christianity from the very beginning," Mr. Thompson said, "but there is an attempt to slowly remove every symbol of Christianity and religious faith in our country. This is a very dangerous movement because what will ultimately happen is, out of sight, out of mind."

The legal group was founded in 1999 by Mr. Thompson and Thomas Monaghan, the former chief executive of Domino's pizza. At the time, Mr. Thompson had just lost his re-election campaign for prosecutor in Oakland County, Mich., defeated by voters disenchanted by his pursuit of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who attended numerous assisted suicides.

In earlier cases, the center defended an enormous cross placed on a hill outside San Diego and Nativity scenes in Florida and New York. It sued the Ann Arbor schools for providing benefits for same-sex partners. And in one of its most controversial cases, it defended an anti-abortion group that ran an online list of doctors it said should be stopped from providing abortions. The doctors said the group was threatening them and their families. Mr. Thompson said in an interview it was "a very important free speech case."

To find its first intelligent design case, the lawyers went around the country looking for a school board willing to withstand a lawsuit. In May 2000, Robert Muise, one of the lawyers, traveled to Charleston, W.Va., to persuade the school board there to buy the intelligent design textbook "Of Pandas and People" and teach it in science class.

Mr. Muise told the board in Charleston that it would undoubtedly be sued if the district taught intelligent design, but that the center would mount a defense at no cost.

"We'll be your shields against such attacks," he told them at a school board meeting, a riff on the center's slogan, "The Sword and Shield for People of Faith." He said they could defend teaching intelligent design as a matter of academic freedom.

John Luoni, the former president of the Charleston school board, said he remembered listening to Mr. Muise and concluding: "It's not really a scientific theory. It's more of a religious theory. It should be taught if a church or a denomination believes in it, but I didn't think that religious viewpoint should be taught as part of a science class."

The board in West Virginia declined the center's offer. So did school districts in Michigan and Minnesota and a handful of other states, Mr. Muise and Mr. Thompson said.

But in Dover, the firm found willing partners when it contacted the school board in the summer of 2004 and promised it a first-class defense,

The Dover school board proceeded despite a memo from its lawyer, Stephen S. Russell, warning that if the board lost the case, they would have to pay its opponents legal fees - which according to the plaintiffs' lawyers exceeds $1 million. In the memorandum, revealed in court on Wednesday, Mr. Russell advised that opponents would have a strong case because board members had a lengthy public record of advocating "putting religion back in the schools."

Some of the proponents of intelligent design are also unhappy that the case went to court, and fear it could stop the movement in its infancy because some board members had a public record of advocating creationism, which the Supreme Court has twice ruled cannot be taught in public schools.

"The school district never consulted us and did the exact opposite of what we suggested," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an organization in the forefront of the intelligent design movement. "Frankly I don't even know if school board members know what intelligent design is. They and their supporters are trying to hijack intelligent design for their own purposes. They think they're sending signals in the culture wars."

Mr. Thompson, the Thomas More Center's chief counsel, said the case appealed to him because of its "national impact." Four months before the trial started, he said, he watched the movie "Inherit the Wind," a drama about the Scopes evolution trial 80 years ago that helped turn the country against religious creationists and fundamentalists.

"It's only when you take the cases that are on the borderline that you can change the law," he said.

No matter how the Dover case turns out, the center is considering defending several teachers who are defying their school districts by teaching intelligent design.

"We're developing all this expertise in intelligent design," Mr. Thompson said. "We hope to use it."

    In Intelligent Design Case, a Cause in Search of a Lawsuit, NYT, 4.11.2005,






Alito Could Be 5th Catholic

on Current Supreme Court


November 1, 2005
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 - If Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's newest choice to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is confirmed, he will become the fifth Roman Catholic on the court.

A Catholic majority on the nine-member court would be a significant historical shift. Until 1988, there had been no more than two Catholic justices at once. And for most of the court's history, there was typically only a single Catholic.

"This would add a whole new meaning to the Catholic rite of confirmation," said Barbara A. Perry, a Supreme Court expert at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. "This would mean that the religion factor no longer matters."

At least not in the same way it once did. Dr. Perry and other experts say that Judge Alito's selection after the withdrawal of Harriet E. Miers, an evangelical Christian, suggests that religious affiliation means less now than does a discernible track record on social issues.

Evangelicals recently lobbied for representation on the Supreme Court in the same way that Catholic and Jewish court watchers once did. (There are now two Jewish justices.) But religious conservatives largely rejected Ms. Miers because they said she had no clearly articulated stance on abortion.

Many of the same conservatives who publicly challenged Ms. Miers's conservative bona fides had accused Democrats of trying to keep judges off the bench because of their religion.

Earlier this year, for example, some conservatives said that any discussion of the religion of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. should be off limits in his confirmation process, and that questions about his views amounted to an unconstitutional "religious test" of his faith as a Roman Catholic.

Advocates on both sides know that historically, justices' private religious beliefs have not necessarily directed the way they vote. Judge Alito passes conservative muster because his record is closer to that of two conservative justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, than to that of the more moderate Anthony M. Kennedy, all three of whom are Catholic.

Justice William J. Brennan Jr., appointed in 1956 by President Eisenhower to fill the traditional "Catholic seat," voted with the majority in the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and was a strong supporter of abortion rights throughout his life.

    Alito Could Be 5th Catholic on Current Supreme Court, NYT, 1.11.2005,






Methodist Court Removes

Openly Lesbian Minister


November 1, 2005
The New York Times


In a pair of decisions that bolstered conservatives, the highest court of the United Methodist Church defrocked an openly lesbian minister yesterday and reinstated a pastor who had been suspended for refusing to allow a gay man to become a member of his congregation.

The nine-member court, the Judicial Council, also ruled in two other cases that church law superseded local resolutions that were more inclusive toward gay men and lesbians.

The series of decisions come at a time when disputes over the role of gay men and women in the clergy, and whether to bless same-sex unions, are roiling the mainline churches. The rulings served to reaffirm the Methodists' traditional stance against the ordination of "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals."

In the best-known of the cases decided yesterday, the Judicial Council removed from the ministry Irene Elizabeth Stroud, who told her Philadelphia congregation in 2003 that she was a lesbian in a long-term relationship with another woman.

But church experts said the most significant decision could prove to be the little-known case of the Rev. Edward Johnson, pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church in South Hill, Va. Mr. Johnson's decision to keep an openly gay man from joining his congregation was upheld by the Judicial Council as the rightful exercise of his pastoral discretion. He had been suspended for a year without pay by fellow ministers in Virginia, but the Judicial Council ordered his regional leaders to find a new appointment for him.

The church has declared in the past that there are no bars to the participation of gay men and women as lay people, but it also gives pastors discretion over their congregations. Stephen Drachler, a spokesman for the United Methodist Church, noted that gay men and lesbians were active members of thousands of Methodist churches across the country. But, speaking from a semiannual conference of bishops in North Carolina, he acknowledged of the ruling in the Johnson case: "The bishops are looking at this very carefully as far as what impact this may or may not have going forward. What sort of precedent does this create? What role does it create for bishops over their pastors? No one has answers to that yet."

Some Methodists had voiced concerns that the debate over gay men and women could rupture their church, the country's third-largest denomination, and cause conservatives to leave. The rulings will most likely assuage conservatives, church experts said. But the experts also said they did not expect those who want the inclusion of gay men and lesbians in the ministry to back down, even if chances of a reversal in church policy remain remote.

"The church and mood of our culture is conservative now," said the Rev. Michele Bartlow, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, where Ms. Stroud served as an associate pastor.

Ms. Bartlow said the council's decisions sent an "unambiguous" message that the church would not tolerate openly gay people in its clergy. "But I, like many people, will stay and fight," she said. "I think these decisions are another step in a journey, and one day the church will receive gay and lesbian people into ministry."

Ms. Stroud was stripped of her credentials in late 2004 by a lower court of the church, but that decision was reversed on appeal last April. The Judicial Council's ruling yesterday reinstated the original decision, and Ms. Stroud, 35, who will continue as a lay pastor at the Germantown church, said in a telephone interview that she would turn in her ordination credentials.

"I felt that I was prepared for whatever might happen," she said, "but this has been a blow for me."

Among the other decisions issued yesterday by the council, at a meeting in Houston, were one involving a resolution passed by the church's California-Nevada Annual Conference and another on a resolution by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. In an effort to discourage bias based on sexual orientation, the California resolution said such orientation should be considered innate. The Pacific Northwest resolution asserted tolerance for a plurality of views on sexuality. In both cases, the council held yesterday that church law barring gay members in the clergy superseded the resolutions.

Church experts said they were not surprised by the rulings in these cases or in the one involving Ms. Stroud. But the decision in the case of Mr. Johnson instantly sent tremors among many in the church, those experts said.

Although United Methodism prohibits openly gay people in the pulpit, it welcomes all to worship. Mr. Johnson did not forbid the gay man to attend his church but said he would not allow him to become a member, according to Carole Vaughn, spokeswoman for the Virginia Annual Conference, which includes the South Hill church.

Regional church officials tried to get Mr. Johnson to change his stance, and when he refused, his peers suspended him for a year without pay. The regional conference must now reinstate him, pay him back wages and benefits, and find a new position for him. Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.

"It is certainly the more interesting case because it has much broader ramifications," said the Rev. L. Edward Phillips, a Methodist minister and associate professor of the practice of Christian worship at Duke University Divinity School. "It makes a statement about the authority of local pastors to make determinations on the fitness of members."

"It could be used to keep gays out," Mr. Phillips added, "and I would say unfortunately, from my position, if this ruling were used by pastors for a draconian stance on this narrow issue."

Others welcomed the decision supporting Mr. Johnson.

"The Judicial Council made a precedent-setting decision in supporting a pastor who upheld" the Book of Discipline, the church's compilation of laws, procedures and doctrine, said the Rev James V. Heidinger II, president of Good News, an evangelical Methodist organization. "Most evangelical pastors would have made the same decision as Ed Johnson made."

At the heart of the disputes, several clerics said, is a profound conflict among Methodists over the nature of homosexuality. "Is it something you can't control," Mr. Phillips said, "or something sinful and that should be repented of?"

    Methodist Court Removes Openly Lesbian Minister, NYT, 1.11.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/01/national/01methodists.html







Football's Playbooks Call for Prayer


October 30, 2005
The New York Times


Every preseason for 30 years, Coach Bobby Bowden has taken his Florida State football players to a church in a white community and a church in a black community in the Tallahassee area in an effort, he said, to build camaraderie. He writes to their parents in advance, explaining that the trips are voluntary, and that if they object, their sons can stay home without fear of retaliation. He remembers only one or two players ever skipping the outing.

Since becoming the football coach at Georgia in 2001, Mark Richt, too, has taken his team to churches in the preseason. A devotional service is conducted the night before each game, and a prayer service on game day. Both are voluntary, and Mr. Richt said he does not attend them.

On game days, Penn State players may choose between Catholic and Protestant services or not go at all. Coach Joe Paterno and the team say the Lord's Prayer in the locker room after games.

As in politics and culture in the United States, college football is increasingly becoming a more visible home for the Gospel. In the past year more than 2,000 college football coaches participated in events sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which said that more than 1.4 million athletes and coaches from youth to professional levels had attended in 2005, up from 500,000 in 1990.

Mr. Bowden believes that prayer and faith are part of the American way.

"Most parents want their boys to go to church," he said. "I've had atheists, Jews, Catholics and Muslims play for me, and I've never not started a boy because of his faith. I'm Christian, but all religions have some kind of commandments, and if kids would obey them, the world would be a better place."

But others raise concerns about separation of church and state.

"This is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I believe university administrations are playing a game of chicken," the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, a lawyer and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said. "But eventually, you got to believe that one kid is going to say, 'I've had enough,' and step forward."

The spiritual fervor of some coaches and athletes at public institutions, however, did not escape notice at the high school level this month. Marcus Borden, the football coach in East Brunswick, N.J., resigned rather than stop participating in a player-initiated pregame prayer, as he was ordered to do by the district after parents complained. He returned to his team after agreeing not to pray, but is considering a legal challenge.

Last June, in the wake of a Pentagon task force investigating broader allegations of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy, Fisher DeBerry, the football coach, stopped leading pregame prayers and removed a banner in the Falcons' locker room. It bore the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Competitors Creed, which begins "I am a Christian first and last."

"The problem inherently is the hierarchal nature of the player-coach relationship, where the coach is all-powerful," Mr. Lynn said. "Team members want face time and playing time. And if they don't go along with what the coach offers, they fear that they will become second-stringers."

Peer pressure in a group dynamic, Mr. Lynn said, has prevented any college player from coming forward to mount a legal challenge. No one wants to alienate a coach, especially a popular one.

In 2000, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed its decisions against officially sponsored prayer in public schools in a case involving a district in Santa Fe, Tex., where prayers preceded high school football games over the public-address system.

The 6-to-3 majority opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens said that even when attendance is voluntary and when the decision to pray is made by students, "the delivery of a pregame prayer has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship," which violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

That may be the law, but God has long played a prominent role in the game's mythology, from the postcards of the former Alabama Coach Bear Bryant walking on water, to the mosaic of Christ with raised arms on a Notre Dame library that looms above the football stadium and is known as Touchdown Jesus.

"It's an awkward issue to raise because much of these things are grounded in boosting team morale and building unity more than hard gospel," Leo Sandon, professor emeritus of religion and American studies at Florida State, said. "When you juxtapose it with the iconic status of some of these coaches, it becomes more daunting and doesn't get much comment. "

Mr. Richt, 45, was once Mr. Bowden's assistant at Florida State and has followed his successful ways on the field. Entering yesterday, the Bulldogs (7-0) were ranked No. 4, while the Seminoles (6-1) were No. 10 in the Associated Press news media poll. Mr. Richt has also followed his mentor's lead by making his private faith a matter of public record.

He has one supporter with a different perspective: Musa Smith, a rookie running back for the N.F.L. Baltimore Ravens, who played at Georgia. Smith was reared a Muslim and did not attend chapel services with his teammates. When he did pray with them, he stuck to his own prayers. Mr. Smith said he was inspired by the example set by Mr. Richt.

"At the end of the day, it was about strengthening your spiritual foundations and to walk in a righteous way in whatever you believe," Mr. Smith said. "It reminded me of my fundamentals and made me a better person."

Mr. Bowden, 75, who has been outspoken about his faith throughout his 50-year career, does not doubt that he has kept critics at bay because of his success and his popularity in north Florida, where the predominantly Christian population recognizes one of its own in his folksy ways.

"I win too many games," said Mr. Bowden, who is major college football's most successful coach, with 357 victories.

Neither Mr. Richt nor Mr. Bowden drinks alcohol or smokes, and both adhere to a spiritual regimen. Mr. Richt reads a chapter of Proverbs a day, and prays between meetings and before interviews; Mr. Bowden begins his day at 4 a.m. with an hour of reading the Bible and is known for offering fiery church sermons.

Each believes that by exemplifying his religious values he can develop not only better players, but also better students, sons, husbands and fathers.

Center David Castillo, who is in his final season at Florida State, said that Mr. Bowden has been sensitive to the diversity of his players. The pregame and postgame prayers Mr. Bowden leads are nondenominational and directed at the safety of both teams and those traveling to see them, Mr. Castillo said.

"He tells us that he doesn't care if we don't believe what he does, "Mr. Castillo, who is preparing for medical school, said. "But he wants us to believe in something."

Mr. Bowden, however, injected himself in the Air Force controversy when he told attendees of a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in Colorado Springs, home of the academy, that Mr. DeBerry was in a "heck of a battle because he happens to be a Christian, and he wants his boys to be saved."

"I want my boys to be saved," Mr. Bowden added.

In fact, he said, when about 70 percent of his players come from single-parent homes, or are reared by an extended family, it is his right and responsibility to be candid about his faith. "You got 90 kids in a history or psychology classroom around here, and a professor can stand up and say anything he wants in creation," Mr. Bowden said recently in an interview at his office. "Why can't I tell my boys what I believe?"

Ron Riccio, who is representing Mr. Borden in New Jersey, said God and religion have not been swept away by the government: the Pledge of Allegiance, and the words In God We Trust remain on currency. Legislative bodies often begin sessions with a prayer, and "you have nearly every president in history saying, 'God bless America,' " Mr. Riccio, who teaches constitutional law at Seton Hall's law school, said.

Mr. Sandon, the retired Florida State professor, has had an amicable relationship with Mr. Bowden since serving as a member of the university's athletic board. But in his syndicated newspaper column, Religion in America, Mr. Sandon criticized Mr. Bowden's remarks regarding Mr. DeBerry and Air Force.

"Don't make any mistake - the biggest man around here is Bobby Bowden, and I have never seen any president or athletic director call him to heel," Mr. Sandon said. "If you have a strong religious dimension to your program, there is going to be church-and-state issues."

Despite the Santa Fe decision, T. K. Wetherell, the president of Florida State, said he did not believe Mr. Bowden had violated the Constitution, nor was he worried that Mr. Bowden would.

"Coach Bowden has the right and ability to speak his mind, as do all of our faculty," Mr. Wetherell said. "He doesn't push his views on his players. It gets back basically to the academic-freedom issue, and we give that some leeway for all our faculty and staff. He understands that he works for a public institution."

So does Mr. Richt. Yet in 2001 and 2003, Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote to Georgia saying that Mr. Richt's program was in violation of the establishment clause. In both instances, Stephen M. Shewmaker, the executive director of legal affairs at Georgia, replied that because participation was voluntary the university had found no violations of the Constitution.

Mr. Richt has shown he is sensitive to both the threats to the Constitution and public opinion. In 2002, after Georgia clinched the Southeastern Conference East title, he began his news conference with religious comments. He was criticized by some fans and the news media, and subsequently apologized.

"My goal is not to cause somebody grief or to make anyone upset," Mr. Richt said. "My goal is to love these guys and put them in a situation where they can grow up to be the best men they can be. We are an authority over them, and I have influence over them, and I take that responsibility seriously."

    Increasingly, Football's Playbooks Call for Prayer, NYT, 30.10.2005,






Kansas Fight on Evolution Escalates


October 28, 2005
The New York Times


Two leading science organizations have denied the Kansas Board of Education permission to use their copyrighted materials as part of the state's proposed new science standards because of the standards' critical approach to evolution.

The rebuke from the two groups, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association, comes less than two weeks before the board's expected adoption of the controversial new standards, which will serve as a template for statewide tests and thus have great influence on what is taught.

Kansas is one of a number of states and school districts where the teaching of evolution has lately come under assault. If adopted, its change in standards will be among the most aggressive challenges in the nation to biology's bedrock theory.

The copyright denial could delay adoption as the standards are rewritten but is unlikely to derail the board's conservative majority in its mission to require that challenges to Darwin's theories be taught in the state's classrooms.

In a joint statement yesterday, Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy, and Michael J. Padilla, president of the teachers' group, said: "Kansas students will not be well prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically driven world if their science education is based on these standards. Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world."

In the statement and in letters to the state board, the groups opposed the standards because they would single out evolution as a controversial theory and change the definition of science itself so that it is not restricted to the study of natural phenomena. A third organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, echoed those concerns in a news release supporting the copyright denial, saying, "Students are ill served by any effort in science classrooms to blur the distinction between science and other ways of knowing, including those concerned with the supernatural."

Though the complaints of the National Academy and the teachers' group focus on just a handful of references to evolution, their copyrighted material appears on almost all 100 pages of the standards, which are an overview of science subjects taught in kindergarten through high school. In Kansas, as in most states, local school districts decide on curriculums and choose textbooks, but the state standards guide those decisions.

"In some cases it's just a phrase, but in some cases it's extensive," Steve Case, the chairman of the board's standards-writing committee, said of the differences required by the copyright denial. "You try to keep the idea but change the wording around; the writing becomes horrifically bad."

Dr. Case, a research professor at the University of Kansas who opposes the proposed standards, said removing the copyrighted material could take several months. But Steve Abrams, the board's president and leader of its 6-to-4 conservative majority, said it could approve the standards on Nov. 8 as planned, with a caveat directing a copyright lawyer to edit out direct references to the groups' materials.

"The impact is minimal - it won't change the concepts," said Dr. Abrams, a veterinarian. "They obviously don't have copyrights on concepts."

The copyright skirmish is not a surprise: the two science groups took similar steps in 1999, when the Kansas board stripped the standards of virtually any reference to evolution, a move that was reversed when conservative members were ousted from office. (Critics of evolutionary theory regained a majority last year.)

Sue Gamble, a board member who opposes the changes, acknowledged that the science groups' dissent would do little to halt the standards' adoption but said it could lead to a backlash.

"Nothing is going to stop these six members from doing what they're going to do," she said of the board's conservative majority, four of whom are up for re-election in 2006. "It won't make any difference, but I think it will make a difference next year in the election."

    Kansas Fight on Evolution Escalates, NYT, 28.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/28/science/sciencespecial2/28kansas.html?hp&ex=1130558400&en=a0e8abf2b44c7b48&ei=5094&partner=homepage






Commerce and Religion

Collide on a Mountainside


October 23, 2005
The New York Times


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - In the view of American Indians here, the spirits that inhabit the San Francisco Peaks, towering 12,000-foot-plus mountains rising from the desert here, certainly did not appreciate it when a ski run was built a quarter of a century ago on one slope.

So imagine, tribal leaders ask, what the spirits will think - or worse, do - when treated wastewater is piped up from Flagstaff and sprayed on the mountain so the resort, the Arizona Snowbowl, can make more snow to ski on? A lawyer for one of the tribes likened it to "pouring dirty water on the Vatican."

In a trial that began this month, 13 Indian tribes who regard the peaks as virtual living deities of the highest order argued that the plan would interfere with their religious practices, including the gathering of mountain water and herbs they say the artificial snow would taint.

"The mountain is like a power plant," Frank Mapatis, a spiritual leader in the Hualapai tribe, said in court. "You plant a feather there, and it is like plugging into a power plant."

The case pits economic interests against traditional practices, and culture versus science, the kind of clashes that are becoming increasingly common in the West as population booms and development pressures butt against Indian desires to reassert ancient practices.

Operators of the Arizona Snowbowl, one of the few ski resorts in the state, said it could go out of business without making snow because winter precipitation is so erratic in the high desert here. The resort, which has proposed the snowmaking under a plan to expand the ski runs, and the Forest Service, which approved the plan, both say the water would be cleaned to the highest degree, A-plus in the industry vernacular, though falling short of potable.

The federal government has said that even with the expanded ski runs, the resort would be using only about one percent of the peaks on the otherwise undeveloped mountain.

Eric Borowsky, a principal of the resort, said in an interview that despite bountiful snows last season, most other recent years have been dry. In the winter of 2001-02, the resort was open only four days and revenue was only 1.5 percent of the budget.

"No business in the world can stay in business if you miss 98.5 percent of your revenue," Mr. Borowsky said. The 777-acre resort pays the federal government 1.5 percent of its annual revenue in rent, which in 2004 was $138,957.

To stress their sensitivity to the tribes, the Snowbowl hired Bruce Babbitt, a former Arizona governor and interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, as a consultant. Mr. Babbitt, as secretary, was instrumental in closing down a pumice mine on the mountain that he called a "sacrilegious scar." The pumice had been used to make stone-washed jeans, and in a gesture of thanks, the tribes gave Mr. Babbitt a pair.

Demonstrators outside the courthouse in Prescott, incensed at what they perceive as Mr. Babbitt's turnabout, have taunted him with signs shaped like underpants (as in give back the jeans).

Mr. Babbitt said he would not comment while the trial was under way.

Indian tribes unsuccessfully sued to block the resort in 1979. The current lawsuit, aided by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, was brought under more recent laws and regulations that require federal agencies to consult with American Indian groups when considering development on federal land and to take into account the effect on religious practices. The resort sits amid the vast Coconino National Forest and while not on tribal land, is within the ancestral boundaries claimed by several tribes.

"I think that if the tribe can demonstrate that this site is central and essential to its religion, it has a good chance of success in this case," said Robert Anderson, a University of Washington law professor who specializes in Native American legal issues. The defendants, he said, must show there was a "compelling government interest" in the decision.

The groups also charge that the defendants, the Snowbowl and the Forest Service, did not adequately study whether the effluent could harm people, especially children, who consume artificial snow - on purpose or not.

The Snowbowl and Forest Service said in court papers that they made a good-faith effort to consult with the tribes - the Forest Service in an environmental report said it held 41 meetings, made 205 phone calls and exchanged 245 letters with members of the tribes - and found nothing environmentally egregious about using the treated sewage, known as reclaimed water. The resort balked at using fresh water because it is so scarce in Arizona, Mr. Borowsky said.

Nora B. Rasure, the supervisor of the Coconino National Forest, wrote this year in the report that the resort "has and continues to provide a valuable recreational experience to many people, and that in order to continue providing that experience in today's physical and business environment, changes are needed."

Ms. Rasure noted that none of the tribes performed ceremonies or maintained shrines within the resort property and that the improvements would involve only 205 acres.

Ms. Rasure, through a spokeswoman, declined an interview.

The trial, before Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt and expected to last into next month, has posed challenges for plaintiffs and defendants alike, as some Indians are reluctant to divulge closely guarded religious practices.

Mr. Mapatis, the Hualapai spiritual leader, to the surprise of some other Indian leaders, told the court that he gathered plants and flowers for use in healing ceremonies and that after a woman gave birth he brought the placenta to the mountain to ensure the newborn has a healthy life. Members of his tribe use water from the mountain in sweat lodge ceremonies, and the peaks figure prominently in the Hualapai creation story, as well as other tribes'.

Mixing mountain water with water that in an earlier, untreated form may have included waste from mortuaries or hospitals, Mr. Mapatis said, could infect members of his tribe with "ghost sickness," a disagreeable state difficult to cure.

"It's like putting death on the mountain, which would be a form of witchcraft or black magic," Mr. Mapatis said. "I won't be able to practice my religion."

But Bill Bucky Preston, a spiritual leader in the Hopi tribe, which has a reputation for secrecy about their practices, refused to describe in detail what practices he would no longer be able to do or how the mountain figures in Hopi lore. And that was when his own lawyer was questioning him.

"It is very difficult to be put in this position to reveal this information," Mr. Preston said. "We are told by our uncles and grandparents that it is sacred and cannot be revealed to anybody."

On a visit to the mountain earlier this month, Jeneda Benally, a Navajo advocate, said the very notion of making snow, regardless of the purity of the water, could offend the kachinas, the spirits on the mountain.

"The kachinas are the snow makers," she said. "When man makes snow what does that tell the deities?"

    Commerce and Religion Collide on a Mountainside, NYT, 23.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/23/national/23peaks.html






Boston churches

to finally open sex abuse finances


Fri Oct 21, 2005 1:05 PM ET


BOSTON (Reuters) - The Archdiocese of Boston has agreed to fully disclose the cost and source of funds for settling sex abuse cases, yielding to pressure from Massachusetts lawmakers to open its books.

In a letter published on Friday in an archdiocesan newspaper, Archbishop Sean O'Malley said he would release consolidated audited reports for fiscal year 2004 and 2005 and reveal the assets and liabilities for all 295 Boston-area parishes.

Financial disclosure strikes at the heart of the Church's sex abuse scandal when many U.S. bishops were found to have moved priests known to have abused minors to new parishes instead of defrocking them or reporting them to authorities.

Since then, some U.S. dioceses have been forced to file for bankruptcy protection from lawsuits by abuse victims seeking millions of dollars.

"In early 2006, the archdiocese will release a full accounting of payments related to sexual abuse settlements and the source of these funds," O'Malley wrote in the letter.

"Going forward, the archdiocese will publish similar comprehensive reports on an annual basis."

Some Massachusetts lawmakers proposed legislation earlier this year to require all religious and charitable organizations to fully disclose its finances, but opponents of the plan said it contravened the separation of church and state.

The archdiocese has been reluctant to open its books to the public, or to parishioners. But in the wake of the expensive scandals and questions about where the money came from to pay victims, the archdiocese has pledged to be more transparent. Friday's letter was the first announcement of when and how the books would be opened.

The Boston Archdiocese, squeezed by the cost of settlements with nearly 1,000 sex-abuse victims, has shut more than 60 churches to raise money, triggering protests by churchgoers.

    Boston churches to finally open sex abuse finances, R, 21.10.2005,






Stem Cell Test

Tried on Mice Saves Embryo


October 17, 2005
The New York Times


Scientists have devised two new techniques to derive embryonic stem cells in mice, one of which avoids the destruction of the embryo, a development that could have the potential to shift the grounds of the longstanding political debate about human stem cell research.

The destruction of embryos is a principal objection of anti-abortion advocates who have strenuously opposed federal financing of the research.

The second new technique manipulates embryos so they are inherently incapable of implanting in the uterus, what some see as a possible ethical advantage in the proposed therapy, which converts a patient's skin cell into embryonic cells and then new tissues to repair the body. Both methods are described in today's online edition of Nature.

The technique for making embryonic stem cells without compromising the embryo has yet to be adapted to people, but the two species are very similar at this level of embryonic development. "I can't think of a reason why the technique would not theoretically work in humans," said Brigid L. M. Hogan, an embryologist at Duke University.

If it does work in people, which could take many months to find out, the technique might divide the anti-abortion movement into those who accept or reject in vitro fertilization, because the objection to deriving human embryonic stem cells would come to rest on creating the embryos in the first place, not on their destruction.

"This gets around all of the ethical arguments, except for that small minority of the pro-life community that doesn't even support in vitro fertilization," said Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett, Republican of Maryland, whose Web site describes him as "a pro-life legislator."

Until now the only way of deriving human embryonic stem cells has been to break open the embryo before it implants in the uterus, a stage at which it is called a blastocyst, and take out the inner cell mass, whose cells form all the tissues in a human body.

Although the blastocysts used in the procedure are ones that fertility clinics have rejected for implantation, many opponents of abortion say the destruction of any embryo is wrong. Congress has forbidden the use of federal money for any such research, and federally supported scientists can work with only a small number of existing lines of embryonic stem cells that have been exempted by President Bush.

Robert Lanza and colleagues at Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology company in Worcester, Mass., have developed an alternative way of generating embryonic stem cells that leaves the embryo viable.

They let a fertilized mouse egg divide three times until it contained eight cells, a stage just before the embryo becomes a blastocyst. Removing one of these cells, they then coaxed it into growing in glassware and forming cells that have all the same essential properties as embryonic stem cells derived from the inner cell mass, Dr. Lanza's team reports.

The seven-cell embryo was implanted in the mouse uterus and grew successfully to term. This part of the procedure is known to work with humans too, because it is the basis of a well-established test known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis. In the test, one cell is removed from each of a set of embryos and tested for any of 150 genetic defects, giving the parents the choice of implanting an embryo that is disease free.

Dr. Lanza's technique is likely to be welcomed by many in the middle of the debate, although it has not won over the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Richard M. Doerflinger, its deputy director for pro-life activities, dismissed the technique, saying that preimplantation genetic diagnosis itself is unethical.

The technique "is done chiefly to select out genetically imperfect embryos for discarding, and poses unknown risks of future harm even to the child allowed to be born," Mr. Doerflinger said in an e-mail message.

Only a procedure that generated embryonic stem cells without creating or destroying embryos "would address the Catholic Church's most fundamental moral objection to embryonic stem cell research as now pursued," Mr. Doerflinger said in testimony last December to the President's Council on Bioethics.

Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican and a leading pro-life advocate did not return a call to his office. Edmund D. Pellegrino, the new chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, said through a spokeswoman that he had no comment.

But Markus Grompe, a leading stem cell scientist and a Roman Catholic who supports the church's teaching on the unacceptability of destroying embryos, praised the Lanza approach, provided that the extracted cell could not develop into an embryo by itself. "I find it clearly less objectionable than the outright destruction of the embryo," said Dr. Grompe, who studies liver stem cells at the Oregon Health and Science University.

In response to Dr. Grompe's reservation, Dr. Lanza said individual human blastomeres, as the cells are known at this stage, had never been shown to create viable embryos.

If Dr. Lanza's technique proves to work in humans, it could do more than just provide researchers with a new source of cells. It might allow every child born through preimplantation genetic testing to have its own line of embryonic cells stored for the future. The blastomere removed at the eight-cell stage could be allowed to divide, with one cell being used for genetic testing and the other for growing a culture of perfectly matching embryonic stem cells.

The cells would be available throughout the child's life for the kind of tissue and organ repair that it is hoped stem cells will one day provide. In many of the degenerative diseases of old age, from heart attacks to Parkinson's, the body loses vital cells and fails to replace them, an omission that could perhaps be overcome if embryonic cells like those present at the beginning of life were available to generate replacement cells artificially.

With the parents' consent these cells could also be used for research, providing many new embryonic stem cell lines for laboratories. The procedure might be even be offered for all embryos generated in fertility clinics when its theoretical risk has been better assessed.

"I can see a day when every fertility clinic embryo has a cell removed and banked for future tissue use or organ replacement," said Ronald M. Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth.

Children born after the preimplantation diagnosis procedure have the same incidence of birth defects as those who did not undergo the procedure. So far, after some 10 years of experience, there is no indication that it causes health problems in humans, said Andrew R. La Barbera, scientific director of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

If Dr. Lanza's technique succeeds in generating human embryonic stem cell lines, Dr. La Barbera said, "I suspect that indeed it will become routine to generate stem cells for everyone who undergoes preimplantation genetic diagnosis."

But Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University, said there was "little data that documents the safety and efficacy" of the preimplantation diagnosis procedure, even after 2,000 births. She urged the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to create a national database to address the safety issue.

The other alternative method reported in Nature today addresses an ethical objection to therapeutic cloning, the idea of treating patients with new tissues generated from their own cells.

The cells would be obtained by taking the nucleus from a patient's skin cell and injecting it into a human egg whose nucleus had been removed. The egg develops into a blastocyst from which embryonic stem cells can be derived in the usual way. Critics say this nuclear transfer technique creates embryos only to destroy them.

To counter this objection, Alexander Meissner and Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., have created mouse nuclear transfer embryos that are inherently incapable of implanting in the uterus. They did so by switching off a gene in the donor nucleus that is needed for the implantation process. The gene was switched back on later because it is needed to form the intestinal tissues.

William Hurlbut, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, has suggested that such unimplantable embryos may satisfy those who say a potential life is being destroyed in the nuclear transfer process. But Mr. Doerflinger, of the bishops conference, told the council last December that this approach did not fulfill his criterion that an embryo should not be created. This is still his position, he says.

Scientists hope that alternative approaches to embryonic stem cell research may ease the political obstacles in their path, but they also wish to avoid being compelled to abandon existing approaches before new ones have been shown to work.

Irving Weissman, a stem cell biologist at Stanford, notes in a commentary in Nature that there have been calls in Congress for a moratorium on generating new stem cell lines until the two new techniques have been adapted to people, a prospect that he describes as "highly speculative."

Representative Bartlett said the Lanza method "has come at a very propitious time" because the Senate is considering various stem cell bills, including a counterpart to legislation he proposed in the House advocating research into alternative ways of deriving embryonic stem cells.

It is not yet clear if human embryonic stem cells generated from blastomeres would be eligible for federal financial support, because they might still fall foul of the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which prohibits federal research where human embryos are destroyed, discarded or subjected to substantial risk.

Dr. Lanza's company, Advanced Cell Technology, is well known in the cloning field, having accomplished solid achievements as well as some that veered toward the merely attention getting, like letting a human nucleus develop to very early stages in a cow's egg. The company is headed by Michael West, who as founder of Geron initiated support for the research that led to the first derivation of human embryonic cells.

It will take a lot more research and maybe several years before Advanced Cell Technology and others can tell if the new method works in humans and how applicable it may be.

In preimplantation genetic diagnosis, there is very little time before the disease-free embryo must be implanted in the uterus, perhaps too little to allow an embryonic stem cell line to be generated, as Dr. Lanza hopes, some experts said.

The procedure is in any case highly inefficient at present, and may never become practical for babies born through in vitro fertilization. "I think it is wildly speculative to say that in the future every IVF child will have embryonic stem cell lines made, especially if the efficiency is so low already," said Dr. Hogan, of Duke.

    Stem Cell Test Tried on Mice Saves Embryo, NYT, 17.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/17/health/17stem.html?hp&ex=1129608000&en=b56a568ed9e19643&ei=5094&partner=homepage






Priests Urged

to Recruit Young Men for the Pulpit


October 15, 2005
The New York Times


Faced with wounded morale and diminishing numbers in the priesthood, Roman Catholic bishops in the United States began a program yesterday to remind priests why they serve and to enlist them in a recruitment campaign.

In past generations, it was common for American priests to encourage young men to make lifetime commitments to the church. But a recent poll by the bishops found that one out of three priests were doing that now, said Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., chairman of the bishops' committee on vocations.

"This program," Bishop Cupich said, "aims at having priests step back for a moment, reflect on their own service and their own vocation call and then not only use that as an opportunity to renew themselves, but also to encourage them to share their story with others who can then be called to follow in their footsteps."

The bishops made their announcement as their counterparts from around the world met at a three-week synod in Rome. Among the topics being debated there is how to deal with the worldwide shortage of priests. Although some bishops support allowing priests to marry, many others oppose lifting the celibacy requirement.

The shortage of priests is so dire that more than 3,200 United States parishes are without resident priests, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

In 25 years, the number of priests in the United States has declined 26 percent, to 42,500, as the number of Roman Catholics rose 29 percent, to 65 million.

The Rev. Edward J. Burns, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, said priests in a recent workshop said that among the reasons so few actively promoted the priesthood were low morale, fear of rejection and the sexual abuse scandals.

In response to the scandals, the Vatican has been wrestling with whether to admit gay men to seminaries. Vatican investigators have been instructed to visit each seminary in the United States to look for "evidence of homosexuality" and see whether seminarians are being properly prepared to live celibately.

Father Burns said polls showed that 90 percent of priests were happy in the priesthood and had no regrets. But many priests believe that "morale is low for everyone else," he said, so they hesitate to encourage others to join.

He said another factor in the shortage was that contemporary culture discourages commitment of any kind and that many professions requiring service to others like nursing and teaching were also short of candidates.

The shortage feeds on itself. More and more priests are in their 60's or older, few have time to work as youth pastors, and many divide their time among multiple parishes, affording little opportunity to mentor future priests, said Mary L. Gautier, senior research associate at the Georgetown center.

"When your pastor is 75 and he's there all by himself, it's hard to imagine that as a role model," Ms. Gautier said.

The bishops call their new initiative "Fishers of Men," a reference to the biblical account of Jesus' call to two brothers casting their nets at the Sea of Galilee, "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men."

The program has been tested in six dioceses, Father Burns said.

The plan is for priests to meet in their dioceses, relate histories about how and why they became priests, and learn ways to invite others to join.

The program includes a new video that features a young boy who is inspired to become a priest after watching a priest at the scene of a car accident administer last rites to a dying victim. Father Burns said the video was based on a true case.

"The program will make some difference, but I don't think it's going to make enough difference," said Sister Christine Schenck, who directs FutureChurch, a liberal Catholic group that advocates the ordination of women and married men as a solution to the priest shortage.

The nun spoke in an interview from Rome, where she is monitoring the bishops' synod.

"With the numbers of priests we need, there are not that many that are called to celibacy," she said. "Even if the bishops start an all-out campaign and it's wildly successful, there's just no way they can catch up."

    Priests Urged to Recruit Young Men for the Pulpit, NYT, 15.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/15/national/15bishops.html






Kansas Senator,

Looking at Presidential Bid,

Makes Faith the Bedrock of Campaign


October 14, 2005
The New York Times


MANCHESTER, N.H., Oct. 13 - After testing his stump speech on Tuesday night, Senator Sam Brownback rose early on Wednesday for a tour of the cavernous chapel and regimental dining hall used by the 30 remaining Benedictine monks of St. Anselm's abbey.

"I wondered if the numbers were starting to tick up?" Mr. Brownback asked hopefully of the monastery's population.

"It is more of a trickle than a stream," said the Rev. Jonathan DeFelice, president of St. Anselm College, noting that there were more than 70 monks when he arrived 30 years ago.

Mr. Brownback, an evangelical-Protestant-turned-Roman Catholic from Kansas who attends services in the two faiths each Sunday and once washed an aide's feet in a gesture of humble devotion, is contemplating a big bet on a resurgence in traditionalist faith that he hoped to find in the monastery's numbers.

He came here to assess the potential for a Republican presidential primary campaign centered on opposition to abortion and support for God in public life, while back in Washington his current role as the Republican most publicly questioning the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers is becoming the first big test of his long-shot campaign.

"The thought does come into my mind," Mr. Brownback, 49, conceded with a furrowed brow in an interview. "But then I really work at saying: 'No, this is not about that. This is about what is good for the country. This is not about presidential ambitions.' "

That is not stopping Mr. Brownback from bringing up Ms. Miers's nomination in his first steps to the campaign trail. When he was a guest lecturer at a St. Anselm class on politics on Wednesday, a student asked which "one thing" he would have done differently if he had been in the Oval Office over the last five years.

Other primary contenders have staked out critiques of the Iraq war or the budget deficit, but Mr. Brownback's answer was President Bush's second nomination for the court. With Ms. Miers, Mr. Brownback said, "we just don't know her background on judicial restraint and on the Constitution."

The premise of his ambitions is that the country has "re-engaged with its faith" in a historic revival. He hopes that his combination of a humble, earnest style and broader focus on human rights, prison reform and other humanitarian issues will enable him to capitalize on that revival more effectively than predecessors like Pat Robertson or John Ashcroft.

"The last time you had this many people of faith coming into the public square and the body politic" was 100 years ago, in the era of the populist champion William Jennings Bryan, Mr. Brownback told a group of St. Anselm students over lunch. "By the end of that period, a lot of people were really starting to look at it as harsh and exclusionary."

The senator added that he hoped to deliver his message of "faith in politics" with "a great gentleness" instead.

Before the debate over Ms. Miers, however, Mr. Brownback's message was not carrying very far, some conservatives said.

"I mention him oftentimes to grass-roots people who call me and say: 'What are we doing? We don't have a candidate in 2008,' " said Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, a founder of the modern conservative movement.

In contrast to the familiarity with Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, or Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, both Republicans, "most of them had not heard of him," Mr. Weyrich said.

"Sam would need, either by major legislation that he sponsored or by taking on the administration on something, to drastically increase his profile in order to have people around the country say, 'Boy, that is the guy we want to support,' " Mr. Weyrich added.

Bucking the president on Ms. Miers's nomination, though, carries risks. Many conservatives say Ms. Miers lacks the qualifications or a dependable enough conservative record to warrant a Supreme Court seat. But some evangelical Christians support her as one of their own.

"They're going to turn against a Christian who is a conservative picked by a conservative president, and they're going to vote against her for confirmation?" Mr. Robertson said Wednesday on his television program. "Not on your sweet life, if they want to stay in office."

Others in the Republican Party say Mr. Brownback's focus on abortion could alienate some voters. Jennifer Blei Stockman, co-chairwoman for the Republican Majority for Choice, argued that Mr. Bush was elected in part by soft-pedaling his opposition to abortion and emphasizing other issues.

"A lot of moderate voters voted for him because of 9/11 and because of our foreign policy, not wanting to change horses in midstream," Ms. Stockman said.

When Mr. Brownback, a former Kansas agriculture secretary, first ran for Congress in 1994, he also campaigned as a very different candidate. In a contested Republican primary, he was generally considered the candidate friendlier to abortion rights because he did not oppose abortions in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of the pregnant woman.

He called for cuts in federal spending by eliminating government programs or selling a government building adjacent to the Capitol.

What shifted his focus, he said, was a case of melanoma in 1995.

"It really caused me to stare at the end of life, and I wasn't very pleased with how I was living at that time," he recalled. "It sunk my roots real deep into my faith."

It was at that time, he said, that a ritual at an event by the Christian men's group Promise Keepers inspired him to wash the feet of a longtime aide in front of other staff members at a farewell reception. It was, Mr. Brownback said, a "biblical model of what servant leadership is."

The renewed interest in faith led him to convert to Catholicism about three years ago, with the sponsorship of Senator Santorum.

In his Senate campaign in 1996, Mr. Brownback began to shift his emphasis from economic issues to social issues like abortion.

He now oversees a weekly meeting on Capitol Hill of a Values Action Team of social conservative groups, and his most high-profile moment before the Miers nomination was holding hearings on obscenity and violence in the news media after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

He has championed bans on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research, as well as a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. At the Republican National Convention in 2004 he rallied a closed-door meeting of Christian conservatives with calls for a "cultural war."

Mr. Brownback has also taken up causes not traditionally associated with conservatives like protecting human rights abroad, providing aid to Africa and building an African-American history museum.

He has maintained a staunchly conservative voting record on economic issues. But instead of calling for specific cuts in government programs, he talks about a nonpartisan commission like the panel on closing military bases to take the issue out of lawmakers' hands.

"I am giving you a bit of a different message here today," he told the St. Anselm students. "A lot of it is a very Republican message. But hopefully a big core of it is a, very hopefully, faith in politics message."

His hero, he told them, is William Wilberforce, the 19th-century British crusader against slavery. He twice quoted Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, as a "great philosopher" on government and culture.

And Mr. Brownback reminded the students repeatedly that he considered himself just "a very imperfect beast" and a "dirty practitioner" of politics. He called the role of religion in government "the great debate of our season" and abortion "the defining issue of the difference between the political parties today."

Returning again and again to his frustration with Ms. Miers's nomination, he said: "That is something the president campaigned on. It is something a lot of people have been active on, to change the courts, to overturn Roe v. Wade. And now you have your second nominee who is not known on Roe."

Even so, he said, he still does not know whether he will vote for or against confirming her.

    Kansas Senator, Looking at Presidential Bid, Makes Faith the Bedrock of Campaign, NYT, 14.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/14/national/14brownback.html






Los Angeles Files

Recount Decades of Priests' Abuse


October 12, 2005
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES, Oct. 11 - The confidential personnel files of 126 clergymen in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles accused of sexual misconduct with children provide a numbing chronicle of 75 years of the church's shame, revealing case after case in which the church was warned of abuse but failed to protect its parishioners.

In some cases, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and his predecessors quietly shuffled the priests off to counseling and then to new assignments. In others, parents were offered counseling for their children and were urged to remain silent.

Throughout the files, cases of child molesting or rape are dealt with by indirection or euphemism, with references to questions of "moral fitness" or accusations of "boundary violations." For years, anonymous complaints of abuse were ignored and priests were given the benefit of every doubt.

The personnel files - some of which date from the 1930's - were produced as part of settlement talks with lawyers for 560 accusers in a civil suit here. The church provided them to The New York Times in advance of their public release in the next few days. The archdiocese is releasing them in part to make good on a promise to parishioners to come clean about the church's actions in the scandal, church officials said. It also hopes that the release will spur settlement talks, which appear to have stalled in recent months.

Raymond P. Boucher, the lead lawyer for those suing the church, said the versions of the files released by the church were cleansed of much of the damaging details of the accusations and the church's response. Their release was chiefly a public relations move by the church as both sides prepared for the first cases to go to trial, Mr. Boucher said.

"Unfortunately, these files do not contain the full story of the participation by the church in the manipulation and movement of these priests," he said. "The full files would show how deep and pervasive this problem was and how much the church put its own interests ahead of those of the children and others who were molested by the priests. That is a broader and deeper story."

The files reveal that only recently did the church come to grips with the abusive and criminal behavior in its ranks and act aggressively to contain it.

The Los Angeles cases are in many ways typical of the sexual abuse claims that have stained the church around the country in recent years. The behavior of priests in Southern California was no worse than that seen elsewhere, and the response of senior church officials was generally no better. But the sheer scope of the claims and the potential for a huge payout to victims sets Los Angeles apart from archdioceses in other major American cities.

Perhaps the most egregious case here concerns the Rev. Michael Baker, who voluntarily revealed in 1986 to then-Archbishop Mahony a sexual relationship with two young boys from 1978 to 1985. Archbishop Mahony did not report the abuse to the police, but rather sent Father Baker for counseling and prohibited him from having any close contact with minors, the documents show. But he was soon assigned to parishes where he found it easy to prey on young boys again. After several more unsuccessful efforts at therapy, Father Baker was finally removed from the priesthood in 2000, but only after it was learned that he had molested as many as 10 victims over the previous 20 years.

There are many cases in which the accusations were not made until years after the alleged incidents and some in which early complaints were not deemed credible. But in all, the files paint a portrait of an institution in denial about what now looks like widespread sexual misconduct.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the nation's largest Roman Catholic diocese, covering 8,700 square miles and serving nearly five million Catholics. The size of the priestly abuse problem here rivals that in Boston, where more than 500 members of the clergy were accused of abusing children over the past 60 years and where the church paid $85 million in 2003 to settle civil claims against it.

Since then, the stakes have risen. Late last year, the Diocese of Orange County in California paid $100 million to settle 85 cases.

Lawyers involved in negotiations in Los Angeles said that if an overall settlement was reached between the 560 plaintiffs and the church, the payout would be significantly higher than in Boston or Orange County, perhaps exceeding $500 million. The cost of litigating each case individually could rise far beyond that.

Since 1985, the archdiocese has settled a handful of child molesting cases, paying a total of $10 million.

The archdiocese received relatively few complaints of sexual abuse by priests, no more than a couple dozen a year, until 2002, when the church scandal exploded with news reports from Boston. Since then, the Los Angeles Archdiocese has received hundreds of complaints against more than 250 priests and other church workers, of whom roughly half are now included in settlement talks.

The documents will be posted within a day or two on the archdiocese Web site ( www.la-archdiocese.org ) or on a site kept by the church's lawyers ( www.la-clergycases.com ), said J. Michael Hennigan, lead lawyer for the archdiocese.

Mr. Hennigan said the priest files, even though they do not contain a lot of detail about the alleged offenses, would provide the public with a better sense of how the church's response to such charges has evolved.

"We wanted to show what happened, when it happened, what we knew and how we dealt with it," Mr. Hennigan said.

In the case of the Rev. Kevin Barmasse, parents of a young boy wrote to top officials of the archdiocese in 1983 to complain that the priest had abused their son at St. Pancratius Church in Lakewood, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. Two weeks later, the archdiocese sent Father Barmasse to serve as associate pastor at a parish in the Diocese of Tucson, on the condition that he receive therapy.

Within three years, according to later reports, he made sexual advances toward several male high school students. In 1992, he was stripped of his priestly duties.

Mr. Hennigan said Father Barmasse was one of very few priests that the Los Angeles Archdiocese allowed to move to another parish and continue ministering to children after a credible complaint had been received. He said Cardinal Mahony's inclination to trust in therapy was typical of the church response at the time.

For years, the church treated sexual abuse by members of the clergy as a moral failing and a sin that could be confessed and forgiven. It is only within the last 15 years or so that church officials recognized that pedophiles are by nature repeat offenders and cannot be permitted unsupervised contact with children, Mr. Hennigan said.

He contrasted the behavior of church officials here to that of officials in Boston, who repeatedly shuffled sexual predators from parish to parish with no warning to the public. Such incidents, including the notorious cases of the former priests John J. Geoghan and Paul R. Shanley, led to the reassignment of Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston and forced the closings of dozens of parishes and Catholic schools to pay damage awards.

Despite a number of well-publicized abuse cases here, Cardinal Mahony has remained the leader of the archdiocese and the Los Angeles church appears to be on fairly sound financial footing. Mr. Hennigan said he believed the archdiocese has sufficient resources and insurance to handle settlements without closing schools or selling church property.

Lawyers for the accused priests tried to keep the personnel files secret, saying that their release violates employee record confidentiality laws and that the information in them will prejudice the courts and the public against their clients.

The church, while arguing that some material from the files is protected by priest-penitent or psychotherapist-patient privilege, said it wanted to release the majority of the contents as part of a process of expiation. The material has been in the hands of plaintiffs' lawyers for nearly three years, but courts have ordered it sealed. The church interprets a court ruling last month as allowing it to release edited versions of the personnel files. The files do not include accusers' names.

"What the church is trying to do is repair the damage that was done and make sure, as much as is humanly possible, that it doesn't happen again," said Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "This whole sad chapter in the church's life is an opportunity for purification."

    Los Angeles Files Recount Decades of Priests' Abuse, NYT, 12.10.2005,






Seeing Creation and Evolution

in Grand Canyon


October 6, 2005
The New York Times


GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. - Tom Vail, who has been leading rafting trips down the Colorado River here for 23 years, corralled his charges under a rocky outcrop at Carbon Creek and pointed out the remarkable 90-degree folds in the cliff overhead.

Geologists date this sandstone to 550 million years ago and explain the folding as a result of pressure from shifting faults underneath. But to Mr. Vail, the folds suggest the Grand Canyon was carved 4,500 years ago by the great global flood described in Genesis as God's punishment for humanity's sin.

"You see any cracks in that?" he asked. "Instead of bending like that, it should have cracked." The material "had to be soft" to bend, Mr. Vail said, imagining its formation in the flood. When somebody suggested that pressure over time could create plasticity in the rocks, Mr. Vail said, "That's just a theory."

"It's all theory, right?" asked Jack Aiken, 63, an Assemblies of God minister in Alaska who has a master's degree in geology. "Except what's in the Good Book."

For Mr. Vail and 29 guests on his Canyon Ministries trip, this was vacation as religious pilgrimage, an expedition in search of evidence that God created the earth in six days 6,000 years ago, just as Scripture says.

That same week, a few miles upriver, a decidedly different group of 24 rafters surveyed the same rock formations - but through the lens of science rather than what Mr. Vail calls "biblical glasses." Sponsored by the National Center for Science Education, the chief challenger to creationists' influence in public schools, this trip was a floating geology seminar, charting the canyon's evolution through eons of erosion.

"Look at the weathering, look at the size of the pieces," Eugenie C. Scott, the center director, said of markings in Black Tail Canyon. "To a standard geologist, to somebody who actually studies geology, this just shouts out at you: This is really old; this is really gradual."

Two groups examining the same evidence. Traveling nearly identical itineraries, snoozing under the same stars and bathing in the same chocolate-colored river. Yet, standing at opposite ends of the growing creation-evolution debate, they seemed to speak in different tongues.

Science unequivocally dates the earth's age at 4.5 billion years, and the canyon's layers at some two billion years. Even the intelligent design movement, which argues that evolution alone cannot explain life's complexity, does not challenge the long history of the earth.

But a core of creationists like Mr. Vail continue to champion a Bible-based theory of the canyon's carving. And polls show many Americans are unconvinced by scientific knowledge.

Though it did not ask specifically about the global flood or six-day creation, a November 2004 Gallup survey found that a third of the public believes the Bible is the actual word of God that should be taken literally and that 45 percent think God created human beings "pretty much in their present form" within the last 10,000 years.

Gallup found in another poll that 5 percent of scientists, and fewer than 1 percent of earth and life scientists, adopted the "Young Earth" view.

The twin rafting trips epitomize the parallel universes often inhabited by Americans with polarized positions. Members of both groups said they had signed up for these charters to be surrounded by like-minded people. Indeed, all the American adults on Mr. Vail's boats voted for President Bush last fall, while all but two on the evolutionists' rafts cast ballots for Senator John Kerry.

When not running the rapids, Mr. Vail's group, which included three pastors, sat in makeshift sanctuaries of sand and stone to offer psalms and prayers of praise for their surroundings.

Some were committed creationists and others were still asking questions. But all began with a literal interpretation of the Bible, seeking examples in the rocks to support its story that God did it all in less than a week.

When they made camp, Dr. Scott's rafters, nearly half with Ph.D.'s in science, had evening discussions of tidal patterns and plateau shifts, as well as tutorials on tactics in the evolution debate. Most of them ardently secular, a few practicing believers, they started with what they see as unchallengeable facts about the Earth's age, and dismissed creationism as unscientific. After each "geology moment," Dr. Scott play-acted the creationists, saying sarcastically of their evidence, "My part of the lesson is always a lot shorter and less detailed."

Mr. Vail, whose book on the Grand Canyon scientists tried to ban from park stores last year, describes this natural wonder as "Exhibit A" for Young Earth creationists. Dr. Scott calls it a scientists' Louvre.

To Kathryn Crotts, 56, a pastor's wife from Greensboro, N.C. , touching the canyon's basement rock was a spiritual moment.

"In the book of Genesis, it talks about God walking the face of the earth," Mrs. Crotts explained. "Maybe His footprints are there."

But to Charlie Webb, 58, an emergency-room doctor in Colorado Springs, it is evolution that answers "the great philosophical questions why are we here, where did we come from."

"Evolution is the basis of biology, biology is the basis of medicine," said Dr. Webb, dismissing the flood explanation as childish and pathetic. "You're messing with something important when you mess with evolution."

For eight days and 280 miles, with a reporter along for half of each journey, the groups relaxed on motorized rafts, hiked the hills, dined on Dutch-oven delicacies, frolicked in waterfalls and admired rainbows, each awed by what they see as truth.


Origins of Two Journeys

About 4.5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, peering over the rim and perhaps popping into a gift shop, where Mr. Vail's book, "The Grand Canyon: A Different View," ranked 17th among 800 products sold last year. Some 22,000 hardy souls raft its river.

Mr. Vail, 57, a former corporate computer manager, took his first trip in 1980, and soon "turned in my three-piece suit for a pair of flip-flops." He had been guiding full time a dozen years when a pilot celebrating her 40th birthday rode on his raft and whispered the Gospel in his ear.

That fall, in a tent in the Himalayas, he recited the Sinner's Prayer in the Bible she had sent with him, and, he said, "I came home a child of Christ."

Back on the river, Mr. Vail said, "I started asking, 'How does what I see here in the canyon relate to what I read in God's word?' " He attended creationist seminars, married the airline pilot, and in 1997 founded Canyon Ministries, which brings some 200 Christians to the river each year.

His 2003 book, a coffee-table-quality photo gallery with quotations from Scripture, has sold 40,000 copies, despite science organizations' protests of its sale in park shops.

Dr. Scott, 59, first chartered a canyon expedition in 1999. A former professor of physical anthropology, she has run the National Center for Science Education, a 3,800-member advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif., for 17 years.

Among the rafters on this year's trip were Susan Epperson, 64, a former high school biology teacher who was the plaintiff in the 1967 Supreme Court case that found Arkansas' law banning the teaching of evolution unconstitutional, and Ken Saladin, 56, a professor at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville who has been protesting any mix of church and state for 30 years.

"I won't defend evolution," Dr. Scott said in exasperation one evening. "We don't defend the spherical Earth. We need to stop defending, as they put it, Darwinism, and just make them show they have a scientific view."

At orientation, when the rafters wrote their names on mugs, Libbi Hendley, 52, who owns a newsstand in Boone, N.C., with her husband, marked hers with the Christian fish symbol. In the other group, Eric Hildeman, 34, a Milwaukee seminarian turned atheist accountant, wore a cap with the same symbol, filled with the word "Darwin."


Worship in a Glorious Cathedral

"Isn't this a wonderful cathedral to meet in?" the Rev. Stephen Crotts, a pastor in Greensboro, N.C., asked the congregation encircling him on a Sunday morning.

The worshipers sat on the ground, many of them barefoot. The rushing river and canyon wrens accompanied the impromptu choir along with Mr. Vail's wife, Paula, on flute and 17-year-old Andrew Panes, who brought a guitar from England. The preacher had three days' growth.

"What is this place that God created saying to you and me?" asked Mr. Crotts, 55. "One of the things it says to me is I'm small and God and the world He created is huge. This is a man-dwarfing place."

Religion permeated Mr. Vail's trip, the group bowing heads before meals and hikes. At lunch one day, four women clustered in a tight hug, praying for one who had multiple sclerosis.

"We just need to talk to the only person who can do anything about it," said Linda Lomax, 58.

When Lucy Panes, 20, shouted, "Oh my God!" after a guide doused her with river water, she immediately covered her mouth, only to be admonished by her mother, Diana, "Please don't shout that."

Diana Panes began questioning evolution, which she had studied in school like most everyone else, seven years ago when Andrew came home from school asking whether Genesis was fable or history, and about dinosaurs dating back millions of years.

"I was gobsmacked," Mrs. Panes recalled.

So she started reading, attending lectures, watching creationist videos. "I don't want to believe in fairy tales. I'm interested in truth," Mrs. Panes said.

Convinced that Jesus himself believed the global flood and genealogy of Genesis were true historical accounts, "the whole thing becomes his reputation at stake," Mrs. Panes, 54, said of why she felt compelled to come to the canyon to see for herself. "For years there were huge areas I couldn't answer. My faith was devotional."

Of the explanations offered by Mr. Vail and other creationists, she said, "For me it was just the most immense relief that it didn't have to remain a mystery forever."


Questions and More Questions

But Brenda Melvin, 46, a nurse practitioner, was not so sure. "My Christian heart wanted to believe, but my scientific mind had questions," Ms. Melvin said. "I believe totally that God created heaven and Earth - I don't know how he did it, I don't know exactly when he did it. I don't know that we're ever going to learn the answers here."

Her pastor, Paul Phillips, also did not accept Mr. Vail's explanations of rock layers and fossil remnants without question. "Whatever he says, I'm just trying to think: There's a really smart person, there's tons of really smart people, that think the other side," he said.

For Mr. Phillips, 42, the most profound revelation came not about when the canyon was carved, but why: Genesis recounts the great flood as God's harsh judgment on a world filled with sin.

"If I'm a sinner, and this is the punishment for sin, then I might want to rethink my position before God," he said. "If you acknowledge a creator and a designer, then you have to deal with that entity. If it just happened, then I don't have to worry about an entity that ripped apart the earth."


Faith in Science

"I've always believed in evolution," Irene Rosenthal, 71, a semiretired psychologist, said over soup one night.

"Accepted evolution," interjected George H. Griffin, 58, a retired law enforcement officer in Colorado. "That's what Genie wants us to say," he said, referring to Dr. Scott. "Genie said anyone who said 'believed' would have to walk home."

Dr. Scott and others cringe at creationists' charge that Darwin's theories have become dogmatic faith, that creationism and evolution are just two parallel belief systems, equally plausible and unprovable. "We have faith in science, but it's not a religion," said Herb Masters, a retired firefighter. "It's a faith in a body of knowledge."

While the creationists sang hymns, Dr. Scott taught her crew a biologist's ditty about the amphioxus, a fishlike invertebrate in the human evolutionary line, to the tune of "It's a Long Way From Tipperary":

It's a long way from amphioxus - it's a long way to us.

It's a long way from amphioxus to the meanest human cuss.

Goodbye fins and gill slits,

Hello lungs and hair!

It's a long, long way from amphioxus,

But we come from there.

Most on the science trip were atheists or agnostics, dismissive and at times disrespectful of religion. Standing under a gushing waterfall, they joked about baptism. When a white dove appeared after a harrowing hike, Dr. Scott teased, "It's a sign!"

But six of the rafters said they belonged to churches or synagogues, four attending weekly. Alan Gishlick, with silver-painted toenails sticking out of his Tevas and a shoulder tattoo of a Buddhist word puzzle meaning "Knowledge makes me content," said he was a "devout Christian."

"Ultimately, creationism is not just bad science to me, it's bad Christianity, it's Bible worship," said Mr. Gishlick, 32, a paleontology Ph.D. "There's just no reason to look at these patterns of layered sediment, or in the fossil record, or at the stars, and think that what you're seeing isn't what you're seeing. God doesn't require you to be stupid, to deny what you see, to deny what you know."

Ms. Epperson, who sings in the choir at her Presbyterian church and brought her Bible along on the trip, said, "The more you learn about science, the more magnificent God is.

"I can look at a rainbow, and I know that white light can hit water droplets and it gets dispersed and the light spreads out and has lots of different colors," she said, "and I also say, 'Thank you, God, for the rainbow.' "

She said she asked God whether her role as an evolution advocate was meant to be her mission. "I say, 'God, if this is wrong, if I'm wrong, please strike me with lightning, because I don't want to be walking down the wrong path.' "


Same Object, Different Views

Walking along a path in the Redwall limestone, Mr. Vail splashed water on fossilized outlines of nautiloids, large aquatic critters that present one of creationists' chief complaints about standard canyon geology.

Mr. Vail said fossils preserved death without decay, suggesting catastrophe, and that huge numbers of nautiloids in a six-foot layer spreading some 5,700 square miles could only be the result of a massive flood.

Examining a vertical outline of a nautiloid, Mr. Vail ridiculed the geology explanation, saying it would have had to "stand there like that for tens of thousands of years while it got buried."

"Anybody want to buy that one?" he added.

A similar question came to the science group from a creationist student of Professor Saladin who had sent him a long e-mail message to ponder on his trip. Mr. Gishlick said scientists had not documented the billions of nautiloids creationists cite and had found no stunning pattern in their orientation, citing the very vertical fossil Mr. Vail had mentioned.

"These guys don't look like they were buried in something chaotic," he said. "They look like they floated down to the bottom."

Some around the circle complained about the credence being given to the creationist argument in order to answer it.

"I don't really care how they reconcile Noah's flood with scientific things - it's about religion," protested Mary Murray, 54, an artist from Laguna Beach, Calif., who came with her biology-professor husband. "We shouldn't be talking about religion at all in the public schools."

Through four days, Mr. Vail mentioned public schools only once, saying that 80 percent of Christians walked away from their faith when studying science that confounded the creation story. "It's foundational to our faith," he said, throwing a stick into the sand in frustration. "We're raising a generation of confused children, and it's the public schools that are doing it!"

That morning, Mr. Vail led his troops up a rocky overlook to scout Hance Rapid before running through its 30-foot drop.

"As you look at the rapid from up here, you can see the run," he pointed out. "You can see where the rocks are. You can see the bump - that's obviously somewhere you don't want to go. You can pick your way through the waves.

"When you're back on the boat, look at the rapid as you're coming into it and see how much you can see," he continued. "We can read God's word and we know what we're supposed to do. It's real clear up here what we're supposed to do."

    Seeing Creation and Evolution in Grand Canyon, NYT, 6.10.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/06/science/sciencespecial2/06canyon.html






Darwin contre Dieu,

match nul aux Etats-Unis

La droite chrétienne oppose une vision divine à la théorie de l'évolution.


Samedi 27 août 2005
Par Pascal RICHE


Washington de notre correspondant


Après quelques homériques batailles sur l'abstinence dans les écoles, le mariage homosexuel, l'euthanasie, les symboles religieux dans les lieux publics, ou l'allusion à Dieu dans le serment d'allégeance (au pays) que doivent réciter les écoliers, les Américains s'empoignent aujourd'hui sur l'enseignement du darwinisme dans le secondaire. Les scientifiques et une grande partie des médias ont beau pousser des soupirs d'exaspération, rien n'y fait.


Créationnisme. Le débat a pris de telles proportions que George W. Bush lui-même a cru nécessaire d'y plonger. Au début du mois, le Président a affirmé qu'il lui semblait que «la présentation des différentes écoles de pensée fait partie de l'éducation». Affirmation qui est allée droit au coeur des tenants du créationnisme, ou plutôt de sa version relookée, le «dessein intelligent» (Intelligent Design, ID). Même des centristes, comme le sénateur (républicain) John MacCain, qui songe à se présenter à la succession de Bush, ont cédé à la pression des chrétiens fondamentalistes. Mardi, lui aussi a souhaité que «tous les points de vue» sur les origines de la vie soient enseignés dans les classes de biologie.

Certes, le débat n'est pas nouveau. En 1925, l'Amérique s'était passionnée pour l'affaire du «procès du singe». Un jeune professeur de sciences naturelles, John T. Scopes, avait bravé la loi du Tennessee, qui interdisait l'enseignement des lois de l'évolution darwinienne. Il avait été condamné à une amende, mais l'opinion avait massivement pris position en sa faveur. Aujourd'hui, les chrétiens fondamentalistes reviennent à la charge avec une approche bien mieux rodée.

Ils évitent de parler d'Adam et d'Eve, et même, autant que possible, de Dieu. Ils présentent une approche aux allures scientifiques : la théorie sur la sélection des espèces, expliquent-ils, est bien trop fruste pour expliquer la complexité de la vie. La meilleure hypothèse alternative, c'est qu'une intelligence supérieure, extraterrestre ou divine, le «dessein intelligent», l'a organisée. Ils diffusent leur nouvelle Bible, Des pandas et des hommes (1), un manuel de vulgarisation attrayant (que les scientifiques considèrent comme un tissu d'âneries). Un think-tank basé à Seattle, le Discovery Institute, généreusement financé par la droite chrétienne (mais aussi par quelques fondations sans affiliation religieuse, comme celle de Bill Gates), se charge de sophistiquer le discours pour le rendre présentable. Il subventionne des recherches, produit des documentaires, publie des livres.


Ouverture. Les tenants de l'ID se réclament habilement de «l'ouverture d'esprit scientifique». Ils n'exigent pas que Darwin soit chassé des collèges et lycées, mais simplement que leur hypothèse y trouve aussi sa place. Après tout, la majorité des Américains croient que l'homme a été créé directement par Dieu... La campagne porte ses fruits. A Dover (Pennsylvanie), le bureau de l'éducation local a décidé cette année de prévenir les collégiens de troisième que l'évolution n'était qu'une simple théorie. Un texte leur sera lu avant le début du cours de biologie : «Le dessein intelligent est une explication de l'origine de la vie différente des vues de Darwin. Le livre de référence, Des pandas et des hommes, est disponible pour les élèves désireux d'approfondir cette approche...»

Les thuriféraires du ID mènent bataille dans bien d'autres districts, dans tout le pays. C'est au Kansas qu'ils espèrent leur première grande victoire. Le bureau de l'éducation de cet Etat solidement républicain envisage en effet d'encourager, dès cette année, l'enseignement du ID. Le débat fait rage dans l'Etat depuis des mois. Dans l'Oregon, un étudiant en physique, Bobby Henderson, a décidé de s'en prendre aux partisans du «dessein intelligent» en ayant recours à leur propre rhétorique, l'appel à «l'ouverture». Dans une lettre ouverte au bureau de l'éducation du Kansas, il exige qu'on expose aux élèves non seulement le darwinisme et le dessein intelligent, mais également l'explication des origines du monde que donne le «pastafarianisme», selon lequel le monde a été créé par un monstre volant formé de spaghettis. Sa religion a vite fait des émules : depuis juin, le bureau de l'éducation est bombardé d'e-mails pastafarianistes.

(1) Of Panda and People de Percival Davis et Dean H. Kenyon

Darwin contre Dieu, match nul aux Etats-Unis, Libération, 27.8.2005, http://www.liberation.fr/page.php?Article=319552






The church-state divide

John the evangelist?

Aug 25th 2005
From The Economist print edition


Opponents and proponents alike are trying to discern
what John Roberts thinks about relations between church and state


“WHAT, if any, is the appropriate role of religion in government?” It is not only Iraqis who have to worry about such things. The question is one of several that Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the Democrats' chief inquisitors, has promised to put to John Roberts, George Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, when the Senate starts grilling him on September 6th. Mr Roberts's views matter a lot, not least because the judge he is to replace, Sandra Day O'Connor, was often the swing voter on cases dealing with the separation of church and state.

She helped keep abortion, including “partial-birth” abortion, legal. She voted to ban prayer in schools, at graduation ceremonies and at school football games. And she frowned on religious displays on public property. In June, for example, she voted to remove framed copies of the Ten Commandments from the walls of two Kentucky courthouses, and to remove a monument inscribed with the Decalogue from outside the Texas capitol. In the former case, she was on the winning side; in the latter, she sided with the losers.

Such is the court's delicate balance. Secularists fear that Mr Roberts may upset it. Many evangelicals are praying that he will. But because he appears to have spent the past 30 years preparing for his Supreme Court confirmation hearings by expressing as few controversial opinions as humanly possible, neither side is sure.

Evangelicals tend to assume that Mr Roberts is a good thing—he has been nominated by Mr Bush, after all—but are troubled by the pro bono work he once did for gay-rights groups. Secular Americans suspect he is a bad thing, but even after sniffing through 38,000 pages of documents relating to his time as a counsel to the Reagan White House, they cannot prove it.

All they have are hints. One 20-year-old memo, for example, shows that the Catholic Mr Roberts thought abortion was a “tragedy”, and that he had “no objections” to Ronald Reagan sending a telegram to be read at a memorial service a pro-life group was holding for 16,500 aborted fetuses found discarded in plastic barrels outside a laboratory director's home.

Another memo from 1985 shows that Mr Roberts thought it fine for schools in Alabama to require a moment of silence, during which pupils could pray if they wanted to. (The Supreme Court disagreed.) In 1991, as deputy solicitor-general, he co-wrote a brief urging the Supreme Court to allow schools to recite a prayer at graduation ceremonies, arguing that there was no coercion involved since attendance at such events is voluntary. (In the second case, he was acting as an advocate, so this was not necessarily his own opinion.)

In 1984, he argued that student religious groups should be allowed the same rights of assembly as other student groups. He also said he had “no quarrel” with a speech by Bill Bennett, in which the then education secretary chided the Supreme Court for barring the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools, and for barring public-school teachers from giving remedial lessons at religious schools.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State concludes from this that Mr Roberts “harbours open contempt for the separation of church and state”, and the group will oppose his confirmation. “We're on a slippery slope,” claims Robert Boston, a spokesman. If abortion were banned, gay rights rolled back, theology taught in schools instead of science and certain books unavailable because of pressure from religious agitators, “then we'd be close to a de facto theocracy,” he says.

True, but there are a lot of ifs in that. For instance, a handful of school boards, with Mr Bush's blessing, want to teach “intelligent design” in science lessons, alongside evolution. But most don't.

On abortion, even if Mr Roberts voted to allow states to ban it, there would still be a five-four majority supporting Roe v Wade, the legal underpinning for the practice. And even if another justice changed sides, the practical consequences might be less than most people imagine. The states most likely to ban abortion are the ones where abortion clinics are already rare, because local opinion is so hostile. USA Today has calculated that Roe's reversal would force only 36 of America's 1,800-odd abortion providers to close. Unlike Mrs O'Connor, Mr Roberts might vote against partial-birth abortion, but that is a rare procedure that most Americans oppose anyway.

Gay rights are not obviously being rolled back, either (see article). Most of the religious right's energy in this area is devoted to preventing their expansion, in the form of legalised gay marriage.

All these bitterly contested issues are connected to a much older struggle about the constitutional barrier between church and state. This battle too is undecided. The law is often unclear, inviting both sides to try their luck with lawsuits. Secularists sue to stop schools from including carols as part of their Christmas celebrations. Evangelical lawyers reply: how can this be unconstitutional in a country whose currency bears the motto “In God we trust”?

Mr Roberts seems to believe that the court has, in recent decades, been more hostile to religion than the constitution demands. The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Secularists think that implies, in Thomas Jefferson's phrase, “a wall of separation between church and state”. Americans United interprets this “pretty broadly”, admits Mr Boston: no prayer in schools, no crosses on public land and no school vouchers if too many parents use them at parochial schools.

Evangelicals think this goes far beyond what the constitution requires. When the framers spoke of “an establishment of religion”, they meant something like the British system (from which America had only recently escaped), under which the king was the head of a national church and Catholics couldn't stand for Parliament or attend Oxford University. Advocates of this “originalist” view of the American constitution claim that the Supreme Court's current pro-secular stance has scant historical justification. Jefferson attended a church service in the House of Representatives two days after coining his “wall of separation” metaphor.

Before the 1960s, the establishment clause was usually held to bar the use of public money for religious purposes, but religious speech was much freer than it is today: school prayer and Bible classes were the norm. But in Lemon v Kurtzman (1971), the Supreme Court ruled that government actions should satisfy three requirements: they should serve a secular purpose, have primarily secular effects and not foster an “excessive entanglement” between church and state.


Squeezing lemons

This “Lemon test” largely banished religion from the public sphere. In recent years, four Supreme Court justices have generally upheld it, while four have opposed it. Mrs O'Connor voted both ways, typically striking down public displays of faith (such as school prayer) while allowing public money to be channelled to religious institutions so long as it is for a secular purpose (such as a parent spending an education voucher at a Catholic school).

If confirmed, Mr Roberts will probably have the casting vote on these issues. Noah Feldman, a law professor and author of “Divided by God”, a new book on the church-state divide, wants Mr Roberts to take a tolerant attitude towards public displays of faith, while holding the line against the use of public money for religious purposes. But he thinks the new justice may allow both.

About time, too, say many evangelicals. They've been voting Republican for decades in the hope of correcting what they see as the Supreme Court's anti-religious bias, but to little effect. Although seven of the nine justices (including Mrs O'Connor) are Republican appointees, only three—William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas—are reliably “conservative” on religious matters. If Mr Roberts joins that block, the religious right will rejoice. But if he rules too radically, that could drive voters to choose a Democratic president in 2008. Despite what some secularists fear, there are checks and balances to save America from theocracy.

    John the evangelist?, E, 25.8.2005,






Scientists Speak Up

on Mix of God and Science


August 23, 2005
The New York Times


At a recent scientific conference at City College of New York, a student in the audience rose to ask the panelists an unexpected question: "Can you be a good scientist and believe in God?"

Reaction from one of the panelists, all Nobel laureates, was quick and sharp. "No!" declared Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals.

Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, Dr. Hauptman declared, "this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race."

But disdain for religion is far from universal among scientists. And today, as religious groups challenge scientists in arenas as various as evolution in the classroom, AIDS prevention and stem cell research, scientists who embrace religion are beginning to speak out about their faith.

"It should not be a taboo subject, but frankly it often is in scientific circles," said Francis S. Collins, who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute and who speaks freely about his Christian faith.

Although they embrace religious faith, these scientists also embrace science as it has been defined for centuries. That is, they look to the natural world for explanations of what happens in the natural world and they recognize that scientific ideas must be provisional - capable of being overturned by evidence from experimentation and observation. This belief in science sets them apart from those who endorse creationism or its doctrinal cousin, intelligent design, both of which depend on the existence of a supernatural force.

Their belief in God challenges scientists who regard religious belief as little more than magical thinking, as some do. Their faith also challenges believers who denounce science as a godless enterprise and scientists as secular elitists contemptuous of God-fearing people.

Some scientists say simply that science and religion are two separate realms, "nonoverlapping magisteria," as the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould put it in his book "Rocks of Ages" (Ballantine, 1999). In Dr. Gould's view, science speaks with authority in the realm of "what the universe is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory)" and religion holds sway over "questions of ultimate meaning and moral value."

When the American Association for the Advancement of Science devoted a session to this idea of separation at its annual meeting this year, scores of scientists crowded into a room to hear it.

Some of them said they were unsatisfied with the idea, because they believe scientists' moral values must inevitably affect their work, others because so much of science has so many ethical implications in the real world.

One panelist, Dr. Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said scientists, like other people, were guided by their own human purposes, meaning and values. The idea that fact can be separated from values and meaning "jibes poorly with what we know of the history of science," Dr. Efron said.

Dr. Collins, who is working on a book about his religious faith, also believes that people should not have to keep religious beliefs and scientific theories strictly separate. "I don't find it very satisfactory and I don't find it very necessary," he said in an interview. He noted that until relatively recently, most scientists were believers. "Isaac Newton wrote a lot more about the Bible than the laws of nature," he said.

But he acknowledged that as head of the American government's efforts to decipher the human genetic code, he had a leading role in work that many say definitively demonstrates the strength of evolutionary theory to explain the complexity and abundance of life.

As scientists compare human genes with those of other mammals, tiny worms, even bacteria, the similarities "are absolutely compelling," Dr. Collins said. "If Darwin had tried to imagine a way to prove his theory, he could not have come up with something better, except maybe a time machine. Asking somebody to reject all of that in order to prove that they really do love God - what a horrible choice."

Dr. Collins was a nonbeliever until he was 27 - "more and more into the mode of being not only agnostic but being an atheist," as he put it. All that changed after he completed his doctorate in physics and was at work on his medical degree, when he was among those treating a woman dying of heart disease. "She was very clear about her faith and she looked me square in the eye and she said, 'what do you believe?' " he recalled. "I sort of stammered out, 'I am not sure.' "

He said he realized then that he had never considered the matter seriously, the way a scientist should. He began reading about various religious beliefs, which only confused him. Finally, a Methodist minister gave him a book, "Mere Christianity," by C. S. Lewis. In the book Lewis, an atheist until he was a grown man, argues that the idea of right and wrong is universal among people, a moral law they "did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try." This universal feeling, he said, is evidence for the plausibility of God.

When he read the book, Dr. Collins said, "I thought, my gosh, this guy is me."

Today, Dr. Collins said, he does not embrace any particular denomination, but he is a Christian. Colleagues sometimes express surprise at his faith, he said. "They'll say, 'how can you believe that? Did you check your brain at the door?" But he said he had discovered in talking to students and colleagues that "there is a great deal of interest in this topic."


Polling Scientists on Beliefs

According to a much-discussed survey reported in the journal Nature in 1997, 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians said they believed in God - and not just a nonspecific transcendental presence but, as the survey put it, a God to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."

The survey, by Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia, was intended to replicate one conducted in 1914, and the results were virtually unchanged. In both cases, participants were drawn from a directory of American scientists.

Others play down those results. They note that when Dr. Larson put part of the same survey to "leading scientists" - in this case, members of the National Academy of Sciences, perhaps the nation's most eminent scientific organization - fewer than 10 percent professed belief in a personal God or human immortality.

This response is not surprising to researchers like Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the University of Texas, a member of the academy and a winner of the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his work in particle physics. He said he could understand why religious people would believe that anything that eroded belief was destructive. But he added: "I think one of the great historical contributions of science is to weaken the hold of religion. That's a good thing."


No God, No Moral Compass?

He rejects the idea that scientists who reject religion are arrogant. "We know how many mistakes we've made," Dr. Weinberg said. And he is angered by assertions that people without religious faith are without a moral compass.

In any event, he added, "the experience of being a scientist makes religion seem fairly irrelevant," he said. "Most scientists I know simply don't think about it very much. They don't think about religion enough to qualify as practicing atheists."

Most scientists he knows who do believe in God, he added, believe in "a God who is behind the laws of nature but who is not intervening."

Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown, said his students were often surprised to find that he was religious, especially when they realized that his faith was not some sort of vague theism but observant Roman Catholicism.

Dr. Miller, whose book, "Finding Darwin's God," explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with his religious faith, said he was usually challenged in his biology classes by one or two students whose religions did not accept evolution, who asked how important the theory would be in the course.

"What they are really asking me is "do I have to believe in this stuff to get an A?,' " he said. He says he tells them that "belief is never an issue in science."

"I don't care if you believe in the Krebs cycle," he said, referring to the process by which energy is utilized in the cell. "I just want you to know what it is and how it works. My feeling about evolution is the same thing."

For Dr. Miller and other scientists, research is not about belief. "Faith is one thing, what you believe from the heart," said Joseph E. Murray, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1990 for his work in organ transplantation. But in scientific research, he said, "it's the results that count."

Dr. Murray, who describes himself as "a cradle Catholic" who has rarely missed weekly Mass and who prays every morning, said that when he was preparing for the first ever human organ transplant, a kidney that a young man had donated to his identical twin, he and his colleagues consulted a number of religious leaders about whether they were doing the right thing. "It seemed natural," he said.


Using Every Tool

"When you are searching for truth you should use every possible avenue, including revelation," said Dr. Murray, who is a member of the Pontifical Academy, which advises the Vatican on scientific issues, and who described the influence of his faith on his work in his memoir, "Surgery of the Soul" (Science History Publications, 2002).

Since his appearance at the City College panel, when he was dismayed by the tepid reception received by his remarks on the incompatibility of good science and religious belief, Dr. Hauptman said he had been discussing the issue with colleagues in Buffalo, where he is president of the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

"I think almost without exception the people I have spoken to are scientists and they do believe in the existence of a supreme being," he said. "If you ask me to explain it - I cannot explain it at all."

But Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary theorist at Oxford, said that even scientists who were believers did not claim evidence for that belief. "The most they will claim is that there is no evidence against," Dr. Dawkins said, "which is pathetically weak. There is no evidence against all sorts of things, but we don't waste our time believing in them."

Dr. Collins said he believed that some scientists were unwilling to profess faith in public "because the assumption is if you are a scientist you don't have any need of action of the supernatural sort," or because of pride in the idea that science is the ultimate source of intellectual meaning.

But he said he believed that some scientists were simply unwilling to confront the big questions religion tried to answer. "You will never understand what it means to be a human being through naturalistic observation," he said. "You won't understand why you are here and what the meaning is. Science has no power to address these questions - and are they not the most important questions we ask ourselves?"

    Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science, NYT, August 23, 2005,

















Jimmy Margulies        New Jersey -- The Record        Cagle        11.11.2005


















Don Wright        The Palm Beach Post        Cagle        9.11.2005
















In Explaining Life's Complexity,

Darwinists and Doubters Clash


August 22, 2005
The New York Times


This is the second in a series of articles
examining the debate over the teaching of evolution.


The first article looked at how scholars at the Discovery Institute
are mounting a politically savvy challenge to evolution.
The next article will look at scientists' religious beliefs.


At the heart of the debate over intelligent design is this question: Can a scientific explanation of the history of life include the actions of an unseen higher being?

The proponents of intelligent design, a school of thought that some have argued should be taught alongside evolution in the nation's schools, say that the complexity and diversity of life go beyond what evolution can explain.

Biological marvels like the optical precision of an eye, the little spinning motors that propel bacteria and the cascade of proteins that cause blood to clot, they say, point to the hand of a higher being at work in the world.

In one often-cited argument, Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and a leading design theorist, compares complex biological phenomena like blood clotting to a mousetrap: Take away any one piece - the spring, the baseboard, the metal piece that snags the mouse - and the mousetrap stops being able to catch mice.

Similarly, Dr. Behe argues, if any one of the more than 20 proteins involved in blood clotting is missing or deficient, as happens in hemophilia, for instance, clots will not form properly.

Such all-or-none systems, Dr. Behe and other design proponents say, could not have arisen through the incremental changes that evolution says allowed life to progress to the big brains and the sophisticated abilities of humans from primitive bacteria.

These complex systems are "always associated with design," Dr. Behe, the author of the 1996 book "Darwin's Black Box," said in an interview. "We find such systems in biology, and since we know of no other way that these things can be produced, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, then we are rational to conclude they were indeed designed."

It is an argument that appeals to many Americans of faith.

But mainstream scientists say that the claims of intelligent design run counter to a century of research supporting the explanatory and predictive power of Darwinian evolution, and that the design approach suffers from fundamental problems that place it outside the realm of science. For one thing, these scientists say, invoking a higher being as an explanation is unscientific.

"One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed," said Douglas H. Erwin, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution. "That's a fundamental presumption of what we do."

That does not mean that scientists do not believe in God. Many do. But they see science as an effort to find out how the material world works, with nothing to say about why we are here or how we should live.

And in that quest, they say, there is no need to resort to otherworldly explanations. So much evidence has been provided by evolutionary studies that biologists are able to explain even the most complex natural phenomena and to fill in whatever blanks remain with solid theories.

This is possible, in large part, because evolution leaves tracks like the fossil remains of early animals or the chemical footprints in DNA that have been revealed by genetic research.

For example, while Dr. Behe and other leading design proponents see the blood clotting system as a product of design, mainstream scientists see it as a result of a coherent sequence of evolutionary events.

Early vertebrates like jawless fish had a simple clotting system, scientists believe, involving a few proteins that made blood stick together, said Russell F. Doolittle, a professor of molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego.

Scientists hypothesize that at some point, a mistake during the copying of DNA resulted in the duplication of a gene, increasing the amount of protein produced by cells.

Most often, such a change would be useless. But in this case the extra protein helped blood clot, and animals with the extra protein were more likely to survive and reproduce. Over time, as higher-order species evolved, other proteins joined the clotting system. For instance, several proteins involved in the clotting of blood appear to have started as digestive enzymes.

By studying the evolutionary tree and the genetics and biochemistry of living organisms, Dr. Doolittle said, scientists have largely been able to determine the order in which different proteins became involved in helping blood clot, eventually producing the sophisticated clotting mechanisms of humans and other higher animals. The sequencing of animal genomes has provided evidence to support this view.

For example, scientists had predicted that more primitive animals such as fish would be missing certain blood-clotting proteins. In fact, the recent sequencing of the fish genome has shown just this.

"The evidence is rock solid," Dr. Doolittle said.

Intelligent design proponents have advanced their views in books for popular audiences and in a few scientific articles. Some have developed mathematical formulas intended to tell whether something was designed or formed by natural processes.

Mainstream scientists say that intelligent design represents a more sophisticated - and thus more seductive - attack on evolution. Unlike creationists, design proponents accept many of the conclusions of modern science. They agree with cosmologists that the age of the universe is 13.6 billion years, not fewer than 10,000 years, as a literal reading of the Bible would suggest. They accept that mutation and natural selection, the central mechanisms of evolution, have acted on the natural world in small ways, for example, leading to the decay of eyes in certain salamanders that live underground.

Some intelligent design advocates even accept common descent, the notion that all species came from a common ancestor, a central tenet of evolution.

Although a vast majority of scientists accept evolution, the Discovery Institute, a research group in Seattle that has emerged as a clearinghouse for the intelligent design movement, says that 404 scientists, including 70 biologists, have signed a petition saying they are skeptical of Darwinism.

Nonetheless, many scientists regard intelligent design as little more than creationism dressed up in pseudoscientific clothing. Despite its use of scientific language and the fact that some design advocates are scientists, they say, the design approach has so far offered only philosophical objections to evolution, not any positive evidence for the intervention of a designer. 'Truncated View of Reality'

If Dr. Behe's mousetrap is one of the most familiar arguments for design, another is the idea that intelligence is obvious in what it creates. Read a novel by Hemingway, gaze at the pyramids, and a designer's hand is manifest, design proponents say.

But mainstream scientists, design proponents say, are unwilling to look beyond the material world when it comes to explaining things like the construction of an eye or the spinning motors that propel bacteria. What is wrong, they ask, with entertaining the idea that what looks like it was designed was actually designed?

"If we've defined science such that it cannot get to the true answer, we've got a pretty lame definition of science," said Douglas D. Axe, a molecular biologist and the director of research at the Biologic Institute, a new research center in Seattle that looks at the organization of biological systems, including intelligent design issues. Dr. Axe said he had received "significant" financing from the Discovery Institute, but he declined to give any other details about the institute or its financing.

Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, compares the design approach to the work of archaeologists investigating an ancient civilization.

"Imagine you're an archaeologist and you're looking at an inscription, and you say, 'Well, sorry, that looks like it's intelligent but we can't invoke an intelligent cause because, as a matter of method, we have to limit ourselves to materialistic processes,' " Dr. Meyer said. "That would be nuts."

He added, "Call it miracle, call it some other pejorative term, but the fact remains that the materialistic view is a truncated view of reality."

William Paley, an Anglican priest, made a similar argument in the early 19th century. Someone who finds a rock can easily imagine how wind and rain shaped it, he reasoned. But someone who finds a pocket watch lying on the ground instantly knows that it was not formed by natural processes.

With living organisms so much more complicated than watches, he wrote, "The marks of design are too strong to be got over."

Mainstream scientists say that the scientific method is indeed restricted to the material world, because it is trying to find out how it works. Simply saying, "it must have been designed," they say, is simply a way of not tackling the hardest problems.

They say they have no disagreement with studying phenomena for which there are, as yet, no explanations.

It is the presumption of a designer that mainstream scientists dispute, because there are no artifacts or biological signs - no scientific evidence, in other words - to suggest a designer's presence.

Darwin's theory, in contrast, has over the last century yielded so many solid findings that no mainstream biologist today doubts its basic tenets, though they may argue about particulars.

The theory has unlocked many of the mysteries of the natural world. For example, by studying the skeletons of whales, evolutionary scientists have been able to trace the history of their descent from small-hoofed land mammals. They made predictions about what the earliest water-dwelling whales might look like. And, in 1994, paleontologists reported discovering two such species, with many of the anatomical features that scientists had predicted.


Darwin's Finches

Nowhere has evolution been more powerful than in its prediction that there must be a means to pass on information from one generation to another. Darwin did not know the biological mechanism of inheritance, but the theory of evolution required one.

The discovery of DNA, the sequencing of the human genome, the pinpointing of genetic diseases and the discovery that a continuum of life from a single cell to a human brain can be detected in DNA are all a result of evolutionary theory.

Darwin may have been the classic scientific observer. He observed that individuals in a given species varied considerably, variations now known to be caused by mutations in their genetic code. He also realized that constraints of food and habitat sharply limited population growth; not every individual could survive and reproduce.

This competition, he hypothesized, meant that those individuals with helpful traits multiplied, passing on those traits to their numerous offspring. Negative or useless traits did not help individuals reproduce, and those traits faded away, a process that Darwin called natural selection.

The finches that Darwin observed in the Galápagos Islands provide the most famous example of this process. The species of finch that originally found its way to the Galápagos from South America had a beak shaped in a way that was ideal for eating seeds. But once arrived on the islands, that finch eventually diversified into 13 species. The various Galápagos finches have differently shaped beaks, each fine-tuned to take advantage of a particular food, like fruit, grubs, buds or seeds.

Such small adaptations can arise within a few generations. Darwin surmised that over millions of years, these small changes would accumulate, giving rise to the myriad of species seen today.

The number of organisms that, in those long periods, ended up being preserved as fossils is infinitesimal. As a result, the evolutionary record - the fossils of long-extinct organisms found preserved in rock - is necessarily incomplete, and some species appear to burst out of nowhere.

Some supporters of intelligent design have argued that such gaps undermine the evidence for evolution.

For instance, during the Cambrian explosion a half a billion years ago, life diversified to shapes with limbs and shells from jellyfish-like blobs, over a geologically brief span of 30 million years.

Dr. Meyer sees design at work in these large leaps, which signified the appearance of most modern forms of life. He argues that genetic mutations do not have the power to create new shapes of animals.

But molecular biologists have found genes that control the function of other genes, switching them on and off. Small mutations in these controller genes could produce new species. In addition, new fossils are being found and scientists now know that many changes occurred in the era before the Cambrian - a period that may have lasted 100 million years - providing more time for change.

The Cambrian explosion, said David J. Bottjer, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California and president of the Paleontological Society, is "a wonderful mystery in that we don't know everything yet."

"I think it will be just a matter of time before smart people will be able to figure a lot more of this out," Dr. Bottjer said. "Like any good scientific problem."


Purposeful Patterns

Intelligent design proponents have been stung by claims that, in contrast to mainstream scientists, they do not form their own theories or conduct original research. They say they are doing the mathematical work and biological experiments needed to put their ideas on firm scientific ground.

For example, William A. Dembski, a mathematician who drew attention when he headed a short-lived intelligent design institute at Baylor University, has worked on mathematical algorithms that purport to tell the difference between objects that were designed and those that occurred naturally.

Dr. Dembski says designed objects, like Mount Rushmore, show complex, purposeful patterns that evince the existence of intelligence. Mathematical calculations like those he has developed, he argues, could detect those patterns, for example, distinguishing Mount Rushmore from Mount St. Helens.

But other mathematicians have said that Dr. Dembski's calculations do not work and cannot be applied in the real world.

Other studies that intelligent design theorists cite in support of their views have been done by Dr. Axe of the Biologic Institute.

In one such study, Dr. Axe looked at a protein, called penicillinase, that gives bacteria the ability to survive treatment with the antibiotic penicillin. Dr. Meyer, of the Discovery Institute, has referred to Dr. Axe's work in arguing that working proteins are so rare that evolution cannot by chance discover them.

What was the probability, Dr. Axe asked in his study, of a protein with this ability existing in the universe of all possible proteins?

Penicillinase is made up of a strand of chemicals called amino acids folded into a shape that binds to penicillin and thus disables it. Whether the protein folds up in the right way determines whether it works or not.

Dr. Axe calculated that of the plausible amino acid sequences, only one in 100,000 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion - a number written as 1 followed by 77 zeroes - would provide resistance to penicillin.

In other words, the probability was essentially zero.

Dr. Axe's research appeared last year in The Journal of Molecular Biology, a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University and a frequent sparring partner of design proponents, said that in his study, Dr. Axe did not look at penicillinase "the way evolution looks at the protein."

Natural selection, he said, is not random. A small number of mutations, sometimes just one, can change the function of a protein, allowing it to diverge along new evolutionary paths and eventually form a new shape or fold.


One Shot or a Continual Act

Intelligent design proponents are careful to say that they cannot identify the designer at work in the world, although most readily concede that God is the most likely possibility. And they offer varied opinions on when and how often a designer intervened.

Dr. Behe, for example, said he could imagine that, like an elaborate billiards shot, the design was set up when the Big Bang occurred 13.6 billion years ago. "It could have all been programmed into the universe as far as I'm concerned," he said.

But it was also possible, Dr. Behe added, that a designer acted continually throughout the history of life.

Mainstream scientists say this fuzziness about when and how design supposedly occurred makes the claims impossible to disprove. It is unreasonable, they say, for design advocates to demand that every detail of evolution be filled in.

Dr. Behe, however, said he might find it compelling if scientists were to observe evolutionary leaps in the laboratory. He pointed to an experiment by Richard E. Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University, who has been observing the evolution of E. coli bacteria for more than 15 years. "If anything cool came out of that," Dr. Behe said, "that would be one way to convince me."

Dr. Behe said that if he was correct, then the E. coli in Dr. Lenski's lab would evolve in small ways but never change in such a way that the bacteria would develop entirely new abilities.

In fact, such an ability seems to have developed. Dr. Lenski said his experiment was not intended to explore this aspect of evolution, but nonetheless, "We have recently discovered a pretty dramatic exception, one where a new and surprising function has evolved," he said.

Dr. Lenski declined to give any details until the research is published. But, he said, "If anyone is resting his or her faith in God on the outcome that our experiment will not produce some major biological innovation, then I humbly suggest they should rethink the distinction between science and religion."

Dr. Behe said, "I'll wait and see."

    In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash, NYT, August 22, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/22/national/22design.html?hp&ex=1124769600&en=0ca73531c0586b08&ei=5094&partner=homepage

















In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash

NYT        August 22, 2005
















Politicized Scholars

Put Evolution on the Defensive


August 21, 2005
The New York Times


SEATTLE - When President Bush plunged into the debate over the teaching of evolution this month, saying, "both sides ought to be properly taught," he seemed to be reading from the playbook of the Discovery Institute, the conservative think tank here that is at the helm of this newly volatile frontier in the nation's culture wars.

After toiling in obscurity for nearly a decade, the institute's Center for Science and Culture has emerged in recent months as the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country. Pushing a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.

Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute's talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Financed by some of the same Christian conservatives who helped Mr. Bush win the White House, the organization's intellectual core is a scattered group of scholars who for nearly a decade have explored the unorthodox explanation of life's origins known as intelligent design.

Together, they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive.

Like a well-tooled electoral campaign, the Discovery Institute has a carefully crafted, poll-tested message, lively Web logs - and millions of dollars from foundations run by prominent conservatives like Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Philip F. Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. The institute opened an office in Washington last fall and in January hired the same Beltway public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.

"We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution," said the center's director, Stephen C. Meyer, 47, a historian and philosopher of science recruited by Discovery after he protested a professor's being punished for criticizing Darwin in class. "We want to have an effect on the dominant view of our culture."

For the institute's president, Bruce K. Chapman, a Rockefeller Republican turned Reagan conservative, intelligent design appealed to his contrarian, futuristic sensibilities - and attracted wealthy, religious philanthropists like the Ahmansons at a time when his organization was surviving on a shoestring. More student of politics than science geek, Mr. Chapman embraced the evolution controversy as the institute's signature issue precisely because of its unpopularity in the establishment.

"When someone says there's one thing you can't talk about, that's what I want to talk about," said Mr. Chapman, 64.

As much philosophical worldview as scientific hypothesis, intelligent design challenges Darwin's theory of natural selection by arguing that some organisms are too complex to be explained by evolution alone, pointing to the possibility of supernatural influences. While mutual acceptance of evolution and the existence of God appeals instinctively to a faithful public, intelligent design is shunned as heresy in mainstream universities and science societies as untestable in laboratories.


Entering the Public Policy Sphere

From its nondescript office suites here, the institute has provided an institutional home for the dissident thinkers, pumping $3.6 million in fellowships of $5,000 to $60,000 per year to 50 researchers since the science center's founding in 1996. Among the fruits are 50 books on intelligent design, many published by religious presses like InterVarsity or Crossway, and two documentaries that were broadcast briefly on public television. But even as the institute spearheads the intellectual development of intelligent design, it has staked out safer turf in the public policy sphere, urging states and school boards simply to include criticism in evolution lessons rather than actually teach intelligent design.

Since the presidential election last fall, the movement has made inroads and evolution has emerged as one of the country's fiercest cultural battlefronts, with the National Center for Science Education tracking 78 clashes in 31 states, more than twice the typical number of incidents. Discovery leaders have been at the heart of the highest-profile developments: helping a Roman Catholic cardinal place an opinion article in The New York Times in which he sought to distance the church from evolution; showing its film promoting design and purpose in the universe at the Smithsonian; and lobbying the Kansas Board of Education in May to require criticism of evolution.

These successes follow a path laid in a 1999 Discovery manifesto known as the Wedge Document, which sought "nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies" in favor of a "broadly theistic understanding of nature."

President Bush's signature education law, known as No Child Left Behind, also helped, as mandatory testing prompted states to rewrite curriculum standards. Ohio, New Mexico and Minnesota have embraced the institute's "teach the controversy" approach; Kansas is expected to follow suit in the fall.

Detractors dismiss Discovery as a fundamentalist front and intelligent design as a clever rhetorical detour around the 1987 Supreme Court ruling banning creationism from curriculums. But the institute's approach is more nuanced, scholarly and politically adept than its Bible-based predecessors in the century-long battle over biology.

A closer look shows a multidimensional organization, financed by missionary and mainstream groups - the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides $1 million a year, including $50,000 of Mr. Chapman's $141,000 annual salary - and asserting itself on questions on issues as varied as local transportation and foreign affairs.

Many of the research fellows, employees and board members are, indeed, devout and determinedly conservative; pictures of William J. Bennett, the moral crusader and former drug czar, are fixtures on office walls, and some leaders have ties to movement mainstays like Focus on the Family. All but a few in the organization are Republicans, though these include moderates drawn by the institute's pragmatic, iconoclastic approach on nonideological topics like technology.

But even as intelligent design has helped raise Discovery's profile, the institute is starting to suffer from its success. Lately, it has tried to distance itself from lawsuits and legislation that seek to force schools to add intelligent design to curriculums, placing it in the awkward spot of trying to promote intelligent design as a robust frontier for scientists but not yet ripe for students.

The group is also fending off attacks from the left, as critics liken it to Holocaust deniers or the Taliban. Concerned about the criticism, Discovery's Cascadia project, which focuses on regional transportation and is the recipient of the large grant from the Gates Foundation, created its own Web site to ensure an individual identity.

"All ideas go through three stages - first they're ignored, then they're attacked, then they're accepted," said Jay W. Richards, a philosopher and the institute's vice president. "We're kind of beyond the ignored stage. We're somewhere in the attack."


Origins of an Institute

Founded in 1990 as a branch of the Hudson Institute, based in Indianapolis, the institute was named for the H.M.S. Discovery, which explored Puget Sound in 1792. Mr. Chapman, a co-author of a 1966 critique of Barry M. Goldwater's anti-civil-rights campaign, "The Party That Lost Its Head," had been a liberal Republican on the Seattle City Council and candidate for governor, but moved to the right in the Reagan administration, where he served as director of the Census Bureau and worked for Edwin Meese III.

In late 1993, Mr. Chapman clipped an essay in The Wall Street Journal by Dr. Meyer, who was teaching at a Christian college in Spokane, Wash., concerning a biologist yanked from a lecture hall for discussing intelligent design. About a year later, over dinner at the Sorrento Hotel here, Dr. Meyer and George Gilder, Mr. Chapman's long-ago Harvard roommate and his writing partner, discovered parallel theories of mind over materialism in their separate studies of biology and economics.

"Bruce kind of perked up and said, 'This is what makes a think tank,' " Dr. Meyer recalled. "There was kind of an 'Aha!' moment in the conversation, there was a common metaphysic in these two ideas."

That summer of 1995, Mr. Chapman and Dr. Meyer had dinner with a representative of the Ahmansons, the banking billionaires from Orange County, Calif., who had previously given a small grant to the institute and underwritten an early conclave of intelligent design scholars. Dr. Meyer, who had grown friendly enough with the Ahmansons to tutor their young son in science, recalled being asked, "What could you do if you had some financial backing?"

So in 1996, with the promise of $750,000 over three years from the Ahmansons and a smaller grant from the MacLellan Foundation, which supports organizations "committed to furthering the Kingdom of Christ," according to its Web site, the institute's Center for Science and Culture was born.

"Bruce is a contrarian, and this was a contrarian idea," said Edward J. Larson, the historian and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Scopes Monkey Trial, who was an early fellow at the institute, but left in part because of its drift to the right. "The institute was living hand-to-mouth. Here was an academic, credible activity that involved funders. It interested conservatives. It brought in money."


Support From Religious Groups

The institute would not provide details about its backers "because they get harassed," Mr. Chapman said. But a review of tax documents on www.guidestar.org, a Web site that collects data on foundations, showed its grants and gifts jumped to $4.1 million in 2003 from $1.4 million in 1997, the most recent and oldest years available. The records show financial support from 22 foundations, at least two-thirds of them with explicitly religious missions.

There is the Henry P. and Susan C. Crowell Trust of Colorado Springs, whose Web site describes its mission as "the teaching and active extension of the doctrines of evangelical Christianity." There is also the AMDG Foundation in Virginia, run by Mark Ryland, a Microsoft executive turned Discovery vice president: the initials stand for Ad Majorem Dei Glorium, Latin for "To the greater glory of God," which Pope John Paul II etched in the corner of all his papers.

And the Stewardship Foundation, based in Tacoma, Wash., whose Web site says it was created "to contribute to the propagation of the Christian Gospel by evangelical and missionary work," gave the group more than $1 million between 1999 and 2003.

By far the biggest backers of the intelligent design efforts are the Ahmansons, who have provided 35 percent of the science center's $9.3 million since its inception and now underwrite a quarter of its $1.3 million annual operations. Mr. Ahmanson also sits on Discovery's board.

The Ahmansons' founding gift was joined by $450,000 from the MacLellan Foundation, based in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"We give for religious purposes," said Thomas H. McCallie III, its executive director. "This is not about science, and Darwin wasn't about science. Darwin was about a metaphysical view of the world."

The institute also has support from secular groups like the Verizon Foundation and the Gates Foundation, which gave $1 million in 2000 and pledged $9.35 million over 10 years in 2003. Greg Shaw, a grant maker at the Gates Foundation, said the money was "exclusive to the Cascadia project" on regional transportation.

But the evolution controversy has cost it the support of the Bullitt Foundation, based here, which gave $10,000 in 2001 for transportation, as well as the John Templeton Foundation in Pennsylvania, whose Web site defines it as devoted to pursuing "new insights between theology and science."

Denis Hayes, director of the Bullitt Foundation, described Discovery in an e-mail message as "the institutional love child of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell," saying, "I can think of no circumstances in which the Bullitt Foundation would fund anything at Discovery today."

Charles L. Harper Jr., the senior vice president of the Templeton Foundation, said he had rejected the institute's entreaties since providing $75,000 in 1999 for a conference in which intelligent design proponents confronted critics. "They're political - that for us is problematic," Mr. Harper said. While Discovery has "always claimed to be focused on the science," he added, "what I see is much more focused on public policy, on public persuasion, on educational advocacy and so forth."

For three years after completing graduate school in 1996, William A. Dembski could not find a university job, but he nonetheless received what he called "a standard academic salary" of $40,000 a year.

"I was one of the early beneficiaries of Discovery largess," said Dr. Dembski, whose degrees include a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago, one in philosophy from the University of Illinois and a master's of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.


Money for Teachers and Students

Since its founding in 1996, the science center has spent 39 percent of its $9.3 million on research, Dr. Meyer said, underwriting books or papers, or often just paying universities to release professors from some teaching responsibilities so that they can ponder intelligent design. Over those nine years, $792,585 financed laboratory or field research in biology, paleontology or biophysics, while $93,828 helped graduate students in paleontology, linguistics, history and philosophy.

The 40 fellows affiliated with the science center are an eclectic group, including David Berlinski, an expatriate mathematician living in Paris who described his only religion to be "having a good time all the time," and Jonathan Wells, a member of the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who once wrote in an essay, "My prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

Their credentials - advanced degrees from Stanford, Columbia, Yale, the University of Texas, the University of California - are impressive, but their ideas are often ridiculed in the academic world.

"They're interested in the same things I'm interested in - no one else is," Guillermo Gonzalez, 41, an astronomer at the University of Iowa, said of his colleagues at Discovery. "What I'm doing, frankly, is frowned upon by most of my colleagues. It's not something a 'scientist' is supposed to do." Other than Dr. Berlinski, most fellows, like their financiers, are fundamentalist Christians, though they insist their work is serious science, not closet creationism.

"I believe that God created the universe," Dr. Gonzalez said. "What I don't know is whether that evidence can be tested objectively. I ask myself the tough questions."

Discovery sees the focus on its fellows and financial backers as a diversionary tactic by its opponents. "We're talking about evidence, and they want to talk about us," Dr. Meyer said.

But Philip Gold, a former fellow who left in 2002, said the institute had grown increasingly religious. "It evolved from a policy institute that had a religious focus to an organization whose primary mission is Christian conservatism," he said.

That was certainly how many people read the Wedge Document, a five-page outline of a five-year plan for the science center that originated as a fund-raising pitch but was soon posted on the Internet by critics.

"Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions," the document says. Among its promises are seminars "to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence that support the faith, as well as to 'popularize' our ideas in the broader culture."

One sign of any political movement's advancement is when adherents begin to act on their own, often without the awareness of the leadership. That, according to institute officials, is what happened in 1999, when a new conservative majority on the Kansas Board of Education shocked the nation - and their potential allies here at the institute - by dropping all references to evolution from the state's science standards.

"When there are all these legitimate scientific controversies, this was silly, outlandish, counterproductive," said John G. West, associate director of the science center, who said he and his colleagues learned of that 1999 move in Kansas from newspaper accounts. "We began to think, 'Look, we're going to be stigmatized with what everyone does if we don't make our position clear.' "

Out of this developed Discovery's "teach the controversy" approach, which endorses evolution as a staple of any biology curriculum - so long as criticism of Darwin is also in the lesson plan. This satisfied Christian conservatives but also appealed to Republican moderates and, under the First Amendment banner, much of the public (71 percent in a Discovery-commissioned Zogby poll in 2001 whose results were mirrored in newspaper polls).

"They have packaged their message much more cleverly than the creation science people have," said Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, the leading defender of evolution. "They present themselves as being more mainstream. I prefer to think of that as creationism light."

A watershed moment came with the adoption in 2001 of the No Child Left Behind Act, whose legislative history includes a passage that comes straight from the institute's talking points. "Where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy," was language that Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, tried to include.

Pointing to that principle, institute fellows in 2002 played important roles in pushing the Ohio Board of Education to adopt a "teach the controversy" approach and helped devise a curriculum to support it. The following year, they successfully urged changes to textbooks in Texas to weaken the argument for evolution, and they have been consulted in numerous other cases as school districts or states consider changing their approach to biology.

But this spring, at the hearings in Kansas, Mr. Chapman grew visibly frustrated as his supposed allies began talking more and more about intelligent design.

John Calvert, the managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, based in Kansas, said the institute had the intellectual and financial resources to "lead the movement" but was "more cautious" than he would like. "They want to avoid the discussion of religion because that detracts from the focus on the science," he said.

Dr. West, who leads the science center's public policy efforts, said it did not support mandating the teaching of intelligent design because the theory was not yet developed enough and there was no appropriate curriculum. So the institute has opposed legislation in Pennsylvania and Utah that pushes intelligent design, instead urging lawmakers to follow Ohio's lead.

"A lot of people are trying to hijack the issue on both the left and the right," Dr. West said.

Dr. Chapman, for his part, sees even these rough spots as signs of success.

"All ideas that achieve a sort of uniform acceptance ultimately fall apart whether it's in the sciences or philosophy or politics after a few people keep knocking away at it," he said. "It's wise for society not to punish those people."


Jack Begg, David Bernstein and Alain Delaquérière

contributed reporting for this article.

    Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive, NYT, August 21, 2005,
















Gary Varvel, Indiana


The Indianapolis Star-News

















A Colorado Springs,

paradis des évangélistes,

les chrétiens sont en "guerre culturelle"


Le Monde

de notre envoyée spéciale


A l'approche de Colorado Springs, l'autoradio se sent pousser des ailes. "Assez des mauvaises nouvelles ?" C'est une publicité pour un site Internet religieux. "Grâce à Christianity. com, promet la voix, vous aurez de bonnes nouvelles, et tous les jours."

La ville de Colorado Springs, 400 000 habitants, se trouve au pied des montagnes Rocheuses, à 100 km au sud de Denver. La presse américaine l'a baptisée le "Vatican des évangélistes" . Elle abrite 400 églises et une centaine de groupes religieux. Certains ont été attirés par les avantages fiscaux offerts par la municipalité aux organisations non gouvernementales. D'autres sont arrivés à la suite d'une "vision", comme le pasteur Ted Haggard, qui est aujourd'hui à la tête d'une congrégation de 11 000 membres, 140 employés et 12 millions de dollars de chiffre d'affaires. Le pasteur Ted parle régulièrement au président George W. Bush. Leur seule divergence porte sur l'automobile, a-t-il confié au magazine Harper's . M. Bush est plutôt Ford et lui, Chevrolet.

Pour les chrétiens radicaux, les nouvelles sont plutôt bonnes. Depuis sa réélection, le président a envoyé un certain nombre de signaux amicaux. Le dernier en date a été un appui, début août, aux partisans du "dessein intelligent" , une variante relookée du créationnisme. M. Bush ne voit pas pourquoi on n'enseignerait pas cette théorie dans les écoles, en même temps que celle de l'évolution. "Il est bon que les gens soient exposés à toutes sortes d'écoles de pensée" , a-t-il expliqué.

M. Bush a aussi nommé un conservateur à la Cour suprême. Officiellement, les fondamentalistes sont ravis, bien que le nominé, John Roberts, ne soit pas tout à fait le juge de combat dont ils rêvaient. Ils espèrent qu'une autre vacance à la Cour permettra au président de nommer un vrai dur, cette fois. En attendant, il s'agit de ne pas laisser les démocrates faire dérailler la confirmation du juge au Sénat. "Ils n'ont la majorité ni à la Maison Blanche ni au Congrès. S'ils ne contrôlent pas les cours de justice, ils ne contrôlent plus rien" , dit Kyle Fisk, qui dirige avec le pasteur Ted l'Association nationale des évangéliques, une coalition de 45 000 Eglises, capable de distribuer des messages à 30 millions de fidèles.



Colorado Springs s'est développée le long de l'autoroute en une succession de banlieues riches et blanches. D'un côté, l'école de l'armée de l'air, qui vient de se faire remarquer par une affaire de prosélytisme chrétien dans ses rangs (l'entraîneur avait déployé une bannière "Team Jesus" dans les vestiaires). De l'autre, la New Life Church du pasteur Ted, où l'ange de bronze "Exalter" (celui qui exalte) règne sur un hall grand comme un terrain de football.

Le complexe abrite aussi un "Centre de prières du monde" où l'on prie, par Internet interposé, vingt-quatre heures sur vingt-quatre, sept jours sur sept. Un minimum de 70 000 personnes y sont reliées quelle que soit l'heure. Des écrans géants d'ordinateurs relaient les demandes. "Prions pour les chrétiens du Maroc." Sur une petite tablette, on peut trouver des idées si on en manque. "Je demande au Seigneur de parler au président Bush à l'heure où il décide de remplacer Sandra Day O'Connor à la Cour suprême..." La New Life Church compte un hôtel pour ceux qui souhaitent prier intensivement. Le pasteur, qui aime marcher, a fait construire "des chambres immenses, comme au Mariott" , explique sa nièce Carolyn, qui fait la visite guidée.

Le pasteur est un adepte de la "marche de prière" . Quand il est arrivé à Colorado Springs en 1985, le péché, la contre-culture, l'homosexualité étaient partout. Il a organisé des prières autour des lieux de perdition. Il a fait des listes de noms à partir de l'annuaire du téléphone : les gens pour qui il fallait prier. Les "sorcières" New Age sont parties. "C'était un endroit de ténèbres" , explique Monique Ost, 22 ans, la responsable d'un groupe de jeunes. Le pasteur Ted Haggard vient de publier un livre sur le "prier-marcher", une discipline en développement dans un pays qui aime l'exercice. Il appelle les fidèles à aller marcher autour des écoles, des entreprises, des bâtiments gouvernementaux, des magasins d'alcool.



L'autre haut lieu du nouvel évangélisme est Focus on the Family. Ce n'est pas une église mais une association, une machine à diffuser le message chrétien. C'est la première attraction du Colorado, avec 250 000 visiteurs par an, soit plus que le Parc national. "Pourtant il n'y a rien à voir. Ce ne sont que des bureaux et des studios de radio" , explique Gary Booker, le responsable de la diffusion internationale. Il y a aussi un parc de jeux, où les enfants peuvent remplir un formulaire de prières, et une boutique où l'on peut acheter des T-shirts avec des versets des Ecritures.

Focus emploie 1 300 personnes ­ exclusivement des chrétiens ­, vend 2 millions de magazines et possède le premier réseau radio du pays. Elle organise des cours sur l'abstinence, achète des appareils d'échographie et les installe dans les centres prénataux pour décourager les candidates à l'avortement. Ses programmes radio, ses magazines ou vidéos touchent 200 millions de personnes dans le monde.

L'association est à la genèse de la "guerre culturelle" qui oppose la droite et la gauche depuis trente ans, depuis la guerre du Vietnam et la libéralisation de la société. Elle a été fondée par James Dobson, un psychologue de l'hôpital des enfants de Los Angeles qui ne supportait plus la "désintégration" de la famille traditionnelle. Aujourd'hui, James Dobson est avec le pasteur Ted l'un des chrétiens conservateurs les plus influents du pays.

     A Colorado Springs, paradis des évangélistes, les chrétiens sont en "guerre culturelle", Corine Lesnes, Le Monde, 13.8.2005, http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3222,36-679829,0.html






Un "Justice Sunday" dédié au juge Roberts


Après leur "dimanche pour la justice" fin avril, dédié à la nomination de juges conservateurs dans les cours d'appel ("Arrêter l'obstruction contre les gens de foi" ), les mouvements évangéliques organisent, dimanche 14 août, une nouvelle cérémonie consacrée à la nomination du juge John Roberts à la Cour suprême : "Que Dieu sauve les Etats-Unis et cette honorable Cour" . Le gotha de la droite chrétienne participe à ce service, prévu dans une église baptiste de Nashville (Tennessee), de James Dobson au pasteur Ted Haggard, et retransmis pour plusieurs millions de personnes. Le chef de la majorité républicaine à la Chambre des représentants, Tom DeLay, doit prononcer un discours. En revanche, le sénateur Bill Frist, possible candidat à l'investiture républicaine pour la présidentielle de 2008, n'a pas été invité. Sa participation en avril avait entraîné des critiques sur la confusion du politique et de la religion. Cette fois, il a mécontenté les conservateurs en prenant position pour la recherche sur les cellules souches. ­ (Corresp.)

Encadré de > A Colorado Springs, paradis des évangélistes, les chrétiens sont en "guerre culturelle",
Le Monde, 13.8.2005, http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3222,36-679829,0.html






Lutherans Reject Plan to Allow Gay Clerics


August 13, 2005
The New York Times


After a daylong passionate debate, the national assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America rejected a proposal yesterday to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained as members of the clergy.

In an indication of the deep split over homosexuality in the church, which with five million members is the nation's largest Lutheran denomination, the vote on gay clergy members at the church's assembly in Orlando, Fla., divided almost evenly, with 49 percent in favor to 51 percent opposed. To pass, the measure required a two-thirds majority.

The 1,018 delegates in Orlando also voted against an amendment that would have given pastors explicit permission to bless same-sex unions. But the assembly approved a more ambiguous measure that both upholds the current ban on same-sex blessing ceremonies, and says at the same time that the church will "trust" pastors and congregations "to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care" to everyone.

Many advocates of gay inclusion in the church regarded the vote as leaving the door open for same-sex blessings, while opponents of gay blessings maintained that it was a rebuke.

Above all, the Lutherans avoided taking any radical new steps that could precipitate defections. A resolution to remain unified despite deep differences over homosexuality was approved by a vote of 851 to 127.

"We said that we are going to have a communal spirituality, not an issue-driven one," said Bishop Stephen P. Bouman of the metropolitan New York synod. "They allowed us to continue to have pastoral space in local situations for people to offer sensitive and graceful ministry to gay and lesbian people and their relations."

Bishop Bouman said that Lutheran churches "in most regions of the country" already performed same-sex blessings and that the vote in Orlando on that issue "creates a little more public room" for such ceremonies.

But a Lutheran group called Goodsoil that advocates gay equality accused the church of "sacrificing" gay men and women "on the altar of a false and ephemeral sense of unity."

The Lutherans are only one of many mainline Protestant denominations to struggle with seemingly irreconcilable views on homosexuality within their ranks. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church have upheld bans on ordaining noncelibate gay men and lesbians. The Episcopal Church U.S.A. approved the ordination of an openly noncelibate gay bishop in 2003. In the fallout, some congregations have left, and the Episcopal Church has been condemned by many of its affiliates in the worldwide Anglican communion.

During the Lutherans' debate in Orlando, the Rev. Robert Driesen, a voting member from the Upper Susquehanna synod in Pennsylvania warned that if Lutherans moved in the same direction as the Episcopalians, the repercussions would be felt worldwide. The Lutheran World Federation includes 138 member churches in 77 countries.

"We would separate ourselves not only from these communions but from much of historic Christianity," Mr. Driesen said. "Should we take the same action, we can expect fractures."

The meeting was interrupted when nearly 100 supporters of gay inclusion filed to the front of the assembly and stood in silent protest. The resolutions on homosexuality had been proposed by a church committee that met for three years. The church currently allows the ordination of gay men and women as long as they are celibate and chaste. The defeated resolution would have permitted noncelibate gay men and lesbians to be ordained if they met several criteria, including being in committed relationships.

Many delegates in favor of full inclusion of gay men and women shared personal stories of anger and alienation from the church because of its stance. The Rev. John Hergert, from the Eastern Washington-Idaho synod, talked about two gay friends who turned their back on the church before they died.

"I never want to be there again when a friend says to me, 'To hell with this church and to hell with you for staying in it,' " he said. "Maybe one day I can say to Joe, This is why I stayed," he told the assembly.

Opponents of homosexuality compared homosexuality to alcoholism, saying that both are destructive behaviors, perhaps genetically predisposed, that the church should help people overcome.

"I am wondering if the song 'Anything Goes' is going to be included in the new revised hymnal," said Dale Hamre, a lay delegate from South Dakota. "This is just wrong."

    Lutherans Reject Plan to Allow Gay Clerics, NYT, August 13, 2005,






Bush evolution comment

roils long-standing battle


Sun Aug 7, 2005
11:43 AM ET
By Alan Elsner


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush's call for schools to discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution is the latest shot in a long-standing war between religion and secularism in the United States in which religion now seems to be making broad advances.

Bush told Texas reporters last week he thought students ought to hear different schools of thought. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes," the president declared.

Intelligent design holds that life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution and therefore an unseen power must have had a hand. Opponents say that conjecture is a matter of faith and has no scientific basis.

This is just the latest clash between Christian fundamentalists, whose political power has grown exponentially in the past 20 years, and secular opponents. Other battle fronts include school prayer, stem-cell research, display of the Ten Commandments in public places, assisted suicide and end-of-life issues and above all, the question of abortion.

"For most of the 20th century, the secular perspective moved forward and was in the ascendancy. Recently however, conservative Christians have been on the offensive, recovering some of that lost ground," said John Green, an expert on Christian evangelicals.

The United States has always been a religious nation. For several decades in the middle of the last century, however, Christian conservatives took little organized part in politics, with churches preferring to look inward and focus on the congregants' spiritual well-being.

That has changed. For example, last October, the National Association of Evangelicals, with 52 member denominations, adopted a resolution stating: "We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the most powerful nation in history. Never before has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy."

A month later, Bush, who says he found his Christian faith as an adult, won reelection after a presidential campaign designed to maximize the turnout of Christian conservatives, who accounted for about 36 percent of his vote, according to exit-poll analyzes.



Peter Berger, director of the institute of culture, religion and world affairs at Boston University, points to two crucial decisions that sparked a backlash among many American Christians and propelled them into political activism -- a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed organized prayer in public schools and the Roe v. Wade ruling 10 years later that legalized abortion. Both, he said, enraged Christian conservatives.

In the meantime, Berger said, as more traditional Christian denominations have declined, evangelical branches have added members. They now number perhaps 60 million or 70 million people in the United States, with an extensive grass-roots organization and sophisticated, well-funded lobbying groups.

"With the disintegration of the labor movement, evangelical conservatives have become the most organized group in American politics. They are a big deal," said John Judis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Religious revivals or awakenings have been a recurring theme throughout American politics, the first one dating even from before the founding of the Republic. Robert Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize winner in economics, identifies four "great awakenings," the latest of which began in the 1960s.

Previous cycles have been divided into three phases. The cycle begins with a religious revival, followed by a period of rising political activism and accomplishment, and ending with a backlash as the movement overreaches. If Fogel's theory is correct, the United States is currently in the second phase of its fourth great awakening.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in a recent column that much of the evangelical agenda was a needed corrective to liberal efforts to expel religion from the American politics, but it might now be going too far.

"Religion is back out of the closet. But nothing could do more to undermine this most salutary restoration than the new and gratuitous attempts to invade science, and most particularly evolution, with religion," Krauthammer wrote in Time Magazine.

But many religious conservatives are pressing ahead with their agenda, and looking to the prospect of a more conservative Supreme Court to support them on issues such as religious displays in public places.

    Bush evolution comment roils long-standing battle, R, Sun Aug 7, 2005 11:43 AM ET, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-08-07T154403Z_01_N05603507_RTRIDST_0_USREPORT-POLITICS-RELIGION-DC.XML

















Mike Lane


Baltimore, Maryland        Cagle        8.8.2005



George W. Bush,

43rd President of the United States.















Bush Remarks Roil Debate

Over Teaching of Evolution


August 3, 2005
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 - A sharp debate between scientists and religious conservatives escalated Tuesday over comments by President Bush that the theory of intelligent design should be taught with evolution in the nation's public schools.

In an interview at the White House on Monday with a group of Texas newspaper reporters, Mr. Bush appeared to endorse the push by many of his conservative Christian supporters to give intelligent design equal treatment with the theory of evolution.

Recalling his days as Texas governor, Mr. Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught." Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Mr. Bush replied that he did, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Mr. Bush was pressed as to whether he accepted the view that intelligent design was an alternative to evolution, but he did not directly answer. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, adding that "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

On Tuesday, the president's conservative Christian supporters and the leading institute advancing intelligent design embraced Mr. Bush's comments while scientists and advocates of the separation of church and state disparaged them. At the White House, where intelligent design has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group, Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, sought to play down the president's remarks as common sense and old news.

Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

Intelligent design, advanced by a group of academics and intellectuals and some biblical creationists, disputes the idea that natural selection - the force Charles Darwin suggested drove evolution - fully explains the complexity of life. Instead, intelligent design proponents say that life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding force, or intelligent designer, could have created it.

Intelligent design does not identify the designer, but critics say the theory is a thinly disguised argument for God and the divine creation of the universe. Invigorated by a recent push by conservatives, the theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead.

Mr. Marburger said it would be "over-interpreting" Mr. Bush's remarks to say that the president believed that intelligent design and evolution should be given equal treatment in schools.

But Mr. Bush's conservative supporters said the president had indicated exactly that in his remarks.

"It's what I've been pushing, it's what a lot of us have been pushing," said Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Land, who has close ties to the White House, said that evolution "is too often taught as fact," and that "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists."

But critics saw Mr. Bush's comment that "both sides" should be taught as the most troubling aspect of his remarks.

"It sounds like you're being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is a sectarian religious viewpoint," said Susan Spath, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Science Education, a group that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools. "It's not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution."

Ms. Spath added that intelligent design was viewed as more respectable and sophisticated than biblical creationism, but "if you look at their theological and scientific writings, you see that the movement is fundamentally anti-evolution."

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the president's comments irresponsible, and said that "when it comes to evolution, there is only one school of scientific thought, and that is evolution occurred and is still occurring." Mr. Lynn added that "when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class."

The Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leader in developing intelligent design, applauded the president's words on Tuesday as a defense of scientists who have been ostracized for advancing the theory.

"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biblical origins," said Stephen Meyer, the director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture. "It's extremely timely and welcome because so many scientists are experiencing recriminations for breaking with Darwinist orthodoxy."

At the White House, intelligent design was the subject of a weekly Bible study class several years ago when Charles W. Colson, the founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, spoke to the group. Mr. Colson has also written a book, "The Good Life," in which a chapter on intelligent design features Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who is an assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning.

"It's part of the buzz of the city among Christians," Mr. Colson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday about intelligent design. "It wouldn't surprise me that it got to George Bush. He reads, he picks stuff up, he talks to people. And he's pretty serious about his own Christian beliefs."

Bush Remarks Roil Debate Over Teaching of Evolution, NYT, 3.8.2005,


















Sandy Huffaker



8 August 2005



L: George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States.















Bible Course Becomes a Test

for Public Schools in Texas


August 1, 2005
The New York Times


HOUSTON, July 31 - When the school board in Odessa, the West Texas oil town, voted unanimously in April to add an elective Bible study course to the 2006 high school curriculum, some parents dropped to their knees in prayerful thanks that God would be returned to the classroom, while others assailed it as an effort to instill religious training in the public schools.

Hundreds of miles away, leaders of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools notched another victory. A religious advocacy group based in Greensboro, N.C., the council has been pressing a 12-year campaign to get school boards across the country to accept its Bible curriculum.

The council calls its course a nonsectarian historical and literary survey class within constitutional guidelines requiring the separation of church and state.

But a growing chorus of critics says the course, taught by local teachers trained by the council, conceals a religious agenda. The critics say it ignores evolution in favor of creationism and gives credence to dubious assertions that the Constitution is based on the Scriptures, and that "documented research through NASA" backs the biblical account of the sun standing still.

In the latest salvo, the Texas Freedom Network, an advocacy group for religious freedom, has called a news conference for Monday to release a study that finds the national council's course to be "an error-riddled Bible curriculum that attempts to persuade students and teachers to adopt views that are held primarily within conservative Protestant circles."

The dispute has made the curriculum, which the national council says is used by more than 175,000 students in 312 school districts in 37 states, the latest flashpoint in the continuing culture wars over religious influences in the public domain.

The national council says its course is the only one offered nationwide. Another organization, the Bible Literacy Project, supported by a broad range of religious groups, expects to release its own textbook in September.

According to Charles Haynes of the Freedom Forum, which published "The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide" five years ago, "The distinction is between teaching the Bible and teaching about the Bible - it has to be taught academically, not devotionally."

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools says its course "is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students."

"The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education," it says.

Elizabeth Ridenour, a commercial real estate broker who said she formed the nonprofit organization in 1993 after deciding that she had long been "duped" into believing the Bible could not be taught in public schools, said the course has stayed within legal limits. "Our teachers are not to say, 'This is the truth,' or that the Bible is infallible," she said. "They are to say, 'This is what the Bible says; draw your own conclusions.' "

But in Odessa, where the school board has not decided on a curriculum, a parent said he found the course's syllabus unacceptably sectarian. He has been waging his own campaign for additional information on where it is being taught.

"Someone is being disingenuous; I'd like to know who," said the parent, David Newman, an associate professor of English at Odessa College who has made a page-by-page analysis of the 270-page syllabus and sent e-mail messages to nearly all 1,034 school districts in Texas.

The Texas Freedom Network, which commissioned its study after the vote in Odessa, is sharp in its criticism. "As many as 52 Texas public school districts and 1,000 high schools across the country are using an aggressively marketed, blatantly sectarian Bible curriculum that interferes with the freedom of all families to pass on their own religious values to their children," it said.

In one teaching unit, students are told, "Throughout most of the last 2,000 years, the majority of men living in the Western world have accepted the statements of the Scriptures as genuine." The words are taken from the Web site of Grant R. Jeffrey Ministries' Prophecy on Line.

The national council's efforts are endorsed by the Center for Reclaiming America, Phyllis Schlafly's group the Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, among others.

But Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other groups have warned school districts against using the curriculum because of constitutional concerns.

Mike Johnson, a lawyer for the national council, cited a 1999 legal opinion by four lawyers calling the course permissible under constitutional guidelines.

Apart from a showcase school in Brady, Tex., the national council does not disclose the schools using its course because it wants to spare them the disruption of news media inquiries, Ms. Ridenour said.

Only a summary of the course is available on the Internet, and printed copies cost $150.

A highly critical article in The Journal of Law and Education in 2003 said the course "suffers from a number of constitutional infirmities" and "fails to present the Bible in the objective manner required."

The journal said that even supplementary materials were heavily slanted toward sectarian organizations; 83 percent of the books and articles recommended had strong ties to sectarian organizations, 60 percent had ties to Protestant organizations, and 53 percent had ties to conservative Protestant organizations, it said.

Among those included are books by David Barton, on the council's advisory board and the vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, who favors "biblical inerrancy," said William Martin, a Rice University historian and the author of the book "With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America."

Ms. Ridenour said the course was revised six months ago. But the freedom network's study concludes that the curriculum's section on science teaches creationism with no mention of evolution.

The course's broad statements about the Bible being the blueprint for the nation are askew, said Mr. Haynes of the Freedom Forum, part of a nonpartisan ecumenical group promoting the Bible Literacy Project textbook. "If the Bible is a blueprint for the Constitution," he said, "I guess they haven't read it," referring to the Constitution.

Some of the claims made in the national council's curriculum are laughable, said Mark A. Chancey, professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who spent seven weeks studying the syllabus for the freedom network. Mr. Chancey said he found it "riddled with errors" of facts, dates, definitions and incorrect spellings. It cites supposed NASA findings to suggest that the earth stopped twice in its orbit, in support of the literal truth of the biblical text that the sun stood still in Joshua and II Kings.

"When the type of urban legend that normally circulates by e-mail ends up in a textbook, that's a problem," Mr. Chancey said.

Tracey Kiesling, the national council's national teacher trainer, said the course offered "scientific documentation" on the flood and cites as a scientific authority Carl Baugh, described by Mrs. Kiesling as "an internationally known creation scientist who founded the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Tex."

The battle of the Bible course is not over in Odessa, where John Waggoner, a real estate appraiser, presented petitions with 6,000 signatures in support of the Bible class - many of them on printed forms of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools - to the school board of Ector County at its April meeting.

The assistant superintendent, Raymond Starnes, said he wanted to examine the Bible Literacy Project's textbook before recommending one for the 2006 school year.


Ralph Blumenthal reported from Houston for this article,

and Barbara Novovitch from Odessa, Tex.

    Bible Course Becomes a Test for Public Schools in Texas, August 1, 2005, NYT,

















Steve Sack


Minnesota, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

















In New York,

Billy Graham Will Find

an Evangelical Force


June 21, 2005
The New York Times


When a fiery young preacher named Billy Graham first journeyed to New York City in 1957, his national reputation had already been building. But he arrived in this famously secular city - regarded as something of a graveyard for evangelists - feeling more than a bit of trepidation.

"No other city in America - perhaps in the world - presented as great a challenge to evangelism," he wrote in his memoirs. He confessed during his opening sermon at Madison Square Garden that he had been "frightened" by the prospect of coming.

Now, nearly a half century later, the Rev. Billy Graham, 86, his once-booming baritone reduced to a scratchy whisper, is set to preach to New York City once again, for what he and his aides say is probably his final crusade. But after preaching his story of God's love to more than 200 million people in 180 countries and territories, he comes this weekend to preach in Flushing Meadows, Queens, to a drastically changed city, according to many pastors and academics.

It is a New York that while still populated by considerable concentrations of Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and others, is alive with a varied, vibrant and, by many accounts, growing population of evangelical Christians: young and old, wealthy and dirt-poor, immigrant and native-born.

"I have had people say to me, 'Oh, it must be hard living in New York because there are no Christians there,' " said Tony Carnes, a Columbia University sociologist and a writer for Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine. "I said, 'You don't understand what's going on. The city has really changed.' "

The change is evident every Sunday at the sprawling campus of the Christian Cultural Center in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, built in 2000 in the style of a suburban megachurch, with a restaurant, a coffee shop and an outdoor garden with ponds stocked with Japanese koi. More than 10,000 flock there every week to praise God. It is evident at a warehouse in Flushing occupied by Faith Bible Ministry, where six services are held every Sunday, in English and three dialects of Chinese, for more than 700 congregants.

And it is evident in any drive through Harlem and the Bronx, where large charismatic Latino churches, as well as their smaller storefront siblings, spring into view. Among them are La Sinagoga in East Harlem, a historic center of Pentecostalism in the city; John 3:16 in Longwood, the Bronx, a thriving congregation of several hundred; and Fountain of Salvation in Washington Heights, an influential church here as well as in Latin America.

"Even though we live in a city of darkness, within the darkness, there is light as well," said Esther Castro, a longtime member of La Sinagoga.

Mr. Graham, in a recent interview, said pastors in New York had been calling on him to come to the city, assuring him that his audience was eager and growing.

"They just felt after 9/11 there was a search on the part of many people for the purpose and meaning in their lives," he said. "And they felt that a crusade like this could be one thing that could speak to a lot of people. They said their churches are growing, and a thousand new churches have sprung up since I was in New York, especially in various ethnic groups."

Precisely tabulating how many evangelical Christians there are in the city - and what exactly constitutes such a Christian - is notoriously difficult. In a study commissioned by the Christian Cultural Center, the church in Canarsie, Mr. Carnes set out in 2003 to conduct a census of the city's evangelical churches. Mr. Carnes and his staff went through the city, visiting churches and dropping off surveys in five languages, asking about their theological beliefs and attendance.

Defining an evangelical can sometimes be problematic, Mr. Carnes acknowledged, especially since the word has acquired so much political baggage. Evangelical churches are typically defined by their emphasis on doctrine, including the authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion. Meanwhile, Pentecostal and charismatic churches emphasize manifestations of the Holy Spirit, like praying in tongues.

Mr. Carnes included all three types of churches in his tally of what are essentially theologically conservative Protestant churches in the city, and in all he counted more than 7,000.

Vivian Z. Klaff, a professor of sociology at the University of Delaware, analyzed a separate batch of data from a 2000 study conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. Counting up the results of membership surveys sent to churches, denominations and councils, Mr. Klaff estimated there were about one million evangelicals, Pentecostal or charismatic Christians in the city, the vast majority of them from historically African-American denominations.

In any case, the number is hardly trivial. And it was armed with this portrait of the growing ranks of the faithful that Rev. Robert J. Johannson, of Evangel Church in Long Island City, Queens, and the Rev. Marcos Rivera, of Primitive Christian Church in Manhattan, went last year to Mr. Graham's mountaintop retreat in North Carolina to issue an official invitation.

"We went down and said, 'God is moving in New York,' " said Mr. Johannson. "The church is growing."

But evangelical leaders have been frustrated, he said. Despite what they sense are their growing numbers, evangelicals still can feel invisible in the city, Mr. Johannson said. They see Mr. Graham's visit as a chance to change that.

"He has the ability to give a city an awareness that something is happening," Mr. Johannson said.

The invitation this time contrasts markedly from when Mr. Graham came to New York in 1957 at the behest of a besieged and shrinking cadre of evangelical and main-line denominational leaders, pastors said. At the time, the church was losing congregants in droves - to the suburbs, for instance.

But what was intended to be a crusade of several weeks stretched into a stunning summerlong run before capacity crowds at Madison Square Garden that catapulted Mr. Graham to national prominence. Even after the crusade, however, churches in the city continued to struggle. It was not until the 1980's and 90's that evangelical faith began to grow in the city, pastors and academics said.

Unlike most of the rest of the country, where the image of evangelical Christians is of people who are white and middle class, in New York City, conservative Christian faith has become quite polyglot.

Fueled by a large influx of immigrants, for example, there are more than 100 African churches in the city alone.

"Things got very intense in the 1990's when you had pretty much a doubling of the sub-Saharan African population in New York City," said the Rev. Mark R. Gornik, a Presbyterian minister who is writing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh on New York's African churches.

The result has been churches like the Flatbush congregation of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, pastored by the Rev. Nimi Wariboko, where more than 300 people, mostly Nigerian immigrants, worship every Sunday, with many of the congregants swathed in kente cloth and dancing to an African beat.

"When you walk in, you might think you're in an African church in Africa," he said.

Since the mid-1960's, evangelical Korean churches have proliferated in Queens, numbering more than 250 in that borough, according to one recent count. Some of the city's largest evangelical churches, such as the Korean American Presbyterian Church of Queens and Full Gospel Church of New York, both roughly 4,000 strong, hold services in Korean. But now, Chinese-language congregations are also beginning to spread, as more people arrive from China.

"A lot of folks from overseas, they come from a more simplistic background," said the Rev. Henry W. Kwan, who pastors First Baptist Church in Flushing, a congregation of about 1,000 people with services in English, Chinese and Spanish. "When they come to America, many of them it's the first time they're exposed to genuine freedom. Because of this exposure and this openness, they grab the opportunity and take up, to me, a sincere and genuine evangelical faith."

But the emergence of evangelical faith is not entirely limited to the working class communities outside Manhattan. Redeemer Presbyterian Church, started in the late 1980's, by the Rev. Timothy Keller, draws several thousand on weekends, mostly young professionals, to its services in Manhattan. The Journey, a Manhattan church that started after Sept. 11, 2001, now draws about 1,000 people to its Sunday services and Bible studies, and has many actors and artists in its congregation.

But the Christian Cultural Center, in a gritty neighborhood in eastern Brooklyn, is perhaps most emblematic of the resurgence in evangelical faith in the city. It is believed to be the largest church in the city, claiming more than 24,000 members. Located opposite several auto body shops, the center's tan facade rises out of the neighborhood like a mirage.

The church began in 1978 as a small Bible study in a storefront in Brooklyn. The Rev. A. R. Bernard, a Panamanian immigrant, left his Wall Street job to start the congregation, calling it the Brooklyn Household of Faith. The congregation moved several times. In 1989, with about 625 registered members, it was in an old supermarket in Crown Heights.

Mr. Bernard runs a celebrity Bible study in the city, attended by the likes of Angela Bassett and Star Jones. On Father's Day, the basketball star Jason Kidd, along with his wife, Joumana, and their three children, arrived for worship.

"When the mayor of New York City tells me he can't go anywhere in his office without meeting someone from my church, that says a lot," Mr. Bernard said.

Interviews with several pastors and their congregants indicated that even if their church's roots and the language of their prayers are far different from those of Mr. Graham, many plan to see him during his three day's of preaching in Flushing Meadows this weekend, where as many as 70,000 are expected each day.

Still, the prevailing culture of this city is still unsure of what to make of evangelical Christians, most churchgoers interviewed agreed. They can be treated with contempt and other times curiosity.

Mickey H. Sanchez, 26, who works for a city councilman and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said he finds that people are often confused when they discover that he's an evangelical.

"That you're in New York as an evangelical, it has to be processed by them," he said.


Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting for this article.

    In New York, Billy Graham Will Find an Evangelical Force, NYT, June 21, 2005,












Rob Rogers


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania





Left: George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States











In God we Trust:

America's rising religious zealotry


7 June 2005
The Independent
Andrew Buncombe in Washington


Some snapshots of religious zeal in the US: there are churches in Texas where 20,000 worshippers pray every Sunday; Alabama's most senior judge was dismissed for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his court; the re-election of George Bush ­ returned with the support of thousands of evangelicals lured to the polls by local laws banning homosexual marriage.

Such images leave little doubt about the importance of religion in a country where more than 40 per cent of the population say they regularly attend church. But a survey has underlined the huge gulf between the US and other industrialised countries on the influence of religion in everyday life.

Despite the separation of church and state being enshrined in the US constitution, more than 40 per cent of US citizens said religious leaders should use their influence to try to sway policy-makers. In France, by contrast, 85 per cent of people said they opposed such "activism" by the clergy.

"These numbers are not surprising," Daniel Conkle, who teaches law and religion at Indiana University, told The Independent. "The US, in separating church and state, has not followed with the notion that it includes a separation of religion and politics.

"In other words, it's believed the institutions of church and state should be separate but there has never been a consensus that religious values should somehow be separated from public life or kept private."

The survey, carried out for the Associated Press by Ipsos, found that, in terms of the importance of religion to its citizens, only Mexico came close to the US. But unlike in the US, Mexicans were strongly opposed to the clergy being involved in politics ­ an opposition to church influence rooted in their history.

The survey ­ which questioned people in the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain ­ found that only 2 per cent of people in the US said they did not believe in God. In France and South Korea the number of people who said they were atheists stood at 19 per cent.

The survey has again highlighted the gap between the US and Western Europe, where Pope Benedict XVI has complained that growing secularism has left churches empty. It has also reopened the debate among academics as to the reasons for the difference.

Some specialists, such as Roger Finke, a sociologist at Penn State University, point to the long history of religious freedom in the US and say it has created a greater supply of options for citizens than in other countries. That proliferation, they argue, has inspired wider observance.

"In the United States, you have an abundance of religions trying to motivate Americans to greater involvement. It makes a tremendous difference here," said Mr Finke.

Others argue that rejecting religion is a natural result of modernisation and the US is an exception to the trend. And then there are those who argue Europe is an anomaly and that people in modernised countries inevitably return to religion ­ they yearn for tradition.

Gregg Easterbrook, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, said: "By a lot of measures, the US is the most religious of the industrialised nations."

In terms of church attendance the US is not exceptional. A survey carried out by the University of Michigan found that, while more than 40 per cent of people in the US said they went to church, in Nigeria the number was 89 per cent and in the Philippines it was about 68 per cent. In South Africa and Poland, the figure stood at 55 per cent.

But the US appears to be exceptional among industrialised nations because of the numbers who believe religion should influence policy-makers.

One survey respondent, David Black, from Osborne, Pennsylvania, said: "Our nation was founded on Judaeo-Christian policies and religious leaders have an obligation to speak out on public policy, otherwise they're wimps." Experts said many countries, unlike the US, have experienced religious conflicts that have made people suspicious of giving clergy any say in policy.

"In Germany, they have a Christian Democratic Party, and talk about Christian values but they don't talk about them in the same way that we do," said Brent Nelsen, from Furman University in South Carolina.

    In God we Trust: America's rising religious zealotry, I, 7 June 2005, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=644838

















Rex Babin


California, The Sacramento Bee


















Smithsonian to Screen a Movie

That Makes a Case Against Evolution


May 28, 2005
The New York Time


Fossils at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History have been used to prove the theory of evolution. Next month the museum will play host to a film intended to undercut evolution.

The Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, "intelligent design," is announcing on its Web site that it and the director of the museum "are happy to announce the national premiere and private evening reception" on June 23 for the movie, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

The film is a documentary based on a 2004 book by Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy at Iowa State University, and Jay W. Richards, a vice president of the Discovery Institute, that makes the case for the hand of a creator in the design of Earth and the universe.

News of the Discovery Institute's announcement appeared on a blog maintained by Denyse O'Leary, a proponent of the intelligent design theory, who called it "a stunning development." But a museum spokesman, Randall Kremer, said the event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. "It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video," he said.

The museum, he said, offers its Baird Auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.

When the language of the Discovery Institute's Web site was read to him, with its suggestion of support, Mr. Kremer said, "We'll have to look into that."

He added, "We're happy to receive this contribution from the Discovery Institute to further our scientific research."

The president of the Discovery Institute, Bruce Chapman, said his organization approached the museum through its public relations company and the museum staff asked to see the film. "They said that they liked it very much - and not only would they have the event at the museum, but they said they would co-sponsor it," he recalled. "That was their suggestion. Of course we're delighted."

Mr. Kremer said he heard about the event only on Thursday. He added that staff members viewed the film before approving the event to make sure that it complied with the museum's policy, which states that "events of a religious or partisan political nature" are not permitted, along with personal events such as weddings, or fund-raisers, raffles and cash bars. It also states that "all events at the National Museum of Natural History are co-sponsored by the museum."

Evolution has become a major battleground in the culture wars, with bitter debates in legislatures and school boards, national parks and museums. Although Charles Darwin's theory is widely viewed as having been proved by fossil records and modern biological phenomena, it is challenged by those who say that it is flawed and that alternatives need to be taught.

When asked whether the announcement on the Discovery Institute's Web site meant to imply that the museum supports the film and the event, Mr. Chapman replied:

"We are not implying in any sense that they endorsed the content, but they are co-sponsoring it, and we are delighted. We're not claiming anything more than that. They certainly didn't say, 'We're really warming up to intelligent design, and therefore we're going to sponsor this.' "

Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution,
May 28, 2005,






On a Christian Mission to the Top


May 22, 2005
The New York Times


For a while last winter, Tim Havens, a recent graduate of Brown University and now an evangelical missionary there, had to lead his morning prayer group in a stairwell of the campus chapel. That was because workers were clattering in to remake the lower floor for a display of American Indian art, and a Buddhist student group was chanting in the small sanctuary upstairs.

Like most of the Ivy League universities, Brown was founded by Protestant ministers as an expressly Christian college. But over the years it gradually shed its religious affiliation and became a secular institution, as did the other Ivies. In addition to Buddhists, the Brown chaplain's office now recognizes "heathen/pagan" as a "faith community."

But these days evangelical students like those in Mr. Havens's prayer group are becoming a conspicuous presence at Brown. Of a student body of 5,700, about 400 participate in one of three evangelical student groups - more than the number of active mainline Protestants, the campus chaplain says. And these students are in the vanguard of a larger social shift not just on campuses but also at golf resorts and in boardrooms; they are part of an expanding beachhead of evangelicals in the American elite.

The growing power and influence of evangelical Christians is manifest everywhere these days, from the best-seller lists to the White House, but in fact their share of the general population has not changed much in half a century. Most pollsters agree that people who identify themselves as white evangelical Christians make up about a quarter of the population, just as they have for decades.

What has changed is the class status of evangelicals. In 1929, the theologian
H. Richard Niebuhr described born-again Christianity as the "religion of the disinherited." But over the last 40 years, evangelicals have pulled steadily closer in income and education to mainline Protestants in the historically affluent establishment denominations. In the process they have overturned the old social pecking order in which "Episcopalian," for example, was a code word for upper class, and "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" shorthand for lower.

Evangelical Christians are now increasingly likely to be college graduates and in the top income brackets. Evangelical C.E.O.'s pray together on monthly conference calls, evangelical investment bankers study the Bible over lunch on Wall Street and deep-pocketed evangelical donors gather at golf courses for conferences restricted to those who give more than $200,000 annually to Christian causes.

Their growing wealth and education help explain the new influence of evangelicals in American culture and politics. Their buying power fuels the booming market for Christian books, music and films. Their rising income has paid for construction of vast mega-churches in suburbs across the country. Their charitable contributions finance dozens of mission agencies, religious broadcasters and international service groups.

On The Chronicle of Philanthropy's latest list of the 400 top charities, Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical student group, raised more from private donors than the Boy Scouts of America, the Public Broadcasting Service and Easter Seals.

Now a few affluent evangelicals are directing their attention and money at some of the tallest citadels of the secular elite: Ivy League universities. Three years ago a group of evangelical Ivy League alumni formed the Christian Union, an organization intended to "reclaim the Ivy League for Christ," according to its fund-raising materials, and to "shape the hearts and minds of many thousands who graduate from these schools and who become the elites in other American cultural institutions."

The Christian Union has bought and maintains new evangelical student centers at Brown, Princeton and Cornell, and has plans to establish a center on every Ivy League campus. In April, 450 students, alumni and supporters met in Princeton for an "Ivy League Congress on Faith and Action." A keynote speaker was Charles W. Colson, the born-again Watergate felon turned evangelical thinker.

Matt Bennett, founder of the Christian Union, told the conference, "I love these universities - Princeton and all the others, my alma mater, Cornell - but it really grieves me and really hurts me to think of where they are now."

The Christian Union's immediate goal, he said, was to recruit campus missionaries. "What is happening now is good," Mr. Bennett said, "but it is like a finger in the dike of keeping back the flood of immorality."

And trends in the Ivy League today could shape the culture for decades to come, he said. "So many leaders come out of these campuses. Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are Ivy League grads; four of the seven Massachusetts Supreme Court justices; Christian ministry leaders; so many presidents, as you know; leaders of business - they are everywhere."

He added, "If we are going to change the world, we have got, by God's power, to see these campuses radically changed."

An Outsider on Campus Mr. Havens, who graduated from Brown last year, is the kind of missionary the Christian Union hopes to enlist. An evangelical from what he calls a "solidly middle class" family in the Midwest, he would have been an anomaly at Brown a couple of generations ago. He applied there, he said, out of a sense of "nonconformity" and despite his mother's preference that he attend a Christian college.

"She just was nervous about, and rightfully so, what was going to happen to me freshman year," Mr. Havens recalled.

When he arrived at Brown, in Providence, R.I., Mr. Havens was astounded to find that the biggest campus social event of the fall was the annual SexPowerGod dance, sponsored by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Alliance and advertised with dining-hall displays depicting pairs of naked men or women. "Why do they have to put God in the name?" he said. "It seems kind of disrespectful."

Mr. Havens found himself a double outsider of sorts. In addition to being devoted to his faith, he was a scholarship student at a university where half the students can afford $45,000 in tuition and fees without recourse to financial aid and where, he said, many tend to "spend money like water."

But his modest means did not stand out as much as his efforts to guard his morals. He did not drink, and he almost never cursed. And he was determined to stay "pure" until marriage, though he did not lack for attention from female students. Just as his mother feared, Mr. Havens, a broad-shouldered former wrestler with tousled brown hair and a guileless smile, wavered some his freshman year and dated several classmates.

"I was just like, 'Oh, I can get this girl to like me,' " he recalled. " 'Oh, she likes me; she's cute.' And so it was a lot of fairly short and meaningless relationships. It was pretty destructive."

In his sophomore year, though, his evangelical a cappella singing group, a Christian twist on an old Ivy League tradition, interceded. With its support, he rededicated himself to serving God, and by his senior year he was running his own Bible-study group, hoping to inoculate first-year students against the temptations he had faced. They challenged one another, Mr. Havens said, "committing to remain sexually pure, both in a physical sense and in avoiding pornography and ogling women and like that."

Mr. Havens is now living in a house owned and supported by the Christian Union and is trying to reach not just other evangelicals but nonbelievers as well.


Prayers in the Boardrooms

The Christian Union is the brainchild of Matt Bennett, 40, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Cornell and later directed the Campus Crusade for Christ at Princeton. Mr. Bennett, tall and soft-spoken, with a Texas drawl that waxes and wanes depending on the company he is in, said he got the idea during a 40-day water-and-juice fast, when he heard God speaking to him one night in a dream.

"He was speaking to me very strongly that he wanted to see an increasing and dramatic spiritual revival in a place like Princeton," Mr. Bennett said.

While working for Campus Crusade, Mr. Bennett had discovered that it was hard to recruit evangelicals to minister to the elite colleges of the Northeast because the environment was alien to them and the campuses often far from their homes. He also found that the evangelical ministries were hobbled without adequate salaries to attract professional staff members and without centers of their own where students could gather, socialize and study the Bible. Jews had Hillel Houses, and Roman Catholics had Newman Centers.

He thought evangelicals should have their own houses, too, and began a furious round of fund-raising to buy or build some. An early benefactor was his twin brother, Monty, who had taken over the Dallas hotel empire their father built from a single Holiday Inn and who had donated a three-story Victorian in a neighborhood near Brown.

To raise more money, Matt Bennett has followed a grapevine of affluent evangelicals around the country, winding up even in places where evangelicals would have been a rarity just a few decades ago. In Manhattan, for example, he visited Wall Street boardrooms and met with the founder of Socrates in the City, a roundtable for religious intellectuals that gathers monthly at places like the Algonquin Hotel and the Metropolitan Club.

Those meetings introduced him to an even more promising pool of like-minded Christians, the New Canaan Group, a Friday morning prayer breakfast typically attended by more than a hundred investment bankers and other professionals. The breakfasts started in the Connecticut home of a partner in Goldman, Sachs but grew so large that they had to move to a local church. Like many other evangelicals, some members attend churches that adhere to evangelical doctrine but that remain affiliated with mainline denominations.

Other donors to the Christian Union are members of local elites across the Bible Belt. Not long ago, for example, Mr. Bennett paid a visit to Montgomery, Ala., for lunch with Julian L. McPhillips Jr., a wealthy Princeton alumnus and the managing partner of a local law firm. Mr. Bennett, wearing an orange Princeton tie, said he wanted to raise enough money for the Christian Union to hire someone to run a "healing ministry" for students with depression, eating disorders or drug or alcohol addiction.

Mr. McPhillips, who shares Mr. Bennett's belief in the potential of faith healing, remarked that he had once cured an employee's migraine headaches just by praying for him. "We joke in my office that we don't need health insurance," he told Mr. Bennett before writing a check for $1,000.

Mr. Bennett's database has so far grown to about 5,000 names gathered by word of mouth alone. They are mostly Ivy League graduates whose regular alumni contributions he hopes to channel into the Christian Union. And these Ivy League evangelicals, in turn, are just a small fraction of the large number of their affluent fellow believers.


Gaining on the Mainline

Their commitment to their faith is confounding a long-held assumption that, like earlier generations of Baptists or Pentecostals, prosperous evangelicals would abandon their religious ties or trade them for membership in establishment churches. Instead, they have kept their traditionalist beliefs, and their churches have even attracted new members from among the well-off.

Meanwhile, evangelical Protestants are pulling closer to their mainline counterparts in class and education. As late as 1965, for example, a white mainline Protestant was two and a half times as likely to have a college degree as a white evangelical, according to an analysis by Prof. Corwin E. Smidt, a political scientist at Calvin College, an evangelical institution in Grand Rapids, Mich. But by 2000, a mainline Protestant was only 65 percent more likely to have the same degree. And since 1985, the percentage of incoming freshmen at highly selective private universities who said they were born-again also rose by half, to 11 or 12 percent each year from 7.3 percent, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

To many evangelical Christians, the reason for their increasing worldly success and cultural influence is obvious: God's will at work. Some also credit leaders like the midcentury intellectual Carl F. H. Henry, who helped to found a large and influential seminary, a glossy evangelical Christian magazine and the National Association of Evangelicals, a powerful umbrella group that now includes 51 denominations. Dr. Henry and his followers implored believers to look beyond their churches and fight for a place in the American mainstream.

There were also demographic forces at work, beginning with the G.I. Bill, which sent a pioneering generation of evangelicals to college. Probably the greatest boost to the prosperity of evangelicals as a group came with the Sun Belt expansion of the 1970's and the Texas oil boom, which brought new wealth and businesses to the regions where evangelical churches had been most heavily concentrated.

The most striking example of change in how evangelicals see themselves and their place in the world may be the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. It was founded in Hot Springs, Ark., in 1914 by rural and working-class Christians who believed that the Holy Spirit had moved them to speak in tongues. Shunned by established churches, they became a sect of outsiders, and their preachers condemned worldly temptations like dancing, movies, jewelry and swimming in public pools. But like the Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations, the Assemblies gradually dropped their separatist strictures as their membership prospered and spread.

As the denomination grew, Assemblies preachers began speaking not only of heavenly rewards but also of the material blessings God might provide in this world. The notion was controversial in some evangelical circles but became widespread nonetheless, and it made the Assemblies' faith more compatible with an upwardly mobile middle class.

By the 1970's, Assemblies churches were sprouting up in affluent suburbs across the country. Recent surveys by Margaret Poloma, a historian at the University of Akron in Ohio, found Assemblies members more educated and better off than the general public.

As they flourished, evangelical entrepreneurs and strivers built a distinctly evangelical business culture of prayer meetings, self-help books and business associations. In some cities outside the Northeast, evangelical business owners list their names in Christian yellow pages.

The rise of evangelicals has also coincided with the gradual shift of most of them from the Democratic Party to the Republican and their growing political activism. The conservative Christian political movement seldom developed in poor, rural Bible Belt towns. Instead, its wellsprings were places like the Rev. Ed Young's booming mega-church in suburban Houston or the Rev. Timothy LaHaye's in Orange County, Calif., where evangelical professionals and businessmen had the wherewithal to push back against the secular culture by organizing boycotts, electing school board members and lobbying for conservative judicial appointments.


'A Bunch of Heathens'

Mr. Havens, the Brown missionary, is part of the upsurge of well-educated born-again Christians. He grew up in one of the few white households in a poor black neighborhood of St. Louis, where his parents had moved to start a church, which failed to take off. Mr. Havens's father never graduated from college. After being laid off from his job at a marketing company two years ago, he now works in an insurance company's software and systems department. Tim Havens's mother home-schooled the family's six children for at least a few years each.

Mr. Havens got through Brown on scholarships and loans, and at graduation was $25,000 in debt. To return to campus for his missionary year and pay his expenses, he needed to raise an additional $36,000, and on the advice of Geoff Freeman, the head of the Brown branch of Campus Crusade, he did his fund-raising in St. Louis.

"It is easy to sell New England in the Midwest," as Mr. Freeman put it later. Midwesterners, he said, see New Englanders as "a bunch of heathens."

So Mr. Havens drove home each day from a summer job at a stone supply warehouse to work the phone from his cluttered childhood bedroom. He told potential donors that many of the American-born students at Brown had never even been to church, to say nothing of the students from Asia or the Middle East. "In a sense, it is pre-Christian," he explained.

Among his family's friends, however, encouragement was easier to come by than cash. As the summer came to a close, Mr. Havens was still $6,000 short. He decided to give himself a pay cut and go back to Brown with what he had raised, trusting God to take care of his needs just as he always had when money seemed scarce during college.

"God owns the cattle on a thousand hills," he often told himself. "God has plenty of money."

Thanks to the Christian Union, Mr. Haven's present quarters as a ministry intern at Brown are actually more upscale than his home in St. Louis. On Friday nights, he is a host for a Bible-study and dinner party for 70 or 80 Christian students, who serve themselves heaping plates of pasta before breaking into study groups. Afterward, they regroup in the living room for board games and goofy improvisation contests, all free of profanity and even double entendre.

Lately, though, Mr. Havens has been contemplating steps that would take him away from Brown and campus ministry. After a chaste romance - "I didn't kiss her until I asked her to marry me," he said - he recently became engaged to a missionary colleague, Liz Chalmers. He has been thinking about how to support the children they hope to have.

And he has been considering the example of his future father-in-law, Daniel Chalmers, a Baptist missionary to the Philippines who ended up building power plants there and making a small fortune. Mr. Chalmers has been a steady donor to Christian causes, and he bought a plot of land in Oregon, where he plans to build a retreat center.

"God has always used wealthy people to help the church," Mr. Havens said. He pointed out that in the Bible, rich believers helped support the apostles, just as donors to the Christian Union are investing strategically in the Ivy League today.

With those examples and his own father in mind, Mr. Havens chose medicine over campus ministry. He scored well on his medical school entrance exams and, after another year at Brown, he will head to St. Louis University School of Medicine. At the Christian Union conference in April, he was pleased to hear doctors talk about praying with their patients and traveling as medical missionaries.

He is looking forward to having the money a medical degree can bring, and especially to putting his children through college without the scholarships and part-time jobs he needed. But whether he becomes rich, he said, "will depend on how much I keep."

Like other evangelicals of his generation, he means to take his faith with him as he makes his way in the world. He said his roommates at Brown had always predicted that he would "sell out"- loosen up about his faith and adopt their taste for new cars, new clothes and the other trappings of the upper class.

He didn't at Brown and he thinks he never will.

"So far so good," he said. But he admitted, "I don't have any money yet."

On a Christian Mission to the Top, NYT, May 22, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/22/national/class/EVANGELICALS-FINAL.html






La droite chrétienne

redouble d'activisme aux Etats-Unis


Le Monde
Corine Lesnes

Si le président George Bush avait jusqu'à présent réussi à tenir une ligne relativement médiane entre les ailes radicale et modérée du Parti républicain, il est en train d'y renoncer. Vendredi 20 mai, il a annoncé qu'il ferait usage de son veto pour s'opposer à un projet de loi sur la recherche sur les cellules souches, alors qu'une trentaine de parlementaires républicains y sont favorables. Le sénateur démocrate Edward Kennedy a estimé que cette menace de rejet trahissait "à quel point la Maison Blanche est débitrice de la droite extrême du Parti républicain" .

Cette nouvelle crispation vient s'ajouter aux difficultés que rencontre le président américain pour faire passer son programme au Congrès, alors qu'il dispose d'une confortable majorité. La réforme des retraites avance au ralenti. La nomination de John Bolton au poste d'ambassadeur aux Nations unies n'est pas encore certaine. Quant à la confirmation des juges de cour d'appel, elle s'achemine vers un dénouement, peut-être dès mardi 24 mai, qui risque de voir un changement historique des règles de procédure au Sénat et une victoire à la Pyrrhus pour les républicains.

L'un des projets de loi sur les cellules souches que M. Bush refuse de signer est actuellement à l'étude à la Chambre des représentants. Le texte autorise le financement de recherches sur des embryons surnuméraires obtenus dans le cadre de traitements pour la fertilité et qui risquent de toute façon d'être éliminés.



"Je suis un grand partisan de la recherche sur les cellules souches adultes, déclare le président. Mais j'ai dit très clairement au Congrès que j'étais opposé à l'utilisation de l'argent du contribuable pour faire avancer une science qui détruit la vie afin de la sauver. Donc si c'est ce que dit le projet, j'y mettrai mon veto." Pour lui, aucune subvention fédérale ne doit financer de recherches sur les cellules souches embryonnaires utilisant des lignées établies après le 9 août 2001.

En cas de refus, ce serait le premier veto de la présidence Bush. Les républicains avaient jusqu'alors évité de se déchirer sur cette question, sans cacher leurs divergences. Certains, avec Nancy Reagan, souhaitent encourager la recherche, afin de lutter contre des maladies dégénératives, comme la maladie d'Alzheimer. L'ancien sénateur républicain et ambassadeur à l'ONU John Danforth est aussi de cet avis. A l'instar de Ted Kennedy, il a reproché au président sa position. "Il n'y a qu'un seul argument contre la recherche sur les cellules souches, c'est celui de satisfaire les exigences de la droite religieuse", a-t-il dit.

Une autre mesure de l'influence de la droite fondamentaliste devrait être prise mardi au Sénat. L'enjeu est la nomination de juges qui sont notoirement opposés à l'avortement. Après des semaines de débats, le chef de la majorité républicaine, Bill Frist, a annoncé qu'il demandera un vote sur la confirmation de la juge Priscilla Owen, bloquée depuis trois ans par les démocrates. Ceux-ci ont normalement droit de recourir à la "flibuste" , une technique d'obstruction qui leur permet d'empêcher une nomination qui leur paraît dangereuse (les juges d'appel sont nommés à vie). Mais les républicains entendent changer la procédure et considérer que 51 voix suffisent pour interrompre ce flibuster (contre 60 normalement).

Une tentative de compromis de sénateurs centristes pourrait encore faire échouer ce scénario, dit de "l'option nucléaire" . Ils ont discuté pendant trois jours des conséquences d'un tel geste, qui modifierait la nature de leur mission consistant à trouver des compromis.

L'"option nucléaire" est le scénario dont rêve la droite fondamentaliste : elle créerait un précédent qui pourra se révéler utile lorsque devront être confirmés les candidats à la Cour suprême.

    La droite chrétienne redouble d'activisme aux Etats-Unis, Le Monde, Corine Lesnes, 22.5.2005,






Darwin on trial:

Evolution hearings open in Kansas


Thu May 5, 2005 3:45 PM ET
By Carey Gillam


TOPEKA, Kan. (Reuters) - A six-day courtroom-style debate opened on Thursday in Kansas over what children should be taught in schools about the origin of life -- was it natural evolution or did God create the world?

The hearings, complete with opposing attorneys and a long list of witnesses, were arranged amid efforts by some Christian groups in Kansas and nationally to reverse the domination of evolutionary theory in the nation's schools.

William Harris, a medical researcher and co-founder of a Kansas group called the Intelligent Design Network, posed the core question about life's beginnings before mapping out why he and other Christians want changes in school curriculum.

School science classes are teaching children that life evolved naturally and randomly, Harris said, arguing that this was in conflict with Biblical teachings that God created life.

"They are offering an answer that may be in conflict with religious views," Harris said in opening the debate. "Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools. This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications."

Conservative groups are trying to convince state education officials to change guidelines for how evolution theory is taught in science classes at a time when Kansas education authorities are producing new science teaching guidelines.

The hearings -- organized by a committee of the Kansas Board of Education -- were taking place 80 years after the so-called "Monkey Trial" of John Scopes, a Tennessee biology teacher who was found guilty of illegally teaching evolution.

There is renewed debate over evolution in more than a dozen U.S. states and a resurgence across the nation in the influence of religious conservatives, who played an important part in the reelection of Republican President Bush last year.



The Kansas hearing drew a large crowd that included students, teachers and preachers. National and local scientific leaders for the most part boycotted the event.

Pedro Irigonegaray, a lawyer defending evolution in the debate, said he planned to call no witnesses, though he did cross-examine witnesses, sometimes combatively.

Harris acknowledged under questioning that there were many people who saw no incompatibility between religious beliefs that God created life and evolutionary teachings about how life evolved through natural processes.

Outside the hearing room, outraged scientists challenged the validity of the hearings. "This is a showcase trial," said Jack Krebs, vice president for Kansas Citizens for Science. "They have hijacked science and education."

Ken Schmitz, a University of Missouri/Kansas City chemistry professor attending the hearing said he worried that the attack on evolution could confuse students and endanger their ability to excel in science.

"They are not going to understand this," said Schmitz.

Changes to the curriculum proposed by the conservatives would not require inclusion of Biblical beliefs in science classes, also called "creationism" - the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism could not be taught in public schools alongside evolution.

But they would involve questioning the principles of evolution as explanations for the origins of life, the universe and the genetic code. As well, teachers would be encouraged to discuss with students "alternative explanations."

Kansas has been struggling with the issue for years, capturing worldwide attention in 1999 when the state school board voted to downplay Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in science classes.

Subsequent elections altered the membership of the board and led to renewed backing for evolution instruction in 2001. But elections last year gave conservatives a 6-4 majority and the board is now producing new science teaching guidelines.

    Darwin on trial: Evolution hearings open in Kansas, R, Thu May 5, 2005 3:45 PM ET, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyID=2005-05-05T194501Z_01_N05504626_RTRIDST_0_POLITICS-LIFE-EVOLUTION-DC.XML

    Article du NYT sur le même sujet : http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/06/education/06evolution.html?

    Article du Times : http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-1601051,00.html






Hispanic Group

Thrives on Faith and Federal Aid


May 3, 2005
The New York Times


PHILADELPHIA - As a Baptist minister, the Rev. Luis Cortes has long sought to build a national network of Hispanic churches, one that would bring new power to an emerging minority. As an elected official, President Bush has long sought a more diverse Republican Party, one that would lure more blacks and Hispanics to a dominant conservative bloc. These days, the two are united by faith, friendship, and a line item in the federal budget called the Compassion Capital Fund.

A religion-based fusion of politics and policy, the fund is the president's most tangible effort to help those he calls the "armies of compassion," small religious groups with shoestring budgets that care for the downtrodden. Over the last three years, it has spent $100 million to train such religiously motivated foot soldiers, and in some cases to give them small grants, on the theory that a bit of managerial coaching will mobilize new healing platoons.

Operating from a converted envelope factory in North Philadelphia, Mr. Cortes's organization, Nueva Esperanza Inc., has one of the largest contracts of the 44 groups chosen to provide the training to smaller organizations and distribute the federal cash. With $7.4 million, it has worked with 180 small programs from Miami to Seattle, making Mr. Cortes one of the most prominent Hispanic evangelicals in politics, even though he has found it more difficult than he expected to bring fledgling programs to scale.

Viewed in one light, the compassion fund reflects decades of serious thought about fortifying civil society: by empowering grass-roots groups, it seeks a third way between cold government and cool indifference. Yet with much of the money flowing to conservative supporters of President Bush, the fund is also a tool of realpolitik, which Mr. Cortes readily invokes in mapping his partisan loyalties.

"I'm not red, and I'm not blue," Mr. Cortes said in a recent interview. "I'm brown."

"This is what I tell politicians," he said. "You want an endorsement? Give us a check, and you can take a picture of us accepting it. Because then you've done something for brown."

A few months before last November's election, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao took Mr. Cortes's advice, flying to Florida to give his organization $2.8 million for a youth employment program. In 2003, when the group began a housing initiative, a kickoff event attracted Mel Martinez, who at the time was the federal housing secretary, and a $300,000 contract followed to counsel homebuyers. The current issue of Nueva Esperanza's newsletter shows Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and the majority leader, handing over a $500,000 check from his charitable foundation for the group's work on preventing AIDS.

Fulfilling a promise from the 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush has appeared at two National Hispanic Prayer Breakfasts, which Mr. Cortes holds and which have also attracted top Democrats like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Touring the programs that Nueva Esperanza tries to help, it is easy to see why religion-based social services have captured the political imagination. In a section of North Philadelphia nicknamed the Badlands, the Rev. Patrick Cabello Hansel runs the Goodlands photography project, providing children with cameras that turn streetscapes into art. From the blighted hills of Bethlehem to the Camden barrios, former addicts like the Revs. Jorge Navedo and Miguel Torres have ex-convicts seeking sobriety and pledging to "do life for Jesus."


The Seed

Supporters of faith groups say that because they spring from a calling, not a federal financing stream, they are more cost-effective - or more effective, period - than their secular counterparts. But can training from intermediaries like Nueva Esperanza help such groups expand? Can it give them the skills to raise more money, serve more clients and strengthen the safety net?

Mr. Cortes says yes, but he also says the work has proved more challenging than he anticipated. "Some groups are never going to grow beyond where they are," he said. "If we could do it over, we would be harder on keeping people to the tasks."

The roots of the fund extend to the 2000 election, when Mr. Bush promised an array of measures that would bring religion-based groups $8 billion a year. The bulk would have come from new tax laws to promote private giving, but Mr. Bush also called for new federal grants and new rules to make it easier for religious groups to apply for existing federal programs. When the ambitious plan failed in Congress, the president salvaged a modest compassion fund by including it in the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services.

After supporters of the religion-based initiative complained that it had languished, a White House report said religious charities received $2 billion last year from 169 existing programs. But the compassion fund, which spent $43 million last year, is the only source of new money specifically designated for religious groups. Community-based groups, like the United Way, can also apply.

Grants from the fund have gone to some marquee conservative names, including Operation Blessing, a food distribution program founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, and Dare Mighty Things, a company led by former associates of Charles W. Colson, a Watergate figure who went to prison and now runs a prison ministry.

Scanning the list of recipients, critics said that the fund was rewarding old Republican friends. But more interesting may be its potential to win new ones. Millions of dollars have gone to minorities in Democratic strongholds, like the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, whose pastor, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, a longtime Democrat, switched his support to Mr. Bush in 2004. Religious charities can use federal grants to provide services, but not to promote religious views.

A federal judge found last year that one intermediary, Montana State University, unconstitutionally promoted religion by sharing office space, staff and financing with a nursing program engaged in proselytizing. "Religion permeates every aspect of the program," wrote Magistrate Richard W. Anderson, who noted in his decision that the program head, a state employee, put biblical passages at the end of his e-mail messages.

For Mr. Cortes, the federal fund fulfilled a longtime ambition. Growing up Puerto Rican in a black section of Harlem, he developed what might be called a case of institution-envy. There were dozens of black colleges and scores of black religious groups but, in his view, few Hispanic equivalents. After graduating from Union Theological Seminary, he tried twice to form a national network of Hispanic evangelicals, without success. In 1981, he started the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia, and Nueva Esperanza sprang up as its social services arm.


One Branch

The group is now a social services empire, with a charter high school, a suburban summer camp and a community college. As president, Mr. Cortes earned about $112,000 in salary and $29,000 in benefits last fiscal year, a 68 percent increase over the two years since the group began receiving money from the compassion fund grant. His brother, Danny, ran the compassion fund program for the group and earned about $95,000 in salary and benefits.

During the 2000 campaign, Tom Ridge, then the Pennsylvania governor, brought Mr. Bush by for a visit that stretched on for several hours. That was not enough to get Mr. Cortes's vote, which went to Ralph Nader. But after four years and more than $10 million in federal contracts, Mr. Cortes had projects in more than a dozen cities and cast a ballot last year for Mr. Bush.

"I voted my self-interest," he said. "For brown, it means that we'll be able to grow our institutions."

Among those growing quickest is the Bethlehem Christian Training Center, in Bethlehem, Pa., whose leader, Marilyn Hartman, once did missionary work in Guatemala. In the constellation of Nueva Esperanza groups, Ms. Hartman's star shines brightly. She formed the group in her basement three years ago and now has a budget of $200,000, a staff of six, and programs that train inmates, counsel homebuyers and provide children with after-school care. She recently bought an abandoned car dealership for $1.2 million, which will house the center and its parent agency.

Ms. Hartman credits Nueva Esperanza's training for much of her center's growth. When an initial assessment found deficiencies in program evaluation and financial management, "I said, 'Ick, I've got to improve,' " she said. She was diligent about attending Nueva Esperanza's two-day training sessions and was inspired by the professional standards the group promoted. Ms. Hartman said her center, which now serves nearly 200 people a year, would have grown anyway, "but it would have taken us twice as long."

Less encouraged, Felipe Castro speaks respectfully of the Nueva Esperanza training but says that his after-school program, Amparo de la Ninez, has gained nothing from it. A soft-spoken man from Puerto Rico, Mr. Castro came to Philadelphia with his wife, Myrtha, planning to learn English and return home. They said that in 1988 God ordered them to change their plans.

"He tells me, 'My sister, I am Jehovah, the one who calls you to work with the children - don't be disobedient,' " Ms. Castro said.

With donations and program fees, they bought a modest row house where their programs serve about 130 children, and they scrape by on a joint salary of $300 a week. "It's not easy," Mr. Castro said.

He joined the Nueva Esperanza training with hopes of learning how to raise more money, either from public or private sources. "But when I go to writing, forget it - I no can write English," he said. Frustrated and busy with his daily work, he missed half of last year's four training sessions.

One lesson Mr. Cortes has drawn from the work is that "there more Felipes and fewer Marilyns" - more groups with a limited ability to grow.

David Wright, the director of the Roundtable on Religion and Social Policy at the State University of New York at Albany, said religious groups often had a strong sense of mission. But organizational growth requires different skills, and "these folks have a lot of other things on their plate," Mr. Wright said. "That's not to say they won't succeed with time."

Although a national study of the compassion fund is still under way, an evaluation of Nueva Esperanza's work offered good marks. Edwin Hernandez, a researcher at the University of Notre Dame, found that 55 percent of the groups trained by Nueva Esperanza moved up a notch on a one-to-four scale of organizational skill. After two years, 38 percent scored at the top two levels, up from 14 percent at the end of the first year.

"Overall, the program has been very successful," Mr. Hernandez said.

Yet his report also hints at the underlying challenges. Among groups without tax-exempt status, only 28 percent attained it within the first two years. About 40 of the 180 groups dropped out of training. And some groups acknowledge that they joined less for the training than for the chance to receive grants, which range up to $30,000. Only 18 percent of the groups progressed enough to receive them, leading to frustration on both sides.

"I've been a little disappointed," said the project director, Danny Cortes. "Building organizational capacity is hard."

Nonetheless, he added: "In every city I've gone, I've seen the value of this work in helping an organization do their work more efficiently. I don't see how that's not a good use of money."

Josue Figueroa, the Philadelphia field manager for Nueva Esperanza, said he was surprised that "some of the organizations haven't been more able to capitalize on the training. They're handing out 100 bags of food, and three years from now they'll be giving out 100 bags of food."


Taking Root

Administration officials resist the idea that the fund is being used to court a political base - applications are reviewed by outside experts - but Luis Cortes delights in the thought. Mr. Bush's initiative has changed federal grant making "in such a way that allowed me to get in," he said. "Friends take care of friends - that's politics."

Indeed, political leverage is one of the skills Nueva Esperanza seeks to teach. Scores of participants attend the Hispanic prayer breakfast in Washington each year, then fan out to meetings on Capitol Hill. In arming the new community of federal grant seekers, the compassion fund is a philosophical oddity - a conservative program that explicitly encourages more petitions for federal aid. The fund, through its training, also encourages grass-roots programs to seek private support.

Collectively, intermediaries like Nueva Esperanza have worked with more than 6,000 grass-roots groups.

"Why are we getting 'greased'? There are more wheels squeaking now," Danny Cortes said. "Government responds to constituents."

And many of those constituents salute the president.

"I love Bush - his strength, his faith, his principles," said Arnaldo Ortiz, the director of Casa Refugio, a drug rehabilitation program in Bethlehem, Pa.

"He's a man of prayer," said Ms. Hartman, of the training center.

But that support is not unanimous. Mr. Hansel, of the Goodlands photography project, disapproves so strongly of Mr. Bush's tax cuts and the war in Iraq that he skipped the Washington prayer breakfast last year, saying that he may not "be as charitable as I would like if Bush was in the room."

Nonetheless, Mr. Bush's standing among Hispanics has grown, with his demonstrations of faith a common explanation. Officially, surveys of voters leaving the polls last year showed Mr. Bush with 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 35 percent in 2000. Some experts think sampling errors exaggerated Hispanic support for the president, but no one doubts that it grew.

For a glimpse of one of the political currents running through the program, consider the after-school effort run by Mr. Castro, where a group of schoolchildren recently convened for what might be described as a Pentecostal poetry slam.

Though they call themselves the Celestial Voices, their earsplitting version of Psalm 100 sounded more martial than ethereal. "Yes! He is God!" "It is he who makes us!"

"The songs get into your heart, and you feel like God really loves you," said Francesca Alequin, 11.

"You feel like God is hugging you," said Valerie Merced, 10.

Having performed at the Republican National Convention in 2000, the Celestial Voices are no strangers to politics, and their vehement views are easy to distill: George Bush is good, his opponents are not.

"President Bush is Christian," said Sade Melendez, 10, after a recent rehearsal. "He doesn't believe in abortion, and the other man does."

"John Kerry believes in lesbians," said Jorge Granados, 10.

"He said if the baby was in the stomach, you could kill the baby," said Krystalie Ocasio, 9.

"He stinks," Sade said.

Mr. Castro seemed surprised by the sharpness of the views, which he said were formed outside the program. "I'm not a political person," he said. "We just teach the Bible. We teach them God is real."

    Hispanic Group Thrives on Faith and Federal Aid, NYT, May 3, 2005,






Inquiétante offensive

des créationnistes américains


Le Monde
New York de notre correspondante
Corine Lesnes


Pennsylvanie, Kansas, Géorgie... La liste s'allonge. Depuis quelques mois, les initiatives se multiplient aux Etats-Unis pour introduire le doute sur la théorie de l'évolution. Pour les partisans de Darwin, cette offensive s'inscrit dans le droit-fil de la réélection du président Bush. Après l'avortement et le mariage gay, l'évolution est en train de devenir le nouveau champ de bataille de l'une de ces culture wars qu'affectionnent les Américains.

Créationnisme contre évolution : la querelle est ancienne. Le procès de John Scopes, en 1925, figure dans tous les manuels d'histoire. Le professeur de biologie fut poursuivi ­ et condamné à une amende de 100 dollars ­ pour avoir enseigné les théories de Darwin. Il a fallu attendre 1987 pour que la justice interdise définitivement l'enseignement du créationnisme, au nom de la séparation de l'Eglise et de l'Etat. Depuis, les fondamentalistes se présentent comme les victimes d'une pensée dominante. Ils ne réclament pas que l'on enseigne le créationnisme dans les écoles, mais que l'on mette fin à la "censure" et que l'on admette que l'évolution puisse être contestée, ce qui, pour l'immense majorité des scientifiques, relève de l'hérésie.

L'offensive actuelle s'exerce surtout au niveau des programmes scolaires. Aux Etats-Unis, les écoles publiques dépendent de conseils d'administration qui sont élus à l'échelon des comtés. Il suffit d'une majorité au school board pour modifier les programmes. Dans une vingtaine d'Etats, les militants ont introduit des mesures pour affirmer que Darwin n'est pas infaillible. Dans le comté de Cobb, en Géorgie, les créationnistes ont relancé l'une des principales techniques employées depuis les années 1970 : la mise en garde sur les manuels de biologie. Un autocollant a été apposé sur la page de garde : "Ce livre contient des informations sur l'évolution. L'évolution est une théorie, pas un fait, relative à l'origine des êtres vivants. Ces informations doivent être approchées avec un esprit ouvert, étudiées soigneusement et considérées avec un esprit critique." Le 13 janvier, un juge a ordonné le retrait des autocollants. Les créationnistes ont obtenu un délai de grâce jusqu'à la fin de l'année scolaire et ils ont fait appel.

Les conseils scolaires sont relayés à l'échelon politique local. En janvier, un sénateur du Mississippi a introduit une proposition de loi visant à assurer"un traitement égal" pour les deux théories. Dans ses attendus, le texte affirme que la théorie selon laquelle l'Univers trouve son origine dans l'oeuvre d'un"créateur tout-puissant" est"aussi satisfaisante sur le plan scientifique que l'évolution". Et, ajoute-t-il, de nombreux citoyens"sont convaincus que l'endoctrinement exclusif de leurs enfants dans le concept de l'évolution est un acte d'hostilité à l'égard de leur foi" .

La proposition a été rejetée, tout comme celle qui a été introduite dans l'Arkansas. Dans l'Alabama, c'est une variante qui a été soumise aux législateurs, sur la "liberté en milieu éducatif" ; liberté de présenter des alternatives à l'évolution.



Dans le Kansas, théâtre d'une grande bataille en 1999, le Conseil des écoles, ramené au pouvoir par les élections de novembre 2004, a remis sur le métier son projet de modification des programmes. La définition même de"science" est révisée. Terminologie actuelle : la science est"l'activité humaine qui consiste à chercher des explications naturelles à ce que nous observons autour de nous" .

Langage proposé : la science est "une méthode systématique d'investigation" qui cherche des"explications adéquates aux phénomènes naturels" . Les explications "naturelles" ont disparu.

Sur l'arbre de vie de Darwin, les responsables éducatifs du Kansas proposent de souligner que cette"vision que les êtres vivants sont les descendants modifiés d'un ancêtre commun" a été"remise en question ces dernières années" , notamment par la découverte de fossiles qui témoignent de "soudaines explosions d'une complexité accrue" ("the Cambrian Explosion" ). Aucune des propositions n'a encore été adoptée. Les juges ont endigué, de leur côté, les "opérations autocollants" . Mais les scientifiques s'inquiètent d'avoir vu apparaître un adversaire professionnalisé et bardé d'un nouveau concept, l'Intelligent Design (ID). Le "dessein intelligent" .



"En 1999, nous avions affaire à des militants locaux, de jeunes créationnistes qui croient que la Terre s'est créée en moins de dix mille ans, explique Jack Krebs, un professeur du Kansas qui dirige le comité de révision des programmes de biologie et essaie d'endiguer les efforts créationnistes. Aujourd'hui, on retrouve exactement les mêmes, mais ils sont aidés par les responsables du Discovery Institute." Cet institut, installé à Seattle en 1996, est une sorte de think tank du mouvement créationniste."Cela leur permet de présenter un défi beaucoup plus sérieux" .

Le "dessein intelligent" est décrit comme la version"séculaire" du créationnisme. Il n'est plus question ­ nominalement ­ de Dieu, mais d'une force supérieure qui ne peut qu'être à l'origine de cette chose si compliquée qu'est la vie. Les partisans de l'ID soulignent la perfection de la mécanique des cellules, "les lignes d'assemblage, les centrales thermiques, les unités de recyclage, et les monorails miniatures qui véhiculent les éléments de part et d'autre de la cellule" . Bien trop sophistiqué, selon eux, pour être le fruit du hasard ou de l'évolution.

L'un des promoteurs du "dessein" est Michael Behe, professeur de biologie et auteur du livre Darwin's Black Box : the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. Pour lui, il n'y a pas incompatibilité. Pourquoi la science ne pourrait-elle pas"accepter l'idée d'un dessein" ? De plus en plus de scientifiques"voient un rôle à la fois pour l'empirisme de l'évolution et pour l'élégance du dessein" , assurait-il le 7 février dans le New York Times.

Selon ces néocréationnistes, la biochimie a mis Darwin à l'épreuve."Combien d'évolutionnistes accepteraient l'idée que des changements aléatoires dans un programme informatique produisent une version améliorée ?, interroge l'un d'eux. Pourtant, c'est exactement ce qu'ils essaient de nous faire croire quand l'ADN subit une mutation au cours du processus d'évolution."

Les créationnistes jouent sur du velours. Selon un sondage CBS de novembre 2004, 55 % des Américains croient que "Dieu a créé les humains dans leur forme actuelle" (67 % des républicains ; 47 % des démocrates). 13 % seulement croient que Dieu n'y est pour rien. Et 27 % adoptent l'idée d'une oeuvre conjointe : "Les hommes ont évolué. Dieu a guidé le processus." A 65 %, les Américains veulent que le créationnisme soit enseigné en même temps que l'évolution.

Les professeurs de biologie, eux, sont en état d'alerte. A Dover, en Pennsylvanie, lorsque le Conseil des écoles a recommandé, en janvier, de lire aux élèves un préambule affirmant que l'évolution est une "théorie, pas un fait" , huit d'entre eux ont refusé.

Selon un sondage réalisé fin mars, 31 % des professeurs se déclarent soumis à des pressions de la part de parents ou d'élèves pour inclure le créationnisme ou l'ID dans le programme. Le 4 mars, l'un des responsables de l'Académie des sciences, Bruce Alberts, s'est ému dans une lettre à ses collègues : "L'un des fondements de la science moderne est actuellement négligé, voire même banni, des cours de sciences." Il les a appelés à relever un "défi croissant" , enseigner l'évolution dans les écoles publiques.


----------------- Encadré  -------------------------


Pas de Big Bang sur les écrans du Sud

Il n'y a pas que dans l'éducation que le débat sur l'évolution a des répercussions. Interrogés fin mars par les médias américains, les gérants des salles de cinéma IMAX à écran géant, souvent situées dans les muséums d'histoire naturelle, ont confirmé qu'ils s'efforçaient d'éviter de présenter des films susceptibles d'entraîner des polémiques, notamment dans le Sud, où les fondamentalistes chrétiens sont nombreux. Le documentaire du Canadien Stephen Low, Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, sur l'activité volcanique sous les mers, n'a pas été projeté dans plusieurs Etats parce qu'il mentionne un lien entre l'ADN humain et celui de bactéries présentes aux abords des volcans malgré la température. Les références au Big Bang sont aussi sources d'inquiétude pour les responsables de la programmation, qui ne cachent pas qu'ils préfèrent, pour des raisons commerciales, mettre à l'affiche des films sans référence à l'évolution.

    Inquiétante offensive des créationnistes américains, 27.4.2005, Le Monde, Corine Lesnes,
    http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3238,36-643115,0.html - broken link







For America's Divided Roman Catholics,

a New Difference of Opinion


April 20, 2005
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO, April 19 - Roman Catholics poured into cathedrals and parish churches across the United States on Tuesday to celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving for the new pope, Benedict XVI, but the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope prompted strong disagreement over what he would mean for the American church.

Some liberal Catholics and interest groups criticized the choice as a lost opportunity to move the church in a less doctrinaire direction because the new pope, a conservative German who was close to the late John Paul II, has long held hard-line positions on many divisive issues, including birth control, homosexuality and the ordination of women. He has also suggested that a vote for a politician who supports abortion rights could be sinful, and that American bishops should deny such politicians Holy Communion.

With no less fervor, many conservative Catholics praised Benedict as a strong leader whom they expected to shore up the church's teachings and serve as a formidable steward of traditional values. Some expressed hopes that the new pope would again require that Latin be spoken at Mass.

Perhaps the only point not in contention was that at age 78, Benedict was likely to have a much shorter papacy than John Paul, who was 58 when he was selected in 1978, and therefore less opportunity to leave a lasting imprint.

"Who could follow an act like that?" said Valerie Lienau of Moraga, Calif., who was among the 100 or so people who celebrated a thanksgiving Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco, the seat of the archdiocese here. "This gives people a chance to catch their breath and absorb the legacy of Pope John Paul II. The important thing is who will be the pope after Cardinal Ratzinger."

Ms. Lienau, a self-described orthodox Catholic, said she was overjoyed at the selection and drove 25 miles to San Francisco to mark the occasion in the grandeur of the hilltop cathedral. But when she excitedly phoned her son, who is gay, the response was a loud groan.

"I'm not blind to the challenges," Ms. Lienau said. "I'm very sympathetic to the disappointment being felt."

R. Scott Appleby, a historian on American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, said many Catholics were dismayed, stunned and depressed at the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger.

"This is their worst nightmare come true," said Professor Appleby, who predicted that the selection could lead to a "winnowing" of the American church.

"There is an idea associated with Cardinal Ratzinger and some American cardinals and bishops," Professor Appleby said, "that if we face a choice as Catholics between a pure, doctrinally orthodox church on the one hand and the current situation, which as they see it is a wide range of practice and belief and a moral laxity, they would choose a smaller, purer, more doctrinally orthodox church."

Others were more cautious about making predictions.

Msgr. Royale M. Vadakin, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, said it was dangerous to assume that Pope Benedict XVI would act the same as Cardinal Ratzinger. He said that many popes had moved the church in surprising directions, and that Cardinal Ratzinger might temper his strict views on church teachings when confronted with the wider portfolio of the papacy.

"We now know the who - Cardinal Ratzinger," Monsignor Vadakin said, speaking before the ornate doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. "The what is yet to unfold."

Some groups critical of the church's handling of sexually abusive priests also said it was too early to draw conclusions. Suzanne Morse, communications director for Voice of the Faithful, which advocates a greater role for the laity in church governance, said that even when the new pope was a cardinal, his views on the abuse scandal were evolving.

Ms. Morse said that when the first accusations were made against priests, Cardinal Ratzinger "seemed to think the problem was a media creation." She added, "But since then, we have seen small but significant signs that he has some sense of the scope of the clergy sexual abuse crisis."

Even so, some victims of abuse by members of the clergy in Boston said they had been hoping for greater change. Bernie McDaid, who said he was abused by a priest from the ages of 11 to 13, said he feared that the selection of another European pope amounted to a circling of the wagons on the abuse problems.

Mr. McDaid said an outsider, perhaps from Africa or South America, would have been more likely to shake things up.

"They might have fear of what lies ahead, so they're staying with what they know," Mr. McDaid said. "They need drastically to change, now more so than at any point in history."

Clem Boleche, 29, an Augustinian brother from the Philippines who is studying to be a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, said his classmates at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology rushed into a room with a television to await the announcement of the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger appeared on the balcony, he said, the room grew silent.

Brother Boleche said he and many others were hoping for someone less conservative and more open to debating church doctrine.

"I'm honestly not surprised, but I think it would have been more exciting, more of a challenge, if he came from a different area," Brother Boleche said. "Latin America is alive. It is open, and is not stifling the spirit like many European churches."

German-Americans acknowledge that the church is less vibrant in Europe, but it made them no less proud on Tuesday. Janien Guntermann, 37, a bartender at a German restaurant in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, said she cried when she heard of the election of Cardinal Ratzinger.

"I had goose bumps immediately," said Ms. Guntermann, whose parents were born in Germany. "I was a little concerned about his age, but he seems to be in good health. We have to worry about right now, not what's going to happen in 10 years."

Jim Glunz, the owner of Glunz Bavarian Haus, a German restaurant in the same neighborhood, said he was impressed with the new pope's name, which he associates with peace and healing.

"This is the type of atmosphere we need in the world right now," Mr. Glunz said. "We need a lot of healing; we need a lot of forgiving."

For every proud German-American, though, there was at least one Italian-American wondering if Italy's turn at the papacy would ever come again.

Inside the Mola Club in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where Italian men gather to play cards and smoke cigars, a big-screen TV was tuned to RAI, a state broadcast from Italy. The room smelled like wet paint, much of the furniture was covered in plastic, and everything was pushed to the center of the room.

Most of the men were out in the garden, but Sal Chimienti, 68, sat at a small table in front the TV.

"I'm a Catholic," he said, explaining his devotion to the TV broadcast.

As the ceremonies in Rome progressed, Mr. Chimienti was joined by Al Sale, 50, who runs a grocery store a block up Court Street.

The new pope appeared on the screen, and Mr. Sale clapped, then said, "Still, we have no Italian pope."


Reporting for this article was contributed by Michael Brick and Nicholas Confessore from New York, John M. Broder from Los Angeles,Gretchen Ruethling from Chicago, Robin Toner from Washingtonand Katie Zezima from Boston.

    For America's Divided Roman Catholics, a New Difference of Opinion, NYT, 20.4.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/20/international/worldspecial2/20american.html






Liberal U.S. Catholics

Dismayed at Choice of Pope


Tue Apr 19, 2005 05:15 PM ET
By Greg Frost


BOSTON (Reuters) - Liberal U.S. Catholics on Tuesday expressed dismay at the choice of a conservative new pope and doubted he will heal an institution racked by disillusionment and tarnished by a sex abuse scandal among the clergy.

The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI rankled those who advocate married priests, a bigger role for women within the church and softening its policy on homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia and abortion.

Since taking over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Roman Catholic Church's chief ideologue, Ratzinger has denounced homosexuality and even branded other Christian churches as deficient.

"Gay and lesbian Catholics are going to be very hurt by this election because Cardinal Ratzinger was the lightning rod for so much of the anger they felt under the previous pope," said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the New Ways Ministry, a national ministry for lesbian and gay Catholics.

Under the Pope John Paul II, American Catholics' attendance at weekly Mass declined as many were put off by what they saw as increasingly conservative Vatican doctrine.

The sense of alienation deepened with a well-publicized scandal over pedophile priests, which erupted in 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston as court documents showed bishops shuttled pedophile priests from parish to parish.

Victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy reacted skeptically to word that Ratzinger was the new pope.

"Ratzinger is a polarizing figure to many, who seems to prefer combativeness to compromise and compassion," Mary Grant of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement. "It's ... crucial that the new pope follow the words and views of John Paul II who said 'there is no place in the priesthood for anyone who would harm the young."'



Catholics for a Free Choice, a progressive group based in Washington, laid out an action plan for the new pontiff to pursue in his first 100 days with the goal of healing fractures within the church.

It urged the new pope to appoint a commission to review church policy on condoms, to establish a pontifical academy on women's rights in the church, and to welcome back those marginalized over the last quarter-century -- including gays and lesbians.

But those familiar with Ratzinger said to expect more of the same, and they doubted he would tailor his views to adapt to the liberal forces evident in the U.S. church.

"This is the guy who's been in charge of stifling dissent in the church," said lawyer Carmen Durso, who represented dozens of plaintiffs in clergy abuse lawsuits against the Boston archdiocese.

"This says to me that the Vatican ... is not prepared to move into the 21st Century, which it desperately needs to do," said Durso, who was raised Catholic but no longer practices.

Christine Schenk, a nun from Cleveland, Ohio, who favors opening the priesthood to married men, said she was disappointed and puzzled by Ratzinger's selection, but she saw glimmers of hope.

Schenk explained that Ratzinger had never ruled out the idea of married priests, and that the church is facing a deepening shortage of priests -- so he may be forced to act.

Sister Donna Quinn of the National Coalition of American Nuns said her group hopes the new pope will work for the participation and partnership of women in the church.

In a 2004 document, Ratzinger denounced "radical feminism" as undermining the family and natural differences between men and women.

Asked if there was anything in his background that gave her hope that Ratzinger would build a stronger partnership with women in the church, Quinn said: "We always hope for miracles." (Additional reporting by Michael Conlon, Michael Kahn and Deborah Zabarenko)

    Liberal U.S. Catholics Dismayed at Choice of Pope, R, Tue Apr 19, 2005 05:15 PM ET,






Catholics in U.S. Keep Faith,

but Live With Contradictions


April 11, 2005
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES, April 8 - Lily Velazquez, who turned 18 on Thursday, is the sixth of 12 children of Mexican immigrants in a poor suburb of Los Angeles. She considers herself both a devoted Catholic and a hopeless sinner.

She attends Mass every Sunday but has had two children out of wedlock. She thinks abortion is murder but chafes at the Vatican's ban on birth control. She mourns the death of Pope John Paul II but hopes his successor will be "new and different."

"My mom gets mad if I don't go to church," Ms. Velazquez said, as her 2-year-old daughter, Emily, sucked on a bottle of juice outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the official hub of the country's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese. "As for me, I think I've done a lot of sin and if I go to church, it's better."

Ms. Velazquez was among the tens of thousands of Roman Catholics who visited the imposing cathedral in downtown Los Angeles this week to pay respects to the pope by lighting a candle or kneeling at his photograph. She is also a vivid example of the contradictions felt by American Catholics as they wait with uncertainty and some anxiety for the selection of a new leader in Rome.

American Catholics, be they Latinos here or African-Americans in Atlanta, or those of Irish, Italian or Polish ancestry in Boston and Baltimore, have come to accept that being Catholic means living with inconsistency. The roughly 65 million Catholics in the United States no longer have as distinctive an identity as they did a generation ago, and as they assimilated more thoroughly into American society, their views on social and moral issues came to mirror those of other Americans.

"Catholics as a whole occupy the mainstream of American life, when 50 or 60 years ago, they were on the periphery of society," said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio and an expert on religion and politics.

As a result, the Vatican's teachings on a number of subjects, including contraception, the ordination of women and homosexuality, are out of step with the beliefs and lifestyles of most American Catholics. But the Americans mostly find a way to stay in their faith by adhering to values most important to them and quietly ignoring those they disagree with.

"Catholics right now are à la carte" in the practice of their religion, said Diana Gonya, 61, a retired insurance agent in Baltimore whose wedding 36 years ago was officiated by Pope Paul VI.

Certainly there are problems. Fewer Americans these days send their children to Catholic schools. Mass attendance in the United States fell during John Paul's papacy. The church faces an acute shortage of priests. And the sexual abuse scandal continues to roil dioceses across the country.

While few American Catholics say they expect doctrine to change markedly under the successor to John Paul, the transition has allowed them to dream a little about what their church could be. Broadly, they say they hope for a church that more readily embraces modernity. For some, it means that priests might be allowed to marry. For others, it could entail the arrival of women as priests. Most, polls show, would like to see a softening of the church's stance on birth control. After years of sexual abuse scandals, many look for a pope who will make ending the abuse a priority.

"If it wants to stay one of the major religions in this country, it needs to progress with the times and let women priests in," said Katie McDevitt, 20, a sophomore at Boston College, a Jesuit university. Ms. McDevitt says she attends church relatively regularly, and she recently went to a memorial Mass for John Paul. "It needs not to be so sexist and patriarchal. There is a lot of emphasis on the wrong principles."

American Catholics grieved for John Paul, as did their brethren all over the world, but a recent Gallup poll indicated that they think who the next pope might be matters less to them than to Catholics elsewhere, especially in Africa and Latin America, where the church has grown most robustly over the last two decades. There is a widespread acceptance among Roman Catholics in the United States that they can be out of step with the Vatican and still unequivocally call themselves Catholic.

Mrs. Gonya said that her attitude toward the pope and the church hierarchy was something like people's feelings about their parents. "We respect them for what they believe, but we have new information that takes us in different directions," she said.

Mrs. Gonya and her husband, Gary, are enthusiastic lifelong Catholics. Mr. Gonya studied to be a priest in the 1960's. The couple proudly show photos of their wedding during Pope Paul VI's visit to Mrs. Gonya's native country, Colombia, in 1968, and of an audience they had with John Paul in his summer home, Castel Gandolfo, for their 25th anniversary.

Mr. Gonya, 62, says he attends Mass at two churches every Sunday: the activist, liberal-leaning St. Vincent DePaul nearby, which inspires him with its liturgy and homilies, and the conservative St. Leo's just across the street from his house in the Little Italy neighborhood of Baltimore.

Despite their devotion, the Gonyas differ from the church on most central doctrines. They say they would be delighted to see women ordained. If the church took married men, Mr. Gonya would be first in line, his wife said.

"Rome is important, but I don't think the typical American Catholic leans on that alone," Mr. Gonya said. "We have to continue to explore our beliefs in our own culture."

That division between doctrine and one's own beliefs does not alarm Mrs. Gonya. "The pope's positions make us think more about what we believe," she said. "It is an invitation to a deep search on an issue."

The breadth of priorities Catholicism embraces permits people to identify themselves as Catholic while disagreeing with doctrine, said Luis E. Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, based in Washington. Catholicism's agenda spans personal morality issues that evangelicals also emphasize, like the fight against abortion, and the liberal social issues that mainline Protestant churches champion, like anti-poverty campaigns. "In Catholicism, there is something there for everyone," Dr. Lugo said.

Certainly there are traditionalists. "If it works, why mess with it? It lasted 2,000 years. Why mess with it?" asked Joseph M. Perry, 51, a mechanic from Reading, Mass. Mr. Perry says he does not agree with abortion and thinks priests should remain celibate and male.

But some younger Catholics say they can no longer live their lives in keeping with doctrine. Adam Williams, 17, goes to Mass at Mount Carmel, the Catholic high school he attends in Baltimore, but rarely goes to church otherwise. The church's prohibitions on "almost everything a kid can do," Adam said, has made him ever more reluctant to identify himself as Catholic.

"At school, they taught us that there are so many people in Africa with AIDS," Adam said, as he took a break from working after school last week at Vaccaro's, a local pastry shop. "But the church won't let them use condoms. I think that's stupid."

The growth of the Roman Catholic Church in America since 1960 has been largely driven by an influx of Latinos, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Already about one-third of Roman Catholics in the nation are Hispanic, and the percentage keeps growing.

Here in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the older generation of Latinos follows a tradition of obedience. Ms. Velazquez's mother, Maria, 48, of Compton, spoke of seeing John Paul in her dreams before he died. Clutching a crucifix dangling around her neck, she said she could think of nothing she would change about the church.

But younger Latinos, like Ms. Velazquez, have begun to resemble other Americans in their attitudes toward Catholic doctrine. Ms. Velazquez said unhesitatingly that many Catholics of her generation have abortions, use birth control and generally lead lives not in keeping with church teachings.

A 2001 study by the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles found that only 38 percent of second-generation Latino Catholics in the United States relied "a great deal" on religion in daily life, compared with 53 percent of their parents' generation.

Maria Velazquez's only wish for the new pope is that he might be a Latin American. "He would understand our culture better," she said in Spanish.

A recent Gallup poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Catholic respondents would find it acceptable for a new pope to be chosen from Latin America or Africa. But whoever the new pope is, he will have to face an American church at odds with most of the rest of the world, Catholics interviewed noted.

"I'm afraid the church as a whole is coming to the point where it isn't one size fits all any more," said Jack Scalione, 66, a turnpike inspector, who was watching the papal funeral on television at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in East Boston. "What's good in Europe isn't necessary good in America, and what's good in America isn't necessarily what's good in Latin America. You have to fit to the wishes of the people because the people are the church."

Dean E. Murphy reported from Los Angeles for this article,

and Neela Banerjee from Baltimore.

Ariel Hart contributed reporting from Atlanta,

and Katie Zezima from Boston.

    Catholics in U.S. Keep Faith, but Live With Contradictions, NYT, April 11, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/11/international/worldspecial2/11catholic.html






Bush Bids Farewell to Pope

Who 'Challenged America'


Sat Apr 9, 2005
10:59 AM ET


CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush said on Saturday Pope John Paul II was a global inspiration, not only for standing up to communism but for challenging the United States.

Bush, who shared many of the pope's views on social issues but clashed with him over the war in Iraq, said the Pope's funeral on Friday in Rome united people of different religions and nationalities.

"Many in the West underestimated the pope's influence," Bush said in his weekly radio address one day after attending the funeral.

"But those behind the Iron Curtain knew better, and ultimately even the Berlin Wall could not withstand the gale force of this Polish Pope," Bush said.

Bush, who returned from Rome to his Crawford, Texas, ranch said the Vatican ceremonies were "a powerful and moving reminder of the profound impact this pope had on our world." Being in attendance, Bush said, "will be one of the highlights of my presidency."

Bush credited the pope with teaching the communist rulers of Poland and the former Soviet Union "that moral truth had legions of its own and a force greater than their armies and secret police."

He said the pope also "challenged America always to live up to its lofty calling."

"The pope taught us that the foundation for human freedom is a universal respect for human dignity," Bush said.

Bush said before the funeral that he understood the pope's opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, an issue the pontiff raised with the president at a Vatican meeting last June.

"Over this past week, millions of people across the world returned the pope's gift with a tremendous outpouring of affection that transcended differences of nationality, language and religion," Bush said.

The funeral itself brought a hint of the reconciliation that the pope preached.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav shook hands with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a country formally at war with Israel, and spoke to President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, which is also deeply hostile to the Jewish state.

Syria later called it a formality that did not mark any change in policy.

Bush Bids Farewell to Pope Who 'Challenged America',
R, Sat Apr 9, 2005 10:59 AM ET, http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=DPBC0JBADBX12CRBAEKSFEY?type=politicsNews&storyID=8132641

















The Martinez family,

from left, Naomi, 12, Jose, Maria, and Marcie, 10,

at St. James Cathedral in Seattle


Photograph: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press


John Paul II's death.
















Bush to Lead

U.S. Delegation to Pope's Funeral


Mon Apr 4, 2005
12:54 PM ET


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush said he would lead the U.S. delegation that will attend the funeral on Friday of Pope John Paul II to celebrate "a significant human life."
First lady Laura Bush will accompany the president and they could leave for Rome as early as Wednesday. Other members of the delegation could be announced later on Monday, the White House said.

"Laura and I are looking forward to leading a delegation to honor the Holy Father," Bush said at a press conference with Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko.

"One man can make a difference in people's lives. He was a courageous person, he was a moral person, he was a godly person," Bush said.

"It is my great honor on behalf of our country to express gratitude to the Almighty for such a man. And of course we look forward to the majesty of celebrating such a significant human life."

One of the pope's great legacies was his influence on the young and communication with the poor, Bush added.

He also said he understood the pope's opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, an issue the pontiff raised with the president at a Vatican meeting last June.

"And of course he was a man of peace, he didn't like war, and I fully understood that, and I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject," Bush said.

"And so the world will miss him," he added.

Administration officials were scrambling to retool the president's schedule for later this week. Bush was scheduled to be in South Carolina on Thursday and give a speech to U.S. troops at Fort Hood, Texas, on Friday.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the South Carolina trip would likely be canceled for now and the Fort Hood event rescheduled for April 12. A meeting next Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch will take place as scheduled, he said.

    Bush to Lead U.S. Delegation to Pope's Funeral, R, Mon Apr 4, 2005 12:54 PM ET,


















Patrick Chappatte

Cartoons on World Affairs


Patrick's cartoons appear

in the Geneva daily "Le Temps"

and in the Sunday edition of the Neue Zurcher Zeitung.


He also does a weekly cartoon

for the International Herald Tribune.

Cagle        5.4.2005
















Amid Mourning,

Some U.S. Catholics Pray for Change


Sun Apr 3, 2005
02:52 PM ET
By Greg Frost


BOSTON (Reuters) - U.S. Catholics mourned the death of Pope John Paul II on Sunday but some hoped his passing might bring needed change to an institution marred by scandal and disillusionment.

"Historically the pope did some wonderful, indispensable things. But internally there are many fractures in the family of Catholicism," said Christine Schenk, a nun from Cleveland, Ohio, who favors opening the priesthood to married men and allowing women to serve as parish deacons.

A day after the pontiff's death, Schenk joined many U.S. Catholics in expressing big ideas for the future of the church: opening up the priesthood to women and married men, devolving power from Rome, and even softening the church's stances on issues like homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia and abortion.

"This is frankly one of the huge challenges of the next papacy: there must be more openness to honoring the priestly vocations that exist in our church," she said, adding there was no biblical justification for a ban on married priests.

Chester Gillis, a Georgetown University theology professor, explained that under Pope John Paul, a disconnect had emerged among American Catholics as they chose cultural principles over those of the pope.

"If they have friends who are gay and they think they're very good people, they judge that as more weighty than the pope's voice," Gillis said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"And so the pope will have a hard task to convince some young Americans of some of his principles, if the next pope continues exactly in the same mode."



Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who was leaving for the Vatican to participate in electing the next pope, said it was too early to discuss the qualities he and his colleagues would be looking for in John Paul's successor.

"We're going through our grieving now," the cardinal told reporters. "Sure, we have thoughts but I think that our thoughts will become much more concrete and much more carefully nuanced when we have a chance maybe to talk with each other."

But many laity said the new pope will have to address --- and expand -- the role of women if the church is to remain relevant in America.

"There are a lot of people who feel that rules with respect to women should have changed a long time ago," said former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, interviewed on ABC's "This Week."

"And the church does have the capacity to change. It always has when it felt it necessary. But it takes a long time. There's a lot of impatience with some Catholics."

Kathleen Burns, a lifelong Catholic frustrated with what she called the Vatican's treatment of women as second-class citizens, said the time had come for female priests.

"We don't have any women in the hierarchy: the whole governing structure is all men," said Burns, a college professor from Alexandria, Virginia.

Although acknowledging it was impolitic to criticize the pope so soon after his death, Burns said his appointment of bishops so closely aligned to his ideology had allowed clergy sexual abuse to go unreported -- and had made the scandal so much worse when it finally erupted.

Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after it was revealed his church shuttled known pedophile priests from parish to parish, a practice that was found to have taken place all over the country.

"The people the pope picked as bishops were picked for loyalty, so when this problem was seen the idea was to be loyal to Rome and bury it," she said.

But not everyone was focused on the need for change.

"My hope would be that the next pope continues what John Paul started," said Curt Eckman, an art consultant, outside of St. Francis Xavier parish in Brooklyn, New York.

"I'd hope to see someone with his respect for life, which for some of us is the most important issue."

Amid Mourning, Some U.S. Catholics Pray for Change, R, Sun Apr 3, 2005 02:52 PM ET,






Catholics in America: A Restive People


April 3, 2005
The New York Times


IT is hard to remember now that when Pope John Paul II was elected 27 years ago, the church he inherited was destabilized and dispirited.

His immediate predecessor, John Paul I, had been found dead in bed one morning after only 34 days in office. The pope before that, Paul VI, spent his last years melancholy and withdrawn, his accomplishments overshadowed by the uproar over Humanae Vitae, his encyclical affirming the church's ban on contraception.

To many Roman Catholics in the United States, in particular, the church seemed to have lost its moorings. Some felt the church had betrayed the promise of Vatican II, the watershed church council of the early 1960's, to be more responsive to the laity and to modern life. Others felt the opposite, that Vatican II had betrayed the church's heritage by discarding too many traditions and teachings, like replacing the Latin Mass with guitar-strumming priests.

Then John Paul II strode onto the scene. He reasserted order and discipline, spoke out forcefully on vital issues and gave the church a clear direction again. But many American Catholics are deeply unhappy with that direction, which has proved to be more conservative and inflexible than they had hoped. As his papacy ends, he leaves behind an American church that he energized but that remains restive and divided.

The nation has more Catholics now than ever before, some 65 million and growing, fed by a steady flow of immigrants. Many who attend Mass regularly are passionately engaged in their parishes. But many others have drifted away, and Mass attendance has fallen steadily throughout John Paul II's papacy. Fewer families are sending their children to Catholic schools every year.

The pope has inspired men to join the priesthood, but a nationwide shortage of priests has nonetheless grown so acute that many parishes have none of their own. At the same time, many priests and bishops quietly complain that the Vatican has centralized authority more than ever, leaving less able to respond flexibly to the concerns of American parishioners. And the church continues to reel from the effects of the clergy sex-abuse scandal, with more priests accused of molestation nearly every week and with the mounting cost of compensating victims driving several dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection.

Despite the troubles within his church, Pope John Paul II has had a profound impact outside it, in American politics and culture. His articulation of an ideal society based on a "culture of life" has been embraced not only by American Catholics, but by non-Catholics who have invoked it in their opposition to abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, cloning and the death penalty.

On a visit to St. Louis in 1999, the Pope spoke of a conflict in America "between a culture that affirms, cherishes and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings - the unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped and others considered 'unuseful' - to be outside the boundaries of legal protection."

"Because of the seriousness of the issues involved, and because of America's great impact on the world as a whole, the resolution of this new time of testing will have profound consequences," he said.

A handful of American bishops tried to bring their moral authority to bear directly on elective politics last year, suggesting that Catholic politicians who have supported abortion rights could not receive communion - a step that many other bishops and priests viewed with deep misgivings.

To the Roman Catholic church in America, John Paul II has been both a heroic, loving father and a strict disciplinarian. When he became pope, "he was relatively young as popes go, charismatic and vigorous, and very self-confident," said Russell Shaw, the Washington correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic magazine, and a former spokesman for the American bishops. Within a year, John Paul II was captivating crowds in Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden, and Time magazine featured him on the cover under the headline "John Paul Superstar."

"Whether you like what he did or not, he turned the whole leadership deficit around," Mr. Shaw said.

For a church still vacillating over how to implement the revolution that was Vatican II, he drew clear boundaries on issues small and grand that have affected every priest and churchgoing American Catholic, not always comfortably.

"You could tell he loved his priests, and then there would be policies that would come out that would be very difficult for the priests," said the Rev. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils. "It was almost a love-hate relationship."

Most Catholics' experience of their church comes primarily through their local parish and their parish priest. During the papacy of John Paul II, the shortage of priests has become nothing less than a crisis. There are just under 24,000 diocesan priests on active duty today, down by one-fifth from 1990, and many of those active priests are well beyond retirement age. Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reckons that more than one-quarter of American priests are now over 75, and in five years the figure will be nearly 40 percent.

Though the priest shortage is a worldwide phenomenon, the pope has reaffirmed that the church will not consider allowing priests to marry or the ordination of women as priests. Though popular with traditionalists, this policy has disappointed many American Catholics, priests included, who have petitioned the church to open the issue for discussion.

One researcher estimates that one priest in five is now circuit-riding to two or three or four churches each weekend so that parishioners may participate in the sacrament of the eucharist, which only a priest can provide.

Deacons and lay Catholics have stepped into the void, taking up as many parish responsibilities as they are allowed. Last year, for the first time, lay parish administrators outnumbered priests, and the practical reality is that many United States parishes are effectively being run by female parish administrators.

Lay movements of all kinds are proliferating. Opus Dei, a conservative movement of clerics and laity, has been gaining in numbers and influence in the United States with the help of the pope, who declared it a "personal prelature," making it answerable only to Rome. Meanwhile, the sexual abuse scandal and the hierarchy's secretive handling of it have given rise to the Voice of the Faithful, a mobilization of Catholics who have demanded greater public accountability and more lay input in church affairs, so far to little effect.

Sister Christine Schenk, director of FutureChurch, a Cleveland-based group that advocates opening ordination to women, said, "There is a sense of people feeling dispirited - not only the laity, but twice as much by the bishops - because so many of those bishops are caught in the middle," dealing daily with problems in the priesthood but powerless to make any significant changes.

In his role as law-giver, clarifying church teaching in the post-Vatican II era, John Paul II issued a record-breaking number of encyclicals, apostolic letters, rules for liturgy, a revised code of canon law and a new Catechism of the Catholic Church - many of them cutting off innovations that had been gaining popularity in the United States.

"There had been various experiments going on in the American church in worship, priests saying Mass without using liturgical vestments, people advocating the use of sake and rice cakes instead of bread and wine," said Msgr. Robert J. Wister of Seton Hall University. "He has sought to restabilize. He has clarified church teaching in a range of areas."

The overall message has been that it is up to Rome, not the national churches, to set the pace. "What this pontificate has done is given the church the keys to interpreting Vatican II," said George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a papal biographer. "Vatican II was not intended to set off a 40-year cat-and-dog fight about who's in charge. It was intended as a great spiritual renewal for the church to prepare the church for its mission, which is evangelization."

Several times, initiatives advocated by many American bishops were shot down by the Vatican. The most telling episode was the struggle over the English-language version of the revised catechism. Its release was delayed for years because the Vatican rejected language favored by most American bishops that included both sexes.

Pope John Paul II also exerted an influence in American seminaries, sometimes by punitive means. The Vatican evicted the Rev. Charles Curran, a Catholic theologian, from his position at the Catholic University of America for criticizing the church's ban on contraception. A later directive issued by the American bishops at the Vatican's insistence required all theologians at Catholic institutions to sign a pledge of orthodoxy.

The turn toward traditionalism, not only in seminaries but in the church as a whole, has produced a new generation of more conservative priests, said Father Silva, of the federation of priests' councils. Now there is an unfortunate divide in the American priesthood, he said, between "Vatican II priests" who were trained before this papacy and "John Paul II priests" who are more orthodox in their orientation. Each tends to blame the other for the church's problems.

When John Paul II inherited the throne of St. Peter, "the church was looking for direction," said David Gibson, the author of "The Coming Catholic Church" and a religion journalist. "He provided it, and whether you liked it or not, you knew where you stood."

Perhaps because of his firm hand, perhaps in spite of it, Pope John Paul II energized the American church. Parishioners made pilgrimages to see him in St. Peter's Square and touch his "popemobile" as it went by. Young people flocked to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993 to receive the pontiff's blessing. In seven trips to the United States, speaking in English and Spanish and Polish, he made many American Catholics proud to be Catholic.

"It was like having Kennedy as president," Mr. Gibson said. "Whatever you thought of his policies, he was John Paul Superstar, the head of your church."

    Catholics in America: A Restive People, NYT, 3.4.2005,














American Catholics in John Paul II's Time


















Bush Hails Pope as 'Hero for the Ages'


Sat Apr 2, 2005
06:27 PM ET
By Steve Holland


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush hailed the late Pope John Paul II on Saturday as a wise and fearless leader, whose moral authority helped a democratic revolution sweep through Eastern Europe.

"The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd; the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home," a somber Bush said in the White House residence, his wife, Laura, at his side.

John Paul, he said, was "a hero for the ages."

The White House said it was waiting to hear from the Vatican on Sunday about funeral arrangements before announcing the U.S. delegation that will travel to the event.

Bush was expected to lead the delegation.

As a mark of respect for the pope, Bush ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff at the White House and all public and military facilities until the burial of the pontiff.

"Pope John Paul II was himself an inspiration to millions of Americans and to so many more throughout the world. We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders," Bush said.

Bush hailed the pope's contribution to the end of communism in Poland and elsewhere in Europe.

"It shows the courage of one person can help change history," Bush said in a comment to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, reflecting on John Paul.

Bush and the first lady later attended a solemn Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, where Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, said the pope was "a man who had been challenged and been purified in the difficulties of fascism and communism," and ultimately "was able to overcome a system that had enslaved the people."

McCarrick said John Paul may well be best remembered as a populist, magnetic personality who could "walk through a crowd and touch every single person that was there because he loved them."

Bush and the pope did not always see eye to eye. John Paul opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the Vatican was outraged by the prisoner abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The pope raised the Iraq issue and the Middle East during the last of three meetings they held, a 15-minute, private encounter in June.

But the two leaders had other areas of agreement, such as "culture of life" issues, including the case of the brain-damaged Florida woman, Terri Schiavo, who died this week 13 days after her feeding tube was removed over the objections of her parents.

Bush had rushed back to Washington from his Texas ranch last month to sign emergency legislation aimed at keeping the woman alive, an effort that ultimately failed.

"Throughout the West, John Paul's witness reminded us of our obligation to build a culture of life in which the strong protect the weak," Bush said.

Bush learned of the pope's death from a staffer in the White House residence based on news reports. Official word came via the Vatican, which had informed the U.S. Embassy.

"We're grateful to God for sending such a man, a son of Poland who became the bishop of Rome and a hero for the ages," Bush said.

Bush Hails Pope as 'Hero for the Ages' , R, Sat Apr 2, 2005 06:27 PM ET,






Americans Mourn Pope

as Leader and Moral Model


Sat Apr 2, 2005
08:23 PM ET
By Michael Conlon


CHICAGO (Reuters) - From the pinnacles of power to the smallest churches and across religious lines, Americans mourned Pope John Paul II on Saturday as a world leader and a personal model for faith and life.

"The Catholic church has lost its shepherd, the world has lost a champion of human freedom," President Bush said at the White House. "We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders."

Former president Bill Clinton said: "The Holy Father was a beacon of light not just for Catholics, but for all people."

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York said "He carried the Gospel into all corners of the world, proclaiming the dignity of every human being, the rights of the poor, and the evils of war."

Spokane Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the pontiff "a powerful force in world affairs, a moral compass in turbulent times," but always a priest and pastor.

Regularly scheduled Saturday evening masses took on a poignancy for Catholics still marking the Easter season, the Christian church's affirmation of its central belief in life after death. Special prayer services were added in many parishes.

At Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Michael Livingston, a 26-year-old teacher, said "I converted to Catholicism because of people like him. Today is the first day I've been able to cry in a very long time."

At the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky, Linda Taylor, 50, said "I'm not a Catholic but I wanted to come by for a moment of reflection. I just have a feeling that a great man has passed and there is a sense of loss."

Praise for the 84-year-old pope cut across religious lines.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said: "No Pope did more for the Jews." For 20 centuries, he said, Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus Christ and persecuted for it, but John Paul "was determined to embark on a new course and leave that shameful period behind."

"The world now mourns the loss of this man of God whose spirit and devotion, even in the face of frail health, exemplified Jesus Christ's own love for the Church," said the Rev. Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said, "Muslims worldwide respected (him) as an advocate for justice and human rights. His message of international peace and interfaith reconciliation is one that will reverberate for decades to come.."



Bishop William Oden, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Church Council of Bishops said the pontiff "will be seen as one of Catholicism's greatest popes -- personable, charismatic and clear about his vision of the church."

But, he added, "he left a legacy of many unresolved issues, including women in the priesthood, celibacy and the call for greater lay involvement in decision making."

In California gay activists said the pope's death could provide an opening for better relations with the church.

"If you could have a pope that would say that violence against gays and lesbians is not acceptable that would be a good start," said Thom Lynch, executive director of the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center.

Father Michael Russo of Saint Mary's College of California said the next pope could reach out to gays by advancing compassion toward AIDS victims. "My hope is there is a cardinal candidate and future pope who is capable of that and more," Russo said.

A priest who spoke for the parents of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who was at the center of a highly politicized right-to-die dispute, said the pope's teachings "will guide and nourish the Church for centuries."

"In particular, his teachings on the sanctity of life, especially the unborn, will continue to stir our consciences to build a culture of life," said Father Frank Pavone, national director of an anti-abortion Catholic group called Priests for Life. The Vatican earlier this week had criticized the actions that led to Schiavo's death on Thursday after her feeding tube was removed. (Additional reporting by Greg Frost in Boston, John Poirier in Washington, Michael Flaherty in New York, Frances Kerry in Miami and Jim Christie in San Francisco)

    Americans Mourn Pope as Leader and Moral Model, R, Sat Apr 2, 2005 08:23 PM ET,






Though Disenchanted,

U.S. Catholics Admired Pope


Sat Apr 2, 2005
07:36 PM ET
By Greg Frost


BOSTON (Reuters) - Pope John Paul II inspired millions of U.S. Catholics on a personal level, yet millions of others grew disillusioned with the church, especially after a pedophile priest scandal late in his papacy.

The 84-year-old pope died on Saturday, a mere shadow of the dynamic, charismatic figure who took over the church in 1978 as a champion of youth and an enemy of communism in the waning years of the Cold War.

"American Catholics felt very close to this pope," said the Rev. Tom Reese, editor of the U.S. Jesuit weekly America, noting that he was the first pontiff to travel widely in the United States.

"He was tremendously admired and respected because people saw him as someone who was a true world leader, a holy man, someone who spoke with conviction," Reese told Reuters. "There was great admiration for that, even among people who disagreed with the things he said."

And disagree they did. While they welcomed his reaching out to other faiths, some of America's 67 million Catholics found his positions on such issues as contraception and euthanasia at odds with their more liberal, individualist ideologies.

The Vatican effectively used the media at the beginning of the age of 24-hour news, and John Paul generally played well in America. The result was that Catholics and non-Catholics alike felt a close bond with him, said Kiera McCaffrey, spokeswoman for the Catholic League.

But the media seized on a pedophile priest scandal when it erupted in 2002. As the church's reputation grew tarnished, the Vatican rebuked journalists for focusing on the crisis.



Observers made clear that while they did not blame the pope for the scandal -- many of the instances of abuse occurred before his papacy -- his bishops failed to protect children and shuttled known pedophile priests from parish to parish.

"The bishops are the ones who believed the accused over the accuser, who played legal hardball, who hid behind PR staff," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Clergy abuse victims have said the pope's centralization of the church may have allowed the problem of pedophile priests to fester, while others said it drove more U.S. Catholics away from the institution.

FutureChurch, a group interested in opening ordination to all baptized persons, said his "authoritarian" style of governance served him well in helping the Polish church survive communism, but limited worldwide Catholicism's ability to creatively meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Bill D'Antonio, who teaches sociology at Catholic University, said U.S. Catholics' attendance at weekly Mass dropped off as people became "disgusted with the church's leadership and moral authority."

D'Antonio said that on the eve of the pope's 1987 U.S. visit, polls showed 44 percent of American Catholics attended Mass regularly. More than a decade later, that figure dropped to the mid-thirties and is still falling, he said.

The pope's admirers countered that he inherited a church whose influence was waning in the industrialized world, which made his personal impact among U.S. Catholics all the more remarkable.

"In 1978 when he became pope it was still a system of 'pay, pray and obey,' where members of the church were deferential to the institution," said Suzanne Morse of Voice of the Faithful, a laity group that expanded as Catholics questioned the role of the church hierarchy in the abuse crisis.

"We're entering into a period where lay Catholics are taking responsibility for their faith lives and faith communities," she said. "We are at a time of vibrancy, but it's very different from when he became pope."

Though Disenchanted, U.S. Catholics Admired Pope,
Sat Apr 2, 2005 07:36 PM ET,






Evolution Takes a Back Seat

in U.S. Classes


February 1, 2005
The New York Times


Dr. John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their conversation turned to evolution.

"She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."

Though the teaching of evolution makes the news when officials propose, as they did in Georgia, that evolution disclaimers be affixed to science textbooks, or that creationism be taught along with evolution in biology classes, stories like the one Dr. Frandsen tells are more common.

In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.

Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.

"The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.

Dr. Frandsen, former chairman of the committee on science and public policy of the Alabama Academy of Science, said in an interview that this fear made it impossible to say precisely how many teachers avoid the topic.

"You're not going to hear about it," he said. "And for political reasons nobody will do a survey among randomly selected public school children and parents to ask just what is being taught in science classes."

But he said he believed the practice of avoiding the topic was widespread, particularly in districts where many people adhere to fundamentalist faiths.

"You can imagine how difficult it would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little towns, not only in Alabama but in the rest of the South, the Midwest - all over," Dr. Frandsen said.

Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said she heard "all the time" from teachers who did not teach evolution "because it's just too much trouble."

"Or their principals tell them, 'We just don't have time to teach everything so let's leave out the things that will cause us problems,' " she said.

Sometimes, Dr. Scott said, parents will ask that their children be allowed to "opt out" of any discussion of evolution and principals lean on teachers to agree.

Even where evolution is taught, teachers may be hesitant to give it full weight. Ron Bier, a biology teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, said that evolution underlies many of the central ideas of biology and that it is crucial for students to understand it. But he avoids controversy, he said, by teaching it not as "a unit," but by introducing the concept here and there throughout the year. "I put out my little bits and pieces wherever I can," he said.

He noted that his high school, in a college town, has many students whose parents are professors who have no problem with the teaching of evolution. But many other students come from families that may not accept the idea, he said, "and that holds me back to some extent."

"I don't force things," Mr. Bier added. "I don't argue with students about it."

In this, he is typical of many science teachers, according to a report by the Fordham Foundation, which studies educational issues and backs programs like charter schools and vouchers.

Some teachers avoid the subject altogether, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a physicist and historian of science, wrote in the report. Others give it very short shrift or discuss it without using "the E word," relying instead on what Dr. Lerner characterized as incorrect or misleading phrases, like "change over time."

Dr. Gerald Wheeler, a physicist who heads the National Science Teachers Association, said many members of his organization "fly under the radar" of fundamentalists by introducing evolution as controversial, which scientifically it is not, or by noting that many people do not accept it, caveats not normally offered for other parts of the science curriculum.

Dr. Wheeler said the science teachers' organization hears "constantly" from science teachers who want the organization's backing. "What they are asking for is 'Can you support me?' " he said, and the help they seek "is more political; it's not pedagogical."

There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and confirmed by the methods of science. But in a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools.

These findings set the United States apart from all other industrialized nations, said Dr. Jon Miller, director of the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University, who has studied public attitudes toward science. Americans, he said, have been evenly divided for years on the question of evolution, with about 45 percent accepting it, 45 percent rejecting it and the rest undecided.

In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and very few people reject the idea outright.

"In Japan, something like 96 percent accept evolution," he said. Even in socially conservative, predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, perhaps 75 percent of people surveyed accept evolution, he said. "It has not been a Catholic issue or an Asian issue," he said.

Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.

Dr. Gerald D. Skoog, a former dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University and a former president of the science teachers' organization, said that in some classrooms, the teaching of evolution was hampered by the beliefs of the teachers themselves, who are creationists or supporters of the teaching of creationism.

"Data from various studies in various states over an extended period of time indicate that about one-third of biology teachers support the teaching of creationism or 'intelligent design,' " Dr. Skoog said.

Advocates for the teaching of evolution provide teachers or school officials who are challenged on it with information to help them make the case that evolution is completely accepted as a bedrock idea of science. Organizations like the science teachers' association, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provide position papers and other information on the subject. The National Association of Biology Teachers devoted a two-day meeting to the subject last summer, Dr. Skoog said.

Other advocates of teaching evolution are making the case that a person can believe both in God and the scientific method. "People have been told by some evangelical Christians and by some scientists, that you have to choose." Dr. Scott said. "That is just wrong."

While plenty of scientists reject religion - the eminent evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins famously likens it to a disease - many others do not. In fact, when a researcher from the University of Georgia surveyed scientists' attitudes toward religion several years ago, he found their positions virtually unchanged from an identical survey in the early years of the 20th century. About 40 percent of scientists said not just that they believed in God, but in a God who communicates with people and to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."

Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said he thought the great variety of religious groups in the United States led to competition for congregants. This marketplace environment, he said, contributes to the politicization of issues like evolution among religious groups.

He said the teaching of evolution was portrayed not as scientific instruction but as "an assault of the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people." As a result, he said, politicians don't want to touch it. "Everybody discovers the wisdom of federalism here very quickly," he said. "Leave it at the state or the local level."

But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.

"They have now decided the Big Bang has to be wrong," he said. "There are now a lot of people who are insisting that that be called only a theory without evidence and so on, and now the physicists are getting mad about this."

Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S. Classes,
February 1, 2005,










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The New York Times > The Evolution Debate > Complete Coverage





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